What We're Listening to Right Now
Duel, Cactus Lee, Kady Rain, Sweetfeed, Startographers, and the You're Gonna Be Great 2 comp
By Raoul Hernandez, E. Ryan Ellis, Kevin Curtin, Rachel Rascoe, Michael Toland, and Alejandra Ramirez, Fri., Oct. 15, 2021
Duel's In Carne Persona
Forged in Fire: You've binged its blademaking – all eight seasons, maybe. Literally metal, once embedded in your skull, those force-of-will contests can't be extracted. Sword in the stone.
Like the mandatory History Channel franchise, homegrown heshers Duel keep hammering out prize-winning Damascus at their Bastrop forge. Peak recording Valley of Shadows transmuted classic rock into a breakthrough biker bar battle cry. Fifth platter overall since a 2015 inception and now their fourth studio billet, In Carne Persona for Roman fanatics Heavy Psych Sounds follows up by quenching yet another finals-worthy chopper.
"Children of the Fire" gallops in on a NWOBHM maelstrom voiced by foghorn Tom Frank. Intonation from the mount – resonant, vast – the frontman rides the vocal mic through time, space, and eternity. Guitar herder Jeff Henson engineers that charge alongside bass collusion by Shaun Avants and drum fire from Justin Collins. Mid-album disembowelers "Bite Back," "Wave of Your Hand," and highlight "Dead Eyes," a spiraling psych burner, bang heads and anvils alike.
Nine songs over 39 minutes, In Carne Persona concludes with its longest cut, "Blood on the Claw," which gouges trademark Duel: Seventies desert mysticism, British kit work, and a lashing tempo. Throbbing, cutting, resigned, its "sunken eyes and broken dreams" echo across 2021 like life itself: forged in flames. – Raoul Hernandez
Cactus Lee's The Lagniappe Sessions
Cactus Lee went stag in Brooklyn. The ever-changing Austin outfit, led by Kevin Dehan, was joined by local New York musicians who filled in for a one-off show at Skinny Dennis. It is there that Cactus Lee recorded a four-song live session for Aquarium Drunkard's Lagniappe Sessions. For the EP, Dehan chose songs from standard bearers in Bob Dylan, Buffalo Springfield, Arlo Guthrie, and Don Nix. The tracks are pleasantly subdued, and framed by the unraveling of Dehan's middleweight drawl and pure intonations of dobro and pedal steel. Maybe it's the water, but here Cactus Lee takes on the unrestrained qualities of Big Pink through standouts "Going Down" and Dylan's winding "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall." – E. Ryan Ellis
Kady Rain Goes Pop-Punk on "Got Away"
Austin's voice of glittery electronic pop has been taking us on some left turns lately. First, Kady Rain surprised listeners by twanging country-folk heartstrings with "Take Me Home" and now she's turned her hypermelodic sensibilities to pop-punk with "Got Away." The single, produced by rock & roll faith healer Frenchie Smith, sounds like Green Day crossed with Mariah Carey's secret mid-Nineties punk single (Chick's "Malibu"). Delicious, palm-muted, uptempo alt with a potent hook: The green-haired singer eviscerates a toxic ex, breaking the bouncy, snotty melody to deliver romantic wrath with charismatic attitude. – Kevin Curtin
You're Gonna Be Great 2 Compilation Supports Fund Texas Choice
Countering passage of anti-abortion law Senate Bill 8, 79-track compilation You're Gonna Be Great 2 benefits nonprofit Fund Texas Choice, which pays for Texans' travel to abortion clinics. The excellent assembly on Brooklyn's Steakhouse Records includes a wealth of Austin artists, accepting donations at steakhouserecords.bandcamp.com. Acoustic guitar leads Fuvk's twisty poetics ("mixtli"), Virginia Creeper's somber folk hypnosis ("Super 8"), and Raul Gonzalez Jr.'s inquisitive pop ("Dungeon Master of Puppets"). Explore both sides of local Sowmya with organically spun electronic duo Felt Out and newly solo as Plume Girl. Relentless post-rockers Glaze and spunky singer-songwriter Dylan Pacheco join too. Beyond Texas, Seamripper melds Northeast indie standards Frankie Cosmos, Gabby's World, and Barrie. –Rachel Rascoe
Startographers Evoke College Rock with "Hollow"
It's hard for those who lived it to believe the college/alternative rock wave that briefly dominated music culture in the late Eighties/early Nineties is old enough to be retro, at least for the unenlightened. Behold Startographers, a local quartet comprised of members from Magnet School, Honeyrude, and Schatzi. "Hollow" soars on a melody derived from the Eighties' Britwave of neo-psychedelia, but it's powered by the distorted muscle of American grunge and proto-punk. If you're getting Catherine Wheel and Swervedriver vibes, you're not alone, and if that induces giddy head-nodding and air guitar, you're not alone there, either. – Michael Toland
Sweetfeed's "The Powder Room"
Soft synths plume and strutted bass vamps in Sweetfeed's lipstick smeared "The Powder Room." Following in the same thread of previous singles, ballad "Picture of My Heart," and twang pickin' "Highway of Hearts," the moody number cruises in leather-seated luxury kissing off with a smooth and polished varnish reminiscent of Eighties yacht rock ilk. There's heaps of soul too as Justin Smith's vocals hold a mirror to Daryl Hall's falsetto finesse while loose wah-wah guitar-lined atmospherics percolate with gravity-defied croons that lift-off. – Alejandra Ramirez