What We're Listening to Right Now
Aaron Stephens, Paul Cauthen, Drakulas, Glasshealer, Pretty Little Thieves, and more local sounds
By Clara Wang, Doug Freeman, Tim Stegall, Rachel Rascoe, Julian Towers, and Kevin Curtin, Fri., Nov. 26, 2021
Aaron Stephens’ Lord Knows EP
With latest EP, Lord Knows, Aaron Stephens continues to make soulful music while stepping away from the soul genre.
"This album for me is a departure, in the sense that I'm trying to leave the world of Soul/R&B music, but not entirely," Stephens emailed. "I'd like to bring as much as I can of my form of soulfulness to different genres of music. Eventually, I hope people will just identify it as my own sound."
The search term "Why am I tired all the time?" hit historical highs on Google between July 2021 and September 2021. Accordingly, Lord Knows encapsulates modern mental fatigue and pandemic loneliness with discordant themes and moody lyrics.
A departure from the pop-ier production on summer's Head 2 the Sky EP, the 10-track effort oscillates between slow, pleading ballads and upbeat rock as Stephens ruminates on the ephemeral nature of life. Lead single "Ready" kicks off with the high-energy, toe-tappin' rock 'n' blues rhythm we know him for, while announcing he's "Ready" for a change. Such change we certainly get; next track "Upside Down," my favorite on the collection, bounces on reggae beats with interwoven organs paying homage to growing up performing at his grandmother's church.
"If No One's Around" and "The Devil Was an Angel Too" could soundtrack a cowboy show on AMC, while "Friendly Strangers" and "Everyday" are comparably forgettable, but "Tomorrow" stands as a whole mood for this burned-out generation: "I'm ready for tomorrow, 'cause today was long enough. "– Clara Wang
Paul Cauthen is “Country As Fuck”
Big Velvet's on a whole 'nother level, y'all. After wrecking Room 41 with a bruising country funk sound, Paul Cauthen leans into the wild side to preview April's third LP with "Country as Fuck." The video, written and directed by Amos David McKay, lays down a throwback infomercial celebration of all things backwoods and buckwild to the thundering Texan's turnt rapping, ripping, and rednecked anthem. "Make my own definition/ Beat the system/ 'Bout to start a new religion," Cauthen proselytizes as he continues to hatchet through the country underbrush, blazing his own path. – Doug Freeman
Drakulas Wear “Dark Black”
Though second album Terminal Amusements dropped at the dawn of lockdown, Drakulas – the cool rockin' porno vampires from a fantasy Seventies NYC, sprung from the brows of Riverboat Gamblers' Mike Wiebe and Rise Against's Zach Blair – couldn't hardly promote it. The new video for Devo-ish single "Dark Black" was produced, according to Wiebe, "during various levels of quarantine in an uncertain world," which explains his alternating short-haired/shaggy appearance in the clip. Refreshing and rocking, it's the perfect way to transcend lockdown ennui. – Tim Stegall
Glasshealer’s “Release:Open:Bury” featuring Kendra Sells
Latest from production-emphasis alternative quartet Glasshealer begins briefly suspended in space before leaning into a dazzling, excited build. The memorable voice of Austin's Kendra Sells, solo songwriter and lead of BluMoon, injects electronically edged samples and haunting interspersed melodies. An instrumental break ushers in an extended central romp on the topic of "nameless desires/ impossible to acquire." Riding whimsical, invigorating synth-pop and art rock shades friendly for Porches fans, it's no surprise a five-minute song called "Release:Open:Bury" encompasses a multi-part trip. After last year's lauded debut Cranberry Stream, Glasshealer works toward a Dec. 3 follow-up EP. – Rachel Rascoe
Pretty Little Thieves’ debut EP
Gimme the hook-forward songwriting of power-pop, but lemme smoke to it. Pretty Little Thieves loosen up garage rock woah-oh-oh-ing with vast, Texas-sky interplay. Each toe-tapping kiss-off comes glazed with enough dazed melancholy to render this subtle era-straddler of a debut EP a delightful game of "name the ever-shifting subgenre!" Press releases boast about the presence of local superstar engineers, and, indeed, the honeyed guitar crunch is quite cozy. Sonic apogee is probably wall-of-psych closer "Where'd You Go" – a burst of Krautrock propulsion that seems custom built for a set-extending climax. – Julian Towers
TBLSH Marches into the Ocean
"Y'all check out what I found!" As the Bright Light Social Hour tracks congas in the studio, Jack O'Brien's rummaged up an old VHS tape, sticker reading "TBLSH 2010," and pops it in. What begins as vintage footage of the band playing the unreleased "Oceans" at olde Emo's, cuts to a shaman climbing a mountain and performing a ceremony, which has a supernatural – and potentially deadly – effect on the bassist. The lost track, with its heavyweight groove, chanty refrain, spectral guitar runs, and lyrics en español, resurfaces on the lovingly assembled 11th anniversary re-release of TBLSH's debut LP. – Kevin Curtin