What We're Listening to Right Now
Nakia, Sun June, Norman BA$E, Good Looks, 8½ Souvenirs, and more local sounds worth seeking out
By Kevin Curtin, Rachel Rascoe, Michael Toland, Morgan-Taylor Thomas, Mars Salazar, and Alejandra Ramirez, Fri., Jan. 28, 2022
Nakia Dominates in Bear Musical
"This is the second time I've found you in a semi-naked, compromising position with an overly aggressive man," a diaper-loving adult baby, Simon, scolds Anthony. The protagonist's stuck in a virtual reality simulation, leaping between fraught relationships – a maddening trip for the lovable bear, but there's fun songs along the way.
A special musical episode of the queer fat-positive web series Skeleton Crew, Dueling Pianos follows Anthony and husband Hunter as they try to reconnect in the cyber mesh. As if Anthony's situation weren't perilous enough, Hunter's confined in an asylum run by a horny cannibalistic doctor. Clever, memorable songs include an informative "The ABC's of Kink" and the devilish "Hate Sex," sung by Nakia Reynoso.
The Austin vocalist plays Sebastian Jupiter, a mid-meltdown former superstar who gets what he wants at any cost. It's shocking to see the sweethearted local intimidate as a hostile, domineering sugar daddy, but his dramatic singing – especially on the reflective "Man With the Midas Touch" – leaves an equally strong impression.
Nakia calls the 15-song musical, crafted with Joshua R. Pangborn (Anthony), "by far the queerest and most sexual piece of art I have ever been a part of or created." Three collections, helmed by Matt Parmenter, can be streamed: a cast recording, a sing-along soundtrack, and Nakia's vocal version. Meanwhile, Dueling Pianos premieres Friday for SideKick Patreon subscribers before hitting YouTube Sunday. – Kevin Curtin
Sun June Expands Somewhere
Eleven months after the album's celebrated reception, wistful Austin pop troupe Sun June rolls out an expanded edition of sophomore effort Somewhere. Lovely accompaniments offered live in the past year, including on tour with Shakey Graves – the three new songs' warm, reliable instrumentation beckon singer Laura Colwell's weightless ruminations on love and memory. A new room in the familiar Somewhere house, "Reminded" threads tranquil, questioning scenes with a shaky, devotional edge. "How could I resist you?" asks the lead. "How could I not try?/ Did I make it hurt?/ Did I make it hard?" There's also new "Easy" and acoustic track "Tom Petty." – Rachel Rascoe
Alex Coke & Carl Michel manifest The Emissary
A change of environment always engenders fresh ideas: Veteran Austin jazz musicians Alex Coke and Carl Michel developed new LP The Emissary whilst performing on their driveways during lockdown. The reedist and guitarist channel oxygen and the spirit of Alice Coltrane into a half-dozen free-flowing spiritual jazz tunes. Manipulating saxophones, flutes, guitar, bass, vibraphone, harp, and Bob Hoffnar's atmospheric pedal steel, Coke and Michel sample catalogs of Leadbelly, Paul Motian, German abbess Hildegard von Bingen, and their own inventory to paint the tracks in grass green, sunset orange, and sky blue – bypassing pandemic limitations and reaching for the ethereal. – Michael Toland
Norman BA$E and the Black experience
In a short-form video posted to his Twitter timeline, ATX rapper Norman BA$E personally analyzes the Black experience in two minutes, focusing on hot-seat topics such as police brutality and Black beauty. Partnering with Black Pumas keyboardist JaRon Marshall, the lyricist floats over an elegant and light, soulful tune with haunting phrases accompanying cruel visuals. "An eye for an eye, why my brothers die? A couple tears going down a Black mother's eyes." The story concludes with a 1960s Black woman defending natural hair and the importance of self-love and acceptance. – Morgan-Taylor Thomas
Good Looks are fully "Almost Automatic"
Good Looks' debut single entices the warm fuzzies of frolicking hand in hand with a lover under the brushstroke hues of a sienna sunset. In a glimpse of their upcoming Keeled Scales album, Bummer Year, the folk-rock quartet boasts a sound straight Hill Country. Americana roots flow palpable through breezy riff reverb straight from the coffee-and-whiskey breath of self-described "blue-collar political indie-rockers." Along with a video abounding with ATV donut-spins and cows, Good Looks' soft-alt sensibility reminds us that while this is Austin, we all still breathe Texas air. – Mars Salazar
8½ Souvenirs At the Movies
Before disbanding in the new century, 8½ Souvenirs became a local cornerstone of a swing and lounge revival for their Nineties triptych Happy Feet, Souvonica, and Twisted Desire. With production assistance of Texas guru Charlie Sexton, At the Movies marks their first release in over 20 years as it retains the French cinematic spirit of smoke plumes shrouding European cafes and speakeasies. Reunited with original singer Kathy (Kiser) Benayoun, guitarist Oliver Giraud and company unravel a multilingual coalescence from dramatic accordion flourishes in "Off White," sultry hip sway in "Cafune," or circus show gypsy jazz in "Where Do They Go." – Alejandra Ramirez