We’re almost at the end of the first year that OVRLD has been covering the Austin music scene, and it’s been a pretty solid year of new releases. All of the songs on this list are fantastic, in our opinion, and there were clearly way more than 50 released over the course of the year that are worthy of recognition. In order to get as many artists represented as possible, we’re limiting it to one song per artist on the list. We’ll be delivering a new installment each day this week, ten songs per day. So use this as a chance to get yourself familiar with the best that Austin has to offer right now, and share your own opinions about the rankings in the comments!
(The above audio player may not load in Chrome, but it should be working in Explorer and Firefox. Hopefully by the end of the countdown, we’ll have a Chrome-compatible one too. Enjoy!)
Maybe you have to be a fan of shitty melodramatic television to truly appreciate the grandeur of this song, or maybe you just have to have some shitty melodrama going on in your life. In “All You Wanted,” I feel like I found the soundtrack to all of my high school crushes and romances – just ten years too late for me. Listening to this song, though, pulls me back to a place and time where angst and longing were predominant themes of my existence and all I wanted was to connect deeply with another person. Actually, I’m in my 20’s. Not much has changed, and “All You Wanted” – with its slow-burning build – plays like a three-act musical representation of those feelings that you sometimes want to forget, but sometimes need to indulge.
This lo-fi gem is built around a simple twisting guitar line (there’s not even a bass line in the verses) that worms its way into your brain and won’t let go. Singer Robert Segovia comes across like a cross between James Murphy and Jonathan Richman with his lilting quasi-spoken delivery that gets remarkably self-reflective. “Now I could change the words into something more comfortable,” he sings. “I could do the fancy rhymes, but I feel like a faker.” The words cut through the veneer posited by the delivery. And yet, things never get too heavy because the band lays down a thick rock groove to keep your head bobbing.
There are very few groups like Mother Falcon. Counting nearly 20 musicians among their ranks, they craft elaborately orchestrated pop songs along the lines of some of their influences like Beirut and Bon Iver. The fascinating thing about “Alligator Teeth” is the way the song can’t stay in one place for too long. It begins with an ambient intro that lasts a full 1:15 with a female singer, and then isn’t returned to again over the remaining 2:10 of the song. Even when the signature sax riff is called back at the end of the song, the group introduces handclaps to keep the sound fresh. Mother Falcon uses the vast resources at their disposal to create epic indie-pop that engrosses from start to finish.
The OBN III’s offer an entirely different take on the pop song from Mother Falcon, and perhaps the song’s title is in reference to the ornateness of some of the indie music being made right now. Instead, this is sloppy, loose and powerful while somehow also being incredibly catchy. Singer Orville Neely manages to sound both angry and inviting as he turns the word “roll” in the chorus into “ro-oo-whoa-oo-whoa-oo-oll.” Though many of his lyrics are obscured by the distortion on his voice in the verses, the band lays down some driving rock and roll that would have been right at home at CBGB’s in the late 1970s and still connects on Red River today.
Suite 709 are a pop-rock band. I still get strong associations with early Maroon 5 when I hear the slick production on songs like “Apples and Oranges,” but Jirod Greene’s voice is smoother and classier than anything Adam Levine has done. Just check out his performance from 2:43-3:17. The song falls apart if Greene doesn’t carry that breakdown and then lead the band’s crescendo back out of it. The saccharine lyrics may be a turnoff to some, but Greene’s earnestness and some crafty rhyming patterns sell me on lines like, “Like paisley and polka dots, we are the oddest pair but we don’t care, and nothing else matters when you’re there.” This song is all about giving the finger to everyone else when you’re in a happy relationship, and Suite 709 make it sound like the most fun you could have.
I don’t usually have the patience for songs that clock in around the 10-minute mark, but Zorch managed to put out a track that is gripping from start to finish. It shouldn’t be surprising. When I caught these guys at SXSW this year (outdoors at the Beauty Bar), they put on one of the most compelling shows I’ve ever been to. These guys know how to grab their audience’s attention, and keep a show moving to retain it. They use these same principles in “Cosmic Gloss,” which is essentially an electronic jam song that alternates between upbeat funk and slow, dramatic ballad. And there is just enough ear candy to keep a smile plastered on your face throughout.
44. 'Captive' - Ume
Truth be told, I thought Ume’s album this year, Phantoms, was a bit uneven. It lost me in its second half. But when Ume is firing on all cylinders, they’re as good a modern rock band as any. “Captive” captures the vibe of rockers like Silversun Pickups while making it their own. What really strikes me about this track is that I feel like I’ve heard it already. It has that essence that, when you hear it for the first time, makes you think that it’s already deeply ingrained in your bloodstream, like it’s already a part of your being. It’s like that person you meet that makes you think, “Haven’t we met before?” And even though you haven’t, you still immediately feel right at home with them.
In a scene full of psych-rock bands of varying quality levels, The Boxing Lesson remain one of the genre’s leading lights in Austin. Paul Waclawsky and Jaylinn Davidson make music that’s dark, exciting and energetic, which is one of the reasons I’m highly anticipating their full-length release slated for early next year. This year, their 4-song Muerta EP showcased material that was a bit more brooding, and “Darker Side of the Moog” was the definite highlight. After a lengthy (just over two minutes) intro with some ambient electronics, the song builds into a spacey, slinky number that’s like a funkier version of late-80s Cure. When Davidson breathily sings, “You saved my life” at the song’s end, your trance should be complete.
Marmalakes is a trio of tight, adventurous musicians. What their songs sometimes lack in recognizable hooks, they make up for with colorful chords and unexpected progressions. They reward active listening with deft musical touches, and “Geneva Hall” is a prime example of all the things this group does well. With boundless energy, the song careens back and forth between restraint and near-chaos. Chase Weinacht and his compatriots take a few twists and turns along the way, but always keep the song moving forward. Just check out the bass line in the final instrumental interlude or the way the drums control the dynamic flow of the song. These guys clearly feel like they’re capable of anything musically, and it translates onto this record.
Moonlight Towers came to our attention this year when Steven Van Zandt (from the E Street Band) declared this song to be the “coolest song in the world.” Now, it’s probably been quite sometime since Little Steven was a good bellwether for all that is “cool” in our world, but the dude definitely knows his shit. “Heat Lightning” is a classic power-pop song in the style of old-school Memphis power pop bands like Big Star (right down to the horn section). There’s nothing new or challenging on this track that would put it on the radar of taste-makers like Pitchfork, but this is the perfect execution of a classic rock and roll sound with a monstrous hook.