At the end of the second year of OVRLD’s existence, we find ourselves with another set of year-end lists. All week this week we’ll be presenting our 50 best Austin songs of the year, and next week we’ll present our 50 best Austin EPs/LPs of the year. In order to represent the most local artists that we can, we’ll be limiting it to one track per artist on the list. We also have a function where you can vote on whether you like a song or you don’t – please share your opinions with us! And use this list as just the starting point for exploring the wonderful music being made in Austin.
50. Dawn & Hawkes - A Catch
Miranda Dawn and Chris Hawkes are singer-songwriters in their own right that paired up this year for an EP entitled Golden Heart. The standout track on the offering is this two-and-a-half minute acoustic ballad. Everything about it is simple: the melody, the guitar accompaniment, the lyrics. But its simplicity is what gives it beauty. It’s an ode to true and earnest love despite your partner’s flaws, and Dawn and Hawkes’ hushed, passionate voices sell us on every nuanced emotion.
49. Georgette - "Mind Speak Up"
This folky twee collective debuted this year with a self-titled album of melodic ditties composed on guitar, trumpet, violin, ukulele and melodica. “Mind Speak Up” is the standout track on the record as Natasha Dahanayake tries to talk herself out of a relationship she knows is bad for her. Her theatrical vocal delivery is endearing, as is the backing “bum-bum” vocals from the rest of the group. It’s the kind of bouncy, enjoyable song that leaves you with a smile on your face.
48. Agent Ribbons - "Family Haircut"
This Cabaret-lo-fi-punkish duo recently relocated to Austin from California and this year they released a five-song EP called Let Them Talk. This singsong-y number kicks off the record and shows why we should be paying attention to their upcoming third full-length in 2013. There are unexpected shifts in tempo, style and harmonic structure all couched in a sound reminiscent of late 60s Kinks and Zombies songs. Natalie Gordon and Lauren Hess deliver a memorable, offbeat and inexplicably catchy song on “Family Haircut.”
47. Waldo & the Naturals - "Blame the Wind"
While some of Waldo Wittenmyer’s songs felt a bit too maudlin, on “Blame the Wind” his particular brand of blue-eyed soul hits all the right notes. It’s got a gorgeous melody, flows beautifully and has a signature electric organ part. The retro 70s vibe doesn’t feel dated in the slightest and the wash of strings in the last chorus lifts the song to great emotional heights. Yacht rock for the new millennium.
46. Little Lo - "Gospel"
After debuting last year with the six-song A Poison Tree, Little Lo granted us only this little morsel in 2012. But they really make it count. Following in the vein of the Lumineers and Of Monsters and Men (folky rock, male/female lead vocals), Little Lo has made a grand, epic song with “Gospel.” It has the effect of turning whatever you’re doing while listening to it into the most significant action imaginable. As with any good song, it just leaves us wanting to hear more.
45. Haun's Mill - "Tonight"
Lots of attention went to Austin’s burgeoning folk-rock scene this year. The Eastern Sea, Dana Falconberry, Whiskey Shivers, Hello Wheels, Little Lo, Wild Child, the list goes on and on. One of the more under-the-radar acts involved in that genre is Haun’s Mill. On “Tonight,” their raw sound translates into a raucous country stomp singalong with an infectious hook. Imminent doom never sounded like so much fun.
44. The Capitalist Kids - "Three-Oh"
By over a minute, this is the longest song from their LP, Lessons on Love, Sharing and Hygiene, and they use every second of it to deliver the sweetest slice of pop-punk since Dookie. It’s an ode to getting older (possibly turning 30?), taking stock, questioning every decision you ever made, and then feeling completely comfortable with it. All of this existential wondering takes place over ringing distorted guitars and a blistering beat, making for one of the most deceptively thoughtful rockers of the year.
43. Kinky Machine - "Tunnel of Colors"
All the pieces are here for a gripping song. Kinky Machine match a rock-solid rhythm section with engaging guitar interplay in a song about being lost in life. As the song progresses, there are heavy strings, stuttering guitar effects and vocals drenched in reverb. It’s a hard song to categorize and that makes it one of the more interesting tracks from Austin this year, from one of the bands that we are most excited about for 2013.
42. The Black Owl Society - "Burn the Past"
This is what Audioslave would sound like if they played gritty blues instead of crappy hard rock. Really, it’s that Nate Boff sounds like Chris Cornell in all the best ways. And while much of the Black Owl Society’s material sounds like straight-ahead blues, here they combine the blues influences with a harder rock sound that one-ups any of the radio rock we’ve subjected to in the last few years. This is some of the ballsiest rock in town right now.
41. Grape St. - “A Date With You”
If you think that a song called “A Date With You” would be a feel-good romantic kind of endeavor, you should know that one of the prominent lyrics is “I’m a prisoner / You’re a prison cell.” The date in question never really takes place, but the singer continually conveys his ambivalence about the object of his affection over one of the bounciest backdrops of the year. Austin is currently home to a thriving garage rock scene and this is one of the finer numbers to emerge from that.