Top 25 Austin Songs of 2015

Top 25 Songs 2015

No matter how you look at it, 2015 was a great year for Austin music, bringing a dizzying number of remarkable works from new and established bands in every corner of the scene. Choosing just 25 songs to showcase was extremely difficult, but we feel these are the songs that stood out the most in Austin music in 2015, highlighting where Austin music has come from and where it might potentially head. As always, let us know what you think and what you would have chosen. And don’t forget to check out our picks for the top 10 albums of the year, too!

Three Bones- “Hold on to Ya”


I never thought I would have any interest in a guitar-centered spin on YACHT but with “Hold on to Ya,” Three Bones forced me to change my mind. The video makes the YACHT connection clearer, as Three Bones don all white attire and utilize trippy projections to create a full sensory experience. But even without that visual, “Hold on to Ya” is exactly the kind of playful pop that wouldn’t be out of place on a YACHT album, only here there’s some casual riffing and a bluesier vocal delivery. It’s simple guitar pop bliss and sometimes that’s all you need. – Nick Hanover


East Cameron Folkcore-  “Our City”


East Cameron Folkcore’s Kingdom of Fear deals with big issues and national problems, but the roots of their song “Our City” grow right here in Austin. The song targets the gentrification and burdens placed on poorer residents, the hidden cost of what so many see as the expansion and bolstering of Austin’s “weirdness.” It’s a sobering, but important message, delivered in anthemic fashion by ECF, asking us to reexamine our outrage over hipster injustices while others scrape to make ends meet, being pushed further way from a city that is as much theirs as it is ours. – Brian J. Audette


Pleasure Venom- “Hunt”


Though they’re still brand spanking new, Pleasure Venom had an immediate impact in Austin this year, ditching more traditional No Wave influences to focus on the stranger mutant disco that emerged immediately after. ESG stood out as the prime precedent for the group, which is clearest on “Hunt” and its throaty vocals and mesmerizing bassline. A ferociously sexy track with abundant energy, “Hunt” is the sound of a band that is bored of being bored by a city of bad dancers. – NH


Institute “Cheerlessness”


The song starts simply enough with dragging, monotone vocals and raw guitar chords echoing early punk songs, but once the guitars devolve into a more post-punk sound and Brown starts yelping “Excuse me!”, the track’s true potential is found. – Brie East


Stiletto Feels “Steal Your Guitar”


There are (probably) tons of songs about great friendships out there but Stiletto Feels’ “Steal Your Guitar” makes me wish tributes to your most assholish of friends was a more common trope. Slinky and sensual, “Steal Your Guitar” makes it easy to understand why asshole friends have sway over us no matter how badly they fuck us over—because they’re usually charming and interesting and suave. – NH


Quiet Company “Mother of a Deal”


While musically bouncy and upbeat, lyrically “Mother of a Deal” cuts to the quick of frontman Taylor Muse’s self-deprecation on Quiet Company’s latest LP Transgressor. In an album where Muse questions recent life choices amid fatherly duties and a strained marriage, “Mother of a Deal” sees him making a deal with a devil, who in this context is also played by Taylor Muse. Seemingly caught in a conundrum of focusing on personal versus professional issues, the song’s devil (or is it Muse?) ultimately offers the reprise “Sell yourself, everything is gonna be much better now” as the band kicks into full rock mode. I’m not sure if Muse took the deal or not, but whatever the choice, it worked. – BJA


Botany “Au Revoir (ft. Milo)”


You wouldn’t know it from reading the Austin Chronicle or the Statesman recently, but for the past few years Austin’s electronic scene has been blowing up, with a dizzying number of producers emerging, exploring sounds from all across the electronic spectrum. Botany has been one of the most promising figures in the scene for some time but this year he topped himself with “Au Revoir,” a dreamy FlyLo influenced collaboration with Milo that caught ears far beyond Austin’s borders and indicated even greater things are on the horizon. – NH


US Weekly “Simone’s House”


Amongst the usual rage-filled fare on Void of Devices, US Weekly’s “Simone’s House” stands out as more ominous in tone. The song is voyeuristic in nature, and the usual chaotic state of the band is settled down into more intentional, yet intense vibes, forcing listeners to patiently focus. Chris Nordahl’s shrieks of “I took her to Simone’s house! They found him in the backyard!” further amp up the creep factor of the track. – BE


Anthony Maintain- “Leaky Boat”


Exploded Drawing’s SXSW compilation this year served as a masterful sampling of the weirder hip hop and electronic fare coming from Austin, providing a map of the potential routes the non-rock sectors of the city might take over the rest of the decade. Anthony Maintain’s “Leaky Boat” stood out as a highlight because of how far off the beaten path it was even given those paramaters, juxtaposing a woodsy beat with an urbane, wordy flow that refused to pause and wait for you to catch up. – NH


Wild Child “Break Bones”


The crux of the break up narrative laced throughout Wild Child’s third LP Fools comes in the song “Break Bones”, a heart wrenching ballad about the breaking point of a relationship on the rocks. A piano ballad that rivals the most moving output of artists like Tori Amos and Regina Spektor, “Break Bones” is soulfully sung by Wild Child’s Kelsey Wilson, her mesmerizing voice delivering raw emotion with every word. It’s a beautiful and powerful track that gives me chills every time I hear it. – BJA


Space Camp Death Squad “Fuck Sallie May”


I think fellow Ovrld contributor Kayleigh Hughes said it best when she told me that Space Camp Death Squad’s “Fuck Sallie May” should be “the goddamn anthem of a generation.” A casually upbeat track devoted to the pleasure of crippling student loan debts, “Fuck Sallie May” is the gonzo hip hop supergroup at their best, with Protextor, Secret Levels and Doc Brown truly rising to the challenge of matching the perfection of that Curbside Jones beat as they navigate the bullshit of life “In the food service industry/Where everybody I know got a college degree.” The glib profanity of “Fuck Sallie May” might not get the debt collectors off our backs but damn if it doesn’t feel good just to impotently voice that frustration. – NH


Body Pressure “Reject”


With only a demo, Body Pressure has already made its impression on Austin. One of the standout tracks, “Reject”, snowballs into a chaotic clusterfuck over the course of one minute and 10 seconds. With screeches of “pressure me to feel something,” and “I will fucking prevail,” the track serves as angry empowerment for the disenfranchised. – BE


Hex Dispensers “Parallel”


Hex Dispensers by no means broke any new ground on “Parallel” (or its parent album III) but who the fuck cares when their Misfits-esque throwback is as pleasurable as this? Lyrically devoted to a too close encounter with death, “Parallel” is horror punk at its finest, droney and bleak but also bursting at the seams with sly hooks and black leather cool. – NH


Crew54 “Who Can You Trust? (ft. Bavu Blakes and Wade Waters)”


Reminiscent of The Grind Date-era De La Soul, Crew54’s “Who Can You Trust?” served as one of the clearest examples of the commercial potential of central Texas hip hop. Expertly assisted by local legend Bavu Blakes and Maryland duo Wade Waters, “Who Can You Trust?” is a rugged, lusciously crafted shouldabeen hit that makes it clear why Crew54 are one of the most respected acts in Texas hip hop—they don’t fuck around and they always bring their A game. – NH


Gloves INTL “Black Dress”


Funk in the modern era is a sad, sorry thing so it’s not difficult to see why GLOVES (now Gloves INTL?) would prefer to go by the clunkier genre identifier “anti-garage.” Still, there’s no denying the band’s single “Black Dress” is a welcome blast of prime funk, albeit one with a garage hardened edge. Playing with the tightness and ferocity of some James Brown backing band exiles, Gloves are turned on and motivated by your choice in evening attire. So you might as well give them the courtesy of showing yourself on their dance floor. – NH


Wild Child “Fools”


Austin managed to get a few tracks out on a national level this year but from that crop, Wild Child’s “Fools” stood out as the most likely to withstand NPR overplay. Alternately rough and buzzy and sweet and precious, “Fools” showcased all of the best elements of Wild Child in one tidy package. The rest of the eponymous album was more adventurous and complicated, requiring a lot more focus from listeners, but “Fools” is the type of single that is simple enough to be immediately learnable yet enduring enough to abstain from annoyance. – Morgan Davis


Critical Dad “Boy’s Club”


Toxic masculinity was inescapable in 2015. From the still simmering temper tantrums in the video game world to the clashes between gun right nuts and wielders of more explicit phallic symbols, dicks were everywhere. Which made Critical Dad’s “Boy’s Club” a fitting anthem against aggro bro dickery, wonderfully sloppy in its execution and all the more venomous for it. “1,2,3 shitty attitudes/Telling me what it takes to be men” was as concise and effortless a snubbing of patriarchal petulance as you could ask for and “Boy’s Club” overall simplicity and furor ensures it will remain as useful to all future rejectors of boys’ clubs. – NH


Popper Burns “Too Punk for Punk”


Clearer in its production and more chaotic in its instrumentation, Popper Burns’ “Too Punk for Punk” is nonetheless a fitting sister piece to “Boy’s Club,” except here the target of the venom is the more close minded than it would like to admit punk scene. Confronting punk’s not-too-secret homophobia head on with lyrics detailing masturbatory uses of Henry Rollins press pics and its claustrophobic violence with the cartoonish image of Nick Cave getting carved into lead singer Patti Melt’s chest with a beer bottle, “Too Punk for Punk” didn’t shy away from exposing punk hypocrisy for what it is. – NH


Bird Peterson “Chuck Roast (ft. Space Camp Death Squad)”


There was plenty to love on Bird Peterson’s debut full length Plume, but the pairing of the hot shit local producer and hip hop pranksters Space Camp Death Squad on “Chuck Roast” wasn’t just the highlight of the album, but one of the best mergers of hip hop and EDM this year. Perverting nursery rhymes over a futuristic beat, Space Camp Death Squad indulged their inner children for the track’s big boomy chorus, rattling off a list of targets they want to say fuck you to. It might not have been high art, but damn if it wasn’t delicious. – NH


BOAN “Babylon”


BOAN might have taken their sweet ass time getting their debut EP out into the world via the brilliant tastemakers at Holodeck Records, but there’s no doubt it was worth it. The project reunited Medio Mutante collaborators Jose Cota (now ssleeperhold) and Mariana Saldana and lead single “Babylon” immediately made it clear why they worked so well together. With Saldana’s angelic alien voice filling out the edges of the mix while Cota created dreamy, haunting soundscapes, “Babylon” sounded futuristic and archaic at the same time, like two universes attempting to occupy the same space. – NH


Leach “Grown Up”


Austin has most genres covered pretty well but few figures in the scene are unabashedly making pop music. Leach is an exception, a young genius with a knack for gorgeous melodies and beautifully arranged pop symphonies in miniature. “Grown Up” serves as a perfect distillation of the best qualities of his album Kokedama, inventive and spry and just the right of melancholy. For the moment, Leach remains an underappreciated local. But if there is any justice in the world, he’ll soon be a global superstar. – NH


Francine Thirteen “Lady Mary, the Highborn Fire”


In terms of sheer artistry and ambition, very few things that came out of Austin this year could match Francine Thirteen’s awe inspiring “Lady Mary, the Highborn Fire.” Part of a series of songs devoted to various aspects of the Mary myth, “Lady Mary” was a bewitching masterpiece, combining avant garde production with a stately, Lynchian vocal. Critics like to state that songs sound “unlike anything else,” but in this case that was inarguable truth. – NH


LNS Crew “Complicated (Tank Washington and Cory Kendrix)”


LNS Crew members Tank Washington and Cory Kendrix seem to be at their best when they’re joining forces, but nowhere is that clearer than with “Complicated,” an anti-romance single that appropriately popped up on Valentine’s Day this year. Over a masterfully constructed beat from Magna Carda’s Dougie Do, Tank and Cory deconstruct notions of love as a simple, perfect thing, instead detailing the annoyances and bullshit that go into all relationships and why they’re the true signs of affection. It might not be the best song to play to woo a potential partner, but for a longterm partner who knows about all your fuck ups and sticks by your side anyway, it’s perfect. – NH


Sweet Spirit “Baby When I Close My Eyes”


Austin loves its throwbacks, particularly the ‘70s oriented ones. But Sweet Spirit turned ‘70s pillaging into high art this year with their incredible debut LP Cokomo, an impressive work not just for its own qualities but for the way it managed to surpass the ridiculous expectations that had risen around the band after a dazzling slate of EPs and singles. Picking a favorite from that album was like choosing a favorite child but “Baby When I Close My Eyes” emerged as the victor because of the new side of the band it showcased. Less glammy and with a surprisingly restrained vocal performance by Sabrina Ellis, “Baby When I Close My Eyes” is the band at their absolute best, packed to the gills with addicting hooks and melodies yet subtly tragic and timeless. The future holds great things for Sweet Spirit and “Baby When I Close My Eyes” is the exact moment that became inarguable. – NH


Big Bill “Two Weeks”


Between their phenomenal live shows, unending enthusiasm for odd spectacle and irresistible songwriting, Big Bill were the band to beat in Austin this year. The band’s sophomore EP The Second Bill honestly could have occupied most of the top 10 spots on this list if we didn’t force ourselves to play by the rules of listmaking, but “Two Weeks” is the kind of song that so beautifully encapsulates everything you love about a band you almost don’t even need any of the rest of their music anymore. Starting as a seemingly normal takedown of 9-to-5 agitations, “Two Weeks” culminates in a surreal climax of ecoterror and body horror before dialing it back once more for a reprise of that glorious chorus. And even then, the recorded version only gives you the smallest taste of the thrill of seeing it in performance, with an entire crowd of newly converted Bills. – NH