The 100 Best Songs by Austin Artists of the 2010s: 40-21

Best Austin Songs

Will history look back fondly on the decade that was the 2010s? We’re gonna go out on a limb here and say that’s a big ol’ no. But one area of the decade we feel equally confident saying will be well remembered is the Austin music scene. From 2010 to 2019, Austin music was fertile and vibrant, and though its key national figures– Gary Clark Jr, Shakey Graves, Spoon, A Giant Dog, and so on– all operated in genres that Austin has long been known for, the city’s criminally overlooked electronic and hip hop communities broke through in a major way while other artists breathed new life into country, soul and beyond. Put simply, the 2010s were inarguably an abundance of riches for music fans and you would be hard pressed to find a city consistently putting out as much quality music as Austin did in these ten years. That, of course, means that trying to select the best of the best is a fool’s errand, but at Ovrld, we have always been a little foolish, so without further ado, here is the fourth part of our list of the 100 best songs by Austin artists of the 2010s (read part one here , part two here, part three here and part five here)

Check out our Spotify playlist of the best Austin songs of the 2010s here:

40. The Capitalist Kids “Three Oh”

In a catalog filled mostly with socio-political discourse, satire, and pop-punk love songs, “Three Oh” off of Capitalist Kids’ Lessons on Love, Sharing, and Hygiene stands out as a particularly introspective tune. The song begins with its protagonist standing on a rooftop contemplating where they’ve ended up after thirty years of living and “weighing what was wrong and what was pretty much all right”. Over its course, “Three Oh” touches on fears, vices, melancholy and personal battles, though it ends with the affirmation that “I’m not all that I want to be/But I know who I am and I’ve got time/And I’m ok”. It’s an upbeat personal ballad that’s likely to hit home no matter how young or old you are. Musically this is easily one of the bands all time best. From “Three Oh’s” soaring pop punk intro to the scorching guitar solo that scores it’s denouement, the band is firing on all cylinders here and the end result is truly a song for the ages. – Brian J. Audette

39. The Eastern Sea “The Match”

The Eastern Sea’s 2012 album, Plague, is so stacked that it’s almost impossible to pick a favorite. “The Line,” “Santa Rosa,” “A Lie,” on and on. Nearly every song is a masterpiece. “The Match,” however, towers over all of them. It is careful, patient, soaring and quiet – a tour de force from Easter Sea songwriter Matt Hines. The syncopated pedal tone that establishes the song defines the relentless monotony of life and gives Hines time to lyrically explore the juxtaposition of loneliness and society. He and his partner stand outside a house party they’re hosting, simultaneously distant and connected. Hines initially makes it seem like it’s his partner who is struggling (“The people sitting in your living room/If they don’t know you, who do they know”), but by the end of the song he has implicated himself as well (“Is it us or is it them/Is it you or is it me”). It’s a track without answers, finding beauty in the mess of young adulthood, leaving the listener hanging. I often wonder what happened to that young couple from 2012. I imagine they look a lot like me now. – Carter Delloro

38. Kady Rain “It Wasn’t the Roses”

Pop musician Kady Rain is like if a rainbow were a person, and many of her best tunes are bright and sunshiny while still touching on some difficult, deeply human experiences. “It Wasn’t the Roses” is a contemporary doo-wop bop that finds the singer musing about how she got through abuse that nearly ended her life. With a perky, infectious melody Rain emphasizes just how much of her recovery can be attributed not to generic flower bouquets from well-wishers but to sheer righteous spite toward the fucker with the “sycophantic smile and the false sense of pride.” The track is a brutal teardown of someone who more than deserves it, and it’s catchy as all hell to boot. – Kayleigh Hughes

37. Institute “Salt”

On their breakout track “Salt,” Institute channel the sound of the four horseman of the apocalypse riding down from the skies, providing an unholy clangor of gut punch bass and caterwauling guitar to back up Moses Brown’s tortured, borderline indecipherable vocals. Punk always aims for a kind of ugliness but “Salt” is out and out hideous and all the more compelling for it, immediately establishing Institute as the daring, provocative frontrunners of a reinvigorated Austin punk scene, even as the world at large burned behind them. – Nick Hanover

36. The Digital Wild “Wait”

Pop music doesn’t have to be this good. We started off the 2010s with some super maximalist pop but by the time “Wait” came out in 2017, pop had started taking a turn for the subtler. Still, this track from the Digital Wild uses its dynamic patience to build a hypnotic irresistible atmosphere. The sophisticated restraint of the music is mirrored by the thematic depth of Chelsea Seth Woodward’s lyrics. “Wait” is about wishing that you could hold onto the present, simultaneously looking at the beauty of a small moment with someone you care about and the massive topic of the transience of all life. Daylight always fades. “Nothing really ever lasts.” Woodward admonishes his partner against being sad, but at the same time does all he can to cling to his present as long as possible. “Wait” is almost an act of resistance, holding out hope for something in the face of futility. With the members of the Digital Wild working on their own projects right now and their social media quiet for over a year, their moment in time may have passed. But “Wait” is my favorite part. – CD

35. Mother Falcon “Marigold”

Chances are, if you’ve ever heard a Mother Falcon song before, “Marigold” is one of them. A live staple back when the band was still widely active and the song that opened their Tiny Desk performance, “Marigold” is one of a handful of Mother Falcon songs that perfectly encapsulate what this band does best. A miniature pop-rock symphony orchestra with a roster of nearly two dozen current and former musicians, Mother Falcon have taken symphonic rock in their own direction over the last decade, composing tunes that are both timeless and unique, classical, and modern. “Marigold” tells a tale of young love throwing caution to the wind, laughing in the face of all who would stand against it. The chorus of “Is this love?/I don’t know but tonight I’m gonna find out” is both sweet and defiant, bold in its intent, yet cautious in its assumptions. Backed by the full force of Mother Falcon’s orchestral rock, the song ascends to lofty heights over it’s short duration and then lands sweetly and quietly where it began. A true classic. – BJA

34. Gary Clark Jr. “Bright Lights”

In many ways, the 2010s were Gary Clark Jr.’s decade. In 2010, he came out to the world in a now-legendary performance at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Festival and he’s now a Grammy-winning, White House-visiting multi-millionaire. “Bright Lights” is his origin story, the moment where you knew you were in the presence of a blues guitar genius. In the long shadow of Stevie Ray Vaughan, there is finally a worthy successor to his throne. And back when this track was first released in 2011, Clark seemed to already know what laid out ahead of him. In what could have been an act of hubris and now just seems like a simple statement of fact, he promised, “You gonna know my name by the end of the night.” “Bright Lights” oozes that kind of swagger from start to finish and Clark continually made good on his promise. He continued making amazing blues-based music through the decade, but it was never quite as pure as this moment, when everything was on the line and Clark effortlessly produced a classic. – CD

33. Hundred Visions “I’m Inoculated”

If you’re looking for a single phrase to sum up the 2010s, you could do a lot worse than “pervasive shittiness.” That’s how Hundred Visions described the state of things in the midway point of the decade, from the “unending wars for profit” to the ever widening chasm between the 1% and the rest of humanity. So what the fuck do you even do about living within that? If you’re Hundred Visions, you churn out riff on riff on riff, hoping nervous energy and gleeful anarchy can inoculate you from whatever hellish fate awaits. Sure, that’s unlikely to work, but if you’re going down anyway, why not have some fun with it? – NH

32. Dayglow “Can I Call You Tonight?”

When I first heard “Can I Call You Tonight,” I didn’t believe that I was hearing it for the first time. It feels like a lost timeless gem. Now, somehow, I hear it everywhere. When we featured it as one of the best songs of 2018, Sloan Struble’s bedroom project was just starting to gain steam. Now, Dayglow’s sunny lo-fi anthem to the magic of a disembodied human voice may be the song on this list with the most Spotify plays. “Can I Call You Tonight” struck a chord, connecting with millions of people longing for connection in our age of digital likes. We’re connected all the time, but many people feel like Struble when he sings, “Could you tell me what’s real?” He’s not forsaking technology, but he wants to use it to facilitate an actual connection and alleviate the sense of loneliness that pervades his day. It’s a mundane request that Struble imbues with immense power and hope. With this beautiful track, Struble quickly established himself as a leading light of the next generation of Austin musicians. – CD

31. Troller “Tiger” 

If Gregorian monks had access to synths and drum machines, I am reasonably certain they would have made music that sounds like Troller’s 2012 track “Tiger.” From its cavernous bass to Amber Starr-Goers’ celestial moaning, “Tiger” seems designed for worship by ancient orders, as though it was summoned into place from a moment that exists at both the beginning and end of time. On their follow up works, Troller would somehow get even more epic and massive in ambition, but the casually imposing ominousness of “Tiger” remains alluring, cementing its place as an early milestone in the esteemable Holodeck canon. – NH

30. Speak “Gates”

When you have a song like “Gates” on your album, it would be a crime not to put it front and center. Opening their sophomore LP Pedals with a stabbing, crystalline keyboard riff then exploding seconds later with an equally catchy guitar riff and pounding rhythm section, “Gates” sets the tone for the rest of the album in more ways than one. The opening lyric “This is my second life/Is it Hell or Paradise?” lays the groundwork thematically for the rest of the song and the rest of the album; this is about second lives, second chances, labors of love, and of sacrifice. And oh man is it ever catchy. Echoing the moody, minor key, electropop tonalities of bands like Depeche Mode and M83, “Gates” excites and entices, while maintaining an edge of uncertainty, a leap of faith just over the horizon. If that leap of faith is the rest of the album, it’s a leap worth taking. Without a doubt, “Gates” by Speak has earned a place in my list of all time greatest side one-track ones. – BJA

29. Max Frost “White Lies”

In 2013, Max Frost overwhelmed Austin with this delicious pop gem. Quietly released on his Soundcloud account just before SXSW of that year, “White Lies” took barely a month to become the toast of the music blogosphere and top the Hype Machine. By the end of the summer, he was signed to Atlantic Records and hasn’t looked back. It’s no surprise, hearing this perfect slice of pop paranoia. “White Lies” tells the story of the “sketch vibes” Frost is getting from his significant other, taking her stealthy behavior as evidence of infidelity. His delivery in the second verse reveals the depth of the betrayal he feels as his voice strains against the barrage of accusations, dumping weeks’ worth of hurt in a matter of seconds. Regardless of how relatable this scenario is for you, Frost places it over a pulsating electropop groove that combines acoustic guitars with electronic blips. “White Lies” is the sound of pop music in the 2010s, so expertly done that its appeal will last far beyond just that decade. – CD

28. Black Pumas “Fire”

Soul-funk duo Black Pumas quickly took Austin — and then the world — by storm, blowing up big and fast in a way that rarely happens these days, especially for Austin rockers. But when you hear songs like the sultry, simmering “Fire,” it’s not hard to understand why the Grammy-nominated band hit the big time. Adrian Quesada’s guitar work echoes Spaghetti Western sensibilities, building cinematic depth over a deep, groovy rhythm section (Black Pumas loves a well-deployed horn moment). But singer Eric Burton’s beautifully modulated vocal talents drive the song, moving effortlessly from passionate belting to sweet murmuring as he bewitches you with lyrical flirtation and straightforward, unabashed desire. – KH

27. Fuvk “Glasses”

I wear glasses so I can totally relate to this delicate 2018 anthem from rising singer-songwriter fuvk. But I’ve also felt that sinking feeling in my stomach when someone I care about is about to deliver some life-changing bad news. I’ve idolized people that didn’t return the feeling. We all have. That’s what makes “Glasses” universal, even with the heartbreaking simplicity of fuvk’s lyrics. The way someone looks and tastes, and the annoying things they do that you love them in spite of, and the excuses you make for and about yourself: fuvk places you inside all of this. Over lilting, plucked guitar arpeggios, with double-tracked vocals, you vicariously experience the worst moment of fuvk’s relationship. It’s beautiful and harrowing and immensely hummable. Even with the classic kind of heartbreak that permeates the grand history of pop music, you know that fuvk is a unique talent and voice with a distinctive view of the world. “Glasses” must’ve hurt like hell to live through, but fuvk transformed it into a gorgeous ache. – CD

26. Go Fever “Feel So Much”

The spirit of peak-era Meatloaf is alive and well, and perhaps punched up a poppy notch or two, in Go Fever, led by Australian phenom Acey Monaro. On “Feel So Much,” Monaro channels the dizzying confusion of finding a love that might actually be healthy after a life of…not that — and then somehow still feeling like something is missing: “I feel so much, you feel so little,” she muses. Monaro and the band know their way around a hook, turning a simple rock and roll staple lyric like “I really want you” into a swelling, all-consuming anthem. And that chorus punctuates deceptively bouncy verses built of painfully precise urgings for her lover to bring some of their feelings to the surface so she might feel a little less alone with all of hers: “I’m one feeling away from madness/You’re one feeling away from the mattress at any given time of the day/ Why don’t you open your eyes and see that I’m runnin’ away?” Monaro’s clear-eyed bluntness is a tenderness of its own, and she has the power to raise goosebumps with almost every line she writes. Ultimately, “Feel So Much” finds Monaro and her partner feeling out some sort of balance between the dull repression of normalcy and the pain of abuse, and it ends on a well-earned optimistic note, as she concludes that “we’ll be okay if we do half the things we say we’re gonna do.” – KH

25. Shakey Graves “Dearly Departed (ft. Esmé Patterson)”

Let’s face facts, this is the Shakey Graves song. If you’re going to introduce someone to this band, then this has got to be the track to start with. While this song feels like a long way from those early days when I saw Shakey Graves’ Alejandro Rose-Garcia playing solo shows with just his guitar and a suitcase kick drum, it nonetheless captures the musical and lyrical stylings that have come to encapsulate what the band is all about. A slick folk rock song about a house haunted by the ups and downs of a romantic relationship, “Dearly Departed” off of And The War Came oozes country charm. Featuring the eminent Esmé Patterson on vocal accompaniment, the song feels like nothing less than a forgotten Johnny Cash/June Carter Cash tune. Rose-Garcia and Patterson’s back and forth feels natural and unrehearsed, more a conversation than a song. Sung to a percussive beat that again conjures images of Johnny Cash, “Dearly Departed” is a toe-tapper without rival and a true modern folk classic. – BJA

24. Sweet Spirit “The Power”

Sabrina Ellis is the hero we’ve needed all along. “The Power” plays like an origin story for the Monarch of Austin Music over the 2010s. “I’ve got the power here inside of myself,” Ellis declares over a stomping rhythm line. They knows what they’re capable of, and deliver the kind of star turn in “The Power” that makes legends. Yet, unlike the rock gods and goddesses of old, Ellis invites us in. “Come feel the power,” they command, and we can’t help but follow their wishes. If this were the 1970s, Sweet Spirit would be opening for T. Rex and Heart off the strength of an anthem like this. With power chords barely making a dent on the pop charts, the situation is slightly different. But you’d never know it from Ellis’ performance– Sabrina is Freddie Mercury, Robert Plant and Joan Jett rolled into one. A true vintage rock star. No one anywhere has made a fist-pumping rallying cry this good since Jack White nearly two decades ago, and no matter what happens next, Ellis will always be our hero. – CD

23. Pleasure Venom “Hive”

Pleasure Venom has been championed by both Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill and Shirley Manson of Garbage, and “Hive” might be the best example of why. The track is a jolt of pure thrashing punk that delivers much-needed political rage through a lens of demonic possession. As her band bashes and shreds, singer Audrey Campbell shrieks and howls out furiously poetic lyrics that deserve to make their way onto an extremely goth SAT test: “Calamity in your eyes/Depravity by design/Rancorous in sight/Heinous suck me dry.” On “Hive,” Pleasure Venom is overflowing with righteous outrage, and the best part of it all is just how crisp their musicianship has become. It takes a lot of hard work to make punk rock that feels this effortlessly electric and physical, and “Hive” proves that Pleasure Venom has put in the time. – KH

22. Name Sayers “Heron King”

The 2010s saw a profound revitalization of horror in all its forms but one of the most terrifying cultural moments in the decade didn’t happen on a screen or on a page. No, it comes at around the 1:30 mark of Name Sayers’ “Heron King,” as Devin James Fry sucks in a breath and then asks in a positively Satanic drawl “If you got so many questions, then why are you asking them so slooooooowly?” Though there is a sinister aspect to the instrumentation itself, with its nocturnal swamp sound tones and lurching rhythm, it is Fry’s delivery that pushes it firmly into horror territory, particularly once he informs you that if he was a murder weapon, he’d be a rope, and if he was a burn, he’d be “s cold, cold, cold burn.” And when Fry and the band throw off their human disguises and indulge in a fiery crescendo, it is Fry’s perplexing line “If I was the heron king/How would I ever know?” that catastrophically lingers like a half-remembered nightmare. Because at that point, the listener isn’t too dissimilar from the doomed would-be hero of Tim Krabbé’s The Vanishing, realizing too late they’re in close quarters with true evil and too curious to not continue onward towards whatever fatal answers await. – NH

21. Mélat “Weak”

Have you ever felt like a song just speaks to how you feel about someone? That’s the sensation provoked by “Weak,” the leadoff single from Mélat’s 2019 release, After All: Episode One. Mélat’s sultry voice and heartfelt lyrics are impossible to resist, captivating you with a quavering vulnerability that is matched by the heartsick quality of the production, full of swelling tones and twinkling piano. It’s powerful enough to leave you feeling weak in the knees, just like any real life crush would. – Aaron “Fresh” Knight
Check out our Spotify playlist of the best Austin songs of the 2010s here:

Continue reading our Best of the 2010s coverage at these links

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