The 100 Best Albums by Austin Artists of the 2010s: 80-61

Best Albums 2010s Austin

As thriving as the Austin music scene was in regards to singles in the 2010s, the city has arguably always been more of an album town and that remained true in the decade. The well-reviewed geniuses of the prior era, including Bill Callahan, Okkervil River and Spoon, continued to put in incredible work, while buzzworthy acts like A Giant Dog, Dana Falconberry, S U R V I V E and Molly Burch came into their own. Meanwhile, Austin rap cohered in an unexpected way and bore a treasure trove of landmark albums while the synth scene finally got overdue recognition as that community released its own string of milestones. 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 second part of our list of the 100 best albums by Austin artists of the 2010s (and don’t forget to check out our songs list here!)

80. East Cameron Folkcore Kingdom of Fear

East Cameron Folkcore’s Kingdom of Fear remains to me, one of the most important punk albums of the 2010’s and if you don’t think the term “punk” applies to this music, I humbly request you refrain from ever using the word again. A sprawling concept album in an age of singles and a-la-carte downloads, Kingdom of Fear reminds us of the power that a collection of songs – expertly played, produced, and sequenced – can have. Poignant, powerful, and haunting, Kingdom of Fear is a conceptual journey in four parts that takes us on a downward spiral of the modern condition that even Dante Alighieri would be impressed by. This is a concept album for the ages, full of emotion and resonance and expertly crafted. Thematically and musically each track on Kingdom of Fear is a part of a larger whole and stronger for it, but even more impressive is how many of these songs can and do stand on their own. As an album aficionado however I urge you to listen to Kingdom of Fear in one go as a singular experience. East Cameron Folkcore projected their souls onto this album and it shows. – Brian J. Audette

79. Blastfamous USA BUSA Flock

I first met Zeale back in the early part of the 2010s when he was an aspiring pop-rapper with a good ear for melody and versatile way with words. He fell off my radar for a couple of years in the middle part of the decade and then returned in a big way with Blastfamous USA. Busa Flock from 2018 is his second release under the moniker and he kicks off the EP with venom in “Turn Up (Intro).” “Motherfuck the establishment,” he spits out in the first second of the record, before releasing a tirade of profanity against everyone who has made life in America more disturbing in the last few years. Zeale’s anger is cathartic for those of us who agree with him but just can’t scream at the top of our lungs. With guest turns from some of Austin’s other leading lights, including Mobley and Chantell Moody, Zeale proceeds to spend the next 18 minutes unleashing a lifetime of frustration in one of the most authentic political screeds I’ve heard in the Trump era. Blastfamous USA is the sound of our moment: a lyrical and musical acknowledgement that we have to fight back together. – Carter Delloro

78. The Vapor Caves Feel Yourself

By the time the Vapor Caves released Feel Yourself, the core of duo of vocalist Yadira Brown and producer Andrew Thaggard (better known as BoomBaptist) had paid their dues hundreds of times over. It would have been easy for the twosome to rest on their laurels and release work that showcased their natural talents without necessarily expanding on them. Instead, Brown and Thaggard set out to prove themselves with all the passion of brand new artists getting their first– and perhaps last– stab at the spotlight. As a result, Feel Yourself is an album of complexity and surprises in every corner, ranging from the futuristic g-funk of “Hurry Up and Wait” to the dreamy, glitched out smooth R&B of “The Chase” to slinky fuck boi putdown “Bitch to the Boys.” Feel Yourself isn’t just the best work of each member’s career, it’s quite possibly the best work of electro-funk Austin has ever seen. – Nick Hanover

77. Go Fever Go Fever

When Acey Monaro first landed on my radar with her marvelous and sorely underappreciated eponymous EP, I couldn’t help but connect the cheeky Aussie to iconic bandleaders of old, from Paul Westerberg to Edwyn Collins. All Monaro was missing a band. When she reemerged with that band in tow, everything clicked into place, including the epiphany that there was a very specific songwriting icon whose throne she was well-suited to inherit: Elvis Costello. That would make Go Fever’s titular debut LP Monaro’s very own This Year’s Model, a swaggering, glimmering, no-holds-barred reintroduction to a brilliant songwriter backed by equally brilliant players. From the sleazy insta-romance of “United States of My Mind” to the sweetly venomous “Surprise! I Never Loved You,” Monaro presented herself as the glammiest gutter poet you’ve ever encountered, a winking debutante whose fuck-ups skip past embarrassment and land right in the realm of legend. – NH

76. Impossible Nothing Phonemenomicon 

Like a new The Residents for the 2010s, Darwin Frost had a lot to say, a full stack to say it with, and nothing to say for himself. His connection to Texas is the thinnest on this list: a single word on a Bandcamp page.

He directs our attention entirely to the samples, and that humility is the only sense we get of his persona. When you hear something you recognize, it’s as if you found it, not as if he’s showing off to you. His talent is obvious, but Phonemenomicon feels more like a showcase for the composers that came before him. Its most memorable moments are not when songs are combined in a novel way, but when one song is allowed to “solo” for moment. It always feels like it’s the originals he wants us to appreciate, not the plundering

Even if we wanted to look away from the music, there nothing else to pay attention to. He stages 260 minutes of music in a tracklist of 26 equivalent, alphabetic blocks, no one more appealing than another. There is no clever title or shortest track to offer a starting point. Who gives this much effort, takes such pains, and then sends it into the world with so little fanfare? – Robin Sinhababu

75. Quiet Company Transgressor

Quiet Company’s Taylor Muse has always written music with his heart firmly attached to his sleeve, but on the band’s 4th LP he took on a journey of self-reflection and deprecation unlike any the band had publicly embarked on before. When I first listened to and wrote about this album I (like many others I presume) couldn’t divorce it from its groundbreaking predecessor We Are All Where We Belong, an observation on and challenge to religious indoctrination told from the perspective of someone who lived it. In the years since however, I’ve come to see Transgressor for what it really is: the tortured songcraft of an artist grappling with a marriage on the rocks while trying to come to terms with professional success on a local level and trying to spin that into national recognition, in an age where guitar pop may as well be the same as chamber music to the ears of a mainstream audience. While some may feel it’s not Quiet Company’s best work and indeed, it takes some listening to really piece it out, it’s a worthy addition to their catalog that deserves more than a second glance. – BJA

74. The Golden Boys Dirty Fingernails

John Wesley Coleman III was a fixture of the Austin music scene throughout the 2010s. Like a shark, he just keeps moving all the time. Coleman is constantly overflowing with ideas and seems to share most of them with the world. His lo-fi punk aesthetic permeates much of what he does, but it never came together better than on this 2012 release with his five-piece band The Golden Boys. The energy across Dirty Fingernails never lets up as the group tears through their material at a seemingly unsustainable pace. Most songs clock in under three minutes and feel like they’re going to fly apart at the seams at any moment. But the chops are undeniable. On the title track, for example, the Boys paint a vivid picture of their slacker lifestyle while tearing through an unforgettable hook. Leadoff track “California” is a wall of vintage rock that you’ll return to again and again. Probably because of the Hammond B-3 in the mix, the Golden Boys remind me heavily of The Hold Steady. They sound like the best bar band in the world. No matter where you are, Dirty Fingernails will give you the best hangover of your life. – CD

73. LNS Crew LNS Crew Mixtape Vol. 2

2015 marked the tail end of what was known as the blog era, and with that a handful of popular artists blown up by blogs found themselves struggling to figure out just how to maneuver without the hype of blogs. Down here in Austin there was a particular set of rappers who wasn’t going to let the hype decline of music blogs stop all the work they had done. That group was upstart collective LNS Crew. The LNS Crew, comprised at the time of Kydd Jones, Tank Washington, Cory Kendrix, and Deezie Fresh (now Deezie Brown), had come together once again like the Mighty Morphin Power Ranger to create LNS Crew Vol.2. The compilation was the follow up to the crew’s debut mixtape released three years prior. This time around with heavy production from Johnny Swindles and Kydd Jones, and guest appearances from heavy hitters like Houston’s Killa Kyleon, the late great Sean Price, and many others, the LNS Crew showed why they were debatably Austin’s favorite collective. The project consisted of 21 tracks of LNS being as cool as they looked in their pictures, with no missteps as every LNS Crew member more than held their own alongside the top tier talent. – Aaron “Fresh” Knight

72. Matthew Squires Tambaleo

Matthew Squires is the epitome of who Austin band Big Bill must have had in mind when they sang about a “sweet boy.” On Tambaleo, Squires (certainly inadvertently) makes a case for why he might be the sweetest boy. Squires, a lo-fi master and thoughtful intricate lyricist, is perhaps the best successor to Austin’s late great Daniel Johnston, whose spirit seems to run through everything Squire produces. In Ovrld’s 2017 review of Tambaleo, writer Adrian Gandara described Squires as music as “little sermons in the language of the people: pop music,” and that is still, in my opinion, the best description of the album. Spiritual reflections, musings, and wishes washed down with an abundance of melody. – Kayleigh Hughes

71. S U R V I V E RR7349

It’s doubtful that when S U R V I V E were preparing RR7349 they had any idea that thanks to a certain Netflix hit they would be rising to the top of the electronic music world in 2016. The band were cult darlings before 2016, of course, but not to the degree they soon would be. And yet RR7349 feels like the kind of work that comes from a veteran band who know they are at the height of their powers. From the space rock of opener “AHB” to the menacing stomp of “Dirt” to the action game soundtrack pulse of “Copter,” RR7349 is propulsive and unyielding, taking listeners to soaring heights and then yanking them back down below the surface to do it all over again. – NH

70. Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes

Like some otherworldly collaboration between Kurt Cobain and Kevin Shields, Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes crafted their own unique auditory assault that I could only accurate describe as Grunge Gaze. Opening with the bold and raucous “(I)”, a wall of what sounds like 300 guitars roars in shortly after the track begins, accompanied by a lazy rhythm and Steve Pike’s throaty shout-growl. It’s in-your-face and it takes a moment to get used to, but it works to get the blood pumping and prime your ears for the unique sounds to come. Where the band really excels for me is when they slow things down on tracks like “Sundance Kid.” Saddled with a clean riff up front and sultry rhythm, this is a country grunge tune complete with cowboy chords and a wild west narrative. Worlds collide when the chorus kicks in and Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes brings the noise with layers of effects and some serious slide guitar action. In these moments they almost remind me of Dinosaur Jr. by way of Alice in Chains: thoughtful, but sparse lyrics over threadbare rhythms and stoned beats, with a hint of menace lurking around every riff. Taken together it’s a package that thrives on dichotomy and revels in its noisey strangeness. – BJA

69. Bobby Jealousy The Importance of Being Jealous

After Mark Stoney left Bobby Jealousy following their debut album, A Little Death, he took with him all of the minor chords from the band’s repertoire. The resulting follow-up, 2013’s Importance of Being Jealous, is an adrenaline shot of hooky rock. It’s banger after banger after banger. On their first record, there was a bit more separation between each songwriter’s contributions. Here, Sabrina Ellis and Seth Gibbs harmonize with each other almost continuously, leaving their imprints strewn across every second of the record. Freed from the thematic constraints of A Little Death, they let their imaginations run wild and throw everything they have at what would end up being their final record before breaking up both personally and professionally. The resulting record is so full of great songs that it’s impossible to pick out definitive favorites. For a long time, “If I Was Your Man” was my favorite, with its gender non-conforming lyrics and soaring chorus, but then there’s the raucous bluegrass of “25 Years” and the captivating melodrama of “Shipwrecked” and the acoustic love song “Fall Asleep in Your Arms.” Bobby Jealousy poured everything into Importance and left us with a perfect record. – CD

68. Magna Carda Van Geaux 

In a time where the League of Extraordinary G’z and Kydd Jones and the LNS Crew were pretty much the faces of the Austin Rap Scene, there was Magna Carda, the duo of wordsmith Megz Kelli and producer Dougie Do, who were quickly taking their place in the Austin hip hop pantheon. Van Geaux, the third release from the group, made the scene at large around town start to pay attention, garnering respect for production, handled by Dougie in its entirety, and Megz’s superb lyricism. And no wonder– the smooth, nonchalant flow of Megz mixed with the soulful, jazzy, production of Dougie Do on Van Geaux was damn near unmatched and irresistible. – AFK

67. A Giant Dog Toy

A frenetic ode to dark desires, A Giant Dog’s fourth album goes all in on embodying my favorite line from my favorite song on the album: “I wanted it and more,” from lusty “Bendover.” Toy is all about more, more, more, to irresistible and extremely chaotic effect. Singer Sabrina Ellis is in top form, bringing their soaring glam vocals to track after track of music that sounds like the most fucked up 3 a.m.s you’ve ever had. Album highlights include the ferocious, freaky-fast drumming on “Lucky Ponderosa,” the dire, off-the-rails details of “Hero for the Weekend,” and history’s greatest, itchiest, eagerest cover of Sparks’ “Angst in My Pants.” – KH

66. Leach Kokedama

Being a music writer means facing the inevitable reality that at at least one point in your career, however long or short, music will lose its wonder for you. And then just as inevitably, you’ll hear a work that will return that wonder to you, like an unexpected gift from an out of touch friend. Such was the case when I stumbled across Leach’s single “Grown Up,” a bubbly and playful bedroom pop that captivated me even before Leach’s voice, an heir to Peter Gabriel if I’ve ever heard one, appeared in the mix. And somehow the album it came from, Kokedama, only continued to surprise, from the falsetto laced romance rock of “Blueberry Queen” to the sparse electro-acoustic ballad “Down to a Science.” Kokedama heralded the arrival of a true wonder in Leach and I couldn’t be more pleased that he has lived up to those lofty expectations and then some in the years since. – NH

65. Hikes Hikes

I love bands that mix styles that (to the casual listener) seem impossible to pair. Blending folk and heavy, technical rock music, Hikes’ self-titled LP is a sublime combination of airy and aggressive punctuated by stellar musicianship and sharp compositions. Reminiscent of the technical noodlings of former Joan of Arc side project Ghosts and Vodka, Hikes make ambient music for math rock nerds. What sets this band apart from this eclectic however is its folksy, almost jam band-like approach and singer/lead guitarist Nay Wilkins’ wispy vocals and transcendental lyrics. Epitomized for me by this album’s lead off track “Spring Forward” ( a live staple and the most feel-good mosh song you’ll ever hear) Hikes blend technical noodling with folk rhythm and bouts of percussive crunch to create a sound that’s soothing and exhilarating all at once. The perfect soundtrack for a country drive or an afternoon spent walking one of Austin’s many parks and paths, Hikes asks little, but gives so much in return. – BJA

64. Mobley Fresh Lies Vol. 1

Much of 2018’s Fresh Lies, Vol 1 was already released by Mobley. For example, we had “Torch” in the top 10 of our Best Songs of 2012 list. But this reboot didn’t feel unnecessary when it came out; instead, it highlighted how ahead of the curve Mobley has been all along. Mainstream pop music has only moved closer to Mobley’s brand of textured, subtle catchiness. In 2012, Mobley was running against the grain of maximalist, Max Martin-influenced hits like “Starships” or “We Found Love.” Now, Mobley feels completely of a piece with a pop star like Billie Eilish. Songs like “Solo” or “Selfsame” have the minimalist darkness that seems to be resonating widely right now. Mobley packs his tracks with so many layers and textures that repeat listens are both required and inevitable. He manipulates voices and messes with percussion timbres so that each song ends up being more than it initially seems. The vulnerable “Taste of Gold” starts off sounding like John Legend and ends up blossoming into a Muse-esque power ballad. Mobley playfully revels in the sound of pop and ends up on Fresh Lies with some of the most inventive and interesting pop of the decade. – CD

63. Dominican Jay Reality Rap

For the better part of the 2010s Austin’s League of Extraordinary G’z (LOEGz) were looked at as the end all be all of Austin Rap. They were more or less our very own Wu-Tang Clan. Like Wu-Tang the group branched off and its members went on to do separate endeavors. Of those members, Dominican Jay (formerly Lil J) was perhaps the most ambitious. In 2016 he linked up with Toronto’s platinum producer Frank Dukes and the Austin’s very own platinum producer Eric Dingus for his debut solo album, Reality Rap. Releasing the album on his birthday, Jay kept with his gritty style and hardcore lyrics unflinchingly depicting real life situations on the streets. Never one to glorify what goes on in those streets, Jay prefers to educate those unaware of the hardships one may face when out in the world just trying to make their way in it by any means. For those missing the LOEGz rapping together you got a taste of that with features from $Dot and Reggie Coby. Jay also had a heavy line up of Austin favorites in Jonathas, Sertified, Gerald G, amongst others, making for a true Austin hip hop blockbuster that showed the end of LOEGz was just the beginning for some of its individual members. – AFK

62. Slugbug Truck Month

Hailed by creator Paul D. Millar as “the definitive LP of the Post-Information Age,” Truck Month is a bit like plugging the internet circa 1997 directly into your brain and hoping for the best. Over its 13 tracks, Truck Month explores alternative lifestyles (bizarro jingle “Living in a Dome”), the concept of forcing supercomputers to boogie (“Macintosh Tapes”) and a literal interpretation of the information superhighway (“Real America”) that segues into a tale of a synthesizer heist (“Linear Narrative”). Through it all, Slugbug stands together not as a band (Millar handles the bulk of the instrumentation and production) but as a viral concept, like Devo’s devolution if it was malware. Nothing before or since has sounded quite like Truck Month though Millar ensured that his particular brand of absurdity carried on his production work for spiritual successors Big Bill. – NH

61. Various Artists Slack Capital

Few compilations feel as thoughtfully constructed and cohesive as Slack Capital, and few albums at all do a better job documenting the early 2010s Austin punk/indie/rock/weirdo sound and reminding people that the city’s music scene is way more than singer-songwriters and blues rock. The album appropriately kicks off with DUMB’s riotous pop punk anthem “I Don’t Wanna Die on I-35” (“but I probably will,” singer Corey Baum laments). And from there it’s just a who’s who of artists who made their homes at Beerland, Cheer Ups, old Emo’s, Red Eye Fly-turned-Sidewinder (RIP), etc. Highlights include David Israel berating “yuppieland,” Popper Burns having a spacey freakout, Sailor Poon reminding all the dudes in bars that they’re “not gonna call you daddy,” Annabelle Chairlegs’ ode to “Cementville,” the Zoltars’ slacker rock about walking around the city at night, Mean Jolene’s sweet swinging ode to drugs, and of course, Big Bill remind us all that “Every! City! Sucks!” – KH

Read the rest of our Best Albums of the 2010s selections at the links below

100-81 | 60-41 | 40-21 | 20-1 (coming Friday)

And continue reading our Best of the 2010s coverage at these links to our best songs selections

100-81 | 80-61 | 60-41 | 40-21 | 20-1