The 100 Best Albums by Austin Artists of the 2010s: 100-81

Best Austin Albums 2010s

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 first 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!)

100. Quiet Company We Are All Where We Belong

Quiet Company had shown promise in the Austin scene beginning at the start of the decade but no one was quite ready for what they had in store with We Are All Where We Belong. On their breakthrough LP, Quiet Company truly became a band, with leader Taylor Muse and guitarist Tommy Blank enlisting drummer Jeff Weathers, horn player Cody Ackors and bassist Matt Parmenter, the latter of whom also took on production duties and played a pivotal role in expanding the group’s sonic palette. But quite remarkably, that expansion didn’t get in the way of the deeply personal aspect of the album, instead it augmented the power of Muse’s intimate songwriting as he explored a crisis of faith and the fallout. In its time, We Are All Where We Belong prompted flattering comparisons to acts as diverse as Sufjan Stevens, the Decemberists, Deathcab for Cutie and even the Get Up Kids but what remains clear today is that it’s the exact moment where Quiet Company proved they stood out from a crowded indie rock scene and were destined for greatness. – Nick Hanover

99. The Great Nostalgic Hope We Live Like We Promised

Abram Shook’s 2011 masterpiece Hope We Live Like We Promised is full of theatrical rock hooks from start to finish. Songs like “Islands,” with its off-kilter percussion, and “Morning Light,” with its stately horns, travel in unexpected directions while still managing somehow to feel completely coherent. Lyrically, the record explores the ambivalence of growing up and watching those around you make different choices about the lives they want to lead. It’s a record that I hope to be able to go back to for the rest of my life. It’s a true work of art that helps you learn more about yourself while always feeling fun and accessible.  – Carter Delloro

98. The Teeta American Pop

The Teeta’s 2018 release, inspired by the 1981 film of the same name, was one of the best releases in Austin that year. The anticipation of Teeta’s first full length release after a slew of collaborative projects and EP’s certainly lived up to the hype. American Pop tackles several cliches of the pop culture era– hip hop lifestyle obsessions, the pain of notoriety, drugs, relationship drama– but Teeta makes it fresh by using these subjects as a springboard for analyzing his own personal demons. Kicking the album off with the very introspective song, “Me & God,” Teeta channels the hidden pain he deals with on a regular basis, providing a look into the life of an artist who had previously hidden his true self from his fans. But American Pop also brings the hits, with fan favorites Stylish, Aw Yeah, Fire & Desire, all continuing the stellar relationship with producer Boss Beatz, building on the previous releases of the Killstreak series and paving the way for Teeta’s soon to come big break. – Aaron “Fresh” Knight

97. Moving Panoramas In Two

On 2019’s In Two, Moving Panoramas perfect a sound the can only be described, in the most complimentary way possible, as “yacht-rock if that yacht were drifting lazily along Lake Austin on a crisp 95-degree fall day.” The band elegantly and effortlessly brings both an Austin hipness and some Texas toe-tapping to the chilled-out world of dream pop. Each song, from punchy singles “Baby Blues” and “ADD Heart” to sweet, breezy tracks like “In Tune” and “On Hold,” is lush and gently cinematic, approaching the ebbs and flows and pains and follies of relationships from specific but holistically cohesive angles. Utter professionals, Moving Panoramas deliver substance and shine on In Two, their best album yet. – Kayleigh Hughes

96. The Couch The Couch

This record, with Sara Houser joining Taylor Wilkins up front, is so good and so simple. It doesn’t break new ground, and didn’t in 2012 either. Yet no matter what sound from the past five decades (classic rock, power-pop, shoegaze, Franz Ferdinand and Congotronics, The Couch) The Couch plays at, the tunes sound fresh and fun.

There’s a lot of slick playing and singing here, but the way the band rises and retreats together, no one ever seems to be showing off. Even in moments of fantastic singing, notey melodic bass, or outright shredding, the other players arrange themselves so as to keep everyone in the spotlight.

I’m not trying to make The Couch sound like Stone Temple Pilots here. It’s just that this record is bursting at the seams with melody, at zero cost to rocking out, and I wish everything this normal could be this fresh and fun. Good songs and great singing will always be in style. – Robin Sinhababu

95. Protextor & Brother Bear American Neon

Like hugging a friend, American Neon, the powerful collaboration between hip hop veteran Protextor & Brother Bear (Matt Puckett from orchestral pop outfit Mother Falcon), is full of love and bodies. Sophisticated, ironic and sexy, all at once, American Neon is the mind made flesh, a cosmic collision of arrangement and rhyme that gathers the fragments of our unstable reality and arranges them into righteous, nostalgic newness. The kind of newness that lasts. – Allanah Maarteen

94. Spoon Hot Thoughts

This isn’t how this is supposed to work. Over 20 years after Spoon’s first release, they just continue to get better. This might be a hot take, but I’m convinced that Hot Thoughts is Spoon’s best album ever. Sure there’s no “Way We Get By” but “Do I Have to Talk You Into It,” “Can I Sit Next to You,” and the title track are some of the funkiest cuts of Spoon’s career. Where so much of Spoon’s output has been cerebral, intellectual experimentation, on Hot Thoughts, they just feel. The sadness of “I Ain’t the One” and the regret of “WhisperI’lllistentohearit” sit perfectly behind the frustrate blues of “Do I Have to..” and the pure lust of “Hot Thoughts.” Spoon are among the most prominent Austin ambassadors to the rest of the world and they continue to be admirable leading lights. Hot Thoughts shows their drive toward experimentation while never radically straying from who they are. How long can they keep up this insanely high quality? Who knows, but closer “Us” suggests they’ve still got some unique sonic places to explore. – CD

93. TC Superstar R&D

2019’s R&D by pop sleuths TC Superstar gave us a pop yarn about love, loss, and the shadow of the many faces and facets of romance. Told in concept form about the ill fated Ricky and Dana, our heroes at odds, we are plunged into a world that is full of possessive synths and contagious ear worms. With spoken word thought pieces connecting each song, the album allows itself coyly to become more than just a dance album.The most danceable and infectious songs, “One and Only,” features up and coming songstress Mary Bryce, making a catchy chorus even more delicious. R&D makes sure that pop music pushes its way to the average listener in ATX, and is a damn good soundtrack to dance a broken heart away to. – Eryn Brothers

92. Mindz of a Different Kind Borderlinez

What is probably one of the most, if not the most, slept on rap groups/collectives in the city of Austin, Mindz of a Different Kind (MDK) came out swinging in 2017 with their magnum opus, Borderlinez. Featuring stellar production from Brown V. Board and French beatmaker Bruno Mayet, MDK created a well rounded body of work with each member of the collective having plenty of room to effortlessly show off their lyrical prowess. Tracks like “All I Know (Mindz),” “Prometheus,” and “Deal With Me” ably proved MDK could go toe to toe with iconic hip hop collectives of any era, and cemented their legacy as a group for true hip hop aficionados. – AFK

91. Weird Weeds Help Me Name Melody

Weird Weeds’ fourth LP is loaded with impeccable playing, none of which calls attention to itself. Neither do all the genre changes: the band turns on a dime, many times, without sounding like they’re trying to disorient or impress us.

For all its left turns and perfect takes, Help Me Name Melody can sound in the best way like band practice. The songs flow in a charming stream-of-consciousness style that gives a light, fresh feeling to all the surprising and impressive moments, as if the band’s just happening upon them.

I realize that’s not the case, and not only because the music is so well arranged and rehearsed. Vocals disappear for long stretches, never missed but always welcome when they return. Repetition is always hypnotic or groovy, never tedious. The recording is perfect for them, too: crisp and live-sounding, with just a touch of gauze on the more psychedelic elements.

Unlike so much of its kind, this music isn’t built around climaxes, so you’re never sure where the changes lead, what you’re on the way to or moving away from. It’s an easy record to get lost in, and it might be tortuous or at least frustrating if it didn’t all sound so natural and inviting. This record takes you lots of places, but the last notes leave you wanting to start over right away and retrace your steps. – RS

90. DdotElles EFA Demo: Take 3

A fusion of recognizable aesthetics from other eras and new approaches that point towards any number of sonic possibilities, DdotElles’ EFA Demo: Take 3 navigates countless pocket scenes, ranging from more traditional boom bap (the Haris Qureshi produced “Yung Dorie”) to narcotic dream rap (the aptly named “Sepia”) to bright Afrofuturist electro (“Jesus Shuttleworth”) and miraculously, it almost never buckles under the weight of its creator’s sprawling ambition- it’s one of the few epic length hip hop releases that justifies its running time by making nearly every single moment bracing and necessary, a tour de force in the truest sense. Since its release, the Austin hip hop scene has become more cohesive and, well, less weird, but that only serves to make EFA Demo: Take 3 stand out all the more, as a showcase of tuneful oddity and what might have been. – NH

89. Bright Light Social Hour Space is Still the Place

From the patient, atmospheric opening of “Sweet Madelene,” you know that you’re in for sonic journey on The Bright Light Social Hour’s second full-length. The songs sit together so coherently that it’s hard to pick out favorite tracks; instead, I find myself drawn to stellar moments. There’s the disco rhythm section on “Dreamlove” that still can’t rush Curtis Roush’s airy guitar and vocals. There’s Jack O’Brien’s tight bass riff on “Ghost Dance” that leads to a harsh-yet-catchy “na-na” chorus. The epic guitar solos on “Ouroboros,” the early Zeppelin homage of “Slipstream.” It’s one of the most carefully crafted, sonically daring albums of the decade. Every arrangement breathes as TBLSH settle in and see where each little journey takes them. Closing out with the synthesized epic “Escape Velocity,” TBLSH confirm that they will do what it takes to realize their vision of their sound. By 2015, they had earned the ability to tinker and explore and they made the most out of it with Space Is Still the Place, establishing themselves as one of the leading psych-rock bands around, while developing their own retro-futuristic take. – CD

88. Sertified Chips & Salsa

South Austin, Texas is seen to be a hotbed for rappers in Austin, and Sertified is an artist who more or less clenches this argument. With the release of Chips and Salsa in 2015, Sertified set about releasing a torrent of music that made him rise up as one of the best rappers in the state. Chips and Salsa showed that all the hype about Sertified’s lyrical ability, songwriting and show prowess was well warranted. Backed up by powerhouse producer Haris Qureshi and guests Dowrong and LNS Crew’s Kydd Jones, Sertified turned in career best work on Chips and Salsa and ensured the LP would go down as an Austin classic. – AFK

87. Acey Monaro Acey Monaro

It’s startling to realize Aussie Acey Monaro, who now fronts beloved local band Go Fever, has been Austin’s best songwriter since at least 2014, when she released her self-titled solo EP. Across five infectiously catchy, unerringly poignant tracks, including the wryly dreamy opener “Come Undone,” Monaro introduced her brand of frank, lyrical hook-heavy storytelling. On the album, Monaro weaves a life of bizarro anecdotes and deep tragedy into something downright lovely, delivering a few full-on life mottos along the way. Her sweet-voiced delivery of the line “I can’t run from the trouble I make” off album highlight “The Trouble I Make” (which begins with an incredible New-Order-meets-Dolly-Parton guitar riff) has been my constant companion over the last six years. Monaro has come into her own as a bandleader, but Acey Monaro will forever stand as evidence that she and her guitar alone are enough to make music that feels truly fresh and vital. – KH

86. Basketball Shorts Hot & Ready

Equal parts snotty and death defying, on Hot and Ready Basketball Shorts came into their own as pop punk titans, as comfortable around pizza sex metaphors (the album’s title track) as Misfits-esque doom rock (“Lookin’”) and surprisingly somber odes to loss (“9 Lives”). Hot and Ready sticks to a standard pop punk sonic template but the surprising depth of Basketball Shorts’ songwriting enable them to stand out from so many of their peers. Sure, the snotty tone, propulsive hooks and pogoing rhythms are all there but once the thrill of that pop punk familiarity wears off, Hot and Ready remains intriguing because of the unexpected layers to Basketball Shorts’ craft, allowing it to be an enduring classic that remains as, uh, hot and ready today as it did upon release. – NH

85. The Sour Notes Last Looks

One of the more prolific rock bands in town, the Sour Notes truly came into their own with Last Looks. “Big Dreams” churns forward relentlessly like a bulldozer, “The Moment You Feel It” is a touching acoustic ballad with a spine, “Nothing’s More Contagious Than Evil” combines ominous arpeggios with a rocking backbeat that help the song live up to its name. And then there’s “Hot Pink Flares,” which like other tracks on the album shifts from one section to another to keep the listener guessing while sounding as epic as anything. After multiple spins, this is an album that continues to fascinate. – CD

84. Bobby Jealousy A Little Death

In French, the term for “orgasm” literally translates to “a little death.” Songwriters Sabrina Ellis, Seth Gibbs and Mark Stoney take this little tidbit as a jumping off point for A Little Death, what essentially amounts to a concept record about the relationship between love, sex and death. For example, Ellis compares their lover to both a door frame in an earthquake – providing shelter in turbulent times – and a tidal wave, pulling them “to a sandy grave.” On “This Knife,” Ellis acknowledges over a dreamy triple-meter sway how their happiness could lead to their partner’s demise. Stoney and Gibbs trade verses on “Pass You By” about being grateful for the moment because “one tragic day” everyone you know will be dead. What makes this such a delightful experience, though, is the ear Bobby Jealousy have for melodies. Their voices intertwine and soar, creating some of the most memorable power pop I’ve ever heard. Stumbling upon this album in 2012 was a transcendent experience; being able to return to it every year, always finding new things to appreciate, is a gift you rarely find from such poppy, major-key music. – CD

83. Big Bill Stand By Your Bill

Austin is a city that wears its weirdness with pride, but is weird enough?

Stand By Your Bill, the first full length record from Big Bill, says yes. Uniting post-punk with some of the more indulgent genres—doo wop to surf to blues metal—the album carves out a juicy monster and serves it, dripping, at an ill-dressed table with nothing but your hands to feed you. You dig in, your fingers and lips wet with oil and fat, your body trusting the beat, giving in to the confusion, and suddenly, weird is enough. Because to Big Bill, weird is more than unusual or abnormal or strange. Weird is transcendent, uncanny. And there, in the elevation of weirdness, the band explores the absurdity of human experience; through sonic mindscapes, they lead us to confront familiar tensions we so often ignore. – AM

82. Ssleeperhold Ruleth

A rush of tape hiss and an ominously simple analog synth bassline kick off one of the most unique and promising Austin electronic albums of the decade, setting up an experience of dark and haunted minimalism. But ssleeperhold’s Ruleth is by no means an entirely bleak and hopeless album, despite the claustrophobic noise that coats its title track. It’s a minimalist work that is complex in its emotions and tone, its open spaces and clever repetition an invitation to keep listening and work out its secrets for yourself. Though José Cota would shift his focus towards BOAN not long after the release of Ruleth, the album showcases some of his most majestic and developed work to date, serving as a high water mark in his catalog and in the darkwave canon on the whole. – NH

81. Kenny Gee Hieroglyphics

Before everyone was rooting and cheering on Quin NFN, there was Kenny Gee (now WhooKilledKenny). The young teen sensation had the entire rap scene wanting him to blow up in a major way. This young guy had us all waiting to see what was coming next on his debut full length release, Hieroglyhics. After all of the buzz of his single, Texas Trill Kenny was hot and we were all waiting to see if he could top that or even come close to the success of that one song. Hieroglyhics as said was met with much anticipation, and was a solid effort for a debut. It showed that at a young age Kenny wasn’t afraid to be vulnerable with a song like “Highways,” and of course he showed love to the Lone Star State with “LongLivePimpC.” The nine track album was a great kickoff to the still strong career of Kenny Gee. – AFK

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

80-61 | 60-41 (coming Wednesday) | 40-21 (coming Thursday) | 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