The 100 Best Albums by Austin Artists of the 2010s: 60-41


Best Austin Albums

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 third 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!)

60. The Sour Notes Darkest Sour

Having perfected their own brand of often dreamy, frequently rocking psych pop over the last decade, the sound of Darkest Sour at first blush will be familiar to anyone who’s heard The Sour Notes before. The band revels in brevity while still honoring classic pop-rock song motifs and strives to keep their songs short and sweet, eschewing repetition in favor of variety. Darkest Sour takes some new turns however. A greater focus on guitar tone and intensity is prevalent on much of the album and adds a welcome edge to The Sour Notes sound, while also allowing for the character of individual tracks to reveal themselves in new ways. It’s a secret to no one that I’ve been a long time Sour Notes fan and gushing praise regarding their latest works is just something to be expected from me, but believe me when I say that Darkest Sour is not merely a great album. It’s yet another indicator of how this band continues to grow and change, while maintaining a strong identity and continuing to rock long after other bands have run out of ideas. – Brian J. Audette

59. Okkervil River The Silver Gymnasium

If you only read the big indie music publications, you’d think that Okkervil River disappeared around the start of the 2010s. They seem to have fallen out of hipster favor, but Will Sheff isn’t paying any mind. On 2013’s The Silver Gymnasium, he turned in a batch of songs to rival anything he’s ever done. Each track is a detailed vignette that is in some way auto-biographical but in classic Okkervil River style takes numerous creative liberties. Leadoff track “It Was My Season” is like a Gen X Springsteen anthem in the way that it explores a world of working class desperation set in Sheff’s home state of New Hampshire. That’s just one of the songs (including “Down Down the Deep River” and “Stay Young”) that have to count among the best in OR’s incredible oeuvre. I’m also partial to Sheff’s Austin shoutout on “Pink Slips”: “Nine years down in Texas/With sluts of both sexes.” On The Silver Gymnasium, Sheff continues to write the kinds of poetic songs that demand a lyrical close-reading because of how genius they are. These particular songs draw from his intercontinental life and drip with warm nostalgia. – Carter Delloro

58. MeanGirls Is This Me Forever?

The spirit of emo is alive and thriving on MeanGirls’ Is This Me Forever?, which evokes some of the classic early bands of the genre like Sunny Day Real Estate and Rites of Spring while remaining fresh and contemporary. The 11 tracks are short, loud, and pummeling, with the band squeezing a startling amount of musical complexity into songs that are mostly less than three minutes and often less than two. Guitarist and vocalist Raine Hopper is a master of raw, vulnerable, gut-punch lyricism.“I don’t want to use you, but I don’t want to sleep alone again…I deserve the asphalt, baby,” she screams on “I Will Let You Down.” On “Formidable Creatures,” she spits “Every time I see your face I wanna vomit; every time I hear your name I hope it’s ’cuz you died.” Is This Me Forever is artful loathing both toward the self and toward all the fuckers of the world. It’s jarring, it’s cathartic, and it’s always there to scream along to when I need it. – Kayleigh Hughes

57. Black Pumas Black Pumas

How did this happen? Most of the rest of the world was introduced to Black Pumas when this year’s Grammy nominations were released and they were nominated for Best New Artist alongside Lil Nas X, Lizzo and Billie Eilish. Even though they didn’t win, this was a massive move for a small act with a great story. The established Adrian Quesada (Grupo Fantasma, Brownout) and the completely out-of-nowhere Eric Burton collaborated on an incredible album of retro soul  andare actually being rewarded for it. Sounding like a smoother Cee Lo Green, Burton has a captivating presence, given that prior to recording this record he was just busking on Sixth Street corners. Quesada, who already has a Grammy with Grupo Fantasma, has crafted a musical bedrock that mostly moves away from his Latin-influenced past in favor of the kind of gritty soul you might hear from Michael Kiwanuka or Leon Bridges. Their perfectly complementary sounds blend together on tracks like the gritty “Fire” or the string-soaked “OCT 33.” However they got onto the Grammys’ radar, it’s wonderful to see Austin represented by such fantastic musicians making such beautiful music. – CD

56. The Teeta Teeta World

Dubbed by some as the Mayor of ATX Hip Hop, The Teeta has definitely put in the work that would afford him that title, particularly with his highly anticipated 2019 release, Teeta World. The eight song project showcases the range of Teeta, from club bangers like “Graduated” and “Stripper Era,” to more vulnerable moments like “Grey Area” and “Diamond Hourglass.” Teeta built on his large amount of momentum from the past years to catapult himself into being the face of the rap scene here in Austin and Teeta World is an ambitious and congratulatory testament to that. – Aaron “Fresh” Knight

55. Pswingset All Our False Starts

On their full-length debut Pswingset carved out their own unique niche in the Austin scene, while striking chords that reminded me fondly of the DC-area punk and post-hardcore scene of the late ’90s and early 2000s. All Our False Starts is a well-balanced LP showcasing nine rich soundscapes of mathy, mellow punk that for me recall DC bands like Faraquet and Medications coupled with the drive of Jawbox and the moody introspection of Richmond, VA’s Bats and Mice. Pswingset’s lilting, angular guitars and rippling rhythms weave an intricate and heavily textured tapestry through every moment of All Our False Starts in a way that connects one song to the next like moments in time during the haze of a late summer evening. This isn’t an album that’s going to get you on your feet, but it’s a great one to get lost in. If you’re like me and you tend to get bored with 4/4 time signatures and standard chord progressions in rock music, Pswingset’s sound is an excellent change of pace. – BJA

54. Shakey Graves Roll the Bones

This is that enigmatic Shakey Graves, back when Alejandro Rose-Garcia was still mostly known as the mysterious Swede from Friday Night Lights. The songs on Roll the Bones seem to emerge from the ether of a far-off memory. They seem like they always existed out there and Shakey Graves just happened to be the one to pull them out of the shadows and lay them on record. While he crafted an authentic persona around being just a man with a guitar and a suitcase he could play like a bass drum, Roll the Bones shows that he always had a knack for using the studio to build out his compositions. “Built to Roam,” for example, layers mountains of vocals on top of each other. The title track starts off with some backwards tape and a simple yet cryptic percussion part. And each song still counts among the best things Shakey has ever recorded. His cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” is haunting and “Business Lunch” is a lo-fi devil on your shoulder. The impressively rich mixture of expert songwriting and subtly brilliant production on Roll the Bones heralded the eventual global takeover that Shakey Graves would soon make. – CD

53. Bill Callahan Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest

One of our greatest living songwriters, Bill Callahan took the opportunity to sprawl out over 20 tracks on 2019’s Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest, a thoughtful meditation on quite a lot of things but especially just what it means to exist in the world, to be flawed but trying, to be curious and observant and extremely alive. He wields his banjo, his vocabulary and his inquisitive, unashamed creativity across 63-minutes of references to mythology, folklore, motel curtains, hospital grapes, Bruce Banner and more. Callahan’s voice is as idiosyncratic as ever, brimming with personality in his baritone hums just as much as in his slightly cracking higher register. Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest is a beautiful reminder that there are few things more pleasant than settling in with Callahan and hearing what he has to say. – KH

52. BLXPLTN Black Cop Down

Black Cop Down is the type of album you put on and then stare in amazement at your stereo, wondering how it hasn’t spontaneously combusted yet. Over the span of its nine tracks, none of which make it to the 4:30 mark, the electro-punk trio speed through material that cherry picks all of the best elements of Big BlackBuzzcocks and Nirvana for one cyclonic mass of furious energy. Though some of its best and most memorable moments are powerful, out and out anthems– the transcendent “Start Fires,” heartbreaking electro-ballad “Betta Run,”– the band understood the timeless appeal of pogoing classic punk, like on “Pressure” and “Lick Me.” Within a couple years, BLXPLTN would master the studio and become even more adventurous in their sound, dabbling with even more genre diversity, but Black Cop Down lives on as their purest, most thrilling work. – Nick Hanover

51. League of Extraordinary G’z #LeagueShit

Back at the beginning of the decade, the Austin rap scene wasn’t quite the burgeoning movement that it is today. All the names you hear now were either trying to gain their footing in music, hadn’t started thinking about a career in music at all, or as it goes in Austin, they simply hadn’t moved here yet. But one thing was certain in that early era– the League of Extraordinary G’z (LOEGz) were the guys you needed to know and had to see. The League were undoubtedly going to blow up big, at least that’s what we all were thinking in 2013. At this point the League had released the two projects, the January release The Plug, produced by Shane Eli, and then the critically acclaimed, #LeagueShit later in October. While The Plug was a good project, #LeagueShit is the project that caused everyone to stop and pay attention to the League. This hard, lyrical enammering, braggadocious album put the industry on full notice. While the biggest feature on the album was from Dead Prez, who the League had toured with, songs like “Billie Jean” showed that big name features weren’t needed when you had guys rhyming like they were Big Pun and Brand Nubian, if not better. This release had us all in Austin feeling like the League was the new Wu-Tang and that our time in the sun had finally arrived. – AFK

50. Literature Arab Spring

Literature’s first LP Arab Spring really felt like Austin’s sleeper hit of 2012, coming out of nowhere early in the year and subsequently ending up on the “best of” lists of many major local outlets. Playing a lo-fi, punkish brand of jangle-pop that was both catchy and playful, never overproduced, but laden with poppy hooks, on Arab Spring Literature skirted the line between old-school punk and pop like a tightrope walker. The end result was an incredibly catchy collection of songs with a very genuine, DIY feel. Songs like “Grifted”, “14 Seconds”, and “Esquire Esquire” especially bounce with crisp, poppy energy, making this album an utter joy to listen to again and again and set it apart from the pack. – BJA

49. Walker Lukens ADULT

As you may guess, Walker Lukens’ third full-length explores the challenges of embracing adulthood at the turn of the 2020s. Released early in 2019, ADULT reveals a maturity of songwriting as Lukens balances anxiety, anticipation and exhaustion over sophisticated funk-rock. On “Heard You Bought a House,” he can barely disguise his bitterness as he takes down an ex who isn’t as successful as she’s trying to display. “Frankie & Bella” is a frustrating look at a relationship in disintegration as two lovers fight about personal space. “I’ll Take the Dog” sees him divvying up the life he had created with a former partner. Like a modern-day Elvis Costello, Lukens uses a sharp tongue to paint a bleak portrait of contemporary life. Yet, he chooses to close the album with the beautiful “Baby,” a serenade to his new girlfriend. Even after all of the discontent and heartbreak he’s experienced, Lukens still finds hope in the wonderful-sounding relationship he’s in. He’s making plans for the future and wants to bring another life into this world. It’s a disarmingly warm ending to a perfect encapsulation of Millennial growing pains. – CD

48. Click Clack Blue Eyed Black Boy

Austin hip hop certainly isn’t alone in its struggle to adapt from singles to albums, but it often feels like some of the most hyped acts in the scene never even make it to the album format at all. Click-Clack avoided all of that on now classic LP Blue Eyed Black Boy, providing a coherent, clever longform work that also had the energy of a viral hit. Whether it was the jaunty, playful antagonism of “Lyor” or the self-explanatory “Thicc,” at the center of it all was Click-Clack’s chameleonic style and knack for melody and the equally flexible and svelte production of Ballteam. Lacking weak moments and blessedly short rather than overstuffed, Blue Eyed Black Boy cemented Click-Clack as a bonafide artist in a scene full of starfuckers and big talkers. – NH

47. Twain Rare Feeling

Twain’s dreamy guitar and cutting vocals in 2017’s Rare Feeling are just the beginning of what to talk about in concern to this little gem. The textured lo-fi infused album cavorts from gritty guitars in its titular track (“Rare Feeling v.2”) to the very Andrew Bird “Dear Mexico (Thank You For Joyce,)” Twain manages to create moods without making his lyrics work in opposition to his musical distinction. The percussive and mischievous “Little Dog Mind,” is worth the purchase and listen of the album alone, with Twain’s puckish cowboy vocals flitting over perfect drums and strange choir. This atmospheric album sounds like a cow skull on the side of the highway started singing to you about everything it’s ever seen and will watch. Very, very, Mystical Texas Folk, a genre in which Rare Feeling stands out, weird and proud. – Eryn Brothers

46. Pleasure Venom Pleasure Venom

Pleasure Venom has been an electric live band for almost half a decade, but their 2018 self-titled record is when they really came into their own as recording artists. It’s short and fast and loud and swingy. Irrepressible frontwoman Audrey Campbell commands the chaos, embracing all that is goth AF in the world on songs like “Hive,” “Deth” and the cheekily titled “I Can’t Find My Black Lipstick,” on which she bellows “woe is me.” Pleasure Venom wouldn’t be out of place on a “Best Riot Grrrl albums of the nineties” list, but fortunately for us, they’re here and now, making a big angry sexy mess. – KH

45. Little Radar Souvenirs 

On Souvenirs, Little Radar took a quantum leap beyond their previous work. The songs on this album are full of catchy hooks, but where it shines is in its unique, almost otherworldly presentation. If I could coin a term to describe it I’d call it Dreamgaze: a bizarrely compelling mutation of dream pop and shoe gaze with just a dab of space rock for good measure. Backed by rumbling bass, whiskey soaked guitar, and twinkly synth (but prone to full on rocking) there is a subtle complexity to Souvenirs that only reveals itself after repeated listening, as each song’s delicate layers reveal themselves on some kind of musical time release. The more I listen to this musical drug, the less I want to listen to anything else. – BJA

44. Magna Carda Like It Is

Coming off their third release, Van Geaux at the beginning of 2014, Magna Carda decided to return with memorably cool, smooth jams with on Like It Is. If Van Geaux made the city take notice to MC then Like It Is had the city’s ears wide open. With their signature smooth ’90s inspired boom bap style, Megz Kelli and Dougie Do continue to become crowd favorites, shutting down the belief the idea that hip hop was dead, which was running rampant in 2014. Like It Is served as a reminder of groups like A Tribe Called Quest, Lords of the Underground, Leaders of the New School (Busta Rhymes’ old group), resurrecting a passion for that classic era of hip hop on stand out songs like “91,” “Juice,” “Other Side of The Game,” “Moon2France,” all showcasing the identity of MC, from their infectious production filled with live instruments to their dope raps about relatable situations. – AFK

43. Popper Burns Popper Burns

When Popper Burns hit the scene, Austin punk had long been venerated by the tastemakers at Pitchfork and beyond, but it was beginning to feel stale, and also more than a little meathead-y. So there is a chance that Popper Burns would have stood out on appearance and influence alone– here was a gender fluid group of mutants who were more likely to worship at the altar of Fred Schneider than his sometime collaborator Steve Albini. Fortunately, Popper Burns’ eponymous debut LP proved to be an immediate classic, carving out a sound that was angular and rambunctious yet fun. “Too Punk for Punk,” with its herky-jerky rhythm and shoutalong chorus, served as the group’s calling card but the dreamy, early Sonic Youth textures of “Albert Einstein” and the Minutemen freak twang of “Vitamin D” showed the band were adept at bringing together disparate threads of punk into one bubbling porridge. It felt like Popper Burns were worthy successors to the Dicks and the Big Boys in one package, and they were just getting started. – NH

42. Molly Burch Please Be Mine

Austin has fallen hard for the dreamy, retro-chic sound of Molly Burch, and the love affair started with 2017’s Please Be Mine, a collection of romantic meditations on longing, seduction, rejection, and straight-up crushing. Burch’s soulful, smoky voice is one-of-a-kind, and her slinky, unhurried delivery is spellbinding; if you listen to Please Be Mine with your eyes closed, you’ll easily slip into a new time and place — likely a Parisian jazz lounge in the sixties. Both the lovers and the lonely will find themselves swaying along to wistful tracks like “Downhearted,” “Please Forgive Me,” and “Fool,” all passionate entreaties wrapped in candy-soft melodies. – KH

41. The Gary Logan

Around the time of Logan‘s recording, The Gary were debating their direction– bassist-vocalist Dave Norwood wanted to sing more freely, over looser songs, while guitarist Trey Pool and drummer Paul Warner wanted to rock out. Logan, which sheds some convention without turning fully toward Lungfish, struck the right balance, though not necessarily for everyone in the band– “Trey and Paul are not ‘Hurricane Radio’ fans,” Norwood memorably said, turning down a request between songs at Trailer Space— but it drew their best collection of songs.

The playing, out by its lonesome in a sad decade of Austin rock loaded with Burger-wannabes and/or retreads, backed him up. Here the drummer achieved his sturdy final form, the guitarist made his best case for never playing a song the same way twice, and Norwood’s bass and baritone sang to the full range of the material. Whether setting to song classic Gary topics or an Ezra Pound poem, verbatim, the band sounded purpose-built.

These songs portend disaster, but dig deep into the space just before it. The Gary could always find the awe in the awful, in the pathetic, and in the foreboding, not unlike the dust on the cover gathering outside Stratford, Texas 80 years before. – Robin Sinhababu

Disclosure: Robin Sinhababu is friends with members of the Gary.

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

100-81 | 80-61 | 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