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

Best Austin Songs 2010s

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 third part of our list of the 100 best songs by Austin artists of the 2010s (read part one here, part two here, part four here and part five here)…

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

60. Socha “Go Wrongs”

Throughout “Go Wrongs,” the lavender hued art pop poet that is Socha sounds nearly breathless, trying to keep a panic attack at bay as anxiety over the seeming inevitability of a relationship’s demise, at her own hand no less, escalates. “Will I tear us apart?” is the song’s central question, asked while the instrumentation steps back to provide a musical dramatic pause. When the answer comes, the demure facade slips as Socha shouts “it’s me who’s gonna fuck this up, I know,” giving voice to the self-defeat so many of us are struggling with more and more in these doomladen times. But as “Go Wrongs” ably proves, there is power in wrangling that demon anxiety, of putting those fears out in the open and harnessing them for art. Vulnerable, intimate and transfixing, whatever fuck ups happened for “Go Wrongs” to come into being were well worth it. – Nick Hanover

59. Emily Bell “Back to the Way I Was”

The lyrics of “Back to the Way I Was” are just vague enough. You’re first caught up in the “ooh”s and “yeah”s of the chorus and that fuzzy guitar riff. Emily Bell oozes charisma from start to finish, never letting up her control. Which is all the more powerful given that the song is about a terrifying moment of losing control. It’s never totally clear exactly what happened to the narrator, but it involves locked car doors, trying to escape and a clear sense of regret. “Back to the Way I Was” is not some loose nostalgia trip; it’s Bell trying to reclaim her sense of self that was violently taken away from her. She is haunted by the red car that “keeps coming back into my sight” and just wants to be the person that she was before the horror she encountered. The confidence and swagger in this bluesy garage track could be an aspirational act of who she wants to be, but it could also be the reclamation of her identity that she longs for. Whatever it is, you have to believe Bell when she declares, “I will not go quietly into the night.” – Carter Delloro

58. Riders Against the Storm “Bulletproof (ft. Eson)”

Though “Bulletproof” sounds far more futuristic than Riders Against the Storm’s often old school output, it nonetheless keeps in line with the themes of strength and perseverance RAS are known for. Inspired by Netflix’s Luke Cage, and specifically the power of seeing a black hero who can’t be taken down because he is literally bulletproof, Chaka and Qi Dada, along with featured guest Eson, all kill this song with their lyrical ability, turning what could have been a cash-in into something truly heroic. – Aaron “Fresh” Knight

57. Boan “Babylon”

It’s not entirely clear whether the Babylon Mariana Saldaña repeatedly calls out to on the eponymous BOAN track is an idea or a place but in either case it sounds unreachable. That’s fitting given how otherworldly BOAN’s music sounds, with its delicate balance of jutting analog synths, skittering drum machines and enigmatic vocals. Born out of minimal wave breakout act Medio Mutante, BOAN massively expanded that band’s sonic palette and “Babylon” stands as Saldaña and partner José Cota’s finest achievement, a lush and unexpectedly epic synth wonder worthy of its ancient namesake. – NH

56. Dan Sir Dan “Lick (ft. Jonny Jukebox)”

There are simply not enough songs about, in Jonny Jukebox’s terms, “eating that snatch like Fruit Loops,” and even fewer that feature the artist crooning so passionately about wanting to understand the likes and dislikes of their sexual partner. These qualities, among many others, make “Lick” one of the most irresistible R&B tracks to come out of Austin in years. Over DAN SIR DAN’s sophisticated, twinkling production, Jukebox slips into his higher register during the chorus as he begs his lover to “just tell me what to do” because he’s “always in the mood.” His delivery takes on a warbly quality that mimics the throes of erotic ecstasy in the best way. All I can hope is that Jukebox runs for office one day with a two-pronged platform: 1.) eat more pussy and 2.) eat pussy better. That’s a message we can all get behind. – Kayleigh Hughes

55. Ringo Deathstarr “Stare at the Sun”

Insistent and brittle in all the best ways, Ringo Deathstarr’s “Stare at the Sun” stood out as the masterpiece of the crowded Austin shoegaze scene in the 2010s. Where lesser shoegaze works get by on an endless tease, “Stare at the Sun” builds up a delicious tension as soft, speak-singing vocals spur on thrusting bass and glassy guitar, paying off with a chorus where everything explodes as the skeletal guitar work gives way to wide open, chimey chords and the vocals soar. “Stare at the Sun” is nothing short of catharsis personified. – NH

54. Big Bill “Sweet Boy”

Ever-ready to subvert expectations, Big Bill tackled preconceived masculinity with 2015’s “Sweet Boy.” In what now feels like a divinely twisted premonition of 2016’s “Nasty Woman” campaign, “Sweet Boy” genderbent your assumptions and left you asking “Are you a good man?/Are you a bad bad man?” And from where we sat, midway through the second decade of a not-so-new-anymore millennium, surrounded by millennial hate-messaging, on the edge of our seats waiting to resist the enemy we couldn’t even see yet, those questions seemed complicated. “Am I a good man? Am I a bad bad man? What is good? What is bad? What is a man?” And Big Bill answered, not so quietly: “No, I’m a Sweet Boy.” – Allanah Maarteen

53. Kydd Jones “MIA”

“MIA” may have initially flown under the radar when it comes to Kydd and Y2 releases– at least until it made its way into the movie Tyrel and got an extra push– but looking back now it stands as one of the finest achievements of either artist’s career. Between Kydd’s nonchalant flow and Y2’s chilled out production, “MIA” is the ultimate vibe, an iconic moment for two titans of the underground. – AFK

52. Leach “Grown Up”

On the dreamy, glimmering “Grown Up,” gentle electronic spiritualist Leach taps into the universal insecurities that come with being somewhere between young and grown. Over some impressive new wavey Korg work, he delivers a disarmingly precise, vulnerable line of questioning: “Is it too late? Has the sun gone down? Does my face look funny when I make this sound?” A master of instantly establishing a tone of romantic connection with his music, Leach uses the vulnerability of these questions to draw the listener in and make them feel young and in love (maybe even with Leach). There’s an innocence to “Grown Up” that is utterly charming; what other among the millions of lyrics about drugs sounds as sweet as “are you on some drugs?” The song is a perfect nostalgia pill; it finds the sweetness and magic in youth and bathes you in it. – KH

51. Bonnie Montgomery “Goin’ Out Tonight (ft. Dale Watson)”

Texas has a long, proud tradition of doomed outlaw ballads, from Robert Earl Keen’s “The Road Goes on Forever” to Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty” and Bonnie Montgomery and Dale Watson ensured that tradition carried on in the 21st century with the cheeky and endearing “Goin’ Out Tonight.” Closer in spirit and tone to Keen than Van Zandt, “Goin’ Out Tonight” is a novel spin on the bickering couple country song, where the couple in question have a criminal enterprise and the goin’ out tonight that’s going on isn’t good old fashioned shitkicking but a possibly fatal heist plot. All that remains is for Willie Nelson to cover it and thus officially canonize it. – NH

50. Abhi the Nomad “Letter for God”

In “Letter for God” off of Abhi the Nomad’s stellar debut LP Marbled, the song’s protagonist gazes up at the sky and ponders their existence. As is the case with the rest of Marbled, Abhi bends just enough hip hop norms on “Letter for God” to pique one’s interest, while maintaining a masterful command of the structure, style, and soul that serve as the traditional genre trappings. Slack beats and the sparse pluckings of a bare ukulele underscore Abhi’s crisp vocal patter as he tries to make sense of a world filled with so much beauty and hate, how it came to be, and what it all means. A million songs have trod the same territory before across all genres, but Abhi’s take here feels fresh and inspired as indeed does his entire body of work to date. – Brian J. Audette

49. Good Field “Tell Me Ida”

Listening to Good Field’s “Tell Me Ida” is like time traveling. Those opening guitar chords emerge from a crackling mist like Brigadoon, and ultimately disappear back into the ether. Songwriter Paul Prices tells the story of Bill and Ida, falling in love, courting and starting a life together, basing it off of grainy footage of his own grandparents in the 1950s. I’m a sucker for a pure romance, and when Bill declares, “Ida, honey, it’s just you and me,” it warms my heart. Price captures the timeless simplicity and yearning of young love in his lyrics. All these years later, I’m still struck by that incredible bass line. It bounces and sings like a late-60s Paul McCartney lick, embodying the carefree joy that the song’s subjects were likely feeling. “Tell Me Ida” is a magical three minutes that captures a lifetime of possibility. – CD

48. Kathryn Legendre “Going Crazy”

Kathryn Legendre had been quietly building up a loyal following in the Austin country scene for years before the release of Making It Up but on its centerpiece “Going Crazy” she boldly made the case for herself as Austin’s own Dolly Parton, a smart and sassy singer with ample personality and a brassy voice. Traditional in instrumentation but modern in outlook, “Going Crazy” provides a rousing showcase for Legendre’s melodic charms, as she delivers every line with character and flair. In a just world, “Going Crazy” would have been a major hit, but for now, we’ll just have to be content with Legendre being one of Austin’s best kept secrets. – NH

47. Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes “Smoke”

Were we all a little more innocent in 2014? A little more carefree, a little more amiable, a little more trusting? Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes was. Short-lived but enthusiastic, CSSS brought their wall of amps and laid-back, self-conscious vibe to its peak with the track “Smoke.” Originally recorded at the BBQ Shack, an analog studio in the backyard of longtime Austin musician Jason Morales of Tia Carrera, “Smoke” is snarly, a little sloppy, and oh so nostalgic. It was like, for a moment, we channeled the end of the ’80s, when music grew from the ground of places and screens were only in the peripherals. The 2010s yearned for the naiveté of the ’90s, and Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes brought them back, just long enough for us to remember, and then grow up. – AM

46. Cha’keeta B “Fall Back (ft. Alesia Lani)”

While her thrilling 2019 ensured any Alesia Lani appearance now is bound to gain attention, Cha’keeta B is definitely is the shining star on “Fall Back,” a standout album cut from her 2018 2incomparable release. Other songs on the album are arguably a better solo showcase for Cha’keeta, but the pairing of her with Lani makes for a supernova merger of two of Austin’s brightest talents that is impossible to resist the charms of. Anyone who would consider either of these acts a fallback is out of their mind. – AFK

45. Zlam Dunk “British Teeth”

I once spent a summer stalking Zlam Dunk from show to show, learning their rhythms and lyrics, singing along, and dancing like no one was watching. “Dance music for hardcore kids” is how I used to describe the band’s music and “British Teeth” off of their final release Balcones, perfectly demonstrates what I’m trying to express. Rife with upbeat, twinkly guitar riffs, dancefloor drums, and change-ups that come fast and tight, the track is a cross section of everything great about this band. A desperate menace is added via the intensity of “British Teeth”‘s raspy dueling vocals that relay a tale of “boy meets girl” while a mid-song mathy dance break coupled with a minimalist, electronic outro serve to round out the whole affair. Compositionally it’s probably one of the band’s most perfect songs and it still grabs me to this day. – BJA

44. Octopus Project “Whitby”

The Octopus Project made their name in the first decade of this century as an experimental music trio, combining electronic sounds with live instrumentation. On 2013’s “Whitby,” they applied their ethos to a poppier style and hit a home run. Around a catchy vocal loop, Yvonne Lambert sings a series of nonsense lyrics and the point isn’t to understand the content of what she’s saying. Instead, let yourself sink into the rhythm of her voice, the sound of her syllables. It’s all part of the kaleidoscope of sounds that Octopus Project play with as they create the sonic equivalent of a Jackson Pollack painting: busy, colorful, accessible, ordered chaos. If you wished that Passion Pit were a little stranger or that Chvrches were more layered and inscrutable, “Whitby” might be your perfect jam. – CD

43. Mobley “Young Adult Fiction”

Much like another entry on the list, Leach’s “Grown Up,” Mobley’s “Young Adult Fiction ” uses thoughtfully inquisitive lyrics to access the emotional and mental experience of burgeoning adulthood. But where Leach goes gauzy and dreamy, Mobley gets percussive and propulsive, showcases his seemingly effortless melodic sensibilities while revealing some grim realities about how things might not actually be okay in the end. “Young Adult Fiction” is a grand, sharply produced coming-of-age anthem overflowing with sonic vigor and pushed to the next level by Mobley’s soaring vocals. The lyrics express a desire to understand “who it is you’re supposed to be” but come to the poignant conclusion that “the future isn’t home,” delivering social commentary hidden in a sleek, catchy pop song. – KH

42. Blastfamous USA “Pull Up (BUSA x Blackillac)”

At this point, can you really go wrong with a song with Blackillac on it? The beloved super duo of Phranchyze and Zeale are rightfully blowing up now after appearances at ACL and the NBA All-Star Weekend, but “Pull Up” is what really put them on the map. Released via Zeale’s then main project Blastfamous USA, featuring synth and drum monsters NGHT HCKLRS on the instrumentation, “Pull Up” sounds like Zeale and Phranchyze having the time of their lives. No wonder they didn’t want the party to stop after. – AFK

41. Big Bill “Juice U”

Listen once, listen twice/I’m gonna give you some life advice/Follow follow follow follow follow your thirst/If you never do it’ll only get worse

This is first-record Big Bill. Psycho-spiritual and edgy, but not as overtly absurd as their later releases. “Juice U” felt like falling in love with that angsty, sit-in-the-back-of-the-class kid: visceral and redemptive. And oh, how that kid has grown. Over the latter half of the decade, we watched Big Bill’s self-awareness blossom into a kaleidoscopic flower that never fails to reflect the eye of its beholder. Truly, an Austin treasure. I look forward to what Big Bill’s flower reveals for the new decade. – AM
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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