The 100 Best Songs by Austin Artists of the 2010s: 20-1

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 final part of our list of the 100 best songs by Austin artists of the 2010s (you can read part one here, part two here, part three here and part four here…)

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

20. Wild Child “Break Bones”

For some reason Wild Child’s third LP Fools just didn’t click with me at first. I initially wrote it off as too much of a departure from what I thought I previously liked about the band, but there was one problem: I couldn’t stop listening to it. I eventually came to peace with what Fools was and “Break Bones” was a big reason behind that. A piano ballad that rivals the most stirring output of songstresses like Tori Amos and Regina Spektor, “Break Bones” owes much of its power to Kelsey Wilson’s mesmerizing vocals. In an album dedicated to a break up, this track represents the climax of that relationship amid slammed phones and “more breaking here than we could ever mend”. “If this ends we’ll only feel worse” Wilson sings, clinging to hope even as she knows the inevitable end is near and needed. It’s an emotionally delivered and expertly arranged song that packs a lot of punch, even years after it first worked its magic on me. – Brian J. Audette

19. Bobby Jealousy “Rainbow”

If you’ve ever seen a rainbow, you can imagine what this song sounds like. Bobby Jealousy expertly craft the sonic equivalent of the most beautiful thing you can imagine amidst some bad conditions. Released in March 2012, “Rainbow” was the lead single from Bobby Jealousy’s debut album, A Little Death, and is a sugar rush of energy and enthusiasm. An instant power pop classic, “Rainbow” showcased the natural melodic gifts of Seth Gibbs and Sabrina Ellis, the effective co-leaders of the group for its short, supernova-esque lifespan. Towering stacks of vocal harmonies are packed into nearly every corner of the song, even while singing darkly ambivalent lyrics like, “I know I’m alone/I know I’m alive/But everybody’s dying inside.” There are shades of Paul McCartney or the Beach Boys, but ultimately there’s no equivalent for the simultaneous joy and pathos that “Rainbow” packs into its three minutes. Before you know it, the “Rainbow” has vanished back into the ether, but you’ll never forget its singular beauty. – Carter Delloro

18. Zettajoule “No Thank You”

“No Thank You” by Zettajoule, the electronic duo of Megan Carney and Matthew Sheffer, is the ultimate kiss-off: clever, incisive, more than a little brutal, and eminently danceable. Amid stone-faced, teasingly robotic verses with lines like “You wanted some attention, that’s really not my problem,” the chorus, which kicks off with delicate “oohs,” remains chillingly polite: “I gotta go ahead and say no (no, no, no, no) thank you.” Carney — and presumably Sheffer, though as a fellow woman, I get the sense the thrust of the song speaks particularly to Carney — isn’t here to indulge your nonsense, and she knows exactly how play it: “must be so confusing” she pityingly muses to the subject of the song about the shock they are surely experiencing from being rejected, “but you’ll just have to accept it.” This is the energy I always want to take with me. – Kayleigh Hughes

17. Magna Carda “The Root”

In “The Root,” perhaps their best known song, Magna Carda hold a mirror up against the environments we all come from to tell the harsh reality of coming from the bottom to make something out of nothing. The laid back, mellow, heavy bass infused track stands as the best combination of the jazzy live sound the band had perfected leading up to Cirqlation and the harder, more stripped back production they began with and would eventually return to. As Megz Kelli’s bandmates sing in the hook “strong roots will make your tree grow old” and on “The Root” Magna Carda show they had done just that in Austin, and were more than ready to stretch those limbs out beyond the city limits. – Aaron “Fresh” Knight”

16. Sailor Poon “Leather Daddy”

One of my favorite things about Sailor Poon’s utterly flawless “Leather Daddy” is the way that it makes explicit the deeply familiar but often implicit animosity and antagonism that bubbles beneath the surface of so many heterosexual hookups. Sailor Poon expertly takes control of that experience, wielding gleeful honesty and deserved disdain for the posturing men (even, and sometimes especially, the highly vocal “male feminists”) who need to be put in their place. For anyone who’s ever been massively underwhelmed by an egotistical guy who promises that he’s the best thing you’ll ever have (and that he might scare you a little because…he’s a man…and he knows how to do things), this song is a tension release valve, letting you scream everything you’ve always wanted to scream and letting you demand everything you’ve always been told was too selfish to demand.

What’s extra cool about the already ice cold “Leather Daddy” is that its reclamation happens on a musical level as well, as Sailor Poon takes back the jangly, playful, grungy, too-loud-on-purpose garage sound from decades of dudes who have made women much smarter and more talented than them sit in dirty basements and garages and rain praise on their lazy guitar work and mediocre, uninspired male viewpoints. – KH

15. Dana Falconberry “Petosky Stone”

Can you talk about the 2010’s in ATX without mentioning the textured nuance that is Dana Falconberry? No. You can’t and you probably shouldn’t. With Falconberry’s Joanna Newsom-esque voice and keen ear for arrangement, “Petoskey Stone” weaves playfully, harkening the wonder of Falconberry’s meanderings into the natural world. With one echo of voices, Falconberry takes us on a very Linda Perhacs gossamer tangent, singing, “Winter’s long/The wind is strong/But look at you how still you stand,” turning her lense onto her listener. It’s beautiful, introspective work from a quietly gallant musician. – Eryn Brothers

14. Big Bill “Two Weeks”

I’m not entirely sure what it says about me that the nightmare scenario outlined towards the end of Big Bill’s anti-work weirdo wave classic “Two Weeks” sounds like a relief. In it, the song’s protagonist gets abducted by a group of sentient trees and is tortured until he wishes he didn’t have a body and then he gets his wish. Before the decade was up, maybe I would have felt that the constant climbing of office work and the drudgery of paper pushing was certainly less bleak a fate than having your flesh peeled off by ents. Now, I’m not so sure. Instead, Eric Braden’s argument that “it’s not the money but the dying that you earn” with late stage capitalism seems far more correct. What I am far more certain of is that “Two Weeks” stands as the apotheosis of the freaky end of the 2010s Austin indie scene, a hypnotic cauldron of walking melodic basslines, sun warped guitar and perplexingly epic drums. With “Two Weeks,” Big Bill had a bonafide anthem, and anyone who listened to it was more than ready to follow its lead, into body reshaping forests or otherwise. – Nick Hanover

13. Wild Child “Fools”

Kelsey Wilson’s voice is one of the greatest gifts the Austin music scene has received in quite some time. The singer and violinist for Wild Child has a warm strength to her delivery that’s instantly recognizable and serves as a critical anchor for all of Wild Child’s music. On “Fools,” Wilson holds down the groovy, pensive verses and harmonizes with co-vocalist and ukelele player Alexander Beggins during the chorus. The two’s intonations lend emotional resonance to the song’s story of a broken down love, and the band does a sophisticated job of layering their many instrumental contributions to craft a track that is sweeping, soulful, wryly melancholic and endlessly replayable. Austin has a lot of folk rocky collectives that fuse orchestral and Americana elements, but Wild Child, with their melodic sensibilities and those damn beautiful vocals, is the best of the lot, as “Fools” makes plainly clear.  – KH

12. LNS Crew “Complicated”

The individual members of the LNS Crew had a heavy presence on our list of the best Austin songs of the decade, with brothers Tank Washington and Kydd Jones both appearing earlier on. But the collective’s greatest moment came on the mellow relationship rap track, “Complicated.” The organ infused song is a sterling example of the area of their catalog that I like to call LNS’ lifestyle raps, with third member Cory Kendrix and Kydd kicking raps about a very complicated romantic situation. As complicated as all that drama is, though, the chemistry between the LNS members is easy to see and be drawn to, making it obvious why individually or together, LNS Crew dominated the Austin hip hop scene in the 2010s. – AFK

11. Walker Lukens “Every Night”

Shortly after the 2:00 mark in “Every Night,” Walker Lukens’ voice quivers. And then he does it again. It could be a laugh, a sign of how much fun Lukens is having on this incredible song. It could be a tremor at how nervous he is around “the same old beast,” fully in character in the world he’s created. “Every Night” is full of delightful, subtle touches like this: backing vocals floating up from the bottom of the mix, a plunked piano emerging from the cacophony. Lukens uses the same vocal looping technique that he had developed so effectively on his 2013 album Devoted, but here he blows out his arrangement into a full nuanced doo wop swing. Over it all, Lukens’ confident swaggering vocal delivery announces his arrival. He’s no longer the promising bedroom pop artist from the start of the 2010s; he’s an expert showman. A rock star. Spotify classifies his music as “retro” but we know that it’s timeless and universal. “Every Night” heralded the arrival of a genuine artist in one of the best songs of the decade. – CD

10. Gary Clark Jr “This Land”

On “This Land,” blues rocker Gary Clark Jr. shreds apart the language of Woody Guthrie’s patriotic tune, delivering a searing rejoinder to a type of person all too common in Texas (and, yes, Austin) who says “America” but means “white America.” He’s not afraid to call out the racism of “Trump country” and the folks who “Can’t wait to call the police on me,” and over a heart-stopping, electrifying six minutes he spits back a litany of the fucked up language that’s been thrown at him over the years. Speaking from the voice of the racists he’s encountered all his life, he howls “N—–, run, N—–, run, go back where you come from/We don’t want your kind, we think you’s a dog born.” Clark hits back with a withering “fuck you, I’m America’s son, this is where I come from.” The time for pulling punches is over.

This song is the angriest, punkest thing Clark has ever released — and it’s also the absolute most brilliant. Rarely has a song crackled with such vitality and righteous fury, and I’m not just talking in the Austin scene but even at the national and international levels. If there was any doubt before that Clark was a musician meant for the big leagues, “This Land” smashes that to pieces and suggests the artist is on his way to having one of the most meaningful and successful careers of any Austin musician ever. (Also, watch the fucking music video.) – KH

9. The Teeta “Summersault (ft. Yung Simmie)”

Flying under the radar on its initial release, with “Summersault,” Austin Mayor of Rap, The Teeta released statistically what is probably one of his biggest songs back in 2018. With featured Raider Klan member Yung Simmie, Teeta showcased his signature chill flow over an equally blissed out beat for a bonafide hit that took him all the way to Pitchfork’s front page and put Austin hip hop on the map in a major way and made Teeta an inescapable presence. – AFK

8. Bill Callahan “Our Anniversary”

Bill Callahan originally released a version of “Our Anniversary” in 2003 under his moniker Smog. But the version that sits here on our list is his stripped down live version, which kicks off the 2010 album Rough Travel for a Rare Thing. The song is spectacular in both iterations, but on this particular live performance, Callahan takes an almost country Western approach to his guitar work and speaks a little more than he sings his soft gut-punch of a tale about a couple so distant and miserable that Callahan’s partner has stolen his keys on their anniversary to keep him from driving away. These qualities create a more foreboding atmosphere, really pulling out the doom and tragedy. The quiet beauty and sadness in Callahan’s simple observations (“the bullfrog — and everything that can sing — is singing its mating song”) makes me wonder if he and poet Dean Young (also an Austinite) have ever encountered or influenced one another. Maybe they have and maybe not. Regardless, Callahan’s “Our Anniversary” stands as a foundational contribution to Austin poetry. – KH

7. Molly Burch “To the Boys”

I listen to Molly Burch’s “To the Boys” whenever I need a good strong dose of self-assurance. “I don’t need to yell to know that I’m the boss,” the artist declares in this frank and unashamed meditation on who she is and why she’s great. Burch’s crooning, romantic jazz club delivery reveals every bit of humanity in her voice: when she drops down to a warbling, irresistible bass tone, you can hear the effort in the best way. When certain sounds come out of her mouth, they’re done with a bit of a lisp, making me feel better and more okay about my own lispy voice. And there’s not a second during the whole song where Burch’s imperfections are anything but beautiful and artful. You can tell that to the boys. – KH

6. Sertified “Back 2 the Block (ft. Cap’n Kirk and Stat 1)”

If there is a single moment where one could say Austin hip hop in the 2010s first truly stood on its own, towering, it is undoubtedly Sertified’s mammoth single “Back 2 the Block.” A posse cut of sorts, featuring LNS Crew’s own secret Machiavelli Haris Qureshi on production and veteran Austin rappers Cap’n Kirk and Stat 1 on guest verses, “Back 2 the Block” stepped out of the Houston shadow so much Austin hip hop was still beholden to in 2015 and proudly stood as an incendiary and swaggering miniature opus. Haris’s bombshell production does a lot of the work, pushing the bass and the snare to the forefront, with a notable lack of sizzurp sludge to hold it back, leaning on vaguely Eastern flute samples and the airiness of overpowered speakers to bring out an additional edge. But Sertified and his guests are vicious in their deliveries, laying into the beat like it’s a promoter refusing to pay up at the end of a long night. After this, no one could deny that Austin hip hop had a swagger all its own, and that greater stages were in store for anyone capable of harnessing that energy. – NH

5. A Giant Dog “Sex & Drugs”

It’s pretty kickass that we have two songs called “Sex & Drugs” (give or take an ampersand) on this list. That’s Austin music for you! Also, in writing this particular blurb, I’m finding myself drawn to describing an A Giant Dog song, yet again, as “unromantic.” That’s basically their jam, exemplified in “Sex & Drugs”: bombastic indulgence in all of life’s filthiest pleasures, minus any phony romance about what it all means. Right off the bat, after the Elton John-on-(even-more)-speed type keys kick in, singer Sabrina Ellis begs to die after their friends do. Harsh! I love it! The chorus of “Sex & Drugs” then bemoans “I’m too old to die young” because “I can’t even remember being young,” with each syllable of the latter line a staccato punch built for screaming at the top of your lungs as you do things you’re going to regret in the morning. An ode to “liquor and coke” and “the weed that we smoked” and “people we fucked” and even the “hippies who suck,” “Sex & Drugs” is the ultimate party anthem. It’s the song that best encapsulates what it feels like to be in Austin all broke and wasted, all young, dumb and full of cum, and then not-so-young but maybe still all the other things. Long live A Giant Dog! – KH

4. fuvk “Anywhere”

Through the debilitating cacophony of the modern age, fuvk’s “Anywhere” stands out as a beacon of romantic hope, borne from a not-so-simple alchemy of stacked finger plucked acoustic chords and a diaristic vocal that cuts itself off so that each new line may emerge. The magic comes from the heartbreaking beauty fuvk pulls out of ingredients we’ve all heard before– a voice, a guitar, a confessional– and how in this singer-songwriter’s capable hands they feel not only new but mind expanding. There would be, and will continue to be, more magic from fuvk, but “Anywhere” was where this artist accomplished the seemingly impossible task of making an entire world melt away just so we could think of our own anywheres with our own anyones. – NH

3. Abhi the Nomad “Sex n’ Drugs”

I’m probably not going out on a limb by saying that this is the best hip hop song with a xylophone intro ever made. And yet, if xylophones were a hip hop standard, I’d probably still rank “Sex n’ Drugs” off Marbled by Abhi the Nomad number one among them. Backed by the aforementioned xylophone and a simple smattering of horns, bass, and subdued drums, “Sex n’ Drugs” is a refreshing alternative, especially to many of the decade’s mainstream hip hop offerings. With its lyrics addressing hero worship through the lens of one’s own desire for personal success and validation, and the degrees of excess inherent within, “Sex n’ Drugs” may seem a bit heavy on paper. In practice however, Abhi keeps it light. You’ll find yourself singing along with the lyrics and bobbing your head to the lilting tunes long before waking up to the realization that just under that sparkling, subtle surface is something much deeper. – BJA

2. Sweet Spirit “Baby When I Close My Eyes”

How have Sabrina Ellis and Andrew Cashen not died from making so many bangers in such a short amount of time? The two artists, who belong to both A Giant Dog and Sweet Spirit, seem to always be searching for new places to channel their musical expressions, and they’ve pretty much always succeeded. But the peak, the pinnacle of their achievements, is “Baby When I Close My Eyes,” a funky spacey piece of weirdo rock and roll with an abundance of both heart and libido. Singer Sabrina Ellis spells out the ways of desire (L-U-S-T and F-U-C-K, respectively,) in two slinky ’70s-inspired acrostic verses, while the bulk of the song is mesmerizing repetition of Ellis’ languorous chorus about the blissful, delirious mindlessness of sinking into pleasure: “Baby when I close my eyes/The loneliness that I endure/Baby it’s like paradise/’Cause I don’t feel it anymore.” A Giant Dog may strip the veneer from seemingly romantic concepts, but I think it’s so the band can psychically send all that extra romance over to Sweet Spirit, who know just what to do with it. – KH

1. BLXPLTN “Start Fires”

After the first time I heard BLXPLTN’s “Start Fires,” it took several months for me to have any desire whatsoever to hear any other song. Any time I have heard “Start Fires” since, it has remained difficult for me to move on to other music. Such is the gravitational pull of “Start Fires” that every time it plays, it feels new again and reignites a faith in the righteous few to triumph over the oppressive many. “Start Fires” is simplicity personified, which is the point– it is a song for anyone, to be played in any setting, on whatever is available. Departed guitarist Khattie Q notably switched from her main instrument of drums to guitar for this project and that rhythmic propulsion on the instrument she immigrated to gives a locomotive drive to Jonathan Horstmann’s impassioned vocals and frees TasZ’s electronic drums to violently punctuate each new call to arms. It is form following function beautifully, a song as a protesting fist bump, an anthem for a movement on the march. That we haven’t had a break from the need to start fires and to start fighting for the future is so depressing it’s suffocating, but with “Start Fires,” BLXPLTN continue to give us much needed fresh air. – NH

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

And continue reading our Best of the 2010s coverage at these links

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