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

Best Austin Songs 2010s pt 1

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

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

100. Ruby Jane and the Reckless “Rainbows”

I’m a sucker for the use of violins as a main instrument in pop and rock music. There’s something about it that just feels delightfully off-kilter to my ears. When Ruby & the Reckless dropped the single/video for “Rainbows” it made my ears prick up in more ways than one. Beginning with a simple drone, plucked violin strings, and bass, the track slowly ramps into an explosive chorus behind Ruby Jane’s powerful yet pixie-like vocals and I think it’s here that the song really grabs me. Specifically it’s the moment when the chorus seems to end, but hangs on a few seconds more for a musical foreshadowing of the song’s climax. It’s a lovely bit of composition that makes this song stand out from the standard fare and part of a perfect storm of elements that still have me hitting that “play” button again years later. – Brian J. Audette

99. Black Angels “Bad Vibrations”

The relentless, propulsive floor toms. The jagged shards of feedback crashing in triplet waves. The explosion when the group races towards the finish line. “Bad Vibrations” is an atmosphere. A mood. It’s the purest distillation of everything great about The Black Angels, Austin’s preeminent psych-rock band of the 2010s. They’re able to evoke a menace and a darkness like almost no one else and, while they would continue to refine that sound on later recordings like “Don’t Play With Guns,” this lead off track to Phosphene Dream set the tone for their career. Dream was the commercial breakthrough for the Angels and their success helped re-establish Austin as an epicenter for the psych-rock subgenre for the rest of the decade. “Bad Vibrations” (and the Black Angels, as a whole) stands out because it finds the irresistible groove in the malevolence. – Carter Delloro

98. Protextor & Brother Bear “Not Tonight!”

Protextor & Brother Bear’s “Not Tonight!” came at a moment at the end of 2017 when everyone was so exhausted from a brooding year of abject self-scrutiny that a lyric like “Yo, fuck you, but/I don’t really want to think about it tonight seemed hopeful. The defiant, danceable hit from their American Neon record brought a warmth to the chill of the winter and reminded us that music reflects life reflects music reflects life. But then, don’t think too much about that. Shake it off and keep dancing. The horns and bass never stop. – Allanah Maarteen

97. Whiskey Shivers “Gimme All Your Lovin'”

Whiskey Shivers burst onto the scene in 2011 with their first full-length, Batholith, and haven’t let up since. “Gimme All Your Lovin” was the song whose video consumed Reddit for a time, as the bluegrass group showcased their creativity and punk energy. In “Gimme All Your Lovin,” Whiskey Shivers are boozy and unbridled. The song feels like it could come apart at any moment, but somehow the five musicians are able to stay together for a frantic, raucous two minutes. Over the rest of the decade, they would expand the range of their sound and their lyrical themes, but this is still the crystalline version of Whiskey Shivers for me. Horny and drunk, “Gimme All Your Lovin” is more fun than almost any other song on this list. It’s everything you could ask for in a bluegrass track. – CD

96. Bird Peterson “Chuck Roast (ft. Space Camp Death Squad)”

On the verses, Bird Peterson gets funky, spacey and bassy while the talented wordsmiths of Space Camp Death Squad aren’t taking themselves too seriously. It’s all wubbly silly fun and solid flows built off twisted interpretations of nursery rhymes (the Space Camp dudes’ nasally singsong delivery of “not bad meaning bad but bad meaning good” is one of my favorite Austin musical moments of the 2010s). Then each time the chorus hits, and the group rains down a cacophony of shit that is fucked. The best part of the extensive list of targets is the feeling that the group is taunting you. They start with things that we’ve all universally agreed suck, like money, John McCain and the DMV. (Man, truly, fuck the DMV.) But as they quickly barrel into the absurd, surreal and controversial — talking shit on, among other things, safe sex, hop, shoes, books and assorted cheese — the song cements its brilliance. Space Camp is wallowing in hedonism and laughing as you squirm. No, the song seems to be spitting at you, you’re not on my side, motherfucker, no one’s on my side, I’m not even on my side. LMAO. – Kayleigh Hughes

95. Hikes “Spring Forward”

Back when I was auditioning tracks in order to make my list of bands to see for SXSW 2015, I nearly skipped over “Spring Forward” by Hikes. The song opens with a wispy vocal by Nay Wilkins, which (when auditioning over 1000 tracks before SXSW began) had me considering a skip to the next track in my list. A moment later however, Wilkins’ mathy guitar noodling comes in followed soon after by the rest of the band with a heavy refrain. I’m intrigued. The song builds on the structure, undulating back and forth between mellow folk and heavy, technical rock. It all careens toward a truly epic crescendo about halfway through that (upon spending itself) relaxes into an outro of technical noodling and soft trumpet. Needless to say, I put Hikes on my list of bands to see at SXSW that year and haven’t regretted it since. “Spring Forward” remains one of their best tunes and a live highlight, usually culminating in the mellowest, most feel-good mosh pit you’ll ever witness or find yourself dancing in. – BJA

94. Matthew Squires “Shape of Your Heart”

I am the Antichrist,” Matthew Squires calmly intones on the first chorus of “Shape of Your Heart,” a menacing statement delivered with such casualness you’d be forgiven for brushing it off like some kind of joke. Squires had already established himself as an Austin amalgam of brothers in songcraft David Berman and Stephen Malkmus earlier in the 2010s but “Shape of Your Heart” was the apex of that hybridization, a perfect blend of Berman’s casually self-destructive one-liners and Malkmus’ flair for twisty, goofy hooks and riffs. So it makes a certain kind of sense that the Antichrist would be gifted with the traits of those two pillars of indie rock and also be a vehicle for ancient songs that “come flooding in from some distant land.” Perhaps, then, we should be afraid of Squires’ promise in the breakdown that he will never abandon us, even if we want him to. But I, for one, am happy to welcome a singer-songwriter-induced apocalypse rather than what we’re currently facing– as long as it remains as hummable as this. – Nick Hanover

93. Third Root “The Next Kendrick (ft. Bavu Blakes)”

As Little Brother once said, “dope beats, dope rhymes, n**** that’s hip hop.” Well, that’s exactly what Third Root gave us with “The Next Kendrick,” a thrillingly old school banger with “bars that carry weight,” where the crew is joined by Bavu Blakes, as they proclaim themselves teachers of the game, their music molding, raising, motivating, and inspiring the next great thing in music, whether it be the next generation’s J. Cole, Nicki Minaj, Kendrick Lamar, or Jimi Hendrix. And for Blake, a certified teacher, the message was quite literal. – Aaron “Fresh” Knight

92. Bright Light Social Hour “Infinite Cities”

In 2010, the Bright Light Social Hour conquered Austin by immediately perfecting jammy blues-rock on their debut full-length. Churning out “Back and Forth, Volume II” would have been a lucrative path for them to take, but instead there was nothing. Their live shows got more experimental and a lineup shift left them more guitar-oriented. After five long years, they re-emerged with “Infinite Cities,” a track that baffled the Blues on the Green crowd. There was no precedent in their catalogue. It wasn’t radio-friendly; instead, it was delicate, powerful and mesmerizing. In the shimmering guitar chords, you could hear endless sonic possibilities. It laid out the path for TBLSH to develop their own spacy groove, a unique style among modern psychedelia. As Curtis Roush sings of “quilted emigrations” and declares that “comfort is a siren,” you experience the band moving to a new frontier. And after a song this powerful and effective, it’s no surprise that they feel right at home. – CD

91. Moving Panoramas “Baby Blue”

So much dream pop is, well, not necessarily dead on arrival, but definitely stoned and a little slow moving and extremely easy to tune out. But Moving Panoramas’ “Baby Blues,” off their 2019 album In Two, is a powerful jolt of life. Crushy but cerebral, pretty with substance, and boasting a hook strong enough to hang a career on, the melodic track is what all dream pop should aspire to. Credit to Danny Reisch’s mix of the song as well; the Moving Panoramas crew is large and has musical elements to balance, but “Baby Blues” doesn’t let everything blur together into a boggy fuzz. It’s crisp and clean, each instrumental contribution given space to stand out and hold its own. The benefits of this are most noticeable at the three-minute mark, when everything drops out except the vocals and drums, giving the song the powerful boost it needs to last almost five minutes without ever sounding boring or repetitive. Quite a feat, and strong evidence of Moving Panoramas’ musical craftsmanship. – KH

90. Lola Tried “San Marcos”

Austin has long been a city people in need of escape have flocked to, particularly if you felt like the odds of you fitting in, well, anywhere were slim to none. And so the city seems to spawn an anthem for these outcasts and weirdos every generation, giving them a musical lifesaver of sorts to hold on to during the awkwardness of transition. For the 2010s that anthem came in the form of Lola Tried’s “San Marcos,” a pop punk ode to fleeing the loneliness of some bland nowheresville for the greener and meaner pastures of an arty mecca. As Lauren Burton testifies, though, escape isn’t necessarily easy– you, too, might find yourself dating a jackass who leaves you on the side of the road– but few things make those troubles melt away as quickly as pumping your fist along to pop punk riffage while you barrel down I-35. – NH

89. Retr0grade “Tribal Bounce”

It doesn’t get more Austin than Retr0gRaDe, with their unique blend of heady rhythms, psychedelic sounds and arty diversions, and “Tribal Bounce” is no different. One of the most eclectic sounding, yet inarguably hip hop songs to be produced in the city, “Tribal Bounce” is Retr0grade and Austin hip hop at its finest– inventive, playful and impossible to ignore. – AFK

88. Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein “Stranger Things”

Austin had a phenomenal synth scene bubbling beneath its rockist facade for decades before 2016 but ask any casual music fan or even critic when they first took notice and you will almost certainly hear the same two words: Stranger Things. In just a little under a minute, S U R V I V E’s Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein established not only the eerie, nostalgic mood of what became one of the streaming era’s biggest hits but also the sound of an entire scene, forcing publications ranging from Fader to our own Austin Chronicle to suddenly open their ears– the latter even placed a slew of otherwise unconnected artists under the vague, paradoxical subgenre “retro futurism” for a cover story. Fortunately, “Stranger Things” is more than novelty or throwback, it builds on the epic soundscapes that gained S U R V I V E such a devoted fanbase prior to Stranger Things with unexpected melodic trills and a bonafide earworm in its primary lead line. There would be more to come from Austin synth artists in the 2010s, but thanks to Dixon & Stein, more people were willing to listen than ever before. – NH

87. White Denim “Magazin”

Over the course of the 2010s, White Denim expanded the possibilities of their sonic palette. Personally, I think that 2013’s Corsicana Lemonade is their most consistent album of the decade, but the most perfect single song is hands-down “Magazin” from 2018. It’s a track that somehow straddles the line between vintage and contemporary in every aspect. “Magazin” has the dirtiest groove of White Denim’s career, topped off by some deliciously scuzzy Blackstar-era Bowie saxophones. When those pop up in the first chorus, it elevates “Magazin” into the pantheon of bluesy rock tracks. Their timbre perfectly matches the fuzz on the guitars and slides into the kind of groove that you only hear from veteran bands. White Denim aren’t satisfied with just writing a psych-blues song, though; they also pepper studio production tricks throughout the entire piece. Every listen reveals new Easter eggs to fire up your brain and the rhythm track means that your feet stay happy each time. – CD

86. Fort Never “Paradigm”

Since its ’90s heyday, countless artists have tried to resurrect the corpse of trip hop and almost all of them have failed. Whatever sorcery the members of Fort Never engage in, however, has spared them that fate. On “Paradigm,” the trio make trip hop feel new again, unveiling a sound that one can imagine as easily in a post-apocalyptic rave as an earthy pagan ritual. Much of that is due to the vocal performance of Chantell Moody, with its theatrical cadence and hallucinogenic tones, but the delicate balance of folksy rhythms and glitching electronics in the instrumentation also serve to make “Paradigm” the rare trip hop descendent that adds to the sound’s DNA rather than just playing out an increasingly stale take on its cliches. Perplexing, alluring and more than a little sinister, “Paradigm” still stands out as an especially intriguing offering from one of the most adventurous Austin groups of the decade. – NH

85. Sour Notes “Two Hands Wait”

A collaboration with some members of Mother Falcon, “Two Hands Wait” is one of the most powerful and immediately gripping songs recorded by The Sour Notes. The song opens with a wall of horns and guitars that for me recalls the fractured fervor of King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man,” but quickly settles into a slow, seductive beat as the verse begins. Frontman Jared Boulanger’s vocals are low and pleading as the song fills with a bluesy, psychedelic anxiety punctured by the wailing return of horns for the chorus. As this progressive pop number wraps up in a frenetic horn/guitar crescendo similar to the one it began with, I find myself craving a repeat of the last 3 minutes and 20 seconds of audio bliss. The Sour Notes have come a long way since this track and continue to expand their sound to this day, but “Two Hands Wait” remains one of their strongest and most memorable tracks. – BJA

84. Moving Castles “Heroin”

Conceived of as a Knifight side project, Moving Castles’ Twin Daggers EP was a highlight of my 2011. All these years later, “Heroin” in particular still gets me fired up in the way that only the best power pop can. John Eric Hetherington takes on a dicey subject, a friend’s descent into drug addiction, in a masterful way. He never glorifies her use of the drug and paints the picture of a contradictory lifestyle of seediness and decadence. And instead of this being a dour slog, as that summary of the lyrics might suggest, it’s a fun catchy rave-up. When the final chorus arrives with its layers of major-key synthesizers and intertwining backing vocals, you feel that Hetherington is trying to make the best of a bad situation. Is the party an escape from his desperate reality? Is it a celebratory departure from a friend who has driven him away? Every time I listen, it sounds like a different emotion. But it’s always one of the most irresistible earworms I’ve ever heard. – CD

83. Teenage Cavegirl “No Good//So Bad”

For whatever reason, not a lot of rock bands in Austin embrace a “less is more” approach. But Teenage Cavegirl is out here showing everyone what they’re missing. With a name right out of an imaginary album by the Cramps, the virtuosic garage punk duo has been bashing out their self-proclaimed “trashpop-bop with the bonehead beat” around Austin for several years now. And 2019’s “No Good//So Bad” is perhaps the best example of the band’s mastery of raw, spare musical power and an abundance of style. The message — and chorus — of the song is raw and simple: I know you’re no good but I want you so bad. That’s the good stuff, the crucial ingredient that music is and always has been made of. Drummer L.A. belts the lyrics while pounding out a strong swinging rhythm on her truly kickass standing bass drum. And the only other element is Andy Ray’s muscular, strutting guitar. But that’s more than enough. It takes a lot to sound truly different in Austin’s rock scene, but Teenage Cavegirl does it effortlessly. – KH

82. Speak “Carrie”

“Carrie” preceded the founding of Ovrld by a few months, and that first year of our site was filled with coverage of this sugar-coated pop gem. Over the course of two LPs in the first half of the decade, Troupe Gammage and company explored the limits of pop-rock but they were never as epically perfect as on “Carrie.” Shimmering synthesizers, hand claps, count offs…you feel like you’re dancing inside a cotton candy rainbow when that fuzz guitar hits in the chorus. With multiple hooks and pristine production, it was a magical debut. Speak has been quiet for a few years and Gammage now composes music and sounds for video games in Los Angeles, but they fortunately left us this masterpiece to treasure until they return. – CD

81. Click Clack “The Times”

In a decade where DJ Khaled stubbornly declaring he doesn’t go down on women is a major news story, an underground hip hop track can stand out just by virtue of having a pro-oral viewpoint. But luckily there is a lot more to Click-Clack’s “The Times” than a celebration of going down;  “The Times,” as its name suggests, is about embracing the maturity and wisdom of growing up on the whole and the freedom that comes from shedding all the juvenile hang-ups and pettiness that often makes male youth so toxic. All that deep exploration wouldn’t necessarily make for a good song on its own, though. Fortunately the track slinks around Click-Clack’s wizened, gruff delivery with a serpentine swagger, its twisty, pulsing bass and drums pushing at the airy edges of the folksy sample that gives the songs it name. Grown up but still puckish and playful, “The Times” makes the case for Click-Clack as the mischievous but thoughtful brain of Austin hip-hop. – NH
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

80-61 | 60-41 | 40-21 | 20-1