The 100 Best Songs by Austin Artists of the 2010s: 80-61

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 second part of our list of the 100 best songs by Austin artists of the 2010s (the first part is here, part three here and part four here and part five here)

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

80. Pswingset “Traceroute”

One of the last recorded songs to have been released by the now defunct Pswingset, “Traceroute” appeared somewhat unceremoniously on a split with Tokyo’s Play Dead Season following a Japanese tour and yet it remains one of their most memorable tracks. Within seconds of hitting “play” the simple minor key reverberation of the lead guitar and syncopated drumming begs my attention in unexpected ways. When Jordan Welker’s vocals waft in a moment later as if on a humid late-spring breeze, I get goose bumps. Instantly my mind jumps to comparisons with Medications’ moody debut LP Your Favorite People All in One Place, a fusion of jazz, math rock, and post-punk sensibility, but there’s more here than just that. Do yourself a favor and just listen to the percussion on this track. It’s more than just rhythm here, it’s practically the lead instrument and drummer Daniel Hawkins’ deft use of cymbals defies description. This is definitely one of the meatiest Pswingset tracks to have been released. There’s a full-bodied element to “Traceroute” that’s buoyed by the deep rumbling of the bass and rhythm guitar throughout and the mix makes a point of accentuating the low end in a way that gives the song some well-worn weight. To this day, “Traceroute” is a track that I listen to attentively whenever it comes on. – Brian J. Audette

79. Popper Burns “Too Punk for Punk”

If you’ve ever wondered why the B-52s aren’t held up as punk icons to the same degree as the RamonesPopper Burns’ “Too Punk for Punk” is for you. Or, as Patty Melt howls over a spasming rhythm and skittering guitar, if you’ve ever made out with pictures of Henry Rollins while pressing them to your body, rubbing them in your sin, “Too Punk for Punk” is for you. An unflinching and deeply erotic takedown of the frequently macho posturing of punkdom, “Too Punk for Punk” announced Popper Burns as the preeminent freaks of the Austin music scene, an answer to the previously unuttered question: what if John Waters put together the Sex Pistols instead of Malcolm McLaren? Five years later, they’re still too fucking punk for punk. – Nick Hanover

78. Tank Washington “Work (ft. Kydd Jones)”

On PainTank Washington proved that his brother Kydd Jones wasn’t the only talented member of the family. “Work” brought the two of them together for a sweet-and-sour single showcasing both of their impressive lyrical and rhythmic strengths, making it clear that individually they were forces to be reckoned with and together they were unstoppable.  – Aaron “Fresh” Knight

77. Walker Lukens “Kindle to Your Fire (Oprah Voice)”

Walker Lukens would end the 2010s with one of the most venomous breakup songs Elvis Costello never wrote (that would be the genius “Heard You Bought a House,”) but on the other end of the decade, in the era of Devoted, Lukens was still an unrepentant romantic, hoping for nothing more than an opportunity to put a smile on the face of his partner. The peculiarly named “Kindle to Your Fire (Oprah Voice)” (is it the cadence that gives the song its perplexing parenthetical? or perhaps its Travoltian joie de vivre? the people need answers, Walker!) is the sound those stomach butterflies are surely making inside you when you first fall in love, all joyous, airy booms and sky reaching highs, desperate to soundtrack some Hollywood musical whimsy. Will that ecstatic feeling fade? As Lukens’ later discography attests, yes, almost certainly. But that doesn’t mean we can’t embrace the warmth while it lasts. – NH

76. Sweet Spirit “Take Me to a Party”

“I’ve got a broken heart so take me to a party” is the kind of lyrical anthem that deserves to be on a t-shirt. It’s perfect rhythmically and thematically, and the boisterous Sweet Spirit knows well enough to juice it for all it’s worth. Most of “Take Me to a Party”’s three minutes are devoted to explosive frontperson Sabrina Ellis howling the line over and over as a cacophony of sound builds behind them and their delivery grows more and more gloriously unhinged. It’s actually startling relatable. Who among us hasn’t felt so absolutely emotionally wrung out that you lose your mind and want nothing more than to make a debaucherous mess of your life? – Kayleigh Hughes

75. East Cameron Folkcore “Robin Hoods Rise”

This was the song that turned me onto East Cameron Folkcore back when I saw them open for Quiet Company at Empire Garage in early 2015. Begining with one of my favorite revolutionary quotes from Mario Savio, “Robin Hoods Rise” is a scathing anti-capitalist screed that would set the stage for the bulk of the band’s work to follow. As their name suggests, East Cameron Folkcore blended folk rock craftsmanship with hardcore punk intensity to produce a unique, but altogether natural-feeling sound suitable for knee-slapping and moshing alike. With its socio-political message and its raucous sound, “Robin Hoods Rise” is a mission statement in more ways than one. Featuring an ensemble of guitars, bass, cello, drums, keys, and horns, the song is full without feeling overloaded and vocalist/guitarist Jesse Moore’s growled lyrics only serve to add intensity and immediacy to the proceedings. In the end, “Robin Hoods Rise” stands both as a testament to ECF’s laudable catalog and as a daring folk/punk anthem for the ages. – BJA

74. Quiet Company “You, Me & the Boatman (Truth is, I’ve Been Thirsty My Whole Life)”

Prior to 2011’s We Are All Where We Belong, you could be forgiven for thinking that Quiet Company was a Christian rock band. Dealing heavily in Christian imagery, they were on a Christian record label and played Christian music festivals. Which is why “You, Me & the Boatman,” Belong’s lead single, was such a shock. In it, Taylor Muse screams, “I don’t care about the past or the future /This existence is probably all we have/And the lives we make are all that matter.” Rather than descend into nihilism in his crisis of faith, Muse instead finds redemption in the pure act of loving another person. “Our love is bigger than most everything,” he declares in the face of an impending and unavoidable death. Love, he argues, ensures immortality as well as anything else. So when he ends the song chanting his new mantra, “Live to love and love to live,” it doesn’t sound like some New Age hippie pablum. It’s an act of radical freedom, a middle finger and a kiss simultaneously, a fiery rallying cry for agnostics everywhere. – Carter Delloro

73. Tele Novella “Trouble in Paradise”

Usually when critics say a piece of music feels cinematic, they mean it’s ambitious and sprawling– it’s the type of term reserved for fussy post-rock bands and avant divas. But in the case of Tele Novella and “Trouble in Paradise,” it feels cinematic in the Ed Wood sense. “Trouble in Paradise” doesn’t so much start as it bubbles up from a kitschy bog, Natalie Ribbons floating in on a fog machine cloud, doing her best Elvira impression while her bandmates do the Monster Mash on downers. Austin music may have an abundance of quirk but as any bad movie enthusiast can tell you, forced quirk is as obvious as a Californian in line at Franklin— Tele Novella, however, is that real midnight deal, warped in from a bizarro dimension where Nancy Sinatra fronted the Cramps. And if “Trouble in Paradise” doesn’t send the right kind of tingle up your spine, then it might be time to check to see if you’re one of the undead nocturnal ones they’ve been warning us all are coming. – NH

72. Tiger Waves “Weekends”

When “Weekends” was first released in 2012, we repeatedly compared the Tiger Waves standout to a cross between the Beach Boys and Animal Collective, and it’s a reference point that holds up. “Weekends” sounds timeless. The vocal harmonies are pristine and angelic. The loping drums and guitar arpeggios propel the track forward in an irresistible groove. Lyrically, the singer’s ambivalence is relatable. He’s crazy about the song’s subject, but can’t figure out how to navigate the logistics of being together. Both parties could behave better, but he can’t offer any solutions. They’re just always making a mess of everything. It’s a song and sentiment that got me through so many of the messes of my 20’s, acknowledging the lackluster present while embodying the endless promise of the future through the track’s sheer beauty. Tiger Waves may be gone as the new decade dawns, but the perfection of “Weekends” will outlast us all. – CD

71. A Giant Dog “Sleep When Dead”

In addition to the aforementioned Sweet Spirit (and a few other kickass projects), Austin’s most prolific musician Sabrina Ellis also helms the grittier, glitterier punk outfit A Giant Dog, whose song “Sleep When Dead” is a bombastic and boldly unromanticized take on carpe diem. We’ve all shouted “I can sleep when I’m dead,” but Ellis follows the lyric with lines that point to the weary realities of a life spent always awake: “All my friends said I look tired/I can barely hold my head/Up, I really think I’m dying“. And yet somehow, Ellis and the band’s ferocious dedication makes the self-destruction sound enviable. – KH

70. Marmalakes “Wells Tower Rosa Knees”

Like a modern Simon & Garfunkel (with hints of Dylan and a little Buffalo Tom or Wilco thrown in for good measure), Marmalakes produce the kind of just slightly off-kilter folk music that I really enjoy: up front, thoughtful but playful, technically savvy, and never overwrought. After a smattering of EPs and singles toward the beginning of the decade, the band seemed to disappear for a while. They would show up here and there for the odd live show, but never released anything new until 2018 finally saw them put out their first LP: Please Don’t Stop. “Wells Tower Rosa Knees,” a standout track from the LP, is the perfect highlight of all that Marmalakes bring to the table. Bouncy pop instrumentation coupled with Chase Weinacht’s folksy lyrical construction and vocal delivery, drive the song through an undulation of tone and speed. Josh Halpern’s inspired drum work punctuates every note with a rhythmic pounding that sets the pace as it drifts from fast to slow and back again. The result is a poppy, folk rock fusion that’s relaxed and mellow, but paradoxically still rocks! – BJA

69. Okkervil River “Mermaid”

With its trembling performance, Okkervil River’s “Mermaid” starts with the onomatopoeia-like clicking metaphors and just doesn’t stop. It’s as slippery as the lyrics and the subject matter- are we being told a story or are we witnessing the unraveling of a person driven mad with desire? In the year this was released, 2011, it seemed like everyone was trying to create deeply emotional songs, either by confessional lyrics or by swelling orchestration. Okkervil River manages to do both in “Mermaid” without being too cute about it, only enticing you to know the end of the tale. – Eryn Brothers

68. Agent Ribbons “Family Haircut”

Before becoming a groovie ghoulie in Tele Novella, Natalie Ribbons was one half of Agent Ribbons, a sparsely produced duo specializing in an entrancing mix of dusty Western balladry and baroque pop. “Family Haircut,” a standout from their 2012 release Let Them Talk, is a marvel of songcraft, its ramshackle instrumentation a sly cover for its breezily complex songcraft and harmonies. Any number of minor elements from “Family Haircut” could fuel the entire catalog of lesser indie bands– those eerie “ooh oohs,” the booming simplicity of the drums, the spectral guitar– but here they all coalesce behind Ribbons’ vocal to make something absolutely magical that sounds as refreshing and imaginative today as it did almost a decade ago. – NH


Back in 2014 we here at Ovrld stated BLXPLTN were the only band that mattered, based on the strength of the trio’s early live shows and the album that became Black Cop Down. When BLXPLTN went to follow up on that album and the hype around them– at that pointed supported not only by us but also Afropunk, VICE and others– they’d lost a founding member and the hatred and bigotry they’d been ferociously fighting from day one had intensified to such a degree that even the whitest amongst us couldn’t ignore it any longer. And holy fuck did they rise to the occasion. “FEMA,” a major highlight of masterful sophomore effort New York Fascist Week, isn’t just the pulsing center mass of that album but also of BLXPLTN itself, an explosive, unapologetically angry musical callout that proved the band had not only vastly improved their production but had also beautifully married all of the disparate elements of their sound, be it electro, punk or hip hop. This isn’t just a song, it’s righteous fury personified. – NH

66. Magna Carda “Joccin'”

By the time of Somewhere Between’s release in 2017, Magna Carda had managed to breakthrough with rock audiences in Austin with their dynamic, frequently jam-oriented live shows. But “Joccin’,” the breakout fan favorite song from Somewhere Between, found Magna Carda seemingly aiming to prove they weren’t just another backpack rapping group. And no one who was deeply familiar with Megz Kelli and Dougie Do’s careers was surprised to hear them pull it off with one of the heaviest bangers in Austin hip-hop history, shutting down anyone who thought their crossover appeal meant they’d gone soft. – AFK

65. Literature “Grifted”

Editor’s note: “Grifted” is mistitled as “Rooney” on Spotify

All I can remember about Literature in 2012 was that they seemed to come out of nowhere. I even described their debut LP Arab Spring as “Austin’s sleeper hit of the year” after it ended up on the “best-of” lists for a number of big outfits. The band’s lo-fi, punkish brand of jangle-pop was both catchy and playful; never overproduced, but laden with poppy hooks. Arab Spring skirted the line between old-school punk and pop like a tightrope walker, the end result being an incredibly catchy collection of songs with a very genuine DIY feel. “Grifted” was both the song that introduced me to the band and the one that years later still seems to give the most accurate description of their musical milieu. While the band would eventually move to Philadelphia, “Grifted” remains an Austin-born classic that still rocks to this day. – BJA 

64. Migrant Kids “Thread”

I stand by Migrant Kids’ 2013 full-length self-titled album as an excellent conceptual record, but when they started debuting “Thread” in concerts, it was clear they were dealing with a whole other level of indie rock. I know they hated it when I compared the track to Kings of Leon’s “Sex on Fire” but I maintain that it has that level of epic stadium appeal. What makes it a more interesting listen is John Zakoor’s vulnerability in his lyrics and vocal delivery. The song is a dramatic showdown between his heart and his head, as he declares “I’m hanging on by a thread.” He insists that this thread is “just enough” to keep he and his lover together, but the insecurity and doubt in his voice belies the conviction of his words. You just don’t get this kind of nuance in stadium rock any more. With Bryan O’Flynn and Miguel Ojeda threatening to careen out of control, the track mirrors the propulsion and desperation of Zakoor’s delivery. In a just world, you would see this live with a Muse-style light show. In this world, it’s still a gift to have such smart, emotional, danceable indie rock as “Thread.” – CD

63. Lord Buffalo “Cold Bones”

Lord Buffalo were actually the very first band I saw when I moved to Austin and I think they owe an apology to every other artist I’ve seen since for setting such a high standard. On paper, none of the elements that make up Lord Buffalo’s sound should go together: possibly moonshine-induced hooting and hollering, post-rock noise texture, satanic fiddle, murder ballad vocals. But as “Cold Bones” attests, Lord Buffalo’s sound doesn’t just work, it works beautifully, resulting in the kind of pulse pounding excitement you otherwise only feel when you either escape getting murdered or get away with murder yourself. – NH

62. Lou Rebecca “Tonight”

Parisian in origin and ethos, Austinite by choice, Lou Rebecca showcases her songwriting sensibilities and synth affections on “Tonight,” a wistful, sexy Europop gem with a compact structure and a pure glittering premise. “Won’t be everlasting, don’t want to be nobody’s baby,” Rebecca coos. She tells her lover to forget about tomorrows and yesterdays because “Tonight, baby, you are mine.” Rebecca is one of the many brilliant artists on beloved local record label Holodeck, which proves every day that Austin’s electronic scene is fucking stacked. – KH

61. League of Extraordinary G’z “I’m Alive (ft. Grupo Fantasma)”

One of the first Austin hip hop acts to break out nationally in the 2010s, League of Extraordinary G’z set the tone for a lot of what would follow in their wake in the rest of the decade. That’s particularly clear on “I’m Alive,” where League teamed up with Grammy-winning fellow Austinites Grupo Fantasma, establishing a genre-blending template that Zeale, Magna Carda and others would follow not long after. Lyrically, LOEGz hit hard with the harsh reality that we all in fact will die, so why not enjoy your time while you’re alive, a message that only became more powerful by the end of the turbulent decade. – AFK
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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