Top 50 Austin Songs of 2012: #20-11

If you click the play button right below, it will play all ten songs in order! Enjoy!

20. Zeale ft/ Patricia Lynn - "Hope Dies"

Zeale snags The Soldier Thread’s Patricia Lynn to sing the hook on this doomsday pop-rap number. With a crystal clear delivery, Zeale tackles global politics and entreats us all to take action on all the atrocities going on around us. Compounding this problem in Zeale’s eyes are natural disasters, poverty and apathy. The bleak lyrics are joined by a tense but irresistible beat. The end of the world has never sounded so good, and this track (along with massive amounts of touring) helps explain Zeale’s steady increase in popularity over 2012. Expect a big year next year for the local rapper.

Zeale ft/ Patricia Lynn - 'Hope Dies'

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19. Black Pistol Fire - "Beelzebub"

Black Pistol Fire are rooted in a traditional blues style, but that influence is often buried beneath layers of raucous distortion. On the opener to their Big Beat ‘59 album this year, BPF stripped away all their sonic excess to focus on the basics. It’s a stomp in the most literal sense: the beat is constructed of feet and hands. The rest is just tambourine, guitar (with a subtle second line at times) and mandolin. Kevin McKeown leads a call-and-response about the traditional blues topic of dealing with Satan, and in the process shows off the passion and skill at the core of BPF’s signature blues sound.

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18. Frank Smith - "A Decline"

No, you’re not listening to an Interpol outtake. Frank Smith normally trade in roots rock, but for “A Decline” on this year’s Before You Were Born, they bring their rootsy inclinations to a dark indie rock number. It’s got all the hallmarks of great indie rock: the steady pulsating drums and lead guitars, as well as a dynamically loud chorus. But Frank Smith are barely able to keep the quiet together on the verses – the guitars squawk for a few notes randomly here and there as if they can’t wait to attack the track. By the time the chorus comes around, the band explodes with a passion. They clearly love rocking out, and they do it so well.

Frank Smith - 'A Decline'

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17. Melogrand - "Country Water"

“Country Water” the song is almost as amorphous as country water. It twists and turns through so many styles and feels and sections, and makes all of it seem like a natural part of the same song. There’s the opening country stomp: insistent, driving, and galvanized by distorted chords and long backing vocals. It then seamlessly transitions into a noodling, meandering section that almost recalls a jam band. Before long, though, the power is back on for that country stomp of a chorus. The entire last minute and a half is like a totally different song. And all this epicness is packed into just four minutes. Anyone can have this many ideas, but it takes talent to make them all fit together in such a natural package.

Melogrand - 'Country Water'

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16. The Lonesome Heroes - "Seeing Is Believing"

Sometimes a song can conjure an unmistakable atmosphere, immediately conjuring up a dark, open road at night and a tightly packed car hurtling into the seemingly impenetrable night. Sometimes a country duo can craft a track that appeals to just about anyone, thanks to their understated vocal delivery, a haunting melody, and a screeching, floating, flying slide guitar laden with otherworldly effects. Sometimes you just have to escape, and there’s no need to explain why because you just feel it so deeply in the core of your being. Sometimes hearing is believing.

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15. Whiskey Shivers - "WTD"

Over the course of “WTD” (which stands for “win the day”), we hear a lot of the things that make Whiskey Shivers great. There are multiple lead vocalists, as well as great harmonies. There’s the peppy arrangement, harmonica solo, and all around top-notch musicianship that make them one of the great bluegrass groups in the area. There’s even a fiercely independent, life-affirming chorus, but what makes this song among the best of the year is the great melody. It draws from old-school bluegrass, while being one of the catchiest things you’ll get stuck in your head in the next few days. It’s simple and amazing.

Whiskey Shivers - 'WTD'

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14. Zlam Dunk - "Young Blood"

No one made punk like Zlam Dunk in 2012. You can’t really call Charlie Day’s vocal parts “singing” – more like stylized talking. But there’s something magical about what this band is able to accomplish, and “Young Blood” is a perfect example of it. The band is as comfortable playing dance-rock as it is driving a more traditional punk style. The song starts off with a climactic bang, as Day paints the picture of a much more specific and personal apocalypse than the global one at play in Zeale’s “Hope Dies.” It’s a classic tale of loss of innocence that they seem to connect to 9/11 (“I see the towers fall and the waves begin to swell”), before plunging into a lengthy instrumental passage. These musicians are all remarkably comfortable with each other, as they must be to make something as intricate and powerful as “Young Blood.”

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13. David Thomas Jones - "Our Lives"

DTJ has been around the music scene for a while, but only just released his debut EP as a solo act this year. Lead track “Our Lives” is like ear candy – there are so many delicious sounds going on that your mind easily gets overloaded. It starts off easily enough with synthesized drums and marimba sounds augmented by human backing vocals, but from there things get weird. An ominous but ambiguous noise heralds the opening verse and then there are shakers, handclaps, one of the sickest bass lines of the year, all sorts of guitar effects panning their way across your headphones. Jones keeps dropping in aural treats all over what also happens to be one of the danciest rock songs of the year. And don’t get us started on the existential crisis in the lyrics.

David Thomas Jones - 'Our Lives'

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12. Literature - "Grifted"

Literature were one of the great surprises of 2012. The world is full of poppy, lo-fi, punk-influenced bands, and yet there is no one like Literature. So many of their songs could have taken a spot on this list since they are all chock full of hooks, but we are partial to “Grifted.” It’s probably the sweet lead guitar lick that kicks the song off, or the way the rhythm section’s insistent energy complements the laconic vocal delivery from Nathaniel Cardaci. No, it’s definitely the waterfalls of gorgeous guitar sounds that drape our ears over the last minute’s instrumental solo. It’s the kind of joyous pop song that you never want to end – the reason that God invented the “back” button.

Literature - 'Grifted'

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11. The Sour Notes - "Two Hands Wait"

Perhaps Austin’s most prolific band, The Sour Notes had a relatively relaxing year in the recording studio. Their focus was a remastered release of last year’s Last Looks, but they still managed to release this wonderful single. Creepy verses lead into much more upbeat choruses without missing a step. If you listen carefully, you can hear just how much is at play on this track. In the verses, there are competing guitar lines, wordless backing vocals and worded backing vocals, soft keyboards, subtle horn parts, and that relentless snare drum. By comparison, the chorus is a straightforward, exultant section. Jared Boulanger and company are some of the hardest-working folks in town with the amount of performing and recording they do, but with “Two Hands Wait” they remind us about the talent supports all of it.

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-Ovrld Team