Austin Ex-Pats: Brazos / New Hill / Bill Baird

Some musicians that used to call Austin their home have moved onto other places, but still retain a connection to the Capital City. Today we’ll look at recent releases from a few of those artists.

Brazos – Saltwater


Saltwater is the second full-length release from Brazos, which began as the solo project of songwriter Martin Crane. When they released their debut in 2009, Crane was based in Austin (and the band featured current Good Field lead singer Paul Price), but he relocated to Brooklyn shortly thereafter. They’ve opened for Austin staples like White Denim, Shearwater and Iron & Wine, and have gotten attention for Saltwater from Pitchfork, Consequence of Sound and Pop Matters. It’s a really solid, mellow album with a few really strong highlights, including “How the Ranks Was Won” and “Always On.” There are plenty of echoes of other epically mellow indie rock groups like Band of Horses, Fleet Foxes and Shearwater, and overall is a great example of indie-folk/americana.

New Hill – Tracks


New Hill is the brainchild of Jesse Wooten, who we originally covered on this site for his work with BRIDGES. He had moved here from North Carolina, and we lauded his mix of fantastic lyrics and great hooks. Life has brought Wooten back to the East Coast, but that hasn’t prevented him from putting together great music. New Hill just released their debut album, Tracks, which de-emphasizes hooks (though a song like “Are You Still Lost in the Pines?” is still plenty catchy) in favor of thoughtful lyrics and contemplative atmosphere. It’s a lo-fi record, but, much like Austin’s Marmalakes, active engagement with Wooten’s lyrics makes this good music even better.

Bill Baird – Spring Break of the Soul


Bill Baird may be best known to Austin music fans from his role in Echotone, the independent documentary about the impact of Austin’s commercial expansion on its musical creative class. In that film, he comes off as a mad genius – the consummate artist. Since then, he has relocated to San Francisco, and released the sprawling, immaculate Spring Break of the Soul. It’s a psychedelic masterpiece filled with sonic experimentation that is never off-putting. Whether it’s the vocal manipulations a la early Beck (“Bow Down to the Brain”) or the extended suite of instrumental explorations in the middle of the record, Baird seems most fascinated by the most melodic parts of the avant-garde (not unlike the career of the Flaming Lips). It’s an inspirational record that is likely to slowly amass a cult following and emerge as a seminal Millennial text three or four decades from now. Until then, all we can do is bask in the recesses of Baird’s wandering spirit.