Jack Anderson

Ruel Thomas: “I Am Today”

Any profession requires quotas…whether that’s how many tickets you write or how many kids pass your class. And when music is your source of income, the obvious metric to measure by is quantity of shows played. But as with any creative endeavor, there’s an opportunity to move the needle in many directions, which makes “success” a complicated thing to assess.

So let’s get a quick look at Ruel Thomas. The Native Austinite developed his guitar-vocals-and-harmonica style around folk-pop-rock icons like Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, and Paul Simon while still in Australia. When he moved back to the Live Music Capital about a half decade back, everything fell into place to become a certified full-timer. And Ruel Thomas has done just that, with thousands of gigs in the bag across the Lone Star State, the Tonight and Myself full-length from 2022, and last May’s Texas Castle EP.

You might’ve noticed that time spent onstage and on the road outweighs studio offerings by a country mile. But remember what we said about moving the needle in new directions? Yeah, in 2024, Ruel Thomas has vowed to drop a new single every two months, no small feat for someone who needs to wrangle a band for every recording. And last Friday that new series continued with “I Am Today”, which sounds somewhere between a decades-old yesterday and a fast-approaching tomorrow in terms of classic influences and modern mixing – thanks to Luna drummer/NYC Producer Lee Wall. At just a hair over three minutes, the ever-rolling rhythm section behind “I Am Today” dangles tomorrow’s horizon in the distance, while Ruel’s rich vocals and Americana guitar keep you right in the moment.

Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors: “Suffering”

The very nature of Americana is rooted in traditional music. But it also lies at the crossroads between folk, country, and rock. So if an Americana act decides to veer into new lanes, the choices are limited and somewhat predictable. And yet it’s still such a joy to hear an artist explore new sonic territory, no matter how established they may be.

Having said that, we’re happy to hear that Nashville’s Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors will be joining us in our neck of the woods later this week. That’s right, on the heels of their ninth full-length Strangers No More, the Americana connoisseurs kick off a month-long national tour right here in town. The Find Your People Tour fires off 7:30PM this Thursday at the Scoot Inn, and our newfound neighbors will be stopping by Central Texas again for the Kerrville Folk Festival late next month.

And since Austin is such a hard left turn from Holcomb et. al’s Nasvhille stomping ground, the band gave us an early listen to their latest shifting of gears. On “Suffering”, the grit is real, and the rock is Southern. It captures the rudest elements of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, and Marshall Tucker band, albeit with that one-of-a-kind Holcomb character. Safe to say that if Southern rock is your bag, “Suffering” is so good it hurts.

How Important is Weed to Rap?

Over the 4/20 weekend Confucius and Fresh hash out marijuana’s impact on hip-hop, the latest shots against Drake, and why the OGs aren’t always right. Hear that along with Hip-Hop Facts and Confucius’ take on the latest headlines.

Melotheory: “Breathe”

When you have roommates, at least good ones you get along with, group activities naturally arise around the house. For most folks, it’s watching TV, recreational smoking and drinking, or maybe the occasional board game. For musicians, however, having a practice space within eyeshot of your bedroom door is too good of a scenario to pass up.

At least that’s the situation that producers Patrick Insull and Austin Pedersen find themselves in; they’ve spent the past three years patiently penning in their apartment on behalf of their Austin quintet Melotheory. And who has a better insight into both blooming and wilting romances then your roommate? Maybe that’s why the sad boi aesthetic shines so bright on their debut batch of indie-rock love songs, which are genre dalliances themselves, albeit with disco rhythms.

This morning, ahead of a FREE release show 7:30PM tonight at the Cactus Cafe, Melotheory rolled out their eponymous debut full-length. At thirty-six minutes and ten tracks melotheory is a journey best enjoyed front-to-back, no doubt. That said, we also get why Melotheory chose “Breathe” as the LP’s lead single. There’s a serious Thomas Mars quality to the vocals , which quickly draws comparisons to everyone’s favorite Versailles indie rock revolutionaries. But where Phoenix flourishes with pop radio-ready, heavily gated, conservatively contained choices, “Breathe” maximizes their mix with stereo-sprawling selections over crests and valleys of dynamic shifts. Well…we’ve said enough. Time to exhale out of the work week and let “Breathe” do its thing.

Rhythm&Truth and Sakari: “Bring It All Back”

We won’t say that successful collaborations should mandate a solo artist’s trajectory. But if something built together leaves people wanting more, it’s not a bad idea to get back together and sate those desires, right? Because what’s unachievable on the individual level often just needs to get catalyzed by some good collabo chemistry.

So let’s talk about two creators who we both like independently, but especially love to hear join forces. That’s Rhythm&Truth, the soul-pop-jazz-funk foray from Austin producer-songwriter-percussionist Daniel Anstandig and fellow up-and-comer Sakari, who specializes in stunning neo-soul vocals. Since both projects were born out of the early pandemic era, it naturally took a couple of years into each’s career to break out of their bubbles, find one another, and let the sparks fly. But boy did they ever on last November’s Midnight Vinyl, a passionate pastiche of after-hour radio atmosphere showcasing R&T’s robust arrangements and and Sakari’s sensational pipes.

Now, in between the final installment of Rhythm&Truth’s Time Travlr trilogy this July and Sakari’s last release a little over a month ago, the two buddied up once again to dial in yet another late night dedication. In the pair’s own words, “Bring It All Back” champions the importance of showing up in person and rekindling a sense of community post-COVID. And given how enormous the sense of space is on this song, we can’t help but heed that invitation; it’s like the soundscapers behind Cherelle, Chaka Khan, and Sade got together to reminisce over that mid-late ’80s heyday of women-driven R&B in a more modern spirit. Between all that and a truly hypnotic hook, “Bring It All Back” just earned a top spot on the playlist for any top down joyride in the coming summer months and beyond. Time to reunite with your ride-or-die and let ‘er rip…

Myia Thornton: “Never Good 4 Me”

Unlike the legendary machines of Stax and Motown who relied on a ton of well oiled cogs to make any R&B singer into a star, these days the new blood has to do everything themselves, talent agent or not. And while not everyone can be Prince or D’Angelo in terms of multi-instrumental discipline, bringing something extra behind the mic, whatever it may be, really makes a rising singer stand out in the endless milky way of could-be R&B stars.

That puts us into orbit around Myia Thornton, songwriter-bassist-producer with Los Angeles ties but a current home base here in Austin. Beginning with her 2018 start date on streaming, she’s shown herself to be a spiritual pupil of Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, and Missy Elliott. Thornton’s clearly learned that everyone’s voice has its own unique character, even if the difference in timbre is more of a gradient than a completely different shade, and has accordingly made the most of her proficiency on bass guitar to attain that extra “it” factor.

But as with any R&B songstress, romantic turmoil can have a huge impact on lyrical inspiration and overall motivation. And once that comfort from a significant other’s gone, you just gotta get back to work and not take for granted what makes you intrinsically (and us as listeners) happy. So with her fourth release in just 2024 alone, Myia Thornton continues to break past the hiatus that’d been in place since her 2022 collaboration “Lexus”. Less of a tearjerker and more of a “how’d you get so ugly” piece of post-relationship clarity, Thornton’s self-produced “Never Good 4 Me” is about as bad as it gets. Arrangement-wise the sparseness of its verses is nothing short of genius, especially compared to the stereo-spanning lushness of its hooks, classy key chords, sexy MIDI strings, onion-layered vocals and all. Get it, Myia.

Felt Out: “Crash Inside It”

When we last geeked out over Austin’s Felt Out, we broke down their foundation as that of auto-tune innovators on the cutting edge of alt-pop. And following the first anniversary of their second full-length Until I’m Light, that’s clearly still the case for these multi-instrumentalist-producers. They still sound like a next generation Imogen Heap. Their style still scratches that itch within the hyper-processed, accessible-yet-oddball alt-pop niche. And they’re still going strong in 2024.

Yep, after a year of silence for studio releases, Felt Out touched down from their natural habitat way up in the electro-aether last week, almost as if ushered in by the solar eclipse. On Friday they fired off “Know You (closer3.0)” – a Frankenstein re-assembly of leftover samples from their current streaming star – and “Crash Inside It” – which came alongside a minimalist music video. Unlike the polished, narrative-driven visual companion to “Closer”, “Crash Inside It”‘s counterpart lets a flickering frame rate and negative polarization do the storytelling, a return to their earlier aesthetic of amateur footage, analog grain, openness to interpretation, and all.

It’s certainly on brand for Felt Out, that’s for sure. And it’s got us eager to see and hear what they’ll come up with next. You feel us?

Tone Royal: “Alone” (feat. Daddy NAT)

When rappers claim to be “the best on the mic”, they’re talking about verbal skills, not their technical prowess with any specific equipment. Clearly that’s the case, since you’ll see those same people spend a whole set cupping the SM58 ’cause it turns out their mic technique actually sucks.

But in terms of intimate familiarity with spoken vocal performance, be it in the studio tracking voice overs, in the stadium making announcements, or onstage ripping up a show, few Central Texas figures rack up to the orator that is Ray Villarreal, better known as Tone Royal. Because between his home recording, sports work, and hip-hop side hustle there’s no such thing as an off-season for Tone. A slayer of sibilance and preventer of plosives, the San Antonio native also happens to have wealth in the ways of lyrical wordplay, as we’ve heard intermittently over the past decade.

On last Friday’s “Alone”, Tone Royal finds himself in good company with forlorn ’80s synths and a ’90s boom bap shuffle, not to mention Austin’s Daddy NAT gracing the hook with some sultry refrains. All in all, “Alone” would sound right at home in between Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy” and 2Pac’s “Only God Can Judge Me” thanks to those retro qualities, and yeah…Tone’s undying affinity for putting himself in front of the mic and unleashing the rhymes.

J. Cole’s Apology /  Kendrick vs. Drake

It’s a two-parter of Kendrick Lamar clashes: J. Cole’s public apology and Drake’s ongoing affronts. Hear how Confucius and Fresh feel about the beef, Hip-Hop Facts, the latest headlines, and an Unpopular Opinion on hip-hop’s “health”.

Tagua Tagua: “4AM (Acústico)”

Feliz sexta! Today we’re talking about Tagua Tagua, the passion project of São Paulo songwriter-producer Felipe Puperi. Now, Brazil is an enormous country, full of fervent creators; it takes a ton of traction to get towards the top. But in the seven years since Puperi launched off, Tagua Tagua’s become one of the nation’s most promising acts – heck I even Shazam’d one of their songs in the wild last September during my two-week stint in Recife.

So if you’re like me and want Brazilian music all the time, be it bossa nova, tropicalia, or samba, Puperi’s got some ótimo news. Following up an appearance here in Austin during SXSW, Tagua Tagua is set to share their next EP Todo Tempo on May 24th. Stepping away from the full-band rock arrangements of 2020’s Inteiro Metade and last year’s Tanto, the standouts of those albums have been translated into stripped down acoustic forms – neo-soul essence still intact.

The effect is reminiscent of classic midcentury icons like Jobim, Gilberto, and Bonfa, albeit with some 21st century polish, as heard on Todo Tempo‘s intimate lead reimagining “4AM (Acústico)”. Now that the weekend’s here, Tagua Tagua’s putting any late night insomnia to bed, and we’ve got todo o tempo do mundo…caipirinhas anyone?

Street Peach: “Heavy”

If we’ve learned one thing from Destiny’s Child, it’s that vocal groups aren’t always limited to one breakout singer. Even if fate favors one over another in the long run. And that’s kind of lining up with how we see some of the expats from former Austin R&B trio Keeper.

See, while Keeper’s Yadira Brown has kept busy with longtime collaborator BoomBaptist through The Vapor Caves, her fellow Keeper co-founder Lani Thomison only started picking up speed with her solo project Street Peach in the past few months. As we already heard in Tomison’s work with Keeper, Street Peach’s techniques blend R&B, soul, and choral, plus (as you might’ve guessed from her handle) some extra urban sex appeal as well. Sure, Street Peach’s introductory standalone, “Qiller”, has kept us as sated as possible since May 2020. But truthfully, we’re already licking our lips over news of a full batch this fall.

That basket arrives this October in the form of Street Peach’s debut EP, Monarch, a seven-song spreading of wings created alongside producer Willie Green. And following Monarch‘s first offering that’s already enjoyed consistent spins on recent episodes of The Breaks (mid-February’s “Caroline”), another nubile installation just landed in our lap. “Heavy” lays the seduction on thick, thanks to delineated drums, drizzling synths, and a Sylvia Striplin-style chord progression channeled through a killer chorus guitar groove – one that makes the bed for Street Peach’s featherlight vocals. And those steamy conditions forecast for next week? They could get you sweatin’ juuust right for when Street Peach heats up the stage 7:15PM next Thursday at Hotel Vegas ahead of Daphne Tunes.

Faaris: “Taken Not Given”

As our ever-evolving hip-hop scene steadily expands, so does the representation of nations, cultures, and identities from its contributors. And for some truly refreshing cross-cultural flavors that have made their way into the ATX hip-hop melting pot, look no further than Faaris.

Brought up in a Pakistani household right here in Austin, Faaris brings a perspective not often recognized here in Central Texas. In the short time since he’s been making a name for himself (dating back to just 2021), Faaris has shown a skillful strive for variety, as heard on his 2023 LP Change of Scenery. But his standalone singles are what have propelled Faaris’ collective streaming numbers into the millions.

And this weekend we’re getting what’ll probably turn into another streaming heavyweight. Almost picking up where Britney Spears’ “Toxic” left off (sans mainstream appropriation), “Taken Not Given” puts a more authentic voice over those South Asian strings and Drum and Bass-style beat. Besides being an absolute banger, the lyrical braggadocio of “Taken Not Given” grounds itself in a clarion call for the historically conservative creatives of India and Pakistan to get with a more progressive program. And at just shy of two minutes, “Taken Not Given” begs for several repeat listens, no matter what tribe you call your own.

Adam Sultan: “The Great Divide”

They say, “write what you know”. And in music, if you know something well enough to perfect its performance, that usually means you’ve absorbed the material enough to build upon it and make it your own.

So let’s talk about Austin’s Adam Sultan. Sultan started off a singer-guitarist in the ’90s with Poi Dog Pondering before moving onto Flying Saucers, Hollowbody, and Mistress Stephanie And Her Melodic Cat. Adam’s also collaborated with Graham Reynolds for Richard Linklater scores, not to mention ascended to multi-hyphenate status, splitting time as a podcast host, meditation teacher, theater player, photographer, storyteller, and even a perfumer.

But here’s the kicker. Adam Sultan is a bona fide master when it comes to the art of musical tribute; his ongoing work with Super Creeps and Magnifico has granted Adam an intimate perspective to the discographies of David Bowie and Queen, respectively. And since you don’t just play those golden oldies time and time again without soaking up some of the timbres and songwriting formulas, when Sultan puts his six-string and pen to work, that classic rock royalty oozes right out onto the record. That’s something you can quickly pick up on with Adam Sultan’s two recently released singles. Where last month’s “Hard to Kill” captures Bowie’s earlier baroque folk era, January’s “The Great Divide” dives right into that later, heavier, glam rock period. Crazy to think we’re hearing such retro-sounding stuff like this in 2024, so major kudos to the Sultan himself for keeping those styles alive.

Flicker Vertigo: “Midnight Fantasies Upon Prospect Hill”

As an unabashed Pink Floyd fan, I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to firing up the Atmos mix of Animals on my home theater setup when the BluRay drops next month. Sure, the full record’s been etched in my memory forever now, but through the lens of the latest mix an full surround encoding, it’ll be like hearing it for the first time. And that’s a safe bet for most modern psych fans, right? Far out, effects-dense arrangements with a little bit of digital polish to make the mix pop more?

At least that’s what’s been doing it for us with Flicker Vertigo, the near decade-old project of multi-instrumentalist/producer/engineer Nathan Nicholson. Brought up in Melbourne and now based out of Bournemouth. this walking enpsychlopedia of ’60s sounds and techniques flashes between dream pop, shoegaze, house, and of course psych rock for a feverish experience. Flicker Vertigo’s full discography has been great to dissociate to, so as we approach the post-eclipse era, we’re greeted with the news of more meditations.

On June 14th Flicker Vertigo unfurls their sixth full-length Infinite Verve. And this morning we got the first dose of IV with “Midnight Fantasies Upon Prospect Hill”. Despite its mouthful of a title, there’s a pleasant simplicity to this cosmic cacophony as it strobes through a dizzying drone of delay-drenched vocals, like if Kevin Parker ditched the day disco of The Slow Rush in favor of an all-night lo-fi dance frenzy.

Mountains in Stars: “Hazards of Loving Creatures”

You’ve heard it a million times before: a picture is worth a thousand words. But go ahead and try it out if you dare. Pick a picture and start verbalizing. Yeah…you’ll give up far before you get anywhere close to a four-digit word count. Music on the other hand? Each chord carries various connotations, which become more complex once in the context of a full progression. And for first time listeners, lyrics typically get eclipsed by the overall musical character. So when a picture inspires a piece of music, abstract beats verbose, because that pairing of art forms often has a more profound impact than words alone ever will.

Which brings us to Barry Stone, a real stalwart of Austin’s ’90s scene through his work with noise rockers johnboy and Desafinado. That legacy largely belongs to Stone alone. But the same can’t be said of the upcoming release from Stone’s indie folk trio Mountains in Stars. See, their debut album Watch the Years Gather interpolates century-old heirlooms from Stone’s great grandfather’s personal photography collection, (dating back to the early 1900s) for a new mixed media experience. From what we’ve seen so far, these skillfully-composed snapshots capture a bucolic equine atmosphere – which perfectly match the melancholy acoustic originals on this record.

More than a decade and a half after its initial recording, the full Watch the Years Gather package (40-page photo book and all) is finally being made available next Thursday thanks to a live music grant from the City of Austin Economic Development Department. You can get your hands on these temporally transportive documents straight from the source 4PM that same day at Northern-Southern Gallery as part of Fusebox Festival when Mountains in Stars performs alongside Knife in the Water pedal steel player Bill McCullough. And for early entry into this interpretative exhibit, sink your teeth into the soothing LP opener “Hazards of Loving Creatures”. Eerie, gorgeous, and otherworldly, it’s just the right kind of calm we could all use before a busy celestial weekend.

Nané: “Always On My Mind” (Live in Studio 1A)

As with any active artistic community, the Austin music scene has suffered its share of too-soon tragedies. And the passing of Daniel Sahad – the flamboyant frontman of Austin sextet Nané who left us in April ’22 – still feels especially fresh in our memory.

Thankfully Daniel’s legacy still lives on through his music, Nané’s remaining members, and the pair of recorded performances Nané gifted KUTX (as our January 2021 Artist of the Month who finally slid into Studio 1A later that December) that have since become treasured mementos and unbiased testaments to Sahad’s dearly missed talent. But also, this weekend marks the anniversary of April 7th as Nané Day, which was officially decreed by the city mere weeks before Daniel’s death.

So come help celebrate Sahad’s life on Nané Day 8:30PM this Sunday at Empire Garage featuring Nané with Quentin Arispe guesting on lead vocals, plus opener Jefferson Clay for a tribute concert and closing ceremony whose proceeds benefit the SIMS Foundation. If you can only attend in spirit, at least revisit the video of Nané’s December ’21 Studio 1A session below. Because the whole set captures Sahad’s nimble charisma, immense kindness, and tip-top vocal execution, particularly on the band’s biggest hit “Always On My Mind” – which, down to its title, beautifully embodies the enduring imprint of Daniel on his former bandmates and anyone else who ever felt his touch.

The Watters: “Set to Cruise”

Prayers for rain resonate all throughout the Lone Star State year-round…even in April with a once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse on the horizon. So without wanting to entice a cosmically inconvenient drench, let’s dip our toes into The Watters.

This Americana soul love affair is teeing up to hit the two-decade mark, but the bond between husband and wife Daniel and Jenna Watters goes all the way back to grade school. After soaking up all that Los Angeles, Denver, and Nashville had to offer, the Sedona, Arizona pair eventually planted themselves here in Austin, where they’ve since gone on to play pretty much every venue within the city limits. And despite a rap sheet that includes opening for Michael McDonald and Devon Gilfillian, landing local grants and national songwriting awards, completing two full-lengths and an EP, and a recent leap into parenthood – The Watters aren’t slowing their flow anytime soon.

No, next Thursday The Watters roll out their third LP Duality, with a release show at Sagebrush 8PM that same evening with Tomar and the FCs and Rent Party. They’ll also be doing their thing out at Utopia 3PM this Saturday if you wanna catch the full band against a gorgeous natural backdrop. Either way, the new tunes off Duality are about to drop like April showers for just in time for a summer-ready, lake-lovin’ playlist. And like the rest of Duality, “Set to Cruise” makes for smooth sailing with channel-deep mixing and ocean-spanning arrangements that favor instrumental virtuosity and group momentum. So cop your captain’s hat, climb aboard, and don’t plan on disembarking anytime soon.

Reyna Tropical: “Sauvecito” (KUTX Live at Scholz Garten)

Don’t you love those unexpected brushes with old chums during South By South West? Sure, for us native Austinites they feel less like chance encounters and more like the inevitable kismet of living in a metropolitan area as small and dense as ours. But there’s still nothing quite like finding an old friend return to their old stomping grounds in top form.

So imagine how it felt upon learning that Fabi Reyna – who we remember from our high school and college days playing in Code Rainbow, The Silver Series, and Patches – was going to come down from Portland for KUTX’s latest Scholz Garten live concert broadcast. Yes, the matriarch of She Shreds herself graced us with Reyna Tropical‘s presence right in between SPRINTS and Hinds back in mid-March. Frankly, Fabi was in high spirits, even after the tragic passing of fellow Reyna Tropical co-founder “Sumohair” Diaz in Fall 2022. But this contrast matches that of Malegría – the near-untranslatable emotion of “bad happiness” and twenty-track debut full-length that landed online last Friday, which has already raked in some impressive streaming numbers.

Well, in getting to Scholz by 10AM that SX Wednesday, la raza y la gente scored a sneak peek at Malegría, and not just the LP’s lead singles. No, they got a better-than-coffee, tastier-than-tequlia concierto brimming with Chicana charm, thanks to exhilarating, en-español renditions like that of “Sauvecito”. Heck, we don’t wanna jinx anything, but we do suspect this might go down as one of those “you had to be there before they blew up” pieces of pre-superstardom magic as Fabi makes her way across the nation with Portugal. The Man and Malegría makes its way across the globe.

The Drake-Future Feud / Sex Appeal

Confucius and Fresh cover the latest rap beef before weighing the importance of sex appeal in the modern era. Hear that, Hip-Hop Facts, Confucius Reads the News, and an Unpopular Opinion on industry politics.