alternative rock

Ash and the Endings: “Squelching Sneaks”

Some of the most upbeat, major key arrangements in blues music can still back some of bleakest yarns, ranging all the way from heartache to institutionalized oppression. So even if the traditional scales and chord changes behind with this landmark genre may not appeal to everyone, its anguished lyrical standards will always present a primitive yet therapeutic option for an artist in pain, no matter their main stylistic preferences. Take for example relative newcomers Ash and the Endings and their eponymous frontwoman Ashton Chase, whose compelling contralto crosscuts between Patsy Cline, Dusty Springfield, and Karen Carpenter. This Austin five-piece offers up harmony-heavy alt-rock with cinereous traces of psych and indie, placing them approximately in the same pack as Dr. Dog, The Cranberries, and Paramore. And last June, Ash and the Endings’ debut self-titled EP showed off a ton of range on a seven-song set, illustrating a mastery over slow, fast, loud, and soft. But after the overturn of Roe v. Wade, the opportunity to unabashedly share opinions on the poisonous patriarchy that permeates throughout the Lone Star State was too poignant to pass up for Chase. And what better avenue to express that than the blues? You’ll learn more about that inspiration in an upcoming article for Sidecar Junkaroo, but sonically, this follow-up to spring’s “Austin Flower Co.” hears Ashton’s typically tame vocals take on more of a tortured Janis Joplin-esque moan, similar to what we’ve already heard on “Shake Shake” and “Woman (It’s Up To You)”. Between that and its straight-ahead blues rock approach, “Squelching Sneaks” shows how capable this quintet is when it comes to expanding their idiosyncratic formulas to fresh-yet-familiar territories. And since we’d far prefer splashing in puddles over protecting paws from scorching pavement right about now, go ahead and lace up “Squelching Sneaks” and put it on repeat.

Silver Hour: “Star”

In 2018, when Texas native Kacey Musgraves released her landmark album Golden Hour she breathed new life into the term – one that typically describes those brief windows of sunrise and sunset that’s made for so many magic cinematic moments. But we’re willing to wager that “silver hour” is outside the bounds of most folks’ lexicon. The first meaning trails its golden counterpart – a fleeting period of post-sunset luminescence for waterfront communities. The second definition is a bit more morbid – used by healthcare workers in reference to the 30 minutes immediately before and after a patient passes away. And although there’s a common thread between those two – the sense of light at the end of a cycle – there’s also a Texas trio eager to make like Musgraves and give their namesake a glow up. Just like that reassuring glimmer on the onset of darkness, Austin three-piece Silver Hour started out early on in the pandemic between longtime friends as means of staving off the insanity of isolation and keeping the creative juices flowing. Since then, Silver Hour’s steered clear of genre constraints, instead incorporating everything from retro film soundtracks to funk, jazz, and hard rock into their vintage-meets-modern M.O. of songwriting. But now that Silver Hour’s bulked up their scene legs with their fair share of live shows, they’re finally extending their sound past the stage and onto the shores of streaming services. Ahead of their sophomore effort “Desert Doomer” that drops next Friday, “Star”is the shimmering first node for Silver Hour’s developing constellation of singles. Soon after a slide guitar intro that could segue into pretty much any genre, “Star” orbits Dark Side era Pink Floyd thanks to Jake Helpinstill’s drum fills, James LeBlanc’s bass licks, and Michael Moretta’s sweet-but-sinister vocals that hover above blues-inspired guitar chords, evoking the styles of Nick Mason, Roger Waters, and David Gilmour, respectively…albeit with a little bit of Black Angels on top due to a distorted six-string solo that soars through the bridge.

Sap: “Pickle Song”

There’s been a ton of new music trickling down the Live Music Capital’s trunk this summer, so fingers crossed that the laziness typically associated with these dog days doesn’t slow that flow down anytime soon. Because among that gradual deluge of easily-accessible inoffensive homegrown genres, there’s also some seriously thick high-octane shit oozing out of Austin as well. Say, for example, Sap a trio who extracts direct influence from the golden age of ’90s grunge for a viscous mix of pre-millennium alternative hard rock and modern sensibilities. These three crude dudes started sampling their sound with a string of studio singles back in February. Titles like “Kiss My Kitty Cat”, “Big Fat Macho Man”, and “Hairy Jerry” paired with tormented-yet-cartoonish pieces of artwork quickly clue you into the uncouth juvenility of Sap, but the Nirvana-esque sonics and concise, catchy structures assure you that these are in fact well-seasoned students of their favorite styles, with mad instrumental discipline and songwriting chops to boot. Well, tomorrow Sap’s standing solidifies with their debut studio album Lard Baby a real gooey bundle of revivalist grunge joy. The fellas celebrate with a release show next Friday at Hole in the Wall opening for Violent Vira and Max Diaz and today you can make like hungry grunge bugs on a sticky limb by lapping up the new Sap with Lard Baby‘s final lead single. Far from a sour slurp, “Pickle Song” goes down real easy thanks to a soft, xylophone-fueled buildup, but once the lid comes off out spills a sporadic, bloodthirsty sprint. Put simply? “Pickle Song” kicks ass.

Citizen Cope: “The Victory March”

Even if you don’t recognize the name Clarence Greenwood right off the bat, chances are his moniker Citizen Cope still rings a bell. This Memphis-born Texas Tech graduate first blew up in the D.C. scene at the turn of the millennium, exposing the world to Greenwood’s now-iconic self-produced style: soulful acoustic guitar chords, grizzled, confident vocals, and typically hip-hop-derived MIDI percussion for his fuller arrangements.

Save for 2004’s The Clarence Greenwood Recordings, the handle “Citizen Cope” has unabashedly been Greenwood’s brand. Yet after legends like Santana, Sheryl Crow, Richie Havens, and Eric Clapton have covered his originals, which’ve also appeared in major film and TV soundtracks, the man behind the moniker surely must’ve begun reflecting on the weight of a persona always taking precedent.

Well, at the tail end of June, The Victory March emerged, marking the first time in nearly twenty full years that Greenwood’s given name has appeared on his album artwork alongside Citizen Cope. We won’t read too much into that gesture, but would like to think that the thinning of walls between alter egos marks a renewed sense of authenticity for Citizen Cope. This quintet of fresh cuts closely follows the formulas that made us fall in love with Citizen Cope in the first place, amplified by the heightened discipline and maturity that only come after three decades of mastering one’s craft. So start the journey with the first of two title tracks and the album opener, “The Victory March”, a four-minute triumph of Greenwood’s idiosyncratic dynamics and gorgeous grit.

Yes Sir, No Sir: “Bright White Light”

This is far from their crowning achievement but if there’s one band here in Austin that makes you sound like Marcie from Peanuts when saying their name, it’s Yes Sir, No Sir. These four Live Music Capital veterans have been palling around town for a long time but only inaugurated Yes Sir, No Sir within the past year.

Engineered by Spoon collaborator Matt Gerhard, Yes Sir, No Sir’s debut album Bright White Light illuminates a sound somewhere between modern-indie, pre-millennium alt-rock, and mid-century-rock-and-roll, all in an easily digestible package. But the record’s title track is perhaps best experienced through its night drive-friendly music video, “Bright White Light“!

Django Django: “Asking For More” (KUTX Live at Home)

Quentin Tarantino wasn’t the only artist igniting delight with a silent D in 2012; just ask London four-piece Django Django, whose eponymous debut full-length launched the same year. Since sharing that baker’s dozen back at the beginning of the past decade, these Brits have brought more and more joy with each new exploration of prog rock, psych, electronic, and indie, further weaving their undefinable sound.

Following the release of their fourth LP Glowing in the Dark in February, Django Django’s just announced a month-long European tour kicking off in October. And though we’re still quite a ways from the prospect of the group performing in Austin pandemic-wise, these Studio 1A veterans have offered us a socially-distanced set that you can enjoy in the comfort of your office, living room or on-the-go. Be sure to watch the full thing starting off with the retro-inspired Hall & Oates/Joe Jackson-style groove on “Asking For More”!

William Maxwell: “Dead Plants”

When it comes to standing out as a solo artist in an oversaturated scene, nobody does quirky quite like Austin’s William Maxwell. Sure the singer-guitarist is pretty reserved in person, but on the record he’s a full blown musical maniac. With his fearless performance methods and candidly off-kilter lyrics, The Oysters‘ co-founder has shown a real knack for songwriting both across his rap sheet of collaborations and with his 2019 baker’s dozen, Calm a Painter and Subject.

Friday after next William Maxwell releases his sophomore LP, It’s Been Here Changing For a Long Time, ten tracks that are perfect for a post-pandemic mindset (whenever that may come) along with a twenty-four-page art booklet. And since we’re officially into spring and past the trauma of the big freeze here in Texas, now seems like a good time to appreciate the newfound greenery with It’s Been Here‘s fifth and final single, “Dead Plants”!

Beth Lee: “I Won’t Give In” [PREMIERE]

Depending on what kind of person you are, news about breakups can either be tremendous or devastating. And though we were definitely fans of Austin’s Beth Lee & The Breakups going back to their 2013 LP One More Time Again, we’re eager to see how the eponymous frontwoman handles herself in this new chapter as Beth Lee.

Lee’s deeply personal lyricism and powerful vocal presence haven’t diminished one bit since The Breakups last album in 2016, and at just shy of a dozen new tracks, Beth Lee continues to push the envelope of her artistry on the upcoming full-length Waiting On You Tonight. Recorded in California and produced by Chuck Prophet & The Mission Express drummer Vicente Rodriguez, Waiting On You Tonight brings a whole new layer of Lee’s talent to her expansive take on alternative rock, with languid tempos, subtle percussion, melancholy chord progressions, and of course, some stellar vocal performances. True to its title, you’ll still have to do some waiting for Waiting On You Tonight, but today you can get an exclusive first listen to the record’s fourth single, “I Won’t Give In”!

Kaiti Jones: “Gettin Around to It”

As is the case with many songwriters, storytelling is core to Boston singer Kaiti Jones‘ character. And for Jones, her story began to be told back in 2009 with her first EP, Arise Child, followed by the 2013 four-track Growing Things, and eventually the Vows LP in 2017, offering a substantial amount of material to listeners who drew affectionate comparisons to the flawed, human rock of Sharon Van Etten and Julia Jacklin.

Today Jones has shared a sneak peek of her next record, Tossed, out March 5th, throwing us fans a bit of pre-weekend pep and post-workweek chill in its earnest-yet-light sophomore single (and music video), “Gettin Around to It”!