austin music

King Air: “Power Ballads”

On this second New Music Friday of 2024, we just gotta give a bow to some Austin pop rock royalty. We’re talkin’ about husband-and-wife songwriter-producers Joy and Bill Baldwin, best known by their collaboration King Air. After securing a legacy in marriage and parenthood, the Baldwins – both veterans of the ’90s local live scene – finally sat down and held court in what would become the pair’s kingdom – songwriting.

As with any parents in need of some quality quiet time, King Air initially crafts most of their tunes on the acoustic front. That said, over the past dozen years and four EPs they’ve churned out some really impressive guitar-vocal-and-drum-driven indie rock that incorporates the most appeasing breezes of ’80s college jangle, ’90s alternative, and turn-of-the-millennium post-punk-revival.

Well, next Friday King Air’s decreed to bless us peasants with their debut full-length, Natural High. We’ve already caught some of Natural High‘s buzz and fuzz from two lead singles released last year, both of which benefit from an ongoing relationship with Nada Surf/Moving Panoramas collaborator Louie Lino. So while we don’t know what’ll happen to the grid during next week’s big freeze, us subjects can at least expect a modicum of harmony under King Air’s two rulers based on the LP’s final lead single, “Power Ballads”. Electricity and cold weather aside, “Power Ballads” charges and warms with a hit-inspired hearth that evokes heavyweights without sounding derivative.

Futon Blonde: “Goodbye, Goodbye”

An obvious understatement, but music’s taken some huge leaps in the past century-plus of sound recording. So while the simple lyrical structures and repetitive chord progressions of pioneers like Robert Johnson or Lead Belly may seem laughably basic to some nowadays, that’s only because we’ve become spoiled by one integral element – the groove. In the modern era, ranging from pop to hip-hop, rock, and beyond, lyrics and chords alone don’t cut it; you gotta put the hook in listeners with an infectious groove. And although one could argue that indie rock is one of the least groovy genres, the mere presence of a groove separates the best from the rest.

For examples of such right here in Austin, we can fall back on Futon Blonde. Initially framed around songwriter Janson Sommers, Futon Blonde’s since gone on to quadruple their groove capacity thanks to fellow songwriter-vocalists Mark Webb (lead guitar) and Ben ‘Beng’ Goodman (bass), not to mention drummer Steve Zamora. Now in their tenth year of the affair, Futon Blonde’s cushioned their groove-dominant formulas around funk, alternative, and psych rock over tours, EPs, and one full-length. And as they kick off a second decade together, the Futon’s converting once again – this time with streaks of 2010s R&B.

Bouncy bass lines, soulful vocals, smooth six-string, and a plethora of pulsating percussion choices permeate throughout Futon Blonde’s next EP Multiplier. It’s certainly a departure from last Spring’s Something That We’ve All Experienced Together Before, and even more so from 2019’s Uppercut, but based on the latest batch of tunes (mixed by Loma/Cross Record collaborator Dan Duszynski), we sure as hell aren’t complaining. So especially since it’s that time of year everyone turns a new leaf, instead of succumbing to couch lock, catch Futon Blonde 8PM tonight at Hotel Vegas for a single release show with openers Hex Boyfriend at 7PM. The new single in question? “Goodbye, Goodbye”, which, as you might’ve guessed from its title, was inspired by the end of a relationship. On top of some tasteful drum programming steaming up the background, sensual rhythm guitar cutting through like a butter knife, baby-makin’ bass, plus the usual gusto of luscious lead guitar and grounded percussion, Webb crushes vocals on this expansive original of his. In other words “Goodbye, Goodbye” bids farewell to that old fling and says “hello” to this new era of groove for Futon Blonde.

Middle Sattre: “Hate Yourself to the Core”

The 1998 flick SLC Punk! entertained audiences with all kinds of counterculture cliques, and in doing so, they also exposed Utah’s more ingrained sociopolitical climate – that of Reagan-era republicans, yuppies, and the Mormon church. Whether or not the movie feels “authentic” to you, it’s not unreasonable to guess there’ve been plenty more who’ve felt oppressed in the SLC area since the turn of the millennium.

Take for instance singer-songwriter Hunter Prueger, who spent much of his life repressing his intrinsically gay identity under strict Mormon tutelage. Solo home recordings in Salt Lake City, borrowing from the DIY philosophies of noise music, provided Prueger with some much-needed solace. In 2022 Prueger’s project Middle Sattre (pronounced “sat-tree”) relocated to the so-called “blueberry in the tomato soup” here in Austin, Texas, and soon expanded into a six-piece, then eventually the experimental folk octet we know today. Unbound by obsolescent beliefs, this eight-piece continues to defy convention, even when it comes to how their instruments are played.

Middle Sattre embarked on their maiden tour last July, shared their first studio single “Pouring Water” in September, and followed that up with powerful pair of originals in November. All of this sets the stage of Middle Sattre’s debut album, Tendencies, out February 9th. At just shy of an hour long and sporting song titles like “I Once Felt Safe”, “Imperfect Hands”, and “Seven Years Since the Fall”, Tendencies is a deeply confessional saga of queer self-acceptance. That vulnerable, candid character glows throughout the record’s fourth lead single, “Hate Yourself to the Core”, releasing midnight tonight. Its lyrics chronicle Prueger’s deep-seated anguish, ideations of self-harm, and repeated depletions of self-esteem, and its gorgeous string sonics perfectly capture such shared experiences of disquiet. When combined, “Hate Yourself to the Core” sounds like a next generation Elliott Smith song that can comfort anyone who’s ever faced similar desperation.

Emily McLoud: “Nothing Ever Keeps”

With Free Week behind us and SXSW still a way’s out, we’re officially filling up our radar with a ton of promising releases for 2024. And that of course includes a wealth of Austin talent.

For example, last weekend we got another glimpse at some new material from Austin’s Emily McLoud. An addict for the outdoors, a loving mother, attentive caregiver, and veteran of the local live scene for the past decade and a half, we prefer to think of McLoud’s surname less like “loud” and more like “cloud”, thanks to her airy vocals and delicate country-folk sensibilities. Emily’s solo career first emerged for many in the fall of 2022 with her debut EP Sugar Shine, and recently she’s been plugging away at its sophomore follow-up.

Well last Friday Emily McLoud picked up where last November’s “Caroline” left off with that latest record’s second lead single, “Nothing Ever Keeps”. An Americana treat throughout its four-minute runtime, “Nothing Ever Keeps” ushers in this new season of vulnerable songwriting for McLoud with gentle harmonies, a tastefully-light rhythm section, and personal lyrics that ain’t too proud to admit to the temporariness of it all.

What We’re Looking Forward to in 2024

Fresh takes it solo in this first episode of 2024 by giving a forecast of what this new year might have to offer in the world of hip-hop. In terms of resolutions, let’s try and have less “streets” and more music in terms of violence! And while Spotify may be skimping on some payouts, Fresh’s Unpopular Opinion makes it clear – streaming services AREN’T evil.

The Pendulum Hearts: “Lost in Austin”

Nobody starts their night wanting to be that guy at the bar. But on top of the inevitable hangover, sometimes way too many drinks in a few too many places can make for a great story, even if your audience only reacts with schadenfreude.

Now, The Pendulum Hearts have always benefitted from a self-deprecating sense of lyrical humor that allows them to not take themselves too seriously. Which perfectly complements the Austin duo’s double shot cocktail of Western Swing and Honky Tonk, because come on…the music makes you want to two-step, not be bummed out by poignant confessions.

With that said, this morning The Pendulum Hearts regaled us with their latest bump on the noggin, “Lost in Austin”. Less of a cautionary tale and more of a carefree caricature, this post-bender yarn chronicles a progression from Hole in the Wall to White Horse and finally Far Out Lounge. We won’t spoil the specifics but let’s just say that stain on their pants ain’t what you’d expect. So if you’re eager to swing with The Pendulum Hearts at the next bar, catch ’em 7PM next Monday at Maggie Mae’s or 6PM next Wednesday at Love Supreme. First round’s on you, right?

Nova: “Bird in the Hurricane”

Just like a ragtag team of survivors, when you find the perfect pack for your project, playing without them is like taking an axe to the face. So sure, choir singer and solo veteran Nova Barton has strong enough chops to create and command attention all on her own, as heard on her 2021 debut Novaville. But despite maintaining her project Nova‘s eponymous/mononymous status, the backing band of UT buddies she recruited in support of Novaville was just too killer to keep out of the studio the second time around.

Now we dawn on NovApocalypse, Nova’s sophomore LP that’s set for release this April. With the full four-piece of friends in tow, Barton’s already restorative and poignant songwriting (no doubt informed by her music therapy studies) takes a meteoric ascent with wider-than-ever arrangements. And thematically, NovApocalypse is set to sound sort of like if Towns Van Zandt wrote The Road instead of Cormac McCarthy, crippling isolation, excessive blood spurts, rampant deception and all.

While the storm of NovApocalypse is still a few months out, Nova kicks off the cataclysm with a single release show 10:30pm this Saturday at Captain Quackenbush’s Soundscape following openers Hover at 8:30 and Boomershack at 9:30. That single? “Bird in the Hurricane”. Ideal HBO intro credit material from its first guitar strums, “Bird in the Hurricane” soars with pizzicato plucks, light treading percussion, serene string harmonies, grounded bass, atmospheric and Barton’s moody, multi-tracked vocals that collectively “carry the fire”, no matter how bleak the future may look.

The Midnight Stroll: “You Can Escape”

Often the main ingredient in supergroup concoctions is a set of sonic similarities between the members’ preexisting independent projects. Other times, their territories barely border on each other, and yet the chemistry between the individual players is too good to pass up. So no, we’re obviously not talking about Lulu.

Instead, it’s The Midnight Stroll, a somewhat unlikely union between Ghostland Observatory frontman Aaron Behrens and Heartless Bastards lead guitarist Jonas Wilson. The Midnight Stroll began ten years back as a strictly solo venture for Behrens while GLO was on break, but after recruiting Wilson as producer and music director, it dawned on the pair to lean on their strength as equals. Wilson’s idiosyncratic interest in analog and homemade technology helped dictate the duo’s rock sound on 2015’s Heartbreak Boogaloo and 2017’s Western Static, before Ghostland beckoned Behrens back in 2018 and Wilson took up six-string duties with the Bastards. In the six years since then, we haven’t heard a peep from The Midnight Stroll. That is…until today.

This morning Wilson and Behrens rejuvenated the jaunt with “You Can Escape” a standalone single shared by Wilson’s own Mr. Pink Records. Its simplistic percussion rhythm lays the groundwork for Wilson’s grunge-ingrained guitar, stargazing synths, and Behrens wiry, weightless vocals, all for an empowering piece of retro-style alt-rock. So if Hump Day’s got you feeling like the walls of life are closing in on you, take this three-minute break to remind yourself…you can escape.

Psychic Seatbelt: “Double Dare”

Happy New Year! We’re back from a break and eager for a full 2024’s worth of new tunes and recommendations. But if you’re still easing out of 2023 and aren’t quite ready to squeeze Free Week into your post-work schedule, there’s a low-key live gig that may interest you.

It comes on behalf of Psychic Seatbelt, the project of multi-instrumentalist/singer-songwriter Claire Hamilton, who first joined us in Studio 1A as part of Austin trio Queue Queue back in 2017 and has more recently provided bass for Thor and Friends plus Doom Dub. With Psychic Seatbelt, Thor Harris returns the favor to Hamilton by lending his talents on percussion and more, alongside Popper Burns’ Jake Lauterstein on co-composition duties, who also trades guitar responsibilities with Jon Sanchez. Together, the team made their debut with soft, dreamy dynamics on August 2021’s “Everything Comes for You”, following it up with last September’s witching-hour-ready anthem “330 AM”.

On the final day of last November, Psychic Seatbelt secured their discography for 2023 with the Hooky EP, a collection of five originals that’s truant from the overly-polished pop formulas of contemporary commercial radio. Instead, it taps into the off-kilter aural authenticity of Velvet Underground with delicate, minimalist arrangements without sounding too aloof. Buckle up for Psychic Seatbelt’s next gig 5PM this Saturday at Love Wheel Records and secure your self esteem in the New Year by reflecting on your inner bitch with the Hooky EP opener “Double Dare”.

Joseph Salazar: “The Main Sequence”

Here we are, y’all. It’s the final Song of the Day for 2023. We’ll be off starting tomorrow through New Year’s Day but picking up with some promising new music on Tuesday, January 2nd. With that piece of business out of the way, today we’re wrapping up the year with just one more premiere.

It comes courtesy of Austin songwriter Joseph Salazar, who on top of composing for short films and video games like the acclaimed Halo Infinite, has also carried his weight in the Live Music Capital with projects like Technicolor Hearts, The Cosmic Hour, Eternal Time & Space, and previous Song of the Day feature Dream 2 Dream. In a solo setting, Joseph Salazar’s proficiency on synthesizers, drum programming, and DAW production has been heard on the hypnotic instrumentals he’s sporadically shared since 2016. Listening through those selections, really hints at why Salazar’s style is a perfect fit for soundtracks; in light of an infinity-obsessed ethos that seeds rolling arrangements, Salazar’s chords and melodies remain unbusy without being idle; instead they provide plenty of space to occupy with thoughts, be they about blasting aliens, reflecting on life, or just making breakfast and preparing for your day.

Well with the clock quickly ticking away on 2023, this morning Joseph Salazar turned in his sole single of the year and first since last September’s “By This River”. While “The Main Sequence” sports the same kind of tones we’ve come to expect from Salazar, the inclusion of Megafauna guitarist Dani Neff and Dream 2 Dream bassist Mando Lopez really uplift it into a multi-chef-blessed baton-toss of winter recuperation. So let the kick drum complement your heartbeat, the bass replace your pulse, the synth’s mod wheel bend your senses, and the effects-swept guitar guide you through this climbing three-and-a-half-minute meditation.

Night Drive: “Summerwaves (Winter Version)”

Even before the days of Vivaldi and Stravinsky, the seasons have settled into their own sets of characteristic sounds. And while Spring was the belle of the ball in the classical era, modern installments ranging like “Autumn Leaves” and War’s “Summer” have since helped to level the temporal playing field. Of course, with the help of the industry, Christmas music dominates corporate playlists and has become a staple of this “most wonderful time of the year”. And yet, for younger audiences, anthems like “Hot Girl Summer” and “Feels Like Summer” definitely show more staying power than Old Man Winter’s catalogue.

That about brings us to our June 2017 Artist of the Month Night Drive, the Central Texas synth-pop trio who stole our hearts once again with their August EP Position II. You see, a few months back, Night Drive teased out Position II with a sleek electronic original that managed to cool us down in what would become a historic heatwave. However, since the crew is so keen on opening up their stuff to re-interpretations (including a remix from multi-platinum selling producer Gigamesh), Night Drive themselves swapped in some snow tires on that single for an end-of-year re-tinker.

Succinctly labeled “Summerwaves (Winter Version)”, this edition enjoys a calmer sense of wanderlust thanks to spacious piano, piano (soft) drum programming, and horizon-spying synth arpeggios that make for a perfect piece of reflection and meditation that may just inspire a resolution or two.

Graham Reynolds & Marta Del Grandi: “Linger In Silence”

With each new innovative installation of SXSW, it’s easy to think the tech character of Austin is eclipsing that of “the Live Music Capital of the World”. But have faith! Aside from those international conferences and meet-and-greet mingles, South By’s still an essential institution for creatives on the prowl for new collaborators outside the local scene, e.g. Austin’s Graham Reynolds and Milan’s Marta Del Grandi.Graham’s a longtime piano-playing KUTX favorite, who, speaking of tech, wrote the score for Rick Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly, among a handful of others. And honestly, his extensive accomplishments in performance, production, theatre, dance, film, and television speak for themselves before you first spin his music. Then there’s Marta, a classically-trained singer who’s been coming up quick since 2021 and just released her debut full-length Selva at the tail-end of October.Well, in the time since this past March, Marta and Graham have made hay of their auspicious SXSW encounter with their still-fresh single “Linger In Silence”. Along with its Italian-language counterpart, “Linger In Silence” steals any need for commentary with serene strings, Reynolds’ idiosyncratic piano tones, and Del Grandi’s double-tracked unison vocals. By the tune’s halfway point, the expansive arrangement and cinematic dynamics step into the spotlight for a hell of a breakneck bridge before the alleviating final verse and chorus take you off guard from “Linger”‘s explosive finish that’ll leave you speechless.

Looking Back at 2023

As we start to wind down for the winter, Confucius and Fresh look back at some of the show’s 2023 highlights before continuing the debate of whether or not the dominance of female rappers will continue into 2024. Get that plus an Unpopular Opinion about establishments exercising discretion, Hip-Hop Facts, and Confucius Reads the News on the latest episode of The Breaks.

J Halp: “Alone Again”

All kinds of projects experience peaks and valleys when it comes to periods of prominence. But for one percussionist in particular, the passion for putting his sticks in the mix has never gotten tied down by any one group’s momentum. And no, we’re actually not talking about John Speice IV.

Instead we’re taking this Monday to appreciate native Austinite drummer Josh Halpern, perhaps best known to millennials as co-founder/co-composer for indie duo Marmalakes. Although Marmalakes’ heyday is well behind us, Halpern’s held onto his status as a must-have, must-hear contributor thanks to his work with Shearwater, Bayonne, Still Corners, and…frankly far too many other Austin acts to chronicle here. That said, he, like many other multidisciplinary creatives at the onset of COVID, began investing time into a solo-producer-singer-songwriter endeavor – aptly eponymized as J Halp.

Halpern’s been busy this past year backing up Rob Leines, but with only a couple weeks left in 2023, managed to reach a complete handful of officially released solo singles this morning. “Alone Again” kicks off with the type of perfectly-in-the-pocket drumbeat that made Halpern such a maven in the first place. But the moment the high-pass filter switches off, the real star of J Halp – Josh’s unstrained, melancholic vocals – really start to shine. With some killer keys gluing the whole thing together, “Alone Again” sits somewhere in between David Bowie, Arcade Fire, and Gorillaz for a moody mix of old and new. Love you, Halpy; keep up the good work.

Leti Garza: “Mi Amor (Español)

As far as Song of the Day is concerned, it’s the final New Music Friday of 2023. We’re taking an eight-day break beginning next Friday and’ll be hitting the ground running strong in 2024 for Free Week. With that said, this New Music Friday packs in both an Austin artist and an album announcement.

We’re looking at Leti Garza, who’s already cemented her status as a Live Music Capital treasure since her 2017 LP El Unico Para Mi and her 2021 EP Borderland. Leti’s ability to navigate all kinds of topics and genres in the local Latin space is near unparalleled, so imagine our excitement around this morning’s piece of news – Garza’s upcoming sophomore full-length Canciónes Sobre La Vida y La Muerte – guaranteed to include gallows humor, macabre musings, and optimism over the inevitable.

As hinted at by the record’s second lead single – the waltzy “Mi Amor (Español)”Canciónes is set to break down the borders between folk, Latin jazz, pop, and new age, not to mention traditional and contemporary. Anchored by a charming orchestral arrangement, “Mi Amor” makes Garza sound like a Broadway star, almost like a curtain-pulling Act I opener for a musical that doesn’t exist yet. Leti…for the life of us, we love you to death, and we can’t wait for Canciónes‘ release in late January.

Midnight Maniac: “I Heard It In A Nightmare”

As time marches on, it’s so fascinating to notice which vintage words get assigned to which decades. For ’90s-early ’00s it’s “throwback. For ’60s-’70s it’s usually “retro”. But outside of “old school” one of our favorite labels is that most often tacked on to the 1980s, and that’s “flashback”. Which, especially for those awesomely-overproduced recordings of pop and rock, really does a great job of representing that in-your-face, cinematic, “you just had to be there” energy.Which brings us to Midnight Maniac. Made up of multi-instrumentalist-songwriters Jake Curtis Allard and Marshall Benson, this Austin duo has already dived headfirst into electronic-pop-laden hard rock. And sure, while they’ve certainly got the hair to match, the music alone sounds fresh out of an end-of-Cold War time capsule. And Midnight Maniac has big plans for 2024, so ahead of a full album and a nationwide tour, these two teamed up with Aerosmith/AC/DC collaborator Chris Athens to master their sweat-drenched debut single.Like a piece of sonic sleep paralysis, that’s just as impactful as it is brief, “I Heard It In A Nightmare” glistens from its first group vocals all the way through its final ass-kicking guitar chord. Whether you’re headbanging through your commute, or breaking out the brush microphone and air guitar at home, this debut single is a dark-yet-sparkling dream come true for processed hard rock hounds.

Cha’Keeta B Interview

The fun kicks off this week on an interview with Austin’s Cha’Keeta B to talk women in hip-hop and her upcoming EP Where the Wild Flowers Grow. After that Confucius and Fresh talk about  accountability when it comes to violence against women in music, the baffling ambassadorship of Lil Yachty, and more.

nolo: “Appetite”

If you’re looking to get out of the house this evening and support some local music without just padding the band’s drink tab, we’ve got just the thing for you.

Consider this our official nod to nolo, an Austin alt-rock quartet whose four members first met up in rehab a half decade back. Don’t worry; the boys are all still sober. And as a matter of fact they’ve teamed up with Recovery Unplugged to create and host the Sober Sessions open mic series. So even though nolo’s put the hard stuff down, their energetic brand of rock is an intoxicating upper all on its own.

Lately nolo’s been working up their debut full-length, set for release next Spring. And this morning nolo served up the LP’s second lead single “Appetite” alongside a manic music video, silly string, strobe lights, white psych patient scrubs, and all. If you’re tired of shit stressing you out from this past work week, dance it all out with nolo 10:45PM tonight at our station’s neighbor Hole in the Wall. If you’d rather stay cooped up in your own resident looney bin, at least pump the fine-polished pop rock of “Appetite” again through your favorite pair of headphones or speakers.

Uncle Lucius: “All the Angelenos”

If you missed out on some quality family time during Thanksgiving, we’ve got some musical kin for you who’ll help clean out any leftovers. We’re talking about our dear Uncle Lucius, an Americana rock endeavor spearheaded by Kevin Galloway. A beloved Austin institution since their 2006 debut Something They Ain’t, the fellas actually considered putting Uncle L to bed back in 2018. But with millions of streams still showing support, especially 2012’s “Keep the Wolves Away” (which racked up hundreds of such, eventually reaching Gold status), Galloway and the gang realized this unofficial family affair still had plenty of fuel to stoke the flames.

So, almost a decade after their previous LP The Light, this Friday Uncle Lucius returns with Like It’s The Last One Left. True to its title, LITLOL packages ten new tracks that find Uncle Lucius in tip-top form, and would hypothetically make for a mighty fine farewell if the circumstances arose. But since we’re not banking on the boys calling it quits anytime soon, we don’t see this as a Hail Mary. Instead its a mighty fine amalgamation of seventeen-plus years of tour-proven excellence, with some reorganized roles and restructuring as a sextet.

Like It’s The Last One Left also went the inclusive route, inviting in collaborators like Reckless Kelly fiddler Cody Braun, who graces the album’s final lead single “All the Angelenos”. Speaking of other towns, Uncle Lucius heads over to Houston this weekend before performances in Dallas and Goliad later this month, which’ll bookend a gig at Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater 7PM on Saturday, December 30th. So put a positive spin on Austin’s ever-increasing population growth with “All the Angelenos”, because you really can’t get enough new folks to stop by and meet their new Uncle Lucius.

Chief Cleopatra: “December All Year” (Live in Studio 1A)

Apologies in advance to all the Scrooges out there, but the winter holidays are on our doorstep. So if you haven’t already, prepare for in-store speaker systems, radio spots, TV commercials, and hell even carolers to give us our annual fill of festive favorites. And while the Bing Crosbys and Brenda Lees of generations past still pack an iconic charm into this last month, we love that the novelty of “Christmas music” hasn’t negated the creation of holiday-inspired originals from modern artists of all backgrounds, like our February 2022 Artist of the Month Chief Cleopatra.Cleo combines soul, rock, gospel, hip-hop, funk, R&B, and more into a non-genre-denominational sound that perfectly complements this singer’s eccentric and often ornamental sense of fashion. She blew us away at the onset of COVID with her eponymous three-tune debut, and made an even more memorable impact last spring with her Walker Lukens-produced follow-up EP Luna. Chief Cleopatra also wowed us with the wide arrangement on this past March’s “Weekend Warrior”, yet it’s the piece of DSII-produced yuletide joy we found under our tree this morning that reassure us how special this Austin treasure is.So much so that we invited Chief Cleopatra and a backing sextet to cut an extended live edition of December All Year in our very own Studio 1A. A mellow Christmas miracle from its first full-band downbeat through its closing keyboard quote of “Jingle Bells”, Chief Cleopatra makes Mrs. Claus seem more like Ellen Griswold with register-spanning vocals that have us second-guessing if there’s mistletoe above us.