Indie

Big Bill: “Emotions”

If you’ve kept posted on Austin quartet Big Bill, you know they’re in somewhat of a post-pivot position. Yeah, after years of establishing their space in the oddball-deadpan-art-punk sector, Big Bill pulled off a risky switch to more of a ’90s-style indie rock sound with their Summer 2022 full-length Public Freakout Compilation. And while we’d never go so far as to call our bbs in B.B. “inoffensive”, the exploration of indie does add a sense of mass accessibility to Big Bill’s idiosyncratic, off-kilter aural antics and intoxicating melodies.

So given their ongoing path in that same direction, we’re already drooling over Big Bill’s upcoming third LP Strawberry Seed. See, in carving out a more “mature” niche in indie rock, Strawberry Seed actually seeks to emulate the childhood nostalgia of a kindergarten art project – less the acceptance of anxiety in adulthood and more the abstract incipience of early, blissfully unaware expression. In that pursuit of fuzzy warmth, Big Bill’s included backup singers, acoustic guitar, synthesizers, and piano to their traditionally straightforward punk arrangements.

We won’t be able to harvest the fruits of Strawberry Seed until it hits streaming June 14th, the same day Big Bill plays a free in-store performance 5PM at Waterloo Records. But if you want to get an early taste, Big Bill’s set to share some samples 9PM tonight at The Mohawk as part of a big bill that also includes Tied Up and Gustaf. And if you want to blow your mind with how much Big Bill’s sound has evolved, fire up “Emotions” – which is decidedly less like Suicide and more akin to The Black Keys trying to out-weird The Minutemen. It’ll leave you feeling a way for sure.

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.

The Lonesome Heroes: “Placebo Sun”

It’s nifty how different sorts of sporty recreation mingle with specific subgenres of music; think surf, skate punk, or yacht rock. But since you can also just longboard down the access road, sippin’ Ocean Spray to some classic Fleetwood Mac without a care in the world, the rules clearly aren’t hard and fast. What’s most important is the meditation in motion, a flow state inspired by the movement of the music itself.

So even though roller skating may be most closely associated to disco (at least historically speaking), there’s an Austin outfit putting those trucks on a whole new set of wheels. That’s The Lonesome Heroes, who’ve endured the rinks of the local live scene (and far beyond) for nearly twenty years now, weaving between the best parts of indie, country, and Americana. Most recently, this veteran quintet scored another milestone with their sixth LP Seasons Change, which has already racked up some impressive streaming numbers in the short time since its November release.

And in line with frontman Rich Russell’s decision to open up the record’s writing process to a few Austin friends, these hometown heroes are lookin’ a little less lonesome in the album opener “Placebo Sun”‘s new music video…as a matter of fact they rounded up a whole roller posse to kick off their boots and strap on some skates! To fully soak up the authentic cosmic Americana radiance of “Placebo Sun”, you’ll have to keep The Lonesome Heroes company 10PM tonight at Hotel Vegas ahead of Alien Eyelid at 10:45, Shinglers at 11:30, and Automatic Weekend half past midnight, no paddling, skiing or interstellar travel required…maybe just a show-stealing, shot-bombing pooch.

Great Howl: “Violent Wind”

After an especially excruciating summer, the sound of strong winds this past week proved a symphony to our ears. Whether or not that cold front ushers in a full winter season, we’ve been blessed with a chilly aesthetic that’ll keep our spirits warm for months. Which brings us to a fresh Austin octet.

Founded and fronted by multi-instrumentalist/songwriter Matt Mossman, Great Howl captures the best of indie, folk, chamber pop, and rock into a specific kind of soft intensity, almost like if Arcade Fire started crashing with Neutral Milk Hotel and decided not to check out. Less of a caterwaul and more of a mighty bay, we’ve already heard the first instance of Great Howl’s clever dynamics on their first studio single “Meet Your Maker”, released back in September. That tune not only introduced us to the eight-piece’s unique style, but also set the stage for their upcoming debut EP of the same name.

Produced by SMiiLE frontman Jake Miles, Meet Your Maker hits streaming December 15th, with a release show the previous evening at Swan Dive with Sammy G and Dog Island. But if you want to enjoy the weather as it stands right now, your best bet is to catch Great Howl 8PM this Sunday at Coral Snake, alongside Sad Pajamas, Gummy Fang, and Divine Calypso. Either way, Meet Your Maker‘s gale of a sophomore single (which just blew in this morning) “Violent Wind” will blow out any pre-existing earworms with four minutes of carefully subdued orchestral vigor that escalates from a slight breeze of trebly riffs into tempestuous hooks and a real storm of an instrumental outro before settling down with a lulling piano chord. Don’t batten down the hatches; just turn up your headphones and set “Violent Wind” to “repeat”.

Passiflora: “SOMS”

Next week is South By South West, which means it’s been three whole years since SXSW 2020’s abrupt cancellation marked the beginning of our ongoing COVID climate. Of course, we now recognize several silver linings, mainly the sudden abundance of free time to follow through with unrealized creative projects, some of which haven’t been heard until now.

Take for example Austin trio Passiflora. Passiflora’s first root came from a cross-pollination of genre interests between guitarist Rudy Durham, singer Lauren Harris, and drummer Raul Luevano sometime under the veil of the pandemic. What sprouted as an experiment in hybridizing indie, R&B, and jazz has since bloomed into a collective one-of-a-kind passion project. Their style reminds us of turn-of-the-millennium neo-soul innovators like Jill Scott and Erykah Badu, albeit with an extra jazzy sense of adventure, manifested as time signature changes, enthralling chord progressions, and killer polyrhythms.

For their appropriately-named debut EP eponymous, Passiflora brought The Point bassist Jack Montesinos into the mix, and dang does he fit right in the pocket. eponymous is out this Friday, Passiflora performs at Continental Club Saturday, March 25th, and today they pass along the album’s final lead single. Acronymized as “SOMS”, “Sun on my Skin” begs to be enjoyed under brighter skies by basking in dreamy keys, breezy drum brushes, and, of course, Harris’ siren singing that heralds the start of spring and’ll subconsciously make you want to put this “f***ing record on repeat”.

Light Wheel: “Sudden Changes”

Last March we tipped you off about Austin’s Light Wheel, right around the release of their sophomore LP See Through. The Shining-level chemistry between producer Evan Dunivan and vocalist Tyagaraja Welch is still going strong, and still, according to them, best enjoyed live. Rounded out with a two-man rhythm section, Light Wheel continues to put a pretty bright spin on the indie rock genre, covering a wide spectrum from R&B and pop all the way to psych and prog.

Today Light Wheel rolled out their first single of the year, which despite the exigence of its title, is a charming four-minute slow burn. Like a rocky canoe through uncertain waters, “Sudden Changes” softly paddles with acoustic oars and sparse percussion strokes, all steered by by Tyagraja’s serene siren singing. So as us weekday workers transition back into Monday, soak up “Sudden Changes”‘s sonics and save ’em for when you need to ease into the next big shift in your life.

Skateland: “Wreck”

We’re still only in the first handful of days for 2023, and in the Live Music Capital of the World…you know what that means. It’s Free Week! And if you haven’t heard yet, KUTX has a locally-curated showcase coming up in a couple days. It’ll kick off 8PM this Friday at Cheer Up Charlie’s with a bill that includes Como Las Movies, Redbud, 10pmtoclose and Skateland. Born Dorian Williams II, this multi-instrumentalist/singer/producer came to Austin from Las Vegas in pursuit of a degree at UT. But as with many other young creatives, Austin’s artistic aura helped sway Williams to also cement a musical project of his own, Skateland. Skateland’s trucks balance between moody alt-pop and tranquil indie-shoegaze, like if St. Vincent and Weyes Blood were grinding rails and transferring pipes alongside Beach House and Alvvays in the same park. Sure, Skateland’s only got a couple studio singles out as of now, but both of ’em are sensationally mellow cross-genre bops. As such, Skateland put his formula right there in the title of his upcoming debut EP: New Wave Revival. We’re looking forward to more lyrical gloom, retro instrumentation, and proven pop production methods when New Wave Revival drops on February 16th, and during Skateland’s set 9:40PM on Friday. Just don’t let his latest Weeknd-esque earworm (and music video) “Wreck” wipe out your productivity this Wednesday.

Friend in Law: “Hold Out”

Way before Elon Musk or Joe Rogan moved here, I remember seeing a ton of bumper stickers and T-shirts with slogans like these: “Don’t L.A. my A.T.X.”, “Don’t Dallas My Austin”, and yes, even “Don’t Put Your Big ‘D’ in My Little ‘A’”. Now, I can’t recall the last time I saw one of those in person, and as a native Austinite, I’m cool with that! Because y’all, we simply wouldn’t have the melting pot that is The Live Music Capital without new locals sharing their art.

And although the thought of another in-law just days after Thanksgiving might make your heart skip a beat, I can assure you that there’ll always be a seat at Austin’s table for Ben Murray and his solo affair Friend In Law. See, Murray’s move down here nearly eight years ago was a critical first step in rekindling his teenage love of penning and performing guitar-driven tunes. Once COVID hit, Murray doubled down on his once-juvenile dreams of becoming a self-produced musician, an auteur in the vein of Kevin Parker or Mac DeMarco.

Rooted in Murray’s ongoing DAW immersion, Friend In Law’s sonics follow a family tree of ’60s/’70s classics with contemporary limbs like pop punk knotted along the way. As of now, Friend In Law’s studio output is still fledgling. But when you hear how calculated each tone, note, and inflection is, you sure as heck won’t want to rush Murray’s progressing greatness. These things take time! And as heard on Friend In Law’s latest single, time can define people and places. As such, “Hold Out” is a triumph of triplet rhythms, a sanguine psych-shoegaze soundscape, and above all, an arresting piece of nostalgia.

Big Bill: “Humanoids”

Longtime fans of Austin four-piece Big Bill no doubt still feel the effects of their unexpectedly refreshing hard left turn earlier this year. For those out of the loop, midway through 2022 Big Bill released Public Freakout Compilation, chronicling the group’s shift from their once-signature ’80s-esque angular post-punk into lackadaisical ’90s-style indie rock. But the band’s collective larger-than-life, uncouth, and off-kilter personality still shines through the arrangements, lyrics, and now…visuals.

Like a star-crossed bastard child of Charles Schultz and Charles Bukowski, today Big Bill released the music video for PFC‘s third act-opener, “Humanoids”. Animated and illustrated by Pelvis Wrestley visionary Benjamin Violet, you’d have to be a real blockhead to not love the bleakness of this heartfelt Peanuts homage. Bonus points for an end-of-year reminder of how damn good this record is front to back.

Frozen Orange: “Stream Of”

As we finally (fingers crossed) bid farewell to winter and invite some sunny spring weather into the Lone Star State, a bit of Frozen Orange sounds pretty satisfying right about now. Originally an offshoot of the Austin group Maryann, Matt Hudson and Evan Kaspar recruited AMA’s Blair Robbins and Poly Action’s Zane Frisch to record Frozen Orange’s debut EP travels in November 2018. With the addition of bassist extraordinaire Andrew Stevens, this five-piece isjust ripe enough to reap a new batch of their collective songwriting efforts.Frozen Orange’s sophomore record Sunshine marks a maturation of their indie-alt sound and understated, all-lowercase aesthetic while exploring themes of nostalgia, nature, and personal bonds. You’ll be able to bask in the rays of Sunshine soon, and today you can get a slice of that sonic citrus by dipping your toes into “stream of”.

Good Looks: “Vision Boards”

With South By South West 2022 just a month away, the “must-see” previews are beginning to pop out. And if you’re the type that prefers to soak up as much Austin music as possible during SX, you’ll want to check out the Keeled Scales official showcase on March 17th at Cheer Up Charlie’s. Among the roster of great talent on the bill that includes Sun June, Katy Kirby, and Lunar Vacation is indie four-piece Good Looks, founded by South Texas singer-guitarist Tyler Jordan after a bold stint of 6th Street busking.

These poltically-minded Replacements-esque rockers enlisted producer Dan Duszynski (who’s worked with KUTX favorites Cross Record, Jess Williamson, and Loma) to help realize Good Looks’ debut album, Bummer Year, out April 8th. Good Looks is currently taking the record on the road for the Midwest leg of a two-part national tour. So if you like arid indie rock atmospheres and a healthy amount of tongue-in-cheek lyrics, make some room in your collection for Bummer Year and its head-bobbin’, “yeah”-inducing sophomore single, “Vision Boards“!

Polock: “Amargo”

Beginning with their 2010 debut LP Getting Down from the Trees, Valencia quintet Polock (pronounced like the pop art painter) has historically penned all their songs in English, referred to by the group as the “language of rock”. That tradition was only broken last year with Polock’s bilingual full-length Romance, which also marked a further refinement of their unapologetic indie-pop-rock arrangements and irreverent lyrical themes.

It’s been a whole year since Polock’s last single – the Phoenix-evoking, Spanish-language “Mar Dorado” that ended up being the opening track on Romance. But now at the tail end of 2021, despite its bitter title, Polock’s got another super sweet one fresh off the presses – “Amargo” – that keeps in tune with their Phoenix-adjacent aesthetic but punches it up with trap-style 808 drums and bass.

Anand Wilder: “I Don’t Want Our Love to Become Routine”

Some of you may still be distraught over the 2019 disbanding of Yeasayer post-Erotic Reruns, but former core member Anand Wilder has come with a bit of good news. Wilder’s recently announced his upcoming solo debut I Don’t Know My Words for release early next year, in which Wilder reignited the self-imposed creative challenges of his childhood by performing and recording each and every featured instrument.

The announcement comes along two new tunes and a music video, both of which recall some elements of Yeasayer’s songwriting formulas, albeit in a slower, more retro-acoustic manner. This carefully crafted pair presents a ton of potential for Wilder’s solo endeavor, as he clearly knows what he’s doing on I Don’t Know My Words, especially with the psych-folk finishes on “I Don’t Want Our Love to Become Routine”!

Benjamin Lazar Davis: “Medicine”

New York’s Benjamin Lazar Davis already showed off his multi-instrumental indie pop chops on his 2018 debut Nothing Matters but in the three short years since then he’s leveled up even further. A proven mastermind of sonic choices and vivid, varied arrangements, Benjamin Lazar Davis released his eponymous sophomore full-length today, blurring the lines between the delicacy of Sufjan Stevens and the psychedelic boundlessness of Flaming Lips. Benjamin Lazar Davis is a carefully crafted ten-track testament to Davis’ inert songwriting intuition and faith in the collaborative process, with an extensive dynamic range that creates a one-of-a-kind listener experience. This LP is guaranteed to expose you to some of the most unique sounds of 2021, heard most compactly in “Medicine”.

Futon Blonde: “Sisyphus Strut”

With an initial frame assembled from the demos of Janson Sommer in 2014, Futon Blonde has since reclined and extended for maximum listener comfort. Since finalizing the lineup heard on the 2016 EP Solid State, this Austin quartet’s proven time and time again that blondes do indeed have more fun, thanks to eclectic grooves that stand out against the otherwise predictable realm of indie rock sonics. Futon Blonde’s trickled out a couple singles since their 2019 LP Uppercut, but they all pack a similar punch in their own right. Case in point: “Sisyphus Strut”, which taps into ’90s-era hip-hop production techniques to roll a boulder of indie-adjacent funk psychedelia, guaranteed to help you break out of any workplace monotony and push through to the weekend.

Fertility House: “Mockingbird”

One of the hottest topics in Texas right now surrounds birth, but this isn’t really the appropriate forum to talk politics so instead let’s focus on Fertility House. The four Austin transplants of Fertility House made their debut in 2018 with their eponymous LP, showcasing the band’s knack for upbeat-yet-smooth and at times politically-charged indie garage pop.

Fertility House kept that momentum rolling into 2020 with last year’s Extra Light EP and is now entering the final trimesters of a brand new record. We’ve only got a couple singles so far, but each packs the purity of turn-of-the-millennium indie and gives acts like Vampire Weekend a run for their money. And even though Austin’s the land of grackles, there’s a certain je-ne-sais-quois of Fertility House’s latest, “Mockingbird”, that captures the charm of our city and you can catch the single release show on Saturday, October 2nd at Swan Dive.

Ruel Thomas: “Waited to Say”

Like many who hadn’t quite yet tapped into their full potential, Austin native Ruel Thomas didn’t flesh out his inner musician until he spent some time away from home. While living in Australia, Thomas soaked up the folky formulas of Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, and Paul McCartney while shaping his own indie-adjacent sound on guitar (both electric and acoustic), vocals, and harmonica.

Now that Thomas is back in the Live Music Capital and playing gigs when he can (including one on the 28th at Fitzhugh Brewing), he’s been masterminding his debut album, due out this winter. But you don’t even hold off til the first day of fall to check out Ruel Thomas’ haunting vocals and accessible-yet-unique rock on with his most confident composition (and music video) yet, “Waited to Say”!

Doppel: “Silencio”

When two star-crossed collaborators finally get together and start a new project in-person, you can pretty much guarantee how good it’s it’s gonna be. And there’s no exception when it comes to Austin-based duo Doppel, made up of Cologne, Germany multi-instrumentalist Jan Flemming and McAllen, Texas percussionist Michael Longoria, both devoted creators in their own right.

Doppel’s collective confidence and undeniable interpersonal chemistry became publicly known last year with the release of their debut album Ensō, highlighting the group’s defiance of any single genre with their fluid use of live loops and exploratory formulas. Doppel drops their seven-song EP Intermission this Friday, performs next Wednesday at East Austin Piano Shop, and today premieres Intermission‘s lead single that’ll leave you in awe, “Silencio”.

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”!