The Melos: “I Don’t Wanna Be”

We love a good family band, but even with greats like CCR, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the The Allman Brothers, breaking past biological boundaries has its own proven benefits. So although songwriter Brandon Borrego obviously holds a shatterproof tie to his brother Louis, we gotta give them credit for letting some “outside” voices in on their tunes.

And that’s on behalf of The Melos (“the mellows”), which began as the handle for Brandon’s Austin-based output. That was, until Spring 2022, when the Borrego brothers linked up with bassist Jacob Moore and drummer Dante Muñoz in a classic case of SXSW kismet. Sparks flew, bonds grew, and the new iteration of The Melos soon started building on top of the existing framework from the Borregos’ initial batch of originals. As heard on a pair of back-to-back tracks (released last July and August, respectively) The Melos maintain the Borregos’ fraternal formula of Eddie Money-meets-Bruce Springsteen with a modern pop twist, for – true to their name – some undeniably laidback indie rock.

That dulcet saga continues today with The Melos’ first single of the year and a show 11PM tonight at Swan Dive with openers Bovine at 10PM and closers Tealwaves at midnight. You’ll recognize some familiar threads on “I Don’t Wanna Be” – chiefly Brandon’s grizzled, straight-from-the-heart vocals and cinematic chord progressions that perfectly capture the working class strife of your average Joe. But thanks to some striking snare fills, moody guitar tones, unrestricted bass riffs, and a tastefully-brief bridge section that quickly cools things off before cranking ’em all the way back up, the only thing missing from “I Don’t Wanna Be” is a full stadium’s-worth of applause after the final chord. Sure as hell sounds like a stereo-spanning family affair to us, and an incredibly infectious one at that, and we can’t wait to hear what the boys crank out next.

Karima Santi: “Space”

No matter how immense a musical talent is intrinsically, sometimes resetting your surroundings can be the biggest catalyst to moving on up. Like, look at singer-guitarist Karima Santi, who cut her teeth in jazz, folk, and punk groups on the other side of the decade up in the Raleigh-Durham area. Sure, those bands kept Karima busy, and yet at the same time, none of them managed to quite suit Santi’s specific niche of styles and tastes. So by the time she moved down here to Austin, COVID creeping up behind, Santi’d already begun zeroing in on solo songwriting, releasing her streaming debut “You in 3/4” that August.

Since then, Karima’s repertoire of indie rock originals has reached the hundreds, and her connections with local industry heavyweights has only expanded after recording at feel flow studio back in 2021. Case in point: Karima’s recently collaborated with a dream team of Austin talent plus Grammy-nominated producer/engineer Chris “Frenchie” Smith at The Bubble to give her Mazzy Star-meets-Cat Power compositions their best set of legs possible. On top of that, she just made her SoFar sounds debut on Veteran’s Day.

So while it’s easy enough to admire Karima Santi in this still-fledgling phase, we can also appreciate the anxiety that must come from starting fresh in a new town with a lifetime’s worth of tunes in tow. And following October’s “Underwater”, Santi speaks to that unease with her deceptively downtempo latest, “Space”. Its overlapping guitars and unwavering drums forge an acoustic-electric garrison around Santi’s emotional vocals for a four-minute masterpiece of moodiness.

Madison Cunningham: “Subtitles” (ACL Fest Pop-Up)

One of the best parts of live concerts? Often you get to hear new tunes before they hit streaming. And one of the best parts of being with KUTX is that sometimes those sneak peaks come in the form of intimate, one-of-a-kind performances. So yeah, even though the gates are open and ACL Fest Weekend Two is officially in full swing, you’d better believe we’re still rolling out our incredible Weekend One repertoire.

And today’s in-tent listen is especially timely. It comes courtesy of Costa Mesa’s Madison Cunningham, a folk-pop Americana rocker whose finally getting some great traction. As the daughter of a pastor, the first leg of Cunningham’s career was spent within the Christian community. But not too long after touring with Andrew Bird and earning a Grammy nomination for her 2019 secular sophomore LP Who Are You Now, Cunningham culled her worship debut Authenticity from streaming. While we can’t attribute that migration towards agnostic thinking to a sense of restrictions being lifted, we do recognize the boundaryless beauty of last year’s Revealer, which scored Cunningham a Grammy for Best Folk Album this February.

Safe to say momentum’s on Madison’s side right now, and fortunately for us, that whirlwind of talent’s still in town. Madison Cunningham plays 10PM tomorrow night at Scoot Inn before returning to ACL Fest 12:45PM this Sunday at the American Express stage – two great opportunities to see this ever-maturing muse in-person before she blows up even more. But if neither are in the cards for you, don’t fret; the pop-up rendition of Cunningham’s latest (whose studio counterpart just appeared on streaming mere hours ago) “Subtitles” is accessible whenever you’re ready. After three-and-a-half minutes you’ll agree that, “good god, the pipes on this woman are something else!”.

Frogmouth: “Not Listening”

Especially in their respective genre’s salad days, too many garage rockers and punks alike have inadvertently honored the unofficial “live fast die young” creed. But in recent times, some of the elder statesmen seem to only be having more fun as they’ve matured. And we’re not just talking about Iggy Pop. No, for the sake of this argument, and without trying to come off as ageist, let’s look at those who were young punks themselves back in the ’80s.

Folks like the four veteran rockers behind Frogmouth. They may be well-seasoned players of the local scene and beyond, but Frogmouth itself as an institution is hardly out of the tadpole phase. That hasn’t stopped these rowdy polliwogs from padding out a middle ground between classic acts like Velvet Underground and The Replacements and fresher threads to Rancid and The Strokes, all for an amphibious ecosystem of grungy, power-alt-garage-indie-punk rock that never takes itself too seriously.

Frogmouth’s spent much of 2023 ribbiting singles out onto streaming, all ahead of their debut EP Humor Me, which finally drops this weekend. The quartet headlines an all-ages release show Saturday night at The Mohawk starting 8PM with openers Space Cushion, Dropped Out, and Ne’er-Do-Well. So if you’re feelin’ froggy, hop on out there. If you’re more of a home toad, you can at least defy titles by cranking “Not Listening” up to 11, because this near-four-minute dynamic leap across retro power temperaments will activate your inner angsty teen in the best, catchiest way possible.

Stella and the Very Messed: “Merchandiser”

Lots of longtime local concertgoers are likely to remember Cruiserweight. Now Cruiserweight has shared new music as recently as 2021, but not long before that, a couple of its crew members split off and started something a bit more…messy. We’re talking about Dave Hawkins and Stella Maxwell, co-founders of Austin quintet Stella and the Very Messed.

After testing out a couple of stripped-down demos at the turn of the decade, Stella and the Very Messed got a jump on the impending pandemic in early 2020 with their debut nine-track as a five-piece On Fences. Sure, S.a.t.V.M. retain a lot of the straightforward pop-rock formulas, hook-ready melodies and all, of their predecessor, but Stella et. al are admittedly more risky when it comes to playing around with arrangements and placement of instruments. Even though they kept listeners engaged with a triplet of new tunes in mid-2021 (Marigold), Stella and the Very Messed reckoned with the all-too-real creative obstacle of parenthood last year and ultimately decided to tap the brakes.

Well Stella and the Very Messed are finally back, and apparently pretty keen on making the most of their latest batch. They joined forces with Test Tube Audio producer Kevin Butler as well as Paradise Lunch co-producers Adam Mason and Walker Lukens to elevate a pair of pop originals into the pantheon of 2023 Austin-originating stunners. Catch the full band next Saturday at Sunny’s Backyard for an Oktoberfest release show, get a glimpse into “Crystal Ball” when you can, and make some space in your wardrobe for a T-shirt or two as you cash in with “Merchandiser”. It’s got a deceptively gentle introduction, because once “Merchandiser” hits the 40-second mark, the five-piece fires on all cylinders with ’80s-style synth arpeggios and MIDI percussion, moody electric guitar chords, a serious strut of a bass groove, and, almost goes without saying, the frontwoman’s fierce, refreshingly human vocals.

Little Jungles: “Happy In Our Winter”

Finding time to perfect your craft as an adult can already be challenging enough. But becoming a husband and father of two? Talk about cutting down on your ability to monkey around in the studio. At least that’s the experience of Kelowna producer-songwriter Michael Niemann, better known by his creative handle Little Jungles. Little Jungles first crept out of the bush in 2011 with Wuts Goin Thru Yer Head, a debut that caught ears and earned acclaim thanks to Niemann’s electro-meets-shoegaze bedroom-style indie sound. Unfortunately in the aftermath, wut began going through Niemann’s head alongside the praise was enough pressure in place for a survival of the fittest mindset. But his amygdala didn’t fight or fly; it froze. The anxiety of achieving a worthy follow-up caused Little Jungles to overanalyze his originals, and as such, last summer’s I Would Kill For Some Sunlight LP came out with basically no promotion. Now that he’s a family man with shifted priorities, Niemann’s taken on a new approach; strike when the inspiration hits, knock out what you can whenever you can, and rather than give yourself the unlimited options to “fix it in post”, track it all to tape. And after six long years of careful home and vacant business recordings, we finally heard the proof of that concept just last Friday with LOOM. Like the title suggests, LOOM finds Little Jungle’s artistic vision once again naturally interlaced with the other threads of life, and the dedication to tape goes a long way. Hear for yourself with the jangling guitar riffs, unprocessed drum sounds, and delightfully lackadaisical vocal harmonies that are sure to lift your spirits, (no matter the reason or season) on “Happy In Our Winter”.

Beekeeper Spaceman: “Locusts and Honey”

We’re so over the moon from yesterday’s Lunar Gold premiere that we’re not ready to descend quite yet. So before touching down to the terrestrial for the weekend, let’s heed a far out beacon from Dallas duo Beekeeper Spaceman.

The skeleton crew consists of guitarist-singer-songwriter Greg Brownderville and producer/multi-instrumentalist Spencer Kenney, who named themselves after their multi-media narrative Fire Bones‘ second chapter. Thanks to a consistently mellow pairing of indie rocket science and soundtrack-apt cinematic flourishes, Beekeeper Spaceman’s not only made contact with Leon Bridges, Black Pumas, Shakey Graves, and Erykah Badu…they’ve supported all of the above. Beginning in late June, Beekeeper Spaceman began harvesting their honeycombs and sharing the gooey, acoustic-driven gold on streaming, one single per month, all amassing towards a bustling hive and hyperdrive of an eponymous debut album.

Well now that we’re one week into September, we almost dropped a distress signal, yet Beekeeper Spaceman’s kept the pace up with yet another sample, one that really sinks the stinger in. A sticky, sickly sweet middle ground somewhere between a plague and a blessing, a sweeping swarm and a viscous spoonful, and whatever the listening equivalent of a spectacle is, “Locusts and Honey” starts off with an innocuous flutter before blasting out harmony-and-reverb-lacquered soft rock pheromones. Just goes to show that while Houston is our city most closely associated with space exploration, we’ve seen more than enough representation of aural astronauts across Texas to make the interlacing of space aesthetics and sonic constellations an official state trait.

West 22nd: “Sweet!”

If this intense summer heat is starting to fry your synapses and your mind is in need of a holiday…but you don’t really have time on the calendar or money in the budget for proper R&R, there’s a broad sonic convoy right here in town that’ll take your brain places, for sure. We’re talking about Austin quintet West 22nd. Based on the campus-adjacent coordinates in their handle, you can probably guess where West 22nd got their start. But it’s worth mentioning that the five members have home state backgrounds ranging from Georgia to California, a critical piece of West 22nd’s “cross-country road trip” aesthetic within their indie-folk-rock excursions. For those staying connected with the Live Music Capital from outside the city limits, let West 22nd take you All The Way Home this Friday with their debut EP that shares the title. For the locals, West 22nd commemorates the occasion with a release show 8PM that same evening at Mohawk indoors alongside Daydream Twins, Knox Write, and Sounds by Moonbby. And for everyone, West 22nd simmers and shimmers on All The Way Home‘s latest lead single, “Sweet!”. Simple kick drum and snare rim, easy-strolling bass, and soft-swaying six-string warm this arrangement up before impassioned pipes bring this thing to a peak, but the inter-instrumental energy across this relatively complex song structure is really what escalates “Sweet!” past vapid and saccharine and into satiating and sanguine.

Wednesday Kid: “Like You Are”

Between everybody’s favorite TV goth girl and the beloved mid-workweek benchmark, the word “Wednesday” carries some pretty positive connotations. And even on “new music Friday”, every day of the week is Wednesday in one way or another for Houston-raised, Austin-based singer-guitarist Will Derden. See, this young up-and-comer’s been crafting his own unique style of indie and folk since the start of the pandemic, Derden’s senior year in high school. Now that he’s officially into his early twenties and quarantine conditions have been largely lifted, the world is Derden’s oyster, and he’s been reaping some impressive pearls with his project Wednesday Kid. Clearly comfortable in both a full band and solo setting, it’s pretty interesting to track Derden’s quick progression as a songwriter when scrolling through Wednesday Kid’s Instagram feed. And we already got a sense of that crazy good range on Wednesday Kid’s debut five-song EP from last March, Elephant. But today Wednesday Kid’s returned with something that hits a little harder than Elephant‘s minimalist folk-pop. The pairing of folksy vocals and jangly acoustic guitar is still intact, but now Derden shifts Wednesday Kid’s dynamics into a higher gear with a fresh foray into indie rock, “Like You Are”. We’re picking up strong Van Morrison vibes on this one, albeit with a sunny Central Texas twist that sounds good any day of the year.

Good Field: “Full Pool”

Back in 2018, we started the year off strong with our January Artist of the Month Good Field. The Austin quartet, their enthralling third full-length Surface Tension, and their easy-going brand of slacker indie-Americana perfectly embodied the worry-free character of the “before times”. But since the start of COVID, Good Field’s been noticeably quiet. Maybe that’s because Good Field’s been in the weeds of their fourth LP, Coyote. This seven-song collection follows up their seemingly-standalone October 2020 studio single “Coyote (Living Free)”, which now serves as the album closer and title track. Toting tunes like “Passengers”, “Airliner”, and “Lost in Morelos”, Coyote comes across as less of a yipping menace and more of a slinky, crepuscular traveler, fitting for a four-piece originally from rural West Texas. Coyote crests the horizon on November 3rd and Good Field takes the stage 10PM tomorrow night at C-Boy’s Heart & Soul, followed by Star Parks at 11:15PM and The Point just after midnight. And today Good Field’s graciously given us an early glimpse at Coyote from afar. Although its title instantly reminds us of Surface Tension, “Full Pool”‘s character doesn’t exactly reflect that last record’s shimmering indie rock liquidity. Instead, in a wooded trot or a sandy gallop, “Full Pool” takes its time and stalks listeners with cosmic Americana, like an infectious vector between Deer Tick and 2009-era Grizzly Bear.

The Best Around: “Lie to Me”

When decades of dominos fall before some of your finest work, it’s hard not to feel like fate led you to this moment. Just look at Austin songwriter Camron Rushin, whose grandfather worked with Lefty Frizzell producer Jim Beck way back in the ’50s. Within Rushin’s generation, there’d been about a ten-year-long break between artistic projects, but once he started sharing sketches with multi-instrumentalists Todd Pruner and Jon Merz at the start of the pandemic, the foundation was laid for The Best Around. If you couldn’t guess from the trio’s handle or their cutout ransom note/collage visual aesthetic, they’re not brazenly boasting about their abilities; they’re more navigating life like triplet Daniel-sans perfecting their musical martial art one waxing tune at a time. In wearing belts of both performer and audience member, The Best Around show up to the ongoing competition that is our Live Music Capital with a diverse style of art-rock. Last Friday The Best Around rolled out their ninth studio single total and first of 2023, one that features harmony vocals from Emma Kate, percussion from Josh Halpern and mastering from Cacophony Recorders’ Erik Wofford. A melancholy masterpiece from its first downbeat through its pre-chorus falsetto and cosmic Americana instrumental bridge all the way to its concluding chord, “Lie to Me” might honestly be The Best Around’s very best to date.

Danny Golden: “22 Tango”

Pop music is chock full of people flexing. Sure, it goes all the way back to the days of vaudeville, but especially in the 21st century, Billboard chart-toppers can’t seem to stop talking about how hot, rich, or tough they are. Such bold boasts are appealing to emulate amidst teenage angst, but as music lovers mature, they’ll realize that lyrical brags aren’t as impactful as they may seem at first, at least compared to forming a legitimate connection between performer and listener. That’s where Austin multi-instrumentalist Danny Golden comes in. In the near-ten years since he wrapped up his Bach-meets-bluegrass college thesis, Danny’s learned that the golden ticket to truly unique impressions is overlooking the frivolity of possessions and appearance and diving straight into the universal well of emotions. In that spirit, Danny Golden’s upcoming full-length Being There isn’t just a platform to work with John Mayer/Leon Bridges/Paul Cauthen producer Electrophunck or jam with contributors from Texas Gentlemen, Sir Woman, and Jon Batiste’s band; it’s a potent nine-tune exploration of human fragility created through a shared sense of time and space. True to its title, Being There‘s reflections on staying in the moment, of not looking too far back or forwards, lends itself to the LP’s sonic eclecticism, that while rooted in indie rock, features some out-there flavors that reflect the nuances of our feelings. Shortly after Being There drops on Friday, Danny Golden is set to spend the rest of the month on a national tour alongside KUTX favorite Matthew Logan Vasquez, where he’ll no doubt forge plenty of fervent bonds with listeners across the country. So like a sonic trust fall, step into your own personal Danny Golden therapy session with a four-minute testament to the magic of inherent human relation, “22 Tango”.

Solid Lines: “Solid Lines”

When first branding a new band, a little repetition can go a long way. And throughout the past half century there’s plenty proof of now-iconic acts who made the most out of a name by extending it to both album and song titles; think about Bad Company, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Motörhead, or more recently, Run the Jewels and Wilco. Well, last weekend the world was treated to yet another artist-album-song triple threat, this one coming straight out of Austin. After a three-year recording break filled with professional and familial obligations, Oh No Oh My frontman Greg Barkley recently rediscovered solace from those stresses through songwriting. Following several hushed solo home studio sessions, and a full decade since Oh No Oh My performed their last live show essentially at the height of international fame, Barkley re-enlisted ONOM drummer Joel Calvin and keyboardist Tim Regan plus Shivery Shakes bassist Wil Glosup to turn these stripped-down tunes into a reality. As a result, we’ve just been introduced to Solid Lines. The indie elements that earned Oh No Oh My so much acclaim still shines throughout Solid Lines, albeit underneath a coat of passionate electro-pop paint. Solid Lines’ eponymous debut induces nostalgia for care-free youth alongside reflections over the choices Barkley’s made that’ve led him to a life full of love. In line with Barkley’s “full steam ahead” approach to this new batch, the nine tracks on Solid Lines are best enjoyed front to back, but if you want to jump straight to one of Solid Lines‘ midpoints and find out what the group is all about, set aside five minutes and settle into the vocal unity and six-string-and-synth-driven serenity of “Solid Lines”.

Feeling Small: “One-Eyed Paradise”

The first time I met Chase Weinacht was back in high school. Let’s call it 2008. He and fellow Marmalakes co-founder/frontman Josh Halpern dropped by band practice. Despite their infinitely superior songwriting and performance skills (and assumedly awareness of such), I’ll never forget how humble and supportive they both were. And still are. Fast forward to 2019. Chase, Casie Luong, and I were Artist Instructors for Mother Falcon Music Lab. As Casie and I essentially lectured on how to create a podcast, Chase just sat back there behind the campers and soaked it in. Like the biggest, most curious kid in the classroom, for another charming moment of humility. And if you’ve ever seen Chase perform, you know that he’s not only one of Austin’s most talented songwriters, but also one of the most graciously unassertive. Which is why you might not have heard about his new project, Feeling Small. Based on the band’s debut single, Feeling Small seems to be a reflection on our overall insignificance in the grand scheme of things, a blissful sense of nihilism. Even though Weinacht could tackle such subject matter in a solo setting, he’s surrounded himself with some of his best friends, who also happen to be a few of Austin’s most prolific: Why Bonnie’s Sam Houdek on bass, The Stacks/Good Looks frontman Jake Ames on lead electric, Frozen Orange/Lomelda/Daphne Tunes contributor Andrew Stevens on bari guitar and percussion, and Estuary expert ear John Michael Landon handling sampler, synth, and production duties. That first tune, “One-Eyed Paradise”, is a series of little snapshots, like smash cuts that exemplify the beauty of moments that may seem minuscule at first. A soft shaker crescendo starts off this short-and-sweet stoner confessional (complete with lyrics about breakfast edibles and expensive pens) that ends up sounding like Mac DeMarco took a chill pill on top of his natural lackadaisical character. Huge bonus points for that one-of-a-kind Estuary sense of acoustic space, tight instrumental interplay, and a shift of focus away from the weight of life’s abundant anxieties.

Small Engine Fire: “Ruin Everything”

Between the 30th anniversary of the Waco siege and the tragedy that just occurred on the border, the word “fire” might understandably turn some Texans off right about now. But for those who continue to rock out through the pain of the world’s ongoing, encircling dumpster fire…this one is for you.

It comes courtesy of sanguine sweetheart Ray Garza, whose effortless guitar and calculated vocals have become a staple of Austin outfits like Lola Tried, Space Tan, and his previous passion project, Poly Action. But just as Poly Action was picking up traction at the turn of the decade, the pandemic put an instant damper on PA’s momentum. Like countless others, the isolation and uncertainty of the subsequent lockdown left Garza feeling stuck in a rut. Historically an unapologetic upbeat pop-punk-rock lover, Garza surprised himself when he shed his typical humor-hinged defenses in favor of slower tempos and more fragile subject matters.

Fortunately for us, those tunes haven’t sizzled out into an ash pile. Instead, Garza’s internally-torching originals have rung the bell on his latest endeavor, Small Engine Fire. With Small Engine Fire (which features alum from Space Tan and Bogbody) Garza finds a safe haven to unspool those anxieties and insecurities with quirkily-human indie rock. And following their first-ever live show shortly after Free Week, Small Engine Fire has recently signaled the drop of a debut album sometime this year.

The quartet just lit the wick on that record with a solemn scorcher of a lead single, “Ruin Everything”, a slow-burning indie rock inferno stoked by infectious embers of instrumental interplay and subtle dynamic shifts. So if you’re planning out your weekend, consider showing some support for Small Engine Fire’s single release show 10PM this Sunday at Hotel Vegas followed by A. Sinclair and Rusty Dusty. If not, just toss on some headphones, throw “Ruin Everything” on repeat, and keep watching the world burn, baby.

Buenos Diaz: “The Name of The Game”

Artist multiplicity is a big part of what draws people to Austin, and definitely not just during SXSW. But especially in the midst of SX, it also behooves many to diversify their performances and mix up their on-stage exposure. And for Buenos Diaz singer-guitarist Nick Diaz, that’s “The Name of The Game”.

This week Nick’s rockstar aura glows across several acts and venues; he’s spending much of it as a six-string-for-hire with his NYC friends Lizzie and the Makers, balancing the rest out between solo and full band sets. Lizzie and the Makers play 8:45PM tonight at The Dizzy Rooster, at Blind Pig 10PM tomorrow and 10:15PM on Wednesday, and 10PM this Friday at Saxon Pub. As for Nick, he’s going solo 5PM tomorrow at Mañana and 1:30PM on Wednesday near the Taco Deli at Austin Bergstrom International Airport.

But bringin’ it back to Buenos Diaz, the full band hops on right after Lizzie and the Makers 11PM on Friday at Saxon Pub before a show 6:30PM next Wednesday at Lustre Pearl South and 10:30PM next Sunday at Long Play East. Under Nick’s direction, Buenos Diaz blew us away last August with their LP Cocaine Queen, but when you spin this hard-rocker you can tell right away that it’s best enjoyed live. So catch Nick in any capacity this week if you can, because playing at the biggest international music festival right in your own backyard? That’s “The Name of The Game”.

Who wants to meet up tonight?

Trumpeter Swan: “American Dream”

Remember What Made Milwaukee Famous? Along with Spoon, The Octopus Project, and Explosions in the Sky, WMMF helped to hurl Austin’s explosive mid-2000s indie rock scene into the international zeitgeist. But with the exception of a brief 2019 reunion, What Made Milwaukee Famous has remained largely dormant since the release of You Can’t Fall Off the Floor in 2013. Fun fact: that was right around the same time that WMMF co-founder/multi-instrumentalist Drew Patrizi doubled down on another indie rock endeavor – Trumpeter Swan.

Although the then-fledgling project recorded their 2010 debut here in Austin, Trumpeter Swan only released Listen For The Clues after Patrizi’s northward migration up to New York. And after 2013’s The Magnitude of Now, Trumpeter Swan seemed to be flourishing in their nest near the Big Apple, accruing acclaim left and right for their still-limited studio output. Yet in the decade that’s followed The Magnitude of Now, Trumpeter Swan (like WMMF) has been noticeably mute.

Thankfully, Trumpeter Swan didn’t drift too far into the mythos of their eponymous waterfowl, because after repatriating back down to ATX mid-pandemic, Patrizi decided that Trumpeter Swan was still far, far away from their final performance. Last October Trumpeter Swan evened out their discography’s flock formation with their third and most sophisticated, layered, and nuanced full-length to date, Fast We Fall. And now, as we approach SXSW, Trumpeter Swan is once again on the wing with a handful of local live gigs. Trumpeter Swan plays 9PM this Saturday at Hole in the Wall opening for Fun Haunts and Gentlemen Rogues, Friday, March 17th at Vortex for a free SXSW Day Party and Thursday, March 30th opening for Futon Blonde at Chess Club. So even after all these years seems like Patrizi’s living his best life possible, the “American Dream” as it were…which is a pretty fitting title from a band named after America’s heaviest bird, not to mention an instant indie pop-rock earworm.

Domestic Tallboys: “Dead Bread”

In the world of “gotcha”-style band handles (whose spot on a marquee may entice unsuspecting listeners in under false pretenses)…nothing will ever come close to “Free Beer”. As a result, countless college bands and beyond have adopted the “Free Beer” moniker, nowadays either temporarily or often with some kind of modifier (“Free Beer & Pizza” comes to mind). But that gimmick gets old after the initial chuckle, and tricking potential first-time listeners isn’t exactly how you build a dedicated following. With all that in mind, there’s a certain genius to naming a band Domestic Tallboys; Here in the South, especially Texas, it’s pretty much guaranteed that any live venue serves non-imported aluminum pints. So by holding onto the name since 2017, Domestic Tallboys have not only ditched the nefarious bait-and-switch of “Free Beer”, they’ve curated a whole dive bar vibe that they call “sloppy nacho rock”. Well, now that now that the foam from their latest final masters have settled down, Domestic Tallboys are ready to crack open their debut full-length, MAXIMÓN. MAXIMÓN introduces saxophone into the mix for some extra cross-genre carbonation, bringing that beer-braised energy into the comfort of your earbuds. MAXIMÓN is out on Friday, and Domestic Tallboys hits the stage at Swan Dive for the LP release show at 10:30PM that same evening. So get out, cop a couple of your favorite cans at the bar, and soak up some solo-heavy stuff like what you hear in MAXIMÓN‘s final lead single, “Dead Bread”.

Ma: “CALL”

It takes a certain hubris to claim that nature isn’t humankind’s greatest source of inspiration. And in Texas, although they’re all a bit more than a stone’s throw away from Austin, we’re honestly spoiled by our abundance of incredible parks. Between Palo Duro Canyon, the Fort Davis Mountains – and of course – Big Bend, the Lone Star State gives California a run for their money in terms of diverse scenery.

In particular, there’s an otherworldly quality to the almost-limitless terrain of Big Bend, which sparked something in Austin Barker and Dominic Sena. Under the handle Ma, this pair draws from Brian Eno, Radiohead, and Alex G, which has helped them translate Big Bend’s awe-inspiring imagery into ambient-and-grunge-adjacent indie. When Ma’s not cooped up in their home recording studio making magic, they’re playing around town alongside the likes of Redbud and Psychic Shark, and up until now Ma’s music has only been accessible in the live realm.

Today, that all changes; Ma just dropped their debut studio single “CALL”, the first of a few new tunes to be released in 2023. It sounds almost like Tears for Fears dehydrated themselves of their synth-pop sonics and swapped them out for a stripped-down grunge arrangement. The chord progression evokes wanderlust, the vocal harmonies inspire mesa-height hope, the drum patterns clatter like an abrupt rocky descent, and some of the guitar work sounds straight out of a revisionist Western soundtrack.

Charley Horse: “Ball Cap”

The first time I heard the phrase “charley horse” was as a little brat needling and buzzing my way below the belt on that Hasbro “board game” Operation. Fast forward to college, when I experienced my first abrupt leg spasm…and yeah, they’re not fun. So whether the term conjures thoughts of cursory surgery techniques or just a pain in the leg, there’s an indie rock outfit here in Austin eager to reclaim the mane and breed a positive connotation for Charley Horse.

These five friends rode in with their first pair of demos right around this same time last year, and followed it up that May with their appropriately-titled debut studio EP Summer. And even though Summer only clops in at about thirteen minutes over four tunes, it showed off Charley Horse’s versatility by galloping and cantering across power pop, psych, and alt-rock. Well, next Friday Charley Horse is set to hitch listeners in once again with their sophomore offering, Foothills

Foothills keeps it short and sweet at three brief tracks, which is honestly plenty enough to pad out their live performances and studio output as Charley Horse matures from foal into yearling. So while die-hard MLB fans count the days until March 30th, NBA heads dribble around in anticipation of the 30th Anniversary All-Star game this Sunday, and sunbathers count the clouds until spring, today Charley Horse chimes in with a bit of profound fashion-and-posture advice. If you’re chasing serenity, do it with your chin up, your eyes on the horizon, and your “Ball Cap” tipped high.