indie rock

West 22nd: “Sleeping Alone”

In the midst of this drizzly, nippy, and overall kind of crummy weather, we can’t really fault anyone maximizing their time under the covers. And on behalf of the bounty of additional body heat, everyone with a significant other, a temporary cuffing acquaintance, or just a fuzzy friend willing to curl up really ought to feel thankful. Because the alternative is feeling extra frigid right about now. Fortunately for those battling Old Man Winter solo, there’s a new homegrown anthem that’ll warm any bitter spirits right on up.

It comes from Austin indie rock quintet West 22nd, the five friends who only crept up onto streaming services last August with their debut EP All the Way Home. Despite their recent shared confrontations with adulthood and the less-than-picture-perfect realities of relationships that come with it, West 22nd still maintains an undeniably youthful energy in their originals – not necessarily what we’d call wise, but certainly not puerile either.

And they’ve hit the ground running in the new year, having played not too far from their namesake last weekend at The Ballroom and performing again this Friday at Mohawk Outdoors alongside Sounds by Moonbby and Polo Perks opening for Skaiwater. So while West 22nd’s English counterparts may scoff at us Texans shivering from a brief week of freezing, we’d like to think that fellow chilly mammals Arctic Monkeys may not have anything bad to say about “Sleeping Alone”, released last Friday. Emblematic of that iconic early-millennium indie rock renaissance, “Sleeping Alone” sticks it to The Strokes with a nuanced arrangement and considerably less reliance on studio magic. So if you find yourself tossing and turning, maybe missing that special someone, crank “Sleeping Alone” all the way up, delete that has-been from your contacts, and maybe even plan on meeting someone new this Friday at the Mohawk.

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.

Michael Nau: “Painting A Wall”

Between Cotton Jones, Page France, and his eponymous Michael Nau & The Mighty Thread, Maryland’s Michael Nau‘s built up one hell of an indie rock reputation over his career. And as a family man fast approaching his forties, there’ve been some real waves of wisdom and maturity making appearances in his more recent music.

That’s not to call his earlier solo catalogue childish by any account; his 2016 single “Love Survive” has shown some serious staying power with nearly 50 million streams on Spotify alone, with several other album selects and standalones making millions of impressions in the interim between then and now as well. With that songwriting validation in tow and the best band of friends a man could ask for to back him up, Nau teamed up with The Killers/Lucy Dacus/Fruit Bats producer-engineer Adrien Olsen to create a new batch of tunes not too long ago.

Well after a disappearing overdub scare and two full-band sessions, Accompany finally came out last Friday. With a bit of psych-soul sophistication (robust arrangements and all) classing up the mix, these near-dozen newbies might just be Michael Nau’s modern masterpiece. It’s a swatch-swapping journey that deserves to be heard front to back, but if you just want a quick, colorful way to keep your beginning-of-work-week outlook positive, “Painting A Wall”, with its optimistic pedal steel and life-navigating lyrics, will put you in wonderful spirits.

Parker Woodland: “True Love Will Find You In The End”

First thing’s first. Parker Woodland isn’t a person; it’s a band. More accurately, it’s an Austin-based indie rock collective captained by activist/singer-songwriter Erin Walter. And although Walter, guitarist Andrew Solin, and drummer Keri Cinquina comprise the group’s core trio, Parker Woodland always welcomes a revolving cast of contributors both in-studio and on-stage for inclusive arrangements that complement the band’s hefty emotional weight. Between their placement at Rock the Park and as of last weekend, The Breakfast Boogie, clearly Parker Woodland’s earned their keep as a KUTX favorite and a can’t-miss curator of the Austin Music Experience in 2023.

As for next year, the gang’s been working towards the full-length follow-up to their February 2021 debut EP The World’s On Fire (And We Still Fall In Love). And as Parker Woodland passes the half decade mark of their run, we’re positive that this LP will leap off streaming services and warm hearts citywide. In the meantime, to wrap up this month, you can get a taste of the live portion with an all-ages, stage-filling affair 8PM this Thursday at The Mohawk with Sabrina Ellis and Sheverb. Sure, Live from Love Hill offers an honest representation of Parker Woodland’s in-concert chops, but obviously, the in-person experience is the real deal.

Fingers crossed we get a fuller preview of this new record, whose tunes like the Daniel Johnston folk-punk re-work “True Love Will Find You In The End” have already promised the inevitability of affection and adoration for listeners of any kind. To the naysaying loners, just try not to feel warm and fuzzy after pressing “play”, because this indie-folk fleur blossoms with gorgeous harmonies and optimistic orchestral flourishes before a final-minute sprint into punk-rock-inspired passion.