Ana Zae: “Lifted”

Over the past two months alone we’ve seen some pretty promising new names emerge from the Austin area, even if the artists behind the project have been in plain sight for some time.

Take for example longtime live scene veteran Ana Zae, whose prior solo iteration Liza Day (Rose) first popped up in August 2020 with six soulful self-recorded originals. Heavy on the multi-tracked vocal harmonies but angled towards acoustic authenticity, those tunes told us everything we needed to know about this mature music-maker; she had the stuff.

Fast forward to this February, when the singer-guitarist rolled out her rebrand as Ana Zae with two stellar singles. Thanks to Black Pumas collaborator Will Grantham engineering and producing the pair, Ana’s sound has undeniably leveled up from the humble, stripped-down home studio aesthetic of her antecedent. Between a previously unheard one (“Set Me Free”) and “Lifted” (lifted from her Liza Day debut Roses and Waves), this two-part reintroduction channels the waltzy rhythms and sultry chord changes of classic Patsy Cline through the lens of golden era grunge electric guitar, both of them teetering with triplets, love-hungry lyrics, and a set of pipes that put more than plenty to shame. And with a full album reportedly on the way from Ana Zae, our fandom stands to stay unfazed.

Motenko: “Lifted”

Here at KUTX, we’ve never been shy about our love of Wild Child; hell I myself even played a show or two with ’em back in the day. But while lead singer Kelsey Wilson often steals the spotlight (and deservedly so), there’s no sense in denying the vast talent toted by each individual member. Among the masterful many is keyboardist-vocalist Micah Motenko, who on top of touring alongside Wild Child and Jade Bird, also moonlights as frontman and chief composer for his mononymous quartet Motenko. Meshing the best retro-soul bits of Muscle Shoals and Motown with modern pop and R&B, plus some impresas of Mac DeMarco and Steve Lacy and Motenko’s eponymous 2020 debut EP’s received nearly a million streams on Spotify alone. On the technical side, Micah’s dexterity has turned him into a two-time Austin Music Award nominee for “Best Keyboardist”. Well, with the release of a pair of singles last summer, some of Wild Child’s road-wise shine must’ve rubbed off on Motenko’s songwriting, since they now seem like they’re breaking out of their “safe” formulas in favor of “riskier” structures and arrangements. In fact, Motenko recruited some of Sir Woman’s awesome entourage to provide backing vocals and fill out the arrangement on their latest single “Lifted”. On top of that, Motenko teamed up with Twin Shadow producer extraordinaire Austin Smith to punch up this already-rich piece of tip-top soul-pop into pure perfection. Fingers crossed that “Lifted” gets the live treatment when Motenko plays midnight next Wednesday at C-Boy’s Heart & Soul with openers Madison Baker at 10PM and Skylar Rose Wilson at 11PM. So if you woke up tired and hazy this morning and but don’t want to get drunk off the strength of your own will for Thirsty Thursday, the melodica cocktail that is “Lifted” will definitely help you grapple with your own motivation.