Passiflora: “Backyard Birds”

Feeling the heat and humidity outside for just thirty seconds confirms it: we’re well past the season of birds and bees. Yet even as cicadas steal the atmospheric spotlight with that iconic, steamy soundscape of theirs, birdsongs never really go out of style – Cindy, ornithological vocalizations, or otherwise.

So let’s talk Passiflora. Having only released their debut EP eponymous last March, this Austin three-piece (who performs live as four with the addition of bass) is still only a nestling with a handful of tracks to their name. But their jazzy juxtapositions of neo-soul and alt-R&B (not to mention, all around just great hair) have made Passiflora into sensuous Central Texas vibe – one that we could easily see Erykah Badu getting behind.

And as we endure this summer’s early trials, Passiflora have teamed up with producer Rafi Rosenthal to incorporate something new into their aural aviary: synth. Passiflora’s resting up from last night’s release show at Community Garden, but their latest single, “Backyard Birds”, is only just now spreading its wings. And boy oh boy does it sure beat the raucous squawks of H-E-B Hancock’s ever-growing grackle plague. Over the course of this new tune’s four-and-a-half minutes, you might just dissociate enough to confuse the ground with the sky, thanks to subtle shifts from muffled MIDI programming to airtight physical drums, featherweight vocals (complete with some surprise processing), and guitar grooves that carry this musical migration all the way to the horizon.

Last Planet: “Seaglass”

In today’s inclusive landscape of listener tastes, even the tiniest traces of crossover can lead to big impact craters later on. But for that to work, an artist had best select the strongest elements from a finite geography of genres rather than overpopulate their originals with way too many styles. That “quality over quantity” formula’s been followed by far too many to list out here, but we can say for sure that the recent roster includes Last Planet. It all started in 2018 when two Guitar Center co-workers, Cort Young and Albero Berul, broke out of the showroom and began bridging gaps across continents of genre and decade. Right around the time that Last Planet released their debut EP Petrichor in 2021, this Oakland outfit had evolved into a seasoned sextet, whose new emphasis on steamy female vocals finally codified their genre-melting core underneath a defined crust of soul/R&B-meets-modern rock. Last Planet’s undying dedication to Bayside-pleasing grooves has already given us two studio singles in 2023, last month’s “Whiskey Breath“, and March’s “Picture of Us“. But as the seasons change, so does the climate of Last Planet’s latest single. “Seaglass” instantly stands out against its two harder-rocking predecessors by taking a breezy neo-psych-soul approach to this hazy, four-minute, naturally-polished seduction. It’s like what Pink Floyd would’ve sounded like if they’d decided to record “Great Gig in the Sky” with Jill Scott instead, and at the turn of the millennium. Needless to say, if you’re not a stone’s throw away from a beach like Last Planet, “Seaglass” will instantly transport you to the stoned, care-free aesthetic of an oceanside outing, be it romantic or recreational.

Yazmin Lacey: “Bad Company”

SXSW provides an excellent opportunity to enjoy international artists right here in our own city limits. Yet for some, the city-wide wanderlust can get overlapped by a desire to discover acts from specific regions. Well, fortunately for those folks, there are a ton of origin-curated SXSW showcases scheduled for this week, both officially and unofficially. For UK music enthusiasts, consider stopping by BBC Presents: The British Music Embassy, whose eclectic across-the-pond 2023 roster includes stunning up-and-comer Yazmin Lacey. Like many singers-in-the-making, Lacey got her start in church choir before her ears caught on to hip-hop, soul, and R&B. But, like her contemporary Danielle Ponder, Lacey didn’t pursue music professionally until the late 2010s, when she was already past the “prime” age which most creatives launch their career. Nevertheless Lacey impressed us with beautiful, reactionary honesty in a three-EP progression at the turn of the past decade; 2017’s Black Moon, 2018’s When The Sun Dips 90 Degrees, and 2020’s Morning Matters. Since the start of March, Yazmin Lacey’s been riding high on her astonishing, moment-capturing hour-long inaugural full-length Voice Notes, which has already cemented her status as a neo-soul sensation. If you want to hear this modern day mashup of Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, and more in person, you’re in luck; Yazmin Lacey entertains our airwave neighbors KMFA at 3PM today before making a two-night run on 4th Street: 9PM tonight for British Music Embassy at The Courtyard and again 9PM tomorrow for Jazz re:Freshed Outernational at Seller’s Underground. So show some support by diving into Voice Notes on streaming or by joining the crowd downtown. Either way, you’ll find yourself in delightfully “Bad Company“.