Wild Heaven: “What You’re Looking For”

We haven’t even hit SXSW yet, but we’re already hearing hype for some freshly-minted, must-know Austin acts. And with another new arrival this morning, our ear drums feel especially touched by an angel.

We’re talking about a four-piece whose fast ascent to their current status requires a bit of quick history. It started off a couple years back as Saturnia Pavonia, the solo outlet for Austin guitarist-singer-songwriter Laura Delarosa. Despite three lifelong multi-instrumentalists (Laura’s lead guitarist husband Josh, drummer Eleanor Lindsey, and bassist Aja Pollock) entering the mix last summer and hurling a pumped up post-punk sound into the stratosphere with their first full band foray “Control”, Delarosa and her disciples have held onto the Saturnia Pavonia handle ever since…until today.

Say hello to Wild Heaven: new name, still untamed. This beastly blessing is plain paradise for that lawless, aggressive ’90s-evocative alt-rock – a real godsend in this hyper-polished era of pristine digital production. How do we know? Well, Wild Heaven just opened up the pearly gates on this iteration’s debut single, “What You’re Looking For”, which is exactly that if you’ve been huntin’ for some recent Riot Grrrl material. Power chords straight out the gate, lyrics dishing out ex hate, and feminine adrenaline all on one plate, “What You’re Looking For” is a dish best served loudly. Catch ’em in person 10PM this Saturday at Vaquero Taquero downtown or 1PM this Sunday at Buzz Mill!

Night Drive: “Summerwaves”

Although Houston and Dallas are indisputably the hubs of such, car cruising culture is alive and thriving all over the Lone Star State. And while swangin’ looks best before dusk, these triple digit temps tormenting Texas have been making it tough to tempt daylight, even with top down. And especially if you’re less about “Tops Drop” and “Diamonds & Wood” and more into the Miami Vice or Kung Fury soundtracks…this is where the prospect of a good ol’ Night Drive shines. Back when we named Night Drive as our May 2017 Artist of the Month, we knew right away that these Austinite-Houstonians’ retro-bred blend of post-punk and synth-pop wasn’t just moonlighting for a sole getaway score. No, by the time their eponymous LP hit our airwaves, the pair had already spent the past half decade shaping their sound and shifting up their skills from Night Drive’s 2013 debut EP Position I. Now that 2017’s Night Drive marks an approximate midpoint between Position I and the present…there were only so many lanes for Night Drive to explore next. With the addition of a third member, Night Drive drops their sequentially titled sophomore EP Position II this Fall. Produced by Rick Rubin protege Phillip Broussard, these six new songs step away from Night Drive’s remix routines and instead embrace a less-formulaic middle ground between their strongest sounds. Position II drops August 4th ahead of a release show the following evening at The Parish with openers Haunt Me and Holy Wire and the record’s lead single just cut the engine on this stagnant Texas heatwave. Alongside its VHS-on-LSD music video, the record’s lead single “Summerwaves” veers past the saturated vaporwave aesthetic in favor of something timeless and authentic. Like if Joy Division hopped across the pond with a mouthful of MDMA, rented a Testarossa, and started plowing past rows of palm trees, “Summerwaves” is an ideal track both for piston-pushing under the sweltering sun and gentle swerving under the stars.

Ragabash: “Daydream”

There’s a ton of iconic music adjacent to the 1977 punk explosion, intuitively categorized as “proto-punk” and “post-punk”. And while you could argue discrepancies outweigh similarities between The Stooges’ Raw Power, Television’s Marquee Moon, Gang of Four’s Entertainment!, and XTC’s Black Sea, one word seems to encapsulate the shared aesthetic among protos and posties: “angular”. Of course, since the start of the ’80s, that crusty concrete-encased counterculture has helped inform new wave, grunge, and eventually the trebly indie rock riffs that turned acts like The Strokes into household names. It’s intriguing because nowadays some refer to The Stooges’ style as “garage rock”, and yet – despite punk’s many offspring (hardcore, riot grrrl, anti-folk, etc.) – the term “post-punk” is alive, well, and readily-applicable. Austin has its fair share of contemporary post-punk purveyors, including a quartet who got together in 2019 – a full four decades after Gang of Four’s daring debut – Ragabash. Ragabash released their first-ever studio single, “Heartache” earlier this spring, showcasing a stabbing and distorted offkilter style. For their debut album (due out this Fall), the group’s entrusted production duties with Grammy-winner Stuart Sikes (Loretta Lynn, The White Stripes, Modest Mouse, etc.), which’ll likely lend an extra sense of accessibility to Ragabash’s crowd-pleasing organized chaos and all-hands-on-deck approach to vocal harmonies. Ragabash’s sophomore installment arrives with a single release show 11pm tomorrow night at The 13th Floor alongside openers Sweet Slacks, Mr. Kat, and DJ Dead Flowers. So before you ascend to the 13th Floor, immerse yourself in Ragabash’s appreciation for that short sweet space after staccato sequences, with “Daydream”. Its trumpet solo, bold dynamics, and instrumental interplay are sure to keep you lucid well past hump day and right into the weekend.

Pale Dian: “Misanthrope”

Back in my day if you wanted to be one of the first to lay eyes on a new music video, you basically had to stay locked onto TRL. And if you wanted your music video to get played, you probably had to have an industry contact in the early internet era. So no disrespect to Carson Daly, but our ability to showcase Austin visuals freely is all thanks to you.

And since our Fall Membership Drive steers near to Halloween, skies are grey and pallor is back in seasonal fashion. Which brings up to Pale Dian. Spearheaded by visceral vocalist-synthesist Ruth Ellen Smith, Pale Dian purveys a Post-Punk-meets-Shoegaze style that’s been deemed “Nightmare Pop”. Since their 2016 debut Narrow Birth, these bleak dissociations have trickled across time and genre, in way where a Roy Orbison collaboration with Cocteau Twins wouldn’t be unheard of.

Like a double-exposed dream dipped in desire and doused in delight, Pale Dian dropped their sophomore follow-up Feral Birth yesterday. The band celebrated with a record release last night at Hotel Vegas two weeks before their upcoming appearance at the Galveston Art Festival. But you won’t need to make a beach trip to enjoy Pale Dian’s off-kilter optics; today they’ve unleashed a one-of-a-kind counterpart to Feral Birth. Animated by longtime Richard Linklater collaborator Wiley Wiggins (Dazed and Confused, Waking Life, etc.) “Misanthrope” will momentarily transport you out of the beginning-of-week mindset so you can turn on, tune in, and drop out to watch reality melt.

Swiss Banks: “RIP”

When I was a kid first getting into music, R.E.M. was the second band whose discography I completely explored and absorbed. Because of that, their ’83 debut Murmur has always held a special place in my heart…but boy would I not be capable of covering it. Which between myself and Austin’s Swiss Banks makes one of us. Swiss Banks was born between guitarist Lane Fielder and singer-songwriter Adam Buhrman, who initially linked up under the pretense of re-interpolating Murmur. From there on it didn’t take long at all for the two to plunge face-first into the pantheon of post-punk and art-glam-rock greats like David Bowie, The Smiths, Joy Division, and The Cure. When they recruited percussionist Joey Alves, the trio began performing as “Hippo”. But after drawing direct comparisons to their ’80s influences along with contemporaries like Interpol, Swiss Banks retreated to Buhrman’s home studio to reinvent their style.

Today, Swiss Banks has finally re-surfaced with their inaugural single. Despite its title, “RIP” is just the beginning for Swiss Banks rhythmic, goth-instilled, retro sound, which you’ll hear more of on their upcoming eponymous introduction, produced by Modern Medicine collaborator Carey McGraw. So strap yourself into the time machine, set course for forty years back, and try not to let “RIP” lay your workweek motivation to rest.

Exotic Fruits: “Panda Vision”

Aside from poignant politics, pulsating synths, and plenty of fuzz pedal, it’s not all that easy to define post-punk. Even when you dive into the minutiae of music glossary terms, there’s still a sprawling spectrum of post-punk ranging from angular, analogue noise to straight up digital bass and beats. Fortunately there are also forays like Exotic Fruits, who give you a little bit of both. Singer-guitarist Jon French and drummer Aaron Gilligan formed the fore core of Exotic Fruits as a Seattle indie rock duo in 2009, and since moving down to Austin they’ve ripened nicely into a six-piece. With six performers? You can pretty much fill every position on the post-punk playing field. And you can harvest a piece of Exotic Fruits’ eclectic energy 10pm tomorrow night at Hotel Vegas with openers Cosmic Chaos and Nemegata. Until then, beat the heat with EF’s latest single “Panda Vision”, a spasmodic post-punk explosion that tackles climate change.

Cola: “Fulton Park”

Supergroups on any scale are just plain exciting. You get some residuals from the previous groups and they hardly ever underwhelm, especially when they first come out of the gate. Enter Cola, a new post-punk project that features Tim Darcy and Ben Stidworthy of Montreal art-punk quartet Ought alongside Toronto drummer Evan Cartwright of U.S. Girls fame. The trio got cracking on their first batch of songs in 2019 and formally announced the emergence of Cola late last year, the same day Ought called it quits.

This Friday Cola releases their debut full-length Deep In View, bubbling with a refined post-punk flavor that packs in spasmodic moments like a child dizzy on carbonated caffeine. And even though post-punk’s one of the more acquired tastes in music, Deep In View masterfully packages these ten tracks in a way that’s accessible to all listeners. In mid-June, Cola embarks on a month-long North American tour in support of Deep In View, including a stop in Austin on July 2nd at The Parish. So as you crest over hump day, ignore your dietary restrictions and treat yourself to Cola’s latest refreshment, the final lead single (and music video) off Deep In View, “Fulton Park“.

Urban Heat: “Have You Ever”

Upton Sinclair shocked the world with the harsh, humid realities of city life in his 1906 The Jungle. More than a century later, we understand there was a bit of muckraking embellishment in the novel, but you won’t find any unnecessary exaggeration with Urban Heat. Since 2019 this Austin trio’s captivated metropolitan crowds with their energetic-yet-eerie brand of industrial post-punk and synthwave, a timeless sound perfect for a modern-day version of The Jungle.

Urban Heat’s ability to keep things dark without being overly morose is a testament to their artistry, which has landed the three-piece spots at Levitation Fest, SXSW, and perhaps most appropriately, Seattle’s Freakout Fest. But since the ongoing pandemic’s drawn extra attention to self-care, Urban Heat’s had to confront their grim preferences and take on the duty of leaving listeners with an extra sense of comfort. The result is their upcoming EP Wellness, out July 26th. With their pulsating synths, weighty vocals, and retro-soundscapes these six new songs (including “Have You Ever”) will help in that continuous healing process as best they can. So when Urban Heat comes around for their Wellness check in late July (and even earlier on May 18th at Far Out Lounge), make sure you answer the call.

Low Hummer: “Talk Shows”

South By’s in full swing and Song of the Day‘s got another recommendation for you – this time on behalf of East Yorkshire sextet Low Hummer. Low Hummer’s debut album Modern Tricks For Living dropped last September, exposing a post-punk potency not heard since the late-’70s or early-’80s. It’s almost as if Gang of Four expanded their iconic sound with alternating vocalists, crunchy synths, and a contemporary helping of reverb. Low Hummer plays three times over the next few days, 8PM tonight at Seven Grand, 9PM tomorrow at Valhalla, and 11PM on Saturday at BBC’s British Music Embassy. We’re hoping Low Hummer unleashes some of their latest stuff live, considering they’ve got new singles coming in June and November ahead of a sophomore album next Spring. Luckily this morning Low Hummer treated us to the record’s first work, “Talk Shows”, which may become syndicated in your playlist thanks to its MIDI percussion groove, detached lyrics, and explosive dynamics.

Big Bill: “Coma”

Following a full decade since their foundation in 2011, Big Bill hasn’t egressed from their early eccentricities at all. The quirky quartet’s deadpan humor and disjointed song structures give even The Minutemen a run for their money, channelling fellow Austinites The Dicks and Big Boys, and everyone from Devo to Talking Heads, The B-52’s and more, guaranteeing Big Bill a path into that pantheon of punk rock.
For a four-piece as loudmouthed (in the best way) as they are, Big Bill‘s been awfully quiet since the release of their 2017 full-length Stand By Your Bill. But according to the band, they’ve been tinkering away on their newest single in that intermittent time, hashing out some of the finer points during live shows, and ultimately cranking out a track about growth, vulnerability, fury and suffering, “Coma”!