Tina Piranha: “A Budding Interest in Treason”

The power of lyrical impact can be timeless, but as great as words over melody can be, there’s a whole different appeal to sans-lyrical explorations. For example, when added onto styles like funk or soul, the genre modifier “cinematic” usually tips listeners off to a strictly instrumental experience, where the lack of lyrics not only allows extra space for meditation, but also opens up your imagination to fill in the blanks – be it with visuals, Rod Serling-esque internal monologue, or just abstract emotional reactions to exotic sounds.

A top notch purveyor of such is Austin’s Tina Piranha, whose eight-player appetite chomps out the rarest bits of ’60s soundtracks, Turkish psychedelia, Ethiopian jazz and beyond into accessible, bite-sized soul tracks. Last year Tina Piranha teamed up with Grammy winner Beto Martinez to record and mix the octet’s debut EP Komissar 13, the ultimate horn-heavy score for any wannabe jet-setting G Men with too many jazz cigarettes on hand. This year, in an effort to change up the sonic scenery, Tina Piranha’s joined forces with Quiet Company’s Matt Parmenter, who’s already ushered in four new singles within the past five months.

With that rapid of output, Tina Piranha’s definitely far from having their fill for 2023, so keep your ears peeled on your preferred streaming platform. ‘Til next month’s meal, go ahead and take “A Budding Interest in Treason”. Just don’t let your boss catch you working on your midcentury espionage spec script.

The Runaway Grooms: “Mister Ford”

In the late ’60s and early ’70s, jam bands were all the rage. But now, in an era where song durations hinge on short attention spans or knowledge that shorter tunes simply hit bigger streaming numbers faster, jam bands are actually pretty polarizing. Even more recent innovators like Mars Volta or Godspeed You! Black Emperor have struggled to stay accessible because of lengthy runtimes. We’re so far removed from the long-form improvisation that jazz and rock normalized half a century back, that when a contemporary group can keep on jamming and pack it in on wax, they’ve got a serious leg up.

Take for instance Central Colorado quintet The Runaway Grooms. Sure, TRG’s 2020 debut Tied to the Sun simmers down with a 13-minute epic, but “Tales of Ernest” is really an outlier of their studio output. Instead The Runaway Grooms prove the power of brevity when laying down tracks. In doing so, The Runaway Grooms are able to evoke classic jam acts like The Allman Brothers or The Grateful Dead without sinking into the long song gimmick (looking at you, Phish). That ability to relegate the extended stuff to concerts is no doubt informed by seven national tours, but you don’t need to check their list of stops to experience This Road.

Tomorrow, on the heels of a statewide CO tour, The Runaway Grooms release their third album, This Road. This Road winds over eclectic retro blends in the ilk of Steely Dan and Yes across five originals. And with no genre stoplights in earshot, The Runaway Grooms navigate This Road by opening up the throttle, hitting hard left turns, and at times, coming to an abrupt stop, all while charting a cohesive musical pilgrimage. So if This Road is already giving you wanderlust jitters, rip into the record early with a single that that sounds like Jethro Tull and War had a funky-prog love child in the year between Aqualung and The World Is a Ghetto: “Mister Ford”.

Sam Shaffer: “Sup?”

Seasons are changing and wintertime migrations are abound. But here in the Live Music Capital of the World, we’ve learned that there’s an influx of musicians from other musical metropolitans year-round. One of which, Ohio-raised multi-instrumentalist Sam Shaffer, recently hopped down here not too long ago. After a handful of albums and countless performances with Chicago psych three-piece Faintlife, Shaffer relocated to the Lone Star State in late 2021, right around the same time he recorded his solo debut EP, Quiet Delta. Shaffer kept the momentum from the windy city by writing and recording and first-full-length Valley of the Living Water, which swept through last September. This dozen-song collection offers some pretty honest indie-psych-folk sonics, secured by Shaffer’s velvety vocals and largely unadulterated by post-production effects. That last bit is obviously more impressive live in concert, cold weather be damned. For a Chicagoan like Shaffer, these temps won’t do much to deter him from putting on a killer show 10PM tomorrow night at Hotel Vegas, opening for Sunrosa and Guma. Take today to familiarize yourself with the Valley of the Living Water, and be sure to greet Shaffer on Tuesday evening with one of two questioning song titles off the LP, “Sup?”.

The Harlequins: “TIME”

Relationships of all kinds deserve commemoration. Whether it’s with romantic partners or creative projects, after the initial handful of anniversaries, every fifth one merits something grandiose. This year Cincinnati three-piece The Harlequins celebrate their first decade and a half together, with the most recent third of that period spent writing and recording their next album, fittingly entitled TIME.

TIME may be The Harlequins eighth installment overall, but it retains the wonky and angular indie-garage psych-rock that made 2009’s Baron von Headless a must-listen. And since it’s practically guaranteed that TIME Magazine‘s gonna name Volodymyr Zelenskyy as their “Person of the Year”, if you’re expecting a TIME-related surprise, you’d better mark off your calendar for the record release, September 2nd. So with exactly one month to go ’til TIME, and with the toppling trippy-ness of its lead single “The Tower” already becoming a beacon on streaming, today The Harlequins treat us to the album’s brilliantly languid title track – one that perfectly captures the temporal disjointedness of its subject matter.

Michael Hays: “Flashback Moonlight”

Having moved from Mississippi to Austin in the ’90s, then to L.A. in 2004, and finally back to our auspicious city limits about halfway through the last decade, singer-guitarist Michael Hays has become a trustworthy transplant in the Austin music experience. By the time Hays released his solo debut in 2014, he’d already worked in a wind chime factory, apprenticed as an accordion technician, professionally taught guitar, and become a must-have session player, not to mention performing with his fair share of rock and fusion bands. Between the birth of his daughter in 2015 and the current year, a little under a dozen song ideas evolved into Michael Hays’ sophomore LP, Red Willow, which drops next month.

Red Willow reintroduces listeners to Hays’ brand of Americana-folk-psych with sounds that bridge David Gilmour to Elliott Smith, waterfowl-centric album artwork that picks up where Christopher Cross’ 1979 debut left off, and surreal cinematic visuals that further enhance already-stimulating sonics, as seen and heard in “Flashback Moonlight”!