psych rock

Marcus Morales: “Damned If You Do…”

For even some of the most talented, well-established artists, working with a new producer can really shed some divine light on sonics and take things to the next level. And there’s plenty of proof in today’s premiere from Marcus Morales. Both solo and alongside his backing band The Chorizo Grease All-Stars, this singer-guitarist has been developing his distinctive variety of ambient-psych-blues-rock and busting his hump here in Austin for the past decade and a half. Morales made his studio debut with two tunes in the summer of 2017, that, when paired together, really illuminate mastery over the light/heavy dynamic spectrum in Morales’ song structures and carefully orchestrated arrangements. That tasteful contrast really shined on Marcus Morales’ 2019 debut EP Bohemian Groove, albeit with a more-refined, harder-hitting sound. Recently, after flexing immense A Momentary Lapse of Reason vibes on last January’s “Headspace”, Marcus Morales has enlisted the help of producer Chris “Frenchie” Smith at The Bubble to glow up an already-great track. This precedes plans for a whole new string of singles on top of statewide tour stops and local residencies, all of which ought to feature Morales in top form. And today, Frenchie, Morales, and The Chorizo Grease All-Stars blew us away with “Damned If You Do…”, whose hard-blues-rock second-and-third act structure channels Johnny Lang, but whose processed lead guitar tones and sultry intro scream David Gilmour. As a result, this fine-polished psych-blues blend transcends decades and genre tastes for one of Morales’ strongest standalones to date. It’s not really a Catch-22; just go ahead and click “play” on “Damned If You Do…”.

Silver Hour: “Star”

In 2018, when Texas native Kacey Musgraves released her landmark album Golden Hour she breathed new life into the term – one that typically describes those brief windows of sunrise and sunset that’s made for so many magic cinematic moments. But we’re willing to wager that “silver hour” is outside the bounds of most folks’ lexicon. The first meaning trails its golden counterpart – a fleeting period of post-sunset luminescence for waterfront communities. The second definition is a bit more morbid – used by healthcare workers in reference to the 30 minutes immediately before and after a patient passes away. And although there’s a common thread between those two – the sense of light at the end of a cycle – there’s also a Texas trio eager to make like Musgraves and give their namesake a glow up. Just like that reassuring glimmer on the onset of darkness, Austin three-piece Silver Hour started out early on in the pandemic between longtime friends as means of staving off the insanity of isolation and keeping the creative juices flowing. Since then, Silver Hour’s steered clear of genre constraints, instead incorporating everything from retro film soundtracks to funk, jazz, and hard rock into their vintage-meets-modern M.O. of songwriting. But now that Silver Hour’s bulked up their scene legs with their fair share of live shows, they’re finally extending their sound past the stage and onto the shores of streaming services. Ahead of their sophomore effort “Desert Doomer” that drops next Friday, “Star”is the shimmering first node for Silver Hour’s developing constellation of singles. Soon after a slide guitar intro that could segue into pretty much any genre, “Star” orbits Dark Side era Pink Floyd thanks to Jake Helpinstill’s drum fills, James LeBlanc’s bass licks, and Michael Moretta’s sweet-but-sinister vocals that hover above blues-inspired guitar chords, evoking the styles of Nick Mason, Roger Waters, and David Gilmour, respectively…albeit with a little bit of Black Angels on top due to a distorted six-string solo that soars through the bridge.

Mamahawk: “Walk in the Fire”

About halfway through KUTX’s now-ten-year tenure, we made a real airwave heavyweight out of our August 2018 Artist of the Month Mamahawk. Back in that fledgling phase, the then-three-piece only had a talon-full of tunes to their name, most notably the title track and lead single of their 2019 sophomore LP Brain Invaderz!. However, with all that’s happened between the beginning of the pandemic and now, and with the lack of studio releases post-Brain Invaderz!, some folks honestly may have forgotten all about Mamahawk.

Which is unfair, because if you’ve observed the group’s steady progression from the duo that pre-dated their 2015 eponymous debut to what’s now a four-man V formation, Mamahawk clearly isn’t one to make haste. And unlike fellow local maternal raptors Mother Falcon, Mamahawk is on the wing once again and out of the studio with a whole new set of feathers.

Mamahawk just announced their upcoming as-of-yet-untitled third full-length, with the quartet flocking fans old and new to a single release show this Thursday at Hotel Vegas. Doors open at 9PM, Half Dream starts things off at 10PM, Mamahawk takes the stage at 11PM, and Lady Dan wraps things up at midnight. And as with “Brain Invaderz!”, this lead single channels the cerebral psych-prog-pop-yacht sensuality of the late ’70s with butt-wigglin’ pitch-wheel squiggles, an eclectic synth selection (including both brilliantly high pads and crunchy low swells), vocals that ethereally evolve from unison to harmony over verse and chorus, and a dramatic half-time breakdown in the bridge, complete with a retro-style sax solo. Between all that – and the bookending hawk screeches from lead vocalist James Reed – “Walk in the Fire” will have you saying “here we go again” every time you restart this soulful scorcher.

The Bright Light Social Hour: “Not New”

Typically around the tail end of SXSW music week, there’s a lot of local magic. It could be Bill Murray hopping behind a dive bar and serving up whatever he wants, or a relatively undiscovered up-and-comer getting an unexpected big break. But today we’re talking about the Austin representation, something that can get easily eclipsed by all the international faces at SX.

Now, we here at KUTX have gushed again and again over The Bright Light Social Hour, which makes sense since they’ve been with us even before the start of our call letters. So rather than recap what makes ’em so great (like their continuously progressing sound and willingness to team up with fellow Austinites), let’s just jump right into what Bright Light’s got in their limelight.

This morning The Bright Light Social Hour announced their fifth full-length Emergency Leisure. Down to its Slow Rush-reminiscent title, it seems like TBLSH is taking a sweet-yet-sinister Tame Impala daytime disco/indie-psych approach. But true to the Bright Light’s nature, Emergency Leisure isn’t just a full-band vehicle for one singer-songwriter (looking at you, Kevin Parker); instead its a seamlessly collaborative exchange perfected over nearly two decades of playing together that translates in-studio just as well as it does onstage.

For a taste of the ladder, check out The Bright Light Social Hour 8PM this evening at Parlor & Yard, 1AM late tonight at Parish for the Mint Talent Group official showcase, or 5PM Sunday at Rustic Tap. As of now, Rustic Tap looks like Bright Light’s last local gig until after Emergency Leisure comes out August 2nd, when the group hits the road on a three-plus-month tour. And while all that may sound like short notice, you gotta remember who we’re dealing with here; The Bright Light Social Hour always comes in cool and calculated, even when they drop Emergency Leisure‘s lead single like some high-powered blotter paper as they did this morning. Alongside its music video, “Not New” will knock you back with its driving-but-subdued sonics that are almost too cool to party to. Almost.

Hot Flash Heat Wave: “Trippy Luv”

Seasons are quickly shifting, and not just with the weather. We’ll be wrapping up the 2022 season of Song of the Day on Friday, December 16th, winding down this year alongside fellow KUTX creation Song Confessional. If you’re not hip to Song Confessional‘s concept, here are the basics. Volunteers come clean about an incident in their past, and an eclectic net of musicians turn those anonymously-recorded anecdotes into original pieces of music.

Back in late May, Song Confessional‘s summer mini-season closed out with some seriously salacious details; that triple-X tryst in turn inspired “Trippy Luv”, an ethereal, effects-drenched psych-pop-rock adaptation from Hot Flash Heat Wave. But with their Song Confessional episode now far off the radar, (and “Trippy Luv” officially out as a standalone single last week) the San Francisco trio is soon set to embark on a month-long national tour, mainly clinging to the West Coast.

Seven sweltering years of DIY chemistry under their belt, Hot Flash Heat Wave is certain to make the absolute most out of their upcoming time on the road. Sadly, though, there aren’t any tour stops here in town. However, as home to mesmerizing icons like Sir Douglas Quintet, Janis Joplin, Explosions in the Sky, and others, Austinites ought to admire how well Hot Flash Heat Wave flips some pseudo-sixties psychedelia into the timeless piece of indie prog-rock ingenuity that is “Trippy Luv”.

Abraxas: “Fuji”

Although you probably didn’t get a personal calendar notification about it, today is in fact Public Radio Music Day. Admittedly, that may not sound as appealing as say…”Pet A Puppy September” or “Free Drugs Friday” but in its third commemoration, we’re celebrating unity among public radio music stations, artists, and fans to highlight the contributions of public radio to local and national noncommercial music. With that mouthful out of the way, let’s hear something brand new. If you’re a fan of both Los Bitchos and Night Beats, this ought to pique your interest. Former Los Bitchos member/co-founder Carolina Faruolo and Night Beats frontman Danny Lee Blackwell recently linked up for a cross-continental partnership that they call Abraxas. Authentic to their handle, the power duo’s been building a mystic universe of World-inclusive psych-rock soundscapes. You’ll spot constellations of Anatolian-funk, first-wave reggae dub, tropicalia, soul, cumbía, doo-wop, and R&B throughout Abraxas’ horizon-spanning style, which soon descends out of orbit above Monte Carlo. After a ton of transatlantic trading of ideas, this kaleidoscopic roulette of Latin-inspired psychedelia finally comes to streaming and vinyl this Friday. As magnificent as its namesake, Monte Carlo takes you on a globetrotting trek across a dozen originals, for a mountainous, dissociative experience like you’re peaking on some high-powered stuff…all within the confines of your mind and headphones. So get your set and setting in order before Friday, and get your bearings in Monte Carlo with the hazy vocal harmonies, brindle brass chords, and a gorgeous percussion gallop on the LP’s exotica-tinged tenth track, “Fuji”.

Garrett T. Capps & NASA Country: “People Are Beautiful”

Steve Miller Band. Jamiroquai. Kacey Musgraves. They’ve all written songs called “Space Cowboy”. And considering the continued popularity of those tunes, it’s safe to say that “space cowboy” is no longer a derogatory term for a shameless stoner. No, it’s something musicians want to wear on their sleeve. Which brings us to Garrett T. Capps & NASA Country.

Garrett T. Capps has been going strong since 2016 and only recently enlisted NASA Country as his backing band. And although “Houston” might’ve been the historic first word transmitted back to Earth from the moon, NASA Country has no plans of relocating their musical mission control center from San Antonio. These unapologetic psychonauts are set to launch their mind-bending style of cosmic country on October 21st with their group debut, People Are Beautiful. This eight-track constellation bridges the brightest bits of retro-synth, jangly two-step, swamp blues, and NASA Country’s beloved “krautrock fiesta” sound. In true celestial fashion, People Are Beautiful‘s two lead singles are the LP’s bookends, the album opener and closer, like the meeting of Elder Bowman and Starchild at the climax of 2001: A Space Odyssey. No shame in starting at the end, right? So lift off with People Are Beautiful‘s title track in T-minus 5…4…3…2…

Personality Contest: “Would You Like to Know”

So often when we’ve heard someone say, “it’s not a popularity contest”, the opposite turns out to be true. But here in the Live Music Capital, it’s perfectly clear that having a larger-than-life persona and being in vogue will get you pretty far. Enter Austin four-piece Personality Contest, who’ve been curating a style of indie-psych-rock that reflects on existential dread, finding your footing despite neglect, and those special little moments sprinkled across life. This February the quartet recorded their debut four-track EP at The Bubble with the help of Chris “Frenchie” Smith. The record drops next month, and there are a couple of opportunities to catch PC live between then and now (Thursday the 18th at Electric Church and Friday the 26th at The Green Jay). The EP’s second single (and lyric video), “Would You Like to Know”, landed yesterday, offering a glimpse into Personality Contest’s poignant lyrics and soft-psych arrangements that respect instrumental interludes by giving them the space they deserve.

Sunscreen: “Call Off Your Goons”

The name Miles Kelley might not trigger any memories right away, but if you connect the dots, Miles is at the helm of The Hermits and was, even earlier, the eponymous frontman of Milezo. This kooky character’s kept a consistent creative output over the years, and though you can’t find too much from his alt-psych-rock project, Sunscreen, as of yet, we guarantee it’ll radiate with you.

The already-scruffy Kelley gets extra fuzzy on Sunscreen’s latest single, “Call Off Your Goons”, whose mellow mood gives Mac DeMarco a run for his money.