Yacht rock

Grandmaster: “Castle Door”

Watch out, Golden Dawn Arkestra…there’s a new costumed collective in town, and they’re hunting for for fresh converts! But instead of frenetic Afro-inspired dance grooves, these fanatics have so far stuck to the slower side of ’70s-style jazz funk rock; think War whisked together with Steely Dan.

Not that you’d be able to tell from your first look at ’em. Yeah…between their cloaked, crowned, and ember-eyed namesake leader (ceremonial thurible and staff ever at the ready) and ten black-suited, red-hatted, and white-gloved Zealots (eyes always redacted by clever lenses), Grandmaster is an great example of “appearances can be deceiving”. Creepy cult getups aside, in the sole year since their first performance, this eleven-piece has already indoctrinated an impressive sect of followers. And based on the caliber of those live stage-filling rituals, they won’t need much proselytizing to add a digit or two to their current numbers. Probably just a bigger place of worship.

Well right after winning an American Songwriter contest that re-united The Grandmaster with Bootsy Collins during SXSW, the cosmos smile once again ahead of Grandmaster’s Nolan Potter-produced self-titled debut. By that we mean they’ll be celebrating an album release show at The Paramount’s State Theatre 7PM this Saturday for The Grandmaster’s Gala, alongside openers Nolan Potter’s Nightmare Band and Dodo. With proceeds benefitting the SIMS Foundation, and a sophomore follow-up already foretold in The Grandmaster’s prophecies, this Gala’s a good opportunity to catch the band before their concerts demand venues with larger capacities.

To any who still resist temptation, we point to Grandmaster‘s second incantation “Castle Door”. Because with a goblet-sloshing groove, a palace-spanning chord progression, and a truly regal arrangement, “Castle Door” lowers the yacht rock drawbridge and raises the prog-funk portcullis to one hell of a good time.

Nick Teale: “Half Genius”

We’re not really squealing on ourselves when admitting that we here at KUTX love yacht rock. And given our ties to the university, it’s also no secret that we like to shine the spotlight on UT alum. So today we’re giving y’all the best of both.

We’re talkin’ about singer-songwriter/guitarist Nick Teale, a former longhorn now based out of Louisville. Teale’s proven a steal in terms of widespread appeal, thanks to his zeal for everything from Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson to Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. That said Nick primarily refers to his sound as “indie jazz rock”, further informed and made unique by the sonic treks to Middle Eastern territory Teale began taking in grad school.

This year, Teale’s been putting together a new reel to follow up his 2022 debut Still in LimboGlitterfingers, out this summer. Just like the name suggests, Teale graces every genre on Glitterfingers‘ roster with his Midas touch of talent…and he got really steely for us Dan fans last Friday with the LP’s latest lead single, “Half Genius”. Unconventional Fagen-like vocal intervals, Becker-esque guitar work, unstoppable chord progressions, intricate arrangements and all, “Half Genius” is a no-brainer for any yacht rock playlist.

Mark Ghastine: “Did You Do the Math?”

Indie-jazz is a pretty accessible inlet within the bay that yacht rock usually drops anchor. And though the latter is trickier to define than the former, their currents and tides undeniably influence one another. You’ll hear that same fluidity in Mark Ghastine‘s budding discography, which so far consists of six standalone singles. They’re chock-full of effects-drenched, harmony-heavy vocals, satisfyingly mellow chord structures, and a soft ’70s-style sensibility, though you’ll occasionally get something more in line with the ’90s slacker funk of RHCP (see “Tell Me How I Feel”). This summer Mark Ghastine expands on that buoyant sound with his debut EP, and you can begin to tally up the talent of this singer-guitarist by working your way back through his singles catalogue beginning with “Did You Do the Math?”.

PREP: “Turn The Music Up” (KUTX Pop-Up)

From weekly food assembly rituals to pre-exposure prescription drugs, the word “prep” carries a ton of different connotations. Arguably its most common use is to describe Ivy League chums, something that’s been re-appropriated by Oxford-alum Tom Havelock (and his equally talented colleagues) for the buoyant London-based project PREP. PREP first cast out from the dock in 2015 and has continued to obscure the waters separating Gaucho-era Steely Dan and contemporary chillwave for a je-ne-sais-quois sound quality, thanks in no small part to the diversity of the members’ musical backgrounds.

PREP showcased careful attention to instrumental arrangements and timeless indie-adjacent grooves on their self-titled debut last October but still haven’t had a chance to drop by Austin due to COVID conditions. That said…PREP’s given us the next best thing. Through the power of green screen, PREP’s captured all the Austin scenery you could ever want for an exclusive 45-minute video set, so drop what you’re doing and kick it off with KUTX airwave favorite “Turn The Music Up”!

Dan Croll: “On Top”

After years of living in England, singer-guitarist Dan Croll somewhat recently hopped across the pond and resettled in the states. And without presuming too much, it seems like he picked up some of our nation’s more charming characteristics in the process, chiefly yacht rock.

Dan Croll‘s intertwined that idiosyncratic soft ’70s sound with his own mellow indie pop rock formulas for his latest EP On Top, out this Friday. You’re gonna wanna have your captain’s hat ready by the day after tomorrow for On Top, whose buoyant title track seductively sets sail to promising waters!

Mr. Linen: “I Got You”

Way back in 2016, Austin producers Andre CantaveDave Madden, and David Messier released a pooch-smoochin’ love letter of sorts for KUTX Host Emeritus John Aielli with their eponymous lead single, “Mr. Linen“. We all pretty much thought the same thing; it’s wacky but catchy, cute but well-made, and we’d be lying if we said we didn’t want more.

A half decade later, Mr. Linen has fulfilled that wish with their summer-ready debut LP Stay Cool, toting a fun-loving yacht-pop style that’ll command any boat-appropriate playlist. Stay Cool sets sail just in time for July 4th weekend, and Mr. Linen celebrates with a virtual livestream at 6PM Central Time via their Facebook page. At one song over the traditional 8-track packaging, the French bulldog that is Mr. Linen clearly is a beast that can’t be fully contained, but that spare original is one of Stay Cool‘s finest given its place as the album closer (not to mention its ability to recall ’70s soft rockers like Kris Kristofferson and Loggins-Messina), “I Got You”!

Benny Sings: “Run Right Back” (feat. Cautious Clay)

Having been born in Western Netherlands in the late ’70s, singer Tim van Berkestijn grew up with a thorough understanding of what a good time is. Fast forward to the turn of the millennium where Berkestijn began building up his reputation on bass with Dutch hip-hop outfit Abstract Dialect, before popping off his solo career as Benny Sings with 2003’s Champagne People. Since then, this ambitious multi-instrumentalist has been fizzing with nothing but fun, earning van Berkestijn collaborations with the likes of Mac DeMarco and Mayer Hawthorne and performances alongside The Free Nationals, Tuxedo, and more, not to overlook the consistent quality of his steadily expanding discography.

Today he invites you to join him on the maiden voyage of the appropriate-yet-succinctly-titled Benny Sings Music, packing some serious yacht rock vibes along with solid R&B and ’70s-style soft pop, making Music a shoe-in for your summer playlist with high profile features like “Run Right Back”, featuring KUTX favorite (and Studio 1A veteran) Cautious Clay.