Every month we turn the spotlight on a new release from a Texas artist with a series of weekly features that give you a sneak peek at the new music and some insight into the artist behind it. Here’s a look back at our 2018 Artists of the Month.
January: Good Field
The band might be dismissing their first two albums as ‘shoddy home recordings’, but that doesn’t really do them justice – “Business” was a big KUTX favorite. Yet there’s no doubt Good Field’s third album, Surface Tension, is a step up. Hatched in West Texas desert enclaves on weed-fueled late night sessions, the band brought the sessions home and began polishing. Justin Douglas was the primary engineer, but Spoon’s Jim Eno mixed a song, and White Denim’s James Petrali guests as well. Overall, guitarist/vocalist Paul Price steps up with newfound clarity and the rest of the band falls in right behind; these are assured pop gems that haven’t lost the feel of their rugged landscape origins. Good Field will host a KUTX after hours on January 10th. Surface Tension will be released February 1st.
Melat’s powerful voice immediately commands attention. She was born in Austin and is a graduate of Cedar Park High School, but her upbringing was far from typical. Her parents, both immigrants of Ethiopia, had to flee their home country in the dead of night. Influenced by her cultural upbringing (her parents still speak their native language, Amharic) and her father’s love of American R&B, Melat has found a voice and style all her own, and her talent has gained her more and more attention. Her new album Move Me II: The Present, is an intimate and fully realized collection of soulful R&B.
March: Erika Wennerstrom
There’s something somewhat frightening, yet utterly liberating when leaving the confines of a successful band to venture solo — especially a band whose latest record was called “effortlessly brilliant” by critics. But, such is the case with Erika Wennerstrom who is taking a break from her Austin-based rock band, Heartless Bastards, to deliver her solo debut, Sweet Unknown. “It was a really freeing experience,” reveals the singer/songwriter/guitarist. “I found my strength in my vulnerability as an artist, and really, just as a person. It kind of forced me to allow myself to be a little more exposed and stand on my own two feet. It’s easy to feel comfortable in a band, but it’s scary to do it as just yourself. I feel like I’ve grown a lot creatively and personally.” Fans can also rest assured that what they’ve grown to love about Wennerstrom’s music is still front-and-center. Her trademark vocals that NPR so aptly calls “warm yet gritty, throaty yet sweet, gigantic, yet intimate” are that… times 10. Erika Wennerstrom releases her debut solo album Sweet Unknown on Friday, March 23.
He’s relentless, both in his pursuit of perfection and in his determination to entertain. Mobley, a singer, producer and multi-instrumentalist, has been part of the Austin scene for years, but his incessant touring has often kept his one-man show in other locales. Mobley makes soaring and soulful pop music, as he’s honed his craft, his profile has soared. These days, he’s writing music for HBO, Fox, NBC, and touring with many big name acts. He scrapped two entire albums before getting the right mix on his new release, Fresh Lies, Volume 1, out 4/27. Catch Mobley live on KUTX After Hours on Thursday, April 26th.
While longtime friends Chase Weinacht and Josh Halpern have been making music in Austin as Marmalakes for nearly a decade, it’s been five years since they have released any new recordings. Beginning in 2010, the pair defined their energetic crafted pop sound over a series of four EP’s, but the last appeared in 2013. Since then the pair has been busy with other projects – songwriter Weinacht with his other band the Hermits, and Halpern drumming for everyone from Palo Duro to Shearwater. Throughout the years, though, Weinacht kept writing, and finally, the pair re-entered the studio last year to record their debut full-length album. Please Don’t Stop is their most accomplished work to date, and the album will be released May 11th. The pair are already on tour but return to Austin to celebrate the album release with a KUTX After hours performance on Monday, May 7th. They will also reveal their inspirations as they take over the airwaves for MY KUTX Saturday, May 12th.
June: Golden Dawn Arkestra
Even among all the unique bands in Austin, the dozen or so members of the Golden Dawn Arkestra are standouts. Their name and flamboyant costumes evoke a continuation of the cosmic Sun Ra legacy. They’re that, but much more; part P-Funk, world beat, jam band, and not above the occasional psych rock freakout. Little wonder their fans blindly follow the band’s hypno-grooves from gig to gig. Their new release, Children of the Sun, produced by Austin’s Erik Wofford (Black Angels, Explosions in the Sky), delivers an expanding sonic palette but no hint of an increased focus. Rock, soul, jazz, funk… this is the sound of a band fleeing easy categorization. In other words, the perfect reflection of their hometown.
July: Night Glitter
Taking the influences from every corner of her life and turning them into a distinct musical style is something Loulou Ghelichkhani (Thievery Corporation) does with ease, all en français. In this iteration, her and partner John Michael Schoepf (The Happen-Ins) are putting a slacker rock twist on dream pop. Their inspiration this time? Keeping things quiet enough after the kids’ bedtime, though these fuzzy guitars and Middle Eastern-esque synths are anything but sleepy. Night Glitter stopped by Studio 1A before taking their new EP, Hangin’ On A Dream, on the road with shows at Waterloo Records and The Continental Club.
Synth-driven pop probably isn’t the first type of music that comes to mind when you think of Austin. Historically, we’re a guitar town with a rich garage and blues rock tradition going back decades. So when MAMAHAWK released their synth-laden self-titled debut album in 2015 it definitely caught our attention. Now, a few years on, the Austin three-piece consisting of James Reed, Adam Littman, and Brennan Howell return to their keyboards and drum machines for a new album. That doesn’t mean they’ve left the guitars at home, like their earlier work, MAMAHAWK leans on their considerable songwriting chops to create complex arrangements consisting of both electronic and acoustic instruments. Simple rhythms, guitar licks, and the occasional horn blossom into layers of synthesizers that can bounce from pop to funk to dance music over the course of a single track. Take a peek at their music video for “Lioness” below to get a taste.
September: Risky Motion
The first thing you notice is the sense of abandon, the ways disparate genres fall into each other with grace. It may have taken a personal crisis to drive David Roseboom, creator of Austin’s Risky Motion, to commit to making music, but commit he did. Moving to Austin’s infamous Pearl Street Coop, Roseboom went to work, spending untold hours in the studio finding his musical voice. The result, the soon to be released Wide Open album is part pop, funk, techno, psychedelia, rock – in other words, Risky Motion.
October: Carson McHone
Years before Rolling Stone was praising Carson McHone’s rule-breaking roots music, the Austin, Texas native played weeknights in local bars like The White Horse, keeping dancers dancing and drinkers drinking. With her 21st birthday still in the distance, McHone entertained late-night crowds bearing witness to the good times and bad decisions that fill a busy bar. It was a rare, raw education. She pumped her music full of details from an early adulthood spent in the company of the heartbroken and high-toleranced. In 2015, McHone released Goodluck Man which earned her a cover story in The Austin Chronicle as well as the support of local icons like Ray Wylie Hubbard, who said she “writes songs like her life depends on it.” Then she hit the road, touring the U.S. (and beyond) with acts like Shakey Graves, Gary Clark, Jr., and Joe Pug. Her writing style widened and her music evolved.
Dark, driving and evocative, 2018’s Carousel captures this period of remarkable growth, shining a light not only on McHone’s honky-tonk roots, but on her development as a modern, alt-country storyteller. It features newly written songs and updated versions of tracks that first appeared on Goodluck Man, pushing traditional sounds and themes into a modern context.
Austin’s Zettajoule have done a lot of growing since their last release in 2015, which, in this case, means shrinking, paring down from a full band to a stellar synth-pop duo. It’s that shrinkage, however, that seems to have truly allowed Meggan Carney and Matt Sheffer to grow. Their latest EP Always Looking Up sees the duo taking their sound and presence up several levels, sounding like pros who have been releasing gold records for a decade. The 6-song EP was recorded and mixed totally on an iPhone before having it mastered at Matt Parmenter’s Ice Cream Studios (Quiet Company, Slomo Drags). The duo each take the lead on two of these tracks, lending the album a luster of the latest in clean, cool synth-pop that can sometimes wax a little new wave.