Since the first uttering of the phrase “psychedelic rock”–a description attributed to the 13th Floor Elevators in 1966–Austin has sat at the forefront of that particular sound. It’s gone in and out of style over the years, but nowadays you’ll find a wide range of bands embracing the ’60s–in sound if not in spirit. When the Black Angels debuted in 2006 with Passover, they turned heads by perfectly evoking bands like the Elevators and the Velvet Underground. But there’s also been a forward-thinking current bubbling underneath the local outfit’s apocalyptic sound. That’s how they keep turning heads with each new release, and they even have their own label (Reverb Appreciation Society) and festival (Austin Psych Fest) to spread the psychedelic gospel.
Keeping with the old school mentality, the Black Angels are offering up a few exclusives for Record Store Day, going down tomorrow (April 19). The band will release a vinyl-only EP featuring seven new songs, and they’ll also be at Waterloo Records at 5pm to sign autographs. To mark the occasion, we’re offering up our own exclusive as today’s song of the day: the Black Angels performing “Evil Things” in a rare, stripped-down version, direct from our Studio 1A archives. Enjoy!
In Austin, in late 1993, guitarist and vocalist Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno formed the core of a band mixing elements of R&B, pop music, and jagged rock and roll. In the years since, Spoon has released seven albums to increasing critical acclaim—the review aggregator Metacritic named them the band of the decade in 2010, and they’re also considered one of the most in-demand live acts around.
With album number eight due out later this year, we want to dial back the clock a bit with an exclusive recording from the archives. This week on the Austin Music Experience, we’re featuring Spoon in concert, recorded on the historic soundstage of Austin City Limits in front of a live studio audience. Join us Friday at noon and again at 11pm on KUTX 98.9.
Courtney Barnett’s music might not immediately grab you. Instead, it slowly works its way into your memory with patient, simple melodies and incisive lyrics. Caught somewhere between Byrds-ian jangle and Kurt Cobain’s dark humor, the young Melbourne, Australia singer-songwriter writes songs that ramble and breathe; her singing often sounds more like a loose conversation than a go-for-broke rock star moment.
Barnett got her start with a small, self-funded label called Milk! Records in 2012, which she used to release her own music and albums by her friends. It became a self-contained universe, just a fun distraction from day-to-day monotony. But soon Barnett’s own chronicling of that monotony started catching ears. The slacker charm of songs like “Avant Gardener” have an immediate appeal, thanks to Barnett’s easy-going band (hilariously dubbed Courtney Barnett & The Courtney Barnetts) and her deadpan sense of humor. Last fall, she packaged her two EPs together as The Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas and picked up raves from Pitchfork and Rolling Stone.
The EP/album/whatever-you-want-to-call-it is getting a wider re-release this week thanks to Mom + Pop Records. In an interview with Pitchfork, Barnett admits The Double EP was a little more slapdash than your average record. “An album is a thing you take time out and go work on,” she says. “I can’t wait to make an album. I’ve got a bunch of songs half-ready to go, and I might start on it early next year.” Self-deprecating humor aside, Barnett has already made a name for herself, with both slowly-unfolding epics and short, electrified bursts. “David” finds her fronting a bluesy rock band just as easily, delivering killer lines like “I don’t really like any of your friends, but it’s not that hard for me to pretend.”
Don’t let the acoustic instruments and copious mustaches fool you. While rousing folk-pop has had its moment in the sun thanks to Mumford & Sons and the Lumineers, Saintseneca cut a far darker path. Zac Little formed the band in 2009, but the revolving door of musicians in and out of the group means Saintseneca has been forced to evolve over time. They started out playing in front of punk crowds, and as a result, Saintseneca’s music is spiked with punk urgency. Tension sits at the core: Little wrote the songs for the band’s second album, Dark Arc, on a bass guitar, and the minimal set-up allows for push-and-pull between the four band members.
Saintseneca’s multi-part harmonies can go from a sweet coo into a full roar at the drop of a hat, and the songs often follow suit. The band stopped by Studio 1A recently, and one of the highlights from the live performance was “Blood Bath.” What starts out as an acoustic lullaby soon lives up to its name, thanks to guitar feedback and a driving beat on the back half of the song. It grabs your attention–a trick Saintseneca is honing into a formidable weapon.
Woods started out as a bedroom recording project for Jeremy Earl and Jarvis Taveniere, and their early releases tended to skew towards noisy jams and experiments. But underneath the tape hiss were some seriously catchy songs, informed as much by the Grateful Dead and Neil Young as much as the Brooklyn punk scene Woods grew up in. The band released at least one full record per year between 2009 and 2012, all while practically living on the road.
The two-year gap between 2012′s Bend Beyond and With Light And With Love (out today) is notable for a band as prolific as Woods, but the break pays off. The group has focused its sound, both in recording quality and songwriting. Gone is the off-the-cuff style that Woods made its name on; now the band is more interested in sparkling melodies than lo-fi weirdness. They’ve relocated their studio to upstate New York, and the rural pace suits them just fine. “Leaves Like Glass” lopes along at countrified speed, mixing in organ and psych-folk guitars with Woods’ sun-filled harmonies. It’s the sound of a veteran band getting better and better with every release.