Photos from left to right – (Pixx; Jessy Wilson; Making Movies )
KUTX Host Taylor Wallace spills the beans on the BEST SONGS EVER! At least for this week.
Pixx – “Andean Condor”
First up is the new single from the UK’s Hannah Rodgers, who performs under the moniker Pixx. Back with her second album, she tackles everything from men to God to climate change, and her pop-music-meets-alternative-
Jessy Wilson – “Oh Baby”
Next we head to Brooklyn with musician and painter Jessy Wilson. She got her start singing back-up for Alicia Keys straight out of high school and made her own waves as one half of the Nashville blues-indie duo Muddy Magnolias. Her debut solo album Phase represents the next stretch of her artistic exploration: R&B with touches of vintage soul. Produced by Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney, this is Jessy Wilson with “Oh, Baby.”
Making Movies – “Delilah”
And finally, the newest single from Making Movies, the Kansas City quartet made up of a pair of Panamanian-American brothers and Mexican-American brothers. Their new album ameri’kana is politically-charged, spotlighting issues concerning the Latino community. The prolific Panamanian singer and activist Rubén Blades joins the band on “Delilah.”
By Art Levy. Photo by Eddie Gaspar/KUTX.
Roky Erickson, Austin icon and founding father of psychedelic music, has passed away at 71. From his time fronting the 13th Floor Elevators to his decades-long solo career, Roky came to embody the “weirdness” of Austin music–and he did that by simply being himself, without compromise. That included a lengthy bout with mental illness, chronicled in the moving 2005 documentary You’re Gonna Miss Me.
His inner demons were readily apparent in his work, but there’s also a transcedent quality that reverberates through the darkness. The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators, Roky’s 1966 debut with the Elevators, is a foundational text for the late ’60s sound and feel, and it was quickly copied and co-opted into the counter-culture zeitgeist. But throughout Roky’s life, psychedelic music was much more than just goofy sound effects and gaudy clothes. It was a spiritual practice, an escape into something bigger. There’s a cosmic poetry to a lot of Roky’s songs and albums: “Kingdom Of Heaven,” “Postures (Leave Your Body Behind),” “I Have Always Been Here Before,” Easter Everywhere. You can also hear that in his voice, aching to be heard above the psychedelic hurricane.
Below are ten songs showcasing the many sides to Roky’s artistic brilliance. Consider these just a jumping-off point, where the pyramid meets the eye.
“You’re Gonna Miss Me” (The Psychedelic Sounds Of The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, 1966)
The Psychedelic Big Bang. While San Francisco, L.A., and London soon came to embody the sound, it was this plucky single from Austin that set the scene. The song still sounds distinctly Texan, like it emerged from some Hill Country cave after thousands of years, covered in dust. Part of that feel comes from the very lo-fi production, the band straining against the technological limits of the day. Credit also goes to Tommy Hall, whose electric jug playing adds a spooky resonance, tying ancient folk music with the coming electronic revolution. And there’s Roky at the center of it all, singing a love song that’s frightening in its defiance. (Also: check out the Elevators weirding out Dick Clark on American Bandstand)
“Reverberation” (The Psychedelic Sounds Of The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, 1966)
Reverberation, simply put, is a persistence of sound after the sound is produced. Humanity’s obsession with it probably stretches back to our cave days, when the natural effect was used to dramatize religious ceremonies and make our small voices sound big–and make ourselves feel big in a universe that says we are impossibly small. Reverb was harnessed in the early days of studio recording, and by the ’60s, the effect was everywhere: surf music, doo-wop, torch songs, and honky-tonk ballads all used reverb to varying degrees. But the Elevators–whether by accident or not–built a home and an identity in reverb’s hall of mirrors. “Reverberation” is a statement of intent and an invitation inside the band’s dark universe, channeling those ancient rites of our cave-bound ancestors. The persistence of sound after sound is produced–in other words, reverberation is a ghost.
“Slip Inside This House” (Easter Everywhere, 1967)
On Easter Everywhere, Roky takes the psychedelic template and blows it up to epic proportions. Even the album title hints at the Elevators’ collective state of mind: music is a means for rebirth, “the idea of rising from the dead all over, everywhere,” as Tommy Hall puts it. The album starts with the gigantic “Slip Inside This House,” which is as ghostly as it suggests. The music is a simmering hypnosis, with Roky intoning verse after verse after verse. It fades out arbitrarily at the eight minute mark, but there’s another universe where it just goes on forever.
“(It’s All Over Now) Baby Blue” (Easter Everywhere, 1967)
“Slip Inside This House” and other Elevators songs hinted at Roky’s devotion to Bob Dylan, but here he makes the influence in his own image. The original is one of Dylan’s saddest songs; he sounds resigned to his fate. Roky, though, fights a losing fight throughout the entire song. It’s like he’s trying to change the ending even as he’s conjuring it. The band swirls around him, turning a romantic ballad into a song of cosmic longing.
“May The Circle Remain Unbroken” (Bull Of The Woods, 1969)
The ’60s were crashing, taking the Elevators down too. Drug busts and a general heaviness within the band made Bull Of The Woods the group’s last album, and it sounds like it. At a time when the present and future looked increasingly grim, Roky dug deep into the past and recorded a version of “Will The Circle Be Unbroken?”, a Christian hymn passed down through the ages and popularized by the luminous Carter Family version in 1927. Roky doesn’t even bother with most of the original words; he simply repeats the title over and over while an organ moans like a funeral. Roky is a broken record, spinning endlessly. He also sounds at peace.
“Two Headed Dog (Red Temple Prayer)” (The Evil One, 1981)
“TWO HEADED DOG! TWO HEADED DOG! I’VE BEEN WORKING IN THE KREMLIN WITH A TWO HEADED DOG!” It is pure horror movie nonsense. It is also the only thing that makes sense after you’ve been locked in a mental hospital for a half-decade to avoid prison for drug offenses, subjected to electro-shock treatment and Thorazine. You get the sense that after this experience, the music has to come out. It is volcanic, terrifying, and darkly funny, all at the same time. It is heavy metal from the great beyond.
“Starry Eyes” (Don’t Slander Me, 1986)
Somehow, in the face of existential and institutional terror, Roky retained the sweetness at his core. “Starry Eyes” sounds like Buddy Holly raised on punk rock. “Stars will fall on me/Starry eyes,” he cries. “Won’t you listen?/That I’m here being.”
“Anthem (I Promise)” (Gremlins Have Pictures, 1986)
Roky’s later work was metallic and hard, even when played on acoustic guitar. On “Anthem,” God and Lucifer battle for Roky’s very soul. There’s talk of numerology, gremlins, and “the square root of zero,” the words bubbling out like cryptic runes. “I promise, I promise,” Roky cries repeatedly, and you never know if it’s God or Lucifer he’s promising himself to.
“I Have Always Been Here Before” (Gremlins Have Pictures, 1986)
You get the sense that Roky is telling the truth, if only everyone would listen. For him, deja vu is a hint that he’s been reincarnated across the eons. His guitar rings like a bell, his voice another reverberation.
“Goodbye Sweet Dreams” (True Love Cast Out All Evil, 2010)
Roky’s swan song was recorded with Okkervil River, and it’s just as two-headed as anything in his career: deeply sad, proudly defiant. His voice is thicker, the Texan drawl more pronounced, and the band sounds suitably apocalyptic. But there’s Roky subverting the darkness once again: “Love has been said / It should come and go.”
He’d reunite with the Elevators in 2015 at the music festival named for one of his songs, playing to a devoted audience of fans and musicians who largely weren’t even born when he first exploded out of Austin. But new generations have been seduced by his promise of psychedelic music and burrowed deeper.
The persistence of sound after sound is produced–in other words, Roky is reverberation.
Photos from left to right – (Black Pumas ; Abby Jeanne ; Lizzo)
KUTX Host Jay Trachtenberg spills the beans on the BEST SONGS EVER! At least for this week.
Black Pumas – “Fire”
Black Pumas was recently voted the Best New Band in the Austin Music Awards. The group is the brainchild of revered Austin guitarist and producer Adrian Quesada and features the soul-stirring vocals of Eric Burton. For the longest time, they only had one song available, but they’re finally releasing their self-titled debut album on June 21 and playing Antone’s that same night. Check out “Fire,” by Black Pumas.
Abby Jeanne – “Pleasures Pain”
Lizzo – “Cuz I Love You”
Last, but most certainly not least, is Lizzo. She’s currently on a roll with her new album, Cuz I Love You. The out-spoken, Houston-born, force of nature is not to be denied as you’ll hear on the title track from the album.
Photos from left to right – (Erika Wennerstrom ; Ty Segall ; Jamila Woods )
KUTX Host Art Levy spills the beans on the BEST SONGS EVER! At least for this week.
Erika Wennerstrom – “Be Here To Love Me”
First up, new music from Austin’s Erika Wennerstrom. The Heartless Bastards singer/guitarist released her awesome solo debut last year, and she’s back with a new single that’s a tribute to one of her biggest influences: Austin icon Townes Van Zandt. Here’s Erika Wennerstrom, covering “Be Here To Love Me.”
Jamila Woods – “Zora”
Next up, music from Jamila Woods. The Chicago rapper and singer has a new album out called Legacy! Legacy!, and each song is named for and inspired by legendary artists of color. This one is called “Zora” for the African American writer Zora Neale Hurston. And you can see Jamila Woods in Austin on Tuesday, June 11 at the Barracuda.
Ty Segall – “Taste”
Finally, something new from California punk rocker Ty Segall. It’s called “Taste,” from his upcoming album First Taste—the joke being, this guy has put out about twenty records in ten years. But if this is indeed your first taste of Segall, he has a very specific sound: incredibly loud and gnarly, but also really catchy.
photo by Eddie Gaspar/KUTX
republished from NPR Music/Otis Hart
Roky Erickson, the psychedelic lodestar who helmed The 13th Floor Elevators and wrote one of garage rock’s original anthems, “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” died on Friday at the age of 71.
His death was announced by his brother, Mikel Erickson, on Facebook. No cause of death was provided.
The Texas native was a legend in his home state and an embodiment of what became his hometown’s slogan, “Keep Austin Weird.” Erickson, whose given name was Roger Kynard Erickson, was just a teenager in the mid-1960s when he turned his love for classic blues and soul music into unhinged rock and roll. His burly howl and searing guitar helped establish a new path for rock music and turned him into a beloved cult figure for the remainder of his life.
Roky (which is pronounced Rocky) Erickson endured bouts with mental illness for much of that life, a condition exacerbated by his frequent use of psychedelic drugs. He spent more than three years in a mental institution after pleading insanity to avoid jail time for possession of marijuana, during which time he reportedly received electroshock therapy to treat schizophrenia. He would never be the same.
The guitarist’s confinement signaled the end of The 13th Floor Elevators, the trailblazing psychedelic rock band he helped found in 1965 while still a teenager, along with electric jug player Tommy Hall and guitarist Stacey Sutherland. The band’s biggest hit, “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” was written by Erickson when he was still in high school and he initially released it through an earlier band, The Spades. Its genius was unmistakable even then, and it eventually became The 13th Floor Elevators’ only appearance on the Billboard singles charts.
rickson recorded two classic albums with the Elevators, 1966’s The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators and 1967’s Easter Everywhere, as well as 1968’s Live and parts of 1969’s Bull Of The Woods before he was committed. He continued to make music sporadically after his discharge, stringing together a handful of curious solo albums during the early 1980s that revealed a troubled mind. At one point, he signed an affidavit claiming he was an alien.
By the 1990s, Erickson was destitute, but his stature among his many rock disciples hadn’t waned. Warner Bros. executive Bill Bentley organized a tribute album of Roky covers, Where The Pyramid Meets The Eye: A Tribute to Roky Erickson, which featured R.E.M., T-Bone Burnett, ZZ Top, Primal Scream and The Jesus and Mary Chain. The album sparked a renewed interest in Erickson’s work, a movement that peaked in 2005 with the documentary film You’re Gonna Miss Me, which debuted at Austin’s SXSW Music Festival.
The film precipitated a late-career surge by Erickson, who released an album with the popular Austin indie rock band Okkervil River in 2010 called True Love Cast Out All Evil. In 2015, Erickson reunited with the remaining members of The 13th Floor Elevators for a concert at Austin’s psych rock festival, Levitation.