Every month we turn the spotlight on a new release from an Austin 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 2020 Artists of the Month.
There’s a lot of disaffected youth making GarageBand albums in their bedrooms. But not many of them have racked up 22 million Spotify plays. Meet, if you haven’t already, 20-year old Austinite Sloan Struble, a.k.a. Dayglow. His album Fuzzybrain is already a year old, but it’s now is getting a wider re-release with two new songs rounding out the mix. Fuzzybrain is irredeemably catchy pop, which keeps the clutter at bay. Dayglow grew up in the Fort Worth suburb of Aledo, which he described as “football-crazed”. He wasn’t and started playing around with music when he was just ten years old. Lyrically, there’s a lot of teenage anxiety – but Struble’s musical skills push everything towards the sunny side. // Dayglow My KUTX
- – Jeff McCord
February: Eimaral Sol
Texas-based R&B artist Eimaral Sol commences her debut album, 2019’s Sol Soliloquies, with a powerful self-affirming mantra, singing, “According to the stars, it’s still my time,” on the opening track, “Sunflower.” But even if there’s some act of fate at play, Sol is clearly in charge of her own destiny — and her time has just begun. Eimaral Sol is the work of singer Laramie Pouncy — Eimaral is Laramie spelled backward — who cultivates a unique sound reminiscent of Jhené Aiko and Lauryn Hill. She grounds her music with her values and vulnerability, creating a compelling and authentic narrative. Her brand of neo-soul is optimistic without dipping into the saccharine; she acknowledges her struggles but is more concerned with what growth they provoked. // Eimaral Sol My KUTX
– Annie Lyons
March: Star Parks
The Star Parks of today might be larger in scope than the solo project launched by songwriter Andy Bianculli in 2016. But they’re cut from the same cloth. His full-bodied pop examines themes of alienation and disappointment in alternately melancholy or jaunty terms. Now a veritable mini orchestra, the Austin-based band recently released their sophomore album, The New Sounds of Late Capitalism, on Valentine’s Day. The album’s eleven tracks possess a clear disaffection with the expansive arrangements disguising often cynical lyrics. There’s a distinct 1960s inspiration; the production embraces a dated Martin Denny exotica, and the first 15 seconds of opener “Palm Sunday” feature lingering, pensive ahh’s and chimes that immediately call Pet Sounds to mind. // Star Parks My KUTX
- – Annie Lyons
April: Hey Cowboy!
Hey Cowboy! is drummer Gaby Rodriguez, Sydney Harding-Sloan on synths and bassist Micah Vargas, with all three contributing vocals. Originally from Denton, the group relocated to Austin in late 2018, where they just celebrated their three-year “bandiversary.” There’s no guitar rounding out the trio, but you don’t miss it. Hey Cowboy! blends psychedelic, punk and ‘70s sci-fi movie soundtrack influences to create otherworldly atmospheres with ethereal harmonies; standout track “Cherry Jerry Citrus” conjures the kind of sunshiny spring haze that Texans can only dream about. Hey Cowboy! embraces their “yeehaw” nature with a coy wink, and true to their name, their starry-eyed dream-pop sends you dancing into the moonlight. // Hey Cowboy My KUTX
– Annie Lyons
May: Jonathan Terrell
There’s a certain comfort to Jonathan Terrell’s spun tales. As his songs begin, it’s easy to ease in and listen up. Terrell, raised in East Texas, is, for lack of a better term, a country singer; one whose range-hardened cracked voice sings songs that are easy to understand. Yet he skirts the hackneyed clichés leaned on by a lot of his contemporary peers. He’s covered Mazzy Star, and fronted the explosive rock duo Not in the Face. Hoping to release his new album Westward, Terrell, like everyone else right now, has changed plans. He just released “Give It Time”, a transitory tale well suited for now, and on May 18th, comes a new ep, “Love Can Find You Anywhere” b/w “Everywhere I Go”. “Love” took root as a protest song, but Terrell injected positivity and made it a story of falling in love at a protest rally. “Everywhere I Go” is a lonely tale of traveling alone, written after Terrell’s near-death experience choking on prosciutto in a Paris apartment. But that’s another story. // Jonathan Terrell’s 2020 My KUTX
– Jeff McCord
June: Harry Paradise
After years of heavy touring, singer and multi-instrumentalist Hammann found himself burnt out in Nashville and in vital need of a creative recharge. One move to Austin later, and the Harry Paradise project was born. Now, Hammann embraces letting things grow at their own pace. After releasing a debut single in 2017, he made some festival appearances and opened for some high-profile acts before deciding to press pause on live performances in 2018. After a couple years focused on writing and reconnecting with his indie rock roots, Hammann is back with a new single and debut EP, One Side of Paradise. “Joan,” his debut single, is pure heatwave magic; hushed vocals give way to a crashing wave of soaring synths and giddy euphoria. And new single “Physical Miracle” holds similar promise with a jangly beat and tropical shimmer to match Hammann’s words of desire. The beach might as well be next door. // Harry Paradise My KUTX
– Annie Lyons
July: Jake Lloyd
For a little over a decade now, Jake Lloyd has been crafting music, rocking stages, and releasing stellar projects with multiple bands. Yet he still hasn’t cracked the code of breaking through in this industry. Some would say the chip on Jake’s shoulder overshadows him, Jake would say he’s simply passionate about the music he’s creating. Rightfully so. Jake and his music partner in crime, Danny Saldivar aka DSII Productions, have created some of the greatest sounds to come out of Austin in the last few years. Jake Lloyd has had quite a run with his releases, from his debut, Jake Lloyd LP, to his sophomore release, MoonLit Mornings, and the latest three-song EP, Lloyd Pack. The new EP perfectly captures the artistry of Jake Lloyd – not all R&B, not all Soul, not entirely Rock, or Country, he’s just Jake.
– Aaron “Fresh” Knight
August: Jay Wile
For months I heard the rumblings about Jay Wile, a soothing R&B singer originally from San Antonio. At first, Wile pulls you in with a smooth voice similar to Frank Ocean, but then his heartfelt lyrics captivate you and have you longing for love. Bouncing around between San Antonio, Austin, and Los Angeles, Wile has captivated listeners and helped push his R&B further to the forefront of the Austin music scene, a scene that can struggle at times to shine a light on urban music. Wile’s newest release, Better Times, is a short, yet sweet and smooth set of songs that give everything the R&B of today and yesteryear has to offer.
– Aaron “Fresh” Knight
September: Why Bonnie
Half a decade ago, vocalist Blair Howerton moved back to Texas after graduating college and started the Why Bonnie project as a way to work through her years of unheard material. After signing to Fat Possum Records earlier this year, the band put out Voice Box, a shimmering five-song EP that bristles with new fervency while maintaining the intimacy of their earlier work. Cranked out guitars, warm distortion and Howerton’s lilting Mazzy Star-esque vocals make up the tracks — there’s more than a fair touch of ’90s alt rock throughout, calling upon The Cranberries and The Breeders. “Athlete,” a simmering gem about self-doubt, pushes and pulls between restrained calm and clashing barrages of noise. “Wish I was good on my feet / But you don’t want me on your team,” Howerton sings. By the song’s conclusion, you want her as your starting player. // Why Bonnie My KUTX
– Annie Lyons
October: Jackie Venson
Jackie Venson has released no fewer than four albums this year; the two-volume remix series Jackie the Robot – a deeper dive into the electronic side of her music, a live album recorded in 2018 at Greune Hall, Live in Texas. And released October 30th, her newest studio album, Vintage Machine. Machine’s single, “Make Me Feel”, originally slated to be released during a SXSW that never was, is vintage Venson. Taut, layered synth-pop frames her voice and vulnerable lyrics, sharpened by her smoldering, subtle guitar work. // Jackie Venson My KUTX
– Jeff McCord
November: Gina Chavez
Gina Chavez sharpens her first all-Spanish language album La Que Manda, or The Woman in Charge, with a new defiant edge and sonic exploration. Inspired in part by her observations on the road, it is a starkly feminist work detailing a woman’s journey to empowerment — both a healing catharsis and a rallying cry. Produced by a team of award-winning artists (Thom Russo, Fernando Lodeiro, Adrian Quesada, Linda Briceno), the album has since earned a Latin GRAMMY nomination for Best Pop/Rock Album. Standout track “Ella” seeks to highlight survivors of domestic violence. Filmed during the pandemic, the accompanying music video shows dancers reclaiming spaces in tandem with their bodies as Chavez sings: “Toda la historia callando una verdad / Hemos tenido el poder” (“All of history has been quieting a truth / We’ve had the power”). // Gina Chavez My KUTX
— Annie Lyons