The Grassy Knoll — “EP01”

Album Reviews

The Grassy Knoll — “EP01”

Posted by on Oct 23, 2020

The Grassy Knoll — EP01 (Self-released)

I expect even some of longtime Austin resident Nolan Green’s friends don’t know of his alter ego as the multi-instrumentalist wizard behind The Grassy Knoll. Since the nineties, long before he relocated here, Green has quietly sculpted sporadic recordings of (primarily) instrumental gems. Green composes like he’s writing pop songs — short, cohesive pieces with repetitive loops and hooks, imbued with more than a little menace and a love for guitar freak-outs (Thurston Moore and Vernon Reid are among his many collaborators). Part Jack Johnson-era Miles, part Dario Argento, he makes music too slippery for fusion, too thunderous for jazz, too edgy for chillout, too magnetic for soundtracks. After a twelve-year layoff, Green revived the Grassy Knoll in 2015 with Electric Verdeland, Vol. 1 and a stepped-up interest in vocal collaboration. That trend continues with EP01, a collaborative new four-song project somehow assembled in the least collaborative of times. “Reading My Furious Mind” begins with Psycho-like strings, a nerve-ending sax lead, and dramatic vocals from KUTX’s own Laurie Gallardo (!). The other vocal, from “There’s a Place in Hell Where My Nightmares Dwell,” is by My Jerusalem’s Jeff Klein. Klein’s nursery rhyme-like chorus breaks up his sinister narration, tempered by Chris Grady’s disembodied flugelhorn. It’s evocative and dark, but Green ups the emotional ante even higher on the pulse-pounding “Dead Rivers and Smokey Skies.” For better or worse, this is gripping music made for our times.

– Jeff McCord

4
Purchase EP01 HERE

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Lomelda — “Hannah”

Album Reviews

Lomelda — “Hannah”

Posted by on Oct 23, 2020
Photo courtesy of the artist

Lomelda — Hannah (Double Double Whammy)

Hannah Read understands distance. After growing up in small-town Silsbee, Texas, the folk singer-songwriter attended college four hours away, drifted around (including a stint in Austin), and embarked on long tours with her musical project Lomelda. She relocated to Los Angeles a few years ago. 2017’s Thx wrestled with this expanse of space, full of night drives on highways etched with loneliness. Hannah continues the same threads but turns inward as Read considers the dissonances within herself and how they permeate into her relationships. She seeks reassurance in one of the three title tracks: “Asked you if you knew / Who I was / You said Hannah.” The seeming non-answer comes at the end of a spotty phone conversation, yet even as she questions herself, Read sings her name gently. Deep empathy drives her self-reflections. “Am I shinin’ / I am tryin’ to shine / Hannah do no harm,” she recites at the end of “Hannah Sun.” The song’s eponymous metaphor reverberates throughout, wrapping the record in soft, “light like kisses” warmth. Co-produced with brother and longtime Lomelda collaborator Tommy Read, Hannah’s sonic landscapes alternately sprawl and shush, interspersing quiet twang (“It’s Infinite”), flurries of synth and strings (“Kisses”) and crashing guitar riffs (“Reach”). In “Wonder,” a driving refrain strums with emotional fervor, building up urgency as it repeats: “When you get it, give it all you got, you said.” Sparsely plucked guitar in “It’s Lomelda” highlights Read’s melodic warble as she references a record shelf’s worth of musicians: Sufjan Stevens, Frank Ocean, Yo La Tengo, Solange, Frankie Cosmos. Nurturing connections to the art that sustains her, she finds a way to reconcile her identity.

– Annie Lyons

4.25
Purchase Hannah HERE

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Third Root — “Passion of the Poets”

Album Reviews

Third Root — “Passion of the Poets”

Posted by on Oct 23, 2020
Photo by Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUTX

Third Root — Passion of the Poets (Self-released)

Universal Seedz — Rise Up (Organized Cultura Records)

Two standout local projects, bonded by shared players and a celebration of uplifting, old school hip-hop and R&B. The latest full-length album from Third Root follows the pattern of 2016’s Libertad, packaging in new material with previously released singles, while roping in guests like Bavu Blakes, Black Pumas and Kam Franklin. The sonics, by way of DJ Chicken George and producer Adrian Quesada, are enveloping but never overpowering. For Third Root’s emcees, Charles ‘Easy Lee’ Peters and Marco ‘Mex Step’ Cervantes, both educators, nothing stands in the way of their message. Released on Juneteenth in a summer of social upheaval, Third Root’s raps sometimes trip up their cadence, but there’s no denying their intent. Building up culture instead of tearing it down, hard grooves like the title track and “B.B.G.” (the Black and brown guard) move you in every way possible. Mex Step and Easy Lee, along with Quesada and Blakes also appear on Rise Up, a six-song EP for charity, each track featuring a varied lineup with one commonality, the drumming of the project’s curator, Michael Longoria. Longoria and keyboardist Jan Flemming collaborate with a range of lyricists/vocalists, including NOA, Daniel Aaron Fears, and Ange Kogutz. While most tracks lean towards a refreshing take on neo-soul, it’s the two hip-hop entries that command attention. Tee Double, Tray God and Bavu Blakes lock in on “Olvidalo”, while “Soulstice” finds Mex Step and Lee back in the Third Root hypno-groove. “Skin so brown/thoughts so black/rhymes so deep.”

– Jeff McCord

Third Root: 4.25
Purchase Passion of the Poets HERE


Universal Seedz: 4
Purchase Rise Up HERE

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Nubya Garcia — “Source”

Album Reviews

Nubya Garcia — “Source”

Posted by on Oct 21, 2020
Photo by Adama Jalloh 

Nubya Garcia — Source (Concord Jazz)

Few debuts, certainly none this year, have been as bold, supple and thrilling as SourceNubya Garcia is a tenor saxophonist, but calling her album jazz is akin to calling Moses Sumney’s grae (on which Garcia appears) rock. It is jazz; it’s just so much more. Most albums that wander this much stylistically are hit or miss; invariably something feels off or contrived. Yet thanks to sure-footed production and grounded performances, you easily go wherever Source takes you. Nothing here is mired in the past. Garcia is a clear Coltrane devotee, but her music is bracing and modern. Cumbias, elements of reggae and dubstep, vocal interludes, and dollops of reverb dominate. Unlike, say, Kamasi Washington, who drives his band hard to their brain-melting peaks, the music here just seems to happen. It’s a subtle sleight of hand, there are no seams. Everything flows through experimentations, shifts in tempo and emotions, all without calling any attention to itself. Without warning, you find her music grabbing you, again and again. Her quick thinking and well-chosen melodic pathways make her an exciting new improviser. Her previous work – with Makaya McCraven, on 2018’s excellent We Out Here compilation, and on her own previous two EP’s – was more than impressive. But Source is something else entirely. Garcia finds a voice, an identity so rarely set for an artist under thirty, and for jazz, she steers a clear roadmap to the future.

–Jeff McCord

4.75
Purchase Source HERE

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Annabelle Chairlegs — “Gotta Be In Love”

Album Reviews

Annabelle Chairlegs — “Gotta Be In Love”

Posted by on Oct 21, 2020
Photo by Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUTX

Annabelle Chairlegs — Gotta Be In Love (Self-released)

Lindsey Mackin knows how to bare her teeth and snarl with the best of them. All punkish mentality meets girl-group lilt, the Annabelle Chairlegs frontwoman possesses a growl fit for summoning guitar magnetism. Long-awaited sophomore album Gotta Be In Love doesn’t entirely shed the retro-pop sheen of 2015’s Watermelon Summer, but added grit sees the Austin band explore darker, spookier territory. And a penchant for surf and ‘60s psych-rock conjures up something out of The Lost Boys, the 1987 campy horror film about a teenage vampire gang prowling a coastal California town. “Outside” shivers with paranoia of unknown lurkers (“If you’re gonna go outside, should I warn you?”). Raucous rhythms from guitarist Matthew Schweinberg, bassist Derek Vaugh Nunez Strahan, and drummer Billy Wong animate the urgency of “Silent Spring.” Dizzying compact hooks are the group’s specialty, but “Brain Freeze” showcases Mackin’s full-throttle vocal range over a stretched out six and a half minutes. Two minutes in, the barrage of sound evanesces, leaving only minimal keys and a simple oscillating guitar line. Mackin, ethereal and haunting, floats above until she breaks the spell with a shriek, wailing guitars underscoring her moans about a fickle lover’s “ushy-gushy pieces of brain.” “Candy Apple Red” careens with the neon vitality of a carnival ride on the boardwalk as Mackin spirals: “deep brick red, slick cherry red, shiny rosy red, candy apple red, a stellar deep red on your face.” She might as well be a vampire zeroing in on her next kill.

– Annie Lyons

3.75
Purchase Gotta Be In Love HERE

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