KUTX Top Tracks of 2015 So Far

With the first half of 2015 already behind us and the long summer days ahead, it’s time for a mid-year look at our favorite musical releases so far. There have already been some fairly notable musical milestones, all of which are summarized here by the music obsessive KUTX air staff; and this year we’re doing something a little bit different, asking them to share their favorite individual tracks. Everybody’s five favorites follow. So dig in! And from all of us at KUTX, stay cool…

Susan Castle, music host 9 a.m.-noon Monday-Friday
Tame Impala – “Cause I’m a Man”
‘Cause I’m a woman who loves that confessional old R & B and they nail it. Their album Currents comes out 7/17. Can’t wait.

Wolf Alice – “Moaning Lisa Smile” 
Great song. Great live. From their debut My Love is Cool.

Sufjan Stevens – “Should Have Known Better”
Light as feather, yet so heavy. It’s a toss up with the gorgeous “No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross,”  both from the album Carrie & Lowell.

D’Angelo & The Vanguard – “Betray My Heart”
Funky-jazzy goodness from his album Black Messiah.

Girlpool – “Jane”
Two quirky minutes of stripped down, slowed down, lo-fi girl punk from the L.A.-based duo whose debut EP came out late 2014, which I discovered during SXSW.


Jay Trachtenberg, music host noon-2 p.m. Monday-Thursday, host “Morning Jazz,” 7-10 a.m. Sunday
Kate Tempest – “The Beigeness”
Literate and poetic social consciousness with a beat, UK style.  She slayed ‘em across the board at SXSW!

Moving Panoramas – “One”
This trio of Austin ladies hit the nail on the head with this driving, unpolished gem.

Nneka – “Pray For You”
I’m a sucker for that ska beat and this one from the Nigerian/German singer rides a particularly infectious groove… makes me want to get up and dance!

Ibeyi – “River”
Beautiful vocal harmonies along with traditional-cum-modern percussion ‘n’ beats makes for an intoxicating brew from these French-Cuban twin sisters.

Ray Wylie Hubbard – “Hey Mama, My Time Ain’t Long”
A deep, dark strain of low-down, primal, swampy blues from this veteran who knows of what he speaks.


Trina Quinn, music host 2-5 p.m., Monday-Thursday
Tame Impala – “Eventually”
Because I love a slow jam and a man who sings falsetto. Kevin Parker sings about trading current discomfort for future happiness, aka being a grown up. New album Currents coming mid July.

Heartless Bastards – “Gates of Dawn”
There’s more melody to my ears on the band’s new songs and I’m loving it! There’s something really Metal about Erika Wennerstrom; she rocks. New album, Restless Ones is out now.

Sweet Spirit – “Baby Doll”
Austin’s Sabrina Ellis is a pistol in a unitard and this song is catchy as H-E-double-hockey-sticks! Plus, her maniacal laugh about halfway through the song really speaks to my inner lunatic.

Helio Sequence – “Phantom Shore”
The Sub Pop band exudes infinite indie-ness on this song from their new self-titled album. It’s dreamy, soothing rock; the lyrics even describe taking hold of a dream. Intentional dreaminess is my jam.

Leon Bridges – “Lisa Sawyer”
Step into the Leon Bridges time machine. The sweet admiration as he sings about his Mother makes my heart swell. My own Mother still favors the old R&B and soul you’ll hear if you listen to the glorious “Twine Time”. Yup, this one reminds me of Mom. Done.


Jody Denberg, music host 5-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday and noon to 4 p.m. Friday
D’Angelo & The Vanguard- “Betray My Heart”
Hard to pick a favorite from one of the best albums of this or any other year. Black Messiah came out 14 years after D’Angelo’s last studio album; hopefully the wait won’t be as long next time.

Courtney Barnett – “Pedestrian At Best”
Smells like twenty-something spirit.

Alabama Shakes – “Gimme All Your Love”
Thanks to Matt Reilly for pointing out this amazing Sound And Color song to me… Motown 21st Century! It’s that good.

The Amazing – “Safe Island”
This band can do no wrong to these ears. From the Swedish super-group’s third.

Bob Dylan – “Autumn Leaves”
Bob’s CD of songs first familiarized by Sinatra, Shadows In The Night is more than a diversion from this songwriter’s craft. And this stand-out track closed his recent show at the Bass Concert Hall like a hymn from within.


Jeff McCord, KUTX Music Director, host of “Eklektikos,” 6-9 a.m. Friday
Hælos – “Earth Not Above”
It’s hard enough to make electronics sound human. When on top of that, they actually groove, you really have something. Debut EP from the UK trio shows a knack for both.

T Bird and the Breaks – “Livin’ With Love”
The subtlety on this Austin band’s first album in years made things sound initially reserved, but repeated listening, especially on this mapped-out track, finds the funk rising to the top. Horn charts are da bomb.

New Vocabulary – “What’s Hotter Than The Sun”
A mysterious new release apparently recorded years ago.  The band (who features a guy on saxophone named Ornette Coleman) sound like they pick up right where Coleman’s last recordings left off. Coleman’s death weeks ago was a real blow to the music world, and he apparently had not been in good health as of late. But here, in an instrumental voice both exhilarating and innately playful, he sounds on top of his game.

Courtney Barnett – “Pedestrian At Best”
“I Love you. I hate you. I’m on the fence…” The IT girl with good reason, Barnett’s full-length debut explodes with promise only hinted in her previous EPs. The album is extraordinary, but ‘Pedestrian’ is singular: emotionally raw, visceral, funny, sad, and relentless – in short, everything a great rock and roll record should be.

D’Angelo & The Vanguard – Betray My Heart
Hooks come in all fashions, but it’s the ones missing the sharpest points that truly dig in. I’ve been telling anyone who’ll listen for months now, D’Angelo’s seemingly tossed off tale of betrayal from his first album in over a decade (!) is not only the best song of the year, it’s the best song I’ve heard IN years. Nimble, long, free structured, and almost jittery, D’Angelo’s vocal performance carries home an ear worm that won’t stop digging.


Rick McNulty, host “Left of the Dial,” 7-11 p.m. Friday, music host 12-4 p.m. Saturday
D’Angelo & The Vanguard – “Betray My Heart”
Best use of a funky bass-line I’ve heard in a long time. Even old-school Paul Ray digs this song.

Girlpool – “Jane”
A big favorite on Left of the Dial. All the four-year old girl screaming slays me every time.

Father John Misty – “The Ideal Husband”
An uptempo song about narcissism with references to Julian Assange and Oscar Wilde. What’s not to like?

Tuxedo – “Do It”
I had no idea Mayer Hawthorne was in The Time.

Kate Tempest – “The Beigeness”
British slam poetry over a groovy foundation. Hell yeah!


John Parsons, music host 6-10 a.m. Saturday
Sweet Spirit – “Have Mercy”
Our May Artist of the Month teams up with Spoon frontman Britt Daniel on this sweet, softly gritty tune, comparing abstracts like love and time to fleeting birds and uppers.

Tame Impala – “Let It Happen”
Every song released from Tame Impala’s upcoming Currents has toppled its predecessor as my favorite song of the moment, but this one absolutely raised the bar in showcasing the capabilities and range of this unstoppable band.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – “Multi-Love”
New Zealand/Portland’s ode to polyamory makes it actually sound like not that bad an idea. They wrap the topic in a precious psychedelic blanket that carries through the rest of the excellent album.

Jamie xx – “Loud Places”
The chilled out club anthem that reteams Jamie with Romy, his xx collaborator, and samples Idris Muhammad signals hope, calm and brightness for the future of dance music.

Kendrick Lamar – How Much A Dollar Cost
The ability to weave a complicated fable about a homeless man who turns out to be God while addressing the weight of its social relevance in 4 minutes is beyond impressive, but Kendrick Lamar does it, and over a really cool beat that sounds vaguely like Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song” through a soulful lens, complete with thudding upright bass.


Elizabeth McQueen, music host 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday
Kate Tempest – “The Beigeness”
This song encapsulates what Kate Tempest seems to be trying to get across in all the mediums she writes in, be it poetry, theater, or hip-hop — namely that all of us are worthy of empathy, beauty and magic.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – “Can’t Keep Checking my Phone”
If these guys aren’t Squeeze fans I’ll eat my hat. They have it all —  the same chord changes, the octave vocals, the catchy melodies. And this song makes this Squeeze fan very happy.

Father John Misty – “Bored in the USA”
Everyone should have a song they can turn to when they want to be destroyed, soul wise, and this is mine.  He captures middle American malaise so well that I’m pretty much on the floor in tears by the end of every listen. Which is a good thing.

Blur – “Ong Ong”
This singalong feel good track pretty much captures my happiness at Blur putting out another record.

Sweet Spirit and Britt Daniel – “Paper Tiger”
I’m always happy to see this song coming and sad to see it go. It’s a rad collaboration from two of the best bands to come out of our fair city.


Taylor Wallace, music host 11 p.m.-3 a.m. Saturday overnight
Alabama Shakes -“The Greatest”
Perhaps the most appropriately named track on the album, “The Greatest” delivers. Brittany Howard’s voice takes the form of many beasts, and she transitions among them quickly and with an enviable amount of ease. From the countdown, to the “full-speed-ahead” mentality of the instrumentation, through the numerous tempo and tone changes (including an asthma-inducing break ahead of an abrupt ending), if “The Greatest” doesn’t get you stirred up, it’ll certainly give you the shakes.

The Decemberists- “Make You Better”
No setlist is complete without a tune so mightily melancholy, it can trick any person into experiencing heartache fit for Upton Sinclair or Shakespeare. The lyrics form an eloquently-versed case for how lovers feel when the initial magic wears away and they realize that their relationship is closer to rock chocolate in the sun than an actual rock. With Nick Offerman starring in the music video, “Make You Better” will do just that.

Toro Y Moi – “Buffalo”
The #1 played track in my car so far this year, “Buffalo” might graduate into my list of favorite songs of all time. The instances of staccato strumming followed by a beat of silence, matched with highly-critical lyrics guised in a catchy cadence give the track the “je ne sais quoi” that transcends “Buffalo” from the rest of the album’s herd. It’s the kind of song that makes you dance like you’re in a groovy band of meddling Hanna-Barbera crime-solving teenagers…and their pesky buffalo.

Tuxedo – “Do It”
The latest stage name of Andrew Mayer Cohen AKA Mayer Hawthorne, “Do It” smears a laid back groove with thick sound, creating an upbeat groove that is sexy with substance.

Courtney Barnett – “Pedestrian At Best”
There’s a reason this song is gracing so many of our “Best of So Far” lists- Courtney Barnett has a sound and a semblance we’ve been waiting to get a piece of. Instead of leaning on her voice and beauty to garner fans, Barnett channels her energy into creating potently poignant poetry. Coupled with a sound telling of Cobain’s influence, “Pedestrian At Best” rounds out my 5 favorite songs of 2015 (so far).


Art Levy, producer, music host 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday
D’Angelo & The Vanguard – “Prayer”
Came out last year but by far my most-listened to song this year. Simple message, complex production, and a ghostly bell tolling in the background makes for a chilling listen.

Oddisee – “That’s Love”
Hurtful truths, reassurances, and tough lessons: these are the sides of love that are rarely (or effectively) covered in song form. The Brooklyn-via-D.C. artist proves he’s just as adept on the mic as he is on the song’s soul-jazz production.

Jamie xx – “Loud Places”
“I go to loud places to search for someone / to be quiet with” is about as perfect of an opening line as you’ll get. Jamie xx turns Idris Muhammed’s disco sparkler “Could Heaven Ever Be Like This” into a simple celebration.

Shilpa Ray – “Burning Bride”
I heard this driving late at night on my static-y radio, which is the perfect atmosphere for a song so divorced from time. Shilpa Ray mines that goth-punk-country thing just as good as longtime friend Nick Cave. “Burning Bride” is the torch song to end all torch songs.

Kate Tempest – “The Beigeness”
Wordy, poetic dissertations on the contemporary state of the British class system is about as specific you can get with a song, but Tempest makes it universal with a novelist’s eye for detail. More importantly, she kicks ass live.


Matt Reilly, KUTX Program Director
Rose Windows – “Glory Glory”
Full on ’70’s Sabbath type vibe on this one. Plus there’s rock flute, so I guess I should mention Jethro Tull too. But Sabbath was cooler so I’m sticking with that. Oh, and hopefully you don’t want to see this band in person. They broke up right after this album came out. Total rock star move.

Alabama Shakes – “Gimme All Your Love”
This song has been given most of my love. Sorry, wife and daughter. It’s an amazing modern take on a Motown/Muscle Shoals kinda jam. It’s like two different songs. If you listen to the first half and think “ eh, this is ok”, stick with it because the second half of the song will blow your hair back, as those commercials used to say. Brittany Howard is a force.

Father John Misty – “Strange Encounter”
I have to admit that I don’t usually hear lyrics the first couple of times unless they’re really bad. So this FJM song took me a couple of listens before I completely visualized the story he was telling. Reminded me of Pulp Fiction (Not the basement/gimp part. C’mon!). Josh Tillman (Father John Misty- but don’t call him that to his face, he hates it) is like Harry Nilsson’s  smart assed son.

Jason Isbell – “Speed Trap Town”
Why do I always want to cry when I hear Isbell’s songs? This perfectly evokes small town Americana and this timbre of Jason’s voice perfectly describes longing and loss. Damn it, now I’m sad.

Kate Tempest – “The Beigeness”
Can some billionaire please arrange a rap off between her and Eminem? That would be like big brother/British little sister. It’d be weird and awesome. Anyhoo, she’s the perfect example of how rap really is beat poetry. If she doesn’t blow up over here, we’re stupid.


Jacquie Fuller, KUTX Asst. Program Director
SOAK – “Sea Creatures”
This track from SOAK, who is 18-year-old Bridie Monds-Watson, won’t let me go. It manages to sound fresh and nostalgic at once, evoking melancholic 80s band The Motels, but brightened up by Monds-Watson’s crisp-as-an-apple voice.

Father John Misty – “I Love You, Honeybear”
Tender, dark, and profane. This song soars, and when you think it can’t go any higher, in comes that lap steel guitar. I want this one to go on forever.

Laura Marling – “Gurdjieff’s Daughter”
“Gurdjieff’s Daughter” sounds like Dire Straits fronted by a woman – something I didn’t know was missing in my life until I heard this song.

Mark Ronson, ft. Kevin Parker – “Daffodils”
Mark Ronson had me with his woozy, infectious beats. But then he added the smooth falsetto of Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker. BUT, WAIT! That’s not all. As an added bonus: lyrics by novelist Michael Chabon. WHAT A DEAL.

Leon Bridges – “Lisa Sawyer”
Leon Bridges’ sometimes-smooth, sometimes-breathless voice, plus masterfully-written lyrics, and semi-spooky backing vocals that remind me of The Flamingos’ “I Only Have Eyes for You.” I’m kind of obsessed with this song.


Michael Crockett (aka DJ Canoso), host “Horizontes,” 7-10 p.m. Sunday
La Guacha – “Amor Platónico”
This band from Chile was my favorite discovery at SXSW this year. One of many excellent songs from their album, Fácil.

Tunacola – “Coco Maitai”
Yet another Chilean band gives us a bi-lingual summer party  mashup from their album, Todos Los Veranos Del Mundo.

Melaza – “El Fregabook”
NYC-based salsa band sings a humorous song about the consequences of  posting photos on Facebook. From the album, Melaza.

Kanaku Y El Tigre – “Si Te Mueres Mañana”
It was the video of this song that hooked me. Street kids blissfully skateboarding the streets of Lima, Peru to a chorus of “If you die tomorrow, don’t leave behind anything you wanted to do.”

Flavia Coelho – “Por Cima”
It sounds like Manu Chao could have produced this reggae/bolero track from a Paris-based, Brazilian singer. From the album, Mundo Meu.

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