We’ve reached the halfway point of 2019, so we thought we’d take a poll of the KUTX hosts to get their Top 5 songs of 2019 (so far) – here’s what they had to say.
Jeff McCord’s Top 5
KUTX Music Director, Host Fridays 6 a.m. – 9 a.m.
Sharon Van Etten – “No One’s Easy to Love”
“Seventeen” may be getting all the prom dates, but it’s this haunting tome from Van Etten’s latest that just won’t leave you alone. Her emotive voice bears the brunt of this sad and soaring goodbye.
Surely to be one of the year’s best, the wait has been long for their just-released debut. Singer Eric Burton and guitarist Adrain Quesada have crafted a gauzy psychedelic soul sound, assembled to crack band and memorable set of songs. We’ve already heard a couple, Burton’s “Colors” is another triumph.
This barely restrained Irish band leaves their drummer in the dust on the first moments of this standout anthem from their fierce debut, Dogrel . Once the drummer catches up, the track blisters, Spelling out the woes of their hometown, singer Brian Chatten channels the best – Ian Curtis, Mark E. Smith -on a manic explosion that burns out way too soon.
There hasn’t been a more impressive album than Legacy! Legacy! released this year, and this track, written from the bold perspective of early 20th century author Zora Neale Hurston, is only one of the proud people of color Woods celebrates through sharp messaging, anger and her own ancestors. Wrapped in enduring melodies, Woods mines the past in a way that feels futuristic
Austin-based songwriter Callahan was once an indie rocker shrouded in enigma, but his new album is a pean to a simpler life and its fleeting moments of happiness. There’s uncommon depth throughout this expansive work, but “Certainty” seems to sum it all up? “True love is not magic. It is certainty. And what comes after certainty?”
Rick McNulty’s Top 5
Host Left of the Dial, Fridays 7 p.m. – 11 p.m. / Host Uptown Saturday Night, Saturdays 7 p.m. – 10 p.m.
This song is so hot, it practically blows a gasket by the time it reaches its Zeppelesque breakdown. The Budos band is one of the best instrumental bands on the planet these days; NFL Films should hire them to score all the highlight clips.
Never thought I’d hear a Prince song turned on its head quite like this. Joan Wasser inverts the funk of the original and shapes it into a seductive torch song with minimal instrumentation. File under Bubble Bath music.
Les Claypool and Sean Lennon are diving into psychedelic pop these days, sounding like an American Tame Impala. It doesn’t hurt that Sean can sound as British and Beatley as his father. Pro tip: seek out the album version. It’s twice as psychedelic.
Grupo Fantasma – “Let Me Be (w/ Tomar Williams)”
A crunchy funk rock riff, Latin percussion, the best horn section in town, and Tomar Williams hollering over all of it. Count me in. Is there anyone else in Austin making music like this?
This song is so heartbreakingly sad and beautiful. Charles cut this after his chemo treatments not long before his untimely death. There’s a priceless moment where he addresses his dead mother with, “Mama, wherever you at in Heaven … please, hold a space for me.” I get weepy every time.
Art Levy’s Top 5
Host Sundays 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Moody, shadowy production is Blake’s calling card, but getting Andre 3000 to rap on top of it? That’s unexpected. The first time I heard this, I just got this huge grin on my face during Andre’s whole verse. It’s good to hear him again.
This band takes ancient ingredients and gives them a modern, hypnotic spin, so you’re left with something that sounds like an Appalachian folk song beamed in from another universe.
At the beginning, Carll is cracking jokes and shaking his head. By the end, he’s baring his heart and soul for the woman he loves. In between, he’s doing what he does best: living and noticing the details.
Jody Denberg’s Top 5
Host Mon-Thu 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. & Fri 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Black Pumas- “Colors”
Almost a year and a half after their single “Black Moon Rising” arrived, the band’s full-length is here with this much-needed anthem of tolerance and unity.
Austin’s first couple of Americana return – following Kelly’s recent solo album and Bruce’s continuing Next Waltz project – with a perfect song.
This Chicago poet and songwriter’s second, “Legacy! Legacy!” is a tribute to the artists of colorwho have inspired her to be so, well, inspirational. Educational music with a major groove.
The fourth release from these Kansas City Latin-rockers is on the way. This first single is incredible and the album title portends what’s coming: “Ameri’kana”
A Swedish singer-songwriter who often records on his 4-channel cassette porta studio delivers this authentic-sounding yet somehow contemporary song from “Wooh Dang”. Indeed!
Susan Castle’s Top 5
Host Mon-Fri 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Julia Jacklin – “Good Guy”
‘cuz sometimes a girl likes a little wistfulness in her wishfulness.
‘cuz sometimes a girl requires some bubbly keys and a James Murphy namedrop to get the dance party started.
Singer/songwriter Meg Duffy played guitar in Kevin Morby’s band, so check that instant cred box. The New York state native recorded solo album #2 “Placeholder” at Justin Vernon’s Eau Claire, Wisconsin studio and it’s lovely.
The newly turned 24-year-old from Saskatchewan native sounds decades older with his distinctive and weathered baritone and possesses a knack for composing a western movie earworm. No wonder he played Willie’s 4th of July picnic this year.
Bill Childs’ Top 5
Host Spare the Rock Spoil The Child Sundays 6 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Mannequin Pussy – “Drunk II”
Big riffs and big vocals from this four-piece from Philadelphia. Patience is their Epitaph debut.
Paul Carruba’s Top 5
Host Sundays 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Fontaines D.C. – “Too Real”
Fontaines D.C. are perhaps my favorite new band. These dudes create Joyce-ian slices of life from their native Dublin, and wrap them in a pounding, post-punk package. Their debut full-length Dogrel is perfect (in my opinion). The track “Boys in a Better Land,” which with its exuberant, punk ‘n’ roll Gloria-like riff, is a song engineered to make me love it. BUT I wanted to go with a track that I think shows the other end of the spectrum. “Too Real” is mean, moody and it’ll get under your skin.
This is a very-much-needed re-working of Prince Buster’s “10 Commandments,” a slice of misogyny that’s odious even by mid-60s ska standards (seriously, it’s @*&#ing awful). The Specials enlisted British activist Saffiya Khan to turn the tables with a sprechgesang toast that mercilessly skewers toxic masculinity and practitioners thereof. It’s awesome. Khan’s fearlessness is much-needed shot of espresso. To top it off, the riddim on this track will shake you from head to toe.
Imagine, if you will, it’s 3am in an underground London squat art party. You’re filled with substances legal and otherwise. You think you hear Liquid Liquid’s “Cavern,” but it’s actually something else. You love it nonetheless. What you’re hearing is badass, elektronik neu-kraut-rock (see what I did there??) care of these British weirdos.
This track from Georgia-born Mattiel Brown occupies similar sonic ground as Holly Golightly and her form band Thee Headcoatees (both of whom you should re-visit, by the way) right down to its francophilic refrain. It’s retro without being retrograde, and delivered with a punky swagger that gets better with repeat listenings.
I don’t think I’m being hyperbolic when I say that I think Jamila Woods is in good company with the luminaries and pioneers she honors on the track titles of her new album Legacy! Legacy!. The entire record is a triumphal blend of jazz, RnB and hip hop. But the song that sticks out most to my ears is the one dedicated to Jean-Michel Basquiat. It’s a song built on contrast and counterpoint, push and pull. Spit and silk.
Jay Trachtenberg’s Top 5
Host Mon – Thu 12 p.m. – 2 p.m.
Houston native takes no prisoners on this infectious tune just made for summertime groovin’
Another soulful, funky, horn-heavy celebration from one of the crown jewels of the Austin music scene.
Los Coast – “Monsters”
Former KUTX Artist Of The Month flies out of the blocks with this rollicking tune from their debut album, Samara.
An incessant beat drives angst-ridden song from her terrific album, Remind Me tomorrow.
Dublin post-punk powerhouse who blow my socks off at SXSW. Keep an eye on these guys.
Taylor Wallace’s Top 5
Host Mon-Thur. 8 p.m. – 11 p.m.
A must for anyone’s local music radar (with major cool points), Being Dead is the kind of band who packs Cheer Up Charlie’s on a Wednesday night at 11:30. True to their finely-tuned quirk, this indie track starts soft, sweet, and mildly haunting before melting into… something else entirely.
On the other end of Austin music is this single from local rapper Abhi the Nomad. Not only should you be listening to his music, you need to go see him around town while you can. He’s one single away from blowing out of this city and onto festival main stages; one listen to song will tell you every reason why.
Every good list needs a slow-burner with a good story. Australia’s Julia Jacklin’s album Crushing starts with this 5 min story about the final straw in a relationship with a toxic, immature partner: him proudly lighting up in an
airplane bathroom, forcing them to be removed from the plane right on the tarmac. What happens next? Enter tracks 2-10.
Powerhouse producers Machinedrum and Jimmy Edgar form J-E-T-S. Their debut album ZOOSPA is about half instrumental, with different artists featured on the rest. This gem features J-E-T-S clean beats under the slick lines of Zimbabwaen-Australian rapper Tkay Maidza.
In 2019, I don’t think you’re allowed to make a “best of” list that excludes Lizzo. This treasure is self-love that goes beyond spa days and frosés. Go look in the mirror and tell yourself how strong and beautiful you are!
Jack Anderson’s Top 5
Host Sat. 6 a.m. – 10 a.m.
Lizzo meets Missy…over an insane beat…where empowering electricity surges across all three minutes. Nuff said.
Anderson .Paak – “Make It Better” (feat. Smokey Robinson)
Seeerious Bundick energy from Chaz on this one. The dude just knows how to crush vocal samples and “Freelance” has an air of Anything in Return (one of my all time favorites) surrounding it.
This rising Nashville artist’s new soul single carries an aura that’s earnest and motivating (when you could use a kick)…just as much as it is distracting and dance-inducing (when you should be working).
One morning, John Aielli and I were comparing this Austin outfit to David Gilmour-era Pink Floyd and he used a phrase that I think sums up the tone pretty well: “sweet but sinister”.
Elizabeth McQueen’s Top 5
Host of This Song podcast, Host Saturdays 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Sure, this song technically came out as a single in 2017, but Lizzo is having her moment right now, and millions of people are connecting to this particular song, including me. Lizzo manages to be vulnerable, angry, dismissive and empowered all at the same time making this possibly the most inspiring breakup song ever.
This song is a banger that has me, my daughters and all my friends singing at the top of our lungs “Look, if you fight like a girl, cry like a girl, do your think run the whole damn world. If you feel like a girl then you real like a girl, do your thing, run the whole damn world!”
More and more I am staggered by the relentless march of time, a march that seems more like a run the older I get. This song helps me make peace with the fact that my memories are the only way I can return to the life I’ve already lived. I don’t have to despair, after all, just because your past is lost to you, “don’t mean your dream is over, And that don’t make your heart beat slower.”
Queue Queue – “Oprah”
I know I don’t have to tell anyone this, but we live in crazy, chaotic times. Part of what makes them feel so wild is that many of us are unlearning toxic ways of being that we were taught were simply the way things were, and trying to figure out how to form new ways of thinking and being in the world. This song by the Austin post punk band Queue Queue gets into my head, makes me realize how many of my beliefs have been laid there by folks other than me, and makes me want to get past it all. It inspires me to do the work I need to do to get clear about my own thoughts and find my own voice.
This is the sexiest song about long term monogamy that I’ve heard in a while. Y’all, being in a long term relationship is HARD, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who could use more songs about how to stay together.
Michael Crockett’s Top 5
Host Horizontes Sundays 7 p.m.-10 p.m.
The Kansas City-based band Making Movies are children of immigrants from Panama & Mexico and this song, from their new álbum ameri’kana came from the news of the migrant family separations at the U.S./Mexico border this past year.
Ileana Cabra, the younger sister of the Puerto Rican duo, Calle 13 , has released her second album, Almadura, with many great songs including this collaboration with iconic Latin jazz pianist Eddie Palmieri.
From the álbum Amor, a collaboration with various Latin American artists in tribute to her father, Cuban singer-songwriter Pablo Milanés, Haydée Milanés sings one of his songs reflecting on the idealism of youth with the French/Cuban twin sister duo, Ibeyi.
Rapadura mixes hip-hop with the folk traditions northeastern Brazil, In this song, he sounds like a candy salesman selling sweet dreams. It’s an indictment of consumerism and its effect on the poor. The video has been made to look like an old film trailer that shows the rugged interior of northeastern Brazil.
This Brazilian band mixes Afrobeat and Samba Reggae among other styles and they feature the sound of a small electric mandolin called the guitarra baiana. The chorus says “My heart is not a cristal ball. The future no one sees, the past is past, the present is you”
Fresh’s Top 5
Host The Breaks Saturdays 10 p.m. – 1 a.m.
The only song that embodies a true R&B feel on Clark’s 2019 release “This Land,” showed Clark is more than the blues filled rocker he’s painted to be.
The California based band made a quite sombering project with their 2019 release, “Violet Street.” This single sets the tone of the album and is what made me go and checkout more from the band.
Not a song you hear everyday on KUTX, future returned this June with a new EP, “Save Me” with yet another that describes my life if I was to ever be super wealthy.
The new single from Austin based Jake Lloyd is one I’ve been anticipating, and one that yet again shows off his fascination with women in gentlemen’s clubs.
Tyler the Creator – “Earfquake”
The lead single from Tyler’s 2019 number one album, “IGOR” yet again showed Tyler to be an amazing artist that is full of surprises and his admiration for super producer Pharrell Williams.
John Aielli’s Top 5
Host Eklektikos Monday-Thursday 6 a.m.- 9 a.m.
Patty Griffin – “The Wheel”
Deidre Gott’s Top 5
Studio 1A Producer
Because it feels like rollerskating under a disco ball.
Toro Y Moi – “Ordinary Pleasure”
Because we all should be maximizing our pleasure.
Because I said it with my chest and I don’t care who I offend. Uh-Huh.
Because I was feeling her line “I wasted my youth on a puppy” so hard until I found out she’s actually singing “poppy”.
Americana becomes introspective and dreamy on Meg Duffy’s placeholder, their second release as Hand Habits.
With a crooning chorus that etches worries into your soul as they question themselves and their relationships, this forlorn and wistful ballad packs a huge punch.
Once a bedroom pop overnight sensation, Clairo’s newest project, an album co-produced with ex-Vampire Weekender Rostam Batmanglij, proves she has lyrical strength to hold her own. Mixing 2000s indie rock sensibilities with alt-pop production and her R&B-esque vocals layered throughout- makes for an unforgettable track.
A groovier Joni Mitchell, Cunningham’s percussive and emotive vocals layered over dynamic guitars is chillingly beautiful, with songwriting skills to match.
Bringing sparkly sweet shoegaze back into the mainstream, Hatchie turns up the heat and pressure on this track. Looping guitars and pounding drums form a fuzzy wall of synth-tastic sound that
Harriette Pilbeam’s voice always manages to dominate – off her debut album Keepsake.
Making seventies soft rock cool again, LA based ringleader aka Michael Collins (formerly Run DMT and Salvia Plath) crafts a world reminiscent of Laurel Canyon and sunny yacht rock radio in the lead single off his most recent release Raw Honey. With the Karen Carpenter-esque vocals lent by Weyes Blood’s Natalie Mering, this one’s a keeper.