Curating the Weekly Staff Picks is probably my favorite thing to do with On Vinyl Music because it forces me to continue to dig deeper into the vast mechanisms of Austin’s cesspool music scene. This week, I decided to culminate songs from artists who not only warm the soul but also songs you can bring home for the holidays, pop on the stereo, and play for your family. I cannot speak for everyone’s family, but bringing home some experimental hip-hop or noise punk would not quite be met with open arms and ears. So I guess you could also call this playlist “Feel Good Songs to Bring Home For The Holidays.”
The playlist starts out with one of my favorite acts of the last five years. Some of you will argue that they are not from Austin but from San Marcos, and you would be right. However, the incestuous reach of the Austin/SanMo music scene has managed to melt together so nicely that I refuse to leave them out because of mere 30-mile distance from downtown Austin. The Oh Hellos is a brother and sister duo of Maggie and Tyler Heath backed by an array of banjo players, accordion players, drummers, violinist and anything and everything that fills out this electric Irish-folk inspired band. Their two songs on this playlist “Like the Dawn” and “Hello My Old Heart,” are sure to inspire you with C.S. Lewis type lyricism and feel good folk melodies.
When talking about “feel good” Austin music, the folk/bluegrass scene is usually at the forefront. Within this community, one cannot leave Wild Child out of the conversation. Wild Child vocalist and violinist, Kelsey Wilson, finds her way into two songs on this playlist. The first is off of Wild Child’s newest Dualtone release, Fools, called “Break Bones,” a smokey percussive piano ballad that showcases Alex Beggins and Wilson’s newfound energy and sound. The second is a feature with Austin bluegrass aficionados, Whiskey Shivers, where Wilson flexes her bluegrass muscles with lead singer and fiddle player, Bobby Fitzgerald. Also, don’t forget about Mr. Alejandro himself, Shakey Graves, gracing this playlist with purposeful songwriting and intimate minimalist guitar orchestration.
This playlist is nothing less than a master workshop of songwriting. Take notes from pros like Grace Park of The Deer and her ethereal folk journey, “Look Alive.” Speaking of female front women, That Girl Dre‘s quirky song named “Hot Biscuits,” and Taylor and the Wild Now‘s “Gold Dust,” continue to show that Austin is sizable powerhouse for female led ensembles. Waking Fable and Grape St. stand represent sounds that stand out from the rest of the playlist. Grape St. exhibiting a high-energy, yet cathartic dance rock, and Waking Fable combining cabaret type progressions with a danceable brass sound.
However, my favorite pick comes from our cities own rising stars. Coming from their recent release, Animals with Religion, Bee Caves‘s “Black Mason Hills.” I got the pleasure of sitting down with front man Reed Calhoun a couple months ago (check out the interview here), and he hit the nail on the head when he described their music as “stuff to drive to.” Underselling it as any good artist would, Bee Caves combines a smokey, blue collar vibe with modern soundscape orchestration.
This perfect combination of Southern rock mixed with new-age synth sounds and electronics will have a little something from every generation to enjoy and pick from.