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Texas Textbooks Pay Tribute to the I-35 Corridor With "Birds"

Texas Textbooks’ “Birds” is a warm, twangy, surprisingly smart album just right for summer 2021. The band’s staunch localism, which might have been off putting in a less welcoming package, instead provides a solid roadmap for songs to please listeners in and out of Bat City.

To be sure, this is an Austin album almost to excess -- Texas Textbooks’ love of their hometown is explicit. Seriously, there’s a whole song just called “Grackle,” ending with a Floydian cacophony familiar to anyone who’s ever put away groceries under a treefull of those loud bird bastards. It’s baked into the music, too. Influence from Spoon, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead and even Fastball is clear in the musical choices made. It’s never dull or samey, however. Textbooks’ composition is pleasantly dense, jangly countrified pop (they say “twangcore” but we’re not absolutely persuaded that’s a thing) with bracing shots of samples and shimmery slide guitar.

Texas Textbooks also stand out from the twangy Texas indie crowd on literary merit. Lyrics are both fun and pleasantly poetic, with a few flourishes of real beauty. Themes range from prosaic (a trip to the HEB with extensive involvement from the aforementioned birds) to enjoyably preposterous (Janis Joplin and Jorge Luis Borges just missing one another -– in fairness, both were at UT in 1961 –- at a diner off Guadalupe), but always catch the attention. Texas Textbooks avoids putting out boring, over misty-eyed meditations on failed relationships and/or the American dream, instead throwing their net wide, snagging everything from the challenges of adult friendship to a fantasia on San Antonio’s 1968 Hemisfair global exhibition. That ambition serves them well and shows a quantum leap beyond their solid debut effort “Pecos & Matamoros.”

All in all, Texas Textbooks is a must-listen for anyone invested in indie pop or the culture of the I-35 corridor. “Birds” is available now through the Texas Textbooks Bandcamp. Check ‘em out.


-- Matt Salter

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Danny Golden Delivers a Heartfelt Haymaker in Latest Single

Danny Golden puts his heart out on a limb in his latest single, “Cigarettes and Sunburn.” The track is a cohesive blend of folky acoustic guitar, ethereal electric guitar overdubs and crisp, plaintive vocals. It’s obvious that Golden has no issue conveying emotion in his music -- the pain in his voice is palpable, as he sings about an impermanent lover. Paired with his latest single is a black and white music video that perhaps symbolizes the lack of color in his life after dealing with the transience of his relationship.

Many artists come to mind while listening to “Cigarettes and Sunburn.” His tender, emotive style of singing reminds me of Fleet Foxes’ lead vocalist, Robin Pecknold, as well as Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice. The subtlety of the instrumentation allows the vocals to really shine, while providing texture that perfectly ties the song together as a whole. The spacey, electric guitar sounds are reminiscent of Bon Iver’s self-titled sophomore album and Jeff Buckley’s classic album, “Grace.” I applaud lead guitarist Ben Brown for his minimalistic approach. There’s not a wasted note, as he fills in the space and complements Golden’s voice beautifully. Everyone associated with the making of “Cigarettes and Sunburn” deserves credit for crafting such a unified piece of music; there’s nothing extra, but every chord and note sung is impactful. 

With lyrics like “I told you I was falling and you told me not to talk/just treat it like a sunburn and let this moment be enough,” one can assume this track is about falling in love with someone, but both people know it can’t last forever and all they can do is live in the moment as much as possible. It’s clear that the narrator is having difficulty accepting this reality with lines like “You’ll go back to Paris and I’ll go back to sleep.” Sometimes love is, unfortunately, impermanent. Though you can do your best to accept that something won’t last forever, accepting this is far from easy, and I believe that’s the main message in “Cigarettes and Sunburn.”

Additionally, the music video contributes to the song’s overall melancholy. It is shot in black and white, which seems fitting given the relatively bleak, colorless mood of the song. Golden appears to be singing to a girl in the video but it never shows them actually together until the end, presumably depicting a memory.

Simply put, “Cigarettes and Sunburn” is a beautiful piece of music. Golden’s voice and lyrics serve as the driving force of the song, but the understated instrumentation allows this to happen. Not to mention, the music video itself could stand alone as an aesthetically pleasing, expressive form of art. Danny Golden’s latest single hits on all cylinders and we should all be excited about his future releases.

- Quinn Donoghue

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Tyson Swindell Releases Single "Binary Stars" Off Box Set

In the Spotify Age, musicians looking to sell hardcopy releases are well-advised to bring extra assets to play. “L’Aventura,” the latest box set from songwriter and composer Tyson Swindell comes correct for lovers of musical minutiae, with a bound book of poetry and an honest to Memorex mixtape of pre-release material alongside his sweet, new lo-fi lament “Binary Stars.”

At bad open mics or the wrong side of YouTube, the term “lo-fi” can be shorthand for “low rent, low effort, low energy.” Not here. Swindell’s work is “lo-fi” in the best sense: slow, intimate, real. Ironically, the actual production fidelity is excellent. Swindell’s work has been consistently well-produced, and in places “L’Aventura” is almost cinematic.

The same sense of growing mastery extends from the production to the sound. Working almost exclusively with electronics, Swindell starts with the vibe of an excellent bedroom DJ, but shows a classic, songwriterly sensibility that recalls some of the bygone best of indie and shoegaze masters. “Binary Stars” may rely on digital instruments, but there’s as much blood from Band of Horses as Tycho, with both sides serving a poetic but personal lyricism recalling Bright Eyes and late-career Elliott Smith. It’s sad boy music for certain, music to mope to, but executed with pretty production and elegant restraint.

As to the rest of the assets, The Deli can’t comment – haven’t received a copy. If the book and tape live up to the single, however, the box is worth a look for anyone seeking musical company for a quiet night in.

- Matt Salter

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God Shell Delivers a Harrowing Adventure Into Sonic Extremity

“I Will Not Be Your Prison, I Will Not Be Your Guide” is a challenging and -- if you have the taste for it -- rewarding three track release from Austin experimental metal band God Shell. The EP immediately throws the listener for a loop with “Skinwalker.” The discordant guitar riffs surprisingly remind me of chaotic no-wave/noise rock outfits like Sissy Spacek and Sleetmute Nightmute. The rhythms are jagged, with thundering drums and angular guitars. The song comes in phases, changing tempo but keeping a constant claustrophobic mood. The guitars squeal and screech, eventually overcoming the actual notes themselves, and as the drums gradually lose momentum, the song returns to the noisescape it began as.

The second track -- the semi-titular “A Prison” -- is more experimental. The introduction reminds me of Daughters’ “You Won’t Get What You Want,” before the beat suddenly collapses amidst a maelstrom of glitches, and shifts into a droning noise cut. A phantom-like drumbeat hides under one thick, sustained chord for most of the runtime, creating the sort of dark, oppressive mood that is so dense it almost becomes cozy. I say “almost” because the song is interspersed with unpredictable -- and at times startling -- stutters and skips.

Ender “Hagibalba” is the most straightforward on the EP, starting off with a catchy, toe-tapping riff that I was stunned to hear after the first two songs. Like “Skinwalker,” “Hagibalba” turns on a dime again and again, changing speeds and flipping from cacophony to measured playing. The drums stay consistently tight considering the whiplash-inducing song structure, providing the listener with a sort of light for navigating the strange progression.

All in all, “I Will Not Be Your Prison” is a release for fans of sonic extremity. The music is entirely un-formulaic and to-the-point. Where another experimental release might gish gallop the listener with semi-listenable,  tedious and indulgent pulp, Shell God explores new concepts with precision and purpose, keeping the listener engaged. The music is leaden, but when performed with such rawness and intensity it becomes irresistible.

 

- Tín Rodriguez

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The Cush Sends You on Musical Vacation That Feels so Real You Might Need a Moderna Shot

In 2021, having just come out of a year in which the demand for psychotherapy grew by leaps and bounds, the Calm meditation app is on everybody’s phone it seems and fifteen quarantine pounds gained is the norm, now more than ever, we badly need a trippy record to help us to relax. In a half-normal, post-pandemic world, we’re yearning for a record made by a band who promises their music will take you on a journey and bring you back seeing life differently. 

 

The Cush, a Fort Worth band consisting of husband Burette Douglas on vocals/guitar, wife Gabrielle on vocals/bass, Ben Hance on guitar and keyboards and Austin Green on percussion, place themselves in the “trippy genre” om their self-written Spotify bio, in which they also promise us a memorable musical journey. Their album “Riding In the Stardust Gold,” released April 23, was recorded at Fort Worth’s Empire Sound studio and Eagle Audio with Ben Harper’s Mad Bunny label imprint.

 

Although the new album often shows the expected musical influences of a trippy indie pop album nowadays (The xx, Alex G, The Cult, Slowdive), their imaginative songwriting and musicianship puts them more in the life-changing escape realm of “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” than that of a regular dream pop record.

 

There are two tracks here that swerve from The Cush’s happy sonic dream vacation to create a challenging — even frightening — mood akin to getting seriously lost while traveling: “Beneath The Lines” and “Chariots of Smog.” And they are both quite fun upon a second listening. Between the Deep Purple/Stone Temple Pilots/Black Sabbath/Faith No More metal guitars, these really rock hard! On “Chariots of Smog.” Burette sings like a moody teenager. On “Beneath the Lines,” Gabrielle’s usual sweetly gorgeous vocals turn satisfyingly tense and emotional, with a few shrieks thrown in for good measure. Their long-time fans will be very surprised at this new side of the band.

 

“Haters,” the album’s first single (and the only one that Ben Harper produced) is currently receiving radio airplay. Hopefully Ben Harper’s fans will spread the word as well so that music fans discover this gem of an album.

 

- Jill Blardinelli

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