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Keeping It Weird: Austin's Best Of 2014

by Donny Rodriguez

donny_rodriguez4’Tis the season to be inundated with meaningful lists that arbitrarily come at year’s end (even though Austin’s Homecoming King Matthew McConaughey’s characters in True Detective and Interstellar would have you believe time is merely a trite construct, flat circle, black hole or something).

Instead of doing a drab and dull “Best Live Performance”(how can one plausibly get this one right?) or “Best New Artist” (trite and almost insulting to the artist named, which discounts their years of toil to find their voice), let’s have fun with this.

2014 perpetuated Austin’s title as a world class city as its festivals reached new heights (Austin City Limits Fest, Fun Fun Fun Fest had new gate records, Redfest and XGames introduced themselves to the ATX Television Festival), the Gary Clark Jr. Supernova maintains its illumination, and a sobering tragedy during SXSW gave the city pause and brought it closer together.

And now for a closer look at Austin’s artists that Tour Worthy covered this year.

The “Coolest” of the Cool Scenes (that isn’t the well-covered and rightly dominant Psych pop-rock scene):

1. Bluesy Rock

Unfaithful Servants
"Fifty Miles"
Shake The Hive
Unfaithful Servants

2. Indie Dance

3. Avant Garde Folk-Rock

(4. Bonus: Progressive Rock — thanks for blowing our minds Distant Lights, Groove Think and Transit Method.)

Taking something as subjective as taste in genre and ranking it is divisive, but there’s no disputing these genres make their scenes seen. Ben Baxter Band, Black Pistol Fire, Amplified Heat, Back Alley Music Review, and Unfaithful Servants brought the lo-fi dingy rawk; bands like Sphynx, Vinyl Dharma and Kazi made us dance; while Les Rav and Amy Arani made us rethink what folk can be — and Calliope Musicals essentially accomplished both of the above.

Most Underrated Releases of the Year:

1. Ruby Fray — Grackle

2. Tahoma — Honest Mark [Review]

3. Graham Wilkinson —  Ethos

4. HeadShy — La Belle Epoque: The Head Chord / The Heart Chord / The Base Chord

5. Salesman — Escalante

6. SuperEtte — Yours Til the End

"Sometime In June"
Yours Til The End
James Stevens and SuperEtte at EAR Studios

It’s hard to call anything “underrated” in the Internet age. And while none of these talented artists are underdogs by any stretch of the imagination, they deserve even more love than they’ve received. From beautifully dark chamber music, to earnest acoustic folk tales, buy — don’t stream — these records.

Great Time, All of The Times — These Bands Made Us Call In “Sick” the Next Day:

1. Chasca

2. Holiday Mountain

3. Lowin

4. The Naked Maja

5. Steady Legend

Compelling live shows, hook-laden crafted cuts and/or are just blatantly fun; anytime we caught these bands, a “food truck, food poisoning” text was sent to our bosses.

Ballads To Serve As Your Drinking Buddy When You Tip a Few Back By Yourself:

1. Dre Mazzenga — “Bird In A Storm”

Been playing it on repeat. Has anyone else written a resonant ballad such as this (*glug glug, tear tear)?

Local Acts We’re Gonna Lose to the National Scene and Touring:

1. Riders Against The Storm

2. Ume

3. Suzanna Choffel

4. Dawn & Hawkes

5. Dana Falconberry

These artists are no longer ours alone, they’re the entire music scene in general. May the accolades, and amazing pieces of art runneth over from their (to-go) cups.

The Most Artist-Friendly Venues:

1. Austin’s Best Venues For Touring Bands

Extra, extra, read all about it, the bad ass venues listed in the link above will book your bands.

2015 Bands with Releases for Which You Can Pre-Board The Hype Train Before It Takes Off:

1. Magna Carda

2. Major Major Major

3. Cautiontape

4. Leah Nobel

Of course there are countless amounts of new works in the work, these happen to be the ones we’re already giddy for.

"Get To Me "
How We Shine (out 2015)
Robert Harrison

Singer-Songwriter/Solo Acts That We’ll Take a Pedicab in Inclement Weather Just to See

1. Phil Ajjarapu

2. Brittany Shane

3. Scott Collins

4. Michael Hays

5. Captain of the A.M.

6. Buenos Diaz

In a town of hundreds of troubadour hopefuls, these six stood out the most in 2014.

Gateway Drugs — These Bands Will Convert You to a Genre You Perhaps Weren’t Previously In To:

1. Starlings, TN

2. Atlas Maior

3. Alien Knife Fight

4. Patch

5. The Gallows Drifters

If you walk into a show of theirs you may take a beat, then continue as you were — smash cut to 90 minutes later, you’re fighting for a 7”.

"The Thaw"
Patch EP
Waldo Wittenmeyer at The Shire

Acts Who Melted Our Faces Off (In The “F*ck Yeah” Kind Of Way)


2. Three’s Away

3. Feral Future

4. Sip Sip

5. Modrag

F*ck yeah.

Another diverse and artful year in Austin music is in the books (this listicle). Here’s to 2015 spreading the same sonic vibes.

Donny Rodriguez is an Austin-based writer by way of Chicago.  Like any failed four-chord singer-songwriter in college, he’s channeled his passion for music into reviews.  His resume ranges from Chicago Bulls beat writer, to Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader contributor, to multi-time comedic performer on WGN TV.  Follow this jack of all creative trades, jester of some on twitter.

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