Ruby James

‘Happy Now'

It's hard to not wonder about this album title, specifically for the time reference it contains. That's because "now" almost certainly wasn't talking about the time over the course of about three years when Ruby James poured a whole lot of heartbreak and longing onto tape to make this collection. Honestly, from the sound of these tunes it's a small miracle the Austinite can still crack the smiles she does on the album's liner notes. Just take a look at some opening lines: "Something's gone wrong" (the title track), "Your dirty don't work" ("The Moon Turns In"), "It's getting harder" ("Angel Eyes"), "Is there something I can give you that is missing in your eyes?" ("The Predictable Kind"), "It's a terrible lie that we're living, but living without you ain't worth living at all" ("Until You Come Home").

All that would make for a deluxe bummer of an album were it not for the fact that James' weary and smoky voice is a perfect match for such laments. A heap of credit goes also to producer Charlie Sexton for framing these songs in appropriate surroundings — radio pop, touches of jazz, an occasional dirge — to make James' songwriting as inviting as it is.

— Chad Swiatecki

Freshmillions

‘Freshmillions'

A cursory spin of the debut album from trio Freshmillions might leave you tempted to classify it as simple electrofunk in the vein of Justice or Daft Punk and move on — it has the ethereal electronic grooves, the processed Cylon-recalling vocals and synthesizers crashing like rain. And then there are the samples, a series of slice-and-dice moments encompassing everything from a gangbusters lift of the theme from NES classic "Castlevania" on "The Million Dollar Bill, Part 1" to a snippet torn from the Spinners' "The Rubberband Man" on "Spunout."

But across an economical nine tracks, "Freshmillions" also makes time to rock. Maybe that's the influence of producer Bryan Richie, of Austin metal maestros the Sword, but "Freshmillions" is loaded with towering electric guitars on the propulsive "Monty" and "Spunout," dashes of '70s funk organs and some of the most bone-rattling drumming on any local record this year.

Freshmillions will perform Saturday at the Parish.

— Patrick Caldwell

Patricia Vonne

‘Worth It'

Patricia Vonne's fourth album, "Worth It," is yet another venture into the alternative and Americana sounds of her past efforts. The album opens with the title track, a gritty desert rock number that drifts between mournful, echoing lead guitar lines and Vonne's vibrato cries. These red-dirt rumblings are common throughout the album, and the imagery only gets starker by the time you reach the swaggering romp of "Cowskulls and Ghostowns." And as always, Vonne adds a few tasteful bits of Latin flair with the flamenco guitar stylings of songs like "Fuente Vaqueros" and "El Marinero y La Sirena," both of which feature plenty of castanets and Spanish lyrics.

But if you know Vonne, you also know that the real power of her work comes from her masterful vocal delivery. Unfortunately, you won't have a chance to experience it live until the end of September, when you can catch her at the Continental Club. Still, the wait should be worth it.

— Alex Daniel

The Hi-Tones

‘The Hi-Tones EP'

The greatest strike against this five-song EP from Austin's charging old-school rock quintet is that it doesn't include any performance footage — live, the Hi-Tones are a force to behold, lead singer Johnny Flores a freewheeling blur of snappy dance moves. "The Hi-Tones EP" can't quite capture that charm, but it comes awfully close, no doubt thanks in part to local producer extraordinaire Chris "Frenchie" Smith, who knows from rock ‘n' roll.

Opener "Hit and Run" sets the pace, exploding with electric hooks as Flores growls out a sordid tale of automobile-inflicted personal and property damage. "You will never take me alive," asserts Flores in a line that's Bon Jovi-worthy in its classic rock efficiency. "I'll keep running until the day I die." He backs that up on following tracks, from the straight-ahead rock with a dash of Nuggets jangle of "She's Got It Bad" to the killer bar-friendly sing-along of "Mistress of Misery." And bassist Gary Delgado really earns his keep, anchoring the songs with impressive skill. "The Hi-Tones EP" won't win any awards for novelty, but for energetic, raw rock, it's hard to ask for much more.

The Hi-Tones will perform Aug. 21 at the Hole in the Wall.

— Patrick Caldwell