Austin360 On The Record is a weekly roundup of new, recent and upcoming releases by local and Austin-associated recording artists.


OUT THIS WEEK


Band of Heathens, "Stranger." Working in Portland last fall with renowned producer Tucker Martine (Decemberists, My Morning Jacket, Neko Case), the Austin-and-beyond quintet stretched beyond its Americana roots on its sixth studio album. Country, folk and rock & roll remain an integral part of the mix, but the six-minute swirler "Black Cat" is an ambitious sonic breakout, with psychedelic jams that suggest Band of Heathens could break into Austin’s Levitation-centered psych-rock scene if they wished. Even better is "How Do You Sleep?" Lyrically, it’s a classic country cheatin’ song but opens with majestic swells of strings that recall the dazzling pop of the Flaming Lips. More in their old-school wheelhouse is "Dare," an Everlys/Buddy Holly-styled number highlighting the vocal harmonies of co-leaders Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist that are central to BOH’s appeal. Mid-album numbers "South by Somewhere" and "Asheville Nashville Austin" work well together as a sort of emotional travelogue for musicians who’ve spent lots of time on the road, the latter in particular playing up the geographic reach of a band whose five members are spread between Austin, Tennessee and North Carolina (as well as Los Angeles). Musically, the anthemic "Truth Left" and the Beatlesque "Today Is Our Last Tomorrow" offer up solid hooks down the stretch, but their lyrics are a harder sell. The former seems to be addressing the Trump administration’s assault on truth, but if there’s a point they were trying to make, it doesn’t quite come across. The latter tune acknowledges that "the world is coming down," but the band’s attitude about it feels oddly laissez-faire. There’s a sense that BOH wants to more outspoken with their music, but they’re trying so hard to not take sides that they end up standing for nothing substantive. (Those efforts must be placed in the context of the band’s past ties to fervent Trump supporter Kid Rock, though their work with him took place a couple of years before Trump’s election.) The gentle closer "Before the Day Is Done" works better, in part because it more clearly sifts through the political and hones in on the personal with a simple, heartfelt wish: "I need you, here with me, right now, somehow." Record-release livestream 8 p.m., Friday, Sept. 25, at bandofheathens.com/live. Here’s the video for "South by Somewhere":


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Merles, "Middle of the Night" EP. Self-described as "six songs about insomnia, anxiety, depression and loneliness," the latest from country outfit the Merles seems well-suited for these times. Started before the pandemic but finished in the midst of it, "Middle of the Night" found frontman and songwriter Todd Deatherage working with producer and multi-instrumentalist Don Cento on this follow-up to the Merles’ 2017 debut album "Hate to Say Goodbye." The Merles’ forte is straight-shootin’, boot-scootin’ honky-tonk, with pedal steel player Mike Simms providing color to the steady rhythms of drummer Matt Winegardner and upright bassist Phil Spencer. Here’s the track "Always Be a Texan," which includes a playful jab from Dallas native Deatherage about his hometown baseball team ("I may not be a Rangers fan but I’ll always be a Texan"):


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COMING SOON


OCT. 2: Johnny Nicholas, "Mistaken Identity" (Valcour)


OCT. 2: Walker Lukens, "Red Headed Strangers" (Willie Nelson covers)


OCT. 9: Various artists, "To the People of the Land: Estok’ Gna Solidarity Compilation" with Molly Burch, Will Johnson, Christelle Bofale, more (Keeled Scales)


OCT. 16: Kelsey Wilson, "The Bitch" EP


OCT. 16: Giulia Millanta, "Tomorrow Is a Bird"


OCT. 16: Wilson Marks, "True Beauty Is in the Random"


OCT. 23: Missio, "Can You Feel the Sun" (2B/BMG)


OCT. 30: Jackie Venson, "Vintage Machine"; taping "Austin City Limits" Oct. 1


OCT. 30: Sideshow Tragedy, "After the Fall"


NOV. 6: Alan Moe Monsarrat, "Agriculture"


NOV. 13: Nané, self-titled


DEC. 4: Mark Willenborg, "Cold Beer and Country Music"