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A lot to ponder – and love – about these short Austin releases

Staff Writer
Austin 360
Buck McKinney, front left, and Erik Telford, plus Ed Miles, back left, Tom Hays, Brad Bradburn, Marcus Caldwell and Alejandro Felan, groove as Flyjack.

Flyjack

'On the One'

Guitarist Buck McKinney and bassist Brad Bradburn shook Austin's booties to their core in the instrumental funk outfit Gnappy, pumping out down-and-dirty grooves long before the current local soul revival really took off. So after a period of relative quiet, it's nice to see their '70s-channeling soul explosion Flyjack back on the scene with 'On the One,' five tracks of hard-hitting vintage James Brown and Bar-Kays-styled shakedowns.

Not content to merely evoke the hardest-working man in show business, Bradburn scored the coup of securing legendary James Brown drummer Jab'O Starks to play on the EP. Starks brought propulsive percussion to 'Sex Machine' and 'The Payback' and keeps thing hopping here, from the opening title track to the faultless funk cover of Brown's classic 'Ain't It Funky Now.' The Hellfire Horns bring the bluster, and vocalist Tameca Jones is a fiery, seductive delight that helps keep 'On the One,' clocking in at 20 minutes, every bit as mean as it is lean.

-Patrick Caldwell

Flyjack plays Wednesday, June 16 at Antone's, 213 W. Fifth St.

Mobley

'Cold War Cold'

At their best, Mobley - especially frenetic lead vocalist and songwriter Anthony Watkins II - channels no band so much as Brooklyn's TV on the Radio, from the thoughtful lyricism to the collision of post-punk and soul to the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink sound. Watkins slinks effortlessly from dance-punk grooves like the addictive 'Ego Is,' backed by a wall of synths, to busting out a crooning falsetto on the heartfelt ballad 'Siya's Theme.'

That variety and restlessness is Mobley's greatest asset on 'Cold War Cold,' keeping the six-song-and-one-snippet EP lively. It's also something of a liability. Not every nook and cranny that Mobley wanders into captivates as consistently as 'Ego Is' or the title track. The sinister spaceyness of 'Over Breakfast,' gains traction only in its last, explosive minute. And the electroclash antics of 'Hard Times' are a Jenga tower of elements that don't quite hold up.

But 'Cold War Cold' contains vast promise and a sexy intellectual vibe, making it easy to see why the band fought its way into the finalists for last year's Austin City Limits Sound and the Jury contest.

- P.C.

Mobley plays Friday, June 11 at the Scoot Inn, 1308 E. Fourth St.

She Sir

'Yens' 7-inch

The big surprise on 'Yens,' the newest EP from dreamlike, shoegaze rock quintet She Sir, is just how expansive it sounds for a four-song collection whose tunes never cross the three-minute mark. In a paltry eight-and-a-half minutes, it ticks off every possible box of desirable influences: the sun-dappled boy-girl vocal interplay of Belle and Sebastian, the warmth and production sheen of the Beach Boys circa 'Pet Sounds,' and the delicate arrangements of Beach House.

Lead vocalists Russell Karloff and M. Grusha turn lo-fi to their advantage on the heavily reverbed 'Ginger' and 'Boystown,' using every last bit of echo to build a wistful, ethereal atmosphere. Centerpiece track 'Lemongrass' serves as a She Sir manifesto: thoughtful, thundering-yet-unassuming, an at-first cacophonous tune which yields beauty through listener focus, like a musical Magic Eye puzzle.

- P.C.

She Sir plays June 24 at Spider House, 500 W. 29th St.

Frontier Brothers

'You Should Start A Band'

'We're irreverent, and glamorous, and pissed off, we've had enough,' offers charismatic Frontier Brothers front man Marshall Newman on the title track of 'You Should Start A Band.' Everything that makes this three-song blast of Bowie-meets-Devo glam rock maddeningly catchy is right there in that line: a sense of humor, quotability and plenty of attitude, delivered with a wink, a fetching synth line and an audience-ready shout-along.

From that anthemic opener to the more-tender-than-you'd-expect 'Burning Panties' to the irony-soaked rocker 'Don't Try and Take My Guns,' the Frontier Brothers spend 13 minutes wrapping clever songwriting and a satirist's sense of wit in towering hooks and winning melodies. Like local glam-rock contemporaries the Black and White Years and the Bright Light Social Hour, they've found the winning formula where funny, observational songwriting intersects wholly unpretentious rock 'n' roll.

- P.C.

The Frontier Brothers open for SPEAK on June 17 at the Parish, 214 E. Sixth St.

Wild America

'The Sea' seven-inch EP (Freedom School)

These Austinites (some ex-Naw Dude, some ex-Party Garbage) contributed one of the strongest tracks - the fist-pumpingly anthemic 'Drink It Dry' - to Matador's 'Casual Victim Pile' compilation. They pretty well have equaled it with these four excellent burners, equal parts hot weather sentiment ('don't you love how the summer makes your thinking hard?'), careening rock riffs and pop-sloppy punk burn. A lyric sheet helpfully reminds that typewritten yammering always look cool, especially when the yammering is sharply realized. For fans of Husker Du and Volcano Suns, beer and sweating. Someone please make them famous.

- Joe Gross

Wild America plays June 17 at the House of Guys, 1907 Rio Grande St.