Austin360 On The Record: Singles spotlight with Dayglow, Pat Byrne, Balmorhea, more
Austin360 On The Record is a weekly roundup of new, recent and upcoming releases by local and Austin-associated recording artists. Typically we include only full-length albums and EPs, but because many artists have been releasing individual songs during the pandemic, we’re also occasionally presenting a “Singles Spotlight” overview of selected recent singles.
Hard Working People Project, “Salt of the Earth.” We missed this one upon its release in October, but it’s worth reaching back to its inspiring message, which remains relevant in the new year. Renowned singer-songwriter Sara Hickman says she organized the recording of the 1968 Rolling Stones classic, which took six months to complete, “as a way to honor all the nurses, doctors, EMTs, farmers, grocery clerks, field hands, computer techies, shop owners, mail carriers, you name it — all the hardworking people who have kept life going during this pandemic." She recruited an extraordinary cast of 32 fellow local musicians to take part, and we’ll list them all: Akina Adderley, John Bush, Gina Chavez, Rosie Flores, Guy Forsyth, Jeska Forsyth, Ruthie Foster, Billy Harvey, Terri Hendrix, Bubba Hernandez, Lili Hickman, Eddy Hobizal, Warren Hood, Craig Hella Johnson, Matt Johnson, Phoebe Hunt, Shelley King, Danny Levin, Michael Longoria, Darin Murphy, Trish Murphy, Gary Myrick, Nakia, David Pulkingham, Carrie Rodriguez, Betty Soo, Brain Standefer, Brannen Temple, Kathy Valentine, Jackie Venson, Carolyn Wonderland and Red Young.
Dayglow, “Close to You.” Not the Carpenters classic but a new original composition, the latest from 21-year-old Sloan Struble (aka Dayglow) captures what it’s like to be young and in love with its instantly memorable chorus, “I’m only overthinking when I’m close to you.” This is a great pop song, following on the heels of “Can I Call You Tonight?” — which initially was released in 2018 but became a surprise hit last year. Dayglow plans to release a second album sometime this year. Could this be Austin’s breakout music act of 2021?
Pat Byrne, “Marfa Skies.” The Irish expat who moved to Austin two years ago celebrates the desolate beauty of West Texas by contrasting it with big-city bright lights in this lovely folk-pop tune. Recorded at Rich Brotherton’s Ace Recording studio, the track features a harmony vocal cameo from Betty Soo and gets an extra boost from a black-and-white video that reflects the song’s disarming sincerity. This exceptional outtake didn’t end up on Byrne’s full-length release due later this year, which suggests the album will be something special.
MORE ON PAT BYRNE:Our April 2019 Austin360 Artist of the Month feature and interview
Riders Against the Storm, “Flowers for the Living.” The title track to a new album due next month from the local hip-hop mainstays gets an extra kick from special guest Clarence James, a rising young talent from Georgetown. The tune is intriguingly eclectic, with rhythmic rapid-fire verses atop a musical bed that plays up elements of atmospheric jazz and adventurous electronica.
MORE ON RIDERS AGAINST THE STORM:Jonathan 'Chaka' Mahone elevates Black excellence, creates opportunity in Austin
Balmorhea, “Rose in Abstract.” An early single from a new album due in April finds one of Austin’s most accomplished instrumental acts digging into a deeply moody and moving five-minute composition. Balmorhea principals Rob Lowe and Michael A. Muller both play piano on the track, with string sounds fleshing out the tune’s meditative effect.
Molly Burch, “Emotion.” A collaboration with Richmond, Virginia, dream-pop act Wild Nothing, the latest from indie singer-songwriter Burch reels the listener into its hypnotic dance groove. The video features colorful animation by Inji Seo.
Wayne Sutton, “Whiplash.” Exactly what this song that references a “man of many faces who always keeps traces” might be about is up for the listener to decide, but there’s enough in the lyrics (“they try to fight their way inside the room”) to suggest it’s at least partly connected to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Half of the duo Pike & Sutton (an Austin360 Artist of the Month last year), Sutton has long been an accomplished guitarist and songwriting collaborator with Patrice Pike, but he steps out on his own impressively with this track that brings to mind Townes Van Zandt’s darker tales.
APRIL 2020 AUSTIN360 ARTIST OF THE MONTH:Pike & Sutton rise again, beyond Sister 7
Leti Garza, “La Empaliza (Brown Recluse Remix).” A longtime fixture in Austin’s Latin music community, Garza says she recorded this 1 song to honor her aunt, mid-20th-century San Antonio singer and actress Eva Garza. Mixed by Michael Ramos, the track is gloriously upbeat and danceable; she notes that it “includes the vibrant elements of merengue, big band Latin jazz, and tejano underlay.”
Dave Madden, “Can I Borrow Your Love.” Described in press materials as “a socially distanced collaboration with over 20 local artists,” this uplifting pop track features vocal support from Austinites Akina Adderley and Betty Soo, plus a highlighted verse from Houston rapper Ray Smith. Madden’s fully fleshed out arrangement adds horns and strings, while the accompanying video includes a section with four choreographed dancers.
Jeff Plankenhorn, “Murder of Crows.” Still sequestered on the Canadian coast until the pandemic eases up enough for a safe return to Austin, Plankenhorn shared the following thoughts about the motivation for this new single: "On a lonely walk here on Vancouver Island, a murder of crows descended and followed me down a path in a nearby forest. First came the thought, ‘What the hell are they after?’ As they continued, I wondered, ‘Is this such a bad thing?’” Plankenhorn co-wrote the song with Gabe Rhodes (who added guitar), with Pat Manske engineering and playing drums.
SEPTEMBER 2020 RESIDENCY OF THE MONTH:Twofer Tuesdays with Jeff Plankenhorn
Dan Peters, “The Birds Are Louder in Texas.” Peters, who moved to Austin a year ago after studying jazz piano at Northwestern University, makes a solid debut with this jazz-folk-tinged single. Peters said he wrote it partly about settling into a new town during the uncertainty of the pandemic, and partly about “patterns in nature that are consistent across space and time.”
Nakia, “It’s Never Too Late.” We referenced this tune when it popped up a few months ago along with a different Nakia single, but a distribution glitch caused a delay in wider release until the new year. The longtime local singer and music-community activist wrote it with Charlie Cotton, 8-year-old son of local singer-songwriter Savannah Welch.
Extreme Heat, “Watching You.” The latest from the old-school Austin funksters delivers a big-brother vibe (“They’re watching you, no matter what you do”) spiked by the Heat’s ace horn section.
Jefferson Brown, “Sorrow.” The Shinyribs bassist has been busy with his drummer bandmate Keith Langford during the pandemic: This is the sixth single they’ve written together and released under Brown’s name. Brown’s brother Ben Brown adds keyboards, electric guitar and backing vocals on this track that’s a bit of a left turn for Jefferson Brown, who describes it as “a dance song with God as the narrator.”
Walter Tragert, “The Most Vulnerable Time of the Year.” The holidays are past, but we think this new original seasonal tune — released on Bandcamp the day before Christmas 2020 — is timeless enough to warrant attention. Shinyribs leader Kevin Russell (mandolin), producer Stephen Belans (drums), Mark Addison (organ) and Matt Giles (bass) helped flesh out Tragert’s heartfelt waltz that touches on holiday depression but also offers up a New Year’s resolution: “So this year I resolve to do the best that I can/To be kind and more loving, and a much better man.”
Buenos Diaz, “Inauguration Day.” “The whole world’s watching and ready for a change. Are you gonna be the change?” That’s the question Nick Diaz (aka Buenos Diaz) asks in this timely slow-groove pop tune after getting the prompt word “inaugural” in a songwriting group. The track follows Diaz’s new EP “Remember,” which came out in December.
JAN. 29: Erin Ivey, “Solace in the Wild”
FEB. 5: Curtis McMurtry, “Toothless Messiah”
FEB. 5: Sun June, “Somewhere” (Run for Cover)
FEB. 5: Parker Woodland, “The World’s on Fire (and We Still Fall in Love”) EP
FEB. 12: Paul Leary, “Born Stupid” (Shimmy Disc/Joyful Noise)
FEB. 12: Cari Hutson, “Salvation & Soul Restoration” EP
FEB. 19: Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, “Hunter & the Dog Star” (Thirty Tigers)
FEB. 26: Willie Nelson, "That's Life" (Legacy)
FEBRUARY: Riders Against the Storm, “Flowers for the Living”
MARCH 24: Leti Garza, “Border Land” EP
APRIL 2: Zach Person, self-titled (Blackdenim)
APRIL 9: Balmorhea, “The Wind” (Deutsche Grammophon)