Welcome to September. It’s the beginning of autumn somewhere in the world, but in Texas we’re struggling to gut out the unbearable end of summer. The lazy Labor Day weekend brought us a slew of steamy Southern rap, slick pop grooves, emo punk and more. As always, Team 360 writers Eric Webb and Deborah Sengupta Stith took over the Austin360 Periscope account to play a selection of this week’s notable new releases and compiled the top tracks to kick off the 360 Mixtape: September 2015 playlist. We also share our hastily compiled first impressions of the albums below.
For the best new Austin releases, check out Peter Blackstock’s On the Record column.
Scarface ‘Deeply Rooted’ –Listen
D.S.S. Years after ostensibly retiring, the Houston rap titan is back with a highly reflective album that reminds us of the Geto Boys’ essential role as Southern rap pioneers. It’s a powerful piece with rich, soulful production and thoughtful rhymes. With the requisite John Legend feature, it skirts the edge of adult contemporary rap, but that’s kind of my jam.
E.W. I honestly don’t know what to make of the John Legend feature. “Latter-day Common” comes to mind.
Troye Sivan “Wild” – Listen
E.W. The title track is undeniable. Longtime 360 Mixtape (and First Spins) watchers will recall my affinity for mainstream-penetrating earworms with queer themes, like Years and Years. Just like Years and Years (another teen fave), Troye Sivan’s “Wild” is an aching, romantic, steamy slice of R&B-influenced synth pop. (And do I detect a little “Crazy In Love” on “Ease”?) I could do without the tired playground chants on the title track, but that’s a minor quibble. The YouTube teens are on to something with Troye.
D.S.S. You’ve got to hand it to those wacky YouTube kids, they certainly know how to craft a catchy pop song.
Travi$ Scott ‘Rodeo’ – Listen
D.S.S. A couple years back I watched a Fader Fort crowd go stark raving mad for a then 21-year-old Travi$ Scott during South by Southwest. Since then his buzz has grown thunderously. This album includes features from close to everyone — Kanye, the Weeknd, Toro Y Moi (?!?) — and it starts out promising. But it’s long (75 mins.) and too much of it stays in the same monotone lane. By the halfway point it’s become tedious and I found myself struggling to make it to the end.
E.W. You know I love Angry Kanye verses, at least.
Fidlar ‘Too’ – Listen
E.W. So the thing about Fidlar is that they are the kind of punk band where the lead singer could well have died at some point, and now they’re operating within this scuzz-punk image as they try to clean up their personal act a little. It makes for an interesting collection of songs ranging from the hard drive of “40 Oz. on Repeat” to the Wavves-y beach waves of “West Coast” to the strung out misery of “Overdose.” Think of it as a picture of a band in transition, or think of it as a modern punk sampler platter.
D.S.S. The eerie juxtaposition of ominous and oddly upbeat on “Overdose” is alarmingly effective.
Wiz Khalifa ft. Rae Sremmurd ‘Burn Slow’ (single) – Listen
D.S.S. During SXSW 2015 I shook my head while respectable music writers gushed about getting “turnt up” to the simplistic rhymes of Tupelo, Miss., brother duo Rae Sremmurd. I also hated Wiz Khalifa’s 2014 release “Blacc Hollywood.” But, dismissive misogyny aside, this combo is a party rap track I can get with — a self-described slow burner perfectly suited to the end of a brutal Southern summer.
E.W. It doesn’t sound like Wiz’s radio rap, and I don’t hear anything to set it apart from the pack, either.
Family of the Year ‘Family of the Year’ – Listen
E.W. The band behind the “Boyhood” song are back with this full-length, and with a cursory listen under my belt, it seems to be the kind of pleasant ready-made indie rock that will hit certain radio formats hard. There’s a faint hint of deeper meaning that I might explore. If I get around to it.
D.S.S. Only listening to one track, it feels like the kind of sweeping emotional indie folk pop that people who love sweeping emotional indie folk pop will love.
K Camp ‘Only Way is Up’ – Listen
D.S.S. With a variety of textures and an appealing off-kilter flow, the highly anticipated debut full-length from one of ATL’s hottest up-and-comers is a solid first go round.
E.W. This sounds generic, but when he really gets going, K Camp’s Orville Redenbacher flow makes me perk up.
The Wonder Years ‘No Closer to Heaven’ – Listen
E.W. The Wonder Years are the sensitive, thinking man’s pop punk band, and last year’s “The Greatest Generation” was well-received for transcending the Warped Tour sound (which I love) and tackling some adult problems in a genre where that’s not too common. The lead singer, “Soupy” Campbell, has had some hard times in the past, and he’s never shied away from putting some Real Personal Issues on a track. This album feels a little like a trudge to me — there aren’t many fist-throwers to break up the extreme earnestness — but if you want some me introspection, this’ll be welcome.
D.S.S. Maybe it’s sleep deprivation, but the heart on the sleeve passion is kind of working for me.
Kygo, Ella Henderson ‘Here For You’ (single) – Listen
D.S.S. I know nothing about 23-year-old Norwegian producer Kygo or 19-year-old British singer Ella Henderson, but the combination of smoky vocals and eurocool club beats on this track is one of my favorite sounds du jour.
E.W. I want to wear a mesh shirt and bop to this in a weird Serbian club.