Best of Austin Music, May 2016: Florence, Paul Simon and more

WHEN IT RAINS IT POURS

Austin band A Giant Dog recently signed with Merge Records and releases "Pile" this week. From left: Danny Blanchard, Sabrina Ellis, Andrew Cashen, Andy Bauer, Graham Low PHOTO BY SEAN DAIGLE

Austin band A Giant Dog recently signed with Merge Records and releases “Pile” this week.
From left: Danny Blanchard, Sabrina Ellis, Andrew Cashen, Andy Bauer, Graham Low PHOTO BY SEAN DAIGLE

This month’s rain continued to wreak havoc on live events. Levitation organizers are still trying to sort out refunds from the cancelled festival at the top of the month and a couple weeks later the Austin edition of Dallas-based music and beer festival Untapped, also scheduled to happen at deluged Carson Creek Ranch, became another casualty of spring storms.

At the same time, Austin was awash in amazing music. A bevy of Best of 2016 contenders barreled in this month. Bawdy barroom bruisers A Giant Dog celebrated their Merge Records debut, the ecstatic cacophony, “Pile” and two-piece garage rock powerhouse Black Pistol Fire dropped the blistering hard rock piece “Don’t Wake the Riot” on local indie label Modern Outsider. Sometimes OVO producer Eric Dingus and rapper Dowrong teamed for “Stack or Starve,” a stormy production, exploding with street science that dropped on ATX hip-hop indie Dream Sequence and our June Artist of the Month Megafauna released “Welcome Home,” an ambitious platter that melds elements of prog, grunge and metal. (More on that later this week).

BEST NEW ALBUMS

The Deer, “Tempest & Rapture.” Initially assembled as a backing crew for sweet-toned singer Grace Park — their initial gigs had her name out front — this foursome featuring multi-instrumentalist Jesse Dalton, guitarist/producer Michael McLeod and drummer/keyboardist Alan Ecker is making music that stands out starkly amid the crowded Austin indie landscape. It’s telling that the band’s attempts at self-definition involve mishmash phrases such as “psych-folk surf-dream,” given that their collaborative family tree overlaps with the progressive bluegrass of MilkDrive, the electronica spells of Bayonne and the film soundscapes of Richard Linklater. “Tempest & Rapture” doubles down on their impressive 2014 album “On the Essence of the Indomitable,” marrying melodic-pop instincts to inventive arrangements and rhythms. The resulting songs go down easy even when the music is complicated. With 17 tracks that add up to nearly an hour, there’s a lot to explore here, and it’s consistently refreshing. — P.B.

Echocentrics, “Echo Hotel.” It’s been five years since Austin super-producer Adrian Quesada released an Echocentrics album, but it’s certainly been worth the wait. Though songs are fleshed out with a live band and guest vocals from Alex Maas (Black Angels), James Petralli (White Denim), Jazz Mills, Tita Lima and Natalia Clavier, this is Quesada’s creative vehicle to stretch out and explore. The result is a richly textured scrapbook featuring the best of his signature sounds, from the psychedelic ramble of album opener “Canyon” to the dramatic passion that always sounds better in Spanish, “Muerto En Vida.” — D.S.S.

BEST LIVE SHOWS

Florence and the Machine at Christopher House. The band was spectacular at their Austin360 Amphitheater performance, and with grandiose passion, lead singer Florence Welch reached for deep connections with at an ‘Austin City Limits’ taping, but no performance last month was more moving than a private concert Welch and crew played for Karinya “Yaya” Chen, a 15-year-old hospice patient at Christopher House. With a chorus of teen back up singers (Chen’s friends) Welch and Chen spent 45 minutes warmly harmonizing, laughing, crying and shaking it out. All the love and all the tears. — D.S.S.

Paul Simon at Bass Concert Hall on May 10, 2016. Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Paul Simon at Bass Concert Hall on May 10, 2016. Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Paul Simon at Bass Concert Hall, ‘ACL’ taping. The songwriting icon enchanted fans with rhythm and words during a sold out two night stand at Bass Concert Hall. Then he stuck around to tape his debut appearance on ‘ACL,’ delivering a career-highlight moment for the famous Austin TV show. — P.B.

» Photos: Paul Simon at Bass Concert Hall

BEST NEW SONGS

“Survive” by Austin360 May Artist of the Month, Jeremy Nail.  Like the majority of his new album, this song draws from Nail’s experience battling a rare form of cancer and facing the hard truths head on. — P.B.

Lady Shacklin, “Lonely World” With exuberant energy and powerful pipes the Killeen/Austin R&B, reggae soul artist fills us with the sturdy spirit we need to face these troubled times. — D.S.S.


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