City Scenes: 9 Austin Artists You Should Know

May 1, 2019
Originally published on September 9, 2019 1:15 pm

In 2015, the Austin metro area surpassed 2 million residents and The U.S. Census Bureau ranked it as one of the fastest growing cities in the country. We've gone from the city that inspired Slacker to a full-blown tech hub competing for a new Amazon headquarters.

As you can imagine, such rapid growth has led to some serious soul searching for such a famously chill place. At times, it can seem like the legacies of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Willie Nelson are being overshadowed by the new high rise buildings now dotting Austin's skyline. But through all the change, the independent spirit of these musical pioneers still finds a way to inspire a new generation of Austin musicians. And we think Willie would be especially proud of the newcomers pushing Austin music in new and exciting directions.

These nine Austin artists featured in Slingshot Scenes represent a snapshot of the Austin music scene at this moment. From outlaw country and electric blues to heavy metal and R&B, Austin musicians continue to make the city one of the most exciting places to be a music fan. – Peter Babb


The Well

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The Well is deep. The Well is dark. The Well is freaking awesome! Austin psych-metal band The Well is set to release its latest album, Death and Consolation, on April 26 via Riding Easy Records. As the title suggests, this ain't no sunny surf rock album. This one got dropped down the well and hit every grungy, grimy stone on the way down.

Guitarist/vocalist Ian Graham, bassist/vocalist Lisa Alley and drummer Jason Sullivan wanted to pick up where they left off with the band's 2016 album, Pagan Science, so they once again recruited longtime producer and engineer Chico Jones at Estuary Studio to maintain some sonic consistency. While the elements of the new album maintain many of the hallmarks of previous releases, Death and Consolation, feels rawer. The songs are more concise and the punch often comes right off the top and keeps pummeling you until the very last riff. – Peter Babb

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Moving Panoramas

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After an extended detour playing with several bands in Brooklyn, Moving Panoramas chief songwriter Leslie Sisson decided to pack up her instruments and make the move back to her native Texas. Despite the drastic change in scenery, Sisson wasted no time in pulling together a trio and releasing the first Moving Panoramas LP in 2015, One. The album featured Sisson's distinctively sweet, shimmering vocals layered over delicately composed atmospheric dream pop. A seriously heady combination that put the album on several local and national Best of- lists. Not a bad way to celebrate your homecoming.

As life would have it, unexpected roadblocks arose during production of the sophomore album, with health hiccups and timing snafus causing a release detour. Fortunately, the finish line has been crossed and the new LP, In Two, recorded with One engineer Louie Lino at Resonate in Austin and mixed by Danny Reisch at Good Dannys in Lockhart, Tx., took flight Feb. 2019 via Modern Outsider Records. – Peter Babb


Bayonne

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Austin experimental musician Roger Sellers, a.k.a. Bayonne, is somewhat of an outlier in the local scene. In a city filled with pearl snaps, guitar licks and love songs (Not that there's anything wrong with those things!), Bayonne creates cavernous, ambient soundscapes. Don't be mistaken though, this isn't the meditative music of Brian Eno.

On the new Bayonne record Drastic Measures, Sellers merged his increasingly classic pop-inspired sensibilities with a production approach closely focused on looping, layering and overdubbing. "Even if you hear something simple like clapping or finger snaps, it's probably layered 10 or 20 times," he says. "I just like to stack and layer everything to get these big sounds, and create a really wide sonic space within the songs." – Ryan Wen

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Carson McHone

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Native Austinite and country songwriter Carson McHone has been crushing crowds at places like The White Horse well before she was 21, and rightfully so. McHone's unapologetic temperament shines through her lyrics and she matches it with flawless performances on vocals, guitar and harmonica.

McHone's latest offering came in the form of her third full-length, Carousel, and while it's no revolution in her sound, it's definitely the best packaged Carson McHone experience to date. We were happy to have Carson as our October 2018 Artist of the Month and at that time she told us, "It's never too early to teach your kids about subtext." – Jack Anderson

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Mélat

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Mélat's powerful voice immediately commands attention. She was born in Austin and is a graduate of Cedar Park High School, but her upbringing was far from typical. Her parents, both immigrants from Ethiopia, had to flee their home country in the dead of night. Influenced by her cultural upbringing — her parents still speak their native language, Amharic — and her father's love of American R&B, Mélat has found a voice and style all her own. Her talent has earned her more and more attention. Her latest album, Move Me II: The Present, along with her latest single, "After All," is an intimate and fully-realized collection of soulful R&B. – Jeff McCord

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Abhi The Nomad

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For decades, Austin has been a welcoming hotbed for hungry musicians from elsewhere to come and carve out their place in the city's gentle beast of a music community. Few, however, have had the geographic history of Abhi Sridharan Vaidehi, known 'round these here parts as Abhi the Nomad. The son of an Indian diplomat, Abhi's life has taken him from New Delhi to Beijing to California and finally to Austin. And boy, is our hip-hop scene better for it.

Vaidehi, like a lot of millennials, was equally taken with both angsty pop-punk and energetic hip-hop in his teen years. He began writing music to process the nomadic lifestyle and preserve memories along the way, creating a body of work that acts as a set of vignettes of the unique upbringing thrust upon him and his life since settling down. Abhi has said that for him, the pinnacle of existence would be collaborating with Jay-Z. In a time of endless, expendable SoundCloud rappers and producers, Abhi is inarguably one of the few with the potent talent able to carry him to that zenith. – Taylor Wallace


Walker Lukens

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Pop? Indie rock? Who cares! Walker Lukens is loyal to only one category: excellence. With songs that can wax everywhere from sweet to spicy (but never bitter) and '80s-tinged to fully modern, the consistently high energy of his studio recordings explodes in his live performances.

Backed by his Side Arms, the other important piece in the Lukens pie is local producer extraordinaire Jim Eno, who has worked with Lukens on all of his releases for the last half-decade or so. More than a couple million streams later, the pair proves formidable and continues the fortitude with Lukens's latest release, ADULT.

Whether you're looking for a new, adorable love song or something to soundtrack your getting-ready-to-go-out routine, Walker Lukens has your order in spades. He would also like it emphasized that his name is not Walter. –Taylor Wallace


Mohammad Firoozi

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Mohammad Firoozi's first encounter with spiritual music came when he was asked to sing the azaan (Call to Prayer) at his local mosque in Borazjan, Iran at age 7. Since then, Mohammed has continued his musical studies with spiritual Sufi gatherings, gypsy music from the nomadic tribes of Ghashghaei and Ghorbati, and a variety of Arab, African and Persian folk music from his native Iran. Mohammed eventually made his way to Austin after immigrating to the U.S. in 1973. In 1996, he formed his band The Gypsies, which eventually became Atash, a world music group that he often uses to conduct workshops and educational programs for Austin schools. – Peter Babb

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Jake Lloyd

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With the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Willie Nelson, and Gary Clark Jr. coming out of Austin, the city is rather known for its rock and country roots. Well what if I told you that there was an artist who could give you all three of those gentlemen, along with the soulfulness of Otis Redding, and the stage presence of James Brown? That artist would be the Austin-born and bred, Jake Lloyd.

Over the past couple of years, Jake Lloyd has emerged as a flag bearer for Austin's exploding R&B scene and his newest single, "Daily Interlude," is a prime example of why. The new song highlights his ability to mash up a variety of musical genres and influences into incredibly catchy songs with undeniable hooks. The accompanying video shot at beloved North Austin hangout The Aristocrat does a great job showing off Jake's energy and warmth as a performer. "Daily Interlude" can be found on Jake Lloyd's forthcoming album, MoonLit Mornings. – Aaron "Fresh" Knight

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For more Slingshot Scenes, check out the 5 Chicago Latinx Artists To Watch In 2019 and 5 Chicago DJs To Watch In 2019.

Stream NPR Music's Slingshot playlist on Spotify and Apple Music.

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