The Modern Leper - Frightened Rabbit
Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit played a set at SXSW in 2013 at the Four Seasons Hotel. This was the first time a live performance emotionally surprised me. Hutchinson performed The Modern Leper, a track from his band's 2003 release. Hutchinson verbally disembowels himself with his thick, Scottish brogue across a steady guitar sequence and folksy drum beat. I appreciate the raw emotional experience that these tracks create. Most recently, Frightened Rabbit released Painting of a Panic Attack in 2016 along with a a short single album in 2017 titled Recorded Songs.
Lost Coastlines - Okkervil River
Okkervil River is another band I had the pleasure of catching at ACL Fest in 2013. Frontman, Will Sheff formed Okkervil River in Austin, Texas in 1999. Since then, his career has been prolific between steady releases from Okkervil River, and his side project Shearwater which he formed with former Okkervil bandmate Jonathan Meiburg. This track off the 2008 release The Stand Ins really defines the bands acoustic, folksy, yet sharp and provocative style.
The Legend of Chavo Guerrero - The Mountain Goats
This track off their 2015 release Beat the Champ chronicles Mountain Goats frontman John Darnielle's childhood love for 80s pro wrestling. This ballad follows Texas legend Chavo Guerrero Sr. of the famous Guerrero wrestling family of El Paso, Texas. Darnielle harks back to the golden age of professional wrestling, but he explained in a 2015 blog post that these songs are "really more about death and difficult-to-navigate interior spaces than wrestling." Alongside his musical career, Darnielle has also published two novels recently.
Head in the Ceiling Fan - Title Fight
Ned Russin's work with Title Fight varies from post-hardcore to punk rock with elements of shoe-gaze as well. This track off their 2012 release Floral Green marks the band's first departure from their former, thrashy style. The jagged, melodic guitar drags across Russin's vocals creating a slower, melodic style that is echoed in their latest release Hyperview (2015).
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea - Neutral Milk Hotel
I found it difficult to not include at least one track from NMH. Jeff Mangum explained in a 1998 interview that he was deeply affected by the diary of Anne Frank, and many of the songs on the band's seminal, psych-folk/indie 1998 release In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. This track in particular holds a powerful place in the music scene that developed around bands like NMH and Elf Power.
Daughters of the Soho Riots - The National
Unsurprisingly, The National takes another place in this week's playlist. This track off the early 2005 release Alligator is often overlooked in favor of their hit Mr. November which is also featured on this album. Berninger's characteristic baritone slides across a gentle shift in bandmate Bryce Dessner's muted guitar.
How to Forget - Jason Isbell
Former Drive-By Truckers guitarist Jason Isbell has released several solo projects over the past 10 years. Yet, I wasn't really a fan until 2015's Something More Than Free. Before this release, I was aware but indifferent to Isbell's brilliant lyricism. How to Forget really sold me on the Americana/alt-country genre spectrum. I threw this track on this week's list because it reminded me of driving through my Austin neighborhood during high school, listening to the local public radio station KUTX which is where I was first introduced to Isbell.
The Shrine / An Argument - Fleet Foxes
The last show I caught before this semester was Fleet Foxes at an ACL live taping during the last week of summer. The Shrine was a song written for the stage. Robin Pecknold delivered what was probably the most powerful performance I've experienced. Profound emotion drips off his distinct, almost youthful vocals. This track remains my favorite from the band's discography quite possibly because of that single experience.
Holocene - Bon Iver
Widely known for his single Skinny Love, Bon Iver has grounded himself as a seminal indie folk artist of our time. However, it seems like his tracks apart from the radio hits don't get an incredible amount of recognition. To this end, Bon Iver has struck me as one of the most creatively consistent ensembles in the folk genre. It's easy to lose creativity after a hit single, yet frontman Justin Vernon continues to diversify and create with passion. Holocene really fits the Waco weather right now, yet it was more of an afterthought to put it on this list. What compelled me in the end is the fact that this track has truly enduring qualities about it that linger throughout the day.
Lillian, Egypt - Josh Ritter
Americana legend Josh Ritter completes this list with one of his older tracks off his 2006 release The Animal Years. What attracted me to many of the artists in this list was their ability to convey a story with more than words. Ritter's music has this certain, subjective message that doesn't resonate with the listener unless the music is given enough respect and time to truly manifest itself.