1. Grand Champeen, “Songs You Want To Hear” (2007)
Bar rock first born at boarding school. Their live shows are unparalleled when it comes to positive energy and drunken fun. “Beautiful music!!!!!” as my friend Brad would yell from the front row.
2. The Octopus Project, “Bees Bein’ Strugglin’” (2007)
The happiest indie-electronica band that ever popped.
3. The Golden Boys, “Oooh Girl” (2007)
The joyful soundtrack to many Lone Star-soaked evenings and the favorite local band of Austin’s dearly beloved Esme Barrera.
4. Explosions in the Sky, “So Long, Lonesome” (2007)
The prettiest post-rock that any human was ever lucky enough to experience. If you listen to their music on your headphones for the first time and don’t cry, you might not be human.
5. Alejandro Escovedo, “Always a Friend” (2008)
A sprawling musical history encompassing everything from early punk to country and Southern guitar rock has all led to Escovedo’s brilliant and uncategorizable solo songwriting, which is emotionally vulnerable and yet rock ‘n’ roll as hell.
6. Iron Age, “Burden of Empire” (2009)
Austin, Texas: where thrash metal meets sweet, sweet fantasy. <3
7. The Bright Light Social Hour, “Shanty” (2010)
Residing in some magical zone where funk and soul meet psychedelic indie rock.
8. Spoon, “Written in Reverse” (2010)
Like Austin itself, there will always be someone to tell you that Spoon was better in the early years. And yet 2010’s Transference was wonderfully strange and understated. This track is incredibly bitter but addictively delicious.
9. Ghostland Observatory, “Glitter” (2010)
D A N C E P A R T Y ! ! !
10. The Black and White Years, “Cold” (2010)
Excellent art rockers first discovered by former Talking Head and Modern Lover Jerry Harrison at SXSW back in 2007.
11. Some Say Leland, “We Will Dance” (2010)
An art collective fronted by singer-songwriter Dan Grissom. They’re also involved with putting on magical “secret” and house shows in Austin, where they celebrate and collaborate with many of the town’s best-kept folk secrets.
13. Bill Baird, “We’ll Meet Again Someday, or We Won’t” (2011)
Folk music that will systematically break your heart into tiny pieces and scatter it across the Texas prairie.
14. Flesh Lights, “I Am Romance” (2011)
Punk for yr love letters.
15. Suzanna Choffel, “Animal” (2011)
Singer-songwriter Suzanna Choffel makes lavish, multilayered coffee shop songs — not your momma’s folk.
16. The Wheeler Brothers, “Portraits” (2011)
Texas country isn’t the stuff you’ve been complaining about.
17. White Denim, “Street Joy” (2011)
Inventive to the point of completely defying categorization. Going to see them is inspiring and breathless: You never know what they’re going to play next — only that you will love it.
18. Love Inks, “In My Dreams” (2011)
Music for mixtapes for boys you never got over.
19. The Sword, “The Veil of Isis” (2012)
Peak metal. “The sword is a bladed weapon used primarily for cutting or thrusting.”
20. Quiet Company, “You, Me & The Boatman” (2011)
A rock ‘n’ roll band fronted by Taylor Muse, Quiet Company previously were known in some circles as a Christian band, but 2011’s We Are All Where We Belong is what Muse describes as a “breakup record” about his own departure from Christianity.
21. Riverboat Gamblers, “Blue Ghosts” (2012)
Punk’s not dead. Originally outta Denton, Texas (the second-best city in the world for music), the Gamblers moved to Austin a decade ago and what would we even do without them?
22. The Young, “Don’t Hustle for Love” (2012)
That fuzzy rock ‘n’ roll that’ll make you feel like a young hooligan again.
23. Gary Clark Jr., “Travis County” (2012)
The present and future of Texas blues.
24. Kat Edmonson, “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times” (2012)
Creative jazz vocalist born in Houston who got to Austin and started making every pop song she gets close to sound real, real pretty.
25. Shearwater, “Breaking the Yearlings” (2012)
Peerless and indescribable music set in the wilderness and showcasing the thrilling vocal expression of ornithologist/songwriter Jonathan Meiburg.
26. Phranchyze, “#atx” (2012)
Remember the name of Phranchyze, the “South Austin Hero,” so you can look cool later when he’s super famous and you were the first of your friends to dig it. That face doesn’t hurt either.
27. My Jerusalem, “Shatter Together” (2012)
Founded by singer-songwriter Jeff Klein and featuring his plaintive sad-bastard lyrics, but backed up by music that has bravado and verve.
28. Balmorhea, “Days” (2012)
Minimalist music so pretty it hurts.
29. Heartless Bastards, “Only for You” (2012)
Gorgeous Southern rock voiced by the incomparable Erika Wennerstrom and her perfectly earthy, twangy, heartfelt, heartbreaking inflection.
30. Zeale, “Hope Dies” (2013)
Just a solid, inventive MC outta Austin. Download his tunes.
31. Bob Schneider, “The Effect” (2013)
Hardworking Austin singer-songwriter Bob Schneider gets a bad rap with the hipster set because of his devoted but often fratty audience, but he is actually one of the best (and weirdest) songwriters working today. Also he has a super-rad website.
32. Black Joe Lewis, “Come to My Party” (2013)
The dirtiest, funkiest soul music that can be found anywhere in the year 2013.
34. Literature, “Arab Spring” (2013)
Jangly pop that calls for bouncing around in the front row.
35. The Black Angels, “Don’t Play with Guns” (2013)
Austin’s favorite modern psychedelic rock band (a competitive honor).
36. Jack Wilson, “Rainbow/Tiger” (2013)
Jack Wilson makes gorgeous, haunting folk songs that sting the tear ducts and raise the goosebumps.
37. Dale Watson, “I Lie When I Drink” (2013)
This silver fox is the only argument you need when some Yankee tries to tell you that country music sucks these days. They are wrong, and Dale is so right.
38. Mother Falcon, “Dirty Summer” (2013)
An 18-piece baroque pop outfit that will make you sentimental for the-good-ol’-seven-years-ago era of Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene.
39. Okkervil River, “Stay Young” (2013)
Over 15 years of making spectacular music, the only constant in Okkervil River has been lead singer and songwriter Will Sheff, whose songs range from aching to anthemic. Their new album, The Silver Gymnasium, drops in September.
40. Magna Carda, “Shoes $ Money” (2013)
A young Austin duo (and full band when they play live) that plays with a classic hip-hop sound evocative of Tribe, De La, and Digable Planets.