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Phil Ajjarapu (Jennifer)

March 25, 2015

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On March 26, 2012 Phil Ajjarapu flew off an Austin highway overpass from his motorbike, survived against all odds, and committed his life to music. When he was raising money to make his album in 2013, he shared “I remember being in the hospital thinking that I need to make this album, even if no one bothered hearing it, even if it didn’t mean anything to anyone but me. If I had died without making it, that would have been the one thing I really regretted, and I couldn’t stand the thought of dying with regrets.

This week Spider House Ballroom is hosting Nights Of The Living Phil, a two-night celebration of his story that’s also doubling as a benefit for the Austin Music Foundation. Tonight Phil is doing a songwriters in the round event with fellow local artists Marcus Brown (Auroravore), Seth Gibbs (Bobby Jealousy/Super Pop Records), Eva Mueller (Hot Cotton), Christy Hays and Lauren Burton. Tomorrow night will include a performance from Phil and his band as well as Tele Novella, Silver Ships and the live debut of Scenery.

This is a worthy event highlighting some top notch local talent along with benefiting the work of the Austin Music Foundation, which provides education and outreach programs for the local music community. There is a $10 suggested donation each night. $15 gets you a wristband for both nights.

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2014 Austin Essentials: Volume 1

November 24, 2014

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It’s taken me a couple of weeks, but I’ve finally manged to get my 2014 Austin Essentials list all perfectly hammered out  And by perfectly hammered out, I mean “I’m pretty sure I got 91% of it right.”  Anyways, it’s 60 or so bands long and it’s divided into three volumes (part two is tomorrow, part three is on Wednesday).  In case you’re wondering, my only real “guideline” for the list was that the artist must have put out something new (no re-releases, man) in 2014.  So, get to sampling!  I hope you find some new local stuff to love.  Enjoy.

PS – For the sake of not making the list even longer, I left out super familiar names like Spoon, And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, The Black Angels, Shakey Graves, Balmorhea, Ume, Quiet Company and I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness.

:Major Major Major – God Doesn’t Want Us:  Throughout 2014 Major Major Major have been increasingly impressive.  Their shows are a blast, and then there’s also the way the duo can’t seem to write anything that isn’t infectious.  Look out for their debut full length next year.  Provide Facebook love HERE.

:Abram Shook – Coastal:  I really love Abram Shook’s Sun Marquee.  The album is one of those pop efforts that’s both wonderfully crafted and super accessible.  Provide Facebook love HERE.

:Tele Novella – Trouble In Paradise:  Tele Novella spent much of the year further establishing themselves (singles, videos, lots of shows), and I think 2015 is now set to be a big one for them.  Jump on the bandwagon now.  Provide Facebook love HERE.

:The Dead Space – Behind The Wall:  The Dead Space’s Faker is probably my favorite Austin album of 2014.  It’s a fantastic collection of post-punk tracks.  Provide Facebook love HERE.

:Magna Carda – Every Weekend (Featuring Olivia Applegate):  Magna Carda are no longer just one of the best hip hop acts in Austin, they’re one of the city’s best overall acts.  Here soon they’re releasing an album, and I can’t wait to check it out.  Provide Facebook love HERE.

:Dana Falconberry – Palmless:  Dana Falconberry and Jim Eno (from Spoon) crafted this song together for a Record Store Day release.  I want a lot more of the same.  Please.  Provide Facebook love HERE.

:Borrisokane – God Doesn’t Want Us (Major Major Major Cover):  Borrisokane’s Versus Project (a box set that features them and a variety of guests doing covers and original tunes) is probably the most ambitious thing that popped out of Austin in 2014.  Check it out if you haven’t.  Provide Facebook love HERE.

:Letting Up Despite Great Faults – Wrapped:  Neon is the name of Letting Up Despite Great Faults’ latest (and maybe final?) album.  You should pick it up just so that you can own a physical copy of this absolutely stellar song.  Provide Facebook love HERE.

:Summer Salt – Sweet To Me:  Phil and Eugene (from the now defunct Yum) are two-thirds of Summer Salt, a retro pop act with a knack for providing rather hooky, breezy tracks.  Provide Facebook love HERE.

:Otis The Destroyer – You’re The Wealth:  The Couch are no more, but that’s OK because some of its former members started the equally loud and glorious Otis The Destroyer.  Provide Facebook love HERE.

:Equals – Glistener:  If you’re a fan of instrumental rock, then Equals’ Tracts is an album that you need to seek out.  I’ve been jamming it for most of the year.  Provide Facebook love HERE.

:BLXPLTN – Start Fires:  With music that’s all at once danceable, mosh-worthy and inspired,  BLXPLTN are an Austin band that has dominated in 2014.  Provide Facebook love HERE.

:Future Death – Basements:  Future Death play like maybe there really won’t be a tomorrow, and I like that.  Provide Facebook love HERE.

:Genuine Leather – The Enemy:  For those of you that love clever pop tunes, there’s the Genuine Leather album Losers.  Snatch it up.  Provide Facebook love HERE.

:Phil Ajjarapu – Sing Along Until You Feel Better:  SOTO’s own Jennifer made sure I included Phil Ajjarapu on the list, and it’s not hard to see why – the guy has some really good pop songs in his repertoire.  Provide Facebook love HERE.

:Lowin – Heave Ho:  Sara Houser’s soaring voice is now front and center in her own band (and no longer as part of The Couch), and the results so far have been pretty great.  Provide Facebook love HERE.

:SHMU – She’s Leaving:  Sam Chown, who is also one half of Zorch, is the man behind SHMU.  Give the guy a listen if you like experimental electronic pop.  Provide Facebook love HERE.

:Pompeii – Blueprint:  After a solid five years or so, Pompeii finally rallied up a new album.  Loom, if you ask me, is fantastic and totally ended up being worth the wait.  Provide Facebook love HERE.

:Growl – Jackie:  I don’t remember many local music convos this year where someone didn’t excitedly bring up Growl.  This song is from a compilation, but you should also spend some time with the band’s EP, No Years, that was put out back in January.  Provide Facebook love HERE.

:Crooked Bangs – Ce Type:  This year Crooked Bangs put out this attitude-laced gem (it’s from a split with Houston’s Secret Prostitutes) and played Fun Fun Fun Fest.  Solid.  Provide Facebook love HERE.

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Phil Ajjarapu (Jennifer)

April 2, 2014

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About a year ago, Austin based songwriter Phil Ajjarapu was preparing to record an album. This may not sound particularly extraordinary, but it is because he survived a near fatal motorcycle accident in March 2012.

Phil has played bass and pedal steel as a session musician and sideman for several years. After his accident, he was determined to make his debut. Recording a full length doesn’t come cheap though, and he had the goal of having one of his favorite musicians, Ken Stringfellow (The Posies, REM, Big Star), serve as producer. Like many musicians, Phil turned to Kickstarter, and friends and fans helped helped him complete a successful campaign so that he could realize his dream and goal.

His debut album, Sing Along Until You Feel Better, was released last week. On his Bandcamp page, he explains, “I’m a fan of albums, and I hope you like this one. It’s meant to be played in order, and if you pretend hard enough, you can pause it after track five and mentally flip the record.” He doesn’t shy away from his influences (including Beatles, Beach Boys, Big Star) but he also succeeds in putting his own stamp as a songwriter. He displays his love for hummable melodies and soaring harmonies.  There is a tinge of sadness and melancholy in these songs but there is a common thread of hope and optimism that unites them and they remain true to the album title. Sometimes you do just have to sing along until you feel better.

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