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Our 2017 picks for the best in local music

We name the artists, records, events and venues that made 2017's music scene land on a high note
By John Laird |

It was another kick-ass year for music in Austin: Veteran acts like Spoon and the Black Angels put out well-received new albums, a number of beloved festivals—SXSW, ACL, Utopia—continued to draw in the masses, and seemingly floundering fests (Levitation, Sound on Sound) found a way to rally back to life in some form or another. Even more exciting? A slew of new events and albums and reinvigorated live music venues made a serious splash this year. We're handing out awards to these local all-stars—and can't wait to see, hear and experience what 2018 has on the bill.

Best in show

Photograph: Ryan Sax

Best debut album: Won't You by Growl

After rolling out a few EPs and singles, Growl finally put together a full-length debut album. Won’t You is infectious as hell, with each of the nine tracks featuring plenty of fuzzy distortion, relatable lyrics, the sincere voice of Santiago Dietche and more hooks than we deserve. Your new 2018 resolution? Snatch up this slice of indie-pop perfection from one of Austin’s most buzzworthy bands. Listen to Won’t You here.

Photo: Ryan Sax

Scoot Inn
Photograph: Katrina Barber
Bars, Beer bars

Best new look: Scoot Inn

icon-location-pin East Cesar Chavez

Over the summer, C3 Presents—the event production company behind ACL Music Festival—acquired Scoot Inn from Doug Guller, whose ATX Brands owns the restaurant chain Bikinis and music venue the Parish. After giving the venue cosmetic upgrades, C3 filled Scoot Inn’s calendar with notable acts like Wild Child, the Bright Light Social Hour and Vintage Trouble. The activity has been refreshing for the historic property, which has been entertaining Austinites since 1871.

Photo: Katrina Barber

Pollen RX
Photograph: Courtesy Pollen Rx

Best local label: Austin Town Hall Records

Austin Town Hall Records came out swinging in January 2017 when the label released garage poppers Pollen Rx’s debut album, Sunbelt Emptiness, then followed it with a pair of indie-pop gems: Très Oui’s Singles Going Nowhere EP and Growl’s debut LP, Won’t You. That’s quite the list of accomplishments, but they didn’t stop there; the label also put out a second volume of the much-loved Slack Capital compilation (proceeds from it go to SafePlace, an organization providing resources to sexual and domestic violence victims), and they sold out of the initial pressing of the So Polite EP from surf rockers Summer Salt. That’s big-time stuff from this little label. Check out more from Austin Town Hall Records here

Photo: Courtesy Pollen RX

Hollow Coats
Photograph: Peter Livadas

Best debut single: "Fold" by Hollow Coats

Composer Michael Wisdom, singer-songwriter Adam Diener (Obsolete Machines) and producer Bryan Ray (Lonely Child) are Hollow Coats, a new local act that has only one single—but it’s an earworm. Titled “Fold,” the track features a compelling sound that pulls from various genres, including electronic and indie rock. It’s a serious attention grabber, and we hope to see more like it in 2018—even if it is just one more perfect song. Listen to “Fold” here.

Photo: Peter Livadas

Cheer Up Charlie's
Photograph: Courtesy Cheer Up Charlie's/Bryan C. Parker

Best new event: Hot Summer Nights

While Free Week, which takes place at the beginning of January, has been a local favorite for years, Hot Summer Nights launched this July with a similar concept—and the crowd went wild. Presented by the Red River Cultural District, the four-night event showcased free shows with mainly local acts, during a time when sweltering heat slows Austin’s usually active calendar. It was a fantastic, necessary addition to our music scene, and one that hopefully makes an encore. Keep an eye out for details on the next Hot Summer Nights on the Red River District's Facebook page

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