The cover of Cross Record's album Wabi-Sabi, named for the Japanese art of imperfection, is a photograph of two scorpions who appear to be holding hands. It's an image that's both beautiful and deeply unsettling — and the same can be said of the music itself. Cross Record thrives on the duality of these moods, with singer and songwriter Emily Cross' haunting soprano almost always creeping towards something more sinister (the metallic thunderclaps at the end of album standout "Basket" make that quite clear).
Wabi-Sabi''s sweetly foreboding sound was molded on an isolated Texas ranch in an Austin suburb. Though Cross and her husband decamped there to record, Cross also found time to embrace the city's famously robust music scene. Below, six of her favorite songs by Austin musicians:
1. Battle Bend, "I Know You're Sad"
"I'm convinced that Andrew Stevens is some sort of shape-shifting reptilian magician. He is everywhere at once, in like nine different bands, playing impeccably. He cares about music. He's usually smiling. I've only seen him play in his solo project Battle Bend once, but man, I loved it. He had a big tape player on stage, and a drum kit. He'd go from strumming guitar and singing to playing drums to a recording on the tape player. It made me feel as if I was watching something intimate... like he was just transported via his UFO mid bedroom-band practice to this venue. This song is really calming to me. It's no-frills, and I like that a lot."
2. Krista Van Liew, "Entwined"
"This track makes me feel like I'm floating in a clear blue pool of water. Obviously that's a very good thing."
3. Thor & Friends, "Crusades"
"Thor was one of the first people we met when we moved to Austin. He invited us over to his house where we met his dog and cats and listened to some music. To know Thor is to love Thor. This band is one of the projects he's been playing with recently and they are simply hypnotizing to experience. This song, 'Crusades,' is a good example of the mood they create in a live setting. I just love that people are doing stuff like this."
4. Big Bill, "Sweet Boy"
"This song makes me dance, which is an important function of music. Sometimes these lyrics, 'Are you a good man? Are you a bad, bad man? No, I'm a sweet boy...' walk into my brain. If they happen to play back during a moment of self-reflection, it reminds me to try and be a 'sweet boy.' If they're playing in my head as I'm waiting in line at the grocery store or something, the words are thrown onto the people around me. I wonder if this man in front of me is good, bad, or a sweet boy. Am I making sense? Good job, Big Bill."
5. Julia Lucille, "Validation"
"Julia has a way with melody and chords that is impressive to me. This is one of my favorite songs of hers. I love the way it unravels... it's beautifully simple, but also holds a lot of information. She was one of the first artists I discovered here in Austin, and it's been a real pleasure to witness her sound change and develop over the years."
6. Adam Torres, "Voices from the Top of the Mountain"
"Austin is lucky to have a gem like Adam Torres. He'll go from gentle singing, like in this song, to a chilling falsetto howl. I was just about knocked on my ass the first time I saw him perform. I enjoy this song for its feeling of familiarity. It's like a big, warm hug."
Wabi-Sabi is out now on Ba Da Bing Records.
(This interview was condensed and edited by Samantha Rollins.)
Watch the video for "High Rise" by Cross Record below:
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