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Texas Textbooks

Texas Textbooks Pay Tribute to the I-35 Corridor With "Birds"

Texas Textbooks’ “Birds” is a warm, twangy, surprisingly smart album just right for summer 2021. The band’s staunch localism, which might have been off putting in a less welcoming package, instead provides a solid roadmap for songs to please listeners in and out of Bat City.

To be sure, this is an Austin album almost to excess -- Texas Textbooks’ love of their hometown is explicit. Seriously, there’s a whole song just called “Grackle,” ending with a Floydian cacophony familiar to anyone who’s ever put away groceries under a treefull of those loud bird bastards. It’s baked into the music, too. Influence from Spoon, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead and even Fastball is clear in the musical choices made. It’s never dull or samey, however. Textbooks’ composition is pleasantly dense, jangly countrified pop (they say “twangcore” but we’re not absolutely persuaded that’s a thing) with bracing shots of samples and shimmery slide guitar.

Texas Textbooks also stand out from the twangy Texas indie crowd on literary merit. Lyrics are both fun and pleasantly poetic, with a few flourishes of real beauty. Themes range from prosaic (a trip to the HEB with extensive involvement from the aforementioned birds) to enjoyably preposterous (Janis Joplin and Jorge Luis Borges just missing one another -– in fairness, both were at UT in 1961 –- at a diner off Guadalupe), but always catch the attention. Texas Textbooks avoids putting out boring, over misty-eyed meditations on failed relationships and/or the American dream, instead throwing their net wide, snagging everything from the challenges of adult friendship to a fantasia on San Antonio’s 1968 Hemisfair global exhibition. That ambition serves them well and shows a quantum leap beyond their solid debut effort “Pecos & Matamoros.”

All in all, Texas Textbooks is a must-listen for anyone invested in indie pop or the culture of the I-35 corridor. “Birds” is available now through the Texas Textbooks Bandcamp. Check ‘em out.

-- Matt Salter


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