Shakey Graves may not be the first musician you’d suggest for a drag superstar looking for a collaborator. But as soon as you hear the fingerpicked opening of Trixie Mattel’s song “This Town,” you’ll know he was the perfect fit. The first single from Mattel’s upcoming The Blonde & Pink Albums, “This Town” is an aching tribute to the Wisconsin town that made her. The song is both nostalgic for the simple pleasures of small-town life and a bittersweet reflection on the darker aspects of her hometown: the limited options, alcoholism, and abuse. Though it was written by Mattel, Graves’s verse feels like a loving nod to his Austin upbringing and his former life starring in Friday Night Lights: “Seeing for a mile all the lights of the high school games / Well, I hear you played on the radio / But you changed your name and you can’t go home.” Both Mattel and Graves are better known by their stage names, but as they reminisce on the past in “This Town,” it’s clear that no matter how much changes, their sense of home remains the same.
—Cat Cardenas, associate editor
Get your caffeine buzz
Along Menchaca Road in South Austin is the Hive, a bee-themed coffee shop and lounge. The charming cafe has a surprisingly large seating area, eliminating the requisite beeline for a seat next to an outlet. The menu boasts a wide selection of syrups to add to your coffee, such as peanut butter, pumpkin spice, and, obviously, honey. You can usually find Lick It Up, a plant-based Mexican street food truck with the best vegetarian carne asada fries in the city, parked in front of the building.
With events like “Coffee and Cuddles” with goats and a rotation of musical guests, the spot offers more than just what the baristas can serve up. There’s a stack of board games inside the cafe and locally made jewelry for sale. The shop invites guests of all ages to swarm in and pollinate the Hive, whether it’s for your morning coffee or a post-work beer.
—Lauren Girgis, editorial intern
Read a dispatch from the near future
It’s been a while since I was sucked into a novel as immediately as I have been by Austin author Noah Hawley’s Anthem. The book’s premise is so timely as to be disconcerting: it’s set a few years in the future, as the divisions revealed by COVID-19 and our post–January 6 politics have only grown more divisive, and a mysterious meme spreading among teens and children has led to an unprecedented suicide epidemic. Hawley’s one of the more accomplished storytellers working in any medium at the moment—he’s the creator of the TV adaptation of Fargo, as well as FX’s bizarre X-Men spin-off, Legion—but Anthem comes with a more direct voice that a collaborative project like a TV series can’t match. There are clear shades of other authors in Hawley’s writing (I clock Vonnegut and early Chuck Palahniuk in his prose, and there are explicit references to Stephen King and Suzanne Collins in the narrative), but there’s something satisfying about watching a high-level writer pulling from current events, wearing his influences on his sleeve, and creating something with an immediate, pulpy sense of urgency that speaks to a real, weird moment in American history.
—Dan Solomon, senior editor