by Nick Hanover
If you live in Austin then you already know there’s too much damn music to keep track of. And sometimes you just want to sift through it in bite-sized chunks. We totally understand. Allow us to introduce you to The Latest Toughs, five tracks from five bands to get you up to date and make each of your workdays a little easier.
You can drive yourself mad sifting through all the generic singer-songwriters that Austin produces. After a while they blend together, a sea of breathy voices and cute lyrics and gently strummed guitars. Yet I keep coming back to fuvk, why? It’s simple. There’s an honesty and intensity to fuvk’s music that is missing from 99% of the singer-songwriters I encounter. On the new track “radjo,” she tells someone “Your voice, a lullaby/At five am” but that sums up one aspect of the appeal of fuvk’s music, too. Enchanting and ethereal, comforting but disquieting in its mystery, drifting in and out of consciousness like an insomniac’s recollection of the night before. Fuvk as a personality and presence is indefinable, too shimmery to grasp but fuvk’s lyrics latch onto you and force you to witness memories that aren’t your own, too specific and concise to be lies or half-truths or falsehoods. Fuvk’s term for it is “audio journal,” and I like that– these are songs yellowed with time but lived in enough to feel fresh no matter when you glimpse them.
Borzoi “Adult Contemporary”
I suspect Borzoi has been consuming more Mclusky than Slint lately. “Adult Contemporary,” in sound, title and attitude could have come straight from Mclusky Do Dallas. But it’s still unmistakably a Borzoi track, with barely discernible vocals and spindly, jagged guitar assaulting every corner of the mix. Paired with previous single “Worry Wart,” it also showcases Borzoi’s increasing ability to graft addictive hooks onto their explosive rhythms, here it just happens to come not from a shoutalong chorus but from an insidious, razor sharp guitar riff that cuts through the back and forth blitzkrieg chords at the start, eventually transforming into a Les Savy Fav-style delay drenched build up.
Borzoi play Beerland Saturday, December 17th.
Trying Science “Blowing Raspberries”
The wave of instrumental Austin math rock bands continues to crest with the emergence of Trying Science, a new four piece with a sound that’s more Battles than Explosions in the Sky. On lead off single “Blowing Raspberries,” that means a heavier emphasis on rhythm, from the percussive guitar licks to the insistent drum beat, making for a more immediately gratifying sound. “Blowing Raspberries” is epic enough in construction that it still manages to work in a Minus the Bear style breakdown, with twisty guitar arpeggios and drum drops. Too many Austin instrumental bands struggle to make their arrangements engaging, expecting ambience and delay effects to do all the legwork, but Trying Science expertly fill out “Blowing Raspberries” with a number of climactic moments to give the listener something to hold onto. It doesn’t hurt that the song is also less than four minutes rather than the genre standard 12.
Brandon Hamilton “The Idiot is Me”
I can’t really make out the bulk of the lyrics on Brandon Hamilton’s “The Idiot is Me,” but I think I get the basic sentiment nonetheless. Delivered via a blast of classic West Coast sounding punk, “The Idiot is Me” is an anthem for the moment you realize it’s not everyone else that’s fucking up, it’s just you. Rather than try to change his behavior and embrace maturity, Hamilton decides to go the opposite way and fling himself headfirst into anarchic idiocy. The fuzzed out vocals add to that effect of incomprehension, reducing the meaning to subliterary brattiness and a general sense of willful failure. But hey, we live in a new post-intelligence society anyway, so when in Rome, do as the Romans do and accept your inner idiot.
Riders Against the Storm “Bulletproof”
Riders Against the Storm’s new Luke Cage tribute track “Bulletproof” is giving me major flashbacks to Major Lazer’s Lazerproof mixtape, which worked in La Roux tracks on top of Major Lazer’s whole other deal, resulting in a bizarre but catchy as all fuck amalgam of new new wave and dancehall. RAS normally keep their vocals pretty clean and unaltered, but “Bulletproof” has them running their voices through all kinds of modulation while a stuttering synth bass line and a dancehall rhythm clash with Switch referencing gunshot samples. While I can’t see Luke Cage himself getting dirty to it (dude strikes me as more of a Luther Vandross type), it’s hard to resist its charms.
Riders Against the Storm are performing this Saturday, December 3rd, at SIMS’ Heart of the City event at Emo’s.
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Ovrld as well as Loser City, where he mostly writes about comics. You can also flip through his archives at Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with his friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover