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.
The Dumpies “Witch Love”
Is there a better way to head into this shambles of a year than with some sloppy garage rock? Maybe by being granted access to a top secret, impenetrable nuclear bunker. But I don’t have those kinds of connections, so I’m making do with the Dumpies’ “Witch Love,” a self-proclaimed burst of “scuzzy lo-pop” that has the band outlining their need for “witch love, not which love.” Clocking in at just over a minute and a half, the track is nonetheless full of odd touches, from the chipmunk-y vocal delivery to all the eerie caterwhauling happening in the background. The band calls both Portland and Austin its hometown, which makes sense since they occupy the previously uncharted middle ground between Pacific Northwest act The Wimps and our own Big Bill. But I’m selfishly hoping they’re a more permanent addition to the ATX now.
Curbside Jones “SHEEP SZN”
We’ve been preaching the gospel of Curbside Jones for years and his new track “SHEEP SZN” shows why we’re so committed to his work, he’s the kind of artist who isn’t happy unless he’s on the move. Switching out the brokedown futuristic style of “FaceTimeWithGod 1.8,” “SHEEP SZN” is Curbside in street swagger mode, sending out “an open letter to those who say they’re better than me” over a sharp, antic beat. There are synth flourishes and warbly effects but the beat is primarily propelled by soul samples and hard hitting bass. Curbside’s last few releases have been introspective and transcendental but “SHEEP SZN” is refreshingly rugged, forcing its presence into the room and grabbing you with the velocity of its lyrical attacks.
YUNG $ICKS X GHOSTEMANE “Blo$$om U$”
I don’t know where the fuck Yung $icks‘ “Blo$$om U$” came from, but it (and the rest of the mysterious Chapter X EP) was soundtracking all of my most anxious moments during the last couple weeks of 2016. Most of the Austin hip hop scene is heading towards crisp, abstract production at the moment but Yung $icks’ favors subterranean production, as you can hear in this The Virus & Antidote beat’s murky claustrophobia and moldy vibes. The clearest element is some alarm clock synth chimes while $icks and collaborator Ghostemane sound less like rappers than molemen rising up from some evil depths to loot and pillage our cities. This is a raw, brutal sound for what’s going to be a raw, brutal year.
Little Thief “For Kevin”
Dead Sally spin-off Little Thief is an intriguing twist on Austin’s emo revival aesthetic, featuring heart-on-sleeve lyrics, guitar heroics and glitchy electronic percussion, closer to the sound of the gone too soon Tiger Style label than Jade Tree. “For Kevin” sums up the sound best, with its gorgeous, forlorn vocals and swelling cello eventually giving way to glam rock guitars, all while the lyrics explore grief and loss in a way that resonates more than any bitter kiss-off ever could. Little Thief still has room to grow, the arrangement could use a bit more work in order to make the transitions feel more natural, but the sprawling ambition and emotional honesty on display here makes “For Kevin” standout as a devastating introduction to what could become one of Austin’s most memorable new projects.
Ladyfang “How Long”
A melancholic twist on the love as an assassin metaphor also heard in Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out,” Ladyfang’s “How Long” is lovably unhip, removing all of the forced posturing that ruins too many anti-romance songs, aiming instead for sincerity in both sound and phrasing. Cara Juan’s voice is perfectly suited for this kind of material, equal parts Chrissie Hynde and Florence Welch. The band weaves in elements of New Wave and big beat girl group singles but wisely stays out of Juan’s way for the most part, allowing her smooth yet personable voice to shine and command attention.
Ladyfang play tomorrow, January 3rd, at Empire Control Room for Ovrld’s Free Week showcase with Fort Never and more.
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