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.
Laorden “El Sol y La Luna”
Some nights you go out and you’re plagued by a relentless, gnawing feeling from the start, a humming vibration that wants you to do something but refuses to help you figure out what that something is. Sometimes it’s just enough to ride out that feeling, to savor it and keep it restrained. But Laorden’s “El Sol y La Luna” is for those other times, when you let that feeling escalate and reach out and pull others into the static with you. As cyclical as the celestial bodies its title references, “El Sol y La Luna” is darkwave with more rage than sorrow, its endless, frenetic tom rolls savaged by a piercing, building guitar riff, the whole song just a vibrating mass of need. The monotone, androgynous vocals that occasionally filter out have a questioning quality to them, the mystery amplified further by the man who periodically shouts the song’s name. The rest of the tracks on Laorden’s demos EP are equally vague and impenetrable, but “El Sol y La Luna” has a unique energy that makes it especially difficult to turn away from.
Wil Cope “You Can’t Win”
Before hearing Wil Cope’s “You Can’t Win,” I had never considered the possibilities in combining Sparklehorse’s mumbly bedroom pop and the ornate jangle of The Byrds. Turns out, it’s a pretty damn great pairing. In terms of songwriting and melody, Cope is more Mark Linkous than Roger McGuinn, but “You Can’t Win” is clearly influenced by McGuinn’s guitar playing and arrangement, giving the song a nice, optimistic underpinning and bright vitality. There’s also a bit of Gram Parsons in there with the subtle country elements, from the steel guitar to the twangy back-up vocal and harmonies. But I suspect that the song would be just as powerful, albeit in a much more tragic way, if you stripped all of the ambitious elements out and reduced it to just an acoustic guitar and lead vocal.
Alex Napping “Living Room”
It wasn’t too surprising that Alex Napping would catch the eye of Father/Daughter Records. The band has more in common with that San Francisco label’s roster than the pouty indie boy peers they’ve got in the Austin indie rock scene. “Living Room,” the first single from their upcoming Father/Daughter debut, has them doubling down on that, cozying up to the lackadaisical aesthetic of new label sibling Diet Cig. The result feels more relaxed than much of what Alex Napping has recorded to date, breezy and relatable rather than overly mannered. When it builds to its swirling conclusion, the mantra “Why can’t I tell me/That it’s a bad idea” comes across not as queasy regret but as ponderous, aided by the loping gait of the instrumental and its eventual blossoming into a punchy jam. Sometimes bad ideas are exactly what you need in order to progress.
Growl’s steady transformation into an Elephant 6-esque power pop outfit has been a delight to watch and “Suhferring,” from their upcoming album Won’t You pushes them even closer towards Apples in Stereo territory than ever before. Where previous Growl singles often emphasized rhythm over melody, “Suhferring” is laid back and full, the guitars lazily churning out power chords as the vocal does the melodic equivalent of a kid kicking a rock down the sidewalk while muttering about some unseen parental annoyance. “Suhferring” is a song that is content to take its time getting into your head, asking you to embrace its slack vibe and avoidance of traditional musical climax. Before, Growl was a solid band that often seemed in a hurry to please the listener, now they’ve matured into a group that takes its time to construct an irresistibly full and pleasant mood.
Growl play Thursday, February 16th at Stubb’s with Sphynx and more.
Hunter Sharpe “Tokyo”
Hunter Sharpe’s new single “Tokyo” sounds like it fell out of a time warp, better suited for the debaucherous times of the early ’00s than the apocalyptic climate we’re in. Bratty and gleeful, “Tokyo” is the result of Libertines and Fall Out Boy fandoms breeding, featuring the inebriated swagger and mush mouthed melodies of the former and the killer hooks and propulsion of the latter. What remains to be seen is whether Hunter and his crack band will have the Icarus trajectory of Pete Doherty and company; I’m hoping the answer is no, because “Tokyo” strikes me as the type of track that can erode Austin music snob distaste at rock stardom and force even the smuggest of scenesters to at least tap their feet and start considering an all night bender.
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