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.
Zest of Yore- “Shine the Shield”
Power popsters Zest of Yore have reemerged with a laser sharp batch of tracks titled Zest of Your Mom. I believe the EP was recorded quite a while ago, as Stephen Pierce’s rhythm section of Alan Lauer and Sean Padilla are currently engaged in other projects, with Lauer now focused on Big Bill while Padilla has relocated to Charlotte, NC and runs a booking agency called Happy Nomad. But the songs sound incredibly fresh, particularly coming of age ode “Shine the Shield,” which pairs Ted Leo lyricism with Big Star structure and some guitar tones that wouldn’t be out of place on a Brainiac album. Pierce’s lyrics serve as excellent adolescent snapshots, but the secret ingredient that makes the track stand out is the partnership between those jagged, thick guitar riffs and Pierce’s sweet, crystal clear voice. It’s an addictive little number that is perfectly built to soundtrack the last days of summer.
Austin’s emo resurgence has been pretty fucking dude heavy, with the most popular emo revivalists in town skewing towards technicality rather than romanticism or passion. It’s mostly a sea of Appleseed Cast devotees with pretty hair and aw shucks grins and not much depth. The mysterious fuvk isn’t quite emo but her new EP something deliberate would have fit right in with the softer portions of Jade Tree’s catalog at its peak and for that I am thankful. With a voice that recalls Rainer Maria’s Caithlin De Marrais, fuvk sings about longing and melancholy with the right amount of heart-on-sleeve sincerity, making the beautifully simple sentiment of “I’ll be anyone/If you’d only ask me/I’ll go anywhere/If you try to find me” tragic and romantic in equal measure. And given the limited and mysterious online presence fuvk has, it’s clear they don’t want any attempts to find them to be as easy as a Facebook search.
I never suspected that Drankenstein auteur Bird Peterson had a trip hop side but now that I’ve been introduced to it via “Dock” I don’t think I can go back to regular reality. Teaming up with cool as fuck trio Keeper (who know a thing or two about trip hop), Bird’s trip hop excursion is notable for how forward facing it is. This isn’t a meager Portishead clone or a Massive Attack nod but a new work of simmering intensity and barely contained menace. Keeper turn in a performance that makes it seem the sweet nothings they’re whispering in your ear are merely a distraction from the dagger they’re raising to your throat– it’s seductive and sharp and fatal. Bird avoids the typical trip hop traps of spy film samples and heavily compressed drums, instead building up a bed of slinky synth bass and breathy vocal loops, the spacious production allowing Keeper’s vocal performance to truly shine. Keeper’s recent burst of singles haven’t hit me as hard as their early BoomBaptist collaborations, but “Dock” has me feverishly excited for Corners, as it’s clear that Bird gets Keeper in a way no one other than Boom has.
Name Sayers- “New Moon”
Devin James Fry’s newish project Name Sayers seems to have brought out a more groove oriented side of Austin’s most musical bee keeper. Look no further than “New Moon” for proof– the track has a swagger and stomp to it that is pretty damn arousing, and it still manages to pack the swirling instrumental intensity he’s been known for since the Lord Buffalo and Salesman days. You can hear some of the Eastern European dancehall flavor of early Devotchka but Fry’s vocals have the romantinc splendor of Bonnie “Prince” Billy with folkloric thematic twists. The band has yet to unveil full length plans but I’ve got a feeling that the album format is where they’ll truly shine, “New Moon” alone has enough ideas hidden within it to sustain dozens of lesser artists’ entire careers.
Chalkboards- “Sweet Tea Lemonade”
Chiptune pop act Chalkboards have been busy with multiple other collabroations and partnerships since their 2013 self-titled release, but they’re back now with Have a Kick Ass Summer, a short and sweet EP that showcases their transformation into a Grandaddy gone Nintendo outfit. At the center of the EP is “Sweet Tea Lemonade,” an ode to Texas’ porch beverage of choice, which was in need of a bit of redemption after Batman vs. Superman literally pissed all over it. “Sweet Tea Lemonade” is on the right side of the line between saccharine and heartfelt, combining glitchy electronics and simple acoustic strumming with Jacob Weiss‘ lead vocal and Anna Crain’s subtle backing harmonies. It might not completely cool you off here in the peak days of summer, but it does make the day a lot more bearable.
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