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.
Jonly Bonly- “Too Many Things”
It’s fucking Monday. People hate that day, right? I don’t have anything remotely resembling a normal work schedule anymore so all the days of the week just kind of run together. But if you hate Mondays, Jonly Bonly’s “Too Many Things” should strike a chord, with its deadpan declaration that “There’s too many things/I don’t like.” I’m assuming Mondays are part of that list. Jonly Bonly are conveniently on the roster of 12XU, a label run by one of my favorite musical cranks, Gerard Cosloy. It’s easy to see why they’ve joined 12XU’s stellar ranks, what with their protopunk sound (If they weren’t from 21st century Austin, you could easily mistake them for a lost Akron, OH band from the ’70s) and winking lyrics. Their new album comes out tomorrow and while this is the only track I’ve heard from it so far, I’m pretty confident it’s not going to be one of too many things I don’t like.
Silver Ships- “Summer’s Gone”
The press release we got for Silver Ship’s upcoming new LP Songs from a Room That Never Moves includes one pull quote stating “no one is making music like Silver Ships,” which is one of those standard quotes you see that publicists love but is a little odd to come across in this context. Don’t get me wrong, Silver Ships are doing some great work but as pop aficionados probably figured out the instant they hit play, Silver Ships carries a pretty huge torch for Harry Nilsson (I mean, Nilsson doesn’t get name checked in the press release several times for no reason). A more accurate statement would be that not enough people are making music like Silver Ships, which is true– why has this kind of power pop fallen out of favor and what can we do to grant it a triumphant return? Other than sporadic releases from the Minus 5 and all the bands connected to that supergroup and the occasional non-bloated Grizzly Bear single, Nilsson-style pop is underappreciated in the current indie landscape, but maybe that’s because artists like Silver Ships make the music sound so easy when in fact it’s deceptively complex. Even if it was more common, though, there’s no denying the potency of “Summer’s Gone,” this track is almost delightful enough to make you wish the onslaught of triple digit summer days wasn’t coming to a close.
Magna Carda- “Chuck Close Trippin'”
When Magna Carda released their third mixtape Van Geaux at the start of this year, it rightfully turned more than a few heads in Austin, including our own. Now Magna Carda has offered up an EP of remixes of key Van Geaux tracks to keep fans happy between full releases. Rather than have local producers take some shots at Van Geaux, though, Magna Carda have kept it in house, reconfiguring their own work to give it a dark but playful new sheen. Of these, “Chuck Close Trippin'” is my favorite, packing the streamlined futurism of a Frank Ocean track with its tom and snare heavy beat and the addition of some buzzy bass synths to boost Megz Kelli’s more aggro than normal flow. The original, “Chuck Close Trip,” was dominated by some overly bright electric piano, which gave Megz’ flow a chiller vibe but this iteration has some menace to it, which I’d say fits the group surprisingly well.
Grape St.- “Wallpaper”
Grape St’s new track “Wallpaper” is giving me more of an early Built to Spill flashback than anything else I’ve heard from them and I’ve gotta say it’s a sound that suits them. The vocals lean closer to punk snarl than Built to Spill ever got but you hear that frail guitar tone and the cracks in the voice when they reach for those higher notes and your mind reels back to Doug Martsch on “Car” or “Three Years Ago Today” or whatever your drug of choice from the BTS catalog is. But it’s still unmistakably a Grape St song, from the glammy stomp of the drums to the shambling vibe of the production and performance. The Grape St gang leaves on a pretty far reaching tour tomorrow and I’ve got a sneaking suspicion their new Burger Records-approved EP is going to go over like hotcakes out in sunny California.
Alex Napping- “Catcalls”
It’s hard to peg why Alex Napping’s “Catcalls” has me so captivated. Removed from each other, the individual elements could be grating; the main guitar has a desperate insistence to it up until it morphs into some Tom Verlaine-like dreaminess and the vocal has an omnipresence that normally bothers me in these kinds of songs, but something about the way the guitar plows through the midrange while the vocal occupies the stratosphere of the song’s range is mesmerizing. Or maybe it’s just that beautiful climax the song has that’s got me hooked, all those vocal lines coming together in the background while the guitars and drums blow up in a delicious cacophony. Whatever the reasons, “Catcalls” is a song I’ve happily kept on repeat, eager to gleam all its sonic secrets.
Alex Napping plays Cheer Up Charlie’s Friday, September 26th with Big Bill, Lowin and Soft Swells.
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