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.
Matthew Squires & the Learning Disorders- “Echo”
Mondays may not normally be for dancing, but let’s all agree the last couple weeks have been overwhelmingly shitty and maybe this Monday deserves some kind of poppy distraction. Other folk might turn toward some light radio hit and that’s totally fine, but I’m making my sonic escape with Matthew Squires and the Learning Disorders’ “Echo,” a delightfully twisty track that packs an irresistible groove but also features a multilayered, literate lyric sheet. “Echo” starts with a deceptively complex drum line, rolling toms providing a thick low end while stick beats and an open hi-hat provide a lighter treble emphasis than a snare would. The bass and the guitar take opposite paths, with the bass punching out open, sustained notes while the lead line is a series of plucky, rhythmic notes. So when Matthew Squires enters the picture, he’s got plenty of space to try to convince a lover this song isn’t about them, his subterfuge coated in the thematic and melodic tones of a peak-era Paul Simon track, while his clever wordplay pulls from the sharp wits of Mssrs. Morrissey and Yoni Wolf. There are any number of things to focus on in “Echo” each time you listen, which makes it a perfect track for revisiting, a gift that has an immediate pleasure but also provides new treasures the more you examine it. In other words, there are countless distractions in “Echo” to keep your mind off whatever has you frustrated today, tomorrow, and on and on.
¿Que Pasa?- “Tu Y Yo”
Throwback sounds can be lazy, but sometimes all you want is a slightly punked up twist on a ’50s rock song, like Que Pasa’s “Tu Y Yo.” Featuring an opening chord sequence and melody that more or less mirrors Be Your Own Pet’s “Becky” and the innumerable throwback tracks that inspired that hit, Que Pasa’s twist in the mix is Liz Burrito’s Neko Case-like reverberated wailing, which happens to also be in Spanish. The song hits a sweet spot of nostalgia and intriguing cross cultural integration, different enough to catch your ear but familiar enough to bring you back over and over. The rest of Que Pasa’s debut album Big Mistake is more adventurous, with sounds running the gamut from straight up punk to shoegaze psychedelia to surf, but “Tu Y Yo” is a haunting number that I can’t stop playing.
The Bumping Uglies- “People Who Knows”
I think we’re finally at a point where YACHT has obtained the status of influencer for a new generation of electronic acts and I am totally cool with this, particularly if YACHT’s spawn are mostly on the level of The Bumping Uglies. Like YACHT, Bumping Uglies are a two piece with a knack for insanely catchy melodies and riffs, but Bumping Uglies have simplified the YACHT sound, taking it down in terms of both length (“People Who Knows” runs less than two minutes, like most of the tracks on its parent album) and structure. Basically, Bumping Uglies get to the meat of the song, providing just a rough, simple rhythm framework for the swirling melodies that give the track its addictive qualities, from the schoolyard melody to the ascending synth lead. If you want to look like one of the people who know about shit like the Bumping Uglies think you are, then you should start turning friends on to this little number.
Schwein!- “Dirty Dream Number 7”
Schwein! is kind of a mess. But I mean that in a loving way. Their The Future is Gnar album communicates this from its collage art cover down to the ramshackle vibe of the songs collected within, but the gleaming junky centerpiece is “Dirty Dream Number 7,” a sprawling mutant assemblage of SF Sorrow-era Pretty Things psychedelia, New York Dolls-style junkie glam and a Southern rock pedal steel breakdown that works so well it makes you question the entire notion of genre. As its title indicates, “Dirty Dream Number 7” is surreal, following a lyrical logic that only makes sense within the context of the repeated line “I’m dreaming about Yoko/John, too,” the emphasis on the abstract artist end of that pairing for a reason. Like all dirty dreams, “Dirty Dream Number 7” is over too soon, its near four minute running time stretching to accommodate the plethora of viable ideas Schwein! present within. I fully expect to end tonight dreaming about Yoko, and John too.
Ian McKinney- “All Skate!”
Musical mutant Ian McKinney may now be best known as that dude who wrote the Octodad theme song that never leaves your brain once you hear it, but before that he was producing tracks for P-Tek, so his range extends far beyond campy surf pop earworms. Still, his roller skate tribute EP All Skate! is a surprise, not just because McKinney would attempt to make a roller skate concept record, but because it’s actually pretty fucking good. The title track is undoubtedly the jam I’m calling mine, though, what with that fembot vocal sample and the Saint Pepsi vibe of the instrumentation. On paper, a roller skate record, with accompanying cheesy ’80s graphics for the cover art, seems like a bad joke but McKinney is nothing if not committed to seeing his ideas through. Maybe some clever indie gamester will get wise and construct a roller skate game to go with this surprisingly excellent EP.
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