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.
I don’t know about the rest of you miscreants, but this weekend was an awful blitzkrieg of mud and freezing temperature-induced boredom on my end. All I did was stand in front of my house’s terrifying ceiling high heater bundled in a blanket while either rats or baby raccoons fought and/or burned to death inside. Thus is the glorious life of a man who would rather write for cheap than give in to Complex Mag assimilation. But there were a few bright spots. Namely the discovery of Mélat’s new album with Jansport J Move Me. The single from the album, “Fanclub” is a melange of icy piano lines, early Kanye-like beats and a voice that’s like the reincarnation of Aaliyah (is that how Queen of the Damned ended? Maybe I should actually watch that). Mélat has a voice full of beautiful longing, delicate and bittersweet, and “Fanclub” is a perfect showcase for it, the lyrics built around her need not to be admired but to be loved, giving weight to all that lush wanting in her voice. I don’t know if it made my Monday warmer, but it definitely provided an excellent soundtrack to all that raccoon coupling happening in my walls.
Growl- “New Sincerity”
Either a reference to a seminal ’60s Esquire essay or a cheeky nod to the chief detraction against their sound for being “too sincere,” Growl’s new track “New Sincerity” debuted in a live incarnation that gives the song a healthy layer of fuzz to rough up its smooth songcraft. The vocals are still as clear and sweet as ever, but the lo-fi live hiss gives the band a more road worn quality, like early Smith Westerns or that breakout Wavves album. The performance is still smooth, glammy guitars morphing into power pop guitars morphing into fading feedback while some frenzied drumming threatens to topple it all over but seemingly never does. It’s early yet, but already it seems clear “New Sincerity” is destined to be a major crowd pleaser, teens and young at heart adults alike clicking with the song’s embrace of whatever you are, no matter how dorky.
Genuine Leather- “The Villain”
Slyly released on a separate page from their main site, Genuine Leather’s new LP is more along the lines of Minus 5’s mass pop experimentalism than the sunnier California indie pop of their previous offerings. But late album track “The Villain” bridges those two spheres, bringing together California guitars with the Minus 5’s PNW-leaning studio textures and slightly off melodies. It’s got a slack, hazy beat that allows it to feel casual and cool even when Chris Galis and company are heaping on sonic ingredients or cranking the reverb and delay steadily higher.
Blotter- “No Country for Old Kids”
Blotter’s Under Armour ’77 came out back in the summer, I guess, but I’m just now tuning in to it. There are a number of young UK-leaning hardcore outfits emerging in Austin (dig that Brit spelling of “armour”) but Blotter are a little more savvy and sharp than the rest, from the Scratch Acid nod in their name to the EP’s cover art, which has that Daniel Johnston alien that you can’t escape anymore getting mutilated against his own brick wall home. The EP starts with the appropriately named “No Country for Old Kids,” which first hints at some prime era Touch ‘n’ Go noisy monstrosity, before becoming more traditionally hardcore. But where Blotter deserve special recognition is in how many changes and clever arrangements they fit into about a minute of hardcore rage. I have a sneaking suspicion the Blotter dudes come from metal backgrounds, or are at least pretty educated in that genre, because this track is like an eightball away from being speed metal.
New China- “Hospitalia”
“Tacos on the floor/They were so cheap/But we are so bored.” I’m pretty sure with that line New China have made the defining statement on ATX life. The band’s new EP Bar & Grill is a harder, weirder step up from their debut (as evidenced by all the taco lines and the skronky guitar) but beyond that line’s taco life perspective, it also serves as a lyrical indication of how much more like the Jesus Lizard the band have become in word and sound. About two decades ago the Jesus Lizard delivered totally serious statements of lyrics like “Socks are shoes for my feet” to the tune of savage bass and rumbly drums, but “Hospitalia” throws some intriguing wrenches into the machine, like frontwoman Katy’s deranged shifts from menacing throaty yowls to sickly sweet melodic detours, and her frank detailing of sexual shenanigans. What I’m saying is it’s good weird, not bad– like a taco you found on the floor.
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