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.
Tele Novella- “Christmas Spirit”
Normally I’m cold towards Christmas music. As a kid, my mom would roll out the carols the instant Thanksgiving was over and she had a fondness for one collection that sounded like a tortured New Wave band backing up a choir of demonic children. So I’m surprised as you are that I’m starting my week with a Christmas track. Granted, Tele Novella’s “Christmas Spirit” is a Christmas work in the same sense that Nightmare Before Christmas is, detailing well-behaved monsters desperate for positive attention from Santa. “Werewolves howl Christmas carols” as “All the vampires want to know/Will Santa visit the dead?” I don’t know that Tele Novella ever give us a definitive answer for that but “Christmas Spirit” does make a pretty good case for more macabre Christmas mash-ups.
Butcher Bear- “Landlocked in Small Talk ft. Marc Bianchi”
Beat scene vet Butcher Bear dropped his epic new album This is How the Games Gets You Played a little while back, but I’m only recently catching up with it. It’s a sprawling affair, full of enough genre detours and excursions to last some artists a lifetime. One of the more surprising moments comes courtesy of Her Space Holiday’s Marc Bianchi, who provides some gently cooed sweet nothings over a suitably mercurial beat on “Landlocked in Small Talk.” Not only does “Landlocked in Small Talk” give you a glimpse at the diversity of Butcher Bear’s sound, it also signifies the general cross pollination of the Austin electronic scene, with hip hop textures, melancholic electro and club bangers all peacefully cohabitating.
Curbside Jones- “Downloaded (ft. Pliny Science)”
Curbside Jones continues his hot streak of inventive hip hop singles with “Downloaded,” a glitchy track that pairs him with The Lower Class’s Pliny Science. The stuttering beat and disruptive 8-bit synths might initially throw you for a loop, but Curb and Pliny are master craftsmen and the highlight of the song is the way they juggle cadences and rhyme schemes to keep you continuously on your toes. If Austin hip hop’s biggest drawback has been its over reliance on the sounds and styles of other scenes, “Downloaded” is a peek at what could be if more producers and emcees were bold enough to embrace new, unexpected sounds.
Burgess Meredith- “Sydney Savant”
One scene that has never struggled in Austin is power pop, and Burgess Meredith’s “Sydney Savant” is an excellent new contribution to that canon. Followers of the Minus 5 school of grand production and charming melodies, Burgess Meredith make the most of their expansive line-up, filling out “Sydney Savant” with a rollicking beat, flavorful guitar licks and stacks of harmonies. It might be a bit out of its element here in the chilly micro-winter of December, but a little warmth as the temperature drops isn’t exactly a bad thing.
Leather Girls- “Sweet Leanor”
I’m late as all fuck to this, but the batch of demos Leather Girls put up in August sound better than a lot of the finished products coming out of the current Austin garage scene. “Sweet Leanor” (maybe a typo ::shrug::) is especially notable, reminding garage drones that the genre doesn’t always have to be lethargic and stoned and boring. Flying by at a brisk pace, “Sweet Leanor” is unintelligible longing and desire in classic Texas garage rock style, a maelstrom of sloppy guitars and beats that force your body into uncoordinated movements, flailing until all your wants spill out into the air around you and maybe cause some other lusty individual to head your way. So typical Friday music, basically.
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