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 artists to get you up to date and make each of your workdays a little easier.
Where does Belcurve’s “Alison” sit in the pantheon of Alisons of musical affection? On the alt-country leaning leadoff track from Belcurve’s twangy These People in My Head Vol. 2 EP, this particular Alison is in the middle of the spectrum between the smoothly pined for Alison of Elvis Costello’s classic and the peppy and carefree Allison of the underrated Pixies gem. Lost and longing for home, Belcurve’s “Alison” would fit right in in the doomed universe of The Decemberists’ catalog, looking out over an intimidating landscape with a child’s pose, her “fingers at her bellybutton.” It’s a runaway ode in the grand Texas tradition, with a train track rhythm and ghostly lead guitar provoking the heavy memories of what was and what could have been, and it suits Belcurve very well indeed.
Belcurve play Mohawk every Tuesday this June
Socha “Let’s Regress”
When the crying and isolation and loathing dissipate, what’s left of a break up? A process of reclamation, of trying to take back ownership of memories and space and feelings, of writing the forever narrative of what went down. That’s what Socha details on “Let’s Regress,” that attempt “to preserve our love as a perfect tragedy” while making due “with just taking baby steps,” acknowledging “these lonely aches don’t go away.” With her twin Musings releases, Socha has emerged as perhaps the most impressive Austin artist of the year and much of that is because of the “lonely ache” of her voice and how it unexpectedly builds to moments of cathartic power, like a tender hand becoming a righteous fist thrust into the air. All the more impressive is how fluidly she moves between musical styles that on paper just should not work: Built to Spill slack anthem guitar shuffling around Robert Fripp e-bow mystery, A Certain Ratio bass prodding at ramshackle drums. But like the in jokes and inscrutable terms of endearment and pop culture detritus of any long term relationship, it’s that passionate core that brings everything together and makes it work, no matter how odd things appear from the outside. Here’s hoping the lonely ache of Socha’s music doesn’t go away any time soon.
Socha plays Space 2420 on June 15th with Christelle Bofale
Stephen Michael Pierce “Feel Free to Repeat Yourself”
As the leader of Zest of Yore, Stephen Michael Pierce made a strong case for being Austin’s own Robert Pollard, churning out a near endless amount of lo-fi indie rock anthems and curiosities. Over the past few years, though, Pierce has been releasing solo material leaning towards the latter end of that split, frequently sounding a bit like Harry Nilsson and Sparks battling over control of a single brain while Pierce’s beloved power pop influences stealthily sneak into the background. “Feel Free to Repeat Yourself,” from the brand new To Begin with Dog, distills that all down to about a minute of perfect oddball pop. The title is an example of form following function, as the track it christens is basically a loop of a melodic scale, with Pierce breathlessly going up and down the sequence. Trust me when I say that it will not only worm its way into every inch of your brain forever, but you’ll never be able to hear the word “wood” the same way again and you will love it for that.
Curbside Jones “Lupin”
If anyone in Austin could launch a Gorillaz-style full scale multimedia art blitz, it’d be Curbside Jones. The prolific rapper/producer/photographer/zinemaker/andonandonandon is kind of sort of already doing that with his Milk Tea Chronicles project, following the adventures of Sheepington and Cmo, an Adventure Time style duo of a hip hop sheep and, uh, a cellphone. In case it wasn’t clear enough from the Madsheepery title, the current iteration of the Milk Tea Chronicles has Curb and Dejohn Linward going more Madlib than Dan the Automator, but standout track “Lupin” also brings some Houston touchstones to the mix with its swang and bang style and syrupy textures. What results is just as addictive as cough syrup or late night cartoon binges.
Gabi “Weekendz ft. Chucky Blk”
Being a creative in Austin often means saying goodbye to the very concept of a weekend. As Gabi’s collaborator Chucky Blk puts it on the brisk and catchy “Weekendz,” “I work like 50 hours every week/I think I should get some sleep/But instead I’m rapping at the fucking coffee shop again” because what other option do you have as a hungry up and comer? True, the pep and bop of “Weekendz” might give you the idea that that local rapper life is nothing but high highs but the reality is it’s a little more grinning through the pain than whistling while you work. Still, Gabi and cohort Chucky Blk are at least clearly having a blast detailing the grind and turning their blood, sweat and tears into musical lemonade. Put it on while you’re staring down a million unread emails and maybe you’ll feel a little more energized yourself.
Got a single you’d like to be considered for Latest Toughs? Email us with Latest Toughs in the subject!
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