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, a round-up of the best tracks coming out of Austin each month, which you can also listen to on our Mixcloud:
Castle Club “Graveyard Orbit”
Dazed, anxious and appropriately warped, Castle Club’s “Graveyard Orbit” is moody psych-pop for that feeling you get when you simultaneously want to be thousands of miles away from human contact and don’t want to feel left out. The push-and-pull of the fuzzed out bass and the slippery drums gives a perfect aural representation of that paradox, and that coupled with the submerged sounding vocals and shimmery guitar makes for a sound that could be described as “Tame Impala stuck in a submarine.”
US Weekly “Profound Sadness”
Throughout their lifespan, US Weekly have flirted with a variety of punk sounds, from skiterring post-punk to meaty Steve Albini stomp to Bay Area aggro shout-alongs. “Profound Sadness” off of the excellent Peace Network functions as a Cronenbergian amalgamation of all of those styles, with booming tom fills, angular guitar and snotty vocals mixing with glacial atmospherics and unexpected expanses of space.
Boyfrndz “Not Enough”
Boyfrndz make a return from a nearly half a decade long hiatus with “Not Enough” but they sound like they never stopped. Driven by a massive rhythmic pulse and heavy-as-shit guitars, “Not Enough” feels like it has its own gravitational pull, stray synth leads reaching out for you like tendrils from some galactic vortex, with Scott Martin’s howling falsetto serving as some lost space god’s final message.
Meat Belt “Allowed to Live Today”
Between the Meat Puppets-esque cover art and the no-frills production, Meat Belt sound like a lost SST act on “Allowed to Live Today,” all disjointed guitars and yapping vocals and violent drums. Compelling, disquieting and unflinching, “Allowed to Live Today” is Austin art punk at its unholy finest.
James Moritz “Happy Dude”
With a ’50s pop swing and reverb drenched guitar, James Moritz’s “Happy Dude” fits as easily into the Sun archives as it does in modern indie. As superb instrumentation is, though, Moritz’s self-deprecating charm and Roy Orbison meets Gene Pitney croon is the real attraction as he remembers better days, when he was “such a happy dude.” Who can’t relate to that in this, the worst of years?
Como Las Movies “Cumbia De Los Monjes”
As the inheritors to Joe “King” Carrasco’s Tex Mex New Wave style, Como Las Movies are perfect for socially distanced backyard cookouts in the sweltering heat. For the uninitiated, “Cumbia de los Monjes” is an excellent introduction to the group, as they put their spin on a cumbia classic, throwing fuzzed out psych guitar and eclectic rhythmic arrangements into the cumbia mix.
Jonas Wilson “Ruling the World”
Mr Pink Records head and all around secret studio MVP Jonas Wilson makes some unexpected twists to his core sound on “Ruling the World,” aiming for something more The National gone glam than the Suicide strut of The Midnight Stroll. The result is a thrilling combination of forlorn piano and harmonica and jagged bass and synths, both romantic and melancholy.
Royal Forest “Every Other Bird”
Structured around an irresistible groove of wobbly Moog, strutting bass and syncopated drums, Royal Forest’s “Every Other Bird” is funky and dark, its impeccable arrangement and minimalist production letting every element shine. It also makes the case for Royal Forest as a bridge between Shearwater and Spoon, both in terms of aesthetics and in potential.
.dani “One Nine”
Kydd Jones “Checks ft. The Teeta”
Kydd Jones and The Teeta are two of the greatest talents in Austin hip hop, so it’s only natural to bring them together for a showcase of their powers. “Checks” has a hazy, borderline hallucinogenic beat that allows Kydd and Teeta to lean into the poppier end of their respective styles, making for an almost sing-song approach that’s breezy and addictive.
Jay Wile “Real Bad”
“Real Bad” sounds like it could have come straight from the realm of bubbly 2000s R&B, with percolating percussion and smoothly multitracked vocals, all proving that Jay Wile is one of the most exciting performers to emerge in Austin in quite some time.
Hand-Me-Down Adventure “Liar”
Unapologetically twangy and folksy, Hand-Me-Down Adventure’s “Liar” sounds like it should be heard in an environment like a rowdy backyard party in Lockhart rather than through a computer, but alas, here we are. The hiccupy vocals bring to mind early Shakey Graves but the fiery climax is more like Whiskey Shivers with its breakneck intensity and tumbling rhythm. Call it surf-folk, call it garage-country, call it whatever you want, it’s one hell of a good time.
Eddy Highway “Let Go”
It feels like you can throw a rock anywhere in Austin and hit a dozen street poets, but it’s only once in a blue moon that you’ll strike the likes of a Guy Clark or Bill Callahan. But Eddy Highway is on his way towards being exactly that type of dusty troubadour, with a firm handle on storytelling lyrics and a voice that sounds like it has seen quite a bit of life. “Let Go” is a splendid display of Highway’s talents, from the cowboy guitar riffs to the soaring melodies to the ramshackle charm of it all.
Flesh of Morning “Death Becomes Bitter”
Everything about Flesh of Morning’s “Death Becomes Bitter” feels huge– the sprawling synth pads, the pounding beat, that celestial voice guiding it all. But its most enticing elements are the figures that poke through the wall of sound, from the arpeggiated synth lead line to the borderline whispered melodies that emerge from the main vocal. Closer to Broadcast than the darker tones of the Holodeck roster, Flesh of Morning are worth keeping a close eye on.
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