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.
Chipper Jones- “Tropics”
It’s the middle of the week and I am a raw bundle of nerves. I suppose it’s about that time of year where I get real fun and plunge into a nightly cycle of despair. “I could be getting paid a salary to write copy for motorcycle parts,” I say. “Or I could have taken that celebrity news gossip gig and never looked back.” But what’s writing without a consistent, indomitable sadness? There is a pick me up at my disposal though. It comes in the form of Chipper Jones’ new track “Tropics,” a swirling cavalcade of arpeggios and mesmerizing rhythms. Like Battles, but a bit more straightforward and agreeable. Or Tortoise but not as sleep inducing. Partnered this time out with Kevin Butler at the Orb, Chipper Jones have upped their production game as well as their craft, and the result is something inspiring and transformational. “Tropics” eagerly makes good on its title, and while I may be stuck here inside, churning out content, at least I can dream of sun and mojitos.
EMQ- “Shame (Christopher Cox Mix)”
Last year, Asleep at the Wheel singer Elizabeth McQueen debuted a new project called EMQ, where she was joined by Lauren Gurgiolo from Okkervil River and Lindsay Green, a veteran bassist who has performed with Seth Walker and others. EMQ’s initial two track offering was a nice surprise, a hybrid of all three artist’s prior groups and experiences that sounded like a very pure, timeless kind of pop. The trio have reemerged with a new song, “Shame,” which they’re offering in three variants, each mixed by a different artist. The best of the bunch in my humble opinion is Christopher Cox’s contribution, which reconfigures EMQ as an Austin response to the Blow. There are handclaps and whirlygig synths and a spirited performance by McQueen. Cox brings the guitars down lower in the mix, letting Green’s bass come to the forefront, drawing out the playfulness of McQueen’s voice as she is flanked by a palm muted guitar lick and an ever shifting array of synth lines. By the end, if you aren’t left wanting more, I feel sorry for you.
Kilmatik- “City Stompers (ft. Ruler Why and Norman Ba$e)”
Austin hip hop vet Kilmatik is about to release a new album called Regular but you can get an early glimpse at what’s to come with his “Zero Weirdos” single, featuring Kool Keith under a new alias (he is now potential Bobby Digital archnemesis Robbie Analog) with a solid beat by Ruler Why. But it’s actually one of the remixes on the single that has me hyped. “City Stompers” has Ruler Why and Norman Ba$e both popping up to boost Kilmatik as Markie Tee remixes the original beat and the crew churn out something irresistible. Coming out of the gates with an especially rugged flow, Kilmatik sets the mood for something gritty and grimy, far more aggressive than “Zero Weirdos” sense of play. The beat itself has the feel of a latter day RZA offering, like “Black Mozart,” something that rings even more true when Ruler Why steps in. Then everything abruptly shifts gears for Norman Ba$e’s verse, the beat flipping itself as it slows to a crawl to make Ba$e’s deranged verse hit with maximum impact. 2015 was already looking like a great year for Austin hip hop, but Kilmatik has just taken it up another notch.
Institute- “Perpetual Ebb”
Ever since Impose Magazine premiered Institute’s new track “Perpetual Ebb,” I’ve been trying to make my mind up about it. Institute’s Salt EP is a terrifying work, violent and unflinching and indecipherable. But on “Perpetual Ebb,” the band seems to have given itself one mission: attempt to become Hundred Visions, minus vocal melodies. “Perpetual Ebb” mostly accomplishes this, but it leaves me with one question in return: why?
Migrant Kids- “Thread”
I feel like maybe I should be resisting Migrant Kids’ charms on “Thread.” Everything about the song in description would normally be a turn off. There’s an Edge guitar riff throughout the whole thing. The drums are so compressed they might as well be a drum machine. The melody and production (courtesy of Bright Light Social Hour, oddly enough) are straight ’80s New Wave, but the vocal delivery is early ’00s indie. So I guess you could pare the pull quote down to “‘Thread’ is Death Cab for Cutie covering A Flock of Seagulls, with a late game cameo by Grandaddy’s favorite keyboard setting.” The thing is, I fucking love this song. It’s so endearing in its straightforward poppiness, so propulsive and anthemic, that to hate it would be to surrender to cynicism. Fuck, fine. I’ll got turn in my grumpy music crit credentials now.
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