Latest Toughs: Dumpies, Nick Cruz and Ruler Why and more

by Nick Hanover
Latest Toughs 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.

The Dumpies “Zaragoza Pool”

We’re still a long ways from summer but that isn’t stopping charmingly sloppy punks The Dumpies from putting out “Zaragoza Pool,” a rambunctious and irresistible anthem for swimming at “the best kept secret in town.” Even as they remember sunburned shoulders from hundred degree weather, the Dumpies are clearly having a blast with their memories of Zaragoza pool, shouting it out in the chorus until their voices are hoarse while the instruments all threaten to do a cannonball on the mix. Fuck the last vestige of winter, bring on “Zaragoza Pool.”

Clemente Castillo “Sonsonete”

Clemente Castillo might not be a familiar name to you yet but through their San Saba imprint Super Secret Records are hoping to clue you in on one of Mexico’s most exciting performers, a natural heir to the “Nuevo Wave” style Joe “King” Carrasco found success with a few decades back. Castillo is about to unleash his second solo album Serpentina but in the meantime San Saba are whetting appetites with the “Sonsonete” single, which begins as a seductive and simple folk ditty before blossoming into a massive earworm of a chorus. Castillo’s voice is rich and smooth but it’s the eclectic percussive elements– all reflecting the tap-tapping the title refers to– that truly make it impossible to resist the track. “Sonsonete” not only has us eager to hear more Castillo but also what else San Saba will be importing.

swim shorts “fam”

If you’d told me a week ago I’d be jamming a song featuring “My two cats couldn’t care less/I wish I felt more like them” I’d probably have told you to get your Rivers Cuomo bootleg out of my goddamn face. But there’s something magical about swim shorts that makes even that line work in “fam,” an unapologetically sincere emo ode to feeling lonely and isolated amongst friends and family. It’s not just the unforced sincerity in the vocals that makes “fam” gel, either; swim shorts have carved out a unique twist on emo that links Jade Tree journalizing with the rhythm heavy approach of early Pinback and Minus the Bear. The bass, played with both percussive twang and startling melodicism, serves as the focal point, countering and augmenting the subtle melodies of the vocal while also boosting the insistent, simple guitar, locked tightly with the drums as they both stick to a relentless, driving beat with occasional shifts to syncopated rolls. Austin bands have been wearing their emo influences on their sleeves for years now but this is one of the few times I’ve felt anyone was adding something new to the equation.

Nick Cruz x Ruler Why “Escopeta”

Cinematic is not an adjective you would have associated with most Austin hip hop last year– the trend instead skewed hazy, dense, volatile. It was all suggested anger and flash, music as clouds of smoke, that muffled headache feel of a night given to too much vice and not enough air. So Nick Cruz and Ruler Why’s Tales of a Paper Hanger project feels like, if not a breath of fresh air, an epic lung clearing cough, particularly on the Sergio Leone revolver swagger of opening track “Escopeta.” Ruler Why’s beat feels myth making with the crackle and hiss of a ghost army rhythm section cut by the serpentine loop of a one string guitar line, emboldening Cruz to bite into those verses like a cornered beast. Maybe it won’t set the Soundcloud hordes ablaze but for anyone with a real ear, this is a gunshot ringing out in the night, rallying the brave and sending the rest scurrying off into the shadows.

The Vapor Caves “The Chase”

The Vapor Caves’ recent single “I Miss You” was a flashy love letter from BoomBaptist to vocalist Yadira Brown that inspired her to add a melody over top, but “The Chase” almost feels like the reverse, a dazzling acapella Boom couldn’t resist adding a skittering, skeletal beat to. Here the synth elements are restrained decoration for Brown’s commanding vocal, the drums a respirator for the cyborg mechanisms of the track, the bass a sashay aligned with coos and trills. As the Vapor Caves release more material, what’s becoming especially clear is that one of their core strengths is their ability to leave room for each other to maneuver and impress, taking turns in the spotlight, pushing each other towards ever greater heights.

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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