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.
Before they were even a glimmer in the eye of Warner Bros. Records, Built to Spill churned out material that always sounded like a tape that was left out in the sun for too long, no matter what format you were listening to it on. Hovvdy technically don’t have much in common with Built to Spill, but they do shared that melted tape aesthetic, and on their new single “Cathedral,” they display it to great effect. A sun warped and sweet ode to “broken perfect” fixations and the initial visual memories that kickstart them, “Cathedral” has the borderline vertigo sway of that feeling when your stomach dropped back in 9th grade the first time you saw your crush. But unlike teenage hormones, you can start and stop it anytime you want with just one click.
Speaking of vertigo and romance, Austin shoegazers Glaze have only become dizzier and more heartachey on their new EP GlazeTV. Lead off single “Yuki” is downright sultry, subbing out the borderline breakneck rhythms of previous efforts for the kind of swirl and pace that wouldn’t be out of place on a peak era Pulp release. Where other Glaze tracks often hide Stephen McElwee’s vocals behind a shimmering wall of noise, Connor Schwanke’s engineering here situates McElwee right in the center of the mix with seductively sparse reverb complementing McElwee’s multilingual coos, resulting in something that’s more Scott Walker than Kevin Shields, and that is a very beautiful thing.
Slideshow “Midnight Language”
Slideshow’s “Midnight Language” begins like some lost Paisley Underground act’s demo recut with a moody Manchester vocalist but by the end, it’s far more Echo & the Bunnymen than Dream Syndicate, all that Byrds jangle excised in favor of brooding bass and cavernous guitar licks. It’s a tricky shift, to be sure, but Slideshow pull it off with the confident strut of a death obsessed hot rodder barreling down a narrow desert road at midnight with no headlights. Who’d have thought jangle and doom could go together so well?
Texas Textbooks “Nobody Loves Me (Like You Don’t)”
Though he is rightfully remembered as a master pop songwriter, I think at heart Harry Nilsson (or should I say Buck Earle?) always longed to be a country troubadour. I don’t know for sure that Texas Textbooks feel the same way, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they did. The self-described “leftwing twangcore” outfit share with Nilsson an ability to make acidic self-deprecation sound sweet as well as an ability to wring countless subtle hooks from their material. Look no further than the deceptively clever shitkicking ballad “Nobody Loves Me (Like You Don’t),” which has a title Nilsson would have killed for and the hooks and harmonies to back it up. I will unfortunately never get to hear a full fledged Harry Nilsson country album, but I am thankful to Texas Textbooks for providing the closest thing to that I’ve heard yet.
Virgin Shores “The Flood”
When they were active, underrated duo Virgin Shores mixed the ethereal haze of dreampop with the spring reverb tension and clatter of southern garage rock. But their new collection of early era demos and B-sides reveals even more complexity to their sound, specifically the LCD Soundsystem minimalist splendor of “The Flood.” Beginning with twinkling piano and guitar accompanying vocals that shift from spoken to soaring without a pause, “The Flood” soon blossoms into an unexpectedly booming chorus, all thundering toms and staccato guitar fully illustrating the lyrical focus on the literal and metaphorical cleansing qualities of a central Texas flood.
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