Latest Toughs: Lou Rebecca, Walker Lukens 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.

Fanclub “Imprint”

Nostalgia has arguably become one of the laziest of critical catch alls, shorthand for any art that feels more like the collective memory of an era than anything distinct. But there is still potency in the idea of nostalgia as time displaced homesickness, of that heartache for the memory of a moment when things were simpler and if not better, at least more real. That’s the type of nostalgia synth pop romantics Fanclub appear to aim for on “Imprint,” as they deviate from the Drive-ing rhythms of their anthemic EP All the Same. The single’s cover art might suggest you’re in for some Duran Duran fashion pop but the song itself has the fragile and folded up quality of origami, comprised of simple elements that become unexpectedly complex as they join together. Leslie Crunkilton’s lyrics fittingly explore the complicated fusion of romantic entanglements, the idea that partners become “like two streams, becoming one beyond this obstruction,” while the ache in her voice makes the inner conflict clear even before she states her concern that “I’m so small and you’re practically the sea holding up particles of me.” There’s a sense that the protagonist of “Imprint” is nostalgic for that earlier part of romance, when both partners’ energy is intense and swirling together without giving an inch, even as she recognizes relationships only survive through compromise. That’s a difficult feeling to convey in a three minute pop song, but as should be abundantly clear by now, Fanclub are not your average pop band.

Fanclub play Hotel Vegas on May 25th with Harvest Thieves and more

Sammy Slims “God’s Friend”

In the grand ’80s synth pop influence Olympics, New Order currently seems to be sweeping up the most gold medals. It’s a relief, then, that Sammy Slims steers away from that on their new single “God’s Friend” to instead pull from the far less pillaged fields of Depeche Mode. With its dark instrumentation and smooth baritone, “God’s Friend” would be right at home on Some Great Reward, but Sammy Slims also take care to flesh the production out with modern elements, from the pitch shifted vocal samples that drop in and out to the glitched out breakdown. It all goes a long way towards proving there’s a lot more going on with Sammy Slims’ sound than the early Hot Chip-esque material indicated, indicating that Sammy Slims will only continue to display more depth and complexity.

Camp Life “Transparent Comfort”

It’s a pity Camp Life are apparently calling it quits with their new LP Quality Time because it feels like they’re really only just getting started. The accomplished emo-tinged indie rock band truly blossomed over the past couple years, morphing into a tight and challenging ensemble, like Built to Spill if they had come of age at Jade Tree. “Transparent Comfort,” the highlight of Quality Time, beautifully illustrates this, with interlocking guitars and inventive but not flashy drum work adding grit and musculature to the ramshackle lyrical vibe. I get the feeling that a few years down the line, Camp Life are going to be better appreciated by new audiences, a la Cap’n Jazz. But if you’re wise, you’ll celebrate them now.

Walker Lukens “Heard You Bought a House”

It was only a matter of time before someone created an anthem for Austin’s housing crisis, but Walker Lukens deserves ample credit for finding a way to turn such an anthem into a poison tongued kiss off that would make Elvis Costello envious. Over a production that splits the difference between Spoon and Vampire Weekend, Lukens offers up a deliciously vindictive congrats to a former lover who finally got the home she wanted, albeit with the help of a wealthy parent. But as Lukens so venomously makes clear, that house and the new boy “Who thinks he’s unique/He’s kind of like your dad” still won’t be enough to fill out what is ultimately a vacant life. Sure, Lukens probably isn’t going to get rich enough off the single to move up the Austin real estate ladder, but I think we can all agree that verbally sniping at the bland land owning elite in town is far more enjoyable than browsing Redfin listings we’ll never be able to afford.

Lou Rebecca “Break It Apart”

“Shimmery” is the term I previously associated with the music of Lou Rebecca, a kind of synth pop that seduced with aquatic textures and bright pads of sound. But on “Break It Apart,” the lead off single from her upcoming album Restless, the new adjective of choice for Rebecca’s sound would be propulsive. Perhaps taking a cue from her former label mate and fellow French speaker Marie Davidson, Rebecca’s sound now seems designed to soundtrack a drive into a strange new city, with its piston rhythm and fist pumping synth bass. Rebecca’s voice is as divine as ever but the darkness surrounding it gives it an air of danger that’s as unsettling as it is alluring, less Arthurian vision than cyberpunk femme fatale.
Got a single you’d like to be considered for Latest Toughs? Email us with Latest Toughs in the subject!

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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