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 bands to get you up to date and make each of your workdays a little easier.
Hola Beach “The Big Game”
There are songs for rising out of loneliness and then there are songs for reveling in it, for putting on more layers of that feeling out of a need to embrace the ache. Hola Beach’s new single “The Big Game” is the latter, a soundtrack for every sad boi kicking a rock down an alley after some bout of rejection. Despite the propulsive drums, chugging along at a train rhythm unmatched by any other element, the song is endearingly meandering, the half muttered shy vocals granted further emotional depth by the straining, heart string plucks of the guitars. By the end, as “don’t want to let me in” is whispered repeatedly behind a cloud of distortion and feedback, the lonely ache the song provokes feels as real as taking a swig of whiskey while buried under blankets in a freezing room- warm and then too warm and then deliciously sharp as the cold settles back in.
Brutalism live up to their name in more ways than one on “Chowder,” a firebomb of a track full of shrapnel laced guitars and sneering condemnations of a culture where people make their ” happiness from others’ misery.” Though “Chowder” is nasty, brutish and short, it’s also bracing and invigorating, like the eye opening pain of a blow to the nose. Part of that comes from Brutalism’s intriguing mix of sounds– this isn’t standard Austin punk or hardcore, there’s as much Brainiac in the DNA as any other Touch and Go standby, particularly in the breakneck speed and the steelbeam melting assault of the song’s climax. More chowder, please.
Uncle Jesus “Noodle Factory”
Speaking of fresh new sounds in Austin punk, local supergroup Uncle Jesus explore extremely fertile ground on “Noodle Factory,” the single from the album of the same name. The bass and drums sound like Welsh shit stirrers Mclusky but the vocals channel that group’s producer Steve Albini, unleashing a torrent of pencil neck geek aggression and murderous rage all while the lead guitar delivers on the noodle half of the title. It’s a deranged, ludicrous blend but like any good temper tantrum, sonic or otherwise, it’s impossible to not get sucked into it, mouth agape at the sight of someone shedding all that fake politeness to indulge in unfiltered hostility in ways you only dream of. And before long, you’re giving in too.
Magna Carda “Bout It”
Magna Carda continue to be one of Austin’s most crowd pleasing and consistent live bands and they’ve worked to incorporate that high caliber instrumental technicality into their recordings. But it’s hard to beat the thrill that comes from the simple pairing of Dougie Do‘s effortlessly cool productions with Megz Kelli’s equally effortless swagger. Luckily, Magna Carda offer a return to that kind of simplicity and minimalism on their new EP Coffee Table Talk Vol. 1, culminating in “Bout It,” an icy little thing built out of hiccupy hi-hats and air slicing samples. Rather than emphasize the band’s technical chops, “Bout It” puts the spotlight on Kelli’s righteous delivery, calm but commanding, cutting through the tension of the antsy samples and crisp snare pops. As Magna Carda themselves put it, “we only fuck with it if it’s poppin'” and “Bout It” is the very definition of poppin’.
Magna Carda play Hotel Vegas tonight, December 11th, with BoomBaptist and more.
Pity Party “Et cetera”
Here at the edge of the end of the world, where everything burns, we still deserve a little tranquility every now and again. Pity Party are here to deliver on that with “Et cetera,” a chill, less than four minute burst of bliss, all glistening synths and sweet nothings cooed in a late night whisper. Nonetheless, the song gets much of its potency not from ignoring the inescapable doom and gloom lurking around us every moment but from working that proximity into the sonic atmosphere, as though to say “everything is shitty and even in our little bubble here we can’t escape that but isn’t it a little better to deal with it together?” There’s a fragility to “Et cetera” that makes that invite all the more appealing, the wavering, near-awkward vocals appealingly vulnerable as, the plea to be held raw and endearing rather than clingy and desperate. Accepting that closeness won’t fix anything for anyone, but sometimes it’s enough to just be mutually sensitive and lost together.
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