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.
Marie Davidson- “Balade Aux USA”
The weekend wasn’t exactly icy and frigid, but it was morose and overcast, filled with that kind of rain that never comes down hard but is omnipresent, a nagging wetness that infuses your day through every pore. So you’ll have to pardon me if I’m kicking off this week’s batch of Latest Toughs with a track from someone who isn’t exactly an Austin artist, but nonetheless has a direct connection to Austin through hip as shit local label Holodeck. Marie Davidson is a French Canadian who makes the kind of music that you would expect to hear in a Gaspar Noe remake of a Godard film– inarguably cool yet cruel and intense, repetitive in the best sense, like torturous foreplay, all builds and the desperate hope of a climax you secretly want to be kept away from you as long as possible. Holodeck is teasing Davidson’s upcoming album Un Autre Voyage with “Balade Aux USA,” a road song for psychopaths stalking Mulholland Drive on dead autumn nights. There is a bent motorik beat, offset by handclaps and digital stick hits, kept in place by an arpeggiating synth and Davidson’s menacing monotone. Davidson gives hints of a larger melody, and the noisy, atmospheric guitars floating in the ether behind her similarly provide bursts of ominous hooks, but for the most part, this is a song for transporting your Sunday ennui to Monday, clutching rain soaked sadness instead of letting it go until it hardens into something fearsome.
Curbside Jones- “Brushed Teeth Grief”
After a day spent shaking off Sunday’s lingering aftereffects, I’m getting some head bopping in to Curbside Jones’ new beat tape Boom Bapparations, a project that has the hip hop auteur functioning like a sunnier Flying Lotus. My favorite of the bunch is “Brushed Teeth Grief,” which begins its attempts to lure you in to Curb’s world with a sample that inexplicably makes me think of the second Gremlins flick, matched to a whooshing big beat. There is a warbly ’80s bass synth and some soulful samples, and Curb’s trademark anime dialogue, but it also makes this metamorphosis towards the end into something like a later era Dilla track, with bright pianos and “ahhhs” and a fuller offering of the omnipresent Fifth Dimension sample (“a love like ours could never be” does sound a lot like “brushed teeth grief” when you hone in on it like that). It’s good shit and has me amped up for whatever Curbside Jones does next.
The Food Group- “Esque”
I’ve been suffering from shoegaze burnout since, like, 2006. I don’t know why a whole bunch of mopey dudes with bad haircuts all of a sudden discovered Loveless in the middle of the first decade of the 21st century but it got old real quick. Therefore I cannot explain to you why The Food Group continues to catch my ear, but I think if there is any hope of figuring out why they are immune to my reflective hatred of bands with more pedals than sense, it’s “Esque,” off their new album Echo Location (though I will readily tell you that title is way too on the nose for a band with shoegaze tendencies). “Esque” actually sounds more like American Analog Set suddenly deciding they’d prefer to channel Ride than Giant Sand, so it’s got a lot of subtle melodic elements to differentiate it from the normal post-shoegaze trend of coating everything in haze. There is also a discernible, gorgeous vocal layer, with a quavering falsetto and counter melodies. Yes, there are walls and walls of sound, but you get the sense that Food Group very carefully orchestrated each layer for maximum melodic efficiency. It sounds lush and deliberate, not lazy and chaotic. Take notes, all you other pretenders.
Lowin- “Best Laid Plans”
The thing about Löwin’s new track “Best Laid Plans” is that it immediately throws me for a loop because it starts almost identically to Sonic Youth’s “Schizophrenia.” The beat emphasizes the snare instead of the floor tom, and that opening guitar lick is a bizarro twist on Lee Ranaldo’s, subbing out atonality for a kind of stoner rock fullness, but it’s giving me slight deja vu nonetheless. They even share inexplicably muddy production. But once that climbing, scuzzy riff does its thing and Sarah Houser’s inimitable voice enters the fray, there’s no mistaking this as anything other than Löwin. For what it is, it’s a fun track, with a classic rock feel, but not in overly throwback way. The production is the biggest weakpoint, but I’m not sure if this is an unmixed and mastered version of the track or not. I guess we’ll just have to stay tuned for the April release of their next EP Royal Jelly to find out.
KB the Boo Bonic- “Farah Flossitt”
Iggy Azalea has probably fucked up the chances of any white girls getting a decent reception in hip hop anytime soon, but ATX vet KB the Boo Bonic deserves a second look regardless of your thoughts on that clueless Aussie. Over a Charlie’s Angels theme sample beat courtesy of the Moon Boys’ Dirty Rich, KB attacks the notion of the female rapper as strictly eye candy, instead preferring to view it as the baddest of bad assery, the kind of scene dominance that requires a brutal amount of multitasking as KB and her peers are asked to play harder and better than the boys and still look good while doing so. KB of course got her break via a DJ Rapid Ric mix, which you may remember the Chronicle saying earlier this month was like a badge of honor for any ATX hip hop act with any national aspirations. “Farah Flossitt” posits KB as Austin’s response to
Baltimore Philadelphia queen bee Amanda Blank (who you all seriously need to wake up to– Iggy is the white hop hop maven you chose over this?) and while Blank never truly got her due, KB seems ready to go all the way with her upcoming sophomore release.
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