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.
Max Wells “We Still”
Every year it seems like the time it takes the new year to reveal itself as something far more disappointing than the fresh start you hoped it would be gets shorter and shorter. Is maturity the rapidness of that feeling? Or is it the awareness of it? That’s something Max Wells wrestles with on “We Still,” an unexpectedly blunt pop moment from one of Austin’s most talented emcees. “We Still” is morose and melancholy yet imminently listenable, the rugged qualities of Wells’ voice tuned towards expressing regret rather than swagger while Still Production’s beat skews airy and major, always on the precipice of jingle territory but wisely restraining itself from going all in. In essence, “We Still” sounds like Max Wells growing up, not because he has to, but because he wants to.
Porter & the Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes “Bittersweet Creek”
Alt-country is full of singers trying to sale you on how intimately they know pain and sadness– its publication of note for several years was called No Depression, after all. But it’s been a while since I’ve heard an alt-country voice that stuck out as unquestionably raw and real. Chris Porter feels that void nicely with his new project Porter & the Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes and their track “Bittersweet Creek”, where boozy, distorted guitars and a shambling beat pair so well with his hiccupy, sandpaper voice. “Bittersweet Creek” is an ode to a woman who “goes for sad boys, tall and wasted,” all while the particular boy in question struggles to get out from underneath the covers while she consorts with the angels on her shoulders. But it’s also about the tide and flow of depression, the titular bittersweet creek, and how its works its way into every vein. Porter isn’t putting on airs, this isn’t some sad song scholar adopting the tragedy of dust bowl ancestors but a real lonesome cowboy, exorcising personal demons the only way he knows how.
Why Bonnie “Made of Paper”
There’s a fan comment on Why Bonnie’s Bandcamp saying “The Cranberries brought me here,” but to my ears the Austin quartet have a lot more in common with The Concretes. Like that underappreciated Swedish group, Why Bonnie create hooky yet subtly tragic indie pop where every musical element competes for your attention while still holding together as a majestic whole. The band’s new single “Made of Paper” from their forthcoming EP In Water is a beautiful introduction to their sound, propelled by a fleet footed rhythm and stirring guitars that draw out the dizzying emotions and passions of the lead vocal without pushing it towards melodrama. It’s the type of single that throws you headfirst into a band’s sound and leaves you wondering how you ever got through your days without it.
Trouble Boys “My Own Way”
I think it’s fair to say that Trouble Boys are by no means reinventing the wheel on their new 7″ “My Own Way,” but sometimes all you really want or need is a sleaze-coated 1974 throwback. Recorded at Bunker Studios in Memphis, which I assume is accurately named given how much this single sounds like it was recorded deep underground, “My Own Way” doesn’t so much provoke memories of greasy proto-punks The Dictators as it picks up right where they left off. Snarling, sloppy and rude, “My Own Way” is rock and roll reduced to its juvenile delinquent origins, and that’s always worth celebrating.
Trouble Boys play Hotel Vegas this Friday, January 12th.
Black DaVinci “TripBackHome”
Ndelible Ink has been making some waves as one of the finest curators of beat work in Austin and Black DaVinci’s new tape Do SPs Dream of Electric Beats? is an excellent addition to their catalog. “TripBackHome” is a vivid entry point for the collection, a collage of breezy horn samples, jazzy piano and surprisingly rhythmic blasts of stray dialogue. In just a little over two minutes, “TripBackHome” delivers on its title with a comforting nostalgic vibe that welcomes you to DaVinci’s world in a way that makes it seem like you’re returning to it rather than being introduced.
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