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.
Tiger Cub “Work Me Up”
Even by the usual standards of critical nonsense, chillwave was a genre tag that did little to clarify what the actual sound of the artists saddled with it was. No wonder, then, that the defining artists of its first wave, such as Neon Indian, immediately shifted away from the sounds that marked them as chillwave acts. The best explanation I encountered for what chillwave actually entailed was “music where nostalgia is the defining mood,” and in that regard, Tiger Cub perfectly encapsulate this on “Work Me Up.” Early chillwave acts mostly imbued their music with nostalgia via samples of kitsch artifacts and the detritus of childhood cultural memories but “Work Me Up” provokes nostalgia by tricking your brain into thinking it’s hearing a formerly favorite song you’ve forgotten about. “Work Me Up” has the go-go propulsion of an electropop theme song for an ’80s comedy, the kind that would star a cherub faced young John Cusack, produced in a way that makes it sound like it’s coming through a cheap radio in another room. What makes it more than novelty, though, is its infectious sincerity– this isn’t an ’80s styled throwback looking to score irony points, it’s pop for the fun of it, dorky yet irresistible.
Failing romances are common fodder for pop but it’s rare that a song gets that crushing sense of deflation accurate, with songwriters usually sticking to the easier territory of sticking it to an ex. Dorsia mostly avoid romantic revenge in their single “Miami,” instead focusing on the slow death of a relationship where the passion was far too one sided. Kelly Pitlosh’s smooth and charismatic vocal performance impressively communicates both the disappointment in the lyrics and the spark of attraction that nonetheless still lingers, delivered with acidic aplomb in lines like “The longer that I knew you/The less I wanted to.” The rest of Dorsia’s EP is a little too heavy on the saccharine aspects of ’80s pop but “Miami” shows what Pitlosh and her collaborator producer Nick Colbert are truly capable of, with the neon keyboards and bubbling rhythms bringing out just the right amount of sensuality in the melody. If they can bottle more of this magic on future singles, Austin itself may end up being the real life partner the duo have to dump to triumph.
MeanGirls “Bitter Babes”
Even before the announcement that they’d joined the roster of Community Records, MeanGirls seemed poised for a breakout– it was merely a question of when and in what form. But “Bitter Babes,” their first single from their upcoming album Is This Me Forever? answers that question pretty succinctly and the answer is “right fucking now and highly evolved.” Produced with remarkable clarity by Phillip Odom, “Bitter Babes” is two and a half minutes of borderline symphonic musical mayhem, the entire band hammering away at your heart, paving the way for Raine Hopper to snarl through a verse that flawlessly shifts into a cathartic singalong chorus that in turn gives way for a dazzling freefall into a twinkling, achingly pretty bridge, where Honey and Salt’s Ben Arthur Sams keeps the chaos lurking in the periphery with his forever rolling drums. “Bitter Babes” is a torrent of musical emotion, a single that uplifts and stirs you and still somehow finds the time to soothe you in the comedown.
Outbanders “Sacred Lines Spread Sacred Lies”
It’s a little unfair to other cities how strong and diverse our electronic scene is right now. Every month sees a number of remarkable releases from the scene, ranging from the abstract and narcotic sounds filtering out of Feedback Alliance to the ominous moods of Holodeck and the grinning party music of vets like Total Unicorn. It’s an embarrassment of riches and I hope it never stops. Outbanders are a newer project comprised of Zak Angelle and Brandon Valosek, but they’ve already carved out a nice spot within the community combining the glitchy, textural work of Anticon-style instrumentalists with the menacing bass heavy work of S U R V I V E. Their debut EP Emergent Patterns is reflective and chill on the whole but closing track “Sacred Lines Spread Sacred Lies” is the most promising moment, its eerie yet contemplative lead synth hook providing a mesmerizing focal point amidst the reversed samples and buzzing bass making up the center. Built around what is essentially two notes, “Sacred Lines Spread Sacred Lies” is electronic music as zen-like simplicity.
Mobley “Young Adult Fiction”
Mobley has emerged as one of Austin’s great pop hopes, a technically gifted singer who also fills his performances with immense character and passion, particularly live. More importantly, Mobley is an artist who seems unwilling to coast and his recent collaborations with Blastfamous USA have indicated that he’s got his eyes set on something more profound than your typical pop career. Mobley’s new album Fresh Lies, Vol. 1 is self-described as an attempt to use “the familiar form of love songs to explore the intrincacies of his relationship with his country,” with the ambitious end goal of releasing a volume “for each generation of his family since his ancestors were first brought to the continent.” The album’s newest single “Young Adult Fiction” is particularly fixated the “fiction” of tomorrow, the forever shifting promise to the marginalized that things will be better some day, just not right now. Where Blastfamous take the blitzkrieg approach to message music, channeling the righteous fury of the oppressed in every beat and hook, Mobley takes a subtler route, delivering the verses in a lullaby hum, the music heavily rhythmic but equally minimal and hushed. When the chorus comes it’s anthemic yet gentle, Mobley’s voice coated in futuristic fuzz, making the static-y bursts of sounds in the post-chorus and bridge that much more devastating. The result is a reminder that the politeness of the oppressed isn’t going to hold much longer and tomorrow is going to come sooner rather than later no matter how much the oppressors try to keep it at bay.
Mobley plays Mohawk on Saturday, June 2nd with Mamahawk and more.
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