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.
Shanghai Beach “The Actress (ft. Linda Gardens)”
You may have noticed that over the past couple years, Austin’s most fruitful and interesting music has come not from its psychedelic or punk scenes but from the electronic corridor. Part of that is because unlike those former scenes, Austin’s electronic community is unified by a diversity rather than consistency of sound– other than the constant use of vintage synths, none of the groups really sound that much alike. Shanghai Beach is a perfect example of that, their OMD-indebted dark pop similar to, say, Troller only in its melancholy air. “The Actress” stands out not just as Shanghai Beach’s finest moment on their Bizarre Mutation LP but as a refreshingly theatrical spin on this city’s explosive darkwave scene, with guest vocalist Linda Gardens straddling the sweet spot between icy monotone a la Nico and Human League sweetness. Earlier Shanghai Beach singles, like “Space,” were enjoyable but somewhat stuffy in their lo-fi production but “The Actress” is expansive and comforting, traits that could help endear the project to listeners looking for a little more humanity in their dark wave.
Haze County “re^ction”
In lieu of liner notes, Haze County’s demo daze EP just commands you to “FUCK SHIT UP” and honestly that’s more accurate than anything I or anyone else could say to describe the project. Seemingly a one-man band comprised of the mysterious “BLR,” Haze County is a sloppy jumble of reverb and fuzz. “re^ction” is the best distillation of Haze County’s swamp desert fusion, a peek at an alternate dimension where John Fogerty got hooked on speed and fronted The Stooges instead of Iggy Pop. And if that doesn’t have you foaming at the mouth in your eagerness to listen for yourself, then something is seriously wrong with you.
Queue Queue “Mission”
Fittingly replicating the gravitational pull of celestial bodies, Queue Queue’s new single “Mission” sucks you in with its delightful hooks and never lets go. The opening verses have the playful air of an early Cure track, with spritely guitar lines and melodic but substantial bass but the vocals are closer to Sleater-Kinney, with coy back and forth deliveries and an addictive chant of “Space! Space! Space!” in the chorus. The track feels classic rather than nostalgic, and that’s a feat of engineering almost as impressive as a rocket launch.
Tilly Loom “Nostalgia Mainland”
It’s rare that a title fits a song as well as Tilly Loom’s “Nostalgia Mainland.” The song doesn’t recall a specific era or sound but instead encapsulates the very feeling of nostalgia itself, the bright chimes of an overdriven electric piano emerging from a cloud of synth pads and ghostly vocals to both soothe and perplex you. It’s an endearingly timeless track where timeless means disconnected from the present and future rather than traditional and common.
Abe M Beats “Better Days (ft. Lester, Nowhere)”
Fun is hard to find in 2017, when every moment feels like the silence right before an anvil lands on your head. So I cherish audio jewels like Abe M Beats’ “Better Days” and how it seems explicitly designed to make you think of, well, better days. The individual components of the instrumental- like the Disney toon sounding vocal samples and the chipper synths- sound cheesy in description but taken together they equal pure bliss. “Better Days” isn’t going to magically cure any darkness hanging over your head but it will at least give you a two minute respite from thinking about it, and that’s all too valuable right now.
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