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 artists to get you up to date and make each of your workdays a little easier.
Robby “Phases of the Moon”
For years, countless Austin bands have tried to mine the catalogs of The Cure and Echo & the Bunnymen to mostly middling results, but on “Phases of the Moon,” Robby seems to have cracked the code. Taking the synth pads from “Just Like Heaven” and the soaring guitars of “Lips Like Sugar,” “Phases of the Moon” nails all of the moody romance of that end of ’80s post-punk while still making room for Robby’s own unique twists. Chief amongst those twists is the interplay between Robert Williams’s guitar and Lolita Lynne’s bass, creating a sensual push and pull that allows for a delicious tension with Williams’s vocal. Had it come out in the mid-80s, “Phases of the Moon” would have been oh so many hand recorded crush cassettes.
Warm Island “Rose Colored”
Back in the late ’90s, after the bottom fell out of the grunge gold rush, a whole lot of indie rock luminaries found themselves unceremoniously dropped by major labels who never knew what to do with them to begin with, leading to a period where bands like Jawbreaker and Archers of Loaf fell apart and their various members scaled back with music that was still guitar centric, but rawer and more intimate. Warm Island sounds and looks like he got warped in from that era, with his beanie and beard and shellshocked expression. “Rose Colored,” off his perfectly named Coughing Up Roses EP, specifically hits that sweet spot between Eric Bachmann and Bob Mould, with red lining guitar and simple, muddy drums serving as the only accoutrements for his sweet, hoarse howling. Minimalist in construction but big in feeling and intensity, “Rose Colored” is a refreshingly candid and unrefined missive from a very promising songwriter.
Virginia Creeper “Dirty Pic”
It almost feels wrong to listen to Virginia Creeper’s “Dirty Pic,” like you’ve picked up a landline while two people are having a very private conversation full of confessions and regrets. And yet you can’t stop listening, drawn in by hearing someone else’s most secret thoughts in the most vulnerable of ways, undetected. Though some of that is due to the startlingly raw recording itself– seemingly played to a phone, with all of the coughs and fumbles and inhalations left in, unedited– it’s also due to how naked and unguarded the lyrics are. Detailing a series of requests and regretful decisions to someone close, from the dirty pic of the title to the self-destructive decision to be taken home by someone who’s too drunk to drive, “Dirty Pic” has the kind of authenticity and emotional openness that even the best songwriters struggle to convey in their material. But Virginia Creeper doesn’t just leave herself open and exposed, she accomplishes the even rarer feat of making you feel moved to take that same brave risk yourself.
Dry Guy “Something to Do”
Like a toddler’s temper tantrum, Dry Guy’s “Something to Do” begins as a slow, escalating threat provoked by boredom, the drums a lumbering stomp egging on moody bass. By the chorus, the rage explodes in full, guitar and drums coming in clenched fist bursts as the vocals contort and screech “I WANT SOMETHING TO DO.” Though it’s coated in the brattiness of pogo punk, “Something to Do” skews closer to the disturbed slither of Jesus Lizard, with serpentine bass and tom-heavy drums at the forefront of Ian Rundell’s mix. It might not be wholesome entertainment but put it on full blast and even the rowdiest toddler is bound to be awed into silence by it.
Taken by Savages “Don’t Get Too Excited”
“Don’t Get Too Excited” might be the most hummable breakdown of a fucked up circumstance this side of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” In just a little over two and a half minutes, Taken by Savages introduce an all you can eat buffet of hooks and riffs, from the buzzy arpeggiated synth that kicks things off to an anti-solo that Sleigh Bells would kill to possess to some well-placed “doo doo doos.” Holding the hookfest together is Annie Choi’s vocal and her carefully balanced mix of pissed off, resigned and liberated feelings, making it clear that the fucked up situation she’s in has been building for some time and now that it’s here, what else is there to do but make indie rock lemonade out of it?
Got a single you’d like to be considered for Latest Toughs? Email us with Latest Toughs in the subject!
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