The Latest Toughs: Stiletto Feels, Curbside Jones and More

by Nick Hanover

Latest Toughs

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.

Stiletto Feels- “Steal Your Guitar”

The title of Stiletto Feels’ new single “Steal Your Guitar” initially made me wonder if it was a covert sequel to Radiohead’s early track “Anyone Can Play Guitar,” where that declaration was followed up by a wave of vigilantes doing the people of Earth a great service by knicking every “Wonderwall” minstrel’s Ovation. That’s not exactly the case and maybe that’s for the best. “Steal Your Guitar” has more in common with mid-period Junior Boys than Radiohead, lusty, airy vocals teaming up with fat bottom synth and bass to make that “Steal Your Guitar” a come on instead of a threat. I mean, there is still somewhat of a threat to it, what with the talk of hawking the six string for drugs and all, but the way it’s delivered, it sounds like it might be a bit of fun, like burglary roleplay. People are into that these days, right?

DRESS- “Me Wants You”

Reverb is great, yes? It improves everything. I wish I could soak my entire day in reverb. Until that is possible, however, I’ll have to settle for DRESS’ new batch of demos Tonight’s the Night, a collection of reverb drenched power pop in the vein of Big Star and early Cheap Trick. “Me Wants You” is the best of the bunch, imbued with more flavor and personality than the other two tracks, with some no-bullshit pop drumming and a wonderfully sloppy dual vocal you can barely make out. DRESS would be wise to bring those vocals a little more to the forefront on their proper recordings, there’s a lot of charming potential there, but there is also something to be said for the mystery and texture of this barebones live practice recording.

DRESS play Swan Dive on Friday, November 27th with Alien Knife Fight and On Delay.

Apek- “Signum (ft. DJ Fuji)”

Something is shifting Austin hip hop towards darker tones. Even the more mainstream shit has this bleakness to it, full of sluggish synths and menacing beats. Apek first caught my ear with his merger of psych and hip hop, but lately he seems to be pulling from ’80s horror sounds, putting him in closer proximity to the output of minimal wave label Holodeck than his local hip hop peers. “Signum” is a standout for that reason, with its death cult vocal samples and that murderous flow Apek adopts as he sketches out his less-than-divine machinations. I hope Apek continues to explore this terrain.

Curbside Jones- “Lag Switch”

Curbside Jones doesn’t go quite as sinister as Apek but his new track “Lag Switch” has him taunting a digital bogeyman over a rugged, mystical beat. “Lag Switch” has me hyped for Curb’s upcoming new project, showing off a far more engaged Curb than what his abstract, production-focused recent offerings have provided. The key thing here is that Curb’s production and flow are more organically joined, with his cadence alternating in the verses, highlighting the versatility of his voice unlike some of his prior efforts, which were more laid back, almost disappearing into the hypnotic grooves he created. The end of 2015 has been a great time for hip hop in Austin and it’s good to see one of its most promising auteurs reemerge with exciting, fresh material.

Pleasers “Leading Me On”

“Reject Teen,” the last effort from Pleasers, had some lovable qualities but didn’t quite win me over all the way, so I’m pleasantly surprised to find that their new single “Leading Me On” is a more confident, self-assured release. “Leading Me On” shows the group developing their endearingly ramshackle sound, with a New York Dolls-esque proto-glam vibe, complete with hiccupy vocals and a secretly boogie rock-indebted guitar lick. The drums could stand to be more dynamic and visceral, but the guitar and vocal are in such perfect synchronicity the rhythm issues are a minor complaint. It’s the kind of Friday night anthem that is ideal for soundtracking impromptu sock hops.

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