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.
Tameca Jones “Are You Awake”
Mt Grey “Everything at Once”
On “Everything at Once,” Mt Grey hearken back to the glory days of the ’90s alt boom, the sound not overly beholden to any one influence but containing just enough elements of acts like Archers of Loaf and Jimmy Eat World to hit the nostalgia sweet spot. But the twist is more Foo Fighters than Clarity— James Sargent plays every instrument on “Everything at Once,” yet he manages to create the sound of a fully fleshed out band, with all the chemistry and conflict that entails. That one-man-against-the-world approach connects well with the song’s theme too, focused as it is on finding your own way and not letting yourself get dragged down by others, even if it means a whole lot of adversity and fucking up.
Daniel Francis Doyle & the Dreams “I Had to Do It”
Daniel Francis Doyle is not an easy artist to accurately classify, he operates in tics and neuroses more than specific sounds. “I Had to Do It,” for instance, from his upcoming cassette release Unrecognizable, could be described as the sound of John Darnielle soundtracking his own transformation into a cybernetic organism at the hands of a Devo uniformed mad scientist, but that’d still only give you an inkling of understanding. Tortured yet serene, Doyle’s delivery on “I Had to Do It” is a thing of mutant beauty, breezily shifting between poptimist hooks and agonized yaps as he quarrels with some compromising but unspoken act. The only thing that’s clear by the end is that Unrecognizable can’t come out soon enough.
French Mount Ultra “Hell Fire”
My most played record of last year was undoubtedly Black Dresses’ Waste Isolation, a senses shattering carpet bomb of new queer noise integrating everything from noise to hip hop to punk to pop. The unfortunate side effect has been that everything else has felt, well, a little drab (seriously, go listen to it right fucking now). Until French Mount Ultra came along with Peach, that is. A mini-LP of skronky glitch gurgles and ghostly melodies, Peach is operating in the same tetanus wasteland as Waste Isolation, minus vocals. Its napalm heart is the aptly named “Hell Fire,” where a stop-start jackhammer beat backs up some sampled rando going on about people “wailing” and “gnashing their teeth” while the synthesizer apocalypse explodes around him. It buzzes and it chatters and it rips at my flesh and I never want it to end.
It’s getting to feel like every other new show looks like it’s set in either a fantasy version of the ’80s or a modern day that is somehow also the ’80s (I’m looking right at you, Maniac and Sex Education). So spare me your efforts to revive the Thompson Twins and remind me the Cure still exist, I want something new on those network mandated Spotify playlists. Cue up Fanclub’s “Stranger,” the blissful anthem to your future ’80s fave starring An Actual Teenager and Grumpy Parental Unit as they quarrel over curfews and hormones. Feel that beat, perfectly constructed for pedaling so fast on your Huffy as you hurry off into the night to put a mixtape in a crush’s mailbox. Taste that ear candy synth hook, that cotton candy fluff vocal, take in those feels. Not quite New Order, too tender to be Human League, “Stranger” is the sound of that rare modern band that can indulge in ’80s throwback tendencies without getting zombified.
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