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.
Despite the long-distance threat of the most powerful hurricane in history, Austin seems to have survived the weekend. And now I have a gorgeous new pond in my backyard. In honor of the intrusion of nature on what should have been a weekend of good times, let’s kick off this week’s Latest Toughs with the decidedly ecological new 7″ from Tapes, pairing the sprinkly “Boca” with the long, simmering build of “Rousseau.” “Boca” may be the A-side and may also serve as a clearer evolution of the band’s Books-influenced debut but “Rousseau” is the clear stand out to my ears, utilizing a warm electric piano tone for low end atmosphere as textural guitar and delicate drums swell, climbing to a feedback-soaked apex. “Rousseau” stretches out over six minutes, but unlike so many of their post-rock peers here in Austin, it never feels like a slog.
Pleasure Venom- “Hunt”
No Wave pops up on a of Austin bands’ one sheets as an influence but I suspect the actual number of groups with any real knowledge of how to achieve that distinctly New York sound outside of its natural habitat is pretty minute. Outside of the marvelous Popper Burns, the relatively new ensemble Pleasure Venom come as close as I’ve heard to a modern No Wave in ages, with their take on the genre functioning as a hybrid of James Chance’s akimbo funk and ESG’s eerie, feral vocalizations. The rhythm section of Trevor Mason and Thomas Valles is smartly placed at the forefront of “Hunt,” their groove machine tight as Audrey Campbell’s vocals rip up the rest of the mix, Anna Charlock and Austin Reynolds’ guitars getting in little riffs here and there but mostly serving as flavoring rather than meat. The production curiously avoids the icy guitar tones you’d expect from a post-punk leaning band, but given the sharpness of Campbell’s voice that ends up working out in the band’s favor. “Hunt” is also just a tease of the band’s debut EP of the same name, which is slated for the end of the year.
Tiger Waves- “Turns to Sky”
Honestly, I’m pretty happy that indie rock has mostly grown out of its Brian Wilson obsession. Wilson gets the bulk of the credit for the studio magic end of psychedelia but the only genius I ever cared about from that camp was Van Dyke Parks and somehow he remains criminally underloved. But I’m almost tempted to give Wilson’s acolytes a second chance if more of them can get the style as right as Tiger Waves do on “Turns to Sky.” Continuing this week’s theme of B-sides that are so much better than their A-sides, “Turns to Sky” isn’t just a throwback to Pet Sounds, it’s a continuation of the California pop that early indie Wilson fanatics like Irving and Beulah practiced, albeit with less sunshine. Although “Turns to Sky” is basically three and a half minutes of studio experimentation, what keeps it together is the regular return to a melancholic refrain, the lyrics explaining a fear of losing your head. These segments are built around lazy acoustic strumming but eventually give way to full group participation, complete with handclaps, organ and reverberated snare hits, making them the delicious palate cleanser between avant vignettes.
Dreamboat- “Whoa Ho Ho”
I’m reasonably sure that my weakness for albums that leave in studio goofs and chitter chatter came from Steve Albini’s decision to fill in gaps on The Pixies’ Surfer Rosa with band talk and weird vocal sounds. The digital era of music production has made “keep the tape rolling” kind of an anachronism, but there’s a beautiful moment in Dreamboat’s “Whoa Ho Ho” where Mary Bryce’s hearty chuckle disrupts a line about lovers laughing. It might be fabricated but it sums up this newish band’s appeal, as the music they make is unabashedly joyful and goofy. A little bit Decemberists, a lotta of Camera Obscura, Dreamboat have a large, well-arranged sound but Bryce’s vocal character makes their music seem intimate and personal, like a group of friends on a log cabin vacation, entertaining themselves with instruments away from the den of technological distractions. It may not be hip or envelope pushing, but Dreamboat’s music is comforting and well-crafted and sometimes that’s all you need.
Body Pressure- “Body Pressure”
For whatever reason, I’ve got a higher tolerance for bands naming songs after themselves when it’s hardcore. That’s especially true of Body Pressure, whose eponymous track is the highlight of their new demo cassette, symbolic of the EP’s overarching status as a maelstrom of audio tantrums and pointed fingers. Faiza Kracheni has the serpentine vocals of a young Donita Sparks, only with tape melting intensity subbed in for detached frustration, and the effect is heightened by the band’s surprising chops. Unlike their more ’80s indebted Austin hardcore peers, Body Pressure have a knack for arrangements and buzzsaw precision, making their sound more progressive than derivative. That the band are able to show off such range and prowess on a demo cassette bodes well for their future, and Bry Lynn’s Johnny Ryan-like illustrations for the cover have me even more excited for Body Pressure’s “official” debut.
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