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.
Jay Kirk- “Back Home”
I don’t really subscribe to the notion that things were better back in the day, especially not on a musical front. As they say, hindsight is 20/20, so we get to cherrypick the best material of yesteryear and ignore the things outside our peripheral vision that don’t match up to what we want to believe. Still, Jay Kirk makes a good argument for his personal brand of nostalgia on “Back Home,” an offering from his self-explanatory Soul Hop EP, where the mantra is “I’m talking about the classics/Back when everything used to sound so damn organic.” Partnering with Ruler Why for soulful production to match his laid back, singsong flow, Jay Kirk hawks a kind of throwback that recalls the times it’s reminiscing to without sounding beholden– think Cool Kids more than Jurassic 5. Ruler Why’s merger of California G-funk and Chicago chipmunk soul is a big part of why it succeeds, but Kirk’s emphasis on the classics’ ability to make you feel at home helps, showing the emcee is more self-aware than your standard back in the day talker.
Pema- “My Intentions are Good”
Alex Napping leader Alex Cohen has emerged with a new sideproject called Pema, and the debut single “My Intentions Are Good” is an intriguing glimpse at a completely new facet of her songwriting. Taking a tUnE-yArDs approach to craft, Cohen mostly constructs “My Intentions Are Good” out of vocal loops and minimal electronic percussion, while her characteristically airy voice rises out of the center of the mix. There’s more of a sense of adventure and wonder in Pema than in Alex Napping, making “My Intentions Are Good” a refreshing spinoff that also showcases more of the potential Cohen has always demonstrated.
Jake Lloyd- “Only You”
As diverse as the Austin music scene is, it often seems the number of acts that are making remarkable pop music is miniscule. Jake Lloyd only popped up on my radar per the recommendation of Curbside Jones, but I’m glad he did since “Only You” is an excellent display of neo-soul flavored pop, with Lloyd’s vocals standing out as a lighter twist on Ivan Neville circa “Why Can’t I Fall in Love,” sharing that ache and longing as well as its moody organ accompaniment. But DSII gives Lloyd a lot more room to maneuver in, leaving his vocal mix relatively dry and basically equal in the mix with the more modern beat, making the impact that much more profound when Lloyd starts to hit the higher notes in his range. The song doesn’t quite have a big impactful moment to pay off on all the teasing, but it nonetheless announces Lloyd as a local pop talent to keep your eye on.
Spray Paint- “Burn Barrel”
In his press release for Spray Paint’s upcoming album Feel the Clamps, Andrew Earles spends an impressive amount of time trying to make the argument that the band is waging some kind of war on aggressive mediocrity by using aggressive mediocrity’s tools of hard work and prolific output against it. There’s nothing wrong with that but listening to their new single “Burn Barrel,” I get the feeling the band is way more interested in making music that reflects the fact that we have collectively already lost the war on mediocrity and now we just need to set everything on fire and start again. “Burn Barrel” certainly does have remarkable discipline– note that rigorously monotonous beat and pummeling drone– but you know that feeling you get when you’re locked in an argument with someone who is unquestionably dumber than you and you realize that they are better off in life as a result of being dumber than you and that immediately makes you tune out in some kind of rage hypnosis as you fantasize all the ways you could do harm to them? “Burn Barrel” is the soundtrack to that, an atonal call-and-response anthem for your anxiety about being fucked as a result of not being stupid.
Bayonne- “Tilted (Remix of Christine and the Queens)”
Local electronic genius Bayonne landed quite the opportunity this month with his remix of Christine and the Queens’ “Tilted.” It’s a surprising collaboration on first glance, but the more you think about these two artists’ approaches, the more interesting it becomes. Though Christine and the Queens are icier and more relaxed than Bayonne’s hyperkinetic electro-acoustic style, their aesthetic is what ultimately wins out in the remix, with Bayonne adding further melancholy to the song if anything. Bayonne shelves most of the electro-pop aspects of the original, grafting pastoral acoustic qualities over the original structure, bringing out the secret sorrow in Christine’s voice, making that “But I am naturally good/Can’t help it if we’re tilted” line seem borderline despondent rather than firm and unapologetic. Both approaches are interesting but in a sense, I think Bayonne’s version makes Christine’s lyrics more bluntly tackle a natural fact about our world: if you’re good, you’re doomed.
Bayonne will be playing Levitation Fest this Saturday, April 30th
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