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.
Why Bonnie “Voice Box”
It didn’t come as too much of a shock that Why Bonnie recently became the latest Austin act to get signed to a national label. The dream pop outfit have long stood out from the bulk of their peers in everything from songwriting to production to aesthetics. “Voice Box,” from their upcoming EP of the same name, is an escalation of Why Bonnie’s existing talents, from Blair Howerton’s lighter than air melody to the subtle but potent rhythm section, recorded with an almost Glyn Johns-like touch by Michael Landon at Estuary. But as Why Bonnie continue to grow, they impress most with their ability to retain a dreamy familiarity, akin to randomly running into a friend you haven’t seen in years and feeling like no time has passed at all.
Why Bonnie play the Winspear and Sooper Day Party on March 17th at Barracuda
Springful “How Long Have You Known?”
While Jim Hampton has been gaining acclaim as a lead guitarist for art pop acts ranging from SOBBRS to Socha, his own project Springful is a formidable affair, blending his guitar heroics with a powerful rhythm section and his anthemic vocals. “How Long Have You Known?” is Springful’s best showing yet, with its Bloc Party-like bass and drums and Hampton’s Ben Gibbard rivaling vocal performance and lyrics. In the press release, Hampton mentions this was actually the first song he purposefully wrote for this project and that it’s about the “low, excruciating realization that someone I loved didn’t love me back– and the confrontation that followed.” That explains the confidence and the rawness, both clear breaks from the more bedroom pop style of previous single “Braid,” and it gives a strong indication that Springful might just evolve into one of Austin’s most viable indie rock groups.
Jack Boyd “Rodeo”
Minimalist synth pop isn’t usually known for adventurous rhythms– monotony is part of its whole deal. But on “Rodeo,” Jack Boyd says fuck that and offers up a synth pop single where the drums skitter and flail about like horny junebugs and the guitar was seemingly recorded after receiving the prompt “make it sound like Bruce Springsteen’s ‘I’m On Fire’ was recorded in a depth charged submarine.” Boyd’s vocal contributes to the nervous energy, sounding more like someone muttering to themselves before approaching a crush in a club than any kind of day-glo bravo– think Gary Numan coming through a warped cassette. And yet Boyd doesn’t skimp on the hooks, every corner is filled with some blink-and-you’ll-miss-it melodic detour or tone. Not since Lou Rebecca have I been this excited about a new voice in synth pop.
Jamesy “Circle Small”
With his chirpy samples and knack for the boomiest of boom bap, Flobama has a tendency to draw out especially playful sides of the rappers he works with. But “Circle Small,” his new collaboration with Jamesy, is particularly irreverent and spritely, thanks to Jamesy’s eagerness to attack the beat from all angles, every line delivered with a breathless grin. It’s a match made in hip hop heaven, like a third coast Deltron 3030, and a welcome respite from the increasingly gloomier and more muffled production and vocals that Austin hip hop has been gravitating towards.
Space Tan “Shut Up”
There’s a reason we never really saw a wave of would-be Los Campesinos! successors the way we did with, say, The Strokes or The White Stripes. That kind of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants irreverent anarchy is pretty fucking hard to pull off, let alone pull off consistently. But now, more than a decade on from Los Campesinos!’s breakout, Space Tan have arrived to make a serious bid at the title of world heavyweight indie wordsmiths with “Shut Up,” off their LP Don’t Worry About Me. Though it’s sonically more of a cross between Mates of State and The Anniversary, the songwriting and lyrics are a delirious tour-de-force of anxiety and self-deprecation, from explorations of insomnia inducing self-doubt (“The guy from last night just won’t shut up about his feelings/The guy from right now just wants to stare up at the ceiling“) to one liners that would have been all over LiveJournal back in the day (“Been pullin’ teeth just to meet the quota”). Rather than crib the sound and tone of Los Campesinos!, Space Tan follow in their footsteps via energy, enthusiasm and puckish wit, and good god have we needed more of that.
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