Latest Toughs: Willy Vanilla, Zettajoule 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 artists to get you up to date and make each of your workdays a little easier.

Willy Vanilla “The Good Old Days”

The Austin music community is heartbroken this week after the loss of Seth Gibbs on Friday. Even if you don’t know Gibbs’ name, you’re likely familiar with his work, he was a vital component of the local scene through his production for acts as diverse as the Moonpiesdumpies, and Tex Smith while also playing in a dizzying number of projects, including Bobby JealousyThe Reputations and Rolland Hazzard. Gibbs had only been diagnosed with cancer three months ago but tests revealed it was an aggressively metastasizing stomach cancer. Nonetheless, Gibbs set about making as much music as possible with the time he had left, culminating in the just released Willy Vanilla album American Neck, created with the aid of five of Gibbs’ closest songwriter friends. The entire album is a warm and powerful swan song but it’s “The Good Old Days” that stands out as the greatest goodbye. With a chickenshack Pavement sound, Gibbs and company reminisce on “the good old days/like a dream I just can’t shake,” bemoaning how cruel it is that world is so slow to change while we have so little time on it. That may be true but as far as Austin music is concerned, Gibbs did more than his fair share of world changing in his too short time.

The Archibalds “Let Me Go”

Though it was recorded in 2011, The Archibalds’ Low and Slow is just now seeing the light of day, and is also a poignant farewell for band member Seth Gibbs, particularly “Let Me Go.” More in the vein of masterful power poppers the Minus 5 than slack rock, “Let Me Go” is a twangy and bittersweet love letter to Texas and the romantic pull it has most of its current and former inhabitants. Rather than look back at good old days, “Let Me Go” is focused on the journey ahead and the need to not let your roots sink in too deep, but in the wake of Gibbs’ passing, it takes on a heavier and more profound meaning.

Secret Crane “Sunk Costs”

With the state of things, it can be difficult to remember what innocence even feels like. We are, after all, living in a time where the concept of original sin has been replaced by global sin, exacerbated by the incessant and all-encompassing flow of digital communication. So Julio Correa’s new project Secret Crane isn’t just refreshingly twee, it’s like a glimpse into an Edenesque timeline. “Sunk Costs” is the most nourishing moment on the Strawberry Milk EP in part because it boldly rejects the flaws of our world, namely the sunk costs of the title. I say boldly because while Correa’s vocals and lyrics have a bashful quality to them, the instrumentation and production are crisp and vivid– the drums slice right through the air while staying minimal, the guitars are spry, interlocked with the deliciously thick bass, making for the rare twee track that forces you to your feet. And then it all playfully tumbles down.

Yimsock “Scamoflage”

A curious Frankenstein’s monster of glitched out fax machine sounds and autumnal samples, Yimsock’s “Scamoflage” is like a glimpse at a universe where Daft Punk and Boards of Canada teamed up for a single album before blasting off in a spaceship made out of spare robot parts and children’s toys. That makes for a listening experience perfect for both an art gallery opening and a house party, with an emphasis on house.

Zettajoule “No Thank You”

For the most part, Austin electronic artists tend to specialize in dark, cerebral sounds or abstract collages, but the newly deconstructed Zettajoule share more DNA with Dare-era Human League than the vast majority of their local peers. The duo’s new single “No Thank You” is a brilliant showcase of their flirty and seductive electro-pop charms, where pelvic thrust basslines, cheeky robot voices and syncopated drums compete with the main vocal for your dancefloor affection. All in all, “No Thank You” is the most fun you can have while wearing only a pair of headphones.

Got a single you’d like to be considered for Latest Toughs? Email us with Latest Toughs in the subject!

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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