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by Nick Hanover

Where have all the good brats gone? I remember a time where seemingly one out of every three new punk releases was coated in snot and bile hurled from the violently grinning face of a ceaselessly bobbing young thing. This didn’t mean there was a shortage of music constructed out of righteous political fury and breakneck rhythms, there was just a better equilibrium, the brooding and plotting balanced by the shit stirring anarchic glee of modern incarnations of the celestial trickster. Thank Loki for Dregs, then, as they’ve arrived when we need them most, looking and sounding like refugees from a lost sequel to Jawbreaker: they almost certainly killed the teen dream and I, for one, have no problem dealing with it.

Dregs’ eponymous debut EP, which came out digitally back in October but will be released on tape this coming Tuesday, May 29th, is bratty mayhem incarnate, five tracks all sonically representing the experience of a big brother forcing you to slap yourself with your own hand while asking “why are you hitting yourself?” The signature moment comes early on with “Blowup,” a song that doesn’t start so much as it explodes from the speakers, Runaways riffs and blunt drumming fighting with rather than supplementing the vocals. Figuring out what’s actually being said is next to impossible so you only hear snippets of lines about fucking up someone asking for a smile before the track veers off course, twisting into something like an early X single, with joint male-female vocals yelping in tandem with the guitars. It’s muddled and messy and so goddamn addictive.

In the rare moments where Dregs try to take it a bit slower, like “I Witness,” a delicious tension builds as you wait for the inevitable snapping point where the muted guitars and drum rolls burst apart, releasing riffs more like shrapnel than hooks. Or in the case of sleazy LA garage rock number “Idiot,” you get the opposite, the vocals snapping and snarling over some relatively restrained backing music before calming down for a chorus where the music rises and rises to reflect the ticking time bomb the lyrics reference.

Despite the abundance of West Coast influences peppering Dregs’ debut, their catchiest track, “King Kong,” has more in common with local heroes A Giant Dog and their ’70s ancestors the New York Dolls. “King Kong” reimagines the great ape as the patron saint of the temper tantrum, a misunderstood lunk who just wanted to pogo around downtown and drunkenly make out with strangers to some gutter glam but was too big and too bold for this savage world. By the end, if you’re not down with the ape cause, you’re a heartless jackal with no sense of fun and good times.

Dregs may not share the stature of Kong but they can throw a temper tantrum with the best of them and if their talent continues to grow, they may very well pave the way for a new brat punk order. Until then, I suggest you put on your biggest boots, hawk up as much phlegm as you can muster and get snotty.

Dregs play Beerland on Tuesday, May 29th for their tape release show with Riot Punch, Sweepstakes and Prom Threat, and from now until the show you can download their EP for free/pay what you want.

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

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by Nick Hanover

Any BDSM devotee can tell you there is pleasure to be found in pain. In the case of Lola Tried, the pleasure comes not from receiving or inflicting it but reckoning with it. The band’s eponymous debut full length is a ten track tour through painful experiences reconstructed as cathartic anthems, unified by Lauren Burton’s bold, relentless vocals and barbed wire lyrics, every moment reflective of its simultaneously horrifying and celebratory cover art featuring someone triumphantly raising up a blood splattered hand holding pliers containing what is presumably their own freshly pulled tooth. Together the music and art loudly declare that it’s not about how bad you hurt but how you get beyond the hurting.

“Pulling Teeth,” the track that cover explicitly reference, is an ideal representation of the album’s message of working past the pain. After a fuzzed out verse where Burton sneers over a stop start rhythm that puts Ray Flynt’s highly disciplined drumming at the forefront, she segues into the chorus, sweetly whispering “now we’re pulling teeth” before reaching up high, bluntly stating she “won’t back down” from standing her ground against a partner trying to humiliate and manipulate her.

There’s ample history there to show that Burton’s confidence and willingness to stand up for herself didn’t come naturally but was developed over years of pain and pressure. That journey is detailed on “San Marcos,” the standout track from last year’s Popsicle Queen EP, with Burton singing about how she “hated all the music I made in San Marcos,” sighing over how “wrapped up I was in all the art school caricatures” of that small town college life. What follows is a story about dating “a jerk who left me on the side of the road,” and a simultaneous paralyzing fear of doing too much looking back, both of which are eventually overcome and hardened from coals into the pop punk diamond that is “San Marcos.”

The adventure from “San Marcos” to now even gets a spiritual sequel of sorts in “Bummertown,” where both Burton’s voice and the guitars are cranked up and snarling, taking on the fools and mediocre men holding her back openly rather than internally. It’s the fight to “San Marcos’s” flight reflex, a direct confrontation of the enemies trying to turn your home into the “Bummertown” of the title. But Burton’s most effective commentary on toxic male foolishness comes in “Boy,” a ‘50s pop ballad style song that has Burton bluntly telling a rage prone guy in her life “You’re a grown man now/But you’ve still got boy in your veins.”

Yet some of the most profound pain felt on the album comes not from aggressors but the people who are unable or unwilling to grow with Burton. “Katrina’s Number” has a fun and twisty cowpunk feel but lyrically it explores the hurt of apathy, as Burton pours her heart out to a friend in a letter and is disappointed the friend can’t even pick up the phone and call her back. Later, “Katy” has Burton channeling Neko Case as she pities someone who’s losing their way, the “Be My Baby” beat giving ground to a fleet footed rhythm and group vocal coos that function like a musical yellow brick road.

Still, Burton understands that your journey is your own and trying to get someone to change if they don’t want to is like, well, pulling teeth. Lola Tried may not singlehandedly turn anyone else’s pain into musical lemonade but in Burton’s case it has, resulting in a work that not only overcomes personal suffering but shapes it into something beautiful and transformative.

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

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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.

Tiger Cub “Work Me Up”

Even by the usual standards of critical nonsense, chillwave was a genre tag that did little to clarify what the actual sound of the artists saddled with it was. No wonder, then, that the defining artists of its first wave, such as Neon Indian, immediately shifted away from the sounds that marked them as chillwave acts. The best explanation I encountered for what chillwave actually entailed was “music where nostalgia is the defining mood,” and in that regard, Tiger Cub perfectly encapsulate this on “Work Me Up.” Early chillwave acts mostly imbued their music with nostalgia via samples of kitsch artifacts and the detritus of childhood cultural memories but “Work Me Up” provokes nostalgia by tricking your brain into thinking it’s hearing a formerly favorite song you’ve forgotten about. “Work Me Up” has the go-go propulsion of an electropop theme song for an ’80s comedy, the kind that would star a cherub faced young John Cusack, produced in a way that makes it sound like it’s coming through a cheap radio in another room. What makes it more than novelty, though, is its infectious sincerity– this isn’t an ’80s styled throwback looking to score irony points, it’s pop for the fun of it, dorky yet irresistible.

Dorsia “Miami”

Failing romances are common fodder for pop but it’s rare that a song gets that crushing sense of deflation accurate, with songwriters usually sticking to the easier territory of sticking it to an ex. Dorsia mostly avoid romantic revenge in their single “Miami,” instead focusing on the slow death of a relationship where the passion was far too one sided. Kelly Pitlosh’s smooth and charismatic vocal performance impressively communicates both the disappointment in the lyrics and the spark of attraction that nonetheless still lingers, delivered with acidic aplomb in lines like “The longer that I knew you/The less I wanted to.” The rest of Dorsia’s EP is a little too heavy on the saccharine aspects of ’80s pop but “Miami” shows what Pitlosh and her collaborator producer Nick Colbert are truly capable of, with the neon keyboards and bubbling rhythms bringing out just the right amount of sensuality in the melody. If they can bottle more of this magic on future singles, Austin itself may end up being the real life partner the duo have to dump to triumph.

MeanGirls “Bitter Babes”

Even before the announcement that they’d joined the roster of Community RecordsMeanGirls seemed poised for a breakout– it was merely a question of when and in what form. But “Bitter Babes,” their first single from their upcoming album Is This Me Forever? answers that question pretty succinctly and the answer is “right fucking now and highly evolved.” Produced with remarkable clarity by Phillip Odom, “Bitter Babes” is two and a half minutes of borderline symphonic musical mayhem, the entire band hammering away at your heart, paving the way for Raine Hopper to snarl through a verse that flawlessly shifts into a cathartic singalong chorus that in turn gives way for a dazzling freefall into a twinkling, achingly pretty bridge, where Honey and Salt’s Ben Arthur Sams keeps the chaos lurking in the periphery with his forever rolling drums. “Bitter Babes” is a torrent of musical emotion, a single that uplifts and stirs you and still somehow finds the time to soothe you in the comedown.

Outbanders “Sacred Lines Spread Sacred Lies”

It’s a little unfair to other cities how strong and diverse our electronic scene is right now. Every month sees a number of remarkable releases from the scene, ranging from the abstract and narcotic sounds filtering out of Feedback Alliance to the ominous moods of Holodeck and the grinning party music of vets like Total Unicorn. It’s an embarrassment of riches and I hope it never stops. Outbanders are a newer project comprised of Zak Angelle and Brandon Valosek, but they’ve already carved out a nice spot within the community combining the glitchy, textural work of Anticon-style instrumentalists with the menacing bass heavy work of S U R V I V E. Their debut EP Emergent Patterns is reflective and chill on the whole but closing track “Sacred Lines Spread Sacred Lies” is the most promising moment, its eerie yet contemplative lead synth hook providing a mesmerizing focal point amidst the reversed samples and buzzing bass making up the center. Built around what is essentially two notes, “Sacred Lines Spread Sacred Lies” is electronic music as zen-like simplicity.

Mobley “Young Adult Fiction”

Mobley has emerged as one of Austin’s great pop hopes, a technically gifted singer who also fills his performances with immense character and passion, particularly live. More importantly, Mobley is an artist who seems unwilling to coast and his recent collaborations with Blastfamous USA have indicated that he’s got his eyes set on something more profound than your typical pop career. Mobley’s new album Fresh Lies, Vol. 1 is self-described as an attempt to use “the familiar form of love songs to explore the intrincacies of his relationship with his country,” with the ambitious end goal of releasing a volume “for each generation of his family since his ancestors were first brought to the continent.” The album’s newest single “Young Adult Fiction” is particularly fixated the “fiction” of tomorrow, the forever shifting promise to the marginalized that things will be better some day, just not right now. Where Blastfamous take the blitzkrieg approach to message music, channeling the righteous fury of the oppressed in every beat and hook, Mobley takes a subtler route, delivering the verses in a lullaby hum, the music heavily rhythmic but equally minimal and hushed. When the chorus comes it’s anthemic yet gentle, Mobley’s voice coated in futuristic fuzz, making the static-y bursts of sounds in the post-chorus and bridge that much more devastating. The result is a reminder that the politeness of the oppressed isn’t going to hold much longer and tomorrow is going to come sooner rather than later no matter how much the oppressors try to keep it at bay.

Mobley plays Mohawk on Saturday, June 2nd with Mamahawk and more.

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

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Photography by Adrian Gandara

Smooth pop titans Sherry recently went on tour and they celebrated their return last week at Stay Gold with freak pop act Attic Ted and fuzz rockers AMA. We had Adrian Gandara head out to welcome the band back and witness the festivities. Here’s a glimpse at how the night went:

Attic Ted

Sherry

AMA

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Photography by Adrian Gandara

Last week, San Antonio’s Fea came through Austin, stopping by Barracuda to bring their Iggy Pop approved raunchy pop to the masses. Austin’s own Lola Tried and Go Fever joined them and Adrian Gandara was out in force, shooting some suitably rowdy photos of the bands (though he unfortunately missed Shy Beast because of car trouble, sorry gang!).

Lola Tried

Go Fever

Fea

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Photography by Sarah Hoffman 

After weather issues forced Levitation Fest to cancel in 2016, the organizers decided to take 2017 off and reconfigure the event. This year, it returned as a city-wide festival with shows happening at a number of Austin’s best venues. Sarah Hoffman went out to document Levitation for us, popping by shows at a few different venues. For day one, she checked in on Al Lover and Holy Wave at Cheer Up Charlie’s, which you can check out here, day two was spent at Empire where Dallas Acid, DIIV, L.A. Witch, Ariel Pink and SUUNS put on an incredible show, and for the last day Sarah checked out Barracuda, where Tijuana Panthers, Stonefield, The Garden, Omni and La Luz soundtracked a gorgeous day. Take a look below!

Tijuana Panthers

Stonefield

The Garden

Omni

La Luz

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For Mamahawk’s new video “Lioness,” John Valley set out to show a lighter side of VR. Rather than display some kind of technopacolypse induced by the scrambling of our brains, “Lioness” is all wonder and whimsy, with Mamahawk’s sprightly electro pop soundtracking a trio virtually inhabiting the experience of dancer Alex Masi. Masi serves as the muse not just for Valley but for the characters watching her, their digital expressions on the outside of their early Iron Man-esque helmets shifting from down and glum to ecstatic as the experience progresses, climaxing in a disco lightshow as the song explodes. Take a peek for yourself below and then catch Mamahawk on Saturday, June 2nd for Mobley’s album release show at Mohawk:

MAMAHAWK - Lioness (Official Music Video) - YouTube

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Photography by Sarah Hoffman

After weather issues forced Levitation Fest to cancel in 2016, the organizers decided to take 2017 off and reconfigure the event. This year, it returned as a city-wide festival with shows happening at a number of Austin’s best venues. Sarah Hoffman went out to document Levitation for us, popping by shows at a few different venues. For day one, she checked in on Al Lover and Holy Wave at Cheer Up Charlie’s, which you can check out here, and for day two she went down to Empire where Dallas Acid, DIIV, L.A. Witch, Ariel Pink and SUUNS put on an incredible show. Take a look below!

Dallas Acid

DIIV

L.A. Witch

Ariel Pink

SUUNS

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There is no definitive Austin sound but Thanks Light sound about as Austin as you can get. The group merges psych, garage, folk and even twang in their music, all while sustaining a casual and carefree atmosphere perfectly suited for daytripping. That’s particularly apparent on their new album Terrifire, which officially drops tomorrow but you’re in luck because we’ve got an exclusive stream of it for you to enjoy today. Terrifire follows in the footsteps of the aptly named Psychonauts, with Michael Frels’ synth work bringing hallucinogenic textures to the background of the songs while Foster Farmer and Paul Wataha provide a disciplined and sharp rhythm section to keep you stable, leaving Zane Ruttenberg to bridge these worlds with his alternately gritty and sweet vocals and subtle guitar work. There’s a dazzling sense of grandeur to Terrifire too, particularly on the Beach Boys meet ELO “Croquet Mallet,” but some of the most splendid moments on Terrifire are its simplest, like the jaunty singalong that is “I’ve Seen Hell.” But don’t take our word for it, investigate Terrifire for yourself below and keep an ear out for updates on shows:

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by James Fisk

The aphorism “At least we’ll get some great music out of it” seemed to crop up doggedly in the weeks following the 2016 election, when an unimaginable possibility had abruptly become the unprepared-for reality. As many still sat dumbstruck waiting on cognitive tools to somehow appear and help us process and speak critically to a situation that still felt like a bad joke, that banal platitude was often deployed to fill the conversational vacuum. I can’t process it, but I’m sure some artist will, sometime.

Now over a year into this bizarre and exhausting social and political world, Honey and Salt’s eponymous sophomore album from Spartan Records heeds that call. After releasing music in various forms and lineups for almost ten years, the band has settled into its proclaimed final form with vocalist and guitarist Wade Allen, drummer Benjamin Sams and bassist Austin Sears. Together they’ve created an album that feels like both a response to, as well as a refuge from, our cultural-political morass.

The first thing that hits you from this latest LP is the insanely ambitious genre-melding. While the music remains technical and dynamic math rock at its bones, layered in with the atypical time signatures and syncopations are healthy doses of emo, hardcore, punk and pop-leaning songwriting. If that sounds like it shouldn’t work, you’re probably right. But it does.

Anchored in Allen’s spirited and expressive guitar hooks, each song unfolds in a different and often unexpected direction. A guttural roar of the last chorus in the opener “A Nihilist Takes up Knitting” feels at once completely out of place and entirely welcome. “Simple Errors,” the hookiest track with an immediately accessible monster sound, is followed by the beautifully melancholy and understated “But Not Both,” an acoustic solo cut clocking in at barely over a minute.

The record has a strongly political resonance but rarely overtly so, and to its advantage. Allen’s background as a philosophy professor comes through in lyrics both abstract and thoughtful yet not obtuse. His words meditate on a society out of balance, as on closer “Cascade,” patiently observing “Seeking the truth is once a task we made/ Rational aims are now a past mistake.”

Though the album takes dreary stock of our current surroundings, it never slips into cynicism. In fact, rebuking that kind of nihilism is seemingly often at the front of Allen’s mind, as on “Cut the Fabric” where he resounds, “Reject nothing, your skepticism is flawed at best/ I’m awake to some kind of meaning/ Even if it’s fictional.”

Being awake to some kind of meaning, having anything to hold onto in a world becoming increasingly unmoored is a feeling Honey and Salt want to wrap you up in with their work. In some way Allen’s tightly rhythmic guitar riffs seek to impose order over chaos, the lyrics an invitation for solidarity over disarray. The idea that dire political circumstances must result in profound answers through music is misapplied; as Honey and Salt prove, it is sometimes enough to offer commiseration, escape, and a glint of hope for the future.

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