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.
Twin Styx “Low Tide”
Despite what you may expect from its fluffy synths and frollicking percussion, Twin Styx’s “Low Tide” chief mood is the sorrow of the almost– almost staying up to fight, almost getting out of bed, almost working to save a relationship on life support. There’s an exhaustive quality to the vocals that is thankfully not exhausting, just the right air of tired melancholy you’d expect from a guy who lost his watch in the ocean again and is using that as an excuse to wade further into the molasses tide of self-defeat and romantic failure. Twin Styx pull off the difficult trick of being accurate to wallowing self-pity while also making the music alluring enough to help you understand why it’s a hard mood to say no to when it comes. File this under music for blanket world.
Jony Shelby “Ash Heart”
Continuing with today’s theme of self-destruction, Jony Shelby’s “Ash Heart” sounds like it’s constructed from breaking objects and tortured howls. Detailing a night spent lying awake after being “made a fool by the telephone,” “Ash Heart” capably serves as both a pre-game soundtrack to a night of bad decisions and a score for the afterglow. Shelby is recognizably a descendent of the Weeknd DNA chain of renaissance misanthropes but his sound is brighter and his lyrical perspective is in the “I still have the capacity for growth” realm of self-aware rather than the “I’m an asshole and I don’t care” realm. You hear that most in the “I’m on fire” hook, as Shelby questions the allure of giving in to bad impulses while striving for something more stable. But don’t worry, even if you’re not in the mood for staring into your own abyss, “Ash Heart” bangs with the best of them.
Corey Arnell “No Stress”
Corey Arnell’s “No Stress” is, to borrow from the parlance of, uh, British Bake Off, a showstopper. The colossal track is an unlikely marriage of Odd Future grime and early ’00s gangsta simplicity, with Arnell and cohort Big Hairy competing to be the epitome of a no stress lifestyle. Normally I’d say anyone claiming to be living life free of stress is full of shit but on “No Stress,” Arnell and Hairy certainly sound carefree, destroying unseen enemies with the casualness of a ninja squaring off against a flock of chickens. So much of the current hip hop wave coasts by on mood and posturing but “No Stress” absolutely puts in the work, begging the following question: why the fuck aren’t more of you listening to Corey Arnell?
Abhi the Nomad “Flush”
I’m certain Abhi the Nomad is going to accomplish a lot of amazing things in 2019 but right now, I think he deserves acclaim for almost certainly being the first hip hop artist to work a Mitski reference into a single. Of course, that’s by no means the only notable element of “Flush,” Abhi’s brand new single that continues the streak of hard hitting rap tracks he started with “Run” a few months ago. Abhi’s breakout work Marbled deftly blended together hip hop, pop and indie affectations, but Abhi seems revved up on some righteous need to prove himself as an emcee right now and I’m here for it. “Flush” pairs Abhi’s hyperverbal style, complete with references clever enough to keep a Das Racist reunion at bay for even longer, with a trap leaning beat; that chic minimalism leaves Abhi space to show off his lyrical dexterity but the pop maximalist in him can’t resist dropping in a few buzzy synth hooks and subtle earworm leads. If Abhi continues at this pace, 2019 very well might be the year Austin gets its first bonafide superstar.
Mélat has a voice that can stop a room in its tracks but I don’t think it’s ever been given as perfect a platform as her new single “Weak.” A soulful ballad led by a gorgeous piano line and some haunting abstract samples, “Weak” is a powerhouse showcase for Mélat’s abilities, the melodic components emphasizing both the tenderness and the strength in her delivery, making her plea for forgiveness from a lover all the more potent. Longtime collaborator Pha has excellent instincts for when to step in and boost Mélat and when to dial things back and let her voice do the heavy lifting but “Weak” is a major leap forward for their partnership, firmly placing Mélat in the pantheon of titans like Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston.
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