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.
Abhi the Nomad “BTFL (ft. Foster Cazz)”
One of the more difficult things with getting word out about Abhi the Nomad’s breakout album Marbled was describing what the sound even was– was it throwback hip-hop? sweet, guitar driven pop? puckish millennial funk? Saying it was all of the above would understandably prompt an arched eyebrow or two, inviting the assumption that the product must be the audiophile equivalent of some kid’s “soup” of an entire food court’s worth of leftovers. Those who did tune in swiftly realized that Abhi the Nomad is the rare mad scientist who can make that blending work, though, and in the time since, he’s only gotten more deranged in his Frankensteining. “BTFL,” from Abhi’s heavily anticipated follow up Modern Trash, is a glorious showcase of Abhi’s sonic buffet, a grinning cornucopia of Cool Kids retro boom bap, Switch indebted drum rolls and glitchy skronk, Seinfeld bass cameos and a vocal coda that wouldn’t be out of place on a Lonely Island album. And it’s all in service to a Das Racist-esque self-deprecation rap about dicks and oral skills. What more could you possibly want?
Riders Against the Storm “Over Under”
At a recent music commission meeting discussing the Convention Center expansion efforts, Riders Against the Storm’s Chaka stated his frustration with being brought into discussions as the lone black voice, only to still be unheard and ignored. It’s a frustration that extends beyond city politics and into the local music scene as well, with RAS consistently standing out as one of the hardest working and most visible hip hop outfits in the city while seemingly receiving a fraction of the press coverage of peers in indie and folk acts. But RAS aren’t the kind of group to just let that frustration lead to stagnation, instead they use it to fuel their art. Take “Over Under” from their aptly titled new album See Me, with its buzzy synth swagger and infectious “I’m over that” chorus. Chaka and Qi Dada use the massively minimalist beat to show off their vocal dexterity, wielding patois inflection and Native Tongues sing-song delivery respectively to skewer anyone foolish enough to not pay attention to what they’re doing. At this point, if you aren’t listening, then you aren’t worth being heard yourself.
Lainey Gonzales “Pretty”
Lainey Gonzales’ Bandcamp bio simply but confidently describes her as a “pop punk country superstar” but goddamn if she isn’t right. Gifted with the kind of voice that feels both light as a cloud and powerful as thunder, Gonzales writes songs that immediately graft themselves onto your very soul. “Pretty,” the lead off track from her new EP I Just Blame Me, is particularly staggering, a single gently strummed electric guitar and wordless backing voices accompanying Gonzales captivating voice as she confesses she’s already exhausted of a life she’s barely even lived yet, from “running a race I’ll never win.” Pop punk and country share an affinity for self-esteem woes but the confessional at the heart of “Pretty” isn’t about not being good enough for a crush, it’s about something larger and more dispiriting, the sneaking suspicion that no matter how badly you want it, you’ll never amount to anything. But I refuse to believe we live in a universe where a talent as great as Gonzales’ won’t get greater recognition before long.
Jarred Glenn & Glitbiter “City of Lights”
Retro Promenade’s output tends to largely be instrumental, its roster of synth fanatics crafting scores for imagined cult productions from other realities. On “City of Lights,” Jarred Glenn provides that, vividly rendering a line tracked supernatural opus, but the vocal contributions of LA based artist Glitbiter make it even more real, offering a beautifully forlorn melody that would be right at home on some ’80s oddity you only ever caught in fever dream flashes on scrambled basic cable. Yet “City of Lights” is so much more than a Stranger Things descended nostalgia trip, it has the ethereal anthemic quality of a Kate Bush deep cut.
Springful “Braid (ft. Caleb Fleischer)”
As Socha’s lead guitarist, Jim Hampton has carved out a sound that is immediately recognizable, a mix of crystal sharpness and buoyant joy that pairs particularly nicely with the jaunty basslines of Kinseli Barucuatro. Unsurprisingly, the two gel just as nicely on “Braid,” the delightful new single from Hampton’s project Springful, but here it’s in service to Hampton’s laid back and aloof vocal rather than the mischievous whimsy of Socha. A swirling exploration of interstellar romantic fate, “Braid” pulses with the uncertain energy of instant infatuation but Hampton’s borderline sorrowful vocal brings to life that fear that the more you feel for a new crush, the more likely you are to fuck it up, like you’ve done all those times before. Yet who can resist the gravitation pull of immediate attraction?
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