Latest Toughs: Band of Heathens, Magna Carda 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 bands to get you up to date and make each of your workdays a little easier.

Alex Rose “Sherbet Colors”

Every moment of every day feels pretty bleak lately, so the need for frank yet optimistic pop is higher than normal. Luckily Alex Rose’s “Sherbet Colors” single is around to fill that void as best it can, pairing Rose’s hopeful voice with a Krautrock backing beat that maximizes the tranquility of Rose’s delivery. Rose argues that “We have been broke but we won’t be broken,” alluding to fights we’ve had and have yet to have, emphasizing the effective comfort of companionship  amidst the sherbet colors of a sunset. The song may not provide resolution but what it does offer is an enchanting mood, an opportunity to lay back and trace stray melodies as they arc and twist through a steady rhythm and swelling noise, beauty in the shrapnel of chaos.

Band of Heathens “All I’m Asking”

Maybe I’m crazy, but I imagine that when Band of Heathens were recording their new single “All I’m Asking,” they locked themselves in a room with a pile of Slade records and asked themselves “How do we make this sound more Texan?” The glitter beat and back-and-forth fuzz guitar riffs sweetened by subtly mixed piano is all glam, but the vocals are a straight cowboy lilt, quavering and yodel-y, shouted from plains to curious cattle. The track is charming and assured but far less cocky than the glam it nods to, making its title statement endearingly awkward rather than pushy. Valentine’s isn’t quite here yet, but I suspect that goofy charm will help this single land on more than a few crush mixes.

Band of Heathens return to Austin on February 23rd to play Mohawk.

Marc Jonson & the Wild Alligators “Precious Love”

Marc Jonson (sometimes Mark Johnson) is an obscure but notable power pop icon who apparently now calls Austin home. Jonson’s bio reads like a lot of power pop stories, detailing covers that were more successful than the originals and an indication that he has now found more success as a producer than performer. But the newly reissued Marc Jonson & the Wild Alligators is a bonafide shouldabeen power pop classic, led by the single “Precious Love.” In lyrics and melody it resembles the Tremeloes‘ interpretation of Cat Stevens’ “Here Comes My Baby,” but with punchier guitar and more bite to the vocals. At the time the album was recorded, Jonson called the East Coast home, but “Precious Love” is a remarkable fusion of West Coast jangle and New England rhythmic propulsion. Jonson and his Wild Alligators didn’t get their due in their own time, but with Austin’s power pop scene in the midst of a full fledged renaissance, the group is overdue for appreciation.

Magna Carda “I’m Alive (ft. Ava Raiin)”

Magna Carda’s “I’m Alive” comes from the era of their excellent LP Like It Is, so it’s a distinctly spacier affair than the jazz-leaning full band recordings they’ve been unleashing lately. But that makes it a perfect showcase for Blood Orange collaborator Ava Raiin, who provides the song’s chorus hook. The song’s production is minimalist to the extreme, leaving hollow corners for Megz Kelli’s conversational delivery to casually explore before Raiin drifts up out of the ether. Lyrically, the song also fits 2017 better than 2014, that long ago time when we weren’t watching our government wage culture wars on, well, everyone. Like BLXPLTN‘s “How Many Shots,” “I’m Alive” focuses on a heartbreakingly simple statement, urging listeners to remember that they’re alive and not alone. Here’s hoping we can stay alive long enough to get out of this mess.

Lola Tried “San Marcos”

There are few local releases I’ve been anticipating more than Lola Tried’s Popsicle Queen. The quartet has been putting on a number of incredible, wild performances over the past couple years, and their lead single “San Marcos” has been a highlight of most of them. Lauren Burton has one of those voices that effortlessly straddles technicality and character, and as if that wasn’t enough to make lesser frontpeople rage with jealousy, her lyrics showcase her eye for narrative and setting. “San Marcos” itself functions as a theme song of sorts, detailing Burton’s escape from the titular town and a jackass boyfriend who left her on the side of the road. But it’s not a bitter look back at a regretful past so much as it’s a triumphant remembrance of obstacles that were overcome and only thickened one’s resolve. The year is young, but “San Marcos” already feels like an anthem that will define it.

Lola Tried perform February 16th at Cheer Up Charlie’s.

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