The Latest Toughs: Basketball Shorts, Hikes and More

by Brian J. Audette

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.

The Red Heroes “Player 2″

Penned in memory of a band member’s son lost to Preeclampsia, The Red Heroes’ “Player 2” is at once a melancholy memorial, soaring tribute, and emotional outreach to those who have dealt with similar tragedies. Beginning innocently enough with a noodly bass line, the crisp patter of drums, and an up-beat riff, the song’s simple, self-effacing lyrics ring out a mournfully relatable lament: “I’m not a scientist/I don’t have a time machine/But if I could I would go back/To keep you here with me.” Like early emo (before the hair, the make-up, the production, and the fanfare) “Player 2” provides solid punk rock with a heaping helping of feels.

Halfway through the chorus vocals fade into the background and lead guitarist Travis “T-Baby” Bennett starts ramping up the expected solo to bring the song to its inevitable denouement, only that’s not what happens. Like a parent overcome with grief the whole band just stops. Unable to keep going but still needing to move forward; a simple twinkling of guitar is heard over a backwash of reverb. It’s a frantic, emotional gasp of air before the uncontrollable sobs of grief that come next, as the band explodes together in a torrent of melodic anguish. No longer able to hold it back Bennett roars forth with a soaring guitar solo that’s both heartbroken and triumphant, a lightspeed journey through the stages of grief that culminates with the entire band joining together for the final refrains of “I’ll always remember you/I’ll always remember/Because you were my player 2”. 

All proceeds from the sale of the single version of “Player 2” will go to The Preeclampsia Foundation. The song can also be found on The Red Heroes recently released Six Sad Songs EP and you can catch the band live tomorrow, July 11th, at Sidewinder for The Capitalist Kids’ LP release show.

Basketball Shorts “This Summer”

Sometimes I think that Basketball Shorts’ ultimate goal is simply to create songs designed to fit perfectly on any summer road trip mixtape. Following on the heels of last year’s pizza punk anthem “Hot and Ready,” Basketball Shorts are back with another slice in the form of their latest single “This Summer.”

Packed with mellow riffs and wistful vocals, “This Summer” is a song about summer love, with nary a mention of the Johns Travolta or Olivia Newton. Opening with a crash of cymbals, some crisp strumming, and a lovelorn bass, Basketball Shorts waste no time setting the mood. “This summer I could have sworn/That I wanted you near/And I wasn’t scared” croons frontman Ben Shorts as the bittersweet chords ring out behind him, conjuring images of summer camp, young love, chances taken, and bold flirtations. The band sounds as good as they ever have here, playing tight, but with just enough noise to keep things loose and playful. Altogether it’s a solid combination that proves again why Basketball Shorts continue to be a local favorite.

“This Summer” moves quick, but makes its mark with riffs that I absently find myself humming and a beat that’s easy to tap my toes to. This is the perfect song to throw on the stereo while relaxing by the water with someone you dig, holding hands, and watching the sunset. Once again, Basketball Shorts have proven themselves mix worthy.

Hikes “Timothy”

While I feel like I’ve been waiting for this latest release from Hikes for years, in reality it was only at SXSW last year that I first heard them announce they were working on something new. That aside their latest EP Lilt is their first proper release since the self-titled 2014 album that put them on my radar to begin with and though it only contains four new songs, it’s well worth the wait. I could have written about any of the tracks on Lilt, they’re all worthy of discussion, but lately it’s been “Timothy” that’s captured my attention and that I feel does what Hikes does best.

Starting soft and simple with the soothing sound of Nathan Wilkins’ singing set to a folky guitar riff, the track quickly becomes something much more energetic and complex as it evolves over the course of the next four minutes. Bouncing back and forth between quiet calm and exuberant electricity, “Timothy” takes simple themes and explores them in a variety of settings. Hikes experiment with the composition and complexity of the initial riff with each iteration, all the while ramping up the tension subtly. The whole thing comes to a head in the song’s final act as the band erupts in a joyous noise, a crashing crescendo that quickly slips back into the simple softness of the song’s opening moments. Quiet as a breeze, unexpected and invigorating as a passing storm, “Timothy” is Hikes in a nutshell and while Lilt may only give a taste of what the band can do, it’s a concentrated blast of brilliance that (for the moment) has left me satisfied.

Quiet Company “Get Beside Me Satan!”

Quiet Company’s Taylor Muse writes with his heart boldly worn on his sleeve, producing unabashedly diaristic rock that spans a range of emotional experiences from the simple bliss of young love, to the inner turmoil of wrestling with one’s beliefs, and more recently, the anguish of loss and coming to terms with the reality of one’s own life choices. Following along those lines and opening on a lightning riff, “Get Beside Me Satan” (off the band’s recent EP It’s Not Attractive and it Changes Nothing)  immediately takes an aggressive stance as Muse quick fires vocals in time with manic drums. “Don’t you kids all wanna wear the mark of the beast?!/Don’t you wanna know what it’s been doing to me?!” asks Muse during the song’s opening salvo as he contemplates the price one can expect to pay for success. “Should I trade all of my blue skies for bitter truths?/Or my good name for just a slightly better view?” he continues as the rest of the band roars in for a chorus answered by oblique, distorted guitars, before returning to the simple assault of the next verse. This is Quiet Company turned up to 11 in a refreshing twist on their typical formula of late. Halfway through however, in a move that feels cribbed from Summer Teeth-era Wilco, the tantrum ceases. The tempo shifts, the guitars become twinkly, and the resigned voice of introspection exhaustedly whispers “Pretty soon, they’ll all forget that I was ever here. And so will I, with any luck…” over a multi-layered chorus, before quickly returning to the searing rock assault to bring the song to a close.

“Get Beside Me Satan!” highlights the best of what Quiet Company have to offer on all fronts while taking the band somewhat out of their recent comfort zone. It’s a move that’s both welcome and expertly executed and I can’t wait to hear what’s on the next EP coming this August.

Ballerino “Leopard Tat”

I’ve been following Ballerino for a few years now and while I’ve enjoyed their psychedelic post rock style, I haven’t quite been able to find any one song that I’d recommend as a sort of thesis statement about their sound. On their latest release, Ballerino offer up a duo of new tracks, one of which may have finally given me the song to recommend the band on. “Leopard Tat” opens with layers of crisp, noodling guitar and bass, laced with just a hint of distortion. It’s a warm summer breeze, pleasant, but with a bit of a bite. A third of the way through the tempo adjusts, putting a spring in its step and adopting a folky, Allman-esque drawl. The drums tap along, lightly, but warm, and buoyed by delightedly indulgent fills. Breezy vocals waft in like a quick wash of rain, married perfectly to the instrumental mix. The back third of the song returns us to the slow breeze of the opening, but with a bit more edge. The intensity ramps up as the guitar noodling is accompanied by a jolt of vibrant chords and the crash of cymbals, ultimately petering out, drifting off into the afternoon.

While I’d recommend checking out Ballerino’s other work as well, “Leopard Tat” may easily be their most single-worthy to date, as well as showcasing the band’s continued growth and prowess.

Brian Audette lives somewhere in Austin within a pillow fort made of broken dreams. He only comes out to see shows and buy beer. He has a surprisingly well maintained lawn and is using it to breed an army of attack mosquitoes with which to take over the world. Brian can be reached at or on Twitter at @bjaudette.