Latest Toughs: Belcurve, Third Root 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.

Belcurve “Strangers”

Generally speaking, endless triple digit temperature days are not good for your brain. But where most of us are suffering and useless from the cruelty of the sun, Belcurve seem to be blossoming under it, like a lizard scurrying out onto baking sand after a too long winter. Belcurve’s new single “Strangers” displays an energy and zest the indie pop band hasn’t before, its whiplash guitar and mammoth synth bass allowing vocalist Sarah Castro to pose with the aloof swagger of an Annie Clark before letting out her inner Neko Case on the chorus. Even with the blistering instrumentation and crushable melody, what stands out most is Castro’s ability to express raw vulnerability in her near muttered delivery of “I’ve never been so scared of this thing called love.” Belcurve has been good for a while but in that moment they make it clear they’re now firmly in the territory of great.

Belcurve play Hole in the Wall on August 2nd with Sharks in the Deep End and more

Physical Fitness “Heat Wave”

Over on the more menacing end of summer jams, Physical Fitness detail the logical conclusion of global warming with “Heat Level,” a playful mix of Dan Deacon electronics and moody National-like baritone. Physical Fitness’ erratic synths and bit crushed beats initially prepare you for a sweet and off-kilter electro pop ditty but the burly vocals indicate all is not well even before you discern the lyrics and the description of melting eyeballs and scenery where “the heat from the lakes morphs the air until it’s not air at all.” It’s like the bizarro version of Postal Service’s “We Will Become Silhouettes,” Ben Gibbard’s syrupy voice replaced by someone observing the apocalypse as the heat boils his brain, slowing his speech and making him too lethargic to even be cranky. This is what I’ll be playing as the paint melts off the walls of my house.

The Soft Warm “I’m Not Me”

It probably sounds counterintuitive to seek out songs that replicate the simmering anxiety you feel more or less at all times lately, but, I don’t know, it’s more comforting than you’d think to hear music that gives voice to that feeling. The Soft Warm are my current drug of choice on that front, particularly “I’m Not Me,” from the collection of the same name. The body of “I’m Not Me” may be constructed from a gentle drum beat and lackadaisical rhythm guitar but the focus is on a nervously chiming atonal riff and vocals that seem to come from someone under hypnotic slumber, making the identity issue of the title all the more profound. The nervous insistence of the riff eventually becomes entrancing rather than piercing, particularly once a looping “oh oh ohhh” back-up vocal emerges to usher the song towards its conclusion. “I’m Not Me” likely won’t fix what ails you, but it will make you a little more at peace with yourself.

Third Root “Fantasma Horns”

Like any other prominent pop music genre, hip hop is constantly torn between returning to its roots with throwback “classic” approaches to the sound and carving out a future from new, often controversial styles bubbling up from the underground. Texan supergroup Third Root are firmly in that former camp with their mesquite academia twist on Jurassic 5, something they make quite literal in “Fantasma Horns,” a collaboration with Grupo Fantasma that has the trio shouting out “the real hip hop” they create, “art from the heart for the people” that can still blow out speakers while you’re cruising in the night. Regardless of whether you agree with Third Root’s genre philosophy, “Fantasma Horns” packs an irresistible groove, its simple structure and endless beat ideal for an impromptu block party. And Grupo Fantasma rightfully earn the title spotlight with the svelte horn hooks, imbuing the track with ample Latin flavor, proving the band knows how to blend together Texan sounds like few others.

Sammy Slims “Too Shy for Suicide”

“Too Shy for Suicide” is the type of title Morrissey would kill for– or at least go off on an ill-advised racist rant for– but Sammy Slims is not a self-destructive Mancunian and “Too Shy for Suicide” will never be mistaken for a lost Smiths single. Instead, “Too Shy for Suicide” hearkens back to a different iconic British act, namely Hot Chip. Cheeky, hyperkinetic and far more colorful than its title would suggest, “Too Shy for Suicide” is a Molly dust covered anthem for those of us who are too wrapped up in self-loathing to do anything over than gaze bitterly at a dance floor, reminding ourselves “There’s no one at night waiting for you/There’s no one at night begging for you.”

Got a single you’d like to be considered for Latest Toughs? Email us with Latest Toughs in the subject!

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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