Latest Toughs: Black Pumas, Vapor Caves 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 artists to get you up to date and make each of your workdays a little easier.

mario “Lotto Love ft. PiiNG”

With its glimmering synths and surging bass, mario’s “Lotto Love” featuring PiiNG feels more like it time warped in from the smooth R&B and hip hop fusions of the early ’00s than came from the subterranean darkness of the trap era. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a very good thing– mario is a rare beatsmith who knows how to sprinkle in just enough lightness in his nocturnal production to make the end result something bright and crisp rather than soft and saccharine. Credit is also due to PiiNG for enlivening the production further with his svelte and sharp vocals, situating him as the Usher plus the Weeknd hybrid I never knew we desperately needed.

Black Pumas “Fire”

On their previous singles, Black Pumas— the collaboration between prolific Austin producer Adrian Quesada and vocalist Eric Burton— have proven themselves to be skilled practitioners of Dapstones style neo-soul. But on “Fire,” the duo twist that sound in a thrilling and unexpected way, with Quesada adding fuzz soaked spy guitar licks to accompany Burton’s throat searing vocals. There’s still plenty of soul horns and in the pocket drums but that hint of danger the lead guitar provides allows “Fire” to truly live up to its namesake, building up even more excitement for what other twists we’ll hear on Black Pumas’ upcoming self-titled debut.

Being Dead “Underworld”

While Being Dead don’t really sound like Fiery Furnaces, the way they blend childhood whimsy and a near operatic approach to arrangements makes it impossible for me to avoid a comparison. “Underworld” is perhaps the best example of this: in two minutes, the psych-pop duo cram in everything from Modern Lovers proto-punk to Beach Boys harmonies to The Shaggs primitivism, providing a tsunami of hooks to catch your ear and short circuit your brain for years to come. And then, like some puckish youths yanking a $20 bill away from you on the sidewalk with the aid of some unseen fishing line, they slow everything down to a molasses thick halt, forcing you to hit rewind to do it all over again.

Young June “Sleep Tough”

It’s not just the washed out production that makes Young June’s “Sleep Tough” seem like something half-remembered from a dream– everything from the mumbled vocals to the shimmery lead guitar feels like it’s being played by a band of sleepwalkers. That’s a quality untold numbers of shoegaze and dream pop acts strive for but Young June don’t fit comfortably into either of those categories. Instead, Young June are closer to a pairing of Replacements brattishness and Cure moodiness, with guitars that smirk and howl alongside unexpectedly melodic basslines and emphatic rhythms.

Vapor Caves “Hurry Up and Wait”

Vapor Caves’ recent slate of singles have emphasized their ’90s R&B influences but on “Hurry Up and Wait,” they take things way back and sound all the better for it. Bursting at the seams with electro-funk grooves (complete with call-and-response vocoder) and a beat that’d be equally at home in an impromptu breakdance battle on a subway car or an arty loft party, “Hurry Up and Wait” is Vapor Caves at their most gleeful. But the most impressive element is Yadira Brown’s vocal, which manages to bring a perfect amount of melancholy to all that bubbly funk, driving home the paradox of the title and how it applies to the unique sensation of striving for greatness while attempting to be patient for the achievement of such.
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