Latest Toughs: Harlem, Abhi the Nomad 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.

Harlem “Swervin”

It may have been almost a decade since Harlem released any new music but you wouldn’t guess that from “Swervin’.” The single has the warm embrace of a favorite friend, drenched in the bubbly personality and glammy shimmer of a T. Rex hit but with the cheeky verve of a Buck Henry sketch. Detailing a night in jail for drunk driving that only improves when a crushable officer of the law appears, “Swervin'” is everything you could hope for in a return from a beloved band– easily recognizable but properly matured with just enough improvements to feel fresh rather than doughy.

Tank Washington “Win”

All throughout Tank Washington’s new Lp 183, you can tell he’s had a rough fucking year– it’s an album of revenge fantasies and blunt rage, of betrayal and setback. Yet its greatest moment comes in “Win,” where Tank looks inward and allows himself to be disappointed without any posturing or lashing out. White Mask’s somber and meditative piano-led beat elegantly accents Tank’s reflective mood but where the track really shines is in in the fluidity of Tank’s flow, from the sing-song hook to the serpentine opening delivery of “I’m talkin’ MJ 96/Squad on that bullshit/17, warrior/Times incurred on the rent and green,” setting the scene for a whole life of perseverance. “Win” is Tank at his best, dazzling with his lyrical chops while proving he’s never one to back down from a challenge.

Popper Burns “Apollo 11”

There has always been a healthy amount of early B-52s in Popper Burns’ DNA– dig Jake Lauterstein’s napalm saturated surf guitar and Louie Fontenot’s Fred Schneider on a murder spree vocals. On “Apollo 11,” though, they feel like full on successors to that lineage for our “everything is on fire” era. Describing some fucked up night out, complete with “heavies at the bar” and cake to the face, Fontenot and Lauterstein compete to see who can paint a more accurate picture via howls and distorted reverb screeches, respectively, while bassist Chase Jackson and drummer Lauren Hemphill concoct a rhythm that sounds less like music than a series of kicks to an unmoving body you just happen to be able to dance to. By the time Fontenot snarls “What did you see? What! Did! You! Seeeeeeee!” you know you should be running out the door but all you can do is look head on at certain doom.

Housewarming “Place to Start”

Housewarming’s “Place to Start” builds with the casual elegance of a cat stretching across the floor, lithe and sleepy and a hair’s breadth away from a pounce. The pounce doesn’t arrive until the song only has about half a minute left but the dusty hearth vibes of what comes before coil that tension further, the leisurely drawl of the vocal luring you into complacency before the guitars kick in in force, like a sudden spike of The Wrens in your serving of Lambchop. A perfect soundtrack for these overly heated winter days.

Abhi the Nomad “Feud (ft. Sherm)”

Abhi the Nomad’s breakout release Marbled skewed melodic, establishing the young Tommy Boy repped artist as a dark horse candidate for Austin’s Most Likely to Succeed. The impeccably constructed (and designed) series of singles he’s put out since, however, have sought to prove Abhi just as skilled as a rapper, like a smarter, tougher Cool Kids with the production talents of the Neptunes at their strangest. “Run led the pack and has rightfully racked up a colossal number of plays– it will be a travesty if it doesn’t get some Best of the Year nods– but the brand new “Feud” is a damn fine way to wind down the year, with Abhi’s starting boast that “I be in a league of my own” being that rare hyperbolic claim that holds up under further scrutiny. The buzzing synth and water drop percussion are a perfect frame for Abhi’s contortionist cadence, but then some spy guitars and klaxons show up and things get bigger, better, bolder. Abhi isn’t a nomad anymore, he’s a goddamn conquering force.
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