by Nick Hanover
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.
Brother Sports “1967”
There’s a concept Warren Ellis created to connect some of his comics called The Bleed, a space that essentially exists between dimensions and bridges them, allowing savvy heroes and villains to hop between places instantaneously. Of course, like any good sci-fi travel space, it has a tendency to fuck with reality if you muck with it too much, its name itself referencing both its arterial duct-like appearance and the warping effect it has on things. Brother Sports new track “1967” sounds like something being heard within The Bleed, a staticy, barely discernible transmission from another reality and another time but it also sounds like it owes its existence to some reckless Bleed journey. Is it a Brundle teleportation mishap, the result of an accidental fusion of a chillwave artist and a British Invasion group? Is it an invader from a timeline where Mod culture took over the world and never went away? Who’s to say? Wherever it came from, “1967” is a shimmering delight.
Austin may hate Californian transplants but I think we can all agree sunny Californian elements in Austin music are okay, right? Regardless of whatever the actual consensus is, Sherry’s “Sunday” is a refreshing, breezy take on ’70s California rock, coated in Austin slacker vibes and wordplay that would make Colin Meloy envious. Though it’s barely two minutes long, “Sunday” crams in a novel’s worth of clever turns of phrase, sunny harmonies, fuzz guitar leads and a merry go round of chord changes. The day of the title may be unremarkable except for unexpected showers, but Sherry’s work is mesmerizing in how well it binds together any number of aesthetic interests as it goes through the details and moods of a lazy day.
DDotElles “Sepia ft. Arthur Castro”
Truth be told, I never expected to see local gutter poet Arthur Castro pop up on a hip hop track, but now that I’ve heard DDotElles’ “Sepia,” I’m kicking myself for my lack of imagination. “Sepia” starts with a slowed down sample of Castro declaring he’s “stopped doing speed and switched back to heroin,” setting the syrupy tone for the rest of the track. The haziness of 3Zone$’ production then builds beautifully out of Castro’s sleepy vocals, establishing a twinkling twilight vibe for DDotElles to swerve around as he does his debonair whiz-kid-weaned-on-Ghostface Killah thing. This ain’t coke rap, it’s music to blast while you avoid K2 zombies on 6th, with DDotElles coming into his own as a wizened hip hop Rimbaud for the grimiest corners of the Red River district.
Ike “Close Your Eyes (ft. D Randle, Bavu Blakes and Chrys Christians)”
Ike and Haris Q’s new collaboration Paradise is stuffed full of classic sounds and yet manages to never feel overly nostalgic. Standout track “Close Your Eyes” is the most potent representation of that, straddling both ends of the ’90s West and East divides with its California soul beat and New York R&B hook. There’s also some of that ’90s feel in its assemblage of guest stars, with D Randle and Bavu Blakes flanking Ike with heavyweight verses while Chrys Christians‘ hook keeps things icy cool. “Close Your Eyes” never feels like a vacuum sealed, soulless throwback, instead it feels like a lost classic, unearthed after decades yet still somehow fresh and timeless.
Emily Bell “Can’t Talk Back”
There’s been a resurgence of infectious pop music in Austin lately, so it’s nice to see Emily Bell return from hiatus with a sound that recognizes that and puts its own spin on it. Though much of Bell’s promotional art for her rebranding as Emily Bell & the Talkbacks looks like a mash-up of Lana Del Rey and Chrissie Hynde’s aesthetics, the actual sound is closer to Kelly Clarkson backed up by the Kinks and fuck you if you don’t think that’s a good thing. Bell has a far more aggressive approach than Clarkson did, but “Can’t Talk Back” has a lot of Clarkson style in its hook driven pop rock and anthemic vocals, making it a catchy future hit with ample attitude and verve.
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