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.
Kady Rain “It Wasn’t the Roses”
If living well is the best revenge, then Kady Rain is living out a neon pop version of Kill Bill on her confessional anti-abuse anthem “It Wasn’t the Roses.” Austin’s most colorful starlet has a knack for danceable empowerment singles but “It Wasn’t the Roses” is her most impressive work so far as it shifts the focus from more general feel good vibes to an autobiographical ode to getting out of a terrible situation and mining the pain for art. Musically, the song is a significant shift from Kady Rain’s previous releases too, pairing a soaring vocal performance with a twisty ’50s pop beat, complete with horns and snaps. “It Wasn’t the Roses” smartly avoids the nostalgia trap by updating that sound with 808 kicks and subtle synth grooves but it’s Kady Rain’s unflinching ferociousness in particular that makes it stand out.
White Denim “It Might Get Dark”
At this point in their career, White Denim have their sound nailed down, and when it works as well as it does, why would you deviate anyway? But on their single “It Might Get Dark,” from the upcoming album Performance, they tweak things just enough to keep it interesting. With a boozy southern rock instrumental and some Harry Nilsson-esque melodies, “It Might Get Dark” is cheerier than its title would have you believe. The track even manages to cram in a bridge section that would make Jeff Lynne jealous with its swirling vortex of falsetto and celestial synths. You’re gonna want this one on the soundtrack for your next backyard cookout.
Samuel Current “Thoughts of the Regal Tide”
Taking a look at Samuel Current’s publicity photo, you wouldn’t think he’d have the voice he has. Appearing perpetually youthful, Current nonetheless has the voice of a grizzled bard like Steve Earle, gravelly and warm as a whiskey shot. “Thoughts of the Regal Tide,” from his new album I Am the Moon, stands out precisely because of that grit, Current’s nimble fingerpicking a beautiful contrast to his vocal work, which sounds like it has been eroded over eons by that tide. When Current unexpectedly pushes his voice near to the breaking point in the song’s concluding seconds, it’s breathtaking, jolting the senses and proving the potency of the simple combination of an acoustic guitar and the right voice.
Sun June “Young”
Featuring a classic and timeless indie pop sound, Sun June have rightfully been picking up acclaim for their new album Years. The LP’s single “Young” hearkens back to the early days of Feist but with jauntier rhythms and a dash of twang. The lyrics’ depiction of a youth spent fleeing down the California coast nicely echo the subtle “Be My Baby” riff of the beat but there’s more Joni Mitchell in the mix here than Phil Spector or the Beach Boys, which makes sense given it’s a release on the singer-songwriter oriented Keeled Scales label. All in all, it’s a sweet yet reflective slice of sunbaked pop that will be right at home on any mix you’re building for a prospective crush.
Waste Man “Don’t Take It Too Bad”
I don’t really know what Waste Man are lashing out at on “Don’t Take Too Long”– its central question is “Who is a bloodsucker and who is a cow?” so I assume chupacabras are involved– but the track feels particularly well-suited to our weird and turbulent times. With guitar riffs that whine and slice and a propulsive rhythm that paradoxically also seeks to thwart anything resembling danceable movement, “Don’t Take Too Long” pairs the radioactive sludge funk of fIREHOSE with the deranged verbal contortions of the Fall’s Mark E. Smith, and what a pairing it is. Savage, freaky, enraged– “Don’t Take Too Long” won’t make the bloodsuckers disappear but it will at least drown out their unholy screams for a bit.
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