The Latest Toughs: Salesman, Those Howlings, Tank Washington and More

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.


HADES- “Redemption”

Mondays are for ominous reflection, whether you want them to be or not. They’re a constant reminder of the grind of life, the way a workweek is just water torture spread out in calendar form. HADES expresses that a little more bluntly, though, stating “Ten years in a blunder/And I wonder/Where it’s taking me” in the chorus of his new track “Redemption,” giving the title a cheeky self-effacing touch as the rest of the lyrics have him sardonically attempting to lift his spirits by dwelling on the so called benefits of age. A clever, unpredictable producer first and foremost, “Redemption” sonically builds up that grind before HADES even gets to the mic, working up a froth of run down circus samples and playfully clumsy beats that move up and down sonic registers in time to HADES’ vocal. The song’s whiny hook is repetitive and nagging, but it grows on you, like a bunch of questionably asexual dwarves whistling while they work (who were those dwarves working for anyway?). If you’re stuck, like me, looking out a window at the grey and the wind this moody Monday, and you’re thinking back on your own ten years in a blunder, you might as well go all in and commiserate with HADES on a life poorly spent. – Nick Hanover


Sweet Limb- “Hollywood Relaxation”

Indie connoisseurs have been side-eyed in the past few years for latching onto contemporary R&B, but to be fair to us, contemporary R&B has been fantastic. Channeling a bit of that PBR&B vibe, Sweet Limb is out with a new single/mini-EP, Two Minute Pop Songs. Both tracks are simple, more relaxed and basic than some of the flashier outings the genre has seen in recent years, held together by simple drum machine beats and Chris Robinson’s sweet voice [the other track has mysteriously disappeared but we promise there used to be two – ed.]. These are plaintive, yearning songs, reaching for distant lovers and the distant hills of the silver screen. “Hollywood Relaxation” is a love song to opportunity missed and a lover desired, and its straightforward loveliness owes a lot to the soft sincerity of Whitney Houston and early-90s R&B. The winter is nearly over, if this weekend is any indication, but as you start to shake off the cold, “Hollywood Relaxation” will have you thinking about who you want to be with when the thaw comes. – Jake Muncy


Salesman- “Riddle of the Source”

I first encountered Devin James Fry through his side gig in Lord Buffalo, and while he was already making music with Salesman at that point, that band didn’t quite capture my imagination the same way. But Salesman’s new 7″ Let’s Go Jump Into the Fire” is an extremely promising new outing from the group, positing Fry as a kind of down home, twangier Jeff Buckley. That’s clearest on “Riddle of the Source,” the B-side to the title track, with its marriage of folky rhythms and gothic country overtones. The secret weapon here is Simon Page’s lush pedal steel, which carves out a trebly counter melody to Fry’s stately vocals and the guitar interplay between Fry and Garrett Hellman ramps up the tension further. There’s also quite a bit of Andrew Bird in the rise and swell of Fry’s voice, particularly when set against Clayton Lillard’s jaunty drumming. Devin James Fry has been a valuable musical asset in Austin for years, but this new Salesman material is full of ambitious grandeur, indicating they may be stretching well beyond Austin’s city limits now. – Morgan Davis

Salesman plays Empire Control Room this Sunday, February 22nd as part of the Give & Get Down Benefit.


Those Howlings- “Ghost Town”

Distorted electric piano lines are more or less impossible for me to resist. I don’t really even know where this audio fetish came from, but there must be some childhood explanation for it, like how my weakness for redheads is almost certainly the result of my obsession with Spider-Man and his girlfriend Mary Jane Watson as a kid. But I digress. Those Howlings’ “Ghost Town” is the closing track of their excellent new album Blood Island, and it’s not just the distorted electric piano that makes me love it, it’s also its overall aimlessness, the way it’s just a showcase for the eerie sweetness of Jolie Cota Flink’s voice and an insatiable garage rhythm. Flink is also the one responsible for that Wurlitzer 200A playing, though, and outside of its bassy start, that instrument also gets to show off its metallic higher register, making for some delicious contrast between it and the swampy lows of everything else. The song really doesn’t even have a chorus, just a twist in the melody and some menacing open ended sections, so it’s a bit of an oddity on the otherwise very tightly arranged Blood Island, but maybe that’s another reason why I love it. Outcasts and weirdos have to stick together. – NH


Tank Washington- “Complicated (ft. Cory Kendrix)”

LNS Crew stalwart Tank Washington has been doling out strong tracks all week, including a pair of singles mastered by now confirmed Drake collaborator Eric Dingus, but my favorite of the bunch is “Complicated,” an (anti)romantic Valentine’s track produced by Magna Carda beat maker Dougie Do. “Complicated” has the lushness of a Magna Carda single, what with all the digi-strings and organ-driven low end, but Tank has a much grittier voice than Megz Kelli, which makes for an intriguing sweet and sour contrast. Tank is also a more conversational vocalist, with his flow having the lilting rhythms of Tarantino dialogue rather than Megz’ melodic daredevilry. If you’re still reeling from Valentine’s and need a little respite from the coupled life, “Complicated” has you covered. – NH