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 artists to get you up to date and make each of your workdays a little easier.
Poncho P “Proppy (ft. YATU)”
As Austin hip hop in its perpetually behind the curve manner over commits itself to trap, fresher sounds are emanating from our more popular big brother Houston. Take a listen to Poncho P’s “Proppy” to get a glimpse at what I mean. The individual components of the track nod to some classics– that bubbly Neptunes-like beat, YATU’s ESG indebted swangin’ and bangin’ on the hook– but Poncho’s aloof swagger and clear as ice delivery put him at odds with the mush mouthed menace of his chart topping contemporaries. This is hip hop that keeps one leg in the past and one leg in the future and somehow manages to not trip over itself. Poncho P’s Bandcamp bio self-deprecatingly claims “I sucked for a very long time but now I’m good enough to charge people for my music!” but I think he’s heading towards something far greater than a $9.72 PayPal cash out.
Samantha Glass “Cruel Anxiety”
As Holodeck Records has grown, its focus has been on finding artists who will expand the label’s sound rather than just function as clones of its biggest acts. Samantha Glass was one of the first artists to join Holodeck outside of its original core and they’re also one of the best representations of Holodeck’s growth. Glass’s sound shares dark, brooding intensity with key Holodeck acts like Troller and ssleeperhold but they favor sharper synth sounds over growling bass. “Cruel Anxiety” from the forthcoming Nine Memories Between Impression and Imprint is Glass’s boldest and most self-assured work yet, imbued with an airy quality that makes it immediately stand out from their often dense and claustrophobic prior work. Glass’s vocals are clearer now too, the monotone and haunting verse blossoming into a buoyant and triumphant chorus to emphasize the album’s transitional motifs. Samantha Glass has long been one of Holodeck’s greatest secret weapons but with “Cruel Anxiety,” it seems unlikely Glass will be able to remain a secret much longer.
Bum Out “Don’t Worry, I Forgot Your Name Too”
On “Don’t Worry, I Forgot Your Name Too,” “bummercore” veterans Bum Out indulge in some meta-music criticism, asking “Why are sad songs so appealing?” prompting the answer “They’re the ones that still have feeling.” That may be a simplistic view of songwriting but it’s not incorrect, and pondering it seems to have done Bum Out a whole lot of good in the time since their last EP, Pain Don’t Hurt. That release was a little light on feeling itself, but “Don’t Worry, I Forgot Your Name Too” has it in surplus with the anguished howls of the vocals a perfect match for the Pretty Girls Make Graves worthy two guitar attack. Whatever’s ailing Bum Out enough to make them seek out those sad songs, it also seems to have them operating with lean, razor sharp efficiency.
Bum Out play Carousel Lounge on Thursday, August 16th
Raquel Bell “Stones”
In some other reality, Klaus Nomi lived long enough to collaborate with Annie Clark. But in our reality, the closest we’ll get to that is Raquel Bell, a pop alien capable of seamlessly flipping between Clark’s sensualist funk and Nomi’s otherworldly electro-opera. Bell’s eclectic and vivacious LP Swandala is full of moments testifying to the strength of that combination, while also showcasing her freakishly talented backing band, which features members of Suspirians, Bill Callahan, White Denim, Swans and more, but its opening track “Stones” does all that in the most digestible form. The song’s sole lyric is “There are stones on the ground meant for carrying around,” but Bell works that phrase like clay, building out a near infinite number of melodies and phrasings to keep it stuck in your head like Pontypool’s verbal virus. And Bell’s band is there to meet her at every turn, from Kraftwerk motorik to St. Vincent strut to Brian Eno theatricality. What you get with “Stones” isn’t a song, it’s an entire kaleidoscopic universe of sound.
Kynard “PSA Freestyle”
Freestyles tend to either bring out the best or the worst in a rapper. Artists who haven’t spent time truly honing their craft end up revealing how dependent their success is on the right producer, while slept on artists who maybe haven’t found the right team to work with end up shining as a result of their undeniable chops under pressure. Kynard is undoubtedly in the latter camp. For whatever reason, Kynard’s run of singles this year have been dominated by cheap, disposable pop production that diminish the ferociousness of his voice. By contrast, Kynard’s Freestyle Friday Vol. 1 is a buffet of no-frills, classical sample-based beats that stay entirely out of the way of Kynard’s impressive flow. Opener “PSA Freestyle” is as potent an introduction as you could ask for, the gritty, piano-and-organ focused beat drawing out Kynard’s inner barbarian, every line an axe swing at lesser emcees’ throats. This is the environment Kynard truly shines in, now all he needs to do is return to it.
Got a single you’d like to be considered for Latest Toughs? Email us with Latest Toughs in the subject!
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