The Latest Toughs: Basketball Shorts, Good Talk, Critical Dad 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.

Bohl- “Maybe”

I’m drawn to mess in art. I can appreciate virtuosity and meticulous craft but given the option, I’ll always choose the thrill of a work that is constantly threatening to go off the rails. Bohl satisfy that craving quite nicely on “Maybe,” taking an almost drinking song like structure and coating it in sloppy, ramshackle punk energy. Arthur Castro’s disorderly vocals perfectly fit the restless nature of the lyrics, which detail some awkwardness in a waiting room before Castro not-so-convincingly argues that maybe he’s okay. A big part of the appeal of the song’s reckless nature comes down to James Locke’s drumming philosophy, which is more or less the opposite of what you expect from a drummer in a duo, not keeping time so much as breaking apart rhythm and meter, forcing the guitar into some musical equivalent of a game of chicken. The title of the songs from the chorus, but it’s also suitable as a response to the question: “Do you think Bohl can finish this song without spontaneously combusting?”

Critical Dad- “Symbiotic Relationship”

Over the weekend, Critical Dad offered up a peek at their new album with a demo version of “Symbiotic Relationship,” an ambitious call-and-response post-punk number questioning how healthy the titular relationship really is. Initially starting with a darker strain of the herky jerky punk the band is know for, it builds to a sinister and unhinged group singalong that gets nastier and nastier until the band collapses and whispers the title over and over. Though it’s still immediately recognizable as Critical Dad, it also provides some daring reinvention of elements of the band’s sound, making for a creepier mutation of their formula. If the album it comes from is even half as weird, Critical Dad might have one of the most unique albums of 2016 on their hands.

The Deserter- “This Time is No Friend of Mine”

Working as a freelancer means I basically have no concept of time in any normal sense, other than a constant awareness that I never have enough of it. So The Deserter’s “This Time is No Friend of Mine” functions as a handy anthem, with its lilting rhythm and see-saw melody and lyrical focus on the inevitable decay of daylight. Though it begins as a traditional country ballad, by the time the chorus rolls along, Brent Pennington has filled it with unexpected elements, including a glockenspiel, turning the track into something closer to classic California country rock on the level of Sweetheart of the Rodeo era Byrds. The structure of “This Time is No Friend of Mine” is relatively simple, but Pennington’s smart arrangement makes it stand out as an especially charming offering from a promising new Austin country rock act.

Good Talk- “Sunny Ray”

No offense to J. Mascis, but Good Talk’s “Sunny Ray” is in the running for best Dinosaur Jr. track of the 21st century. The lyrics are goofy as shit (something about Sunny Ray being a space man who thinks space is the place), but musically “Sunny Ray” is prime Dinosaur, with a simple, mobile beat and an addicting, mumbly multi-tracked melody as well as some effortlessly gorgeous guitar heroics. Like a lot of Good Talk’s recent output, it’s not particularly unique, but it’s not aiming to be– Good Talk’s modus operandi is well-crafted classic indie rock, appealing not in its inventiveness but in how many nostalgic feels it provokes. Which makes the “Sunny Ray” line “If it was up to me/We’d go back to the old days/Back to the old ways” all the more appropriate.

Basketball Shorts- “Looking”

Austin’s premier party punks Basketball Shorts tease their upcoming full length Hot and Ready with “Looking,” a track that shows off the sly Misfits influence hidden in their sound (though not so hidden if you witnessed Ben Shorts serenading Anthony Bourdain with some Misfits karaoke during SXSW). The lyrics aren’t quite as outrageous as classic Misfits material but the melody and sludgy guitar recall the horror punk legends’ style as filtered through Basketball Shorts’ knack for addictive hooks and multi-tracked harmonies. It’s a promising glimpse at how the band has evolved since their last Fleeting Youth release and puts Hot and Ready up there as one of our most anticipated releases of the summer.

Basketball Shorts play tonight, May 9th, at Sidewinder with The Atom Age.

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