The Latest Toughs: Keeper, US Weekly, Borzoi 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.

Keeper- “Stay (ft. Megz Kelli)”

It’s Monday and Austin is a step away from the Texan Atlantis so if we’re all going to sink back into the primordial swamp I’d like to at least do it in style. And is there better exit music than Keeper and Megz Kelli’s new collaboration “Stay?” Structured like a “please don’t leave” track, “Stay” is in actuality a venomous kiss off, a confrontation of a lover who is jealous of the protagonist’s creative spirit and energy. So when the group asks “If I did, would you stay?” in reference to changing that creative spirit, it’s not an actual question but a rhetorical device that caps off a series of declarations about what an unfair and ridiculous request that even is. In other words, “if I became someone else entirely, would that make you happy?” Framing that is the horror score beat, fleshed out with knife stab synth lines and jagged synth bass, and then Magna Carda’s badass frontwoman Megz Kelli enters the picture, pouring salt in the wound with her barbed lyrics and acidic flow. – Nick Hanover

US Weekly “Asshole”

US Weekly never fail to amaze me. After coming on like an art house Black Flag with shades of Nation of Ulysses on their full length debut, they’ve continued to morph and evolve on their latest release: the four song EP Ideas. I can’t be the only one for whom Ideas conjures thoughts of early Pixies, albeit without Frank Black’s poor Spanish and absent any references to sea creatures. The EP’s penultimate track “Asshole” is the strongest link in this chain, though the connection is far from being due to imitation or even direct influence.

Rumbling in on a rolling rhythm overlaid with a playfully wobbling guitar, there’s a quirkiness to “Asshole” that’s only compounded by the subtle stabbing of keys during the chorus and the stoned guitar riff that follows it. Were it Frank Black delivering the vocals, maybe the comparison would be a no-brainer, but Chris Nordahl’s unique, rasping shouts lend the whole proceeding a sense of urgency and pseudo-seriousness that works well to contrast the rest of the song. Sonically the Pixies similarities end there, but I think overall “Asshole” (like the rest of Ideas) has moved US Weekly into a wholly more ironic and sardonic space, that like the late 80’s Pixies is basically saying “fuck it” to the excess of everything else going on around it while simultaneously thumbing its nose at punk convention. – Brian J. Audette

US Weekly play Hotel Vegas this Sunday, April 24th with Hola Beach and more.

Borzoi “I Feel Alien”

Another unique gem in Austin’s diverse and talented punk scene, I feel like Borzoi are a band desperately in need of a full length album or at least when I listen to Borzoi’s EP’s, I’m desperately in need of a full length album from them so until then I’m just going to revisit last year’s Pinnacle EP. Coming off of the more standard post-hardcore of their previous release, Pinnacle sees the band stretching their skills a bit and feeling out new territory. Nowhere is that more evident than on the second side of the 7″, the track “I Feel Alien”.

The first 5 seconds of the track tell you everything you need to know about what’s to come, as post-hardcore chugga gets neatly cut by the strut of a classic rock riff. “I Feel Alien” is a musical chimera, retaining a strand of that hardcore DNA, but genetically having more in common with early metal and proto punk. The reverby verse, backed by racing guitar and drums has that sense of punk rock urgency, but it all changes half way through. At its mid point “I Feel Alien” evolves with swaggering guitar riffs and heavy rhythm, eventually giving way to a short, but sultry solo that blossoms into full on face melt to close out the track. In the end we’re left with a beautiful hybrid thats part New York Dolls, part Sabbath, and all rock. – BJA

Lions and Tigers “Niveles”

Lions and Tiger’s debut EP Everything is Illuminated seems to come from the ’00’s school of rock and pop punk. The music world at the time was still recovering from nu metal, hardcore punk offshoot genre emo had broken into the mainstream, and bands and labels alike were still dreaming of the pop rock heydays gone by in the previous decade. The musical landscape at the time was a mixed bag, but Lions and Tigers’ “Niveles” does a great job representing the highlights.

Featuring strong melodic vocals laced with spurts of two-part harmony over racing pop punk riffs and interspersed with metal chugs and a tinge of glam rock theatricality, “Niveles” is a song about lost love and romantic screw ups. It’s all very My Chemical Romance, but without the baggage of Hot Topic teens and the sound of major labels trying to cach in on rock one last time before the digital revolution. While the chugging breakdown halfway through overstays its welcome (giving the song a bit of an identity crisis) it does so without plunging it headlong into schizophrenia or derailing the driving pace. In the end it’s a catchy romantic loser’s anthem that warms the cockles of my emo heart. – BJA

Lions and Tigers play Sidewinder on Friday, May 6th

The Burning Years “Distance”

It’s too bad that the term emo was so thoroughly ruined by major labels and mainstream attention back in the ’00’s. Even The Burning Years fail to mention the term in their Bandcamp page’s genre description, though their sound has all the earmarks of late era emo … the good stuff however.

“Distance” off of Burning Years’ latest EP Coming Clean strikes with the kind of gut-pounding sincerity that drew me to emo during my hardcore punk exploratory years of the early 21st century. Crisp and layered, “Distance” is a harmonious lament, burning with intensity and angst. Amidst the pounding of the rhythm section, guitars alternately chug and weep while the slick lyrical delivery pines for a complicated, distant love. Equal parts anthem and ballad, “Distance” raises a fist while simultaneously crying in its beer. We can’t call it emo anymore, because that’s a poisoned term, but were this 10 years ago … yeah, that’s what it would be.

Burning Years play Love Goat on Saturday, May 14th with Nominee and more.