The Latest Toughs: Unknown Relatives, Philos, Vampyre and More

by Nick HanoverLatest 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.

Schilling- “Take U There”

Pavement was technically a California band but imagine if they matriculated on Suicidal Tendencies singles instead of The Fall b-sides and you might have an idea of where Schilling is coming from on “Take U There.” Jittery and sharp as busted glass, the track is the standout on the group’s shambling Local Live recording, an ideal soundtrack to that point in the day where you realize you drank the entire pot of office coffee yourself and now your eyes are buzzing. I try to avoid that level of caffeine high but if I’m being honest I half welcome it when it comes because it certainly makes the day more interesting. So when the singer starts begging the band to stop towards the end of the track, I don’t know if I’m on his side or if I want those jarring open chord riffs to keep going and I guess that’s a sign of some kind of success, right?

Unknown Relatives- “Paid in Change (To a Man with No Hands)”

There’s surf music and then there’s music that is meant to soundtrack the kind of waves that result from earthquakes and hurricanes and nuclear annihilation. I’d put Unknown Relatives in the latter camp, as the surf guitar textures they utilize on their album Cluless always sound radioactive and toxic. “Paid in Change (To a Man with No Hands)” is the most traumatizing of the bunch, starting off on a mostly positive, up tempo note before bringing everything down with gale force feedback winds and devastating riffs. The break in the middle might seem like respite, but then the drums start rolling and the end times come.

Hartley Hall- “Biscuits & Gravy”

Is Western Swing one of those dormant genres that’s about to get a sudden revival thanks to bored youth with too much access to untold amounts of historic recordings? I sure hope so. Granted, local legends Asleep at the Wheel never stopped testifying on behalf of the power of swing, but it’s been a while since someone in Hartley Hall’s demographic took any major interest, outside of Hank 3, who has an ancestral connection to keep in mind. Hall’s “Biscuits & Gravy” is perhaps the best use of her soft, sweet voice on her Fool EP (outside of the excellent, melancholic “Who Will Bring You Whiskey,” where she primarily backs up co-vocalist Bo DePeña). “Biscuits & Gravy” is a classic country instance of nice melodies and smooth voices covering up ample innuendo and doubled up double entendres, making Hall’s timidness an asset rather than the liability it sometimes becomes on the rest of the EP. Hall has been touring a lot lately, but hopefully when she comes back to Austin on April 21st she’ll have picked up some more grit to her voice because she’s got one hell of a backing band.

Philos- “That Blackness (ft. upper.reality)”

Hermit Kingdom leader Philos is currently one of the most slept on emcees in Texas, a mad amalgam of Danny Brown and Tyler, the Creator only more coherent than both and with a keen social eye to boot. Nowhere is that clearer than on “That Blackness,” a track he’s been getting a lot of mileage out of live. Ruminating on a number of racist talking points (“White cops/That say/’The blacks are killing themselves/We’re just there to help‘”), the chief theme is eloquently communicated in the line “The struggle to be upwardly mobile/Collides with that white whiplash.” Beneath it all is an especially vivid Tosin beat, an updated groove on the shimmery piano shit Nobody used to churn out for BusdriverThe real attraction is Philos’ delivery though, which does some death defying drops, always seemingly on the precipice of a flubbed line yet somehow never getting there, instead amplifying tension with every stuttering line. There are technically gifted emcees and there are interesting emcees and then there are emcees who manage to be both. Philos is in that final camp, and it won’t be long until he starts really showing off his talent.

Vampyre- “Disaster Cable”

Fuckkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk. From the moment Vampyre played their first note at their first(ish) show I’ve been waiting for them to get some recordings out there. “Disaster Cable” is the most efficient demonstration of the band’s powers, cataclysmic bass riffs waging warfare on the limits of those’ psychotic vocals, neither ever really yielding, only intensifying with every passing measure. The EP can’t match the intensity of the trio’s live shows (what could?) but it’s still a release you take stock of, like some sonic hole carved into the air in front of you. Vampyre emerged basically wholly formed and they continue to get more powerful, like the eastern European monster they’re named after. Might as well submit to them now and live forever.

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