Autolux – Transit Transit

Rating: ★★★★½

In today’s music scene, some bands enjoy success at an early stage in their careers, while some don’t ever see it. For others, success is like a flash bulb, if not a little subdued by quickly falling from the public’s awareness. Such is the case with Autolux, who after nearly a decade hiatus following their nearly flawless debut, are finally releasing their sophomore album, Transit Transit on TBD Records. The still shockingly underground band (despite opening for Elvis Costello, Beck and the White Stripes) has some big shoes to fill in response to their brilliant, and in many ways, perfect debut, Future Perfect. In many ways I see their 6 year hiatus from new material as a sign of acknowledgment that they produced something truly astonishing. The hard question, just like in any art form; how does an artist follow up something so seemingly flawless? These days the music scene is all about ‘what have you done for me lately?’ just ask Arcade Fire. Personally I feel this instant gratification by the listener is flawed and forces musicians to rush their thought processes and formulate abbreviated results. Admittedly, I’m not certain this was the case for Autolux, (apart from drummer Carla Azar‘s freak injury and subsequent recovery time), but the romantic in me hopes it was. Whatever brings the trio to this particular junction has certainly worked, as Transit Transit has and will continue to prove.

Going back to their debut again and into the new release, if there’s one thing that Autolux does very well, it’s the quiet, subtle, and somber arrangements such as found on the title track and opener ‘Transit, Transit’. These well thought out, dark, though dull, yet altogether moving arrangements work well against the soft vocals of Eugene Goreshter. Emotion is the name of the game and they formulate these moments with a minimalistic approach to stunning results. Here’s it’s an epic entry point with towering piano chords and off kilter harmonies arranged in a sweeping spin. The second track ‘Census’ brings more tempo, but still shows the trio at its best while introducing more heavy elements the alt. rock side of the group is also well known for. Following up these 2 tracks however, the thought that just perhaps they had produced another piece of magic is a little short sighted. ‘Highchair’ is one of the weaker tracks on the album for me, while it does contain attractive elements. Apart from a catchy minimalistic beat, the vocals portrayed here aren’t strong enough to keep me interested, though it’s one of the only flaws in an otherwise magnificent effort.

The following track and the essentially the entire remaining album is nearly flawless. ‘Supertoys’ brings back into the fray more vintage Autolux and one of the catchiest hooks displayed in the release; while the first introduction of Azar’s vocal addition is always a highlight for me. ‘Spots’ brings back the superb muted arrangements of the opener but with a more cinematic soundscape produced, echoing their past experiences with writing score. ‘The Bouncing Wall’ marks the first entry of Azar’s vocals in the spotlight in a splendid song against layered guitar riffs and electronics, while their lead single ‘Audience No. 2 is back to the basics with one of the best tracks on the album.  All of the elements from Shoe-gaze to Post Punk to New Wave are here on display and are combined with astonishing timing; this track is one I’m looking forward to live in September at Emo’s. The final track, ‘The Science of Imaginary Solutions’ builds with a simple guitar rhythm against Azar’s heavenly vocals before pounding out a short interlude and into a piano lead crescendo; and this pattern is repeated to great effect.

Overall, Autolux set the bar incredibly high with Future Perfect, and for me they didn’t quite reach that same level of consciousness. In its own regard, Transit Transit is still one the best album of the year, and just hopefully, they continue to build on this momentum and get in the studio more often. As I mentioned earlier however, I’m going to enjoy the hell out of this one. Who knows when we’ll get another chance to hear new material and I’m fine with that. Catch Autolux at Emo’s Outside September 9th with Gold Panda.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/07-Audience-No.-2.mp3]

Download: Autolux – Audience No. 2 [MP3]

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