Akron/Family – Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free

akron

Rating: ★★★★ ·

When you come across the musical landscape today, it’s fairly easy to classify most groups within a certain genre, especially when it comes to independent music.  Akron/Family‘s new album, Set Em Wild Set Em Free (out now on Dead Oceans) , does not fit easily into any such category, and listeners are better off for the approach to songwriting that the group has taken.

“Everyone is Guilty” jumps the album off with a funky math rock instrumental moment, but just as you brace yourself for a prolonged psychedelic math trip, grouped vocal harmonies bounce in, altering the landscape within the song; the song progresses, bouncing back and forth between the gang vocal approach and the elemental science funk.  For the most part, this song serves as the perfect opening to the album, as it lays down the dichotomy of the entire album.  This album is one that never stays in one place for too long, combining various albums, different paces and a variety of other musical tricks to make this one of the most diverse listening experiences of the year.

Of course, there are moments when the experimentation goes a step too far, but alas, no band is truly perfect.  Take the longest song on the album, “Gravelly Mountains of the Moon,” which meanders along well enough, as all the songs on this album do, but then it is destroyed by irritating noise experimentation. Such moves are a rarity in this case, but this is one moment, of the few, when they band fell off the tracks. Similarly, “Creatures” tries to delve into some electronic drum work, and although the vocal performance is memorable, it detracts from the song a bit as the atmospherics lead the listener to wander.

Still, there are some clearly perfect moments in abundance.  The gentle rolling along of “River” creates a song that suits the title of the song, as it seems to gently move along due to the steady pacing of the drums.  It’s as if you can hear the river coming down towards you.  “Sun Will Shine” is another gem off the album, which recalls the structures of a band like The Dodos who construct and deconstruct with perfect execution.  Even the haunting moments of “Many Ghosts” brings to mind the folkier side of bands like the Unicorns, as Akron/Family uses various instruments to create a wall of oddball sounds to accompany their finely woven tunes.

For those interested in this album, you will not only be rewarded by an enjoyable listening experience, but you will find that the length is suiting as well.  This is an album where you will get what you paid for in length, as well as in the quantity of songs.  Sit back for a spell, and let Set Em Wild Set Em Free take you away for awhile.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/07-many-ghosts.mp3]

Download: Akron/Family – Many Ghosts [MP3]

New Tunes from David Byrne and Dirty Projectors

David ByrneThey first teamed up together to create a brilliant track for the Dark Was the Night project, and now they’ve gone at it again; Dirty Projectors have collaborated with Talking Head David Byrne. This new tune is not of the same vein as the formerly released track, “Knotty Pine,” but it showcases the skills of both groups.  Don’t forget, you’re supposed to be anticipating the upcoming album from the Dirty Projectors, Bitte Orca.  More on that later; here’s “Ambulance Man.”

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/dirty-projectors-and-david-byrne-ambulance-man.mp3]

Download: Dirty Projectors and David Byrne – Ambulance Man [MP3]

Cats on Fire – Our Temperance Movement

our-temperance-movement

Rating: ★★★★½

Occasionally, you come across a group that is reminiscent of everything you truly love.  Clever lyrics, jangly guitars, smooth vocals; all joining in unison in order to craft that perfect pop song. Cats on Fire have constructed 10 such songs with their second album Our Temperance Movement. Consider us lucky that Matinee Recordings was able to put out this album by the Finnish quartet.

Immediately upon pressing play, you will more than likely realize that the band shares a certain affinity for bands such as Felt or the Smiths, sharing those classic vocal similarities, but not in such a fashion where you feel as if they’re merely playing the role of imitators.  Singer Mattias Bjorkas can hold the sway in his voice just like Lawrence or Morrissey.  But, you’ll find that in listening to his voice, it stands alone an a different entirely.

Now, the band probably has a lot of influential waters that they could soak up with a sponge, all of which are visible in their songs, but a different comparison comes to mind when listening to the album.  Our Temperance Movement recalls early Belle and Sebastian records, or just your favorite pop album, where every single song is so good that it would be hard to decipher which song on the album was meant as the single. You won’t be able to find a throwaway track here, which is an oddity in this year’s music output.

“Lay Down Your Arms” has that familiar jangly guitar you’ll recall from all those classic recordings, creating a mood of stomping about your local pub dancefloor.  As the vocals sway back across the song, you can’t help but feel moved by the meldious tune.  “Letters from a Voyage to Sweden” follows shortly after, with tales of watching a cruiseliner filled with adulterers and sodomites.  Even with such a taboo topic, the song rolls along; it’s the perfect song for quiet headphone moments lying in your bed in thought.

With songs like “Tears in Your Cup,” Garden Light” and “Fabric” neatly tucked into the latter half of the album, you’ll find that your listening experience is never lacking in above average tunes.  Especially when you encounter the bookend to the album “Farbic” with its backing female vocals and bouncy strum.

As the album wraps up completely you’ll be rushing to record your favorite tracks for that next great mixtape you are preparing for your friends.  You only want the best tracks, and every song on this album will suffice to prove to your friends just how great your tastes are; so go on and introduce them to Cats on Fire.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/02-lay-down-your-arms.mp3]

Download: Cats on Fire – Lay Down Your Arms [MP3]

New Tunes from VEGA

vegatapesAustin’s VEGA is set to release a new digital EP, Well Known Pleasures, on May 19th.  We hyped this band prior to SXSW, and we’re pleased to present you with a new track from the band.  It’s definitely a track to get your boots stomping across the room, so enjoy.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/no-reasons.mp3]

Download: VEGA – No Reasons [MP3]

The Horrors – Primary Colours

the-horrors-primary-colours-467433

Rating: ★★★ · ·

The Horrors hail from the U.K., a land where hype and image go a long way to establishing a band, or at least estbalishing a fan base.  Luckily for the band, their 2006 debut had the licks to back up the gothic persona of the band; it played like a noisier and longer version of early Misfits records with the fuel of modern contemporaries.  This time around, they’ve gone a little bit more indulgent, expanding their palette and their affinity for noise.

While the band toyed with noise throughout their debut, it has a strong focus all over Primary Colours.  Opener “Mirror’s Image” is a prelude that deals with creating a brooding sensation for listeners a la Bauhaus before the wall of noise and the Ian Curtis imitations come crashing upon your ears.  Okay, so maybe its more Brandon Flowers than Ian Curtis, but since they’re from the U.K., you’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt.

This is where the whole entire album goes.  It’s wave of noise and feedback crashing upon wave upon wave upon wave, but if you listen closely, you’ll find something even more sinister than the band’s gothic attire; you will find a pop band masquerading as noise rock.  Peel away the layers, and you will find a band not unlike the Killers pogoing about. Now, this isn’t an entirely ominous thing, as some might suppose; clearly the band is full of bubbling bass and other hooks to draw you into their world. Take the closer “Sea Within a Sea,” which is probably one of the strongest tracks on the album.  It bobs along for a minutes before the vocals come in to play; the echo behind the vocal once again brings in the darker side of life that one associates with Joy Division records.

Now, the noise is all well and fine, but it occasionally seems to get in the way of what the band does so well, which is create infectious melodies that will attract listeners across spectrums.  “Scarlet Fields” is the perfect example of this, as the bass line is everything about pop structure in song-writing.  Stir that up with a killer keyboard element during the chorus and you’ll find a hit lurking here.  And yes, this song still stirs souls, but it could do even more if they just removed a little bit of the noise and echo that always seems present here.

You’ll find that for those looking for that noisier element in your rock catalogue that The Horrors will definitely be a fitting addition with Primary Colours, but those of you looking for pop gems might find it a little too loud for your ears.  All in all, it’s another solid addition to the groups on-going catalogue.

New Tunes from Malcolm Middleton

malcolm Malcolm Middleton was the man behind the pen for Scotland’s Arab Strap, and now that the band have gone their own way, Malcolm is back to his old tricks.  This new single is the perfect Middleton tune, full of melancholy and wit.  His new album Waxing Gibbous comes your way on June 1st. 

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/t5s2-malcolm-middleton-carry-me.mp3]

Download: Malcolm Middleton – Carry Me [MP3]

ATH A2W: International Waters

interAustin’s International Waters have been surfing around my list of bands to check out for quite some time, and it’s time we open your eyes to the band as well. Suffice it say, their list of influences such as Comet Gain, Felt and Beat Happening are enough to win me over, but the band has the songs to back it up as well. Sure, they’re steeped in that sound of ancient 80s dance suave, but you can’t help but get drawn into their songs. They currently are giving away three songs for free on their Myspace page, and they’re rumored to have a 7″ on its way. Also, you can catch them this Thursday at Elysium for Brit Pop Dance Night.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/01-salt-and-sea.mp3]

Download: International Waters – Salt and Sea [MP3]

New Tunes from Soviet

sovietSome people just want to listen to dance music. Today, I am playing a song for those in the world of dance music.  Soviet is a band from NYC who won me over years back at SXSW, and they are just now releasing the follow-up to to their debut; the new album is titled Spies in the House of Love. Apparently it was recorded long ago, but is just now seeing the light of day. Take a listen and move those feet.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/03-photographs-1.mp3]

Download: Soviet – Photographs [MP3]

New Tunes from The Sounds

soundSweden’s The Sounds are definitely one of my guilty pleasures, and I am not going to shy away from their catchy new-wave influenced pop-rock. Not to mention the fact that singer Maja is one hell of a front-woman. Now, the band have a new album coming out in June, and here is the first single off said album.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/thesounds-noonesleepwhenimawake.mp3]

Download: The Sounds – No One Sleeps When I’m Awake [MP3]

New Tunes from Future of the Left

future-of-the-leftDo you need a little morning pick me up? Check out the new tune from Future of the Left, the UK band that formed out of the ashes of Mclusky. This new single, off their forthcoming album for 4AD Records, is sure to kick start your day, and have you looking forward to the release of their new album.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/future-of-the-left-arming-eritrea.mp3]

Download: Future of the Left – Arming Eritrea [MP3]

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