Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Higher Than the Stars EP

pains

Rating: ★★★★ ·

After speaking with Kip, we realized that this EP was something to really look forward to, as this entire EP includes new songs from 2009 darlings The Pains of Being Pure at Heart.     You can’t not want more tunes from these guys can you?  So here we have Higher Than the Stars, song by song.

This EP opens with the title track, “Higher Than the Stars.”  It opens with a noticeable keyboard programmed atop the steady drumming and hazy guitar.  Kip’s vocals are extremely soft here, almost kept to a whisper.  You’ll find that some of the guitar tones are really bright, which is what makes the group a pop band afterall!

Following the opener is “103.”  This is the track that most closely resembles the group’s stylings on their debut LP.  Once again, you can heat the march of the drums, and instead of the hazy guitars, this time around you get more of that earth-shattering atmospheric guitar sound, with a nice little solo blaring through it all near the end of the tune.

Personally, “Falling Over” is where it’s at on this EP.  It’s got a lot of that classic 80s jangle-pop mentality, but with the influence of someone like the Happy Mondays, bringing in a little bit of dance into your clasic guitar song.  The chorus is perfectly fitting to the concept of the song, placing it squarely in the past–for some reason I hear someone like New Order or the Pet Shop Boys rocking this chorus. 

Our fourth track is somewhat of a new nostalgic approach.  It’s less jangle-pop than previous records, and it demonstrates that The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are more than just one trick ponies.  The lack of clarity on the guitar here recalls the likes of The Stone Roses or Teenage Fanclub. It’s an American Britpop song.

For the final track, you get a little remix of “Higher Than the Stars,” done by St. Etienne and Lord Spank.  It doesn’t add too much to the original track, other than a steady dance beat, and a little bit more time.  It’s not an awful track by any mean, just dismissable in comparison to the previous four tracks.

Overall, the wonderful thing about this release is that it gives way to a new horizon for the group.  They haven’t foudn themselves stuck in one place, destined to release the same thing over and over again.  It makes it rather enjoyable for us all.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/pains-higher-than-the-stars.mp3]

Download: Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Higher Than the Stars [MP3]

Nobunny @ The Mohawk (9/22)

nobunn

Date Tuesday, September 22
Location Mohawk
Doors 10:00 pm
Tickets Tickets @ the Door.

Nobunny specializes in straight garage-pop.  You want a feel good evening of pogoing like you always imagined you would do for the rest of your life, then this is the evening for you.  You also won’t want to miss either of the opening bands as the full line up includes Hunx and his Punk as well as Austin darlings Harlem.  Surely this is a way to get over the miserable Mondays and blast off onto the land of Terrific Tuesdays.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/03-Mess-Me-Up.mp3]

Download: Nobunny – Mess Me Up [MP3]

Girls – Album

TRUE-010-Girls-Album-small

Rating: ★★★★½

You’ve all heard of the San Francisco duo, now set up to include two more bros from California to complete the band Girls.  They’ve been posted about, not just on our site, but on every other web site across the web, and people have been buzzing about this record for a long time.  So here we have Album, the group’s first full length, and surprisingly, they hit exactly the mark they were set up to miss.

Opening an album with one of the competitors for song of the year is never a bad way to begin, and “Lust for Life” fulfills from the start. Jangling guitars and the backbeat of beach music, create one of the catchiest numbers in 2009.  And, the subject matter, though not the most poetic, seems rife with optimism, and the band are ready to “make a brand new start.”

So you slide into “Laura,” and you can see a possible drawback as soon as singer Christopher Owens opens up is album.  He’s got a voice that doesn’t ever seem to hit a note, but its those imperfections that seem to make the record continuously successful.  It’s reminiscent of countless indie singers, singing with the only tool they’ve got, and despite the occasional off-kilter note, their exists a certain honesty which makes it all so endearing.

Adding another element to the mix is the group’s diversity within their own lo-fi spectrum.  “Ghost Mouth” is the ballad, slowly waltzing through a hazy bit of light guitars and mellow percussion. From here, they switch it up by adding a bit of art and obscurity to their own li-fi spin on “God Damned.”  Then, they blast off down the stretch of California coastal highways on “BIg Bad Mean Motherfucker, kicking out the traditional surf rock.  All this building to the perfect opus that is “Hellhole Ratrace.” As those who caught wind of this tune months prior to the album’s release can attest, you’ll be hard pressed to find another drawn out song, with such simple lyrics, that can draw you into it time and time again.  Hell yeah it’s repetitive, but it’s so rewarding that the group might just be giving Phoenix a run for their money by releasing two great singles on one album.

Still, they never seem to be a static band, rarely staying in one place throughout the entire album.  In a time when a lot of music comes off redundant on albums, this one seems to offer something new around every little corner. “Lauren Marie,” for instance, is a sparse number with little else to add to it other than Owens continuous cooing of the name Lauren Marie. Yet, you’ll take your time to listen to it over and over again.  But, they continue their change-ups with “Morning Light,” with it’s fuzzy full throttle take on the straight ahead pop tune. This is precisely why Girls seem to be one of the few bands coming to us by way of the endless hype machine that can truly back up the world’s adoration by placing us into such an enjoyable listen.  You’ll surely find yourself listening to Album time and time again.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/01-lust-for-life.mp3]

Download: Girls – Lust for Life [MP3]

New Tunes from Must Have Been Tokyo

119The great thing about the Internet is running into new bands that you deem worthy of interest, and I was fortunate enough to find another of those bands. Must Have Been Tokyo is from abroad, of course, and yet they seem like they could fall perfectly in line with everything going along over on our shores.  They just released their Vice EP, and I definitely suggest giving it a listen if you can get your hands on it. Here’s a sample of said EP.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/01-Blood-In-the-Water-1.mp3]

Download: Must Have Been Tokyo – Blood in the Water [MP3]

Mason Jennings – Blood of Man

mason

Rating: ★★★½ ·

When Mason Jennings first released In the Ever, I couldn’t have been more disappointed.  The album seemed forced and overproduced–it lacked all the personality that I felt made Mason Jennings so special.  I even vowed never to give him my money again, unless I previewed his work prior to purchase.  Well, I gave in to my longing for Mason and got my hands on Blood of Man.

Upon the first listen all the way through, I paused momentarily, trying to wrap my head around the record, almost confused.  I came to the decision that this album seemed like a collection of really good demos.  There was an evident rawness to the writing, and the recording (drums especially) that brought back a whole lot of that character that sparked the flame of fandom within me so long ago.

Sure, the first song sort of seems like Mason is channeling that Eddie Vedder character people are so into, but the rest of the album wears that warmth of his vocal inflection that makes his music seem so unique.  Everything about Blood of Man seems completely natural and not forced.  This is more Use Your Voice era Mason than it is anything else, and I’m frankly relieved to see him heading back to that hallowed ground.

That being said, there are some odd missteps here, and I don’t necessary see them as bad things, but just really unexpected moments.  For instance, “Ain’t No Friend of Mine” appears like a sort of Dead Weather stomp with a splash of Mason.  Even his vocals have a little hint of Mr. White. Still, the dude’s been putting out tunes, so you can’t blame him for trying something entirely new.  Just be happy he seems to have steered far away from the land of Jack Johnson and other like-minded hacks.

What comes as a great surprise on this album is that Mason Jennings wraps it up perfectly by including some of his best efforts, as of late, on the end of the album.  You won’t find a more fitting tune for resolving personal crisis than “Lonely Road.”  And ending the entire record with “Blood of Man” shows how the simplest tunes are still the heart and soul of this singer/songwriter.  It’s just he and a guitar, and I guess that’s the way it always seems like it should have been.

So it seems that Mason Jennings has come around full circle.  He’s back to where he began, though with a bit of growth and maturity beneath his belt.  It makes this a great addition to his entire catalogue.  I’m glad I picked up Blood of Man.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/the-field-1.mp3]

Download: Mason Jennings – The Field [MP3]

New Tunes from Bear in Heaven

bear_in_heavenLoads of sites have been circling this tune around, deservedly so. They have some new work coming out on October 13th titled Beast Rest Forth Mouth, and if it sounds anything like this track with it’s haunting 80s movement, then Bear in Heaven will surely be a big hit.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/Bear-In-Heaven-Lovesick-Teenagers.mp3]

Download: Bear In Heaven – Lovesick Teenagers [MP3]

New Tunes from Jeremy Jay

JeremyJay-01-bigI’ve been a fan of Jeremy Jay for a long time, mostly because he dances just like this photo.  As I got ahold of his new 7″ Breaking the Ice, I was pleased to see he had done a sweet little cover of Buddy Holly as the B-Side.  If you dig this song, and vinyl, you can buy the 7″ from K Records.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/Jeremy-Jay-Words-Of-Love-Holly.mp3]

Download: Jeremy Jay – Words Of Love [MP3]

Sunny Day Real Estate – Diary

sunny

Rating: ★★★★½

Long before emo was a curse word that you said to your friends, there were brilliant bands that were making the new genre respectable. Yes, 1994, and the music was absent of the whining and glam make-up.  Only one band really stands out in the early years, or at least has the ability to withstand the years of badmouthing: Sunny Day Real Estate. Diary was their debut, and although they may not have been able to top it, it’s the one album that stands the test of time, forever cementing the band’s legacy.

One of the most outstanding landmarks on this album is the superb drum work of William Goldsmith.  His drums fills are technically tight, and he sounds as if he hits harder than anyone else around. Each time the cymbal crashes, you can’t help but fall in love. Just listen to his work on the album opener, “Seven,” and you will be sold.  If not there, move to the next track, and the next; you will only gain more respect for Goldsmith as an underrated drummer.

One of the unique elements of Diary is the ability for the band to move back and forth between their soft and hard moments.  As the powerful “In Circles” comes to an end, you’re greeted by “Song About an Angel.”  It begins with singer Jeremy Enigk’s melancholy gentleness sort of wooing the listener, but steadily the band builds.  Enigk’s sparkling shriek breaks in, crashing upon your ears just as hard as Goldsmith behind his drum kit.

And herein lies the secret of the band’s success, even back during the early days of emo. Jeremy Enigk was, and remains, one of the most dynamic singers ever to walk the stage.  When he sings on key, you can immediately discern the power of his pipes, but he’s not a one-trick pony.  Let him break through with his recognizable belting, and you’ll see just why he captivated so many people for so long.

For me, looking back on this album, one of the aspects I love the most come in songs like “Rounds” or the aforementioned “Song About an Angel.”  Slowly, the band walks into a song, barely moving you, resting quietly on Enigk’s vocals.  Soon, the pace begins to pick up, bursting forth into an eruptive chorus.  And somehow, they even manage to break the formula near the end of the song, steering clear of the chorus altogether.  It all comes to rest upon Enigk’s voice.

We should be thankful that such an album was made, and even more grateful that Sub Pop opted to re-release the band’s work, with bonus tracks no less.  You can now find yourself vinyl copies of some of the most revered albums of the early 90s.  If you missed getting into Diary back in the day, then now is your chance.  Do it for yourself, and you’ll be happy.  If you happen to own it already, revisit, and you’ll gladly find that the band is more than nostalgia.  Sunny Day Real Estate sounds interesting and unique even today.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/09-48.mp3]

Download: Sunny Day Real Estate – 48 [MP3]

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