FTC: Against Me!

As of late I’ve been revisiting a lot of my favorite pop-punk records.  It’s that time of year when I shed my devotion to introspective tunes.  It’s sunny outside, and I can’t help but to roll down the windows, letting the pop just blast a smile on my face.  One of my steady go-tos in the last several years has been Against Me!.  I mean, they combine a little bit of folk/country, a little bit of punk, and yet it all maintains this clever pop sensibility.  Their record As the Eternal Cowboy is by far my favorite.  I’ll gladly sing you every single song on this album, and I think you’ll find yourself in the same position if you give the band a try.  They have a new record coming out titled White Crosses, if you’re into this sort of stuff, or decide you want to be after listening to this killer track.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/04-Sink-Florida-Sink.mp3]

New Tunes from Villagers

Something about singer-songwriters writing warm pop just draws me in every single time.  Villagers is one such project by Conor O’Brien, and this song keeps playing around my desk all day long.  It sounds a lot like early Rogue Wave, but at the same time, some of his vocal qualities really remind me of Patrick Wolf (minus the thematic insanity).  It’s definitely just a subtle pop song that finds its way straight to your heart. You can find this song on the album Becoming a Jackal, which hits stores June 8th on Domino.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/Becoming-A-Jackal.mp3]

Download: Villagers – Becoming A Jackal

New Tunes from Stornoway

I’m really surprised that we haven’t heard too much on this side of the pond about Stornoway.  They’ve got everything we love about our own bands, not to mention Brian Briggs’ incredible set of pipes.  Luckily, this single has come to us from 4AD, and it will be on the band’s debut album Beachcomber’s Windowsill.  This song begins with percussion and gentle strumming before Briggs decides he wants to carry the rest of the song with his voice (the music stays, but his voice dominates).  If this is what we can expect, then huge things are expected from this band.  Check out their album on May 24th.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/09-On-The-Rocks-1.mp3]

Download: Stornoway – On the Rocks [MP3]

Centro-matic @ The Parish (5/6)

Date Thursday, May 8th
Location Parish
Doors 800p
Tickets $12 from The Parish

Will Johnson is one of the great voices in Texas music right now, and he has been for several years. He comes through Austin quite a bit, and this time you can catch him with his band Centro-Matic this Thursday at the Parish.  You can rest assured that he’ll play some incredible tunes that will yank at your heart strings; you owe it to yourself to see him at least once in your lifetime.  Also on the bill is The Service Industry and Matthew and the Arrogant Sea.  Seems like a great way to fill your evening with good tunes if you ask me.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/1-09-Counting-The-Scars.mp3]

Download: Centro-Matic – Counting The Scars [MP3]


The New Pornographers – Together

Rating: ★★★★ ·

After the release of Challengers it seemed like people were ready to disregard The New Pornographers altogether.  Poor reviews for an album couldn’t keep this band down though, as they’ve returned with their fifth record, Together. It stands in the same ground as a great deal of the rest of the last record, but it pushes the rock element a little bit further, brightening the sound a bit, just making things louder overall.

Opening moments on “Move” have that shredded guitar sound you’ve come to expect from an AC Newman penned song, but with a little strings to match the top of it all.  Throw in the bounce and those pop-perfect vocals (girl harmonies thrown in for good measure) and you’ve got a great opening track.  But, you get the perfect mix when you move into the next tune, “Crash Years.”  It’s fronted by the female force this time around, though the jangly guitars and orchestral accompaniment aren’t anything to shake a stick at.  Then you find yourself at “Your Hands (Together),” finding the band employing all their old tricks.  A rolling drumbeat, guitars strumming off beat, and the combination of male/female vocals.  Together starts out great, and it doesn’t seem to slow down.

However, the band switch gears a bit by going to a Dan Bejar penned number.  He’s written three songs for this record, and each one is remarkable in its own right.  Not sure if it’s Bejar’s odd vocal delivery, or just his craftsmanship, but his songs always stand out in The New Pornographers sound.  “If You Can’t See  My Mirrors” is probably the best of the three Bejar tracks, using some brilliant swirling guitar melodies to balance out Dan’s vocals.  The light female vocal beneath his adds a perfect touch as well.  Don’t skip out on “Daughter of Sorrow” as it’s reminiscent of Dan’s work with Destroyer, but instead of him working solo, he uses the posse at hand to expand his own distinctive sound.

While the album does slow down a bit right in the middle, it’s not entirely a detractor.  Perhaps the sequencing comes as a bit of a shock, as you can find better places to fit these quieter moments, but “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk” and “My Shepard” showcase the band’s ace in the hole.  Female vocals have long been a part of the groups dynamic, and they come into perfect play in the middle of this album.  Fans of Neko Case and Kathryn Calder will appreciate the fact that the girls get to carry their own weight for a sustained period of time.

One of the strengths of the band, and Together, is that they seem to have returned to uniting all their forces into one cohesive product.  “Up in the Dark” is a powerful song, using the dual vocal approach, and a stomping rhythm to move it along. Even when the song takes turns for the swirly pop moments, you can’t help but feel that this is the band at its best.  While “Valkyrie in the Roller Disco” might seem a bit odd, really just using the vocal approach of the band to make its point, it really is a good song, though it might not fit that well with this collection.  So they close it with “We End Up Together,” making the perfect statement for the album’s closing.  Everyone seems to play a part in this song, fitting the whole band, well, “together.”  Seeing such sentiment makes you appreciate the effort on Together all the more, and it demonstrates to us all that as long as The New Pornographers put in all the pieces, they can create great records just like the one we find here.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/new_pornographers_your_hands_together.mp3]

Download: New Pornographers – Your Hands Together [MP3]

New Tunes from Cats on Fire

In case you missed Cats On Fire‘s last record, Our Temperance Movement, the first thing you should do is go get your hands on it; it’s a gem of a pop record.  But, now the band are back with a collection of rarities, B-Sides and what-nots.  The album is called Dealing in Antiques, and it features 20 tracks from the band; you can’t argue with that.  We’ve got the album opener, which is a cover of White Town‘s “Your Woman.”  You’ll be able to find the record in stores next week, or you can order it straight from Matinee Recordings, which has tons of other great bands you need to check out while you’re at it.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/cats09.mp3]

Download: Cats on Fire – Your Woman [MP3]

New Tunes from The Forest & The Trees

As usual, I’ve stumbled across an incredible tune from another Sweden band.  The group is named The Forest & the Trees, and they use catchy guy/girl dual vocals to coincide with their brand of melodious pop music.  This tune features some incredible drum work, which is what propels the song along, but deep beneath lives audible joy.  If you like what you hear, you can go to the band’s WEBSITE to hear the entirety of their self-titled record before it comes out in the states!

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/02-To-the-Forest-I-Need-Some-Pe.mp3]

Download: The Forest & the Trees – To the Forest (I Need Some Peace) [MP3]

These United States @ Emos (5/4)

Date Tuesday, May 4th
Location Emos
Doors 900p
Tickets $8 from Ticket Web

It’s a slow week in the Austin music scene, so you better catch on to the good shows while they’re here. These United States will bring their energetic pop tunes, which we’ve talked to you about before, to Austin this Tuesday night.  They’ll be taking the stage with local bands Zookeeper and Jesse Torrisi.  Everything about this show indicated a good time: you have good tunes from all bands and its only $8!  Sounds like you already have plans for this Tuesday night.

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

Download: These United States – Everything Touches Everything [MP3]


Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record

Rating: ★★½ · ·

It’s been a good five years since we’ve heard from Canadians Broken Social Scene, and with their return, news comes that the large entourage has dwindled to a merry band of six (now with even more guests!).  How would the departure, or lack of involvement of key members, play out on the band’s new album, Forgiveness Rock Record?  Honestly, this album will be a divisive one, at least it looks that way now.  Some will find they love it from the start, while others (like myself) will be reluctant to completely disregard it due entirely to the band’s back catalogue and the ridiculous talent pool still intact.

By now you’ve all heard “World Sick,” but in contrast to the rest of the album, it feels really as if the song was sort of phoned in, for lack of better wording.  It appears as if the band, unsure of their identity as a six piece, fell upon common ground from days of old, in hopes of establishing their footing.  You’ll find the crashing percussion, though it seems a little bit cleaner, and the swelling vocals during the chorus.  Sorry, but you’ve done it better.  Similarly, the following song, “Chase Scene” has this driving electronic feel, but for some reason, it lacks that emotional release that made the band so enchanting.

Opening moments of “Texico Bitches” build great possibilities, relying upon the great guitar hook and Drew’s vocals to draw you in, and while that hook remains, it gets buried in the rest of the textural elements, such as string instruments, that are piled onto everything here. Still, this is the first song I think I really enjoyed, which is more than can be said for the following tune “Forced to Love.”   The vocal delivery is enough to turn you off every time, and all the guitar chords cutting through the song just get on my nerves.  Throw that in with the chorus, that once again seems like re-using something from the closet, and this is one of the more disappointing moments on Forgiveness Rock Record.

When I came across “Art House Director,” I wasn’t really sure where to find this song.  It’s full of horns, and it sounds a lot more like they’re channeling a bit of Guided by Voices, but as you listen to this song more, this is precisely what you wanted the group to do.  They’re throwing something entirely new into the mixture; it feels fresh immediately, yet still remains a since of smooth pop that the band tends to evoke.  Throw this in with “Ungrateful Little Father” and you have the band going places where they haven’t gone before, so you get excited.  The latter song uses Drew’s vocal as the focus, then throws in the pop instrument collage, crafting careful cacophony.

Those looking for old friends will find their joy in “Sentimental Xs” as Emily Haines of Metric makes her appearance.  Her coy little voice seems to float atop the song, as layer upon layer continues to build.  There’s electronic blips, percussion, feuding guitar lines. and despite being a good song, it doesn’t explode where you want it to, instead it remains sort of reined in to the album.  You’ll echo these exact sentiments the more you listen, waiting for the classic sound of Broken Social Scene to pop its head out.

Here’s the thing with this album: it doesn’t ever quite deliver.  I will admittedly agree that there are moments of brilliance, creativity and such all over this record, but they don’t ever seem to come together.  In the past, you always felt like no one in the band was in control, that they could release furious pop on you at any moment.  Here, Broken Social Scene seem to have gotten a bit more cohesion with the group, but in doing so, they’ve made their sound less dangerous and a little watered down.  Perhaps I’m just jaded by personal relationship with past records, but isn’t that the case with this band?  Don’t you just love that one record, that one perfect song?  You do; you know it, and I’m positive that in my world, Forgiveness Rock Record just doesn’t hold water to those moments.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/06-Art-House-Director.mp3]

Download: Broken Social Scene – Art House Director [MP3]

New Tunes from Quiet Company

If you’ve been involved with the Austin music scene for a bit, we’re sure you’ve heard of Quiet Company, at least we hope you have.  The band is about to release their new EP, Songs for Staying In, and based on the lead track, it’s going to be one of those collections of songs that’s sure to get stuck in your head this Spring.  It’s straight pop music, but the sort that comes with lush orchestration and warm melodies.  You can catch the band this week for their CD release at Encore, though the hard release isn’t scheduled until May 11th.  Get on board now; these guys are going places.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/01-How-Do-You-Do-It_-1.mp3]

Download: Quiet Company – How Do You Do It [MP3]

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