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]

New Tunes from Coliseum

We realize of course that we don’t always post the most rocking of tunes, at least not of this order, but we all come from a pretty solid punk background (at least I do). Kentucky band, Coliseum, have a new new album, House With a Curse,  which comes out June 22nd.  Since it’s produced by J. Robbins of Jawbox, it’s probably going to rule.  It’s a blistering tune, but it’s one I’ve been jamming to all day long. Happy Friday Folks!

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/coliseum-blind-in-one-eye.mp3]

Download: Coliseum – Blind in One Eye [MP3]

I Was Wrong: The Walkmen’s You & Me

We’re starting a new feature today, one that we hope you really enjoy.  The section is titled “I Was Wrong,” and it’s based on things we’ve either said or reviewed on the site that we’d like to apologize for, since we’ve come to realize now that we were wrong.  I know some people want me to apologize right off the bat for my Vampire Weekend review, but I’m not there yet, sorry.  The first edition goes to The Walkmen and their album You & Me.  When it first came out, I wrote this REVIEW.  I found it boring and uninspired, especially after listening to “The Rat” on repeat for years.   Now, as time has gone on, and I’ve invested more time in the record, and seen the band perform the songs live, things have changed up a whole lot.  There are songs sprawling with emotion, catchy basslines that walk you through the songs, and then there is “In the New Year.”  Sharp edged guitars ring in your ears before Hamilton’s vocals crash into the scene.  Listen to this song, now!  For that matter, go back and listen to the record, and see what I failed to see upon the first ten listens.  I made a rash decision based on hurried listening, and I’ve come to regret that entirely.  To you, dear reader, I’m sorry, I was wrong.

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

New Tunes from Woods

Hopefully you’ve already gotten your hands on this tune already, but it’s too good not to share it with those who haven’t.  Woods will be releasing their newest album At Echo Lake next week (May 4th) on Woodsist, and the blissful creativity in this song is just one of the many reasons that you’ll fall in the love with this record.  This is the perfect tune for the perfect Austin weather we’ve been having.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/woods-suffering-season.mp3]

Download: Woods – Suffering Season [MP3]

New Tunes from Magic Bullets

San Francisco’s Magic Bullets once shared connections with members of Girls, but don’t let that fool you! This band is everything you love about groups like Orange Juice and The Smiths.  It’s got new-wave post-punk guitar chops and a bit of yelping vocal to boot. You can find this killer track, along with many others when the band release their second album Magic Bullets on Mon Amie Records on June 15th. Enjoy kids.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/04-Track-04-1.mp3]

Download: Magic Bullets – Lying Around [MP3]

New Tunes from Gift Horse

During SXSW I opted to check in on another fabulous scene, that of Athens, GA.  I went to catch an amazing set from Twin Tigers, but I was also pleased to get a ridiculously enthusiastic performance from Gift Horse.  It was freezing cold (ya’ll remember that Saturday), but the energy from the stage kept me warm, albeit for just a little bit.  You’ll find a clever balance between soft and heavy in this tune “Plastic People,” which generally bodes well for the group.  You can catch more tunes from the band when they release their album Mountain of Youth on May 4th.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/05-Track-5-1.mp3]

Download: Gift Horse – Plastic People [MP3]

New Tunes from The Babies

A few people in NYC’s The Babies have full-time gigs in other known bands.  Some of you might have heard of Woods or even Vivian Girls, but trust me, this band doesn’t sound anything at all like that. It’s got a bit of jangle, but the vocals and the guitar work are a lot more geared towards getting you to bounce all about your room (or cubicle), and we can’t see a single thing wrong with that.  This track is off their new 7″ Meet Me in the City, which you can get your hands on by going to Make a Mess. It also features the B Side, “Somebody Else.”

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Babies-meetmeinthe-city.mp3]

Download: Babies-Meet Me in the City [MP3]

Avi Buffalo – s/t

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Eventually you run across something unexpected and bewildering.  Such is the case for Avi Buffalo, who have released their self-titled album on Sub Pop.  The band originated with a kid in Long Beach named Avi who gathered his friends together, creating one of those albums you vaguely remember hearing about, but are bound to come across again and again in the next few years.

You have to wait almost an entire minute before you get to meet the band on opener “Truth Sets In,” but the warm gang vocals, and the odd harmonic guitar picking create a respectable opener; it’s not entirely overbearing, just an assuming number serving as a brief introduction to the band before they kick your teeth in with elation.  And you’ll soon be blown away by “What’s In It For,” the following song.  Something about Avi’s falsetto resembles the early Shins recordings (also on Sub Pop), and as you listen, you sort of get the feeling that Avi Buffalo will be one of those albums just like Oh, Inverted World that grows and grows until you have to listen to it once a week for the rest of your life.

You can feel all sorts of influences on this record, which is not a big surprise from a young artist such as Avi. “Five Little Sluts” begins with a bit of homage to Belle and Sebastian before it ambles down its own path.  “Jessica” pulls out some vocals reminiscent of David Vandervelde.  Even with the allusions to other artists, these songs take on a life all their own, making the entirety of the album familiar, all the while establishing the band with an original sound to which only they can lay claim.

“One Last” mixes up the game, using a female vocal to add a different texture to Avi Buffalo. It’s a playful folk song utilizing a bar-room piano sound to give the song a little pace.  It’s not the only number here that shows the range of the group, as the bedroom quiet of “Can’t I Know” adds yet another approach for the group. But, just as you thought they’d get all quiet on you, the band brings out “Remember Last Time.”  This pop gem has great vocal performances and clanging guitars that will ring in your ears for hours, and that’s really all you can ask for, right?  It might drag on a bit too long in lieu of a slight jam, but you can’t take that away from the opening moments of the track.   Then it all closes again with the dual vocal approach of “Where’s Your Dirty Mind.”  Gently strummed guitars and piano create the skeletal backbone of this one, but the vocals are the most endearing element of it all.  Rebecca Coleman has an angelic voice that will stay with you even when the song (and album) end.

It’s interesting listening to this album.  It has flourishes of great beauty, as well as moments of sprawling pop, yet it all sounds like a concisely constructed album geared to let the songwriting speak for itself.  While at times Avi Buffalo seem a bit unfocused, as if they’re unsure of their identity, what you do get is a young band who have an extremely bright future ahead of them.  If this album is anything, its a breath of fresh air in a lo-fi world, and one that just might make the long haul in your record collection.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/02-Whats-In-It-For_-1.mp3]

Download: Avi Buffalo – What’s In It For [MP3]

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