Band of Horses – Infinite Arms

Rating: ★★½ · ·

The week of May 16th features several artists, long considered favorites by many indie rock fans, returning to the fold with new albums.  Not only is Band of Horses coming back with their new album, Infinite Arms, but they are also coming in with a new record label, having completed their agreement for Sub Pop.  Would the change signify a distinctive shift in sound, or would we get more of the same?

On the opening track, “Factory,” you get the since that things haven’t changed too drastically since the last album, Cease to Begin.  It’s got that slow paced Americana, expanded by the addition of string arrangements, and accompanied by Ben Birdwell’s exquisite vocals.  He’s got something in the way his voice seems to fall off with just the tiniest vocal inflection, and it always gets me.  Similarly, one of the other singles, “Laredo,” approaches the most-rocking moments of the album, with a steady percussion beat creating the backbone of the tune.  Oddly, the melody and the structure seem super-connected to “No One’s Gonna Love You” off their last record, but then again, even with Birdwell’s strong vocals, the band does have a tendency to blend into itself.  Still, this is a bit of re-hash in these eyes.

From here Infinite Arms takes a jump into a more folk-driven sound.  Pace is slowed down a bit for numbers like “Blue Beard” and “Infinite Arms.” Each song has some gentle strumming, and the latter sound has some recording effects that give you the feeling that it was all recorded in some backwoods area.  Don’t get me wrong, these songs have some strengths, particularly the recording of “Infinite Arms,” but there just isn’t some grand statement that is being made.  In the past, there was always a Band of Horses track that made you wonder why this band wasn’t absolutely huge.  Everything comes off really mild-mannered, and for some that will be a bit disheartening.

Give or take two tracks (“Dilly” and “Northwest Apartment”) the record really kind of stays in the vein of slow-core Americana.  Honestly, this is probably the disappointing element.  Yes, they always dabbled in folk elements, but nothing quite like the woodsy “Trudy.” It lacks lyrical depth as well, but that’s sort of par for the course with this collection of songs.   Where is the balance of swirling melodies that raise into the heavens, only to crash down in some sense of quiet?  It’s not there at all, and in fact, the most rocking you get on the latter half of the album is “Northwest Apartement,” aptly named for its blatant Built to Spill sonic allusions.

Don’t get me wrong, as Infinite Arms is a pleasant enough record.  There are a few moving tracks that will still do enough to satisfy old fans, but then the rest of the record really feels like the group is just sort of treading water. Band of Horses seems to have run out of ideas, or in changing directions, the group doesn’t seem quite as confident as they once did.  All this make for an uneven record that suffers from a general enthusiasm, but that could just be my own lackluster thoughts after going through this album hoping to find one more great gem.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/01-Factory-1.mp3]

Download: Band of Horses – Factory [MP3]

New Tunes from Perfume Genius

Seattle’s Perfume Genius is a little bit mysterious.  His website doesn’t give a lot of background info, nor is their much on the gent as publicity goes, but his latest single, “Mr. Petersen” has a lot of promise.  For some reason, I feel as if he’s channeling his inner Neil Young, but that could be just wishful thinking on my behalf.  Regardless, if he keeps writing songs like this, he’s sure to make waves. You can hear more from him when his album, Learning, comes out on June 22nd.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/perfume-genius-mr-petersen.mp3]

Download: Perfume Genius – Mr. Petersen [MP3]

Fang Island @ Emos (5/18)

Date Tuesday, May 18th
Location Emos
Doors 700p
Tickets $10 @ the Door

Not a whole lot has really been said or talked about in regards to Fang Island, of course, that’s if you ignore their glowing review on Pitchfork.  Their combination of guitar hooks with various electronic touches is precisely what you expect a band like this to be.  They’ve got larger than life swinging melodies, gang vocals (which you know are all the rage) and an overabundance of hooks.  Why wouldn’t you want to be there?  You can even catch sets from other bands such as Hollerado, Zlam Dunk and Agent Ribbons.  The best part seems to be that doors open early, so you can catch some great tunes, then head right back home for a decent night’s sleep. So you really have no excuse.

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

Download: Fang Island – Life Coach [MP3]

LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening

Rating: ★★½ · ·

It’s really hard to imagine the 00s without James Murphy.  Whether he was bringing Daft Punk to your house, or whether he was manning the boards for someone else, it seems like Murphy was always around.  Now we come to what he is calling the swan song for LCD Soundsystem, This Is Happening.  Will it be enough to leave us with lasting memories of fondness, or will we turn towards indifference as his star begins to fade on the horizon.

“Dance Yrself Clean” begins the record, and while it could be a whole lot stronger, this isn’t the worst way to begin the new album. It begins with just some minimal percussive elements, which go on for what seems like an eternity, while lyrics are sort of spoken, as opposed to sung.  At the 3 minute mark, the song turns into a club banger.  While you can appreciate the development of sonic textures that Murphy has placed emphasis on with his last two album, one can’t help but feel that getting straight to the point would have left the record to start with one of his best complete tracks.

You jump right into the single from there with “Drunk Girls,” which sort of seems like a haphazard song.  The beats seem reminiscent of songs past, while the lyrics don’t really offer too much, no matter how many drunk girls you claim to know.   And from there you go on to “One Touch;” yet another song that doesn’t do a whole lot to further Murphy’s credentials in the musical annals of time.  Sure, showing the masses you can make a dance song go for 8 minutes is something to tip your hat to, if the song doesn’t do too much, it all seems irrelevant, and such is the case here.

But, then LCD Soundsystem takes you for an entirely different ride.  “All I Want” doesn’t seem to far of a stretch from some of the more exploratory tracks on Sound of Silver, and you can really find yourself sliding inside this song despite a the length and a touch of redundancy. “I Can Change” follows suit with a bit more exploration, and even pushes the dancier side of the things.  Murphy’s vocals don’t come off in that shouting chant he’s usually known to release, and it creates a joyous song that brings back the nostalgia of bands like Depeche Mode and OMD.

Then, he takes a U-turn, and sort of goes back on the promise of the last two tracks.  “You Wanted a Hit” has some redeeming qualities towards the middle of the song, and while I appreciate his stance on not trying to make hits, choosing instead to follow his own path, I’m not sure he always chooses the best options, especially when he has such quality tracks to offer, as he did in the middle of the This Is Happening. Don’t even get me started on “Pow Pow;” I think I’m owed an extra amount of time in my life just for listening to this track.  Ugh.  “Somebody’s Calling Me” just continues the downward slide from there.  It just seems like he could have done so more, and at time, the song just sounds like even James himself was bored with writing it.  Then again, that just might be personal taste.

Then he comes back with “Home” to close out the album.  It has a bit more of a singing vocal here, and the beat has this underlying hook that sucks you back into the album.  If you add the length of the song, you can clearly see what kind of dance party ensues here, and that’s precisely what you wanted from This Is Happening.  Unfortunately, the brightest spots on this record don’t really break through the inadequacies of the rest of the tracks.  Personally, it seems like such a shame, as the last decade wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun without having LCD Soundsystem in our lives, and perhaps this is why he’s walking away, as James Murphy hasn’t convinced anyone with this effort that his heart is still in it.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/LCD-Soundsystem-I-Can-Change.mp3]

Download: LCD Soundsystem – I Can Change [MP3]

Caribou @ Emos (5/16)

Date Sunday, May 16th
Location Emos
Doors 900p
Tickets $15 from TicketWeb

For those of you into collage music, and we know there are many of you out there, you’ve got to be salivating at Sunday night’s show over at Emos.  First, you get to share a night with the very exciting Toro y Moi, which everyone loves more than Sleigh Bells (that’s saying a lot).  Then, to close off your night, you get to let Caribou close out your night with a spectacular blend of electronica and pop melodies.  He’ll probably play a great deal of material off his recent album, Swim. Sure, the show probably fits better as music for your Sunday morning, but why not wind down a glorious weekend of fun by closing the curtains at Emos?  Exactly, we’ll see you there.

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

Download: Caribou – Found Out [MP3]

New Tunes from Miniature Tigers

The Gum just tossed this Miniature Tigers song up this morning, and I’ve been rocking to it ever since then.  The great thing is that it was produced by adopted Austin artist Alan Palomo of Neon Indian fame.  It sort of reminds me of something along the lines of an electronic version of Human Highway.  Basically, that means it rules.  This jam is set to come out on the group’s album Fortress, which hits stores July 27th.

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

Download: Miniature Tigers – Gold Skulls [MP3]

New Tunes from Math and Physics Club

Seattle is usually known for a harder edge sound, perhaps even with a blend of hippy in there somewhere, so its no surprise that Math and Physics Club haven’t gotten too much attention out that way.  Luckily, we’re here to set things straight, as their breezy pop jams always bring a ray of light into our days (not to mention a little good-hearted nerdiness).  The band has a new album titled I Shouldn’t Look as Good as I Do, and it will be released on June 12th by my favorite label Matinee Records.  Enjoy the sun.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/mapc07.mp3]

Download: Math and Physics Club – Jimmy Had a Poloaroid [MP3]

New Tunes from Neverever

You may not have herad of Neverever just yet, but then again, you might have heard of them, and never ever known it.  The group, comprised of Jihae Simmons and Wallace Meek used to go by the name Champagne Socialists, and Wallace was in one of my favorites, Bricolage.  Now, they have Neverever, a sweet little classic pop group based in LA.  I’ve been playing this bouncy little number, with its warm “ooohs” floating over it, all morning long.  You should too.  Their debut Angelic Swells will be out May 25th on Slumberland Records. Another jam, “Young and Dumb” is available HERE.

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

Download: Neverever – The Young Runaways [MP3]

New Tunes from 800Beloved

It’s been awhile since I’ve heard something like this come out of Michigan, but I know its no fluke, as 800Beloved released a solid debut titled Bouquet almost a year ago.  They’re back now, with their new album, Everything Purple, and it’s full of simple dream pop.  This tune will surely remind you of Pains of Being Pure at Heart, but just take a bit of that jangle guitar, smooth it out, and clear up the vocals just a touch.  If you ask me, it makes for a pretty incredible sound.  You can stream the new album HERE.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/01-Everything-Purple-1.mp3]

Download: 800Beloved – Everything Purple [MP3]

Thee Oh Sees – Warm Slime

Rating: ★★★ · ·

San Franciscos’ Thee Oh Sees (formerly a dozen different names) just can’t seem to stop putting out recording after recording.  Lately, the psychedelic stylings have garnered continuous praise, allowing the band to increase their stake in the market share.  While they maintain the sound of Nuggets-era rock on their new album Warm Slime, they still do just enough to keep things relevant to today’s musical world.

When you open with a title track, like “Warm Slime” its really making a statement. Sure, the song is fueled by feedback and echoing vocals that sort of put you into a trance, but what really encourages the trance mentality here is that the song goes on for close to fourteen minutes.  At times, it seems as if you’re stuck in some sort of mind-warp, looping back and back and back again.  Had they kept it close to three or four minutes, most people would agree that this is a pretty solid track, but going on and on just seems like the band, and listener, just can’t escape.

Once you get past that epic little bit, you’ll find that you can have quite a bit of fun with Warm Slime.  Bouncing along to the swinging “I Was Denied” is highly recommended, and why not sing a long with the “la la la la” chorus that bangs with the crashing of the cymbals.  This is where this band was supposed to be, bringing a little sun-tinged psychedelia.  The fun doesn’t stop here either, as “Everything Went Black” has this sort of stomp to it that you usually associate with your dad’s obscure classic rock collection.  Yet, the delivery of the vocals does bring it into the present, even though such gentle shouting can surely be traced back to rock n’ roll ancestry.

Thee Oh Sees seem to be at their best when their rushing to fit everything into under three minutes. “Castiatic Tackle” just runs along like something straight out of The Cramps catalog, which really isn’t a bad thing, though with the speed, that rock-a-billy beat is a touch more disguised.  “Mega-feast” is probably my favorite track on Warm Slime.  It’s got all sorts of musical allusions: surf-rock, psychedelia, punk, rock-a-billy, and garage.  Toss it all in a blender and you end up with one killer hodgepodge song.  Then it all comes to a quick close with “MT Work,” and it’s here where you start to find things you could consider a detractor from this album.

Well, the detractors are all over this album, but you only really focus on them when the album comes to its close.  You’re left to wonder where all the time went, when it really feels like you breezed through everything in a matter of minutes. The vocals were shaky, but while you were having fun, you didn’t seem to notice.  Still, it doesn’t sit entirely well to have a lopsided album; you can almost take the first track and say its longer than the first.  These are all mild complaints, as fans of Thee Oh Sees already know what they’re in for, but if you’re not, you might want to preview Warm Slime for just a bit before you end up feeling like you’ve been duped.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Thee-Oh-Sees-I-Was-Denied.mp3]

Download: Thee Oh Sees – I Was Denied [MP3]

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