New Tunes from Admiral Radley

I”ve been waiting to actually get a listen to Admiral Radley for sometime, as the band is made up of two of my favorites, Grandaddy and Earlimart, so when this jam surfaced Friday (via ThaGum) I jumped on it.  It’s everything you sort of expected it to be, with Jason Lytle singing over electronic infused pop, seemingly longing to be back in California?  While it’s not the best work lyrically, it shows a lot of promise, and only furthers our anticipation for what the band’s album, I Heart California, hits stores July 13th.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/1-I-Heart-California-1.mp3]

Download: Admiral Radley – I Heart California [MP3]

The National – High Violet

Rating: ★★★★½

When this album first came to me I must admit that it was not as immediately as enticing as I had hoped.  Steady listening rotations slowly worked this album into the expected experience that I had hoped for from The National‘s High Violet.  While I’m not coming out to say that this is the band’s best work (time will tell friends), I’ll admit that their continued growth and attention to details makes the group unstoppable, as they put out records that continue to be played on repeat at my house, and that of all my close associates.

“Terrible Love” begins rather slowly. sneaking its way to a catastrophic end of sonic force.  Matt Berninger’s vocals really are something other worldly, as demonstrated here; it’s as if you’re listening to your father or grandfather tell a story of his trials and tribulations, as demonstrated by this opening track.

Early press discussed the darker dimension of the album, and you can get that feeling, even if you went by the track titles alone.  But, songs such as “Sorrow” and “Anyone’s Ghost” indicate that something went missing in the life of the narrator, which we can assume might be Berninger himself.  It’s all very melancholic, and is increased by the baritone vocal quality, but the darkness is what makes this album so striking, like everyone’s favorite lyric from “Conversation 16,” “I was afraid I’d eat your brains/cause I’m evil.”  It’s interesting trying to decipher between singer and narrator, as clearly these are the dark times of love for one of our two heroes.

While a lot of the praise for The National‘s dynamic is always given to the Dessner duo, this album clearly demonstrates the power that Bryan Devendorf wields in the band.  Whether it be his machine gun snare hits, his cymbal work, or his precision drum fills, he is the one piece that continues to amaze as you listen to High Violet (“Mr November” anyone?).  Still, one of the strengths of the band does rely upon the Dessner’s usage of varying dynamics, even those that are most subtle.  For instance, there’s a moment in “Little Faith” where everything seems to empty out, albeit very briefly, before going back into the song.  Such attention to detail is used time and time again like the accompanying strings in “Afraid of Everyone” that eventually meet up with a little discordant guitar; all this happens before the number even sets off entirely.

You continue through this collection of songs, and each song strikes a different chord within.  “Bloodbuzz Ohio” is probably the most straightforward rock song on the album, but you can’t help but feel the alienation in the song as Berninger croons that “Ohio don’t remember me.”  Once again, the loud-soft dynamic, even used for just one phrase, makes the lyrics, and the song, hit some sort of nerve for the listener.   And you can juxtapose the rock element with a song like “Runaway” that seems to sort of ebb and flow in the middle of the song.  If it weren’t for the subtle touches and vocals, this could very well fall under some folk realm, and yet the song seemingly climbs to a climactic point that it never quite reaches, forever holding back, holding you, the listener, back.

In its closing statement, High Violet, finds Matt really pushing his vocals, yanking every bit of emotion he has left out of his larynx.  As always, the group never fails to make a grand sweeping move with their closing moments, as echoing vocals join in here, you find yourself lost in the emotive qualities of the band.  This is precisely what makes The National one of the best bands around these days, utilizing every little nuance to craft the most emotionally taxing and bewildering music you’ll find, then begging you to come back and listen all over again.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/The-National-Bloodbuzz-Ohio.mp3]

Download: The National – Bloodbuzz Ohio [MP3]

Lambchop on Daytrotter

Hopefully you all know the great site Daytrotter by now, and we’re sure you’re well aware of their great little studio sessions with our favorite artists.  They recently ran a session with underappreciated Merge Records artist, Lambchop.  The group is fronted by Kurt Wagner, and those of you loving the Americana genre will surely find that his songs are precisely what you need in your collection.  Luckily, the session features two unreleased songs that you can download to your collection. Get there NOW.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/002-Buttons.mp3]

Download: Lambchop – Buttons [MP3]

New Tunes from Thieves Like Us

Usually I’m not overly excited by dance music, but this new Thieves Like Us jam is perfect for a Friday.  It’s got a steady groove that just trucks along, and the smooth vocals remind me of the work of Junior Boys.  It’s just that sort of chill song that catches your ear as you gear up for an exciting Friday at the office.  It’s from the band’s new album, Again and Again, which hits stores on July 6th. Now chill.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/10-Forget-Me-Not-1.mp3]

Download: Thieves Like Us – Forget Me Not [MP3]

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]

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