Kevin Devine @ Stubbs (5/12)

kd Kevin Devine seems to have been around forever, and his shows are always an intimate affair worthy of your listening.  You can catch Kevin tonight at Stubbs playing his most recent album Brother’s Blood.  And, you can also head over to Daytrotter to catch a recently recorded set he did for those good folks.  Here’s a track from that session.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/kevin-devine-and-the-goddamn-band-carnival.mp3]

Download: Kevin Devine -Carnival (Daytrotter Session) [MP3]

Wooden Birds – Magnolia

wood

Rating: ★★★ · ·

Local Austinite Andrew Kenny made waves long ago as the leader of American Analog Set; he returns to Austin after a lengthy absence with a new band in tow, The Wooden Birds.  While you immediately recall his vocal styling, the music definitely takes a different approach on the band’s first proper album, Magnolia.

Musically, this album comes directly at you.  There are no waves of distortion or ambient sounds; this is an album comprised very simply of guitar, vocals and percussion.  Kenny’s gentle guitar plucking will bring to mind some comparisons to Iron and Wine, though Andrew’s been at it longer, so we should give him credit there (not that it’s a competition).

While the approach may be very simple in it’s delivery, you can tell that in the writing process Andrew spent a great amount of time fleshing out the melodies that would accompany the softness of the music he composed.  His voice, at times, seems oddly similar to that of Ben Gibbard, especially when he takes on that bedroom-quiet whisper.

Oddly, a lot of the songs do seem to play off the same set of standards, with only the slightest of variations.  For instance, “Quit You Once” and “Never Know” open in precisely the same way, which also appears to happen with “Hailey” and “Hometown Fantasy.” Despite the lack of change in much of the album, you still take interest in how the songs develop individually; this is all due to the abilities of Andrew as a songwriter.

From start to finish the album is carefully and quietly written.  It’s the type of album that draws you in with its approach to the craft of the song, and such talent allows listeners to look beyond the similarities that might otherwise render the album dull and boring.  Luckily, Mr. Kenny has been at this long enough to know precisely how to rise above such issues, and his success is just another reason why he is regarded with such respect among the musical elite (as you could witness by his recent performance with Broken Social Scene at Bass Concert Hall). Sure, the quietude of this album may not be your precise cup of tea, but it’s great to have one of our local boys back composing such softly wonderful music.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/04-hailey.mp3]

Download: The Wooden Birds – Hailey [MP3]

New Tunes from Leichtenstein

liechtenstein2It seems Slumberland can’t really go wrong with their picks of bands to support, and our friend GVSB has found yet another band on the small label worthy of our interest. Sweden’s Liechtenstein recall a lot of that all girl aesthetic encouraged by bands like Vivian Girls. Here is a new track for you to enjoy. The band will be releasing their album Survival Strategies in a Modern World on May 26th.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/liechtenstein-roses-in-the-park.mp3]

Download: Liechtenstein – Roses in the Park [MP3]

Bricolage – s/t

bricol

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Bricolage released their self-titled album earlier this year in the UK, but little fanfare made its way over to the United States, aside from a little bit of bubbling press; rest assured that Bricolage is an up-and coming act that will surely win you over upon your very first listen.  And let’s not all act surprised that this is yet another solid band hailing from Glasgow.

Here you find a band that is ready to make guitar music you can dance to, and they do it in the most straightforward fashion that you have to be enamored by everything that they do.  The second track, “Flowers of Deceit” brings to mind the boot-stomping moments from early Franz Ferdinand records, but in a much less post-punk sort of way. Guitars are a little bit warmer, as if each chord is struck with a little bit less anger/more affection.

Something sunny this way comes.  “Footsteps” is just another track that exemplifies the swinging emotion of the band.  Layered guitars and precision drumming bring to mind the poppier moments of bands such as The Lodger or  Mystery Jets.  All these bands use warm vocals to counter the angular guitars; you can’t help but roll down the window and let the music carry you down the road.

Let’s not think that this band is nothing but a modern dance troupe as they have the ability to carry a classic pop ballad along the way, such as “Plots are for Cemeteries,” which seems to use a bit of tropicalia in the overall crooning aesthetic.  “Sleepwalk to Me” is similar in that it slowly maneuvers along, progressing without ever really picking up the pace.  Even in the slow moments the band can catch your attention.

“Turn U Over” is an obvious single, instantly ready for your best dance party, at this late moment in the album, it makes you look back at the album as a whole; the album is full of great moments and great songs from start to finish.  The latter half of the album packs as much punch as the first part of this album, and the only thing that detracts from this entire collection of songs is that you might find that the band walk the same line for much of the album, but using multiple vocalists allows enough strength to each song that you never get the feeling that the band is retracing their steps. Bricolage is just another reason we should all move to Glasgow.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/02-flowers-of-deceit.mp3]

Download: Bricolage – Flowers of Deceit [MP3]

Conor Oberst & the Mystic… – Outer South

conman

Rating: ★★ · · ·

Conor Oberst has long been able to manage his own evolution as a songwriter.  Since he was a young lad in his hometown of Omaha he has asked for little help outside of Mike Mogis and Andy Lemaster; on Outer South he gives up a fair amount of the writing to various members of his Mystic Valley Band.  Unfortunately, this group of mystics just doesn’t come across nearly as convincing as anything previously released under Conor’s name.

A noticeable difference here is that the acoustic guitar and orchestration that usually accompanies an Oberst outing, even on last year’s self titled album, has always played a significant role in the presentation of song.  Even the spectacular work of Mogis always seemed to raise the guitar to the heavens for all to listen; this round, the full-on band approach that began to evolve on Conor Oberst has fully taken root.

The side effect, not only of allowing others to take part in the songwriting, but the encouragement of the full band sound, aside from the mostly acoustic “Ten Women” or “White Shoes,” makes much of the record seem somewhat disjointed.  The album seems to waver between various songwriters, and the effect makes it difficult to grasp the album as a whole entity.

The good news aside from the lack of cohesiveness is that there are some bright moments on the album that solidify the progress that Conor has made as a musician.  Many a detractor always commented on the warble that existed in his early recordings, especially when you look at Fevers and Mirrors, but that unstable vocal has long since disappeared, making way for a more mature vocal.  His songs benefit from this; “White Shoes,” for example, is probably one of the better songs he has written (furthered by the fact that it seems to be mostly him on guitar).

Perhaps this sort of evolution is completely acceptable, and in fact, it should really be encouraged.  No one wants to listen to the same record being recorded time and time again, so you have to give it to the man for going out into new territory, but in doing so he is bound to alienate various listeners, perhaps even his most diehard fans.  The error with the album, though there are bright spots, is that he has lost his intimacy throughout the recording of this album.  Where he once seemed to speak to you in your bedroom through your speakers, he now shouts at you as the lead speaker for a group of musicians.  Let’s forgive him for now, and hope the intimacy returns.

Outer South is out now on Merge Records.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/09-white-shoes.mp3]

Download: Conor Oberst – White Shoes [MP3]

New Tunes from Cause Co-Motion!

causeCause Co-Motion! jangled their way across many-a-stage during SXSW this year, and I loved the lo-fi operation from the get go.  The Brooklyn quartet is set to release a new six song EP titled Because Because Because, and we’ve brought you one of those tracks to sample.  It’s lost a bit of the speed, but it still carries the fuzz. Buen proveche.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/cause-co-motion-you-lose1.mp3]

Download: Cause Co-Motion – You Lose [MP3]

Akron/Family – Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free

akron

Rating: ★★★★ ·

When you come across the musical landscape today, it’s fairly easy to classify most groups within a certain genre, especially when it comes to independent music.  Akron/Family‘s new album, Set Em Wild Set Em Free (out now on Dead Oceans) , does not fit easily into any such category, and listeners are better off for the approach to songwriting that the group has taken.

“Everyone is Guilty” jumps the album off with a funky math rock instrumental moment, but just as you brace yourself for a prolonged psychedelic math trip, grouped vocal harmonies bounce in, altering the landscape within the song; the song progresses, bouncing back and forth between the gang vocal approach and the elemental science funk.  For the most part, this song serves as the perfect opening to the album, as it lays down the dichotomy of the entire album.  This album is one that never stays in one place for too long, combining various albums, different paces and a variety of other musical tricks to make this one of the most diverse listening experiences of the year.

Of course, there are moments when the experimentation goes a step too far, but alas, no band is truly perfect.  Take the longest song on the album, “Gravelly Mountains of the Moon,” which meanders along well enough, as all the songs on this album do, but then it is destroyed by irritating noise experimentation. Such moves are a rarity in this case, but this is one moment, of the few, when they band fell off the tracks. Similarly, “Creatures” tries to delve into some electronic drum work, and although the vocal performance is memorable, it detracts from the song a bit as the atmospherics lead the listener to wander.

Still, there are some clearly perfect moments in abundance.  The gentle rolling along of “River” creates a song that suits the title of the song, as it seems to gently move along due to the steady pacing of the drums.  It’s as if you can hear the river coming down towards you.  “Sun Will Shine” is another gem off the album, which recalls the structures of a band like The Dodos who construct and deconstruct with perfect execution.  Even the haunting moments of “Many Ghosts” brings to mind the folkier side of bands like the Unicorns, as Akron/Family uses various instruments to create a wall of oddball sounds to accompany their finely woven tunes.

For those interested in this album, you will not only be rewarded by an enjoyable listening experience, but you will find that the length is suiting as well.  This is an album where you will get what you paid for in length, as well as in the quantity of songs.  Sit back for a spell, and let Set Em Wild Set Em Free take you away for awhile.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/07-many-ghosts.mp3]

Download: Akron/Family – Many Ghosts [MP3]

New Tunes from David Byrne and Dirty Projectors

David ByrneThey first teamed up together to create a brilliant track for the Dark Was the Night project, and now they’ve gone at it again; Dirty Projectors have collaborated with Talking Head David Byrne. This new tune is not of the same vein as the formerly released track, “Knotty Pine,” but it showcases the skills of both groups.  Don’t forget, you’re supposed to be anticipating the upcoming album from the Dirty Projectors, Bitte Orca.  More on that later; here’s “Ambulance Man.”

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/dirty-projectors-and-david-byrne-ambulance-man.mp3]

Download: Dirty Projectors and David Byrne – Ambulance Man [MP3]

Cats on Fire – Our Temperance Movement

our-temperance-movement

Rating: ★★★★½

Occasionally, you come across a group that is reminiscent of everything you truly love.  Clever lyrics, jangly guitars, smooth vocals; all joining in unison in order to craft that perfect pop song. Cats on Fire have constructed 10 such songs with their second album Our Temperance Movement. Consider us lucky that Matinee Recordings was able to put out this album by the Finnish quartet.

Immediately upon pressing play, you will more than likely realize that the band shares a certain affinity for bands such as Felt or the Smiths, sharing those classic vocal similarities, but not in such a fashion where you feel as if they’re merely playing the role of imitators.  Singer Mattias Bjorkas can hold the sway in his voice just like Lawrence or Morrissey.  But, you’ll find that in listening to his voice, it stands alone an a different entirely.

Now, the band probably has a lot of influential waters that they could soak up with a sponge, all of which are visible in their songs, but a different comparison comes to mind when listening to the album.  Our Temperance Movement recalls early Belle and Sebastian records, or just your favorite pop album, where every single song is so good that it would be hard to decipher which song on the album was meant as the single. You won’t be able to find a throwaway track here, which is an oddity in this year’s music output.

“Lay Down Your Arms” has that familiar jangly guitar you’ll recall from all those classic recordings, creating a mood of stomping about your local pub dancefloor.  As the vocals sway back across the song, you can’t help but feel moved by the meldious tune.  “Letters from a Voyage to Sweden” follows shortly after, with tales of watching a cruiseliner filled with adulterers and sodomites.  Even with such a taboo topic, the song rolls along; it’s the perfect song for quiet headphone moments lying in your bed in thought.

With songs like “Tears in Your Cup,” Garden Light” and “Fabric” neatly tucked into the latter half of the album, you’ll find that your listening experience is never lacking in above average tunes.  Especially when you encounter the bookend to the album “Farbic” with its backing female vocals and bouncy strum.

As the album wraps up completely you’ll be rushing to record your favorite tracks for that next great mixtape you are preparing for your friends.  You only want the best tracks, and every song on this album will suffice to prove to your friends just how great your tastes are; so go on and introduce them to Cats on Fire.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/02-lay-down-your-arms.mp3]

Download: Cats on Fire – Lay Down Your Arms [MP3]

New Tunes from VEGA

vegatapesAustin’s VEGA is set to release a new digital EP, Well Known Pleasures, on May 19th.  We hyped this band prior to SXSW, and we’re pleased to present you with a new track from the band.  It’s definitely a track to get your boots stomping across the room, so enjoy.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/no-reasons.mp3]

Download: VEGA – No Reasons [MP3]

1 757 758 759 760 761 791