Hunx and His Punx – Too Young To Be In Love

Rating: ★★★★½

It’s a shame that people tend to associate Hunx and His Punx with some sort of gay punk movement, though he doesn’t do much to do distinguish himself from that image.  However, Too Young To Be in Love is probably one of the most enjoyable releases that should be on everyone’s radar, yet somehow it still seems to be sort of a small blip. Shame on us, as I haven’t had this much fun listening to a record in some time, not to mention the fact that it was produced by one of the Voidoids!

When you jump into “Lovers Lane,” you better be ready to grab a hold of the nearest person to you, swing them in your arms, and spin spin spin.  Hunx has that spoken word delivery you’ve heard from the 50s soundtracks of your parents, then you add in the gentle growl of Shannon Shaw of Shannon and the Clams; you’ll want to play this track at your next barbecue.  And it just walks right into “Hes Coming Back,” which has a similar appeal, but here you’re going to have a bit more of a stomp going on, as the groovy drumming definitely has the toes a tapping.

Perhaps there is an innocent nostalgia in everything Hunx and His Punx does, but that’s precisely why we’re all going to have so much fun listening to this record this year.  Listening to the title track, “Too Young To Be in Love,” you have the absolutely perfect song to close out the night, if your night happens to be some giant hipster-laden prom-type affair.  These are songs where you can roll your window down and tap your fingers to the rhythm on your steering wheel, or perhaps you’d rather just have nice gentle dance around the living room with your significant other while dinner cooks on the stove.  Everything you’ll find on Too Young To Be in Love is full of vibrant tracks that warm your heart, and it would probably do the same for your parents, not to mention their parents.

If you’re looking for faster paced songs, you’re likely to find what your looking for on the latter half of the album, in so far as Hunx can only speed it up so much.  Tracks like “Bad Boy” and “Tonite Tonite” definitely have a more forceful approach to the sheer joy of this record, though there’s an ability to slow it down amidst a heavier footed drummer. As these songs jangle and Shannon adds oohs and ahhs in the background, you’re caught up all over again.  It’s hard, however, to even differentiate these songs from those on the earlier half of the LP, as the whole thing sounds so cohesive, so well put together.

It’s hard to really say who will fall in love with this record, though Hunx and His Punx clearly have made one of the most enjoyable releases of the year.  Perhaps Too Young To Be In Love will get overshadowed as too nostalgic for its own good, or too this or too that.  But, one thing is for sure, you’re not likely to find so many catchy songs lined in a row that are going to make you fell young and innocent all over again, or keep you feeling young if that’s the case. I don’t know, but if this is the gay punk movement, I think it’s time I join.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/HX_LoversLane.mp3]

Download: Hunx and His Punx – Lovers Lane [MP3]

The album is out now on Hardly Art. Hunx comes to Austin on 4/12 at Emos.

Top Ten SXSW Artists

It has taken us just about a week to come to a reasonable consensus about who we loved the most during SXSW.  We compiled our lists based on individual preferences and tried to give you a broad range of acts, so now you can consider our SXSW coverage complete with our list of the ten best bands we saw.

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New Tunes from Low

This tune has been all over since Friday, but it’s precisely the type of track that’s drawn me to Low for the past decade or so, which means I have to post it right?  You’ll find the following tune on the band’s upcoming album, C’mon Baby, which Sub Pop is putting out on April 12th.  While their last few records have demonstrated an edgier band, one that is much more forceful, long time fans will surely find this record a return to form, if one is to even say the band has fallen off form (they haven’t!).  On this track you’ll find Mimi softly singing you into submission, as the band takes a much quieter approach to the orchestration and arrangements; this is the sort of stuff that will make you fall in love with Low, surely.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Low-Especially-Me.mp3]

Download: Low – Especially Me [MP3]

Generationals – Actor Caster

Rating: ★★★½ ·

On their 2009 album, Con Law, the duo known as Generationals sort of left their mark by being all over the place, touching on various genres of modern indie pop.  For their second album, Actor Caster, the band sounds a lot more confident, clearly having spent loads of time developing their sound into a cohesive gem of an album, ready for mass consumption by anyone and everyone.

Kicking off the party with “Ten Twenty Ten” seems like as good an option as any for the band, as it definitely has this rootsy pop-rock guitar bubbling through it, ready to boil over with melodic pop momentum.  Here the band sounds really steady, and instead of hitting you over the head with hooks like on their last release, those moments slowly build beneath the songs on Actor Caster, making it more infectious the more you listen.  Similarly, “I Promise” uses this jangling sunny guitar line to reach up and grab you and carry you swinging arm in arm out the door. A slight piano track in the background adds to the jangling, giving more texture to the band’s sound, again making lasting impressions.

Of course, the band will definitely find themselves compared to other groups with some of the tracks present here, namely comparisons to The Drums.  But, unlike the latter, Generationals have something stronger in their summery swagger, such as “You Say It Too.”  It’s got that clever little surf-rock guitar hook here, and vocals upon vocals, some oohs to boot, but it’s got more substance than other like-minded groups.  In “Goose & Gander” you’ll find yourself sitting at your desk, or wherever  you are, tapping your feet.  You can try all you want to avoid it, but once a hook inserts itself in your subconscious, there’s nothing that will get you away from happily swaying moments from left to right.

You’ll still be able to find bits of pop experimentation on this record, so don’t go thinking it’s all same-old same-old.  “Tell Me Now” is probably one of the more distinctive songs on this entire collection, and it’s the vocals that seem to take hold of you here, as opposed to the overall hooks of guitars and melodies.  That’s probably one of the greatest things about listening to Generationals, they just have an arsenal of hooks and pop wonderment that will instantly win you over; there’s no fighting it folks, so you may as well just let yourself get absorbed in it all.  Whether you want a jangling guitar, or a piano-laden track or even a sing-a-long chorus, you’re going to find it here.

In the end, their ability to harness that exuberant energy into a more confined sound is going to be greatly beneficial. Actor Caster is just chock full of hit after hit, begging you to open up the windows and share these joyous listening moments with anyone, and everyone, who is willing to open their ears. At the end of the day, Generationals have constructed yet another record full of tracks that you can, and should, take anywhere, as they’ll be around for some time, destined to bring you every bit of sun your heart desires.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/09_Greenleaf.mp3]

Download: Generationals – Greenleaf [MP3]

New Track from Gold Bears

First, I’d like to take a minute to thank my fictitious friend Toby over at Finest Kiss for alerting me to this band.  Gold Bears are a group from Atlanta, and they seem perfect to fit right into the stable of Slumberland Records, who will be releasing a full-length from the group later on this year.  But, what you need to know is that this track is on a recent 7″ (on Cloudberry) and it sounds just like Cloud Nothings, minus the lo-fi tag, and with a more adult lyrical approach.  Don’t get be wrong, both options are great, but I definitely am enjoying the more developed vocal approach apparent on this track.  Give this a spin, and get ready for big things from this group.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/GoldBears-SomethingToThinkAbout.mp3]

Download: Gold Bears – Something To Think About [MP3]

The Strokes – Angles

Rating: ★★½ · ·

You might remember the Strokes as the saviors of rock n’ roll who quietly disappeared into the night, only to form several side-projects, hinting that they might never return.  Well, they’ve returned now, and while there are definitely bright spots, Angles isn’t the album of triumphant return that we all pined for during their absence.

“Machu Picchu” is a reserved album opener, with half-hearted guitar lines opening up the entire affair.  Julian Casablancas’ voice still sounds familiar, enough to give the song some credence, although the continuing trickling guitar work just holds the song back.  But, “Under the Darkness,” the second track, is that gem of a Strokes song that we’ve been missing for quite some time.  It’s filled with those sharp guitar cuts and fantastic bass work, just a bit more polished than earlier works off Is This It.  Julian has a great performance here, getting gruff and angry during the chorus.  In fact, this might go up the charts as one of the better tunes they’ve recorded, in one man’s opinion. Then, they recover back into mediocrity.

“Two Kinds of Happiness” is a cheesy little number, reminiscent of a band trying to break into the MTV culture of the 80s; it’s lacking creativity and sharpness, with Casablancas coming off as disinterested, more so than his usual stance. “You’re So Right” doesn’t do too much to change that, although the middling section is a lot more endearing than that buzzsaw guitar churn that serves as the backbone of the track.

Still, this album goes back and forth between being catchy and boring, which makes it a hard record to really get your head around. “Taken For a Fool” features Julian providing some charming vocals, and that bass line is something that they’ve always done well, so it’s no surprise it sounds so good here.  And the chorus of this track is probably one of the brightest moments present in all of Angles.  “Call Me Back” reminds me of the tracks off First Impressions of Earth that seemed more like a place for Julian to prove doubters wrong in regards to his voice, as it’s nothing more than an exercise for him, with the rest of the band just sort of standing in the background while he takes the lead.

Then comes a track like “Gratisfaction,” which definitely has a bit of swagger to it, something we all appreciated about the band, though it has a more modern pop twist. It will make you yearn for similar tracks, the kind that could have easily saved Angles, making it more than a sub-par effort. Toss that in with Angles’ closer, “Life is Simple in the Moonlight,” and you wonder if the band does indeed have more to offer us, as these are some of the better tracks on the collection.  The last track, especially, sounds like the band’s natural progression, something we might have been able to foresee after all this time.

You see, the problem with The Strokes is that a lot of us probably feel like have a lot invested in the band; we might even believe that it helped bring us back to rock n’ roll back in the early 2000s.  All of this makes it harder to digest Angles, as clearly there are some solid tracks, but overall, it just doesn’t live up to our expectations of what the band should sound like in our minds.  With that, many listeners will find themselves disenchanted, losing faith in the band that helped us believe all over again.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/01-Under-Cover-Of-Darkness.mp3]

New Song from The Elected

It’s been quite some time since we’ve heard anything from anyone aside from Jenny Lewis in the Rilo Kiley camp, but it seems that the once retired Blake Sennett has put down some tracks of his own. He’ll be releasing his newest record under his The Elected moniker for Vagrant Records on May 17th titled Bury Me in My Rings.  Listening to this song reminds me of the early work of RK, when used solid harmonies to provide a bit of summery pop to listeners.  I’ve always liked Blake’s voice, ever since his early days on Boy Meets World, so I’m happy to hear him back doing what he does best.  Lets hear it for Joey the Rat.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Babyface.mp3]

Download: The Elected – Babyface [MP3]

New Music from Title Tracks

If you haven’t been introduced to John Davis before, you must’ve been hiding behind a rock of some sort. He was in Q and Not U, one of the phenomenal Dischord bands and he fronted Georgie James for a bit.  Both bands earned a respectable following, but now John’s working on his new group, Title Tracks, who are about to release their second album, In Blank, on April 19th via Ernest Jenning Records. These tunes are full of a steadier, less angular guitar groove, allowing Davis more room to develop his vocals, not to mention his overall craftsmanship.  If the rest of the record sounds anything like this, we’re destined for another brilliant work by one of the most under-appreciated songwriters around.  You can also check out another track from the upcoming record on his SITE.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/titletracksalltricks.mp3]

Download: Title Tracks – All Tricks [MP3]

New Track from Blue Skies for Black Hearts

Portland seems to be known for the down-trodden style of tunes coming out, or something folky, right?  Well, I’m excited to bring you a bit something different from the band Blue Skies for Black Hearts, who have a new album called Embracing the Modern Age coming out on April 19th.  Listening to the new single “Majoring in the Arts” reminds me a lot of classic power-pop, except this time it’s the decaf version, which is really what grabbed me.  Sometimes you like to sit back, take the groove in, and just tap your feet a little bit, which is exactly the case with this track.  You get the feeling the whole record’s going to be nothing but gems. Try this one out.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/MajoringintheArts.mp3]

Download: Blue Skies for Black Hearts – Majoring in the Arts [MP3]

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