White Fence – …Is Growing Faith

Rating: ★★★½ ·

Tim Presley is a confusing man.  He’s got so many projects going at once you wonder if the dude even has time to come up for air.  Can’t complain though can we, as he keeps churning out the hits.  White Fence seems like the backbone for everything he does though, so its odd that Is Growing Faith comes at this point in his career. Conjecture aside, he continuously churns out albums chock full of nostalgic classic pop sounds, benefitting us all.

Immediately, one can complain that the only thing that makes this a modern album is that you can tell the production value is minimal, but that’s precisely why White Fence seems steps beyond their fellow peers in when it comes to low-budget recordings.  You can make out audible pops and crackles when you jam the vinyl, and more so when you’ve got those iPod buds in your ears.  In a way, what might seem like laziness actually brings you closer to the music itself, giving it a more natural feel.

If you make it past the first twenty seconds of a song like “Sticky Fruitman Has Faith” you’re going to get rewarded.  That California jangling guitar from the late sixties just sort of meanders in and out of the track, with a little bit of jangling boogie to make it all gel together.  Or maybe you decide to take a little bit of a trip with “A Pearl is Not a Diamond,” a track that definitely harkens back to the early days of what would later become Americana.  Personally, I get a kick out of the little stuttering guitar solo awkwardly placed in the background–put on headphones and listen closely.

One of the things that makes Tim and White Fence so interesting is that you see his influences all over the place, and I really mean all over the place.  There’s “Tumble, Lies and Honesty,” which really has to be given credit for it’s use of the water drop effect, presumably made by one flicking their finger against the chick.  Tie that odd rhythmic percussion in with the gentle strumming of the guitar and you can definitely find yourself a magical piece of pop.  Even more interesting is listening to “Stranger Things Have Happened,” which feels like an allusion to the most recent work of Tim’s other band, Darker My Love. It’s remarkably similar to the sound, even down to the most intricate bending of guitar strings.

But, to top it all off, there’s still a bit of angst inside this psychedelic world of classic rock.  “Harness” is a gritty little number, one that might draw similarities to Fresh and Onlys, but it’s got a bigger sense of urgency to it, that is until the chorus.  However, the chorus has a bit of brightness to it, something that really made this song stand out in my mind.  Perhaps you can draw similarities within the album, as a sonic connection definitely exists on the earlier Is Growing Faith track “Enthusiasm.”

Damn you Tim Presley! How can one write a review of your White Fence albums? They’re all over the place, going between americana, psychedelia and even hints of punk.  I love it all, every single minute.  In time, I have a feeling that Is Growing Faith will be a record that reveals more and more to me with each listen, but as it stands right now, I’ve had enough listens (17 to be exact) to know this thing is a rocking good time.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/White-Fence-Lillian-Wont-You-Play-Drums.mp3]

Download: White Fence – Lillian (Won’t You Play Drums) [MP3]

New Single from Brown Recluse

It’s been almost two years since I last thought to check in on Brown Recluse, but the band has decided to pop back into my mind, and based on their latest single, “Impression of a City Morning,” they’ll probably be staying there for some time.  The band is releasing their debut for Slumberland titled Evening Tapestry on March 15th.  It’s got this smooth jangling feel to it, one that’s sort of reminiscent of all things Scottish in my mind.  That steady drum beat, overdubbed vocals, and nice keyboard moments to brighten the melody truly make me one to swing my arms about in the air in the most fey sort of way.  Then again, pretty sure most music makes me feel this way.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Brown-Recluse-Impression-of-a-City-Morning.mp3]

Download: Brown Recluse – Impression of a City Morning [MP3]

Ducktails – Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics

Rating: ★★★★ ·

It’s really quite a shame that Ducktails has to be considered a side-project; surely there are others out there who would absolutely enjoy more production from Mathew Mondanile of Real Estate.  Sure, he’s got loads of work, not just 7″s, under his belt, but his latest opus, Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics, is so wonderful that it’s quite hard not to beg and plead for more.

Given, some might look at the tracklisting and see some oddballs, such as the opener “In the Swing” or “Little Window.”  Such songs are barely blips on Arcade Dynamics as a whole, yet they definitely serve a purpose, providing momentary soundscapes from which you can venture deeper into the underbelly of the album. So don’t let yourself get caught skipping some of these elemental pieces.

“Hamilton Road” is precisely as advertised, a song built for the road.  Something about this songs gentle guitar work and barely audible lyrics really provides for genuine pop moments, the sort one would want as they head out on a long drive to clear some cobwebs out of your head.  You can continue this journey immediately with “Sprinter,” a song that seems to sprawl further and further into field of pop with repeated listens.  Three songs in, and you’ve probably turned off the highway and found yourself cruising below the speed limit on some farm road to nowhere.

MM, or Ducktails, oddly manages to squeeze a lifetime of pop enjoyment into extremely short spans of time.  “Sunset Liner” and “Don’t Make Plans” do a phenomenal job of packing all these carefully crafted moments into a span just over two minutes.  Its full of guitar work that seems both intricate and delicate, yet understated, immersing every listener in a gentle trance of sorts; one that rewards you each time you fall deeper into its path.  For some reason, Arcade Dynamics, manages to clean out your mind, which is peculiar, if and only for the fact that it seems so simple.  Perhaps that’s it; simplicity often provides the most impact.

While some might think it strange that such an elegant piece of bedroom pop would reference Seinfeld, yet alone pull if off with success, but that’s precisely what Ducktails does. As the guitar solos in mid-track, providing listeners with just faint hints of sunshine, you can certainly see what sort of time led to such construction and craftwork.  Each note seems purposefully placed, draped across other various notes in an effort to maximize the final product.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve already listened to “Art Vandelay.”

Closing track “Porch Projector” lurks near the end, and that’s probably the most fitting place for it; it doesn’t detract or add from the collection on Arcade Dynamics as a whole.  If anything, the song, like the album, just takes you into the realms of wherever you wish to be.  It isn’t often that I am swept away in the mental and emotional level simultaneously by a record, but Ducktails has accomplished such a wondrous feat, only to return me back to my reality every 35 minutes.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/07-Killin-the-Vibe.mp3]

Download: Ducktails – Killin’ the Vibe [MP3]

New Music from The Mountain Goats

John Darnielle is one of my absolute favorites.  I enjoyed his barefooted performance at ACL, and I own even the most obscure pieces of his back catalog.  Come on, the guy writes exceptional lyrics, sometimes dark and murderous, other times pensive–what’s not to like?  His newest album, All Eternals Deck, will be hitting the streets via Merge Records on March 29th.  Luckily, Stereogum gave us all a nice little sample of the piano-laden ballad, which never really seems to busrt forth in regards to volume, as his previous album did.  The best thing for me will be trying to sit down and decipher just what John and The Mountain Goats really mean when they say “Damn These Vampires,” not to mention the rest of the album.

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

Download: The Mountain Goats – Damn These Vampires [MP3]

Show Preview: Yellow Fever @ Emos (1/20)

Date Thursday, Feb. 20th
Location Emos
Doors 900p
Tickets $9 @ The Door

Here lives one of those shows that hasn’t gotten much discussion, yet it’s probably one of the best shows you’ll get a chance to see this week.  Yellow Fever puts on a quiet little show, but the intricacy of their songs, as well as the duo’s interplay never ceases to provide enjoyment.  Then you’ve got Air Waves bringing up the rear, and they’ve been one of the more popular bands on the Net in recent months, so you definitely owe it to yourself to at least check them out, right?  And you can kick start the evening with Hidden Ritual right around 10 PM.  Gives you time to get your nap on, grab a few early beers, then rejoice in the fact that you only have to pay $8! It’s going to be a good night folks.

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

Download: Airwaves – Knock Out [MP3]


Eulogies – Tear the Fences Down

Rating: ★★★½ ·

When we last heard from Eulogies on their album Here Anonymous, you could feel the energetic undertones dying to creep out from beneath your speakers.  While their latest piece, Tear the Fences Down definitely holds true in some areas to such a niche, we find the band exploring newer territories, ground that seems a bit more subdued, illustrating the growth process of one of our favorite bands.

The stuttering guitar line on “Out of Style, Out of Touch” might you to believe the band will be following line for line their old stylings, yet Peter Walker’s voice has a little hint of solemnity to it, giving the music a calming effect.  Sure, there’s a bit of a guitar solo off in the distant horizon, but the tinkering piano/keyboard and Walker keep the pace in a more soothing realm. “Intimate Debris” continues the push into a more developed sound, no longer relying on bombast and sharp edged guitars.  Here the band almost takes on a bit of a folk serenade, building a collective group effort to the forefront.

But, as promised, the band still has some definite hooks to toss your way.  “You Hide” has one of the catchiest choruses to hit the Internet this year, and the rest of the song dutifully builds that frivolity throughout, though you might think that there’s definitely a hint of innocence and discovery playing a role here. Even though such moments do exist for the duration of Tear the Fences Down, they are few and far between; this, however, is not necessarily a reason to dismiss the record–far from it!

I’m reminded a great deal of Nada Surf the more I go through the record.  They achieved moderate success, then evolved into something much warmer, creating a canon of music that even the truest of pop fans have to look upon with envy.  Such are the moves of Eulogies, crafting little melodic twists, altering their sound for the better. “Tear the Fences Down” uses acoustic guitar to give the song a more natural feel, and in doing so, it lets Walker take control of every bit of melody crafted inside the practice studio.  Once the drums kick in you have a frolicking piece of genuine pop music, and while it may not knock you on your ass, it gets more ingrained in your soul with each ensuing listen.  When I came across “Separate Heart” my inferences about the band’s progression really hit me; this band is really grown up–they’re really pushing themselves.  Okay, so it might not be the most original thing to include accordion (or whatever it may be), but that chorus is built with such care that eery listener surely will find that it hits a personal note–one of appreciation.

Closing the record is a little bit of acoustic rambling, one certainly indicative of the band’s home state, California.  You probably wouldn’t have guessed such a sunny piece of acoustic pop would have sprouted from the last effort, but sure enough it has; its done so in such a successful manner that listeners might not think of Eulogies the same way.  Perhaps that’s what the band wanted all along; they wanted more from their music and themselves.  Tear the Fences Down, in both title and music, shows the band reforming their sound, and building things up from the ground.  If they do it this well, who knows how far they can go.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Eulogies-YouHide.mp3]

Download: Eulogies – You Hide [MP3]

New Music from The Booze

Getting this press release kind of took me by surprise.  You read of a band name like The Booze, and you sort of have these preconceived notions that its going to be sort of gritty, possibly sloppy–that’s not what I think of with this band at all.  At first I wanted to throw names like Dr. Dog around, but then I kind of went further into my mind, and sort of rolled around with a bit of a cleaner sound of the Small Faces, or the Faces if you’re into Stewart and Wood.  It’s got some barroom swing with a tinge of heartbreak.  You’ll find the single below on the band’s new album, At Maximum Volume, which is slated to hit the streets around March 8th on Underrated Records.  Seriously, give his a spin. It’s light, and I’ve been diggin that I put it on as I welcomed the sun back to Austin.

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

Download: The Booze – Kick Me Where It Hurts [MP3]

Smith Westerns – Dye It Blonde

Rating: ★★★★ ·

When the Smith Westerns first came about, I showed them a bit of indifference, and I think that was justified.  Vocals on their last album were really muddy, and almost hurt to listen to at point.  But dammit if the band just didn’t up and turn it around for their latest, Dye It Blonde.  Not only do the vocals feel vastly improved, but the music itself appears pristine at points, allowing the band’s talents to be presented to you in all their sonic glory.

“Weekend” really kicks things off on the right foot, and it even shines through with a bit of the musical nods to bands of the past.  That opening guitar squall, as well as many that appear throughout the record, definitely give me the feeling of “The Concept” by Teenage Fanclub.  Such a gentle vocal approach really sets the audience up for a warmer listening experience in comparison to the aforementioned early works; if you’re not hooked right away, just hold on a second. They give off a bit of an off-kilter vibe in “Still New,” using a steady drum beat to accompany the feedback of the guitar as it maneuvers sharply through your ear canals.  Personally, this is the song that grabbed me, but admittedly, I’m  a dork for classic power-pop, even if you can see Bowie/Bolan prancing around in the background.

You’ll find the band’s glam influences evolved, and they no longer feel as if that’s the sole inspiration for the writing on Dye It Blonde.  Sure, you can hear it in a track like “All Die Young,” especially with that high-pitch vocal touch, yet the band seems really bent on creating the perfect hodgepodge of all things pop.  If you can combine glam and Britpop, turn it on its head to make it sound modern, you’re bound to find winning tracks left and right; that’s just where Smith Westerns have gone beyond our expectations.  Besides, the fuzzed bass on “Fallen in Love” melded with some jangling guitar and cymbal work really provide you with everything you need in a solid pop album.

The thing I’ve noticed about Dye It Blonde is that its appeal is so large that everyone is going to discover their own personal gem, and I think that really defines this record in the long-run.  Personally, the whisper of the vocals on “Only One” grabbed at me right away, pulling me in as a listener.  It went on to move a bit away from the glam influence, almost reverting back to the days of pop that served as a precursor to the likes of T. Rex. There’s even a bit of a jammy breakdown near the end, so you know it’s going to be a rocking number live too!

You couldn’t have asked a band to do more in a short period of time than what Smith Westerns have accomplished.  They pieced together an album that utilizes their various influences, given those touches some nice fresh tweaks, and everything else dazzlingly fell into place. If you’re going to search for a record you can share with you and your friends, all of whom love different things from the rock n’ roll musical canon, then Dye It Blonde is assuredly the one for you.

Free Album from Ruby Coast

You know we’ve been long into Canada’s Ruby Coast, so much so that we had them play our SXSW Party back in 09′. Finally, the band have their debut ready for your ears, and today only they’re offering it up for your ears for absolutely free!  The album is called Whatever This Is, and we’ve been jamming to it all day long over here.  You definitely have to give this band a try, and like I said, if you go HERE, their debut record is totally FREE!. So go, preview it before you get it even, just try it on for size. There’s a small sample below.

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

Download: Ruby Coast – Stability [MP3]

New Tracks from The Bankees

Running around the Internet looking for sweet tunes often leads you to promising little groups.  My most recent discovery, and a band I’ve been closely following is The Bankees, a French group, and one not specializing in pop–well, not in the way I’ve come to think about French pop lately.  They have a new Black EP coming out, and it’s really gritty and slow, which is a touch different than where they were last year.  This single sort of lurks around your speakers, slowly walking in and out of your ears with a mellow pulse.  Maybe it is just me, but I’ve certainly been jamming to this track all day long, so I hope it will do the same for you.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/05-RUN.mp3]

Download: The Bankees – RUN [MP3]

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