Television Personalities – A Memory is Better Than Nothing

Rating: ★★★½ ·

Following the career of cult band Television Personalities you’ll see that the band never seemed to eclipse the work on their debut And Don’t the Kids Just Love It.  All that aside, the band has continuously put out clever off-kilter pop albums since their inception, and their newest, A Memory is Better Than Nothing, is just par for the course.  The thing is, par for the course for this group never creates run of the mill pop album; they’ve always seemed one step above, despite failing to receive critical acclaim.

Choosing to open with the title track “A Memory is Better Than Nothing” is a great choice.  Slowly beginning with mainstay Dan Treacy offering up his thin British voice just before bouncing into a warm jangling pop song, all this before the song waivers off into realms of quiet.  Reminiscing about memories does seem to prove that Television Personalities will always have something glorious to hold onto, no matter how far in the past.   Then you skip ahead to “She’s My Yoko,” where once again Dan waxes about his past, mostly choosing to hold on to a relationship of the past/present.  Offering this up as the lead single was probably a smart choice, as the mixture of varying layers of keys, minimal percussion and Treacy’s voice make it appealing to almost anyone.

Nostalgia seems to dominate this album, as the subject matter never seems to stray from lessons learned, precisely as it does in “Walk Towards the Night.”  Treacy is still talking about his relationship with an unnamed partner, and the gentle strumming provides an excess depth to his emotions.  But, just as you begin to feel comfortable with the feel of the record, “Funny He Nver Married” comes on through your stereo.  Treacy sings differently here, almost entirely in a way you’ve never heard from him before, his voice floating very lightly over cuts of guitar moving in and out of the song itself.  It’s simply a nice little break from the band’s bread and butter.

One of the greatest attributes of the group pops up on “People Think That We’re Strange.”  They use the most simplistic lyrics and coat them in feedback and steady drumming, but you find yourself drawn into the depth of the song, whether or not that depth actually exists at all.  Their ability to absorb you into the music has always been one of their gifts, and the same formulaic approach can be seen in their past works, as well as on A Memory is Better Than Nothing.  “You Don’t Want Me” uses this formula perfectly, with soft strumming accompanying Treacy as a more pronounced guitar line is layered over the entire song.  It’s nothing special, but listening to it definitely creates an overwhelming level of emotion.

Closing moments offer some interesting moments to boot, such as “The Good Anarchist,” which uses a lady for the lead. Featuring a female vocal is not something entirely new from the song, but it stands out on this collection of songs, as its the first time you find such a prominent female appearance.  It’s all bookended by slower moments than the rest of the album, and it does provide a moment to pause and reflect over what you’ve just listened to through these past thirteen tracks.  I’d say listening to Television Personalities is an acquired taste, but it’s one that I feel should be acquired by all.  If you’re looking for a band to adore, then take a listen to A Memory is Better Than Nothing, then go revisit all the stupendous work in the band’s catalog.

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

Download: Television Personalities – Funny He Never Married [MP3]

New Tunes from Ugly Cassanova

Ugly Cassanova is the side-project of Modest Mouse frontman Issac Brock.  He’s recorded a bunch of tracks for the soundtrack for the movie 180° South, and this is really the first batch of songs without the band in quite some time.  The soundtrack comes out on June 22nd on Brushfire Records. Personally, this is how I remember Brock in his hey-day, all wobbling vocals with a touch of soul.  The track “Lay Me Down” really takes off once the horns kick in, and you realize that despite some of the trappings of recent MM works, Brock still knows how to write one hell of a tune.  Take a listen.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Lay-Me-Down-1.mp3]

Download: Ugly Cassanova – Lay Me Down [MP3]

Wild Nothing – Gemini

Rating: ★★★★ ·

A lot of people work their whole life struggling to make music a life pursuit, switching bands, touring and such.  Often times it comes to nought, but occasionally it leads you on a path of your own.  Such is the case for Jack Tatum, the man who composed the music under the moniker Wild Nothing.  His debut record Gemini is something of a hidden gem; it’s not overstated, yet there is a quiet beauty that lies beneath it all.  Such is our luck.

Instantly you can tell that this album is going to be accompanying you on those days when you’re lost in your own mind, as the ringing guitar sounds, reminiscent of New Order come in real low and soft.  Tatum’s voice enters the picture in a similar manner, resting lightly atop the steady percussion and guitars.  You can feel yourself lost in thought as the song plays into the next, “Summer Holiday,” which has a very similar appeal.  Here you’ll find a more upbeat pace pushing you along, and female backing vocals that add to the overall layering of the song.  It’s as warm and soothing as the title suggests.

While the first part of the song features some prominent guitar work, other aspects of Gemini are filled by electronic loops that provide a different sensibility to the record. Take “Bored Games” as an example, with a vibrant guitar wash splashing against the electronic beats.  It pushes the songs in a bit of a speedier direction, which is contrasted by the rest of the sound breezily pushing against the beat to a wonderful effect. Still, the nostalgic musical references mixed with current fads such as warm washes over the vocals is where Wild Nothing earns its paycheck.

“My Angel Lonely” has some dark undertones that exist outside of the title itself.  Echoing effects used on the vocals, along with that chiming guitar, give it a haunting sensation.   Once again, as the wash effect billows in the background you find yourself in a state of bewilderment, completely absorbed in the song.  Yet a few tracks later you find a somewhat stomp of electronic happiness fused with angular guitar lines walking beneath.  Perhaps it might encourage you to circle about your room, but if not, you’ll at least have a slight boost to your step as this song comes through your speakers.  This is just an example of Jack Tatum’s ability to mix things up, all the while staying in a range where he feels comfortable.

Stay tuned in until the album draws to its close, as you surely won’t want to miss the final moments of “Our Composition Book” and “Gemini.”  This one-two punch is surely as rewarding as the rest of the Gemini, which really proves the point of our discussion here.  Throughout a career as a musician it finally seems that Tatum has found his calling with Wild Nothing.  It’s a creative album of melody and beauty to get lost amidst, which is all we really need sometimes from our favorite records.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/02-Summer-Holiday1.mp3]

Download: Wild Nothing – Summer Holiday [MP3]

New Tunes from S. Carey

JagJaguwar just announced that they will be releasing the debut album from S. Carey titled All We Grow on August 24th.   You might no Sean from his gig as one of the percussionists for Bon Iver, and you’ll recognize a similar sound coming from the first single “In The Dirt.”  It has a bedroom quality that’s soft and gentle, warranting repeated listens as you relax on those warm summer evenings.  So far, there’s not a thing not to like, so enjoy.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/03-In-The-Dirt.-1.mp3]

Download: S. Carey – In The Dirt [MP3]

Sleigh Bells – Treats

Rating: ½ · · · ·

Sure, you could say that we’re a little bit late on getting into the whole Sleigh Bells Treats hype, but we do have our reasons.  The first one is that the album didn’t actually make it out until today.  Our second reason is that we’re (ATH) just not into it at all, and we haven’t been for quite some time (since the beginning to be honest).   The question for most of you will be can we legitimately rally against this album with substance rather than just go against the grain.

First, let me get the fun factor out of the way.  I see that some people might find this an enjoyable record to listen to while they’re prepping for the evening, and I respect your right to feel that way.  But, I’m not sure where the fun is being generated from.  Opening track “Tell Em'” has some watered down arena rock power chords thrown in there, and the beats are probably one of the more annoying things I’ve come across, not to mention the fact that they aren’t interesting in the least bit.  Perhaps it’s the banging beats that resemble some sort of cheesy radio-friendly single, or the fact that her vocals in some part greatly resemble MIA, who I’m personally not into either.

Speaking of lacking originality, my main factor for hating this band is their blatant rip off of The Kills.  I promise you that if you were to go and listen to the construction of the songs, you would notice some striking similarities.  For instance, take “Infinity Guitars” then go listen to The Kills “Alphabet Pony.”  It’s far too similar for this to be merely a coincidence, and since Derek comes from a sort of punk background, he’ll likely know about Alison Mosshart if he knows his history.  Instead of the dirtiness of The Kills, Sleigh Bells is using a more metal guitar sound, and what sounds a lot like reggaeton dance beats (the uninspired ones).  Personally, neither of those attributes really instills any emotions within, and despite being awfully loud, the musical sounds just aren’t really progressive enough to catch my attention.

And at time, Alexis is just moaning or making grunts into the microphone during the entirety of songs, such as “Rachel.”  I’m not sure how that qualifies as fun or enjoyable, but I know a lot of people out there who seem to be enjoying it.   Really, the most disruptive thing about Treats is the fact that I feel like I’m in some high school gymnasium preparing for the big homecoming football game against our bitter rivals.  Alexis is that annoying cheerleader you all think is hot, but you  probably hate (not that I hate Alexis, or know her even), who just yells to pump you all up while you stomp your feet on the bleachers.  How is that interesting?  I hated pep rallies, and having to endure an album’s worth of pep rally is just far too much for this listener.

So, in conclusion, you should go listen to The Kills (they’re far better).  You’ll love Sleigh Bells (or hate them) for all of about ten minutes of Treats before you realize that it’s not really fun, and in fact, its quite grating.  There are better bands that use electronics and guitar parts for a far more creative output.  Then again, this is all just one man’s opinion, so please don’t take offense.  You’re allowed to like what you like, and I’m allowed to have my voice, so let’s leave it at that, remaining friends forever.

**Note** This review is in no way sponsored by The Kills or approved by The Kills.

Against Me! on Daytrotter (+ New Song)

You all know we’re Against Me! fans from way back, so we were excited today when Daytrotter ran a few unreleased tracks from the band, not to mention a couple of songs off the band’s new album, White Crosses, which comes out on June 8th.  Then, Stereogum ran the album’s title track today as well, so if you’re in the mood from some rock, then you should definitely get yourself a look at both posts for today.  Personally, nostalgia will always make me go back to As The Eternal Cowboy, but White Crosses has some pretty solid tracks here, and you know the band will never cease to rock live.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/004-Because-Youre-Young.mp3]

Download: Against Me -Because You’re Young (Daytrotter Session) [MP3]

FTC: Descendents

Since Chaos n’ Tejas is in town this week, it feels a little weak to be talking about pop-punk, but I have a feeling that every kid going out to those punk shows has to own at least one Descendents record, if not all of them, as true fans should.  Now, I know they didn’t necessarily create the genre, but in my eyes, no one did it any better than this group.  I was recently reminded of their incredible power when listening to guitarists Stephen Egerton‘s solo album, 7 Degrees, which has all kinds of guest appearances, including one from Descendents singer Milo.  Not to mention that the group is perfect for driving around windows down. The lyrics are bratty and pubescent, but they did it in a way that wasn’t vulgar, and didn’t come off as a joke; after all, listening to these guys, I was a kid. Still, pop-punk gets a lot of flack nowadays because of the way its been exploited by the corporate industry, but if you want to see a band that did it faster and with more class, then go get yourself some of the Descendents. You’ll be glad you did.

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

Chaos n’ Tejas Preview: Ty Segall

As the Chaos in Tejas festival comes into Austin this Wednesday, its high time we take a closer look at our heavier, faster brethren. Our first suggestion for your ears is the garage rock wunderkind Ty Segall.  He’s having a busy year already, producing the 7″ for Brilliant Colors, then he’s got his own album Melted which hits stores next week.  Such a busy schedule might lead one to think of the recently vacated spot left by Jay Reatard (RIP) wherein he dominated (like it or not) the garage rock scene across the web.  Ty’s next in line, and in fact, has already sort of taken over.  You can check Ty out this Thursday, May 27th at Red 7.  Here’s a tune from his new album as well, in case you need more convincing.

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

Download: Ty Segall – Caesar

New Tunes from Sleepovers

As I prepared to get my rock on for this week at Chaos in Tejas, I was just browsing through labels and looking for new releases by some of my favorites, like Hozac Records.  They’ve got several bands coming our way this week, but more on that at another time.  I want to talk about this catchy little single by Sleepovers from Chicago.  I mean, you throw that old school rock n’ roll sound together with some handclaps and you’re bound to catch my interest. You judge the goodness.

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

Download: Sleepovers – Secret [MP3]

New Tunes from Parlovr

Once again Montreal is giving birth to another new band sure to make waves on our side of the border, Parlovr.  The group is releasing their self-titled debut on June 8th here in the States, and it will include this track “Sandwalking.”  It has a real loose rock n’ roll feel to it, which means the band is sure to be incredible live, not to mention providing us with an energy-fueled debut LP.  Personally, it sounds a lot like The Constantines, and that’s a compliment.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/02-Sandwalking.mp3]

Download: Parlovr – Sandwalking [MP3]

1 808 809 810 811 812 890