The Clientele – Bonfires on the Heath

clientele

Rating: ★★★½ ·

A short while ago, there was discussion that the UK group, The Clientele, would be calling it quits, and perhaps this is still true.  Regardless, I was taken aback, and a little saddened.  I’ve been listening to the group, and their pop soundscapes for some time, so I was happy to know that if they were calling it quits that I would least get one more album; that record being Bonfires on the Heath.

Not surprisingly, the group brought out the same old same old on their latest release, which isn’t entirely a bad thing in my book.  This is one group that’s never needed to change, no matter what they put out.  One should note, however, that their musical etchings are as detailed as the cover art to the current album, layer upon layer of sounds molded together to create one entity.

As I listen to “I Wonder Who We Are,” the opening track, I can’t help but notice that they share some odd similarities to my faves, Belle and Sebastian. Jangling guitars, and a knack for making mono-syllabic lyrics fit so well into the song structure, but what I think is still holding the band back this time is Alisdair Maclean’s vocals.  For some reason they just don’t always seem to fit the music; there’s no correlation at times.

Still, this is the perfect fall piece of music.  As each night brings a variance in weather, so too, does this album.  It’s as if you’re walking with the group through each of their songs.  The title track slowly meanders, as one would on a simple walk through the neighborhood on one of those cool windy nights.  You see, it’s hard to tie down the precise sound of this album, or any of its songs, as you’re clearly affected by the mood they successfully create.

If you had to pick out a standout track here, for me, it would be “Jennifer and Julia.”  It is the one song that I think epitomizes the years of work this group has put into their songwriting.  Subtle horn backing and Maclean’s vocals all seem to fall perfectly into alignment on this album.  This song is what makes you fall in love with this band, and it’s great to see that despite the years, and possible break-up, that they still have the knack for writing something as sublime as this.

Sure, there are tracks one can dismiss, like “Sketch,” which is a track that seems like simple album filler, but when you come to something like “Never Saw Them Before” you can clearly see what people enjoyed about this band from the get go.  If you’re looking for one of those records that changes as often as you do, but clearly keeps you grounded, then you’ll want to check out Bonfires on the Heath, a culmination of pristine, moody pop, years in the making by The Clientele.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/05-Jennifer-And-Julia.mp3]

Download: The Clientele – Jennifer And Julia [MP3]

The Raveonettes – In and Out of Control

The_Raveonettes_In_and_Out_of_Control_Vice

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Listening to the history of The Raveonettes, I can easily see why I have remained indifferent with their career, that is up until this point in time.  They’re a band that seems to revel in their discoveries of various genres, perhaps so much so that one cannot listen to their albums without feeling nostalgic for the traditional influences.  In the past, they’ve come across as a band of mere mimicry, bordering on unoriginality and banality.  That all changed when I popped on In and Out of Control.

Once “Bang” hits your ears, it’s clear that the band brought something else to the table this time around.  Bouncing rhythms run throughout the song, and the sunshine of California seem to reverberate from the vocals.  It’s clearly a fun song; a tune to let your hair down.

So, instead of treading the same ground, they go off into a more fuzzy pop gem with “Gone Forever.”  It clearly sounds like a Pains of Being Pure at Heart song, minus the echo and atmospherics.  Okay, so maybe the echo is there in the vocals, but they are so distinguishable, you can easily attach yourself to the content, should you choose to do so. And such a sweet chorus.  They stay in the same spectrum with “Last Dance,” which is possibly one of the catchiest songs you’ll hear this year.  It won’t blow you away, but you won’t mind listening to it time and time again, garnering a number worthy of year end lists.

For once, the fact that the group doesn’t seem to stay in one place actually works.  It doesn’t veer off too far from where they began, which allows you to see the lines drawn in the songwriting that connect the album together as a whole.  But, the differentiation is wholly refreshing from The Raveonettes. Even the quick “I Buried You Today” is just another mark of a band that clearly is willing to define this record on their terms.

Out of nowhere, this band seems to have escaped the monotony of their past.  At times, what they seem to do here is quite invigorating, as the band finally has the courage to step beyond the shadows of their influences.  This is new ground for them, and it makes for a remarkable listen.  All the songs have a bounce, yet they all seem stylistically different; the fact that the band isn’t trapped for once seems to have freed them to progress in a direction I never expected.  It’s hard with this approach to expect the Joan Jett chorus on “Breaking Into Cars,” just know you’ll love it.

So you can’t be sure where the material from In and Out of Control came from, but one thing can be assured for all listeners.  You’ll find this as a record which allows you to sink into, if the mood so allows, and not get bogged down by nostalgic dreams of the golden days of music…though those influences are still walking around in the background. Now’s the time ladies and gentleman to get on board with The Raveonettes.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/The-Raveonettes-Last-Dance.mp3]

Download: The Raveonettes – Last Dance [MP3]

FTC: Violent Femmes

FTC_violentfemmesFrom time to time, you just find yourself going back to those albums that meant a lot to your music evolution.  I can’t say enough about how much I loved listening to the Violent Femmes, whether it was their clever humor or just the overall feel of the music they presented.  Sure, I’d love to say that I heard this when it first came out, but I didn’t get into it until 1994 when I was a high school freshmen.  I had been sidetracked by grunge and other metal influences, but their self-titled album got me right back on track.  If you can’t love this song, and this band, then you’ve lost your way my friend.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/10-Good-feeling.mp3]

New Tunes from Sleep Whale

sleep-whaleNovember is going to be a busty month for our local label Western Vinyl.  They already have plans to release the much anticipated Ola Podrida record on the 3rd, but now we have news that they plan to also release the new album by Denton duo, Sleep Whale.  According to release info, Houseboat is slated to hit our streets on the 10th.  Take a sample.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/Sleep-Whale-Cotton-Curls.mp3]

Download: Sleep Whale – Cotton Curls [MP3]

New Tunes from The Subjects

subjectsThe Subjects just released their newest EP, New Soft Shoe. I’ve been jamming to it a lot this evening, in my post ACL haze (sorry I skipped you Pearl Jam, but I had never heard of you).  Anyways, this tune is actually as smiley as the picture, which is good since we all need a nice pick me up on Monday.  Be sure to check the group out on October 23rd when they come to town–we’ll remind you again closer to the date.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/The-Subjects-Winter-Vacation.mp3]

Download: The Subjects – Winter Vacation [MP3]

New Tunes from Chuck Prophet

chuck-prophet1While spending time in Mexico City, Chuck Prophet fended off the swine flu craze, instead choosing to pen a new set of songs. His new album, Let Freedom Ring!, is set to come your way on October 27th.  Supposedly, the lyrics will hit out at the realization of the American Dream, but we’re sure Chuck won’t be shoving anything down your throat, as he’s not that type of guy.  Try the album’s title track!

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/04-¡Let-Freedom-Ring.mp3]

Download: Chuck Prophet – ¡Let Freedom Ring! [MP3]

New Tunes from Vampire Weekend

VampireWeekendEven though the new album, Contra, doesn’t officially hit stores until January 12th, Vampire Weekend are slowly starting to leak out the hype.  They let loose the first single, “Horchata” via their web site, and the site hints at future leaks, not to mention touring random Californian towns.  Personally, this tune doesn’t reach out and grab you like “A-Punk,” but perhaps it’s one of those that gets better with time.  You decide.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/01-Horchata-1.mp3]

Download: Vampire Weekend – Horchata [MP3]

Headlights – Wildlife

headlights-wildlife

Rating: ★★★ · ·

When Headlights released Some Racing, Some Stopping, they showed hints of absolute pop glory.  “Cherry Tulips” was one of the best songs I heard that year, and I still use it, but could they build on the continued promise and move forward with their third album Wildlife?

Whilst recording the album, turmoil struck the band, and they lost a guitarist, so it won’t surprise many to see this album as a side-step, rather than a natural progression.  Erin Fein’s presence is definitely felt here more prominently than I expected, as each song is filled to the brim with her fusion of keyboards and angelic vocals. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a record you can dismiss, it just doesn’t necessarily live up to the dreams in my head; then again, little does.

“Secrets” is one of the songs you’ll definitely fall in love with once you get your hands, and ears, on it.  Slowly it builds with keyboards and rimshots, but the faster the handclaps go, the faster the song seems to pick up the pace, before it bursts forth.   Juxtaposed to this tune is “You and Eye,” which builds on some of the haziness from the band’s first album, Kill Them With Kindness.  It’s a song that seems to trod along, built upon the voice of Fein and her little electronic flourishes.

One of the standout tracks comes just as early, but the oddity here is that Tristan Wraight seems to take the spotlight from Fein.  His voice recalls the sunny-side of pop music, and the song is structured carefully around the percussion and guitar work.  This definitely is the direction I saw the band heading when I got my hands on this album, but unfortunately it’s one of the distinct moments, only because there aren’t many songs that live up to it on Wildlife.

By the middle album, the group seems to have taken the middle ground between Emily Haines solo work and Stars. Not all will find this as a disappointment, as those bands deserve as much acclaim as they get.  But, the problem with songs such as “Long Song for Buddy” or “Wisconsin Beaches,” which is an acoustic number, is not that they aren’t enjoyable or artistic, but rather that they seem to be a lackluster performance in comparison to the brighter moments of the record, and the promise of the record before.  Clearly, the lyrics point to a darker side of the human relationship, dealing with love and loss throughout as the subject matter, but one can still discuss such things with a certain panache.  The fact that it’s not there is what holds this album back from being one of the great indie-pop albums of the year, but if you take a careful look inside, you’ll find that Headlights have left you with plenty to be happy about.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/04-Get-Going.mp3]

Download: Headlights – Get Going [MP3]

New Tunes from Princeton

princetonPrinceton have just released their new album Cocoon of Love, and we’ll definitely get a review of it up shortly.  This new tune is little bit more laid back than the previous “Calypso Gold” single, and it features the vocals of Meredith Metcalf.  You’ll definitely want to check out the record if you enjoy this tune, as this is definitely a group with a rising star.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/princetonsadieandandy.mp3]

Download: Princeton – Sadie and Andy [MP3]

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