Reggie and the Full Effect – Last Stop Crappy Town

Rating: ½ · · · ·

I bought this record at the store the other day because for some reason I sincerely hold fond memories of this band.  The first few records were great, and then the band slowly lost its appeal.  Congratulations Nathan! You’re an adult.

Listening to this record all day today, and last night, it was hard to remember exactly what it was about this band that I really enjoyed.  I went back to the old records from my younger days–when I was 20.  There was the answer–the remnants of pop-punk and emo. Don’t smirk! You liked this stuff too!

Anyways, in the beginning, James Dewees–keyboardist for now defunct The Get Up Kids–he blended comedy along with really solid melodies. He tossed me a few solid keyboard solos, and even through samples of hilarious clips into the album.  They were seamless, and honestly, I thought they were special–still hold a spot in my heart.

Of course, there was some remnants of hardcore on the old albums, clearly remaining from Dewees days in Coalesce. It was just a small enough dose to go well with the feel of the record.  Now, that is all that remains.

There are few moments on this record that are redeemable.  The incessant screaming is so 99′ and I just don’t have the patience for it.  And, the lyrics I could decipher were simple, though I never considered Dewees to be much of a songwriter.

For me, this was his last gasp–his “last stop” if you will.  For me, this was my last stop.  This album reminded me of where I have been, and who I have become–frankly, I’m an adult.  This record brought that to a head.  Thanks Reggie, for that you get half a star.

Cryptacize – Dig That Treasure

Rating: ★★½ · ·

On the sixth track of Crytpacize‘s debut album they sing “every note is an unfinished song,” and clearly they take this to heart, but far too much for my liking.  This song comes off just as the lyrics, leaving the feeling that they have collected a plethora of unfinished songs.

From the get go, I really was interested in this album.  Asthmatic Kitty puts out a lot of really good records, and recently, Sufjan Stevens put out his support for the band.  A lot of promise.  Then you add the perfectly beautiful vocals of singer Nedell Torrisi, and, well, the promise of this album continued.

That was about as far as the promise got for me, although I have to admit, that something curious inside me lingers to keep listening to this album–that I can’t explain.  Maybe I have to be in the middle of a different season, rather than this Texas heat.

Where did the promise go?  Probably the same place as the percussion on the majority of these songs!  It evaporated! I mean even the Five Civilized Tribes used predominantly percussive instruments. This album lacks them, severely, which makes it hard for the album to progress in any direction, instead it leaves it to meander through twelve uneven tracks.

Sadder still is that these guys have the ability to write some really special moments, such as in the song “Heaven is Human,” where I begged the guitar to break loose throughout the song, but they held it back. They showed you a guitar, a few solid lines, and then they took them away just as quickly.  This band does have a lot of potential, it is just not there yet.

Then again, Sufjan Stevens likes them, so maybe I’ve got it all wrong.  Perhaps I just don’t understand this genre of music, where musicianship takes precedent over songcraft–you can have the best musicians in the world, creative even, but if you can’t write a song, it doesn’t mean a thing.

I think you should go and see for yourself.  The band plays at the Mohawk this Saturday with Devon Williams.  You can find yourself some tickets at this convenient Interweb sales-site.

Colourmusic

While on vacation in Oklahoma, I was treated to a little melting of the face by Oklahoma’s Colourmusic at The Vault Video. They began the evening by involving the crowd in some serious stretching, just so we were prepared. From this point on, it was nothing but sweat and rock n’ roll. Musically, they reminded me of Belle and Sebastian covering metal songs; it was clever and poppy, but with a hint of some darkness. I expect to see huge things from this band in the future–and if every crowd behaves the way the one last night did, you’re in for one hell of a rock show! See some scandalous snapshots here. Read more

Wolf Parade – At Mount Zoomer

Rating: ★★★ · ·

From the minute Apologies to the Queen Mary came out a few years back I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the new Wolf Parade album.  I loved that record so much so that I bought everything released by all the members of the band. But, it seems as if all those side-projects sucked the life out of the band.

“Soldier’s Grin” starts out the record promisingly.  It’s an upbeat song from the get-go; the kind of song that we know the band will blow you away in the live setting–and they will blow you away live–I hope.

From here, you get the best two songs on the album in succession, those being “Call it a Ritual” and “Language City.”  Both songs are full of keyboards/piano bouncing heavily along, with just enough grit and clarity in the music to make them both exceptional songs.  It’s at this point in the album that we find Wolf Parade at their best, with Spencer Krug yelping at his best.

From here it starts to gently slide away in the wrong direction.  I’ll admit this: the chorus on the 5th track,”California Dreamer,” is really a rocking moment–once again I salivate at live possibilities–but the rest of the song doesn’t have much to it. Then you have the final good moment of the album,”The Grey Estates.”  Something about Dan Boeckner’s voice is one of my favorites.

That’s it though…the remaining three tracks of the album seem to me as if the band lost some steam. The songs don’t seem to be as fleshed out musically as the previous 6, and they come off sounding like skeletons of mediocre songs, or B-sides of one of the various side-projects.

My other complaint is that the vocals have matured.  They’ve lost that oddity in their vocals, which-personally-takes a lot of the really interesting moments away from the band.  These fellows come off sounding half-hearted, but like I said, this is only apparent in the last three songs.

All in all, this is a record worth listening to, but I’m just not sure how many repeated listens those first few songs really garner when paired with the latter half of the album.

Rest assured, the band will bring the rock when they come to La Zona Rosa on July 25th–this is a must see.  You can buy tickets for the show at this fancy place .

Silver Jews – Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea

Rating: ★★★★½

Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea is the fifth full length album from David Berman and the Silver Jews, and by my estimation it is the best he’s come up with yet. From the opening track until the very end, you’ll find yourself hanging on every single word out of his mouth, trying to understand each little line. Berman’s words here are at their best, but that is for you to decide.

Opener “What Is Not But Could Be If” begins the album with the darkened voice of Berman, somewhat reminiscent of a certain man in black. It’s clear at this point that Berman has definitely found his own niche in the world of off-beat country.

The album picks up pace with “Aloyisius Bluegrass Drummer,” where a solid rhythm section and a dancing piano rush us through the most clever two minutes to come across my ears.

The third track, “Suffering Jukebox” is full of sprawling guitars, but most importantly is the album’s introduction to Berman’s wife Cassie. Her sunny vocals seem to contradict those of her husband, but all in an effort to show the balance of a solid Silver Jews song.

“My Pillow is the Threshhold,” to me, comes off as an ode to the love song. “The pillow that I dream on is the threshold of a kingdom/ threshold of a world where I’m with you,” seems to sum up the meaning of the song, though one can never have just one simple meaning in a Berman song; this is just me guessing.

“Strange Victory Strange Defeat” is my personal favorite on this album. The battle of rebellious squirrels to win their freedom warms me inside. Then you throw on top of that the harmonizing of the Berman family at 1.5 minutes, and you have one of my favorite moments on an album this year.

You will find a taste of sunny California “oohs” and “ahhs” all over “Open Field,” which is probably one of the only songs on this album I don’t want to listen to ten times a day, probably just 7 or 8.

Literary genius abounds on “San Francisco BC,” the albums 7th track. See these two samples: “Romance is the douche of the bourgeoisie” and “I thought the wages of Metal should be heavily garnished.” A friend of mine told me that Berman comes up with the cleverest lines that you know you thought, but you just didn’t say them fast enough.

I dare not even attempt to make sense of “Candy Jail,” but the song still has this unending draw to me. Something about “peanut brittle bunk-beds” just sort of calls my name.

I have to admit that nothing stops a “Party Barge,” the 9th track on this album. Electric guitar mixed with sounds of sea ports (gulls, foghorns, etc), along with requests for coordinates from “lake directory,” just makes is all seem like summer.

Album closer, “We Could Be Looking for the Same Thing,” wraps up the album with a gentle number reminding us all that despite dreams and hopes, everything isn’t exactly perfect; still, Berman seems to insist that we all give it a try. And I say why not?

Obviously, I went about this review a bit differently, but that is just the thing about a Silver Jews album: no two people will ever get the same thing out of one of Berman’s songs, let alone albums. It’s the perfect conversation piece for you and your friends, trying to eat dinner as you all take turns at deciphering words and song meanings. Each person will walk away with their own interpretation, as they should. I just wanted to show ya’ll mine.

Now, if you are looking for that alt-country album with witty lines and gentle harmonies then you won’t be doing yourself a disservice if you purchase this album. Honestly, if you don’t buy this album, no matter what you are into, you are damned to admitting that you have done yourself a disservice by not allowing yourself the proper amount of time to enjoy Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea; there is only one way to remedy that situation, and that is to get your hands on this album as soon as possible.

You can stream this entire album on the band’s myspace page if you want to try before you buy.

We also have a song off the album entitled “Strange Victory, Strange Defeat” available for download:

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/silver_jews_-_strange_victory_strange_defeat.mp3]

Download: strangedefeat.mp3

Joan of Arc – Boo Human

Rating: ★★★ · ·

From the minute this album opens you are opened to the intricate guitar work of Tim Kinsella; its always the most delicate of strumming or so it seems. Its as if he is taking his guitar for a little journey; he speeds up, he slows down, but its always very personal. His work in Joan of Arc, and various other bands, has always been witness to this delicate guitar; it goes throughout the album.

In fact, this album, and this band for that matter, will always benefit from the unique playing of Kinsella. Each song he puts together has an entirely different feel than the last, yet each song on this album fits uniquely together. Somehow Kinsella consistently manages to use other musicians to construct unique mini-masterpieces of song; all these songs could stand alone without the use of lyrics.

Sadly, it is Kinsella’s lyrics, and more so, his voice, that seem to plague this album. His voice is usually too gentle to believe that there is passion in his voice, but when he does provide that passion, it is as if he straining to fake it. It never really comes together cohesively, and at times, his voice can destroy entire songs.

Lyrically, this album deals with a break-up, which has some really beautifully written moments. Unfortunately, the general theme of this album get a bit old, despite the variation in each song. It is a great album of break-up songs, but unfortunately the entire album is break-up songs; that doesn’t really work for this album.

There are two standout tracks on this album, worthy of your purchase, somewhere on the Interweb: the unfortunately named “Tell-Tale Penis” and “So-and-So.” The vocals and lyrics on “So-and-So” are the perfect way to finish this album, which continues to keep Joan of Arc swimming along in the rock n’ roll canon.

Jay Reatard Singles Compilation!

My favorite garage-rocker, Jay Reatard, is said to be distributing a brand new collection of singles this coming Tuesday, June 17th, via In The Red Records. The track listing has four old songs, which means we’ll get 13 brand new Jay Reatard songs, well, sort of. All the songs come from various 7″s, but if you don’t have those, this is brand new! It also comes with a complimentary DVD of four Reatard shows, which might help win you over to the gloriousness of Jay Reatard! According to Jay’s website, he will apparently be showing his face in Austin at Red 7 on August 3rd.
[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/01-blood-visions.mp3]

Download: Jay Reatard – Blood Visions [MP3]

The M’s – Real Close Ones

Rating: ★★★★ ·

When this album bounced its way into my mailbox, I have to admit that I didn’t really know what to expect from The M’s, a Chicago based quartet.  Their last effort, Future Women, felt sort of scattered to me, but it definitely had a few upsides as a whole.  I figured this album would at least meet the same level.

Album opener, “Big Sound,” definitely steps up this album from the get-go.  The pounding drums and fuzzy guitars grab your attention, drawing you closer in as you listen for–wait, are those horns?  Indeed! Nice move.  This moves right into “Breakfast Score,” which sounds familiarly like another famous Chicago band–Wilco.  It’s hard to go wrong there.

By the middle of the album, I had already found a few favorites–the sort of songs I would easily put on a mix-tape for a friend.  Lyrically, I think one of my favorite songs is “Ultraviolent Men,” where the band encourages us to “let them fight it out,” which kind of hits at home with my own pacifism during current circumstances.

The one thing that does hold this album back is the inconsistency.  I like a band that is willing to try new things or explore other paths, but this band goes off a bit too much.  They can’t seem to get one sound together, and I know that is probably on purpose, but it is the one thing that irks me here.

“Days in the Sun,” definitely recalls Village Green era-Kinks, with careful melodies, accompanied by gentle guitar strumming and light piano.  It’s pure 60s pop; a nod to one of my favorite eras, making this my favorite track on the album.

This album has its faults, but in its entirety, it’s definitely listenable, and at times, quite memorable.  Perfect for a refreshing day basking in the sun.

Take a listen to the album’s single “Don’t Be Late” :

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/dontbelate.mp3]

dontbelate.mp3

In Full Effect

Former Get Up Kids keyboardist and Coalesce James Dewees is set to release his 5th album as Reggie and the Full Effect. Sure, James doesn’t take himself seriously, which is how he comes to mesh the hardcore with that pop goodness–but who said we always had to be so serious? At the very least, you can tell your little brother or sister to listen to this instead of that boring radio! Take a listen to his newest song at this beautiful web site.

The Wedding Present – El Rey

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Long ago David Gedge hung up The Wedding Present moniker in favor of Cinerama. Recently, as in the last three years, we have seen the return of The Wedding Present–with two proper albums added to their already glorious catalog. Honestly, this newest one is the best work I think he’s ever done.

Our first hint at a classic return to form is his usage of Steve Albini-famed sound engineer-the first time they have united together since 1991’s Seamonsters. The reunion brings across a brilliant sound, where the guitars are extremely clean, while also carrying with them fire power. Then you have the pounding drums; the perfect mix of instrumentation to accompany Gedge’s voice.

For me, all the music creates quite a dynamic power. Songs like “The Trouble with Men,” carefully play with the soft/loud dynamic that made bands like Death Cab for Cutie or Pinback your favorite. It’s the album we all have been looking for, but we just didn’t know that it was out there for us. Well, solid rock albums are back in these days-brought to you by David Gedge and The Wedding Present.

Lyrically, he is as clever as he has ever been. Gedge comes across in his lyrics like that endearing older sibling who always has the answers to life that we search for on our own. He wants you to feel his characters and his words–and you listen. Of course, he also manages to keep pop culture references abundant–such as the Seinfeld reference in the brilliant “Soup” or a quick jab with Spiderman. This all serves as a reminder why we all love lyrics like these. For me, he is the poor man’s Bob Pollard.

This album is meant to bring perfection to your sunniest days. It makes you want to drive around town-or walk since that helps keep you in shape-with the guitars blasting out of your stereo as you sing along to every single word, as if they were your words. Ask yourself, isn’t this the sort of record you have been looking for? Here you have it folks, the completely triumphant return of David Gedge and The Wedding Present.

Here we have a new song off the album el rey entitled “The Thing I Like Best About Him is his Girlfriend”
[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/09-the-thing-i-like-best-about-him-is-his-girlfriend.mp3]

Download: girlfriend.mp3

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