New Tunes from Gift Horse

During SXSW I opted to check in on another fabulous scene, that of Athens, GA.  I went to catch an amazing set from Twin Tigers, but I was also pleased to get a ridiculously enthusiastic performance from Gift Horse.  It was freezing cold (ya’ll remember that Saturday), but the energy from the stage kept me warm, albeit for just a little bit.  You’ll find a clever balance between soft and heavy in this tune “Plastic People,” which generally bodes well for the group.  You can catch more tunes from the band when they release their album Mountain of Youth on May 4th.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/05-Track-5-1.mp3]

Download: Gift Horse – Plastic People [MP3]

New Tunes from The Babies

A few people in NYC’s The Babies have full-time gigs in other known bands.  Some of you might have heard of Woods or even Vivian Girls, but trust me, this band doesn’t sound anything at all like that. It’s got a bit of jangle, but the vocals and the guitar work are a lot more geared towards getting you to bounce all about your room (or cubicle), and we can’t see a single thing wrong with that.  This track is off their new 7″ Meet Me in the City, which you can get your hands on by going to Make a Mess. It also features the B Side, “Somebody Else.”

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

Download: Babies-Meet Me in the City [MP3]

Avi Buffalo – s/t

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Eventually you run across something unexpected and bewildering.  Such is the case for Avi Buffalo, who have released their self-titled album on Sub Pop.  The band originated with a kid in Long Beach named Avi who gathered his friends together, creating one of those albums you vaguely remember hearing about, but are bound to come across again and again in the next few years.

You have to wait almost an entire minute before you get to meet the band on opener “Truth Sets In,” but the warm gang vocals, and the odd harmonic guitar picking create a respectable opener; it’s not entirely overbearing, just an assuming number serving as a brief introduction to the band before they kick your teeth in with elation.  And you’ll soon be blown away by “What’s In It For,” the following song.  Something about Avi’s falsetto resembles the early Shins recordings (also on Sub Pop), and as you listen, you sort of get the feeling that Avi Buffalo will be one of those albums just like Oh, Inverted World that grows and grows until you have to listen to it once a week for the rest of your life.

You can feel all sorts of influences on this record, which is not a big surprise from a young artist such as Avi. “Five Little Sluts” begins with a bit of homage to Belle and Sebastian before it ambles down its own path.  “Jessica” pulls out some vocals reminiscent of David Vandervelde.  Even with the allusions to other artists, these songs take on a life all their own, making the entirety of the album familiar, all the while establishing the band with an original sound to which only they can lay claim.

“One Last” mixes up the game, using a female vocal to add a different texture to Avi Buffalo. It’s a playful folk song utilizing a bar-room piano sound to give the song a little pace.  It’s not the only number here that shows the range of the group, as the bedroom quiet of “Can’t I Know” adds yet another approach for the group. But, just as you thought they’d get all quiet on you, the band brings out “Remember Last Time.”  This pop gem has great vocal performances and clanging guitars that will ring in your ears for hours, and that’s really all you can ask for, right?  It might drag on a bit too long in lieu of a slight jam, but you can’t take that away from the opening moments of the track.   Then it all closes again with the dual vocal approach of “Where’s Your Dirty Mind.”  Gently strummed guitars and piano create the skeletal backbone of this one, but the vocals are the most endearing element of it all.  Rebecca Coleman has an angelic voice that will stay with you even when the song (and album) end.

It’s interesting listening to this album.  It has flourishes of great beauty, as well as moments of sprawling pop, yet it all sounds like a concisely constructed album geared to let the songwriting speak for itself.  While at times Avi Buffalo seem a bit unfocused, as if they’re unsure of their identity, what you do get is a young band who have an extremely bright future ahead of them.  If this album is anything, its a breath of fresh air in a lo-fi world, and one that just might make the long haul in your record collection.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/02-Whats-In-It-For_-1.mp3]

Download: Avi Buffalo – What’s In It For [MP3]

New Tunes from Comet Gain

This band has been one of my favorites for the longest time, and I’m super excited that they have a new 7″ titled I Never Happened.  It features the Comet Gain trademark jangle pop, which just grows on you time and time again.  This 7″ also shows some promising leads as to the new work of the band, as it features two songs that were started by the band, then finished by Love is All and Crystal Stilts.  If this is any indicator of the work to come from the band in the future, then it looks like I might have another incredible record to enjoy for years to come.  You can get the 7″ HERE.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/01-I-Never-Happened.mp3]

Download: Comet Gain – I Never Happened [MP3]

The Lodger – Flashbacks

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Leeds’ band The Lodger have released two albums to date, those being filled with angular guitar knives and steady drum beats.  Not keen to repeat themselves, the band changed it all a bit for their new album Flashbacks.  While it certainly retains a certain sense of familiarity for fans of the group, you’ll find a bit more exploration in regards to the overall sound of the band.

With the band’s first single “Back of My Mind” you get the sense that singer Ben Sidall is, as usual, always contemplating the state of his relationships, or his life as he states “I fall to the ground and say/I’m lost in the back of my mind.”  Thematically, there’s a bit of stasis here, but the song itself is about as dense a song as the group has writtern; it’s as if the song is wearing some sort of grey (not gray since they’re British) sweater.  All in all, it’s a step to the side of minimalist pop, keeping the band’s personas while searching for new ground.

Stylistically, “Have a Little Faith in People” and “Time to Wait” return to hallowed ground, but even then the band is building their sonic palate, adding tiny flourishes that you might not pick up on, but definitely add to the sound.  Horns are used atop the hooky guitar chords in both songs, as are female backing vocals listed only as Sarah and Georgia. All these miniscule moves remove a bit of the energy, creating a layer of warmth that does indeed alter The Lodger on this record.

This album’s title track has quickly become one of my favorite tracks as I’ve listened over and over again.  It’s such an understated quiet number, utilizing the additional string elements in the beginning of the track.  While it does come off as a bit of an elegy to a loved one, the emphatic climax of the song, coming off somewhat like a Jarvis Cocker revelation, seems to show Ben moving on from this loved one.  A gorgeous closing minute and a half of the song is begun by a melancholy trickling piano just before the horns come in, as if to rejoice at life’s progress.

Whoever this girl is surely did a number on Mr. Sidall.  “Lost” tells the story of a narrator nervous about losing his girl, eventually  hoping she’ll let him go, as she’s left him lost in some confused state of mind.  Once again, string arrangements really bring this song home, adding more depth than one would normally except from this band (no offense fellas).  Still, the girl’s memory pushes on in this collection, encouraging Ben to lose himself once again in “Nothing’s Impossible,” which is probably the song that most resembles the band’s previous work.

It’s hard, as a fan, not to be in love with this record entirely, but it really is a solid piece of work.  While the jangling guitar hooks and precision percussion remain, they’ve added more to fill out the sound of Flashbacks.  Using horns, strings and female vocals to add a little contrast has created a gentle album eager to fill your days with innumerable amounts of listening pleasure.  It’s consistently good, listen after listen, making me (and you I hope) fall in love with The Lodger all over again.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/The-Lodger-The-Back-Of-My-Mind.mp3]

Download: The Lodger – The Back Of My Mind [MP3]

Hulkthrash!

We’ve come to expect great things from our friends, and we’re pleased to bring you news that our sometimes-writer, and close friend, Corey has started up another killer blog titled Hulkthrash.  The premise is that Corey will be compiling amazing mixtapes every week for you to download.  He’s got great tastes ranging all over the place, from R&B, Soul and Reggae to Punk, Garage Rock and Lo-fi.  So, if you’re looking for an hour of great tunes to get into during your work day, or while you’re cleaning around the house, hit up our friend Corey over at Hulkthrash. You can also download his podcasts over at that iTunes place.

Voxtrot Call It Quits

Sad news today in the Internet land as word has broken that much-loved Austin band Voxtrot have decided to call it quits.  You can read about it HERE from the man behind it all, Ramesh. There doesn’t seem to be a huge response yet from the Austin scene, but rest assured that this is a band that will be sorely missed.  Personally, the last time I saw them was a few years back at a show over at Emos.  I remember being really impressed by opening band Beirut, but it was all forgotten as Voxtrot took to the stage.  Their live shows were always a blast, while the whole band sang along and smiled.  Feel free to leave a comment with your favorite memory of the band.  Farewell friends, you leave a hole in our scene.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/02-Kid-Gloves.mp3]

Download: Voxtrot – Kid Gloves [MP3]

Austin Psych Fest Preview

In 2008, Austin Psych Fest was just a one day event meant to display the collision between the visual and musical.  Two years later, the fest has grown into a three day ordeal.  It still holds to its mission of gathering bands that are pushing the envelop of expanding your mind on various levels, which makes it more than just a festival of great music.  It will take place this Friday thru Sunday, and it features some incredible bands we know you’ll love.

Friday features great acts such as The Raveonettes, Warpaint (so good live) and Indian Jewelry.  Saturday you want to get there to see local favorites The Black Angels.  Sunday’s line-up is ridiculous: The Black Angels, The Dutchess and the Duke, Warlocks and Yellow Fever.

Be Sure to go and grab your tickets and spend your weekend at the always enjoyable Mohawk.  Keep it local, keep it rocking.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/01-reservoir-park.mp3]

Download: Dutchess & The Duke – Reservoir Park [MP3]

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