Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

Rating: ★★★ · ·

You know that old addage, if it works, don’t change it?  Well, for long-time fans of Mogwai, it seems that this has sort of been their mantra for quite a while.  Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will is the band’s seventh studio album, and while I honestly can’t say that I hate this record (not in the least), I also don’t think I’ll be able to say that I’m going to fawn over it for any lengthy period.  That being said, it’s one of their better releases, of the last three or four.

“White Noise” sort of begins where you’d expect a new Mogwai album to lift off.  It’s got some nice little guitar lines, one of those cymbal-heavy drum pieces, and then electronics begin to burst forth, though not in an overbearing fashion. It never really goes anywhere, yet it’s not like you’re asking the song to take you on some journey necessarily.

When you arrive at “Rano Pano,” that distorted guitar humming in the foreground really makes you hopeful, praying that the band’s just going to unleash a wall of sheer noise on you.  And I suppose that in some manner, this is what they do provide, building guitar line upon guitar line, adding synthetic noise atop it all.  However, the one thing that’s been unfortunate is that the band has such great prowess with their songwriting that they almost always show a fair amount of restraint.  Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will is filled with songs that leave open the space for some sort of sonic explosion, like “Rano Pano,” yet they hold back.  I reckon they’re probably laughing at us all, knowing that we’re here pleading for them to unleash some fury.  If you’re looking for that, you’ll probably find that “San Pedro” is one of the tracks on this effort that fits the bill, and it’s sure to be one of those Mogwai stage songs where the band completely let loose, as they’ve been known to do on occasion.

Perhaps one of the oddballs in this collection, though one you should listen to, is “Letters to the Metro.”  It’s by far one the quietest moment on Hardcore, and it’s possibly the most beautiful, if only in the sense that it doesn’t have the same tension building tactic that other songs utilize.  These are the sort of tracks that you wish Mogwai would infuse in their albums more often, and not solely because they’re deemed “pretty,” but because they provide a more subtle step in the album’s pacing as a whole.  They can clearly still show their craftsmanship as a band here, but it provides for a more dynamic listen.

As with all Mogwai records, I know that I’ll break this out at some point in my year, yearning for something that will just clear my head for a little bit, allowing the musical part of my brain empty out.  Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will should be seen as a band that seems to always maintain their skills, yet never forage into new territories.  Perhaps, if you’re looking for a fault, it’s that this record, as well as a few in the past, doesn’t see the band trying to break into anything new and bold.  Instead, it’s a good album, but nothing that will have us asking why aren’t there more bands like this one?

SXSW Watchlist: Twerps

Some good friends of ours from Down Under have been steadily putting out great music, and we’ve tried to do our best to spread the good word here in the States.  One of these bands, which we’ve mentioned before, is the Twerps.  They’ve got a nice little bit of melancholy to go with some oceanic jangle, which is just the right kind of stuff for my ears.  Their newest split single with the Ancients, Black Eyes, is out now, and they’ll have a new one just in time for the band to hit up Austin for SXSW; we’ve got one of those tracks to premiere for you all.   The Twerps will be playing their showcase on Saturday, March 19th at the Black and Tan.  But, if you’re not in Austin, don’t fret, as the band has scattered dates all over the country, so catch them before they bounce abroad again.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Bullies-192.mp3]

Download: Twerps – Bullies [MP3]

The Cave Singers – No Witch

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, The Cave Singers have a different blend of folk than most of the more traditional stuff coming out of the East.  No Witch is their third proper album, and it continues to further the band’s sound, this time adding some newer elements that give a bit of a twist to their sound.

Beginning the album is “Gifts and the Raft,” which has an extremely quiet whispering element to it, perhaps reinforced by placing vocals atop vocals.  String arrangements give the song more depth, especially when they sound like a shimmer, rather than the more pristine parts that come later. Quiet folk presides with the second track, “Swim Club,” barely changing things up from the first track.  This isn’t a knock by any means, as this song uses some more production twists that enhance The Cave Singers on this adventure.

“Black Leaf” gives No Witch a bit of a lift, with a grittier bit of guitar.  For the whole of the song, you can feel a bit of a folk-stomp building, and this allows for some differentiation before the sound is swallowed up.  However, this song shares so many sonic similarities to “At the Cut” from Welcome Joy that it’s hard to get past the track as a bit of a rehash from the previous record. Still, it allows the group to go beyond just this gentle folk with raspy vocals, moving into a slightly haunting “Falls.”  Here, the pacing alone forces you to fill in the empty space.  Pete Quirk definitely shows off a bit more range here, or at least a bit more technique.  And then suddenly the band heads off into a bit of a psychedelic folk groove mid-track, even using some organ.

It is, of course, great to have some of the past living here, especially with songs like “Outer Realms,” but one would be mistaken to call the rest of the album more run of the mill Cave Singers tracks.  For instance, you have “Clever Creatures,” a song that uses a more present drum track than I remember the band utilizing in the past.  Put that alongside Quirk giving more of a forceful vocal performance throughout the entirety of No Witch, and you have the band moving in a more complete direction.  In the past, while I’ve loved everything, there’s always seemed to be just one thing missing, but this is not the case here at all.  “Haystacks” is one of the record’s stronger offerings, beginning with some harmonica to open it all up.  But, in the middle, you get the feeling of a gospel-influenced folk song, much as they’ve all been traditionally.  It now seems that band have completely moved from being labeled as just a post-punk folk outing.

Whether or not you’re familiar with The Cave Singers is probably irrelevant by this point, as the band seem to have really pushed themselves forward on No Witch.  Yes, you’ll find pleasurable, yet traditional, tracks like “Swim Club” to keep around old fans, but there seems to be so much more within the folds of these tracks.  Just take the brief shrieks on closing track “No Prosecution if We Bail,” and you’ll see that a more rocking element is beginning to emerge.  In the end, the band seems to have grown, filling out their sound with new elements, giving us a record that is anything but incomplete.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/02_Swim_Club_1.mp3]

Download: The Cave Singers – Swim Club [MP3]

New Music from Davila 666

Considering that two of the ATH writers have spent time living abroad in our past, how could we not support the movement of good rock n’ roll from our Latin American bretheren. So here you have Davila 666, a band from Puerto Rico, a band about to release their new album, Tan Bajo, next week here in the states.  It’s a bit noisy, using rhythmic grooves to provide a nice bit of hyponitizing hooks for listeners.  If you need help translating for this track, feel free to hit us up, as we swear we’re studied in Spanish.  And, if you like what you hear, don’t only buy the record, go see the group in March when they come to Austin for SXSW.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/davilaregreso.mp3]

Download: Davila 666 – Esa Nena Nunca Regreso [MP3]

Show Preview: Sebadoh @ Emos (2/19)

Date Saturday, Feb 19th
Location Emos
Doors 900p
Tickets $15 from Ticketweb

You want a chance to get a little bit of a history lesson to go along with your good rock tunes? Well, then you definitely need to show up at Emos this Saturday night, especially since Lou Barlow will be playing with his band Sebadoh!  You might recognize Lou from a little known act, Dinosaur Jr., but he’s done a great bit of solo work, not to mention his work with Sebadoh.  Then, throw the always entertaining Quasi, and you’ve got a pretty solid show that no one seems to be talking about.  And to top it all off, you get to see local opener TV Torso, who continue to write great songs to go along with their strong live sets.  Seems like you know the place to be this Saturday.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/dreams_sebadoh.mp3]

Download: Sebadoh – Dreams [MP3]


Echo Lake – Young Silence EP

Rating: ★★½ · ·

As this is their very first release, Echo Lake are new to the music scene. They are a psychedelic/ambient pop band hailing from London, as their Myspace page claims. With their floods of gritty guitar and distorted echo-y vocals, the band fits the genre pretty well with this debut. At six tracks, it is a long EP, but each track works with the others to weave the listener in and out of a stream of consciousness.

“Sunday Evening” – as the first whispers of heavy guitars waft through the emptiness, it feels like the calm before the storm, almost foreboding. In a sense it is: then some strumming and tambourine follow, and the noise builds upon itself until the silence has been replaced completely by sugary layers of distortion, making you feel like you’ve lost all your senses; perfect in encompassing the band’s sound.

From the beginning of “In Dreams,” you can straight up hear a greater influence of percussion elements. Soft drums kick off, but by no means a shift from the distortion of the first song. The sweet feminine vocals coat everything in a bath of what I want to say is warmth, but in contrast to the instrumentation, it feels cold and almost mechanic in nature.

Next comes “Everything is Real,” which is juxtaposed against the previous song in their titles. However, Echo Lake continues with their airy distortion, belying the title, and making you feel as though nothing is real.

“Memory Lapses,” the fourth song, is complete instrumental song, and at a minute and fifty four seconds long, it is probably the song that could have be avoided when choosing songs to put on your first ever release. Yes, it fits with the two songs before it in a cathartic sense, but it does not bring any new elements to the table.

Next comes “Young Silence,” in which the guitars seem a smidgen less distorted. As for that matter, everything feels a bit clearer. Still, there lingers the omnipresent vocals that push and pull at the song, but there seems to be more clarity. By no means is it a jump in genre; I still feel as though my senses have had reality clouded for them with every jangle of the percussion and every indiscernible lyric.

Lastly is “Buried at Sea,” which is similar to that of the first song in length. Echo Lake likes to surround you with their sound. They open with a long track, and close with one, making you feel like you’ve been dreaming for the approximate twenty minutes that the EP lasts. Lke a dream, it feels as though you’ve been out of conscious for longer than it’s duration.

If you had to choose one song on this EP to listen to, I’d say that you should stick with the first track. Even though it is the longest, it provides a grasp of what this band’s sound consists of, and has the most tangible sound to follow. While I enjoyed this six-song set of work from Echo Lake, it did become a lot of echoes to handle in a sitting. I’m interested to see how their sound translates to the full-length setting. Whether it becomes banal or takes off in a whole new direction is up to them.

New Track from Princeton

It seems like forever since I’ve heard anything about new music from Princeton.  But, bands have lives too, and I suppose they got busy.  Luckily, Stereogum reported today that the band will be releasing a new 7″ featuring tracks “To the Alps” and “The Electrician” March 29th. You’ll definitely find some nice melodic shifts in this song, all going with that steady, yet smooth vocal.  Listen carefully and you’ll see some nice horn arrangements kicking in the background, as the band continue to experiment with ways to flesh out their sound.  It’s never a bad day to get a track from these guys.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Princeton_-_The_Alps.mp3]

Download: Princeton – To The Alps [MP3]

Yuck – s/t

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Listening to Yuck time and time again makes it one of the easiest albums to review.  The band hs influences all across the alternative rock spectrum, and while the majority of those are from bands of yesteryear, their spin provides some refreshing energy into a sound we’re all familiar with at this point.

Everyone should immediately recognize that there is one drawback, and only one to the first album from Yuck: it’s got really obvious influences.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however, as the band never go too far into mimicking their heroes, usually using various methods to further their own sonic pallate, which should be acceptable considering the band’s young age. Put that thought aside though from the get go because despite a perceived lack in originality, you’ll find everything you need in a great record: melodies, guitar hooks, edginess and anthem-like lyrics.

“Get Away” begins this self-titled affair with a bit of distorted guitar a la Dinosaur Jr., with a hint of Kim Deal playing bass beneath it.  It’s a reminder of innocence that we often associate with early purveyors of indie rock, doing what they can just to show off their musicianship and guarantee us a good time.  It’s been awhile since I’ve enjoyed listening to this sort of chugging, jagged guitar riffage.

Three tracks into Yuck and the band offers up a different spin with their tribute to the past.  This time around, they bring in the melodic moments of Teenage Fanclub, and they’re successful in precisely the same way the TF is; they bring a warm breeze into the guitar playing, which is odd considering the rain and fog associated with Great Britain.  But, the band also uses a nice little jaunt into a guitar solo to take the song to a different level, giving it more power than your normal tribute-style track.  You’ll find a similar stylistic presence on “Sunday,” as well, which is one of my faves here.

There are some different spins on this record though, one’s that show Yuck finding their own ground.  “Sucidie Policeman” comes off as a nice little ditty, but having a female foil to challenge the male vocals gives this song more depth overall.  It doesn’t read as just a stopping point in mid-album, rather it’s a place for the band to hang their own hat as they continue to flesh out their very own distinctive sound in the near future.  That also comes into play with the album’s original single, “Georgia.”  Perhaps it does fall into an more distorted version of C86 bands, but the important thing is that combining male/female vocals demonstrates the band’s willingness to mess with their own formula…and with tracks like all the ones on here, Yuck are sure to come across a horizon filled with gems for our ears.

The bottom line of it all is that Yuck is a band you should really pay close attention to for the time being.  Sure, songs like “Operation” definitely have a nod to Pavement, but who really cares?  I mean, are you going to tell me if you heard a record full of solid new tracks from your favorite nostalgic act that you’d be upset?  The bottom line is that despite all its nods to the past, Yuck is a record full of amazing songs that never bore you, that never seem dated.  It’s just a sign of great things to come, as there doesn’t seem to be many ways this band can go wrong.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Georgia-wavv-1.mp3]

Download: Yuck – Georgia [MP3]

New-ish Track from Tape Deck Mountain

There’s tons of bands coming our way for SXSW, and so I’m trying to cover my bases here, and get the word out on as many great bands as I can.  Tape Deck Mountain are one of those band’s who’ve been slowly flying under the radar since their 2009 release of Ghost.  As a band, they craft these extremely eerie songs, but in doing so, they’ve created these soundscapes, perfect for just letting your mind soak in nothing, well, except the music that is.  They’ve just put out the Secret Serf EP, so at least they’re cool with modern motifs.  I have the sneaking suspicion that this could be one of those excellent shows that people will talk about all week.  It’s also just a killer track to space out to before Friday hits and the party starts.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/tapedecksecretserf.mp3]

Download: Tape Deck Mountain – Secret Serf [MP3]

SXSW Interviews: Fresh & Onlys

As we get closer to SXSW, we hope to have more great interviews for you all.  Here is one from our favorite act of late, The Fresh & Onlys.  We were lucky enough to grab a hold of bassist Shayde before the band heads our way. Read on ya’ll.

 ATH:  So you’re headed to Austin for SXSW, and we know you’ve been here before. So what’s the first thing you guys have to do, aside from the business side of things, once you pull into town?

Shayde: Finding a place to sleep or camp out is always a challenge during SXSW. We’ll probably going door to door looking for some Texas hospitality.

ATH:  What do you guys think of SXSW? For you as a band, is it just like a great big party? Are there bands you’re excited to see, or friends from the road? Or is it all business…promoting the band?

Shayde: It always feels like a family reunion. All the bands and people that you get to know from doing music are all there so you end up partying more than usual. There’s never been a feeling of doing “business” for us there. It’s just pure fun.

ATH:  There are literally thousands of bands coming to town for SXSW. What’s the one thing you want to tell our readers that will make your band stand out above the rest?

Shayde: I’ve never been a good salesman. But you know where it’s at.

ATH:  You released the excellent Play It Strange last year, and you always seem to be working on releasing some sort of new material. Is there anything coming down the wire in 2011 from Fresh and Onlys?

Shayde: We have a 5 song EP coming out on Sacred Bones called “Secret Walls”. We plan to record the next record between now and June. It’s gonna be a monster.

ATH:  Along those same lines, due to the high volume of output from the band, how do you guys continue to stay motivated to write new material? Is there one principal songwriter, or is it more of a collective effort?

Shayde: The songs varie in origin. Tim and I are always challenging each other and that keeps it interesting. It’s always exciting to see what Wymond and Kyle bring to the table when we show them new songs. That’s really where the magic happens. We’re far from being dried up as far as songs go. We keep getting closer and closer to what we do. That’s what inspires us most. I love it.

ATH:  What are your favorite songs to play live? Are there songs you would absolutely never play live? Why or why not?

Shayde: Waterfall is always great to play live. People are familiar with it and it feels like such a thick song when we play it. I can really feel that one penetrating the crowd. I feel that way about Invisible Forces or Peacock and Wing as well. There are several songs that we’ve never been able to get a grip on. It’s okay though. There are plenty more lying around and many more to come. It’s never good to force a song live. Too many bands do that and it’s painful to watch.

ATH:  If your band were an animal, what animal would you be? Don’t be a kitten, please don’t be a kitten.

Shayde: I love kittens but we are definitely not a kitten. Platypus. Definitely.

Thanks to Shayde for taking out the time to answer our questions, and to the fabulous Nick Dierl for helping make this work.

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