The Drums – Portamento

Rating: ★★★★½

After much global adoration, and possibly some skepticism, The Drums return to follow up their self-titled debut.  This outing appears to still bubble and brood, if not more so than the band’s first record, which makes Portamento a thoroughly enjoyable listen from start to finish.

If you wanted to see how the group would move into their next phase, then you need to look no further than “Book of Revelation.”  Bouncing bass rhythms control the sign, and while similarities remain vocally, there’s a definite growth in Jonathan Pierce’s voice, sounding much more grounded. And if that didn’t solve your dilemma, then perhaps you can look at “What You Were” to see the band attempting to distance themselves, just a hint, from their past. Pierce’s delivery is vastly different than earlier work, sounding almost indifferent, in an endearing fashion.  Even a horn instrumentation demonstrates the band moving forward.

You’ll still find some excellent numbers worthy of your favorite flailing arms dance move such as the single “Money.” While the lyrical content may not see the band pushing through literary barriers (that’s never been their style), the speedier pace of the drumbeat and Pierce’s vocal shifts during the chorus will allow any listener to realize this band has hooks galore. But, the first half, while catchy and superb in its own right, doesn’t hold much water to the depth of exploration the band made in crafting the second half of Portamento.

With songs like “Lets Go Surfing” on their debut, it seemed the group was intent upon beating you over the head with these incredible hooks.  But, The Drums have switched things up just a bit on this go round, allowing the tracks to brood a little bit, rather than being so forceful.  “If He Likes It Let Him Do It” has a much darker quality than most of the tracks we’ve heard from the group, sounding more like some sort of dark-wave post punk, as opposed to bright surf-ish dance pop. Even the album closer, “How It Ended” seems much more patient in its approach to grabbing listeners, coming off with a much warmer tone than what we were presented with in the band’s early works.  Musical touches are familiar, allowing the fan base to appreciate the olden days, but the best thing is that new listeners will find themselves rewarded by Portamento’s ability to pull you in for a whole song, even album, rather than just a momentary hook.

While I’ll admit that I have some reservations about the group, due entirely to a live performance I witnessed, I can’t escape the fact that the band simply crafts amazing records.  For me, Portamento is a huge step up, and is worthy of ten times the repeated listens in comparison to the first release from The Drums.  It’s got hints of everything any modern listener needs: dance, bounce, brooding, atmospherics.  You really can’t go wrong spending your time listening to this entire album again and again.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/04-Money.mp3]

Download: The Drums – Money [MP3]

New Track from The Serenades

At the moment there’s not tons of news stateside about The Serenades, other than it feature Adam Olenius of Shout Out Louds, and his friend, Markus.  They’re not crafting bubbling pop with hints of melancholy; they’re offering up sweeping pop music that only the Swedes seem to know how to perfect.  They’ve got an album out called Criminal Heaven, and it’s full of really warm numbers with swelling bursts of exuberance.  It’s the perfect track to fit into your midweek listening rotation.  Just kick back and enjoy this little ditty.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/05-Oceans.mp3]

Download: The Serenades – Oceans [MP3]

Whispering Pop Tune from White Birds

If you’re looking for something to put on in the background as your mind wanders today, then you’ve come to the right place! I’ve caught myself drifting off, happily of course, to the meandering pop tune just released by White Birds.  The band is working on releasing the White Birds Tape, which you can grab from Grizzly Records.  Word is that they’ve got a full length in the works, but no news on that front just yet.  I promise you that you’ll be just as excited as I am about this band; yet another tune I want to play all day long.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/whitebirds_hondora.mp3]

Download: White Birds – Hondora [MP3]

New Rocker from Diarrhea Planet

What can you get out of four guitarists? Just one listen to Diarrhea Planet and you’ll see that it’s a pretty heavy sound, if not one rooted in a bit of pop.  With the vocals, I want to throw them in as a more rocking Against Me, but there’s a lot less angst.  This Nashville outfit is busy prepping their debut Loose Jewels on Infinity Cat Records, which you can find in stores on September 20th (next week!).  It’s possibly not the deepest of tracks you’ll find out there, but it sure is a whole lot of fun jamming to this at the end of the day.  Crank the speakers and let go.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/03-Warm-Ridin.mp3]

Download: Diarrhea Planet – Warm Ridin’ [MP3]

Light for Fire – s/t

Rating: ★★★★½

At this point in time, there probably aren’t too many people familiar with the Portland outfit, Light for Fire.  Honestly, that’s probably the biggest tragedy we’ll come across, as their self-titled debut is chocked full of brilliant pop moments, fusing moments of great indie-pop with arrangements created by a singer-songwriter format.  It’s just flat out golden.

You’re going to struggle to find as good a one-two punch as the opening tracks on Light for Fire this year.  “The Huckster” appeals to those interested in the craftsmanship of a singer/songwriter, with the majority of the song revolving around strummed guitar and J. Nicholas Allard’s great vocal performance. From here the band joins Allard with the stomper, “NY (By the Hand),” which is in the running for one of the greater tracks of the year.  There’s a hint of a scratch to Allard’s voice, but with the banging piano and his storytelling, there’s not much that sounds better coming through your stereo speakers.

If you’re looking for some sort of generic marker to throw at Light for Fire, you’ll easily find comparisons to Spoon.  But, that being said, the band has cleaned up some of the noisy meandering that’s been associated with Spoon, instead allowing the poppier side to push on through.  Take “The Letters,” and you’ll have that semi-stomp, with Allard doing his best to give that scratchy croon perfected by Britt Daniels.  Even “Green Life” seems to take a bit from the comparison, using hints of piano to craft their tune, reminiscent of some of the singles off GaGaGaGaGaGa.  This isn’t a bad comparison, as few people write great pop numbers in the vein of Spoon. But, I suppose someone’s bound to get caught up in the similarities.

But, the more you listen to these eleven tracks, the more you see the band has definitely attached themselves to the songwriting of Allard, and rightfully so. “Where I Was Born” is a track for storytellers, with the narrator giving a brief summation of his life.  There’s restraint in the guitar playing, that is until the band jumps in, making it a passionate Americana rocker. And with “4th of July,” you get a quiet number that evokes other songwriters from the Portland area.  Allard’s voice takes on a more gentle quality, and the guitar lines barely trickle into your ear.

One of the best things you can do for your day is to get your hands on this wonderful effort by Light For Fire.  Yes, there’s touchstones of modern indie stars, but beneath those allusions lives great songwriting.  It’s executed to perfection, providing listeners with eleven tracks, not one of which begs to be skipped. For a band seemingly coming out of nowhere, this is the perfect place to start.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/nybythehand.mp3]

Download: Light for Fire – NY (By the Hand) [MP3]

Free EP from Netherfriends

You want something creative and tasty? Try listening to Netherfriends.  After the 50 Songs 50 States project, the group has now constructed an entire EP based around Harry Nilsson samples.  While it might push some buttons as sort of kitsch pop, it’s definitely pushing the envelope in regards to the music we can create with electronics pushing us into the future.  Just go to the group’s BANDCAMP page and search around; you’ll surely find something interesting, and the odds are it’s going to be something good.  If you’re looking for something that challenges your opinion of traditional pop, look no further, Netherfriends is here.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Netherfriends-Netherfriends-Does-Nilsson-01-Full-of-it.mp3]

Download: Netherfriends – Full of it [MP3]

New Music from Black Box Revelation

This isn’t what one expects to come out of Belgium, at least not what comes to my mind.  But, as I’ve jammed to the latest EP from Black Box Revelation, I’m not going to complain.  They’ve got hints of American blues and soul, but the slightest hint of garage-iness provides the band with exactly the right amount of grit to make them more than memorable.  The band’s got their Shiver of Joy EP out now, and they’ve got plans for a full-length soon after.  Oh, and if you Austinites dig their sound, you can catch them when they stop on by on October 1st over at the ND.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/01-Shiver-Of-Joy.mp3]

Download: Black Box Revelation – Shiver Of Joy [MP3]

More New Music from Pujol

How much more can we really tell you about Nashville’s Pujol?  Nothing much reall, other than you need to be jamming to this kid. He’s signed on with stalwart label, Saddle Creek Records, who will be releasing his EP, Nasty, Brutish and Short on October 18th. It’s gritty, but it’s not something you can immediately pass of as some sort of garage re-hash.  Yea, there’s touches of that, but the overwhelming quality seems rooted in far more than some lo-fi phenomenon. So, if you didn’t listen to us the first time, maybe now you’ll get into Pujol. You’ll also find the band tearing it up at Fun Fun Fun Fest this year, so yet another reason to get your ears ready.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/pujol_mayday.mp3]

Download: Pujol – Mayday [MP3]

New Track from CoverGirl

You know that if something sounds good, the odds are that it is probably going to end up in the hands of Captured Tracks.  They’re at it again, grabbing onto new UK up-and-comers, CoverGirl.  Listening to their first single, you can tell that the band’s got a few things to figure out, but even if they don’t, there’s a great quality to their introduction to the masses.  At first, there’s a bit of indie haunting, but as the pace begins to pick up, you can hear some audible chaos.  It’s definitely got a foggy dynamic, and only time will tell where these guys will end up, sound-wise. For now, just sit back and enjoy.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/01-Paris-Burns.mp3]

Download: CoverGirl – Paris Burns [MP3]

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