Centro-matic – Candidate Waltz

Rating: ★★★★☆

For close to two decades, Will Johnson has been all over the map, crafting songs under his own name, with various co-writers, and of course, with Centro-matic.  For the most part, his music has always had a sort of country-shade to it, and his voice has always made it heart-wrenching, no matter the lyrical content.  But, on Candidate Waltz, there’s more of an uplifting construction to the songs, giving you an album that could be considered his most widely accessible work to date.

You can easily discern that there’s going to be a sharper, polished sound on Candidate Waltz the minute “Against the Line” drops in with it’s sharp guitar chords.  Of course, the fragility in Johnson’s voice remains, creating an interesting juxtaposition that allows the song to be absorbed by your soul on multiple levels.  Jagged guitar lines cut through the following track, “All the Talkers,” with the group sounding a bit like a more rocking version of Lucero, but the interesting aspect of this song comes in near the final two minutes.  The track switches from a gritty rocker into this carefully crafted pop lullaby ending, created by the melodious backing vocals; this is perhaps one of the brightest moments on the record.

If you’re looking for that classic Centro-matic sound, with Johnson’s voice pulling at your gut strings, you’ll find that those songs, too, live within the confines of this latest effort.  “Estimate x 3” relies upon a time-keeping drum beat, quiet guitar lines, and Will.  The gruff quality of his voice always makes him seem so vulnerable, and that has consistently made his tracks seem tragic, yet towards the end of this number, as he repeats “give me what you want/don’t tell me” you can sense a softer side emerging in his work.

It’s going to be difficult to find something that allows you to disregard Candidate Waltz.  There’s sweeping melodies, great song arrangements, and really, there aren’t any misstep songs.  “Only in My Double Mind” has a banging piano and drum to start it off, while Johnson’s vocals do a great job carrying the melody throughout, giving you a short glimpse at just how powerful his voice can be, even when the music doesn’t appear to be the most innovative.  There’s a gentleness to the way he croons “ooh ooh,” providing those mono-syllabic moments with bits of depth you typically don’t see.  And the record finishes off with much the same fashion as it begins, bringing a warm rocker to your ears by the name of “If They Talk You Down.”  It shouldn’t cease to amaze you how emotionally charged Will’s vocals come across, even when he’s just using his voice as an instrument.  Personally, the gentle strings in the background make this track another standout.

There’s not a bad thing to say about Candidate Waltz, no matter how many times you listen to it, unless of course, you wanted more songs.  But, the brevity of the experience, combined with Will Johnson’s powerful voice provides listeners with more than enough to swoon over, just before Centro-matic wraps it all up.  The best thing is that as soon as it ends, you’ll want to start if all over again. And again.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/05.-Only-In-My-Double-Mind.mp3]

Download: Centro-matic – Only In My Double Mind [MP3]

New Country Jam from Tom Russell

It seems like Tom Russell has been around forever, usually rocking his country-folk approach, with hints of Americana fueled by Mexicana.  He’s got a new record coming out on Shout Factory in September titled Mesabi, and I’ve really been channeling the music of my father today, so this track definitely hits home.  But, for those of you unfamiliar with the veteran, you’ll find vocal reminiscent of Roky E, which is no surprise since both men have been rocking the Texas scene for some time.  But, the use of trumpets, gives this more of a straight-up country-rocker, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Oh, and if you need some indie cred to add to your listening pleasure (you know, to make it cool), then note that Van Dyke Parks and Calexico help all over the new work.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Mesabi_20110614_134917.mp3]

Download: Tom Russell – Mesabi [MP3]

New Track from Burning Hearts

Are you looking for that perfect pop track with a nice little hook and some female vocals? Well, you need look no more, as we’ve got this great track from Finnish group Burning Hearts, who just released their Into the Wilderness EP on Shelflife Records.  There’s something nostalgic in the craft of this song, yet it definitely still maintains every bit of modernity, coating the sound with bits of keyboards and a lightly strummed guitar in the background.  Be sure to give credit to Jessika, as it’s her vocals that make every bit of this track (and EP) worthwhile! Hope you enjoy a nice little dose of swooning pop today.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/04-Into-The-Wilderness-1.mp3]

Download: Burning Hearts – Into The Wilderness [MP3]

Awesome Pop Compilation from Indietracks Festival

In my opinion, there’s only one festival that would be seriously worth my time this summer, and that’s the Indietracks Festival in Derbyshire this July.  Unfortunately, I can’t quite afford the trip, but I can enjoy this great compilation you can grab too put out by Make Do and Mend Records.  It’s like the best sampler ever, with 40 jams, some exclusive, from some of the best bands around, including those I’ve admired on there here pages, like Milky Wimpshake, Crystal Stilts, and Math & Physics Club.  If you can’t go, head over HERE, and check out the sampler.  Don’t forget to donate, as it goes to a good cause!  Seriously, it’s 40 incredible pop songs, including the one below!

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/03-Trying-To-Say-I-Love-You.mp3]

Download: Math & Physics Club – Trying To Say I Love You [MP3]

New Song from Devon Williams

I’ve championed Devon Williams, mostly in private, since the release of his last full length, Carefree, so I’ve been waiting for some time to hear what his new tunes were going to sound like that.  News came across today that Williams will be releasing a new 7″ next week via Slumberland Records, who should also be releasing a full LP from the man later down the line.  This track definitely exhibits the songwriting I’ve come to love from Devon, craftily crooning over orchestrated sounds and harmonious guitar sounds.  There’s a lot of promise here, so hopefully, more music is soon to come our way.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Your-Sympathy.mp3]

Download: Devon Williams – Your Sympathy [MP3]

New Track from The Echo-Friendly

Late at night, you slowly let the slow jams take over; you’re ready to wrap up your evening.  Such was the case when I stumbled upon this little tune from The Echo-Friendly.  Sure, it’s not necessarily the most breathtaking thing (no offense), but I love the vocal interplay between the male and female counterparts, which really drew me into the track, letting them take over the rest of my evening.  Before completing their first EP, the band wants to spread the word about their project.  I think, if you’re looking for something slow and dramatic, then you’ll love the lead track from the new single, “Same Mistakes.”

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/theechofriendly_samemistakes.mp3]

Download: The Echo-Friendly – Same Mistakes [MP3]

Jeff the Brotherhood – We Are the Champions

Rating: ★★★★☆

Very few duos really seem to pack a punch, the last one I recall that really killed was DFA 1979, but the latest release from Jeff the Brotherhood is definitely a record that will lightheartedly kick you in the teeth.  This is a good thing, as summer needs some rock n’ roll, and that is precisely what We Are the Champions gives it listeners.   Want to have a good time, then run out the door, pick this up, and blast it as loud as you can!

Like various other bands taking this arena rock approach, namely Free Energy, you can feel the studied past of classic rock and punk flowing through the veins of the Orrall Brothers. But, what seems to put Jeff the Brotherhood far ahead of their peers is that they actually seem to be enjoying their portrayal of the sound.  “Hey Friend” spends the first half of the opening track giving you one hell of a gritty rock jam, but then it sort of breaks into something entirely different; its part Weezer, part Ramones, part arena ready rock.  It’s just plain good.

Sure, you could take a knock at the band for giving you some fairly juvenile song titles, and possibly lyrics, but occasionally, the execution matters far more than the actual thought process; such is the case on We Are the Champions.  “Cool Out’ speeds through, with a pace that would probably force Joey Ramone to think twice, but it’s got sort of a power-pop-punk feel, like early Queers albums.  Perhaps it’s the fact that the band is just a duo, forcing them to focus on their simplicity when it comes to songwriting, giving their sound something rather refreshing and clean.  “Bummer” has buzz-saw guitars and just a steady drum beat keeping time, but it’s the “whoa-ohs” and vocal harmonies that make it such a killer track. The louder the song gets, the more you just want to have fun.

But, it’s not all fast-fueled punk-ish sounding arena rock, but there are some momentary allusions to stoner-rock as well, or sludge-rock, like “Ripper.”  It just opens with this filthy jamming moment (one of the few times I like a jam), and of course it blasts off into a furious energetic blast, but the sound of the guitar definitely is filled with dirt and grime, unlike some of the cleaner sounds on earlier tracks. Really, these guys are all over the place throughout the entirety of We Are the Champions, but in an endearing fashion that makes you want to pump your fists and sing out loud.

Album highlights for me include the heavy hit “Mellow Out,” or the oddball psychedelia-hints from “Health and Strength, and definitely the closer “Wastoid Girl.”  Once you give a listen to this release from Jeff the Brotherhood, you’ll be thumbing through lyrics sheet, or pressing play over and over again, as the band has crafted an entire record full of sing-a-long hits that are sheer fun.  You’re looking for the perfect record to blast loudly while you get ready for the night? You need look no longer, as there’s nothing better today than listening to We Are the Champions.

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

Download: Jeff the Brotherhood – Shredder [MP3]

Balmorhea on Daytrotter

Everyone needs to have Daytrotter on their favorites, as their attention to detail and their selection of some of the best bands around is always a constant on the site.  Today, the site offered up new tunes from local Austin favorites, Balmorhea.  The majority of the set comes from the latest Candor/Clamor single release by the band, but they also tossed up an unreleased song that I’ve been enjoying all morning long.  If you’re a fan of the band, and you should be, then you’ll love hearing new music from the group as we all await their next great release.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/004-Untitled.mp3]

Download: Balmorhea – Untitled [MP3]

New Track from Elliott BROOD

Way up North in Canada, we often forget that it’s covered with vast wilderness, which definitely plays a huge role, at least in our eyes, of Elliott BROOD.  The good people up at Paper Bag Records will be releasing Days Into Years on September 27th, and they tossed out a free tune today to get you prepared for the band’s release.  Melodies trickle into your ear at every point, and the smokiness of the vocals definitely provides you with a connection to the vast woodlands that cover the majority of Canada.  If you’re looking for hooks and typical Montreal pop, don’t look here, as this group offer a more panoramic view of the Canadian music-scape.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/ElliottBROOD_NorthernAir.mp3]

Download: Elliott BROOD – Northern Air [MP3]

New Tunes from Idaho

Admittedly, a great deal of my musical “findings” stem from one Jack Rabid, the head honcho at The Big Takeover magazine (hands down the best music mag around).  Reading the recent issue, I stumbled across a review for a band I had all but forgotten about, Idaho.  They put out a slew of record from 92-05, but I hadn’t heard anything from them until recently, and that’s why I’m here today to share news that the band will be offering up You Were a Dick next week.  This is a pretty perfect track to kick off your Tuesday; it’s nice and quiet and emotional. Enjoy, and if you dig it, go back and check out the back catalog.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/idaho-You-were-a-Dick-01-You-were-a-Dick.mp3]

Download: Idaho – You Were a Dick [MP3]

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