Twerps – s/t

Rating: ★★★★½

For those of you just meeting Twerps, you’d be surprised at the evolution of their sound.  When we first heard them via the folks at Chapter Music, they were a pretty basic lo-fi group, spinning tape loops and coming off a bit lackadaisical on songs like “Good Advice.” On their self-titled record, you’ll get a much more focused group bringing it all home.

“Dreamin” begins Twerps, giving you cascading guitar chords that cut through the careful jangle-pop, even tossing in some backing harmonies from female member Julia MacFarlane. It’s as tight as the band has sounded since they were introduced, and such songs only solidify their presence in our musical world. But, you’re still going to find that carefree spirit within this album.

On “Don’t Be Surprised” Marty Frawley just tosses his lyrics atop a much slower paced jingle, sort of like you’d expect Dan Treacy of Television Personalities to do, that is until mid-track where they just kick it off with this beautiful bit of noisy pop, only to return to their melodious bit of fun.  Twerps use a similar tactic on what is not only the record’s best song, but perhaps one of the top songs of the year, “Who Are You.”  It embodies everything magical in a song: catchy bit of guitar playing, a cool bit of vocal delivery and relatable lyrics.  When Frawley goes into his “who are you/to be actin the way that you do,” it’s all perfectly fitting, and it leads up to the playful “we’ll get drunk/we’ll get stoned/we’ll get high/we’ll get drunk” line that accompanies each chorus. Simply put, there aren’t many songs from this year better than this.

One of the best things about this entire record is that Twerps simply keep you interested, going places you can easily see, but didn’t necessarily expect from the group.  “Jam Song” sort of fills the middle of the record with a rambling bit of ballroom stomp, always keeping their groove.  Or, you could skip a few ahead and find yourself at the simple spoken-word track, “Bring Me Down,” which is joined by a polite little bit of guitar strumming.  There’s pretty much moments for every type of listener out there, be it jangling pop moments like “Dreamin,” or a more-subdued Wavves feel like the closer “Coast to Coast.”  It all fits in with the band’s aesthetic, and it never seems to grow stale.

Twerps have been around for some time now, but this self-titled record is going to be one of the dates that you’ll want to remember, as a band that puts it together this well is very rare.  They’ve got hooks, they’ve got creativity and they even have a bit of attitude (or essence), all making Twerps one hell of a ride.  Mark my word, everyone is going to be talking about this group and this record for some time to come.

Currently you can listen to the whole album HERE. Or jam the opener below.

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

Download: Twerps – Dreamin [MP3]

New Gem from Death Songs

I’ve really enjoyed the work of the Shaky Hands, so I’m happy to introduce you to Death Songs, the projects of Nathan and Nicholas of the aforementioned group.  They’ve just released a self-titled 10″, and it’s full of low-key country-fied jams. This track sounds a bit like early Conor Oberst with a gently strummed guitar to go along with it.  Having listened to the whole collection, I’m quite pleased to tell you it’s full of great tracks just like this one, so go ahead, you can thank me now for introducing you to these guys.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/05-Water-In-The-Eyes-Of-Man.mp3]

Download: Death Songs – Water In The Eyes Of Man [MP3]

Playful New Dream Pop from Psychic Twin

There’s never a bad time to come across a dreamy little number like this new track from Psychic Twin. The Illinois duo is self-releasing this single later in the year, with hopes to get out a full-length in 2012.  While it begins coated in haunting atmospherics, the song picks up soon after, bouncing off in a blissful manner that’s sure to appeal to any listener.  Personally, I appreciate the way the lyrics come in and out of the foreground of the song, giving it a deeper mystic quality that you don’t hear every day.  Be sure to check out this up-and-comer.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Deepest-Part.mp3]

Download: Psychic Twin – Deepest Part [MP3]

Forest Fire – Staring at the X

Rating: ★★½☆☆

Since the release of their album, Survival, it seems everyone has gotten behind New York’s Forest Fire, though they haven’t quite broken into the top tier.  Staring at the X is supposed to be the record that gets them there, propelling them into our speakers for repeated spins.  For all intents and purposes, it’s a good record, just not quite sure it’s that record.

“Born Into” begins the record with a bit of a trickle, as Mark Thresher takes to the vocals, barely speaking them as atmospheric blips jump in and out.  But, then the song takes flight, going further into the noise spectrum, as Natalie Stormann joins in backing vocals.  It’s fairly noisy, in comparison to the rest of the record, but it just doesn’t go anywhere before the track ends. However, this is a complete contradiction to “Future Shadows,” the following track on Staring at the X. There’s a bit of a quiver in Thresher’s vocals, sort of like our old friend Devandra.  Ringing guitars eventually flesh out the track, fusing with the melody Mark brings to the table.  It’s definitely a stand out.

One thing that seems to hold Forest Fire back on this release is a lack of a true musical identity.  “The News” has this great feeling of folky-stomper fused with machine/guitar tampering that definitely provides a uniqueness you’ll struggle to find elsewhere.  Even the sax solo fits perfectly, but then the band goes somewhere completely off the map.  “They Pray Execution Style” follows with a haunting number, one fueled by a sense of impending musical doom.  Natalie Stormann takes the lead here, and while her voice does well in this realm, the song itself doesn’t really have a place in the whole of the record, which ends up being a problem–on the whole, it’s skippable.

As you move along into Staring at the X, there are some fairly decent songs, such as “Mtns are Mtns,” a number that surely will appeal to those who appreciate decent slide guitar, piano and sprawling guitars.  It’s short enough to be pleasant, but not long enough to really establish itself as a winner.  Similarly, the album’s title track, “Staring at the X,” approaches more of a singer/songwriter approach than any of the other tracks, relying mostly on Thresher and lightly strummed guitars.  On any other record, you’d love this track, but it comes off here as a rather mundane tune.

Hardly a song on here could clearly be stated as disposable, so that’s a good thing I reckon.  However, having spent the last few days listening to Forest Fire, the whole recording doesn’t seem that remarkable to me.  Songs seems out of place when looking at Staring at the X as a whole, and the album suffers because of this inconsistency.  I can where we’d all enjoy some tracks as piecemeal collections, but united, it falls short of the lofty goals I think we all had in mind for the band. Better luck next time I suppose.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Future-Shadows.mp3]

Download: Forest Fire – Future Shadows [MP3]

New Indie Pop from the Bats

New Zealand has long been home to some of the greatest pop music created, and The Bats have been around for a great bit of that, with their career coming up close on 30 years of brilliant LPs, EPs and singles.  Now, the band is soon to release Free All the Monsters, which you can find on Flying Nun Records. On the title track you’ll find bright guitars, and even a little male/female vocal performance; it’s a simple study in basic indie pop–the kind those who hold this genre dearly will be sure to enjoy.  Give this track and the record a go, if you know what’s good for you.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/03-Free-All-The-Monsters-Album-Version.mp3]

Download: The Bats – Free All the Monsters [MP3]

New Music from Richard Warren

Richard Warren first caught my attention with his album, Laments, and I hope he’s about to grab your ears as well. His new album, The Wayfarer, just came out on Rough Trade, and it’s the type of sad-bastard music that makes your gut hurt, but in a way where it makes you feel alive. British press has sort of given him a David Lynch attitude with that lone highwayman spirit; you can definitely see that in the title track from the record which we’ve got for you below.  This is definitely a listening experience worth your time.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/03-The-Wayfarer.mp3]

Download: Richard Warren – The Wayfarer [MP3]

Real Estate – Days

Rating: ★★★★½

With the release of their self-titled album, Real Estate practically made themselves a household name among the indie rock cognoscente.  Not that their second release, Days, is upon us, things look even brighter, with a more refined sound filled to the brim with such pristine pop moments that it’ll be hard not to give the group recognition.

Opener “Easy” instantly brings the jangling guitar lines to the surface, leaving room for sailing melodies to burst through.  But, the ensuing track, “Green Aisles,” which is a bit of a long jaunt, really emphasizes the inherent warmth in the sonic craftwork of Real Estate.  Guitar lines gently glide, as if the band’s dialing in sunshine from within their recording space.  It all seems so effortless, as if the group’s been doing this for years…and they probably have.

“It’s Real” might have won over fans immediately upon its release as the lead single, but it’s just another sign that Days was perhaps designed with the longevity of the tracks in mind.  Soaring “oohs” might be a bit over-utilized by musicians in this pop spectrum, but there’s a hardness to the steady drumming that makes it more than just your average fare.  Still, other tracks are equally as successful within this recording, clearly willing to be played through your stereo for years to come. “Out of Tune” is perhaps my personal favorite, seeming to resonate in the past of California popsters of years gone by.  Despite two solid verses, this track holds onto a bit of guitar noodling, which, having listened to it on repeat a dozen times or slow, still sounds incredible (and not like “jamming” at all).

I’m sure that someone’s going to call the band out for creating a sound that doesn’t offer enough differentiation for your modern listener, but “Wonder Years” is a track that breaks out of the mold.  For one, it seems that Alex Bleeker might have taken over the vocal duties, giving a new quality to Real Estate. The more you let this song unfold, with its “doo-doo” humming and odd background solo, the more you just fall in love with the track.  It’s be nice to see more such moments coming from the trio in the future.

All in all, it’s hard to say anything truly negative about the entirety of Days.  Yes, it doesn’t grab you by the throat forcing you to fall in love, but it does more in being an unassuming collection of some of the most endearing pop tunes we’ve heard.  That alone should be enough to encourage you to pick up this latest release from the group, but if not, then the fact that Real Estate is sure to continue to be on everyone’s radar/blog/podcast for some time will eventually force your hand; give in now; you’ll be grateful you did.

Show Preview: War on Drugs @ Emos (10/18)

Date Tuesday, October 18th
Location Emos
Doors 900p
Tickets $10 from Ticket Web

As our time runs out on Emos Red River, we’ve got to take advantage of the great shows still left at the venue; Tuesday night’s set definitely fits the bill.  Philadelphia’s War on Drugs returns to Austin to promote the release of another solid album, Slave Ambient.  Last time they played in town, I had a great time, as their live sound provides a slightly different twist than the recorded material.  The opening acts aren’t anything to ignore either, with Purling Hiss set to follow Carter Tanton, who will be releasing his new record on local label Western Vinyl.  Seems like this is the place to be, so we’ll see you there.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Come-To-The-City.mp3]

Download: War on Drugs – Come To The City [MP3]

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