Geoffrey O’ Connor – Vanity is Forever

Rating: ★★★★☆

Long have we lauded the sounds of Crayon Fields, the wonderful Australian pop group, but now we have more reason to cheer, as singer Geoffrey O’ Connor steps outside the band, releasing his first album under his own name.  If anything, Vanity is Forever, establishes O’ Connor as more than your average songwriter; his apparent gifts are too great to label him anywhere near average.

From the moment “So Sorry” takes off you can clearly see that Geoffrey O’ Connor is concerned with the arrangements surrounding his songs.  There’s a bit of sweeping ambiance that coats his cool vocal delivery, perhaps giving a nod to popsters of the 80s. But, it’s lead single, “Whatever Leads Me to You,” that combines modern tones with hints of nostalgia, crafting one of the year’s best tracks.  Geoff has this frivolous crooner personality, at least in the vein of his vocals, as if he’s somewhere between whispering in your ear and serenading you at a club.  The guitars are subdued, with emphasis on the string arrangements, building a wall of around the internal melody.  Simply magnificent.

You might label some tracks on Vanity is Forever as throwback-kitsch, such as “Proud,” which clearly revolves around the keyboard driven moments of yesteryear’s club hits.  Yet these tracks offer more in the way of his lyrics, which are always extremely personable, allowing O’Connor to present himself to his audience in a way that no longer seems in fashion.  In what I personally find to be one of his best penned lyrics, he sings “I hope my friends don’t all get married/that they leave some part of themselves for me,” on “Like They Say It Does.”  Perhaps one might find it a tad self-indulging, but one cane easily relate to the sentiment of longing to live a life filled with friends and accomplishments.  There’s nothing abstract in the presentation, and the sincerity is quite refreshing.

While there’s definitely a bit of pace to the majority of the tracks, in so far as you can swing your hips a bit, there’s a few wonderful slow burners that show Geoffrey O’ Connor in a reflective state that benefits the listeners, and we hope the songwriter as well. “Surely,” the album’s closer, is built on a slow-moving piano, and even it’s basic construction, cleared for the most part of the record’s arrangements, shines a light on how much confidence he has in his writing and delivery.  What may appear banal in most circumstances, shows its inner beauty under a different microscope.

As much as I’ve fawned over The Crayon Fields since I came across them years ago, Vanity is Forever is a different animal altogether.  It shows Geoffrey O’ Connor crafting gems that seem to fit in any time period, filled with melody and a bit of sensitivity that often escapes your run of the mill indie affair.  It’s an album that’s affecting on a personal level, even for those unfamiliar with his previous work, making the whole ordeal a timeless piece of beauty.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/07-Now-And-Then.mp3]

Download: Geoffrey O’Connor – Now And Then [MP3]

New Single from Girls Names

Earlier this year I raved about Girls Names full length, Dead to Me, so when they announced the release of a new single on Slumberland Records, I scrambled to listen to it.  It’s exactly what I expect coming from this group, although the guitar lines seem really clean–that’s a positive.  Deep vocals floating through it all and steady drumming build an excellent foundation for this little jam.  Between this and Sea Pinks (the drummer’s project) it seems like Belfast is under control of these lads; surely we’ll all benefit from this!

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

Download: Girls Names – Black Saturday [MP3]

Still Corners – Creatures of an Hour

Rating: ★★★☆☆

If you’re a connoisseur of electro-dream pop, then you’ll know that a little verisimilitude is what separates good from great inside this sub-genre. Sure, you can get some solid jams off of simply interesting instrumentation, but what keeps something in your mind for longer periods of time is the human elements that give it that multidimensional intrigue. In other words, there is an emotional connection of some kind that pushes the music past just wailing guitars or flat vocals. This factor is what divides the tracks on Creatures of an Hour; some prod their way into your psyche while others just dance around the outside.

The first song, “Cuckoo,” easily falls into the category that is able to penetrate deeper. An instant single for Still Corners, it kicks things off with its atmospheric waves of sound. Some bass joins in, increasing the heaviness that this substantial groove already had going and all that is left to complete the dreamy set are the female vocals. Borderline sinister, the sugary vocals tease and pull at the thickset spacey backing, juxtaposing sweet with theatrically dark. Behind Tessa Murray’s voice are some ethereal oohs and ahhs that echo along with the wispy lead. Following “Cuckoo” comes “Circulars,” a brief and to the point synthesizer saturated number that goes nonstop for its length of two minutes. Serving as a mostly instrumental interlude between the first and third numbers, it’s a short little number that adds a little synth spice to the tonal style.

Third on the album is “Endless Summer,” a track that doesn’t so much play on juxtaposition as it does on the overall sound of serenity and calm, with echoes of solemnity swirling beneath. It’s a track that is moderately good, and mirrors the rest of the album. For the most part, Still Corners hold your attention, letting their ethereal dreamy shoe-gaze meander its way into your attention. The first song is unique in that it really demands your focus, whereas the other songs let you come to them. An exception to this phenomenon comes on “I Wrote In Blood,” which implores the delicacy of Murray’s voice alongside loops of swirling synthesizers. It’s got this demented lullaby feeling to it, as if it’s a song for nightmares rather than sweet dreams.

All in all, it’s an interesting sounding album. If you’re looking for a ton of variety from song to song, then Creatures of an Hour may not be for you. If you’re cool with grippingly soft, yet edgy vocals accompanied by winter-perfect hazy pop then by all means, you’re set.

Creatures of an Hour is out now on Sub Pop Records.

New Girl Pop Number from Coasting

Man, as soon as I got this email, it seemed like Coasting was all over the web, and why shouldn’t it be?  It’s the new project from Fiona, the drummer from the Vivian Girls, and it’s pretty tasty.  The group has their new album, You’re Never Going Back, coming out on November 15th via M’Lady Records; and based on the record sampler we were sent, it’s going to be a solid effort.  Personally, the production’s a lot cleaner, yet it still has that bubbling garage-pop sensibility.  Hopefully they can sustain catchy goodness for an entire record, and a good career to boot.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/04-Portland.mp3]

Show Preview: Wye Oak @ the Parish (10/14)

Date Friday, October 14th
Location The Parish
Doors 800p
Tickets $12 from Frontgate

With the slew of shows piling up in Austin this month, this is one that you definitely don’t want to miss out on.  Friday, Baltimore duo Wye Oak make their way into town, hoping to reignite the passion for their great record Civilian, which came out earlier this year on Merge Records. With Jenn Wasner on vocals and Andy Stack, it’s hard to imagine how the two can craft such a huge wall of sound, both fragile and ecclectic–my bet is on Jenn and her powerful vocals. Among all the shows, this is definitely the one you should put on your MUST see list. You can also catch opener Erika Wennerstrom of Heartless Bastards if you show up on time folks!

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/05-Civilian-1.mp3]

Download: Wye Oak – Civilian [MP3]

Funky New Jam from The Coast of Nebraska

I’ll be damned if The Coast of Nebraska isn’t attempting a great musical feat, releasing a new EP every month for the rest of the year.  Sounds like a huge amount of work, and I wouldn’t be convinced had the October EP not made its way over to our inbox.  Looks like the big hit off this EP is going to be “Dark Signal,” an electronic exploration of pop, with a tendency to sound a bit like Tunde of TV on the Radio.  Give this one a try, and be sure to keep up with the band as they seek to toss out hit after hit for the rest of the year.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/The-Coast-of-Nebraska-Dark-Signals-01-Dark-Signals.mp3]

Download: The Coast of Nebraska – Dark Signals [MP3]

Show Preview: OFF! @ Red 7 (10/13)

Date Thursday, October 13th
Location Red 7
Doors 900p
Tickets $10 from Frontgate

Keith Morris isn’t new school rock n’ roll, but he’s definitely doing it a lot better than most of the new school acts.  OFF! blasted off not too long ago, and there’s a reason everyone is giving them so much praise.  Not only do they have a great piece of punk rock history, but they just put on a sweaty beast of a show. I’ve seen them several times now, and each time I just leave amazed at how powerful they sound, considering many of the members are several decades into their careers.  Show up at Red 7 and check this gig out; you’ll also have some other acts like Cerebral Ballzy, Women in Prison, Retox.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/OFF_Upside-Down_128.mp3]

Download: OFF – Upside Down [MP3]

New Track from We Can’t Enjoy Ourselves

RayRay and I have both raved on We Can’t Enjoy Ourselves, and it doesn’t look like that sort of adoration is going to end here.  The group tossed us up a new track off their upcoming album, Never Listen to the Ones You Love, and it’s just as good, if not better than their previous work.  It’s got a bit of swing to it upon the opening, but as you listen to the song progress, it takes off into a blissful state, with a bit of ringing guitar to wrap up the track.  This is definitely a promising song, illustrating to us that the band’s on the path to pop righteousness, at least if we have anything to do with it!

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/01_Your_Darkest_Thoughts_Will_Shine.mp3]

Download: We Cant Enjoy Ourselves – Your Datkest Thoughts Will Shine [MP3]

New Music from Black Twig

I’ve been keeping my eye on Soliti Music, the label that released the Big Wave Riders EP earlier this year.  Just the other day they unleashed this excellent gem from Black Twig.  The group is gearing up for a January release of their album, Paper Trees, and I’ve been pretty impressed with what I’ve heard so far. It reminds me a lot of The Mary Onettes, but just a touch more fog coating the music, yet still maintaining that pop sensibility I adore.  If you’re into that sort of shoegaze pop track, you’re going to really enjoy jamming out to this number all day long.

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

Download: Black Twig – Lake Song [MP3]

New (ish) Jam from Atlas

It’s always exciting when you stumble across something that you hadn’t heard, instantly recognizing it as something you’ll enjoy for a long time.  Such was the case tonight when I came across this track from Atlas, a group who has just released a split with My Friends.  Their opening track on their half of the record is a sprawling little jam, but while it gently enters, the increased pace and introduction of the vocals grabbed me.  There’s a great bit going on in the entirety of this track, but I keep coming back to the great melody that’s created by the guitar from beginning to end.  Give this one a try.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/05-Slaughter-Beach.mp3]

Download: Atlas – Slaughter Beach [MP3]

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