New Tunes from Bricolage

bricoGlasgow, Scotland has a certain place in my heart, as my favorite band stems from the region, not to mention their influence Orange Juice. Yet, here comes another great band, Bricolage, that seems to owe a bit of love towards the aforementioned band.  Throw in a touch of The Smiths, and you’ve got a rollicking good time.  The band is set to release their self-titled album on Slumberland this May.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/08turnuover.mp3]

Download: Bricolage – Turn U Over [MP3]

Clem Snide – Hungry Bird

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Rating: ★★★ · ·

Eef Barzelay had promised us long ago that his days with Clem Snide were well over, which was odd, seeing as he was the primary musician behind the band’s music.  But, here we are again with Clem Snide’s newest album, Hungry Bird.

Barzelay is one of those singers who has a very distinctive voice.  It’s somewhat near the nasal region, yet in an endearing way.  This quality in his voice makes you immediately familiar with him as a frontman, and it draws you in closer to the group; it is meant to draw you in closer to the lyrics.

As in the past, Barzelay weaves his lyrics around the most mundane of things, though this time around, there is less of a childishness to the entirety of the lyrics.  Well, childish is probably not the word to use, so let’s use wit in this case.  Seemingly, he’s thrown these lyrical concepts a little bit away from the group, which inevitably bring a more serious tone to the album as a whole.  It’s a different approach for the group, one that might lead long-time fans through a period of adjustment.

A serious tone has been established through the vocal and lyrical element, which really sets the mood for the listener.  The band, always lumped into post-country genres, has never been one to fiercely pick up the pace, but it seems here they definitely slow the tempo all the way down.  Take “Hum,” for example, a slowly sprawling song, ending with a seeming crescendo of ferocity, but pulled back just in time for the band to hone that slowdown hoedown that covers the album.

Most will appreciate this album’s gentleness, as the level of intimacy achieved here is one that will bond with listeners.  The quietude of the mood is soothing, and it forces you to pay attention to every little aspect of the album.  Strong production allows you to see those littlest details, as the band has filled out all possible areas of their sound.  It’s almost as if its a late slocore album, shedding the walls of country tinge away as they created, and ultimately finished this album.

Long time fans will surely be glad to have this band back together, working to create that soft edge of country sound that many people lovingly dote upon.  While it may not be the best of the group, songs such as “Burn the Light” will surely show that Clem Snide is still a strong force to be reckoned with, now, and in the future.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/03-hum.mp3]

New Tunes from Swan Lake

swansSwan Lake is a supergroup, featuring members of Frog Eyes, Wolf Parade, and Destroyer. Their newest album, Enemy Mine is slated for release via Jagjaguwar Records on March 24th. While early indications claim Frog Eye’s Casey Mercer as the better writer this time out, you can’t count out Destroyer’s Dan Bejar. Just take a listen to the following track.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/swan-lake-spider.mp3]

Download: Swan Lake – Spider [MP3]

SXSW Watchlist: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

pains1The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have recently been lauded, not just by ATH, but by many others for their self-titled release. It’s shrouded in atmospherics and melody, the perfect blend of everything going on nowadays. Suffice it to say, that very record is one of the only albums released thus far in 2009 that succeeds in every song. Follow the jump to find out a little more about the band.
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The Black Lips – 200 Million Thousand

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Rating: ★★★½ ·

The Black Lips have recently gotten more acclaim, or seemingly so, for their exploits off the stage.  They’re followed around like the Paris Hilton of the indie world, but the questions that follow should really pertain to the quality of their music. It’s clear that their a ramshackle bunch of lads, but when that carries over to their music, can we follow along? 200 Million Thousand attempts to answer that question.

It’s really hard to find a ground from which to approach this album.  Sure, the obvious psychedelia surrounds the band, not to mention the garage quality that has been there from the beginning of the band’s climb into our record collections. All these qualities point to an album worthy of critical acclaim, but only if the band can bring it all together.

Here, they don’t quite execute.  There are some clear misses on the album, such as the vocal quality.  Every time this band releases an album, it seems as if they shy away from the singing being a focal point. When you come across a song like “Starting Over” or “Old Man,” it seems as if they might unleash some hidden vocal talent, but its just not there.  The rest is hazily smothered in shadowy production, disguising the vocal for the most part.

Then, you come face to face with the fact that the band finally seems to have gotten a cohesive sound together, but the sound just doesn’t quite seem original.  It’s shrouded in the past of bands like The Velvet Underground and The Rolling Stones. Are they trying to be ironic by miming some of the most heralded acts around or is this an honest representation of who the band truly is as a group?  The answer is certainly difficult to come by, so one must take the songs into account.

“Drugs” is a California surf-pop romper, fueled by the twang of the guitar.  Even with the shotty vocal effects, you still can feel the catchiness of the song as the group sings in unison. And of course, that is followed by the super “Starting Over,” which may very well be one of the best songs that we hear all year.  There is an inexplicable quality to the song that wins you over as soon as the guitar comes in during the opening moment.

Interestingly, there is also a soul tinge on this record, which may display some of the more banal qualities of the group as a whole, but the power of such songs is undeniable.  “I’ll Be With You” is the song you expect to hear when watching a scene from the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance.  It’s got that classic Buddy Holly guitar sound, but with a more juvenile approach to songwriting.  It’s earnest, and it deserves appreciation.

At the end of the album, you have to take the Black Lips for precisely what they are: a gaggle of ruffians eager to write soulful psychedelia that they hope wins your heart.  It might not be the most original piece of work to ever come our way, but rest assured there are a bunch of songs here worthy of high praise.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/10-old-man.mp3]

Download: The Black Lips – Old Man [MP3]

New Tunes from Boston Spaceships

bobWhat better way to end a pretty great week than by throwing a little Robert Pollard out to the masses. This tune comes via his new band Boston Spaceships, who are set to release their new album, The Planets are Blasted on Guided by Voices, Inc. February 27th, but the album is already available for digital download. Enjoy this tune; enjoy your weekend. 

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/bigogetsanearful.mp3]

Download: Boston Spaceships – Big O Gets an Earful [MP3]

Malajube – Labyrinthes

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Rating: ★★★ · ·

With the release of their second album, Labyrinthes, our favorite francophiles, Malajube, were poised to hit the United States running full steam ahead.  The question everyone wanted answered was whether or not they would convert from their first language to a more commercial language, one that would surely break them into the independent scene in the neighboring country. The answer, dear reader, is an emphatic “no!”

They open the album with the epic “Ursuline,” which has a certain sense of urgency once the songs gets going, but just as you expect the band to push over the top and rush through the song, they scale the entire number back, slowly leading you towards the outro of the song.  It’s a statement the listener must respect, as the band has the capabilities to lead you wherever they wish.

Still present this time round is the organic sound.  Usage of gang vocals, both brash and soothing go in and out of the record.  Pianos, guitars, drums and extemporaneous instruments/sounds are also used indiscriminately.  It’s a sound that one has come to expect from our northerly neighbors, as they seem to rely a lot on the soundscapes of fellow Canadians, Broken Social Scene. This time around, the band sounds a lot warmer than on Trompe L’oeil.

Yet, through it all, the band sound just like something you would listen to on something like KEXP. The guitars are driving, providing the pace of the record, but the band can pull that sound away from you immediately, resting, instead, on atmospheric “oohs” and “ahhs.”  Clever combinations of sound come within each song, which is precisely why this band garners the interests of fans today.

And you’ll come across songs such as “Heresie,” which will win you over in a short span of time.  In fact, the coupling of the aforementioned song with “Dragon de glace” is probably one of the more special moments you find on the album.  It’s a mellower Malajube than the one presented on the earlier part of the album.  It’s a pleasure to come across a band that puts out an album where to layout of the songs on the album shows a strong thought process, as if they wanted you to listen to the album all the way to the end.

But, the one detractor, as alluded to earlier on, is the fact that the band, while respectable, maintain their allegiance to their native tongue.  It’s not that the vocal element is not appealing, as one can take a certain emotive quality away from the songs, but its the lack of a connection between the band and most listeners.  Musically, the band can take you many places, but a lot of people will want to connect with the lyrical content, and that is simply not possible for people versed in English.  It’s the one miss on this album, though for many, it’s a pretty big miss.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/06-les-collemboles.mp3]

Download: Malajube – Les Collemboles [MP3]

New Tunes from Laura Barrett

laura_rcrdlbl11While I admit that I know very little about the instrument the kalimba, I do know a great deal about good voices.  This song from Laura Barrett features just one of those great voices, accompanied by a lot of really unique instrumentation.  The song comes from Barrett’s Victory Garden set to be released on Paper Bag Records February 24th.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/laurabluebird.mp3]

Download: Laura Barrett – Blue Bird [MP3]

Beirut – March of the Zapotec…

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Rating: ★★ · · ·

Long before Zach Condon of Beirut presented us with his most recent output, a double EP titled March of the Zapotec and Realpeople: Holland the media presented us with a rumor of some grand orchestral scheme including bands from the Oaxacan region of Mexico.  Patiently, we awaited for the arrival, of not only new tunes, but for the next set of exploratory sounds pushed out by the young genius.

Sadly, the first EP, March of the Zapotec, doesn’t really seem to be rooted into much of the Latin culture.  For one, the presence of tuba and accordion definitely detract, or perhaps are more overbearing, in regards to the sound one would typically hear in quaint Mexican neighborhoods. “La Llorona,” the first real song, doesn’t even have a Latin twist at all, instead seeming like an extra piece left over from Gulag Orkestar. Maybe adding and extra layer of horns aids the cause, but very little.

The songs where he does delve into a little bit of the flavor one would come to expect from a Oaxacan regional band have little or no lyrics at all.  In fact, they seem like instrumental pieces tacked on to the EP as filler, and in a way, to show that Zach indeed did follow through with his desire to include a new flavor from South of the New Mexican border, but perhaps he should have gone way mariachi because the songs on this half of the EP are lacking.

Realpeople: Holland is an entirely different step then what we are given on the first EP; instead, Zach seems to go into the bedroom, digging deeply into that box in his closet in order to pull up all those Depeche Mode bits he recorded as a young child wearing eyeliner.  It’s his voice that wins you over here, which is going to be the case when juxtaposed from with the simple keyboard elements presented here.

Interestingly, some of these songs actually work well.  It’s a side we, as listeners, aren’t accustomed to when listening to a Beirut product. His voice always carries a semblance of the personal touch along with it, but here the quiet behavior of electronic elements in the background make it  more so than ever before.  He seems almost vulnerable.

Wait, did he just loop his accordion?  Is that what you hear on “The Concubine?” If so, then this part of the album definitely has showcased new direction and strengths, but still, it’s far too short to climb the walls to that spot reserved for your favorite albums.  His inconsistency here leaves one questioning exactly where he can go next, as it has been quite some time since he completely won you over with his originality and style.  For now, he seems to be treading water, trying new things and putting out mediocre EPs.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/01-my-night-with-the-prostitute-from-marseille.mp3]

Download:  Beirut – My Night with the Prostitute from Marseille [MP3]

SXSW Watchlist: Dappled Cities

070529dappledcitiesDappled Cities hail from the Down Under, that being the case, they aren’t too well-known in these parts, which is entirely shameful.  They’ve created an album full of lush arrangements, freckled with bit of pop-perfect melodies.  Their sound is reminiscent of a lot of the early OOs indie bands, such as The Glands, crafting varying elements of sound and atmospherics beneath infectious moments of brilliance.  You can tell the band has more great things to offer, especially if you check out their stop off on the Daytrotter.

The band will be playing at The Ranch (708 West 6th Street) on Thursday, March 19 at 8 PM.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/dappled-cities-fire-fire-fire.mp3]

Download: Dappled Cities – Fire Fire Fire [MP3]

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