New Tunes from Helvetia

helvetiaSwiss transplant Jason Albertini is now living in the Northwest, and his music with Helvetia is easily influenced by the sounds of the area, not to mention his recordings, since he’s been joined by Scott Plouf of Built to Spill.  His new album, Helvetia’s Junk Shop, will be released this September on Static Cult. This recording sounds a bit muddy, but it the vocals definitely meander through the song as you would expect from a band in this region. Here’s “Leading Towards an End.”

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/45es-helvetia-leading-towards-an-end.mp3]

Download: Helvetia – Leading Towards an End [MP3]

Liechtenstein – Survival Strategies in a Modern World

liechtensteiner

Rating: ★★★ · ·

Liechtenstein is another band revisiting the musical stylings of the past, and while they claim to take their style from the early 80s, the band seems to owe a lot more to the the days of Motown.  An all girl group with such sweet voices surely can’t stand without looking back into the history of American R&B.  Still, with all debts to the past aside, Survival Strategies in a Modern World succeeds on various levels.

In order to really appreciate this album yourself, you have to realize that the band isn’t holding onto any pretensions; they aren’t claiming to be breaking any new musical ground.  Fun. This is really all the band is aiming to do.  Every piece of this album glistens with droplets of fun and earnestness. Such an attitude carries the album really far for most listeners, when they could have otherwise failed.

Another advantage of the album is it’s brevity.  Before the sugary sounds can wear away the enamel on your teeth, the album is finished.  Not a song goes beyond the 3.5 minute mark, and only nine songs create this work of revisionist art. Sure, you may be looking for more bang for your buck, but you won’t be displeased by this album; it doesn’t give you that chance.

Musically, just imagine listening to the first Concretes record on vinyl, only you decide that you want to speed up the RPMs so that it sounds like the Chipmunks, but instead it sounds precisely like Liechtenstein. Bass lines bubble throughout the album, shaking the speakers.  California guitar chords work together, jangling along the basic skeletal remains of each song.  Stir in some multiple part female harmonies and you have every bit of music you will hear on this album. Each song contains one, if not all, of these elements, with the only song that differs being the closer ‘The End,” only for its odd usage of acoustic guitar. It still kind of jangles.

Listening to this album, you’ll find that there is nothing particular that really jumps out at you.  This isn’t dismissing the band, for the tunes are all quite enjoyable, as you should have gathered, it merely portrays the band in an honest light, just as the band has portrayed themselves.  Their sincerity in creating these tunes surely comes across upon the first listen, which is precisely why you find yourself falling in love with this album, even as you question its merit.  Just give it a chance; thanks to its brevity you have the time!

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/01-all-at-once.mp3]

Download: Liechtenstein – All At Once [MP3]

Corto Maltese on Daytrotter

cortoWe love the project over at Daytrotter, especially when they do work with local Austin bands. Corto Maltese is one of the younger bands around town who are making a name for themselves. Their Daytrotter session is full of four unreleased songs recorded during SXSW. Unfortunately, the band have no current shows lined up, but at least we have these new songs.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/corto-maltese-sxsw-session-providence.mp3]

Download: Corto Maltese – Providence (Daytrotter Session) [MP3]

New Tunes from Fiery Furnaces

furnacesIt’s always  been really hard to classify the Fiery Furnaces; just as you have them all figured out they go and record an album with their grandmother. Still, the prolific duo is always pushing themselves, and in doing so, they tend to create a lot of really interesting tunes. This new tune represents the more piano driven side, though somewhat reminiscent of a 70s television theme song. This song, as well as others, will appear on the band’s new album I’m Going Away, which comes out July 21st via Thrill Jockey.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/the-fiery-furnaces-the-end-is-near.mp3]

Download: The Fiery Furnaces – The End is Near [MP3]

New Tunes from Publicist

pubSometimes we dig dance music, especially when it involves old DC stalwarts like Ian Svenonius of Nation of Ulysses fame, and now of Chain and the Gang. He’s been working with Sebastian Thomson of Trans Am, and they’ve come up with this floor banger, under Thomson’s Publicist moniker, destined to move your hips at the local party. I mean, take a look at this picture and envision yourself dancing away. Let’s hope there is more to come from these guys.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/publicist-momma.mp3]

Download: Publicist – Momma [MP3]

Malcolm Middleton – Waxing Gibbous

malcolm

Rating: ★★★½ ·

Singer Malcolm Middleton is better known as one half of Scottish band Arab Strap, but as that band has closed its final chapter, he is eager to carry on with his musical career. He’s always been working on the side creating his own tunes, but Waxing Gibbous comes at listeners with a bit more promise and consistency than his previous efforts.

You will find echoes of his past musical musings this time around, as they will surely never fade into the background of his life.  The splendid single “Carry Me” is a soft-spoken number; some might even call it downtrodden.  Middleton’s voice seems to ask for the support of his listener to support him by putting him upon their backs; he breaks his request to give the spoken-word explanation of his desire mid-song.  This approach remains one of the marked remnants of his time spent in Arab Strap.  Regardless, this song belongs on every mix tape you put together for your friends.  Also, you find usage of the electronic touch; this is yet another piece of his past.

Similarly, “Zero” begins with spoken-word before the percussive element kickstarts the rest of the song.  Once that becomes visible, the song takes off in a completely different direction, though his vocals still never seem to be far away from the spoken rather than sung forte.  But, before the song comes to a close, he slows it down to end the song with a gentle acoustic strumming carefully placed atop steady organ work.

Don’t think that he’s suddenly grown into a happier being, with many of these songs lamenting various facets of his life.  In “Ballad of Fuck All” he complains of the complacency in which his life seems to have slipped; his dreams of stardom and travels now disappearing in the rearview of his life.  And, quite frankly, its this element that seems to relate his lyrics to those of the listener; he has mundane problems we can all associate with our own lives.  This sort of connection has always been his specialty, but here he also asks, as he does frequently in the album, for someone to aid in his survival.

Unfortunately, some of the songs on the album drag on for longer than they should, with Middleton afraid to pull back on the reins entirely.  When he holds the songs in he succeeds beyond a doubt, but as other songs meander past the five minute mark it becomes a bit of a labor to listen to the entirety of each song, let alone an album full of such songs.  But, for those with patience you will find that Malcolm Middleton has crafted yet another wonderful piece of bedroom folk tunes we can all appreciate.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/10-made-up-your-mind.mp3]

Download: Malcolm Middleton – Made Up Your Mind [MP3]

Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca

bitte

Rating: ★★★★½

Dirty Projectors last effort, Rise Above, saw the band reconstructing Black Flag’s Damaged;  then they worked with David Byrne on the Dark Was the Night Compilation. How would their new album, Bitte Orca, transpire?  Let’s just say that the band uses elements of all their past work in the last few years and creates one of the most interesting records that has been released this year, if not THE most interesting.

As the album opens, you can tell that there will be more than enough going on in this album.  “Cannibal Resource” has a song that relies less upon the musical instruments and more upon the diverse collaboration of vocal harmonies of Longstreth, Coffman, and Deradoorian.  Still, a lot goes into this song; it’s the texturizing that makes the listening process so intoxicating. For some, you might find that the meandering seems pointless, as guitars twist and turn, often being dropped momentarily, then picked right back up.  At times it seems as if the songs aren’t going anywhere at all, yet as the move on, you can discern the band’s direction.

“Stillness is the Move” uses a predominantly female vocal, which at times resembles some of the work of The Knife.  Still, the guitar sounds as if it were sampled, and the percussion seems more electronic as well.  All in all, the vocal harmonies give the song a bit of urgency that moves the song along; then it completely changes in the middle of the song, as one of the ladies sings in a more traditional approach.  Once again, the band exhibits their willingness to deconstruct modern songwriting techniques, creating fresh sounds.

“Two Doves” is probably the group’s most straightforward song. Gentle guitar plucking, backed by crafty string arrangements created the perfect mood for which the female vocal has no choice but to soar.  It’s one of the most beautiful songs on the album, which owes more to the care taken to craft the perfect song, as the vocals never seem too forced, and the accompaniment of the music is extremely fitting to the overall tone of the song.

Then you come across the montage that is “Useful Chamber,” which is constructed like a modern symphonic piece.   There are some many different pieces to this song, it’s as if the band compiled several pieces in to one ornate song.  The pacing is irregular at first, and sort of fragmented, which is to be expected from such a song, but it peaks with Longstreth shouting out the album title, before the girls chime in with their high-pitched “oohs” and “aahhs.”  You won’t find a better crafted song this year.

And so the album goes, carefully constructed from the beginning until the end. The infectious melodies drive the album, but beneath it lies the clever craftwork of a band who is at the top of their game.  It seems like Dirty Projectors have climbed atop the world yet again.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/05-two-doves.mp3]

Download: Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca [MP3]

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