Last week news came via the Internet that broke my once teenage heart; Travis Morrison was retiring from music. Not only did Travis fare well enough on his own accord, but he fronted one of my favorite bands from long ago, who put out one of my favorite records titled Emergency and I. If you never listened to The Dismemberment Plan, we’re bringing this back to you from the closet, and we hope you’ll realize what a loss this is for the indie community; sure, it’s no MJ, but still, it’s pretty big.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/03-what-do-you-want-me-to-say.mp3]
These United States have a new record coming our way on September 1st via United Interests. Said album is titled Everything Touches Everything, and we’ve got a tune for you to preview while you salivate the arrival of this album. This track is titled “I Want You to Keep Everything,” and I’ve been spinning it all afternoon long. Buen proveche.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/tus_2009_single.mp3]
Download: These United States – I Want You to Keep Everything [MP3]
That’s right, against the odds of the other office members of ATH, I have opted for my tenth post on Jay Reatard. If only he could give me some money for that, right? Well, I’m bringing you this one in support of his new album, Watch Me Fall, on Matador Records this August (the fifth). So here’s “Wounded.” It’s good. Dig it.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/jay_reatard_wounded.mp3]
Download: Jay Reatard – Wounded [MP3]
The Internet was abuzz with news that the union between Black Lips and King Khan would finally come to fruition. The group, under the name of The Almighty Defenders, will be releasing their self-titled album on September 22nd. Personally, this track, “Bow Down and Die” has a killer riff throughout, reminiscent of the BBQ Show, but I’m not entirely sold on the echo-y gang vocals, but you be the judge.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/03-bow-down-and-die-1.mp3]
Download: The Almighty Defenders – Bow Down and Die [MP3]
For their third album, Stellastarr opted to go it on their own and release the record, Civilized, on their terms, and their label, Bloated Wife Records. However, nothing about the band seems to have changed at all since their previous efforts, which is either a good or bad thing, depending upon which camp you sleep in with regards to your opinion on the band.
Kicking off the album is “Robot,” and Amanda Tannen’s presents the most throbbing bass lines to date for the band. While the guitars shatter in some other worldly angular atmospherics, Shawn Christensen repeats the lyrics “by design/you’re going to hurt yourself.” The lyrics appear to have less of an impact than on previous efforts, but the cutting edge guitar riffs show that the band means business.
When track three, “Tokyo Sky” sets off, you’re tossed back into that classic new wave sound, with clean jangling guitars, but just as you get comfortable and nostalgic, they press down on the distortion pedal, they pull out some “Today”-era Smashing Pumpkins guitar miming. While the guitars continue to swirl about the song, Christensen does his best to fall somewhere between himself and Davey of The Promise Ring. Oddly, the lyrics refrain of “my Tokyo sky” recall the same refrain of “My Coco” off the group’s first album.
“Graffiti Eyes” probably has the most bounce of this set of songs, which is sad, since the band has been successful with such styles. However, Tannen’s backing vocals provide a great counterbalance to the jagged yelp of Christensen. In the chorus we find the band nearing their most straightforward pop approach to date, although the music doesn’t seem to comply necessarily. Although this is the single for the band, this isn’t necessarily the best song on the album. That award goes to “Prom Zombie” with its entirely playful singalong moments between Tannen and Christensen. It’s the one song on this album that just seem like they’ve been rehashing themselves entirely. And, there are horns! Horns bro.
The latter half of the album is much like the first half, with it all ending in “Sonja Cries,” the one song when you can clearly hear Christensen’s vocals. Surprisingly, this seems like the exact direction the band should have gone to begin with, or at least built into the album as a whole. By this point, the airy atmospherics of the guitars have grown weary after listening to them for three straight albums. In the end, the band has created more enjoyable numbers for you to add to your collection, though they might not be the most memorable moments in the Stellastarr‘s history.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/1-06-prom-zombie.mp3]
Download: Stellastarr – Prom Zombie [MP3]
Everyone’s favorite, Arctic Monkeys, have long been working on the follow-up to their last album. Said album is titled Humbug, and is slated to hit the streets on August 25th. We’ve got our hands on one of the tunes, so that you can sample it for yourself in preparation for the release. This one seems a bit darker, which might be a new direction from the band, but we’ll wait until the album’s out to pass full judgment.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/01-crying-lightning-1.mp3]
Download: Arctic Monkeys – Crying Lightning [MP3]
Last summer we met Fleet Foxes, and their harmonious folk led to much acclaim whilst keeping us warm for the rest of the year. This summer, we have Bowerbirds. While they may not share much in common with last summer’s hit, they do seem to dabble in the folk nostalgia, most likely influenced by their location in Raleigh, North Carolina. On their new record, Upper Air, you’ll find them quietly strumming instruments while combining the voices of Phil Moore and Beth Tacular in order to warm your soul–though if you’re in Austin, Tx, odds are you don’t need it that much.
Something in Phil Moore’s voice just evokes emotion. You can tell from the minute he steps in on “House of Diamonds” that he’s got something personal to release, whether truly personal, or as a narrative; you’ll find that his voice warrants repeated listening. Then combine it with Beth’s voice during the chorus, and you have the recipe for the group’s deeply rich melodious folk productions.
Almost every song stands alone on this album, as if they crafted them out of individual stories, yet they all fit together, standing as a woven basket of an album, full of various tales and combined textures. In “Teeth,” the usage of accordion provides a new layer with which the group can tie in their shared vocal arrangements. Crystal clear picking of guitars stand out in the foreground, exfoliating the textured sounds in a beautiful manner.
When you find yourself in the middle of the album, you meet the longest song on this long player. “Ghost Life” demonstrates the group at its best, with some of the stronger lyrics this side of 2009. Here, the paired vocals of Moore and Tacular do somewhat resemble Fleet Foxes harmonies, although you clearly won’t mistake this band as anything other than an original. Such a standout is worthy of being played over and over again on your home stereo, where the pristine sounds of the tune can truly take on a life of their own.
Near the end of the album, you’ll find Moore really pushing himself, in the realm of vocals, on “Crooked Lust.” But, this is just a momentary prelude to the record’s closer, “This Day.” It’s almost a solo number, until you hit the end of the song, where everyone joins together to bring an end to “This Day,” and in doing so, bring an end to Upper Air.
Much like the artwork on the cover, this is folk music for the clouds. Temporarily, it will let you float outside of yourself as you escape the a land created by someone else. It’s a blissful folk journey that the Bowerbirds will encourage you to take, as they took it themselves in completing their best work to date.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/02-teeth-1.mp3]
Download: Bowerbirds – Teeth [MP3]
When news that Rostam from Vampire Weekend and Wes from Ra Ra Riot would unite to create an album under the name of Discovery, the Internet was afire with fans of both bands, all hoping that they could combine the magic of their individual outfits into something that would supersede both. LP is the title of said album, and while there are definitely moments that seem worthy of accolades, it’s unclear at this juncture just how far the adoration will carry the group.
Opener “Orange Shirt” hits from the opening with musical beats reminiscent of Passion Pit, except it goes beyond that similarity, as Wes actually has a quality vocal to place atop the beats. However, the beats just don’t seem to hit too hard, nor do they really go anywhere; it’s sort of a stationary song in itself, and doesn’t quite build.
“Can You Discover” is somewhat of a remix, as the lyrics come from Ra Ra Riot‘s “Can You Tell.” Unfortunately, once you strip away the textures from the original, the song seems really simple, as if it was sort of an afterthought in its production. Also, using auto-tune on the vocals seems like a huge injustice, ruining the power of Wes Miles’ voice.
The middle of the album seems to be where you find the meat and potatoes of the album, or maybe it’s just the potatoes. “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” features Angel from Dirty Projectors, which adds a different touch to the monotony of the album, and it probably has one of the stronger beats on the album, but the keyboard meanderings get a little tiring. “Swing Tree” is in this section of the album, and it probably carries the most interesting production, at least up to this point in the album. The high pitched electronics don’t sound too basic, though the beat looped in seems to be one of the most common element throughout the album itself. And here, you also find “Carby” which has vocals from Ezra of Vampire Weekend. It’s probably one of the gems on the album; probably one of the few songs you could throw into a club mix.
In it’s entirety, the one thing that this album doesn’t have is the catchiness factor, which both members exude in their own right with their main gigs. Almost every beat seems mundane, as if they just took the samples from the radio, and reran them through some sort of mixer. It takes the heart out of the music itself, and all the moments of joy that we usually associate with these two artists are rendered useless for the most part. Overall, the album comes off as a generic stab at taking indie bands to the dance floors of the world, but ultimately, it seems like this might fail.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/07-carby-ft-ezra-koenig.mp3]
Download: Discovery – Carby [MP3]
We were excited to be hitting up the Nylon Summer Tour at Antones, as the bill featured the likes of Jaguar Love, Plasticines and Patrick Wolf. These are several bands we had been following for a long time, but had yet to get a chance to see on our home-turf. Anxiously, we grabbed a few Lone Stars and awaited the evening with enthusiastic uncertainty. Follow the jump to read our take on the show.
If you haven’t listened to Sunny Day Real Estate, or at least heard of the much heralded band, then you must have been hiding under a huge rock. Not only was the band one of the most influential early emo bands, but they put out a few records that were nearly perfect, before parting ways. But, the band is back, and they will be playing at La Zona Rosa on October 7th. Sure, it will be an older crowd, but this is definitely a must see show for all indie fans. Dare I say it’s more important to me than My Bloody Valentine earlier this year? I do. Go buy Diary.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/02-in-circles.mp3]