Metric – Fantasies

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Rating: ★★★½ ·

It has been extremely difficult not to fall in love with Metric; the band has consistently put out enjoyable pop tunes throughout their evolution as a band.  Their fourth album, Fantasies, is just another progressive step in whatever direction the band chooses to go.  Yes, maybe it’s not the same band that you couldn’t get enough of on Old World Underground, but this album is stocked full of fantastic singles and even more ridiculously good moments than ever before.

The world caught wind of “Help, I’m Alive” a few months back, and the album couldn’t have a better opener than this. As the synthesizer and drums push the song forward, you are on the edge of the seat waiting for the song to crash down, but as always, the band remains coy, pulling back with just enough restraint to play innocent; that is until Emily hits the high notes, and warms your ears. “Sick Muse” follows immediately keeping the fast pace.  It’s a lot more straightforward than previous songs in the Metric canon, but the chorus is where the band seems to excel this time around. In fact, the choruses throughout the album are one of the elements that differentiates this album from the past.

You’ll also find some moments on this album that seem like they were skeletons left in Emily Haines’ closet as she wrapped up her solo work to work on this album.  “Twilight Galaxy” is just such a song, as it rests on “oohs” and what sounds like a programmed drum track.  While one could complain about such a moment being on this record, it shows just how far Haines has come since her inception as rock-goddess extraordinaire. “Gimme Sympathy” is a similar song, though it’s fleshed out a bit more by the presence of the rest of the band.  All in all, it’s a twist we hadn’t seen yet, and it’s one that works well for the band.

Unfortunately, a lot of the angular guitar work is gone from this album, or at least it has hidden itself behind the hills of electronic presence.  On one hand, this makes this album ready for those who wish to take it to the dance floor, as the synths will definitely blast out of speakers around the world, but it also makes the album comes across as a lot more polished than before.  The ferocity of the group here is subdued; Emily now is more than just the pretty face of the band.  She seems to be the leader in every sense here, and for some, that might be a little disheartening.

Suffice it to say that most of those fans who fell in love with the band will still be happy with the most recent output, as there are gems all over this record.  Who knows where the next step will lead the band, but as long as they can continuously pump out pop music this good, they are sure  to have followers for years to come.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/06-gimme-sympathy.mp3]

Bill Callahan – Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle

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Rating: ★★★★ ·

Austin resident Bill Callahan is more widely known for his releases under the Smog moniker, but the release of his second “solo” album will surely have heads turning in the direction of his future; his most recent ventures seem to be the most focused of any of his releases, which definitely prove beneficial to the listener.

Of course, there is really only one instrument on this album that is truly worthy of discussion, and that has to be the ragged baritone vocals of Callahan himself.  His voice is easily identifiable, but it also serves as the predominant element that courses through the entirety of the album.  Everything else seems to play second-fiddle to the vocals, and one can presume that that is precisely where Callahan would like to leave us.

Take, for instance, “Eid Ma Clack Shaw,” the album’s first released single.  The song is comprised mostly of two elements: one being the voice of Callahan, the other being tinkering piano that bounces gleefully in step with the vocals. “The Wind and the Dove” follows just after, and you’re caught on the brief moments when the pitch and delivery seem to change just the slightest bit, creating a sense of reserve.  Both songs emphasize the voice rather than the music, although this isn’t saying that the music is altogether uninteresting. One merely needs to listen to the gentleness in the production, even when other elements are added to the textural mix of the song, such as the female vocals that filter in and out of “Rococo Zephyr.”

This entire outing seems to come out of a place of reserve, as if Callahan is taking his time to think things through, watching the world around slowly go by each day.  Lyrically, the songs approach various levels of observation and commentary on fairly mundane things, but developed in the way only Bill can do.  Even the song titles seem to illustrate the idea of thought, and other such processes, which is apparently where a lot of the album stems from, as Bill admits to being a bit restless during the recording of the majority of the album.

At the end of the journey, you’ll find one of the longest songs in the Bill Callahan/Smog repertoire, which isn’t entirely a bad thing.  It’s the perfect bookend to the album, as the narrator here admits that it’s time to put some things away, such as God.  With the album coming to a close, it’s time to put it away, as Bill has clearly made his point.  He’s crafted a set of mellow semi-folk tunes using his voice as the instrument and his lyrics as your guide through his world and his thoughts.  It’s a good run through from start to finish.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/03-the-wind-and-the-dove.mp3]

Download: Bill Callahan – The Wind and the Dove [MP3]

New Tunes from My Latest Novel

artists-mylatestnovelA few years back, I stumbled into the record store and came across this band, My Latest Novel. They met my requirements for something worthy of checking out: they were from Glasgow and someone references Belle and Sebastian in their review; those days are long gone. The first single from the bands upcoming album, Death and Entrances, is full of complexities and an organic quality that most enjoy these days.  Sit back and listen.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/01-all-in-all-in-all-is-all.mp3]

Download: My Latest Novel – All in All in All is All [MP3]

Electric Six @ Emos 4/15

electricsix I’ll be honest, I haven’t really kept in touch with the music of Electric Six in a few years, but they have to be doing fairly well for themselves considering they are playing outside at Emo’s this Wednesday night; you don’t get that gig being small potatoes. Tickets are way cheap at only $10, and you can buy them here. Rest assured, you’ll be sure to hear their classic hit, and one of my favorites, which I’ve placed below for you enjoyment.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/electric-six-danger-high-voltage.mp3]

Download: Electric Six – Danger High Voltage [MP3]

New Tunes from Dogs Die in Hot Cars

dogs For a while, we all thought that UK band Dogs Die in Hot Cars were done for good, but recently, the band has reemerged with a new project at hand.  In order to get their second album completed, they are asking their fans to finish it up, as they seem to be done with working together.  Regardless, you can read more about that project and download the entire second album demos for free at the band’s web site.  I, for one, can’t wait to hear what someone does with “Pop Nonsense.”

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/02-pop-nonsense.mp3]

Download: Dogs Die in Hot Cars – Pop Nonsense [MP3]

Papercuts – You Can Have What You Want

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Rating: ★★★★½

This appears to be the decade where people actively seek out the atmosphere of a quiet bedroom recording, as bands like Grizzly Bear and Fleet Foxes burst forth with warmth and comfort, the kind you would find beneath your Grandma’s quilt in your room. Unfortunately, Jason Quever and his band, Papercuts, have often been overlooked in the discussion, though few will feel that way when this record hits the streets.

You Can Have What You Want is the third proper full-length from Quever, and listeners will find that this is his most complete collection of songs to date.  The songs are the most fluid he has composed, and they seem to courageously go from one shining moment into the next. Melodies rise just as you thought they’d fallen away, and it all feels as if a master architect assembled the songs piece by piece; everything on this record feels absolutely right.

Jason’s vocals sound amazing this time around, albeit a bit underdone at points. Some will find fault with this approach, as you must surely dig deep into your listening experience in order to grasp the lyrics, but most will find this aesthetic quite appealing whilst searching for their favorite tune as they rearrange their closet by color.  Take “The Machine Will Tell Us So,” a song that meanders carefully through seas of organ and cymbal work, almost so quiet you can’t help but let wonder if the music is only in your head; then the chorus bursts in full of calming melodies, taking the song in an entirely different direction, though only for a moment.

Of course, Papercuts aren’t afraid to pick up the pace, at least musically.  “Dead Love” and “Future Primitive” are both set back to back, which may be due to the fact that each of these songs call for a bit of toe-tapping, though one must only do so in place, as the vocals are not begging you to move about. “Future Primitive” is the first single from the album, and features a lot of the elements of the rhythm section of Jeremy Jay, only with quieter lyrics, if you can imagine that. Sure, it’s a standout track, but almost every track here shines in its own manner.

The title track to the album, “You Can Have What You Want,” is just yet another example of how beautifully Jason shapes his songs; he is able to fill up empty space with bits and pieces of vocals and instrumentation, all pushing the song to the fullest potential.  Really, this is all one needs to ask of his or her favorite musician: can you get the most out of your song? The answer to that question, and in regards to this whole album, is a resounding yes! If you want something to listen to in your bedroom, this album may be the best one for your ear.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/papercuts-you-can-have-what-you-want.mp3]

Download: Papercuts – You Can Have What You Want [MP3]

Brian Jonestown Massacre @ Emo’s 4/14

bjm_logoIt’s hard to guess precisely what sort of show you’ll get when you go watch BJM, but let’s face it, that’s sort of the fun in the whole thing right? Despite their somewhat unsettling antics, as seen in DIG, the band have still crafted some solid songs over the last decade or so, and you’ll be sure to enjoy such songs when they play tonight at Emo’s. Tickets are still available, so grab one and catch an exciting show.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/bjm_going-to-hell.mp3]

Download: Brian Jonestown Massacre – Going to Hell [MP3]

New Tunes from Mary Onettes

mary You’d be hard pressed to find a better place to play than the current state of things in Sweden.  One of those bands who hasn’t gotten too much press, but who deserves a great deal of praise is The Mary Onettes.  Their upcoming Dare EP is set to come out digitally, with a physical release slated for June.  Here is a taste of the title track off said EP.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/dare.mp3]

Download: The Mary Onettes – Dare [MP3]

From the Closet – Morrissey

whatupWell, it’s not exactly a traditional from the closet, as The Mozz is still around and kicking out great tunes, but we here at ATH feel like we need to honor the man this week with his very own segment. Morrissey will be making his way to Bass Concert Hall this Sunday night to belt those songs out to all you lovers, and odds are you won’t regret the price of the ticket. Whether you love him from the Smiths or his solo work, we all have to give in to the fact that his voice alone influenced hordes of indie kids for years to come. For that, and for your great songs, we bring you Morrissey, out from the closet.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/19-the-more-you-ignore-me-the-closer-i-get.mp3]

I Was a King – s/t

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Rating: ★★★★½

Occasionally the overseas hype makes its way to these Eastern shores, and in those cases it rarely amounts to much.  This time, I Was a King, aim to put all that hype to rest, as they have an album of such quality that it’s hard not to immediately fall in love with every single song on the album.

From the opening moments of the album, there is a definite haziness to the production, as if the album was washed in a dense Irish fog; that sentimentality will remain throughout the record, though the album definitely breaks through in a major way.

More than likely, you will find that this album borrows largely from the late 90s Brit-pop as the guitars carry a certain amount of fuzz, and you would be hard pressed not to find some similarities between the band and Teenage Fanclub. There’s elemental grit on almost every single song that comes your way, but beneath it sleeps that great pop beast that is near and dear to our hearts.

One issue that some might take upon immediate listens is that the lyrics are not openly decipherable; one must listen closely throughout the entire album in order to get a hold on the precise subject matter.  But isn’t this what we all want from our music?  Does music have to be so immediately accessible?  No! This album answers that time and time again, as it unfolds with rewarding moment after rewarding moment.  And those vocals are so warm and inviting that they recall little known band The Comas, so much so that one might confuse the singers as the same man, but alas, there is a great distance between the two.

It’s difficult to describe such an album that goes all over the place and yet remains stationary.  The album artwork in this case is a sufficient descriptor of the album, as each song is full of different colors and sounds.  In part the album is 90s power-pop, but psychedelic moments shine through from the same core, only to be outdone by the space fuzz guitarmonies that cradle the vocals.  This is an album that refuses to be defined, and it refuses to sit in one place.  Here you have ADHD recorded, perfected, and sold to appease your ears.

No matter what you find enjoyable, you will find that this album is perfectly suited for you and your listening.  It’s not overtly abrasive where you can’t sleep with it at night, nor is it near mellow enough where you don’t want to crank it all the way to eleven; you won’t be able to put this one down.  Please, spin it again and again.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/14-norman-bleik.mp3]

Download: I Was A King – Norman Bleik [MP3]

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