White Denim – Exposion

Rating: ★★ · · ·

Local Austin heroes, White Denim, have been garnering ridiculous amounts of press over the last few years, blasting off into the world of the inter-web with raving reviews and undying fan loyalty. Finally, the band have a full length album, Exposion, for all audiences to grab.

Their live shows are known for their riotous behavior and their vocal interchanges. Packed full of energy every step of the way, White Denim has easily found their way into the hearts of every Austinite, if not every person that considers themselves in the know.

One would figure that with the backing of local production company, Transmission Entertainment, that White Denim would be sure-set for a take off into the most fruitful of places. The question for most is would their daring stage show translate across formats and into speakers across the nation everywhere.

Unfortunately, the answer is no. This will greatly anger folks from the Lone Star State, but rest assured, a poor review is warranted here. They may still own the local stages with a tenacity uncommon to most witnesses, but their first real foray into the world of recorded music is not as fruitful as one would hope for these developing artists.

First, note the translucence in the vocals. They just don’t have the passion that they do when the band is standing in front of you, and most, even those who have never seen the band live, will feel as if the vocals are lacking in something. You could call it sincerity, or even passion, but they seem hollow, as if the band is stretching to maintain the effects felt by listeners in a live setting.

Upon further listening you will also find that the band seems more comfortable residing in the soundscapes of sloppy folk rock set in the sixties. The recording provides some similarities to the live audience meandering of the band, but without the visual, or the live experience the music fails to translate. Every ounce of fun is seemingly stripped from the songs; in fact, this just doesn’t seem like the same band winning hearts across America. It’s hard to find a song that makes you move your feet outside of “Shake Shake Shake,” which is always going to be a favorite.

The question, or perhaps the wall, in dealing with this album revolves around the fairness of treating an album the same way you would treat a live show. Is it acceptable to place judgement on a band because they fail to transcribe the raw power of the live show? More than likely, it’s not that fair, but that is what one has to deal with in this case. You have a phenomenal live band, one that everyone needs to see at least twice in their life, but one that just can’t give that magic out through the powers of modern technology. But, die-hard fans will surely be pleased to hear some of their favorites played through their bedroom speakers.

You can judge for yourself by picking up Exposion on the White Denim website.

Longwave – Secrets are Sinister

Rating: ★★★★½

Long ago, circa 2003, Longwave released The Strangest Things. It was an album full of possibilities; part pop album, part New York cool. Then comes 2005 and There’s A Fire loses everyone, pushing the band back to start. So where on Earth will we find them with Secrets are Sinister?

Briefly, lets journey back into the late 80s/early 90s, a time when pop music was a socially acceptable medium. Let’s face it, The Cure was a pop band; they still are. Yet, somewhere along this path, marketing interrupted creativity, rendering pop music virtually useless. In steps Longwave, circa 2008.

This album is precisely what a pristine pop album should and still is. Opening track “Sirens in the Deep Sea” is a heavy hitter, blasting guitar swells from the instant you press play, but then it drapes careful melodic vocals upon the walls of the song. It’s not the most novel approach, nor do we ask it to be, but there is not an instant where this song doesn’t immediately feel familiar and lasting.

“No Direction” keeps the pace with it’s predecessor, continuing the beating, yet this song is one of the one’s that harkens back to the band’s heyday. Most unique here are the levels to which singer, Steve Schlitz, pushes himself; it’s the most passionate he’s ever sounded.

However, it’s not all scowling guitars and walls of feedback. Let’s take “The Devil and the Liar,” for instance. It’s a calm moment in this storm of a statement; it’s also fairly reminiscent of Albert Hammond Jr, one of Schlitz’s dear friends, or at least old friends. This song clearly states that the band can play both ends, and they play it well. Similarly, you play a song like “Shining Hours” and you find yourself basking in the rays of pop goodness. It’s got a youthful edge, but one we can all identify with, no matter who we are. Longwave‘s ability to tug at any and every emotion is clearly where the band is at their best.

In trying to find a detractor here, one could easily state that there isn’t too much here that is pushing the limits of the local musical lexicon, but since when did everyone really have to go out of their way to be different in order to garner some sort of fandom. Clearly Longwave treasure those moments musically that we can all share; those moments when we realize we all love music for the same reason. That’s the secret.

You can listen to the record, Secrets are Sinister, in its entirety by visiting the band’s web site.

Dengue Fever @ Mohawk – Tonight!!!

A lot has been made in the past few years about the ridiculous onslaught of sweet tunes that are coming from Dengue Fever.  Earlier this year, they rocked everyone over at Club Deville.  Tonight, they are the sepcial guest at the Fun Fun Fun Fest pre-party over at the Mohawk.  We thought you should know!

They’ll be playing with a bunch of great Austin acts like Brothers and Sisters and The Lovely Sparrows.

FT5: Bands to See at FFF Fest

We here at ATH are getting really pumped about this weekend’s Fun Fun Fun Festival.  But, as we all know, it’s difficult to figure out who to see when there are so many bands playing.  You have time conflicts, you don’t know who some of the bands are and you wonder who will put on the best show?  Well, our Friday Top 5 is a compilation of bands that ATH is excited to see.  Hopefully this helps you make some decisions before you head out to the festival.  We’ve also got some MP3s you can stream for each band in the list, so fire up the ATH Radio and enjoy.

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Japanese Motors – s/t

Rating: ★★★★ ·

The purveyors of cool over at Vice have brought us yet another exciting new band, except this one seems oddly familiar. Japanese Motors is a four-piece band from Costa Mesa, California who have just released their self-titled album. Immediate comparisons will be made, but break on through the banal qualities for an ultimately rewarding listen.

Let’s get this out of the way; Japanese Motors are coated in the spectral essence of The Strokes of old. Singer, Alex Knost, has precisely the same hollow echo of a voice that Julian Casablancas has, which really isn’t a knock on his singing voice. It fits the music appropriately. However, the fact that they don’t use dueling guitars on every single song, on most songs in fact, makes their sound entirely different than their New York counterpart.

Opening track, “Single Fins and Safety Pins,” creates an entirely different vibe than The Strokes; choosing to bask in the glory of the California sun rather than worry about the plight of upper-middle class elitists in New York City. You can hear the sound of the surf flowing out of the guitar-work, and the rythm of the beach trodding along in the song. Even here, the commonalities with other select groups are not yet noticed.

Then “Regrets A Paradise” comes walking along the shore, and Knost embraces his inner Casablancas, although videoes of this frontman show him having a bit more fun; he dances rather than using his mic stand to hold him up. Vocal stylings are similar throughout the rest of the album, especially in songs like “Coors Lite.” The similiarities don’t detract from the enjoyment of listening to such songs, for we all long for the sounds of a few years back, when everything seemed fresh and new. But, even the bass lines sound really close.

There is another, more Californian, influence apparent in a lot of these songs, and it might be one more close to the hearts of Japanese Motors. Listening to a song like “Better Trends” brings back memories of “Take the Skinheads Bowling” by Camper Van Beethoven, the Californian oddity commodity. Both bands had a tendency for catchy songs, worthy of listening for all audiences.

Now, those at Vice will tell you of their tendency to throw outrageous parties that cater to the homeless and surfers, the debutantes and the hipsters; this definitely has nothing to do with this band, nor their ability to write catchy lo-fi pop ditties with a surf twist. Listen to the band for their music, no matter where the influence.

New Tunes from Longwave

In New York City long long ago, Longwave released one of the stronger debut albums of the decade, but they managed to go largely unnoticed. They had a slip-up on the sophomore LP, but they have a new album coming out on November 11th titled Secrets are Sinister. Here is the track “Sirens in the Deep Sea” off of said album.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/01-sirens-in-the-deep-sea.mp3]

Download: Longwave Sirens in the Deep Sea [MP3]

Megapuss – Surfing

Rating: ★★★½ ·

It is now apparent that Fab Moretti of The Strokes is intent upon taking over the music scene this week, as this is the second release of the week with the drummer laying down the percussion tracks. This time, however, he has joined up with Devendra Banhart of neo-hippy lore in order to create a jazzed out pop folk album under the name Megapuss.

Unfortunately for us, Devendra Banhart is cool with indecent exposure, thus we get this horrific cover art, but perhaps this is set to draw in the female audience.  Needless to say, one might have gone beyond the standard of taste here. Of course, the inclusion of such a picture furthers the sexual undertones all over the album, not to mention the band’s current moniker.

Expectations were that this would be one of the most creative pop albums of the year, as Banhart is known for his abstract approaches.  This time he takes a more standard approach, including various other musicians such as Moretti and Greg Rosgrove of Priestbird.  Fab’s precision percussion definitely allows a steadying pace to the oddly poppy songs present on the album.

It’s difficult to describe the ebbs and flows of this album, which can be driven by the album’s title, Surfing. Listening to the album takes you up and down, atop the wave and crashing to the ocean floor.  The opener “Crop Circle Jerk 94” is a swinging number, while the albums title track is a more subdued jazzier number. You also have to include Devandra’s dedication to the psychedelic aspect of musical musings, as there is definitely a presence here.

In fact, it would be really easy to classify this entire album under the Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era.  Songs like “Theme from Hollywood” or “Older Lives” have a tendency to live decades in the past, although the lyrical content is definitely less experimental, the music still leans toward an out-of-body listening experience.

One of the huge detractors on this album is the presence of background vocals.  It’s difficult for Banhart to separate himself from the hordes of followers and friends he has, thus he chooses to include them on his album, which doesn’t always play to his benefit here.  If you stripped those elements away you would find that there is a lot of substance.

All in all you find that this is definitely a nice step out of the traditional folk approach for Banhart, and yet another interesting step for Fab Moretti.  Even if it is just for kicks, it’s refreshing to see these fine fellows step outside themselves for just a little while.

Little Joy – s/t

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Most will recognize the percussionist of Little Joy, the newest offshoot made up of Strokes drummer Fab Moretti. Toss in Rodrigo Amarante and Binki Shapiro, and you have the line-up for LA based Little Joy.

Those in search of the upbeat pop specialties that Albert Hammond has thrown our way will surely not find what you are looking for in these songs, but instead you will find an entirely different genre, what one will call beach-influences crooner tunes. It would suffice to say that this group has created eleven perfect lounge tracks for your favorite smoky dive bar.

“The Next Time Around” is the album’s opener, which contributes the first of many island infused tracks. Guitars and percussion lie in the back of the song, as Amarante croons, not entirely like Julian Casablancas, but not too far off. It’s easy to see why Fab chose to work with this fellow; in the middle of the track there is an influx of Portuguese lyrics, which add to the Latin appeal of the album.

Listening to this album one should recall quiet moments spent on beaches with their friends, much like the members of Team Zissou. In fact, if you recall the soundtrack to the Wes Anderson movie Life Aquatic, you will find that this album is very reminiscent of the guitar work done by Seu Jorge, although the majority of the music here is in English; none of the songs are Bowie covers either.

“No One’s Better Sake” is the fourth track on the album, and it’s one that has the largest resemblance to The Strokes. The progression sounds strikingly similar to a few of the songs off Room on Fire, but a little organ work gives it an entirely different feel. Once again, Amarante croons in that very familiar tone. Even the progression of the song sounds too familiar to dismiss as mere coincidence.

Be sure to listen to “Don’t Watch Me Dancing.” This song features the female vocals from Binki Shapiro, and it’s one of those perfect little songs that creeps into your head as the day passes into the by and by. It’s a mellow little ditty, but most will appreciate the emotive number, possibly one of the strongest tracks on the album.

One thing missing from this album is a substantial pace. The lack of pace, and the organization of the songs on the album makes it a tad difficult to immerse yourself completely in the album. Even good beach parties have a few rollicking moments that move the crowd; this album seems to lack that pace and emotion entirely aside from one or two brief moments.

At the end of the day, listeners will have a decent debut album from Little Joy to attach themselves to for evening listening. If anything, this album is the perfect conversation starter as your friends try to figure out why the songs sound so familiar, yet so much like their last trip to Cancun. You’ll enjoy the album too; it just won’t make your top albums of the year list.

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