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]

New Tunes from The Papercuts

jasonJason Quever has quietly been making waves under the moniker of The Papercuts. This track comes straight off their upcoming album, You Can Have What You Want, set to come out on Gnomonsong Records on April 14th.  Just another song from one of our most-anticipated albums in 2009. 

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/07-future-primitive-1.mp3]

Download: The Papercuts – Future Primitive [MP3]

M Ward – Hold Time

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Rating: ★★★★ ·

M Ward has won over fans this past year for his role in She and Him, which is deserved accolades, but lets not forget that the man on his own has always been able to record some of the more intimate bedroom listens of the decade.  He returns now with Hold Time, his first solo outing since releasing Post-War.

Opener “For Beginners” is the perfect album opener for this album, as the cooly calm vocals hum gently over the guitar, being strummed as if a slow train were approaching.  Ladies and gents, this is a slow train coming, so sit back and enjoy.

There is just something about the way that the man records his albums that seems to win you over every single time.  Based on his previous confessions, its easy to see here that he adores recording of the olden days, and he treats his own songs with similar care, coating each tune in pleasant melodies and a general warmth.  Yet, it never sounds dated when he pulls it off.  Unless, of course, he covers “Rave On” by Buddy Holly. His version is a little less clean than the original, as a little feedback seems to suit his aims purpose.  Where he lacks in the precision of the original, he makes up for it in his presentation.  M. Ward owns this song, and recreates it with a new spin, all the while holding onto the blueprint of the original. The song also features Ms. Deschanel, one of the two songs she guests on throughout the duration of this album.

For some reason, it’s really hard to escape the feeling that the singer of these songs, our narrator, belongs in the present day.  It’s as if every song, although based on modern times, is rooted firmly in the history of the past.  Perhaps this is why it always seems so intimate as you listen to the sounds coming out of the stereo.  Take “Fisher of Men,” which seems to have that same train-track guitar plucking.  It’s as if the whole song was sung in camaraderie around a campfire at a work camp during the Depression.

“Oh Loneseome Me” offers us yet another great collaboration, this time with Lucinda Williams.  Lyrically, it offers a glimpse at a lost love, and having to confront the free time on one’s hands afterwards.  But, the vocals on behalf of both artists really do remove every ounce of emotion from the listener, which always makes for a perfect song.

Interestingly, there are some genuinely upbeat moments here too, like “To Save Me” and “Epistemology.”  The repertoire that the man has at his hands allows for a great deal of variance throughout the entirety of this album.  At the core, his voice is able to adapt to varying levels of instrumentation, always holding onto the more personal level of presentation.  With each twist and turn, you hear an old friend, or even grandparent, softly rocking you to sleep.

As the beginning of the year take off, lets all hope that M. Ward gets loads of accolades for his endeavors as a solo musician with vast talent, and not just for his wonderful collaborations.  Hold Time will surely be a step towards that accomplishment.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/02-never-had-nobody-like-you.mp3]

Download: M Ward – Never Had Nobody Like You [MP3]

Murder City Devils Re-Press

murderFrom the shadows of death Murder City Devils return. We all were lucky enough to catch them at Fun Fun Fun a few years back, and now, we get brand new vinyl thanks to Sub Pop Records. The band is re-releasing their albums in honor of their brief West Coast stint, and just because they aren’t coming to Austin doesn’t mean we can’t run out and get that vinyl today! Good luck old friends.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/01pressgang.mp3]

Download: Murder City Devils – Press Gang [MP3]

Broken Spindles @ The Mohawk (2/16)

joelTo start off the week, Austin will be visited by Broken Spindles. The man behind the band is Joel Peteresen, better known for his participation in The Faint. Opening acts will be Loxsly and New Roman Times. The show kicks off at 8 PM at The Mohawk. Tickets are $8 at the door. 

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

Download: Broken Spindles – Beatdown Break Up (Casettes Won’t Listen Remix) [MP3]

…Trail of Dead – Century of Self


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Rating: ★★★½ ·

Long ago, or so it seems, Pitchfork gave Austin’s Trail of Dead, the highest honor, a perfect ten for their album Source Tags and Codes.  Since then, the band has experimented with various changes in sound and direction, and it seemed, unfortunately, that people had gradually begun to look the other way. Century of Self is perhaps the album that gets them back on top of it all.

When “Far Pavillions” gets under way, listeners are greeted with the bombastic drumming, as pounding rhythms blast through the speakers. The call and response vocals recall a greater day when post-punk definitely had its hold over the world; its a credible start to the album, and what some might call a return to form.

In previous efforts, the band might go off at this point, jumping in a new direction, but this time around, they keep right at it, as a large wall of sound crushes listeners, in a good way.  Once again, the drumming is spectacular, and it continuously pushes the band forward.  “Isis Unveiled” is a somewhat epic tune, sprawling out over six minutes, all of which keep your attention.

Then we are visited by the softer, slower elements of the group.  “Halycon Days” and “Bells of Creation” take a different approach to the audience, slowing down the tempo, albeit momentarily.  These songs demonstrate that the band has grown a great deal in the process of coming to this album, yet they still maintain a certain sense of impending doom and chaos, which is precisely what this band has always been known for in the past.  Here we find them able to soothe you in a moment, and then crush you the next. A perfect balance of sorts.

All of a sudden, the band hold it all back, throwing what one would call some ballads at the listener.  “Luna Park” is somewhat of an unexpected turn on the album, as its driven primarily be gentle piano work, coated in guitar accompaniment. Honestly, if it had come at a different time, as far as album placement goes, this would be one of the many highlights on this record.  There is a personality to this song that hasn’t been present in past efforts. But, this is also where the album switches gears.

From here on out, the album has a different sense of urgency.  Songs like “Pictures of an Only Child” and “Insatiable Two” show that the band may have just outgrown the ferocity they once held.  Sure, there are still elements in the latter half that are pleasing in an aesthetic sense, but its a bit of a juxtaposition when compared with the first half of the album.  While one side presents a fierceness that dares you to hold on tight, the other side wants to draw you in closely.

Its precisely this element that makes the album a little bit uneven.  In a way, they’ve crafted the perfect LP.  Side one is full of a barrage of shear noise and pace.  Side two is a slow drive down a carefully soundscaped highway.  Either side surely can stand up on their own, both with lots of quality, but when thrown together, its a bit of an odd combination.  Then again, the band has never been one to worry about falling along a prescribed path.  They prove their willingness to follow their own path with Century of Self, and we’ve got to respect that.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/09-pictures-of-an-only-child.mp3]

Download: Trail of Dead – Pictures of an Only Child [MP3]

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