Before you decide to hit up Passion Pit at Emos on June 3rd, you might want to stroll on over to the Long Center where Austin’s Rare Magazine will be hosting a little gathering of local rareties, and what could be more rare than great music here in Austin? Aside from local food vendors handing out booze and food for free, you can catch tunes from great Austin bands such as Grupo Fantasma, Harlem and White Denim. You can snag yourself a pair of tickets for this evening by heading here.
Passion Pit seems to have been on the tongues of every person discussing music this year, and they return to Austin to show us what they have, in the live setting at Emos that is. Along with them they bring Harlem Shakes and Cale Parks, two bands who have been making waves across the country with delightful albums of their own. Be sure to catch this show, for if the band explodes, you likely won’t catch them in this sort of semi-intimate setting again.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/05-sunlight.mp3]
Download: Harlem Shakes – Sunlight [MP3]
Long ago there was this killer band called Murder City Devils. They had this one guy who ended up in Pretty Girls Make Graves, who then left to start The Cave Singers. Now that I’ve name dropped enough, let me tell you that Derek Fudesco’s new outfit resembles neither of his past efforts, not even close. Still, it just goes to show you that punks like to folk it up. So, the new tunes are slated to appear on the next Cave Singers album, Welcome Joy, which is slated for an August release. Here you go folks.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/the-cave-singers-beach-house.mp3]
Download: The Cave Singers – Beach House [MP3]
When The Sounds first crossed the Atlantic, everyone was abuzz with the rehashing of eighties synthesizers and guitars. Glittery punk-pop took the hipsters (and hipspanics) by storm; you all liked The Killers at first, and you probably liked The Sounds too. Now on their third album, Crossing the Rubicon, the question remains as to where the band can possibly go musically without treading water in the same spot they’ve lived in for years.
From the moment the first single “No One Sleeps When I’m Awake” crashes into your speakers, it’s clear that the band have stepped up their game, at least with regards to their approach. Long gone are the sexy days in the tiny clubs, as this song represents a louder, more brash, band destined to carry out their shows in larger arenas. Songs like these are perfect for radio play; they’re everything a good pop song should be: catchy melody and singable elements.
However, the band still maintains a firm grip on their club attitude. The presence of songs like “Beatbox” and “My Lover” show that the band is very much still enthralled with creating a club hit with that punk attitude. Maja always seemed like the heir to Debbie Harry, and perhaps crossover songs such as these will provide the platform from which she can finally jump into mainstream stardom. But, it is precisely this element where the band has lost what made them so ferocious and dangerous when they first hit took to the stage. Releasing such songs has also led to forays into other musical genres, some which are not quite as forgivable as creating a club hit.
Let’s take “Midnight Sun” and use this as our point of discussion. Guitar work is drowned out for the most part, despite the cheesy solo in the middle that does nothing more than mimic a number of solos on Guitar Hero. You combine that with the vocals and you have the band doing their first take on what we will refer to as Kelly Clarkson pop. Everything about this song feels contrived and heartless.
Unfortunately, that is where you find The Sounds at the end of the day on this album. Those killer guitar parts that led you to believe you were still listening to a band with some sort of punk sensibility have been exchanged on the market for more polished sounds. Polished is the perfect word for this album. What once made the group come off as edgy and exciting has been dumbed down to reach a new audience entirely. They created Crossing the Rubicon and threw everything out the window entirely. We expected them to change, just not into this.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/06-underground.mp3]
Download: The Sounds – Underground [MP3]
According to the group’s web site, or to the words of Mark Oliver Everett, this album attempts to hint at the idea of coming to terms with realizing that despite one’s best intentions, it’s difficult to live the life of a loner, or a lone wolfman; this is where the Spanish title comes into play. Hombre Lobo literally means wolfman, so it’s no surprise that the Eels would tackle such issues on their latest release.
Really, when you pull away the layers, the album’s lyrical content comes across pretty straightforward. You find the narrator in said songs chasing after his muse, turning to said love time and time again, despite his/her desire flee and go elsewhere. In “Ordinary Man,” our narrator willingly gives into his love, realizing that this is where he wants to be in the end, ordinary man or not. Let’s face it, it’s hard to be a lone wolf sometimes.
Musically, the album, is pretty much all over the place; it’s rather scatterbrained. It jumps from the opening barn-stomper of a tune in “Prizefighter” to “That Look You Gave That Guy.” Opening the album you have the wild man at heart, playing his soul, and banging out blues-fueled riffs for the listener. How quickly it turns, however, as “That Look..” is a much more somber affair, with the narrator begging for that same look. This is is one of the more solid tracks on the album, and an illustration of the dichotomy that is Eels records.
One thing that always jumps out during the listening process is the similarity to a Beck song. Take one listen “Lilac Breeze” and you will swear that you are listening to a brand new track by the hyperactive troubadour. Even the shifts in vocals and the usage of electronics mark it as eerily similar. It’s always been hard to escape this comparison, and with songs like this one, it surely won’t go away.
While there are some up-tempo tracks scattered here and there on the album, it is generally the slower elements that bring about the more soulful moments in Everett’s voice. Keeping in mind the subject matter, he seems so much more fragile when you listen to songs like “The Longing,” and you can almost experience the sentiment just by listening to the emotional quality of the song. Faster, guitar-laden tracks just don’t connect in the same manner, which does tend to weigh down the album in parts. If listeners could stick to the simpler songs, then this would surely be a wondrous album to spin over and over again on the record player. Unfortunately, the Eels include their diversity as usual, leading some listeners to turn a deaf ear to Hombre Lobo.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/09-my-timing-is-off.mp3]
Download: Eels – My Timing is Off [MP3]
I’m not really up on the scene of the independent world music, but somehow I stumbled across the sublime tunes of the French duo Holden. Their understated combination of melody and electronics reminds me of a slower paced Stereolab, which is never really a bad comparison to make. They have a new album coming out titled Fantomatisme, and though you will have to search the Internet to find it, I’m bringing you a nice little track to give you a little taste test. Enjoy.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/05-un-toit-etranger.mp3]
Download: Holden – Un Toit Etranger [MP3]
It’s the beginning of a killer week of live music here in Austin, and the town is going to start it off with a great set from various noise-makers. Black Moth Super Rainbow headline this show at Mohawk, closing with their electronic noise fusion. Local greats Balmorhea open this show, and they’re sure to be the quieter set of the evening. Don’t forget the middle band, School of Seven Bells, will bring their precious space-pop amidst the two acts, rounding out an evening of solid tunes.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/07-rollerdisco.mp3]
Download: Black Moth Super Rainbow – Rollerdisco [MP3]
A few years back Nightmare of You seemed just like another one of the bands emulating The Killers. But, in the years since, they’ve fleshed out their sound quite a bit, evolving beyond the basics and into a group all their own. “I Think I’m Getting Older” from the band’s forthcoming album, which hits the streets on July 28th, has a hint of Koufax, especially in the delivery of the lyrics, but as previously mentioned, the band are going further then they have before; this is all to their benefit.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/i-think-im-getting-older.mp3]
Download: Nightmare of You – I Think I’m Getting Older [MP3]
A few years ago, The Lovely Feathers had it all. Their high energy Canadian post-pop had them labeled as the next big thing all over the world, but then they hit some struggles, and seemed to get lost for the time being. And now they’re back for the attack, offering up new tunes, and a new album titled Fantasy of the Lot, which will hit the shores of Canada this week; it doesn’t make its way to the rest of us until August. Still, we’ve got the album’s opener to get you reacquainted with the band.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/01-lowiza1.mp3]
Download: The Lovely Feathers – Lowiza [MP3]
Patrick Wolf entered the consciousness of music when his album Wind in the Wires propelled his angelic voice and his music into media outlets everywhere. Since then, he’s carefully moved about in the industry, claiming to want to walk away at times, and then branching out musically by adding electronic elements with The Magic Position. Now, he comes back to us with the first battle of a two part concept album, this one being titled The Bachelor; the battle imagery goes beyond the album art’s computer gaming appearance.
When the first real song appears on the album, it’s precisely what one would expect of Patrick Wolf at this point in his career. String instruments are added to the brooding imagery, which is accompanied by the darker undertones of his vocals, but this all dissipates once the first part of the chorus chimes in with Wolf operatically screaming for “resolution,” which is juxtaposed by his calming request for “revolution.” Perhaps it’s these contradicting figures with whom Patrick is constantly battling himself; he’s mapped out his battlefield perfectly.
This album’s title track is perhaps one of the more interesting tracks that the young man has created to date. While there is a sense of the folk inspiration that lay about his early work, there is something entirely haunting here, which is reinforced by the presence of Alec Empire of Atari Teenage Riot. Sure, it’s an odd pairing, but nothing Patrick has touched has ever been of the mundane sort; he rises above such things, just at “The Bachelor” rises above many of his previous songs.
Of course, the presence of various guests on this album alludes to some strange experimentation, which is usually prone to throwing some of Patrick’s albums off track. On “Count of Casualty” Patrick seems to throw everything into the mix, including a recipe of chanting, strings, digital effects and his vocals. It’s a song of cluttered, but ornate, noise. However, it’s balanced perfectly by “Who Will,” the track that follows. Here Wolf opens with an organ and his voice, just before a chorale comes chiming in with accompaniment. It’s the perfect balance between songs, demonstrating the range he has asked us to grow accustomed to with his music.
“Vulture” hits hard, just as you would expect. It’s the most electronic piece on the album, and you can definitely see the influence of Alec Empire in this song, which may or may not be a good thing, depending upon who you choose to ask. In the chorus, Wolf’s vocals don’t feel nearly as strong as they do on previous tracks, but the pulsating track still manages to stay inside your head.
The Bachelor is the most successful string of songs that Patrick Wolf has managed to put together, if you exclude “Battle” from the tracklist. His prior works have always teetered off after unbelievably song starts, but this album succeeds by making it to the end without losing your interest in any manner. As he has grown up, his confidence and his abilities to blend multiple genres with his unique voice have provided Mr. Wolf with a greatness few will achieve.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/02-hard-times.mp3]
Download: Patrick Wolf – Hard Times [MP3]