Tunes from An Horse

horseWe caught up with An Horse during SXSW for a quick interview, and now that their album Rearrange Beds has been circling aroudn, we thought we’d offer up more of their festive pop for you today.  Also, this single, “Camp Out,” has just recently got the video treatment, and you should check it out here.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/an-horse-camp-out.mp3]

Download: An Horse – Camp Out [MP3]

White Rabbits – It’s Frightening

whiterabbit

Rating: ★★★½ ·

Brooklyn via Columbia, Missouri six-piece the White Rabbits rose to critical acclaim seemingly out of nowhere with their debut album, Fort Nightly.  This time around, the band has enlisted Spoon frontman (and sometimes Austinite) Britt Daniel for production duties on their latest album, It’s Frightening.  You’ll find his touch on a lot of the songs, but ultimately, this sophomore effort is worthy of your attention on musical merit alone.

One of the runners for song of the year, at least up to this point in time, opens the album. “Percussion Gun” with its dual drumming technique climbs into your ears as the tribal element of the song bombards you.  But, this isn’t the only trick the band has, as the piano work provides a much needed backbone that allows the song to go beyond just a mere rain-dance.

You’ll find the influence of Britt Daniel marking “They Done Wrong/We Done Wrong.” This songs is reminiscent of pre-Gagagagagaga Spoon, with a bouncing bass line accompanied by a meandering piano.  The guitar stutters along the song as the vocals arrive in that croon come falsetto that Britt uses to perfection.  Now, we’re not assuming that this is just a knock-off because the song definitely warrants repeated listens; we’re just stating you can find Britt’s fingerprints on it.

“Comapny I Keep” is the slow summer jam come early.  It’s a mostly acoustic number with light percussion walking along the backbone of the song.  It’s the warmth of they lyrical content here that makes the song ultimately rewarding.  Sure, it might not be the most exciting of this batch of tunes, but you’ll definitely find this as one of the ones worth putting on your summer mixtapes.

One of the things that’s lacking from this album, however, is a little bit of pacing.  It’s not that there is poor pacing in so far as the organization of the songs, rather that the majority of the songs don’t seem to have too much movement to them, often becoming entirely too subdued for their own good.  Oddly, the only songs that have movement seem to rely upon the drum stylings of “Percussion Gun” with just a softer quality to them.

Still, there is something to be said for the quiet presence of this album. It provides for the easy listening experience now that you need to focus on new projects.  It’s an album full of songs constructed precisely for headphones and mellow moments in this time of your life.  A decent effort, though much stronger on the front end.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/03-they-done-wrong-_-we-done-wrong.mp3]

Download: White Rabbits – They Done Wrong/We Done Wrong [MP3]

Jarvis Cocker – Further Complications

furthercomplications

Rating: ★★★★ ·

When legendary producer Steve Albini was rumored to be at the helm of the newest Jarvis Cocker solo outing, Further Complications, many were chomping at the bit, awaiting the arrival of something entirely special.  While the album does have a lot of those elements, it’s difficult to attribute these strictly to the presence of Albini’s magical touch. After all, who can really take control of an piece of work by a man like Jarvis.

Albini’s production influence is most notable in the first half of the album, especially the first four tracks.  Opener, “Angela” hits harder than anything we’ve heard from Jarvis in all his previous work.  It’s a fuzzed rocker of a tune, but one would be difficult to identify this as a track that exhibits Cocker at his best.  These first four songs all fall to the exact same trap; they succeed in be decent rock tunes, but they fail in the way that they are not your atypical Jarvis piece.  With that in mind, we can always be thankful that Jarvis has his usual literary wit in tow, which definitely helps along those early songs.

“Hold Still” serves as the turning point in this novel, as the tone of the album takes a drastic turn, and for the most part, this is for the best.  The song features Jarvis at his best, with his voice taking on the raspy crooning whisper in your ear, begging you to come hither, which was always his best vocal trick in Pulp. Present hand-claps and backing vocals bring this song back to the orchestrated best moments that broke out on Jarvis.

Of course, there is always that whimsical song that hits home with all listeners when Jarvis is rocking the mic. “I Never Said I Was Deep” is this exact song; Jarvis struts his voice in the verses, with that cocky sexual undertone we all know and love. When the chorus comes in, with the character claiming that he isn’t as deep as his lover requests, you are drawn into the magic of the song.  This is Jarvis at his absolute best.

Bookending the album is “You’re In My Eyes (Discosong),” with the title alluding to the more soulful quality of the instrumentation.  Not only his this the longest song on the album, but it’s one where our old friend Jarvis truly returns.  This song has all the swagger you expect from Mr. Cocker, but with the feel of your favorite lounge singer.  It’s hard not to love a man with such talent.  It exemplifies everything that has made Jarvis Cocker one of the more interesting, and vital, musicians of the last two decades. Further Complications is just another notch on his already quite respectable belt.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/i-never-said-i-was-deep.mp3]

Download: Jarvis Cocker – I Never Said I Was Deep [MP3]

New Tunes from Twilight Sad

twilightsMy continuing love of Scotland is being furthered as the days go on. I’m sending our writer Corey with his wonderful fiance overseas to research the possibilities of the transatlantic move; this entire idea has been encouraged by the current musical landscape. Twilight Sad is just another incredible band, with another release slated for a September street date. Their walls of distortion are reined in on this new track, but it only raises the high expectations for their upcoming release.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/reflection-of-the-television-1.mp3]

Download: The Twilight Sad – Reflection of the Television [MP3]

Save Paste Magazine!

paste1Long-running Paste Magazine is struggling in this economy, just as we all are, and they are asking for your help.  Most of us here at ATH have attended various Paste parties during SXSW, and we respect everything they’ve done for the independent music community.  To top that off, while we may be contributing to the technological musical age, we still harbor great love and admiration for the traditional print format.  So head over to Paste and help these guys out.

Passion Pit – Manners

passion-pit

Rating: ★★★ · ·

To refer to this as one of the most anticipated albums thus far this year is probably an understatement; throw out Grizzly Bear and this is the album everyone wanted to hear.  Passion Pit finally have a full length, Manners, to help you make up your mind; are they worth all this hype?

You’ll have to make up your own mind on that one, as this album is sure to be a polarizing one for many listeners.  It builds upon the promise of the bands Chunk of Change EP, but does it go much further than the sounds the band first introduced?  Really, at some points, the band seems to sort of tread upon the same spot for a little bit too long.

One thing you will note immediately is that the band definitely will have you moving your feet, as the opening moments of the album definitely provide you with full bouncing capabilities.  The pulsating rhythm does not, however, make up for the lack of vocal quality, which really is probably just a matter of personal tastes; the high pitched yelping all across these first two songs is just a bit much.

Then the band hits you with their one-two punch, bringing in “Moth Wings” and “The Reeling” in succession.  “Moth Wings” succeeds for the group where other songs have failed, as the band seemed to have tamed that vocal, which allows listeners to see right into the moving sound collages Passion Pit have constructed, as layers dance upon layers, shimmering to the surface.  “The Reeling” surfaced as the band’s first single, and deservedly so, as it packs the dance-floor ready stomp that recalls elements of MGMT during their brighter moments.  Still, the most enjoyable quality is the warmth of the vocal contrasted against the electronic pulse beneath.

Other moments on the album seem to find the band going over the same space, as they attempt to combine various electronic samples with unique vocals (still a touch annoying), building and building until it achieves dance-psych bliss.  But, elementally, it all sort of blends together, as there isn’t much that differentiates each song from the next.  Each song seems to run into the next one, making the listening experience a little redundant.

Don’t get upset here, but the release of Manners is probably exactly what everyone expected it to be.  It’s a good listen for a few rounds; it’s an interesting one to say the least, but it won’t be the most moving thing you come across this year.  Too much of a good thing sometimes turns things for the worse, and in this case, Passion Pit might have just gone that route.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/11-seaweed-song.mp3]

Download: Passion Pit – Seaweed Song [MP3]

From the Closet: Calvin Johnson

beat For those of you into all the newest lo-fi hits of the last few years, there is really one man we need to look towards: Calvin Johnson. The man was the driving force behind the great Beat Happening and also the Halo Benders, which featured Built to Spill frontman Doug Martsch. Clearly, this man’s fingerprints have been all over the musical landscape, and he’s at it again this Saturday night at Emo’s, as he takes the stage with his new outfit Hive Dwellers; former Nation of Ulysses frontman Ian S. will also have his new outfit Chain and the Gang as the show headliners.

So hit up Emos this Saturday night for a definitive good time. Here are some tracks from the closet.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/02-left-behind.mp3] [audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/track08.mp3]

My Latest Novel – Deaths and Entrances

latest

Rating: ★★★★ ·

When My Latest Novel released their debut Wolves a few years back many were taken by the forest-folk style, as the band walked a tightrope between organic folk and twee.  On their latest release, Deaths and Entrances, the band seems to have fully realized their sound, which now seems to be strengthened by the maturation of a group constructing ornate songs throughout its duration.

Interestingly, the band spent a great deal of time on this album researching their favorite literature, taking cues from their everyday live, and weaving them into the lyrics of the album.  The title, for instance, takes its name from a Dylan Thomas poem; they also pay homage to writer Alasdair Gray, who hails from the same land, Scotland, as the group.

Using influential literature as a background for constructing songs has a way of informing a band in a certain sense.  In writing this set of songs the band has been able to transform their album into something entirely different than the modern pop album; it reads, rather, like a concisely written piece of prose. There is an elemental flow, not unlike literature, where the pacing of the album slows in parts, waiting for the reader, or listener in this case, to gather his or her thoughts for just a moment before moving on with more details.

The music is like a great deal of the music that is making its way from Scotland at the moment.  Vocals are immediately recognizable, but in the sense that many a Scot has a distinctive dialect.  And we find that the music throughout the album is quite busy, whilst the band utilizes multiple instruments to construct and deconstruct each song.  According to press releases, they wrote a great deal of these songs together, which allowed the songs to blend together as one large piece of music itself; once again this lends itself to the resonance of literature that is evident in their music.

Subject matter varies on the album, with issues of war-mongering seeming to be one of the more noticeable motifs.  The outlook is not quite as bright, or at least not in the eyes of the songwriters, and as the band unites to sing in unison, they encourage us all to move forward, beyond our trivial pursuits as we search for something greater for both humanity and ourselves.

Once again, My Latest Novel have created an album composed of millions of pieces, tightly pieced together like a giant jigsaw puzzle of aesthetically soothing tunes.  The album exists as a complete composition; its a unified vision of a band sticking together, which inevitably makes it a rewarding listen time and time again.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/06-argument-against-the-man.mp3]

Download: My Latest Novel – Argument Against the Man [MP3]

The Theater Fire @ Lamberts (5/15)

theaterThis Friday night Austin will be treated to one of the great North Texas bands, as Theater Fire make their way into town.  They’ll be playing a set over at Lamberts this Friday evening with Some Say Leland.  TIckets to the show are $7 at the door, and you’ll be glad you got to spend your evening listening to the eclectic folk of this great Texas band.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/06-dahl-parts.mp3]

Download: Theater Fire – Dahl Parts [MP3]

Jeremy Enigk – OK Bear

okbear

Rating: ★★★½ ·

You’d have to be living in a hole to not have heard of Jeremy Enigk, or at least his legendary band Sunny Day Real Estate; he has since moved on to focus primarily on his solo efforts.  His third LP, OK Bear, has just been released, and it’s a step in a direction that many will be pleased to see him pushing.

The opening tracks, “Mind Idea” and “Late of Camera” set the tone for the entirety of the album, as each song builds upon rising sonic sounds.  Organic songs structures allow Enigk great room for his ever-astonishing voice, which is one of the most recognizable.  As always, his vocals soar, seeming as if they are about to burst through your speakers, yet holding back with enough poise to carry a melody.

While some of the song features full band arrangements, a few of which resemble the sound of How It Feels to Be Something On, this is not the only approach Jeremy takes on the latest effort.  The beautiful “April Storm” reminds us all of why he was so enchanting in the first place.  Acoustic guitar accompanied by quiet percussion plainly bring the song to life, and Enigk carries the song on the back of his voice.  “Just a State of Mind” is another such song, wherein Jeremy lets his voice be your guide throughout the song.  Sure, it’s his voice that comes across as one of the more memorable elements in these songs, but that voice, for many, brings nothing but good memories; for those not accustomed to the vocal quality, it will win you over as well.

“Life’s Too Short” is the song that most recalls Jeremy Enigk playing with his old band; there is a sharpness to the rhythm guitar that creates that bombastic atmosphere.  His voice cuts through the song with a sharpness and a certain ferocity that is not present on the rest of the album.  It might make you tear up just a bit, reminding us all of what it felt like when we first listened to Diary.

One of the more surprising songs on the album is “Make Believe.”  It seems like an entirely different genre, or at least approach to writing than anything he has done before this.  Here you find him doing his best impression of a classic singer/songwriter, a place that he really hadn’t visited too often, despite this being his third LP.  When the song is said and done, you wonder how many more gems he’s got up his sleeve, as you could easily listen to an album’s worth of songs like these.   But, as you have it, the record is a little uneven, alternating back and forth between amazing and standard; once you put nostalgia aside, it’s nice to see Jeremy still writing great tunes.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/10-make-believe.mp3]

Download: Jeremy Enigk – Make Believe [MP3]

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