What? You still listen to THAT album? That record is so 2004! Well, that’s okay, because we really like that one too, which is why we decided to come up with a list of our favorite albums of the last decade (2000-2009). Sure, these might not be YOUR favorite records, or the most critically acclaimed, but we sat down and really thought out every record from the past ten years that we keep coming back to in our collections. You’re likely to disagree with some of these, and we won’t tell you we’re absolutely right we just know that these happen to be OUR favorites. If you think we totally blew it here, feel free to tell us so, but be nice, as our egos are kind of fragile. Follow the jump for more.
Last year, The Postmarks threw a collection of covers out to the world, and the year before, they hit us with their self-titled debut. Oddly, they garnered little press, though their sound, resting somewhere between early Camera Obscura and slow-jam Stars songs seems like it would be all the rage. Will Memoris at the End of the World be the album to get the group over the hump?
When opening up with “No One Said This Would be Easy,” you start to get the feel of the band; they know it won’t be easy carving out a niche, but their destined to do it all on their own terms. You’ll find that the string arrangements being used here will draw some to conclude that The Postmarks have a place in the land of the twee, but there seems to be some sort of solemnity underlying here, which takes it somewhere else.
“My Lucky Charm” is the group’s nod to Camera Obscura, although singer Tim Yehezkely recalls a young Jenny Lewis from long ago. Polite horn flourishes dance in the background bring that gentle tropicalia feel to the song, perhaps an aesthetic quality ingrained in the band from their hometwon in Miami. But when you get to “Don’t Know Till You Try” you can see a slight addition of electronic touches here and there, which is where you might get a Stars meets Headlights sort of quality.
Still, once you get to this point, you start to see one of the unfortunate drawbacks to the album as a whole. Every song is absolutely listenable, although “Theme from ‘Memoirs'” lacks a bit as far as interest goes, all the way until the album draws to a close. However, none of these tracks absolutely have to be listened to at any given point in time. You could skip around; you could buy one song on iTunes; or you could ignore it altogether. Nothing on Memoirs at the End of the World stands out to differentiate itself from other like-minded groups. You can easily enjoy listenting to the entire album for an extended period of time, but the question begging to be asked is do you really have to listen to it?
To be frank, you don’t have to listen to it. It’s not something you absolutely have to have in your collection, but if you do happen to find it, and you’re into bands listed above, you would do well to pick it up. Honestly, The Postmarks made a beautiful record, just not one that is begging to be listened to over and over again. You’ll probably love it, but then again, you might soon discard it. Pick your poison.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/01-No-One-Said-This-Would-Be-Easy.mp3]
Download: The Postmarks – No One Said This Would Be Easy [MP3]
You may recall that The Dutchess and the Duke recorded our favorite album of last year, and now they are set to win us over again. Their new album, Sunset/Sunrise comes out on Hardly Art this October. Here’s a listen to the new track “Hands.” Dare I say, we love it already?[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/Dutchess-and-the-Duke-Hands.mp3]
Download: Dutchess and the Duke – Hands [MP3]
Earlier this summer we brought you “No You Don’t,” one of the new tunes from the upcoming Islands record. Now we’re pleased to let you get a listen to “Vapours.” It’s a lot more stripped down, at least in comparison to the Arm’s Way, which allows Nic’s genius to shine on through. Give it a whirl before the album comes out in September.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/Islands-Vapours.mp3]
Download: Islands – Vapours [MP3]
Mew will officially receive the award for the most long-winded title of 2009 later this year (so long I refuse to include it here), but the album deserves more attention for the musical ground it walks rather than the ridiculousness of the title alone.
While they might be labeled as off a prog sort of grouping, let’s focus more on the fact that they tend to present themselves more as a deconstructionist band. “New Terrain,” the album’s opening track, has various segments recorded backwards, which lends itself to the mounting tension in the song. You can feel the song pushing forward as the album pushes ahead. Following this up is the disjointed guitar work of “Introducing Palace Players,” which uses a semi-staccato guitar line with odd musical accompaniment to construct the entire song.
The unique voice of singer Bjerre is something that recalls that far-off echo meets harmony voice, sort of like Ben Gibbard. While early on in the album, the vocals don’t necessarily mix perfectly with the musical approach of the group, you find that listening carefully will bring the world of the instrumentals and the vocals together. By the time that you reach the mellow songs such as “Silas the Magic Car” or “Cartoons and Macreme Wounds” you can see that everything has eventually become glued together.
While the lyrics seem to paint a bleak story, based on the title of the album alone, the music doesn’t necessarily comply with the overall emotional aesthetic No More Stories are Told… would leave one to believe. “Hawaii” is an energetic number that recalls a multitude of bands that have hit the scene lately such as Efterklang. Steady percussion and serpentine guitar collide with gang vocals before Bjerre comes in alone. It’s a perfect Hawaiin themed song, aside from the abstract approach to songwriting that the band exudes. Wait for it to blast off near the end of the song, and you’ll completely understand the sentiment behind these words.
Still, you can’t ignore the lyrics throughout the record, painting a solemn outlook on the world as a whole. “Sometimes Life Isn’t Easy” comes off as a joyous number, but as Bjerre sings “feels like someone put a hex on you” he seems to be agreeing that everyone eventually comes up against forces that work against us. It’s not as if it will all end here though, as his agreement that life is not easy is just an affirmation that despite hardships, there is light on the other side. Such goes the story of the record, as every dark moment meets a brighter future. Although the album suggest otherwise, a great story is being told throughout, and everyone will find the musical accompaniment equally as gratifying on the latest Mew effort.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/01-New-Terrain.mp3]
Download: Mew – New Terrain [MP3]
Los Angeles quartet Division Day have been discussed in circles of dream pop and shoegaze sine the release of their first album, and while both those genres or stereotypes find homes on this album, it remains a more focused album than their previous effort. Visitation grabs onto the reigns of their past and propels the band into a more finished product.
You can immediately feel the dark spiritual quality that persists through this record from the opening minute of “Reservoir;” distorted drums cadences collide with a trainwreck of guitar. All this meets the melodic vocals, almost as if the entire song is riding upon a crescendo. “Malachite” resembles the first song, if only in the pummeling drumwork, as the overall emotional appeal of this tune seems to crash rather than rise.
So we come upon “Chalk Lines,” which hit the Internet a bit ago, and at first it appeals to be one of the more accesible songs, though careful listens reveal various guitar squeals into the outer regions of the song’s negative space. It’s this effect that makes the band resemble a darker version of Mew; the pounding drums with meoldious vocals seem almost like mirror copies of one another.
Other areas on the album appear to veer away from the various associated genres, such as “Planchette,” which comes as close to a ballad as you might find, although the instrumentation here is extremely sparse until the rest of the band joins. It reminds you of various soundscape groups, using guitar squalor to coat the melody, along with programmed fixtures in the background.
You’ll find an interesting listen if you check out “Surrender.” It’s a more exploratory OK Computer-era Radiohead track, almost as if it’s the middling ground between said album and Kid A. The industrial appeal of the track provides some variance to the album, and it’s placement here is perfect, as it mixes up the shape of the album; this is one of the things lacking on Division Day‘s debut. Such a technique is also employed when the band makes their way to the album’s title track. Around this point, the shift seems to go away from the instruments, albeit rather briefly, instead focusing on the strength of the dynamic vocals. This song is everything you want a dream pop song to be, even with the M83 textural effects vibrating in the background.
Visitation shows Division Day finally coming into an understanding of what they do best as a group, and when they hit their stride, you see them creating wonderful moments throughout the entirety of this record. Here’s the the band’s growth and maturity, and let’s hope for prosperity.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/division-day-chalk-lines.mp3]
Download: Division Day – Chalk Lines [MP3]
Memphis group Lucero have a new album coming out this October titled 1372 Overton Park, and they’ve slowly been seeing their tunes pop up all over the net. Singer, Ben, sounded great at Fun Fun Fun Fest last year, and he’ll be bring his whole group down there this year. Expect the album, and the ensuing tour, to be phenomenal.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/11-Hey-Darling-Do-You-Gamble_-1.mp3]
Download: Lucero – Hey Darling Do You Gamble [MP3]
Make no mistake about it, Voxtrot is one of those great Austin bands that seems to have disappeared for far too long, but the past year has shown some activity on their end. The band has just recently released a new 7″ titled Berlin, Without Return. It’s limited edition, and it boasts this great song, which sees the band fleshing out their sound with a little orchestral flourishes. Buy it.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/01-Berlin-Without-Return…-1.mp3]
Download: Voxtrot – Berlin, Without Return [MP3]
Most people who have followed this band will surely know that the components that make up The Cave Singers have established themselves in a world outside the folk realm in which they currently live. Guitarist Derek Fudesco, for example, probably is most well known for his role in Pretty Girls Make Graves, but let’s not get carried away here, as the band are now establishing themselves as a new voice coming out of the rainy Northwest. Welcome Joy is their second album, and it builds upon the strengths of the last record, and in doing so, finishes as one of the better releases of the summer.
When the gentle strumming of “Summer Light” begins the album, you immediately find yourself lost among the foothills of the Appalachians, coated in an earthy morning mist, as the guitars gently strum. Pete Quirk’s throaty vocals are met here in this scene with additional vocals from Amber Webber of Black Mountain. You expect campfire songs from this band, but you don’t expect them to come off as beautifully simple as this one.
As the group introduces you to “At the Cut” you can here the post-punk influences in the vocal, and they seem to carry over through the song itself, giving it more than just your traditional neo-folk appeal so many people have been living with lately. It’s this interesting aspect that makes The Cave Singers so appealing to so many. They aren’t here to play the role of pretty balladeers, though their songs may come off as such; they came here to rock a bit…jangly percussion and all.
While it appears at times as if Quirk smoked too much at times, this album finds him with perfect accompaniment. Amber Webber is joined by her sister Ashley on “Shrine,” and it carries the song from something rather banal into an otherworldly country stomp towards the end of the song. This is followed by “Hen of the Woods,” which stands out as one of the great tracks on this album, among many great tracks. There’s nothing you can really explain about this song, but you’ll be sure to feel it as it comes through your stereo.
“VV” is one of the brighter songs on the album, coming in near the end with harmonious guitar parts, as light as you’ll find on this album. Oddly, this is the one song on the album that seems rooted in traditional folk writing, although the structure of the song itself towards the middle definitely has a more modern spin upon it. And as Welcome Joy draws to a close with “Townships” and “Bramble” you begin to notice the care that The Cave Singers put into the production of this album. Every inch of space seems well thought out, as if they left various places open for your mind to wonder in the woods of your own brain. To top it off, it never seems to get old; it never runs in place. An album such as this is a delight, and dare we say, a Welcome Joy, as the summer comes to a close.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/the-cave-singers-at-the-cut.mp3]
Download: The Cave Singers – At The Cut [MP3]
One of our favorite new bands, Headlights, has a new album coming out soon. The album is titled Wildlife, and it comes out October 6th on Polyvinyl. This new track has a bit of a different touch, although it’s still brimming with pop, there is a certain element of lo-fi fuzz added. You can try out the song, and check out the band on tour this fall.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/headlights-get-going.mp3]
Download: Headlights – Get Going [MP3]