Vetiver – The Errant Charm

Rating: ★★★½☆

As soon as you come across The Errant Charm by Vetiver, there will be two things that stick in your mind, at least if you approach things in a certain way.  For one, the color scheme of the album sort of seems to hint at finding a warm place in a cold background, or even a sterile one for that matter.  Two, the title reflects finding one’s way by not going the traditional, or expected path.  After spending hours with the record, surely you’ll see where this all fits into the motifs of the record.

Everyone seemingly uses the acoustic guitar nowadays, stripping the sound of on-stage performances in favor of more intimate feelings.  Such is the way you’ll begin on “It’s Beyond Me,” which begins by wrapping the acoustic guitar in hints of atmospherics, but just after the 1 minute mark, things lift up, albeit just a bit.  The gentle shift in mood of the song matches that of the cover, going from one point and blending it into the next.  You’ll really have to spend time with the details here, as they definitely hold a great deal of the musical meaning. For instance, “Worse for Wear” tramps on, with its hollow drum beat, muted strumming, but again, the melody shifts, going in what one can assume is a bit of an unexpected change.  The Errant Charm is full of such moments, making it a joy for those who listen closely.

There’s even some peculiarities in Vetiver‘s approach this round.  On “Fog Emotion” there’s evidence that the group have responded to current themes, kind of giving off that faux-80s groove, but, like the fog mentioned in the song, a mellower meandering track finds its home, moving the song away from known cliches, as the band clearly intends to make the sound their own.  All this moves into what one can deem as the orange area of the album cover, offering up The Errant Charm‘s two hottest tracks.  “Right Away” is a short and simple track, with really nothing special to it, other than the fact that the harmonies presented have a tendency to hang in your mind long after the song has ended. Even more special is the way it tails off, changes a bit, but maintains its lasting impression. “Wonder Why” has a bit of a moving stomp to it, so it’s easily going to find itself labeled one of the more upbeat tracks present, but it’s the momentary touches that grab you, such as the female vocal accompaniment during the chorus, or that piano kicking in and out of the track. This is the type of track that makes you want to go back again and again.

Just as the press release reads for The Errant Charm, it’s clearly a piece constructed for wandering off on your own path, finding your own place in the musical landscape of your soul.  Whether you want that color to be bright or warm, you’re bound to find the songs Vetiver has put together as fitting for your own travels about, even if those travels only take place in your mind.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/9542.mp3]

Download: Vetiver – Wonder Why [MP3]

New Track from Total Babes

One of my favorite records of the year, which still gets spins was the smash hit by Cloud Nothings, so I’m really excited to see what Total Babes has to offer.  TB is the side-proejct of Jason from Cloud Nothings, who’ll be releasing Swimming Through Sunlight on Old Flame Records later this summer or early fall.  While you can definitely see some similarities between Jason and CN frontman, Dylan, this has more of an early Wavves feel to me, with its lo-fi tendencies and vocals shrouded in bits of noise.  Give this one a try, and I’m sure you’ll want to go play it again and again; this is a good thing mind you.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Total-Babes-Like-They-Always-Do.mp3]

Download: Total Babes – Like They Always Do [MP3]

New Music from Braid

I was fortunate enough to tour alongside Bob Nanna and his posse during the Hey Mercedes days, and while I look back at that, the one thing I remember about those guys were how incredibly down to earth and real they were, despite the fact that they were 3/4 of Braid, which was one of my favorites.  So, I’m happy to see that Braid’s original lineup has reformed, or rather, reconvened, in order to give us some new tunes.  Polyvinyl will do us the honor of releasing the new EP, titled Closer to Closed, but says there are no plans for a full-length, as of yet.  This first listen is a lot less discordant and angular, but the maturity demonstrates that they still have the passion, and obviously the songwriting chops to keep on trucking. I hope you love this track as much as I do.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Braid-The_Right_Time.mp3]

Download: Braid – The Right Time [MP3]

Wooden Birds In-Store @ Waterloo @ 5 PM

Last week, Wooden Birds released their pretty awesome Two Matchsticks LP, and with that, the band is set to leave town for a little bit of touring across the nation.  If you’ve got the time today, you need to go check out their in-store performance today at Waterloo Records at 5 PM.  Rumor has it that you might even get to see Andrew pull out some old favorites from his American Analog Set catalog.  I mean, come on, it’s going to be hot outside, so why not grab a few beers, watch a good band, and enjoy the AC at Waterloo? I’m hoping they play this awesome cover:

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/03-Maneater.mp3]

Download: The Wooden Birds – Maneater (H&O Cover) [MP3]

New Music from Teens

What’s the best new music your $3 can buy?  In my opinion, it’s gotta be the new self-titled record from Teens.  It’s the perfect short little release for summertime, filled with bits of garage rock, hints of psychedelia, and perhaps a hint of classic surf twang.  The vocals are a bit gritty, but you can’t deny the passionate approach of these guys.  Each song breezes in, making you shuffle your feet just a bit, then goes off into the next song before you’ve had a chance to sit down and breathe. If you want to have a wet n’ will summer filled with hooks and debauchery, I suggest you choose the Teens to be the soundtrack.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/02-OLay.mp3]

Download: Teens – O’Lay [MP3]

The Wooden Birds – Two Matchsticks

Rating: ★★★☆☆

It’s not like Andrew Kenny is new in town, so if you haven’t heard of his work before, you better get back to your homework.  But, that being said, his work with American Analog Set has seemed to dominate discussions, at least in comparison to his other projects.  While he made small steps away from that with the first Wooden Birds release, Magnolia, it appears he can clearly put the past aside, as Two Matchsticks is his best work date.

The meandering guitar line, softly walking across your speakers on “Folly Club,” is something that has come up often in Kenny’s work, as he’s really simplified his compositions of late.  What does stand out upon the first track is Leslie Sisson, who has spent time with Matt Pond PA (Matt is also all over this album).  Her voice is the perfect accompaniment for Andrew’s gentle warmth, providing almost a folk aspect to the minimal indie rock sound. Listening to the title track from Two Matchsticks, you continue to immerse yourself in a bit of folk, with the group giving what might just be a small nod to Iron and Wine.  This should come as no surprise, as the recording was done in a small bedroom in Austin, as Sam B. used to do in the golden years.

While the proper pacing might lack at times for The Wooden Birds, it’s the differentiation of presentation that really appeals to you on this LP.  For instance, Sisson takes control of the lead vocal on “Baby Jeans,” which provides a different dynamic, though the music sounds similar.  But, that’s the thing this round that makes the album a new step for Kenny and his mates, they share in the songwriting/singing duties fairly equally, giving the record a wider range than what you might have found on Magnolia.

Still, there’s something classic to the way the lyrics are being written on Two Matchsticks.  In a time when many are likely to shirk literary responsibilities in favor or obscure references or “carefree” (read careless) lyrics, things go differently in this land.  While I have no idea about the narrators in the songs, at least you can see story lines,  and personable notes within the lines, allowing listeners to make those connections with either the band, or themselves.  This isn’t to say this Oxford English here, a la Colin Meloy, but the crafting of the phrases and the stories within the songs should definitely be something that piques your interest.

You know, the first dozen listens to this record, and it might be fewer for most, may not strike you as anything breathtaking or otherworldly, but give Two Matchsticks just a bit more time.  Just as you begin to find things rather drab, you discover lyrical gems, drawing yo closer into the landscape of the songs, such as “Too Pretty to Say Please,” laying in wait for you near the end of the record.  If anything, those extra listens will lead you to see the careful little touches made by Kenny and The Wooden Birds, leaving you with a fairly remarkable listen.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/02-Two-Matchsticks.mp3]

Download: The Wooden Birds – Two Matchsticks [MP3]

Show Review: Antlers @ Emos (6/7)

As the heat beats down upon us, it’s always nice to find yourself enthralled in a decent evening of carousing with the locals, especially if said shenanigans include a night filled with incredible musical accompaniment.  I’m pretty sure that’s what all of us got over at Emos on Tuesday night, with Antlers and Little Scream giving us just what we needed.

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Show Preview: Not in the Face CD Release @ the ND (6/10)

Date Friday, June 10th
Location The ND Venue
Doors 800p
Tickets $7 @ the Door

Many shows have come through our town, but we wanted to spotlight a local show for one of the hottest new acts in town, Not in the Face.  The duo are known for their rollicking live shows, pummeling audience with their straight-up rock n’ roll sound.  Besides, you gotta get your hands on their album, as it’s your job (and ours) to support the local Austin scene!  Plus, you’ll get the benefit of seeing several other Austin area acts prior to the night’s highlight such as Lights Go Out and The Ripe.  Preview a track from NitF below!

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/03-Downtown-Girl.mp3]

Download: Not in the Face – Downtown Girl [MP3]

New Music from Male Bonding

It’s been a crazy few months for stalwart label Sub Pop; they’ve been putting out killer record after killer record, and it doesn’t seem like they’re going to stop anytime soon.  Today they announced the release for the newest album from Male Bonding titled Nothing Hurts, hitting stores on August 30th.  This one is going to be a heck of a good time if you’re going off the featured track, “Bones.”  It’s a bit noisy, as far as the guitar sound goes, but it maintains this perfect sense of melody throughout, which really has us excited.  It won’t take long before you’re blasting this song around your office all day.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Male-Bonding-Bones.mp3]

Download: Male Bonding – Bones [MP3]

New Music from Hit the Jackpot

What? You haven’t heard of Hit the Jackpot?  Well, we’ve got you covered.  The group hail from Australia, and they’re lined up with the excellent people over at Chapter Music, home to ATH favorites The Crayon Fields.  They’re about to release a cassette with CM, but it’s going to be super-limited, so us US folks might find it hard to get our hands on it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t head over the band’s site and give it a listen.  The Holiday Tape is seven tracks, and all I’ve listened to sound pretty spectacular, in my humble opinion.  The opener, “Holiday” sounds like something you would have expected Sonic Youth to do, or you expect them to do, when they allow Kim to take the microphone, and use her gruffly warm vocals to approximate a pop song.  These are the kind of things that win our hearts over at ATH, so give it a chance to make your day.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Hit%20the%20Jackpot%20-%20Holiday.mp3]

Download: Hit the Jackpot – Holiday [MP3]

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