New Tunes from Princeton

princetonPrinceton have just released their new album Cocoon of Love, and we’ll definitely get a review of it up shortly.  This new tune is little bit more laid back than the previous “Calypso Gold” single, and it features the vocals of Meredith Metcalf.  You’ll definitely want to check out the record if you enjoy this tune, as this is definitely a group with a rising star.

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

Download: Princeton – Sadie and Andy [MP3]

The Dutchess & the Duke – Sunset/Sunrise

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Rating: ★★★★½

When The Dutchess and the Duke burst onto the scene last year, creating havoc for every person using Microsoft Word, we couldn’t have been happier.  Their acoustic duets recalled The Rolling Stones, but with a little bit more with portrayed in the lyrics. Now, they return, with their second album, Sunset/Sunrise, willing to do it all again.

“Hands” opens the album, and it’s clear that the sun has gone down on this duo.  Lyrical messages hint at dark times for the narrator, but as the chorus bursts through, you see the same formula from the hits off their first album. Sure, there is a hint of guitar soloing, but it’s just enough to show hints of change, without altering the game completely.

“Scorpio” exists as one of the finest moments on the album; you would call it the brightest were it not for the lyrical imagery.  Flourishes of orchestration (a violin perhaps) fittingly add a bit of melancholic tone to the tune, hinting at the gravity which exists at the heart of the song.  So when you come across “Living This Life” you can see that the distance referenced in “Scorpio” has finally come to sit in with the band.  Everything about this album seems to exemplify a distance, be that with family or lovers. As the guitar meanders, seemingly over a horizon afar, you can feel the emotional change of the group.

As you hit the album’s almost title track, “Sunrise/Sunset,” the picture of a shift in the writing process has come to complete fruition.  Kimberly Morrison has taken over vocal duties for this song, as well as “When You Leave My Arms” Although her smoky vocals are a perfect accompaniment to Jesse Lortz, these two songs demonstrate that she has a knack for pulling every bit of emotion out of her songs.  It’s a refreshing twist to Sunset/Sunrise, clearly deepening the repertoire of the group, rather than labeling them as re-hashers of classic rock.

Unlike the last album, which hit you in the face real hard up front, the new record seems extremely even. From start to finish, there seems to be some sort of focal point for the group that allows for such balance, which ultimately might make this album stronger than its predecessor.  And you come to the perfect ending with “The River.”  The song is treated by some soft touches of piano, perhaps providing it with a touch of the epic ending.  Ultimately, this song serves as a summary for the album.  Questioning one’s existence, and one’s relationships to loved ones, all wrapped up in one final tune.  Perhaps it was written for the soon to be child of Lortz, who, like us, will look on Sunset/Sunrise with pride, longing, and perhaps a little bit of reflection.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/10-The-River.mp3]

Download: The Dutchess and the Duke – The River [MP3]

New Tunes from The Authors

authorsWe spotlighted The Authors a few weeks back as one of our favorite new local acts we think you should check out if you get a chance.  Speaking of chance, they play this week at Art Disaster No. 9, which is Thursday.  Until then, we hope to hold you over with one of their newest tracks.  We hope you support these guys, and if not, at least you have a sweet new track to grab onto for the day.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/Feels-Like-Running.mp3]

Download: Authors – Feels Like Running [MP3]

Richard Hawley – Truelove’s Gutter

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Rating: ★★★★½

After he released Lady’s Bridge, it seemed that the British crooner Richard Hawley could do no wrong with me.  As the release drew near for Truelove’s Gutter, I wasn’t quite sure what I expected from this new record.  Would it be similar to his previous work, or would he branch out into a new direction, much as his friend Jarvis Cocker has done?

Well, as the odd soundscape opening of “As the Dawn Breaks” began, I will say that anxiety crept into my throat.  Sure, this dabbling in sonic structuralism was indeed a new direction, but from a man who has blanketed his albums with lush orchestration, it seemed a step too far off.  Still, as the song progressed, the music almost loses its focus, bring Hawley’s throaty baritone to the forefront. Perhaps this is where the album would go?

When “Open Up Your Door” came on, you could hear the instrumentation that so often backs Richard, although it seemed to be in the distance here, that is until the slow drum work came into the picture.  It’s at this point that I found Hawley completely stepping into the role of a modern-day Leonard Cohen. You hang on every syllable, on every gentle note; and eventually, it all breaks into the dense orchestral movement you would expect.

It seems fitting to me that this record was already causing me to waiver on my decision to love this album or not.  Richard Hawley is not a taste for everyone, though surely everyone can find beauty in his voice, which sounds as guttural as anything you’re likely to find out there.  Perhaps the way the instruments traipse about, barely catching your attention until the song requires them to do so, seems striking to most. Almost unimportant. But, how can such songs evoke so much emotional toll on a listener?  It made Cohen great. It made, for some, Waits a classic.  Surely Richard Hawley will find his place, though his lyrics are that of the forlorn lover.

And so it went, to the point where I arrived at “Remorse Code,” the second longest song on Truelove’s Gutter. How does a nine minute long ballad capture you, wrap you around its finger, and throw you upon its back until the end. Listening to the subtle guitar work, I found no answer, only that I adored this song absolutely, as I adore the man singing the words.  I didn’t have to go far, one song past, to find “Soldier On.”  There’s some biblical allusions here, or at least some references to Christianity, though not in the overt sense. Hawley seemingly walks through this album, pacing himself, creating tension for the listener. It’s as if we’re merely meandering through this tune, until you reach just past the four minute mark where the song crashes into you.  It releases you in a wash of cymbals and emotions.

By backing it all into the finer moment that is “For Your Lover Give Some Time.”  I don’t particularly want to go into the detail of this song, as I’m sure, as with most Hawley tunes, each person will get out of it what they will.  It’s such a personal song, for me as a listener, that I don’t dare ruin your impression of it, or what it may offer you.

Thus the album walks into the longest song, the perfect ending to Truelove’s Gutter. The epic failure that could be this album’s bookend is not there.  Although it may be long, it encapsulates everything you wanted from the end.  Your time with Richard Hawley has come to an end, and though you want it to last forever, you needn’t fret, as you can simply relive it time and time again by pressing repeat.  I know I will.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/07-For-Your-Lover-Give-Some-Time-1.mp3]

Download: Richard Hawley – For Your Lover Give Some Time [MP3]

Monsters of Folk – s/t

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Rating: ★★½ · ·

Let’s face it, rarely do collaborations with bands you love to death ever truly work out.  Sure, Queen and Bowie pulled off a song, but could they pull off an entire album?  I doubt it.  Now, we’ve been presented with Conor Oberst, M. Ward, and Jim James, along with Mike Mogis, joining together as Monsters of Folk.  Could these boys rise above the hype and fulfill our dreams?

First off, I’m not sure where to begin with Jim James vocals as of late.  Sure, he definitely has a bit of range that I didn’t expect, but it’s not nearly as warm as it once was, especially if you listen to the album opener “Dear God.” He just sort of lost me after Z, so it’s hard to get into his vocals on this album.

Conor Oberst, of late, has let me down.  I once swore by his name, and bought every little bit of music he put his hands on, especially when Mike Mogis was at the helm.  Still, his work with the Mystic Valley Band has taken a turn for something that I just really get behind at all.  You’ll find that a lot of the tunes on this record sort of seem like they branch off of the ideas he’s been throwing at us lately.  “Temazcal” appears to be a left over from his time in Mexico, and it’s one of the stronger tracks on this album, as it features minimal input from the others.  Sorry Conor, but your strengths lie when you leave the band behind you.   I mean I know it’s not about record sales, but have you noticed sales dropping since you did that whole double album thing?

To be frank, M. Ward seems to be the only one here who has sort of won me over lately with Hold Time.  His guitar stylings and delivery are definitely consistent on this album, especially when you look at songs like “Baby Boomer.”  This easily could have been on any of his last few recordings, except when Conor Oberst interjects during sparse moments.  You have to love the warmth of Ward, and the controlled warble of Oberst does provide a decent counter-point.  His trademark sound is all over this album, but since he doesn’t get to give it the full go, it doesn’t quite have the same impact as you think it should.

As you can see, there are obviously great musicians all over this album, which is precisely why there are going to be some pretty decent moments on this album.  You can’t have two great songwriters, and Jim James, put together in a room to come up with just random slop.  But, the album doesn’t really connect the way that you want it to in the end. A lot of the sounds showcase the recent missteps of the various authors, instead of allowing for their individual talents to open up and rise above the group.  For me, it seems as if they are all huddled to close together, not allowing each other the necessary breathing room to push each other as you would hope that they would do.  If they aren’t going to push one another, why not just write songs for each other to share?  I think the outcome there might have been more effective.  In the end, you’ll listen to this record a few times, find your favorite tunes, and then put it away.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/02-say-please.mp3]

Download: Monsters of Folk – Say Please [MP3]

New Tunes from Holopaw

holopawWhat can you do when you’re part of the great roster at Sub Pop but continue to be overlooked by the masses?  Well, you switch up labels (Bakery Outlet), and you just keep writing great tunes.  That is precisely the way of Holopaw, who are set to release their new album Oh, Glory. Oh, Wilderness. This new tune, along with the upcoming album, makes me want to go revisit their old catalogue it’s that good.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/holopawartteacher.mp3]

Download: Holopaw – The Art Teacher and the Little Stallion [MP3]

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