New Track from BNLX

BNLX is a band out of Minneapolis who have been making some pretty solid waves.  The duo is made up of  a husband and wife set, all who’ve been playing music for some time in their respective scenes.  I’ve been digging the driving guitar sound, and the way you can almost feel a hook creeping out from behind, but it never succeeds, hiding behind bits of feedback.  It’s pretty straightforward, and in that fashion, it just hits you in the face from the get go, providing a solid rhythm and yet another spin on the traditional guy/girl duo.  Give this track a nice try.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/BNLX_DoWithout.mp3]

Download: BNLX – Do Without [MP3]

New Song from Sugar & Gold

I know, I know, I’ve been claiming this year for guitar-oriented rock, as opposed to dance-influenced stuff, but I just can’t get this song out of my head at the moment, so I thought I’d send it your way.  Sugar & Gold are from San Francisco, and they’ll be offering up their Bodyaches EP on March 8th.  Listening to this track, it’s part Twin Shadow and part Chromeo.  I know, that seems like an odd mixture, and one that might not necessarily work, but there’s just this infectious little groove kicking around that makes me tap my toe.  I’ll admit, sometimes you just want to tap your toes.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/01-Bodyaches-Single-Version-1.mp3]

Download: Sugar & Gold – Bodyaches [MP3]

New Track from Vivian Girls

Haven’t had enough girl-group fun yet this year?  Well, Vivian Girls aim to bring it back, but this time they definitely seem to have a bit of variation on their sound.  “I Heard You Say” sounds much cleaner, which really lets the melody break through, rather than being muddied by a bit too much distortion.  And the chorus (breakdown?) has one of the best hooks I’ve heard from these girls, even if it only spans about 12 seconds of the track.  You can find this track, as well as nine other new tunes on the new record, Share the Joy, which will be coming out on April 12th via the band’s new label Polyvinyl Records.  Dig it folks.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/02-Vivian-Girls-I-Heard-You-Say.mp3]

Download: Vivian Girls – I Heard You Say [MP3]

New Music from Fleet Foxes

Remember Fleet Foxes?  Yeah, it has been some time hasn’t it?  Today news broke that there has been official release date for their latest album, Helplessness Blues.  Once again, Sub Pop will be releasing the record, hitting the street on May 3rd.  Personally, I’m stoked that they worked with Phil Ek again, producing and mixing, as he’s one of my favorites behind the board.  When first listening to this track, I kind of saw a bit faster pacing, at least in regards to the strumming, but as the song begins to trickle towards the end, you can see the band go off into that whispy winter quality that made their debut so lovable.  We know everyone will be talking about this one all day.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/FleetFoxes_HelplessnessBlues.mp3]

Download: Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues [MP3]

New Music from Cult of Youth

Earlier this week I got word from some friends about Cult of Youth, and just today Stereogum gave them the “Band to Watch” tag.  Their self-titled album hits the streets on February 22nd, and this is another one of those bands that appeals to both my nostalgic personality, as well as my newer tastes.  There is this dark bass line working, with an underlying sense of lighter melodies, but what gets me is the vocal.  Vocals on this single are brash and throaty, like some snotty little punk-rocker playing in some dense club.  It’s a great dichotomy, and one that should be equally as exciting for all you punks gone soft.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Cult-Of-Youth-New-West.mp3]

Download: Cult Of Youth – New West [MP3]

John Vanderslice – White Wilderness

Rating: ★★★★☆

It seems odd that John Vanderslice doesn’t get more praise all over the world.  He’s done great work as a producer, put out some pretty solid records, and collaborated with favorites like John Darnielle.  Yet he never seems to get the credit.   However, on White Wilderness, he should begin to get some recognition, not only for his work with the Magik Magik Orchestra, but as an incredible songwriter as well.

You have to love the fragility in John’s voice from the minute that “Sea Salt” takes off, perfectly matching the quiet piano tinkering in the background of the song.  It might be a subdued opening, but as the string arrangements join, the depth of the song really begins to take off.  But, it’s almost as if John’s an on-looker sitting beside the orchestra, never really letting the strings overwhelm his sound.

“Convict Lake” seems to have a brighter side to it, as the horns and female vocal accompaniment definitely create one of the shiniest moments on White Wilderness.  What will stick out to listeners, however, is how well the lush orchestration fits in perfectly with Vanderslice’s songs.  He breaks into chorus at just the right time, and even lets his voice falter just a bit, evoking strong emotions from listeners. Surely one can appreciate his work as he goes quiet, then loud, then grows quiet, almost to a cool whisper, begging you to listen to his storytelling.

Perhaps for some, though, the album might be a bit tedious to work through.  Orchestrated moments left and right will definitely call a less self-indulgent Sufjan Stevens, but that’s a lot to endure for many listeners.  “The Piano Lesson” is one such song, where everything doesn’t quite fit together, as it has throughout the whole of White Wilderness.  It’s one of the few times where even John’s restraint doesn’t seem to give justice to the song living beneath the Magik Magik Orchestra.  But, bold artistic moves are made to divide us, and perhaps my subjectivity is getting in the way here.

John Vanderslice‘s bread and butter are those songs when he holds the orchestra back, as stated earlier.  “After It Ends,” though one of the shortest numbers on the record, is precisely the type of song that really should render the man a household name for music fans.  His gentle vocals and light guitar strumming provide the listener with the intimate moments we always yearn for from our greatest songwriters.  Even those songs like “Alemany Gap” where there’s light arrangements in the background allow Vanderslice to break on through with his love for melody.  Those enjoying this style of song will also adore “English Vines,” which is perhaps my favorite track of the entire album.  Light strings in the background, a little woodwind action and a softly strummed guitar.

All said and done, White Wilderness is a bold statement by a songwriter who hasn’t really gotten the praise he deserves.  He might have set out on such a large undertaking to finally make his name known.  Every track is worthy of repeated listens, some more so than others.  It’s time we gave John Vanderslice his acclaim because this record shows that he deserves every bit of it, if not more.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/01-Sea-Salt-1.mp3]

Download: John Vanderslice – Sea Salt [MP3]

Free Mini LP from Brown Recluse

In preparation for the release of their album, Evening Tapestry, the catchy Brown Recluse have released an aboslutely free mini-LP for you to download, and perhaps hold you over for the time being.  This little release is titled Panoptic Mirror Maze, and I’ve been enjoying this all morning.  They even have a little video to go with one of the tracks, emphasizing that this band is just as hard working as they are enjoyable, which is quite a bit, if you’re asking me.  If this is the kind of music you’re into, then head right over to the band’s Bandcamp Page to grab this for yourself.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Brown-Recluse-Panoptic-Mirror-Maze-02-Notorious.mp3]

Download: Brown Recluse – Notorious [MP3]

New Track from The Feelies

When they first announced that they were reissuing old Feelies LPs on vinyl last year, I think I probably creeped out the people at Waterloo Records a bit much, as I was practically fawning over them.  Now, a whole lotta years later, the band is offering up new tunes for their record Here Before, which will come out on April 12th. This first single definitely has the group sounding a bit older than such classics as “Fa Ce La,” but it certainly brings back a lot of that blending of harmonies with a sense of quirk.  I’m glad the band’s back, as I’m realizing today I missed listening to them more than I knew. You don’t have to go back in time any more; here’s new music from The Feelies.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/The-Feelies-Should-Be-Gone.mp3]

Download: The Feelies – Should Be Gone [MP3]

New Track from Hunx and His Punx

Oh man oh man!  I’m so excited about this new Hunx and His Punx that I can barely wait.  Hunx hasn’t put anything official out since the compilation titled Gay Singles, and really, this is his first official LP.  It’s going to be called Too Young To Be In Love, and so far, it sounds a heck of a lot more like a nice garage swing band, as opposed to the garage pop in singles like “You Don’t Like Rock n’ Roll.”  Seems like you could have a helluva good time just slow-jamming this with your lover.  The record also included some guest spots, namely that of Shannon of Shannon and the Clams, another band I dig quite a bit.  Come on people, get behing the feel good sounds, and buy the album when it hits stores on March 29th via Hardly Art.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/HX_LoversLane.mp3]

Download: Hunx and His Punx – Lovers Lane [MP3]

Fujiya & Miyagi – Ventriloquizzing

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

Fujiya & Miyagi have to be the biggest conundrum in the music world, at least according to my tastes (read: opinion). They make these rhythmically pulsing beats, yet they seem to sort of live on one plane of sound, never really going.  Yet, through the years, people have continuously raved about the group, and now that their latest, Ventriloquizzing, is out, it’s time to take a close look at their work.

This record kicks off as you would expect, “Ventriloquizzing” sort of creating that atmospheric dance vibe fueled by bass work that just grooves and grooves.  But, that’s it, it purely grooves, and doesn’t go much further.  Just because you’re throwing in ambient noises in the background, doesn’t mean the work itself is really going anywhere.  The song, like much of this record, runs in place.

Don’t get me wrong folks, I like a little bit of groove, and I’ve admittedly enjoyed the group when I’ve seen them in the live setting, but it’s hard to really get into the Fujiya & Miyagi recorded material.  For one, when you throw a lyric at me like “you don’t know which side your bread is buttered on” right at me, it’s definitely not going to wow me.  And I know the band has never been one for overly creative lyrical content, but one expects some progression, some step further in the right direction.  It’s becoming increasingly hard to get beyond this point, as they keep throwing things at us like “vanilla, strawberry, knickerbocker glory” from their last effort.

There are some marked improvements that show the band is having a bit of fun with little playful elements like the opening of “Taiwanese Roots.”   But those moments only last for few brief moments, and then you go right back into the same tried and true formulaic approach the band have been utilizing since their inception.  By this point, you would think one would tire of such antics, but the band don’t seem to care.  I have a feeling that it’s all some sort of artistic approach that revolves around a school of thought that, in my mind, remains irrelevant for a reason.  You can give it up to the band, as they are probably tighter than 99.9% of the bands out there, but that’s not going to get me to enjoy their music anymore.

Ventriloquizzing is the fourth LP from the group, and it sounds exactly like all the one’s that came before it.  It’s not necessarily a bad listen, in fact, it’s perfect for the background, most likely at your favorite industrially decorated coffee house.  Still, Fujiya & Miyagi are a band that just tread water when I listen to them.  Lyrically, they never go anywhere, especially with songs like “Minsterone.”  Then, take into account that you could easily put together a best of compilation by this group, remove the lyrics, and everything would sound precisely the same, rendering it one of the worst records of all time.  I guess if you’re looking for a somewhat energetic album to run to while you’re living in an urban environment, then grab this and go.

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