Here We Go Magic on Daytrotter

magicDaytrotter has just put up a brand new session with Luke Temple and Here We Go Magic. Lucky for the fans, this session has a brand new track to offer you, not to mention it has a few reworkings of other tunes from the band’s self-titled debut, Here We Go Magic.  If you like what you hear from this band, be sure to check them out on tour in Austin with Grizzly Bear in June.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/03-collector.mp3]

Download: Here We Go Magic – Collector [MP3]

Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

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Rating: ★★★★ ·

Phoenix is a Frecnh pop group.  That being said, it seems more likely that their success lies in the United States, far away from their homeland.  Their third album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, is sure to tie the band into your consciousness for the duration of the upcoming months, if not for the rest of the year.

The best one-two punch of the year comes via the band’s first two opening tracks, “Lisztomania” and “1901.” “Lisztomania” has a stomping affect that likely entails itself to handclap moments amongst your friends as you dance in the living room.  That is until the keyboard comes in for the chorus, and the impending crescendo have you all flailing your arms about.  “1901” is just one of the most solid tracks to come around in a long time.  Finding a beat this good is hard to do, and they combine it all with the catchiness of the chorus as singer Thomas Mars shouts “fallen” over and over again.  You won’t find two tracks back to back that sound this good on another record this year.

But then the band step it back a bit, so as not to blow you away too quickly.  They toy with a little bit of sensuality in “Fences and the lengthy slow-jam “Love Like a Sunset,” which quite possibly gets a bit over indulgent.  Still, at this point, the band seem to just want to show their range, demonstrating to us all that they are more than just a one-dimensional band of singles and such.

And then we’re right back into it.  Slow jams are gone, and the pace returns with “Lasso.” This song, like those before it and those after it exemplifies everything in which the group succeeds; their songs build and build, seemingly increasing the pace as the song, along with Mars’ vocals, races to the end.  It’s as if their formulaic songwriting allows the band to push for the optimal amount of punch and pop sensibility.  Even when they find themselves in the middle-ground, such as on “Girlfriend” you can still see the skeletal remains of their capabilities.

While some may wish that the band could go beyond their normal stylings and push for even more in the dance-pop spectrum, such as their massive single “1901,” it’s still nice to see the band sticking to what they do best. Although they’ve yet to write a complete album where every song is perfect, this is the closest that they’ve come; Phoenix continues to write great songs and progress as they move forward.

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

Download: Phoenix – Lasso [MP3]

Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest

bears

Rating: ★★★★★

At this point in the year, it seems pretty redundant to discuss this album, especially considering all the accolades it has received during the time in which the album leaked onto the Internet.  But, be that as it may, one really has to take a look at this album; you would be doing yourself an injustice to ignore Grizzly Bear at this point, and your record collection would be worse off for not adding Veckatimest to your catalog.

Even on the first track, it is hard to find negative commentary on the album, no matter how you wish to label this band and their hype.  “Southern Point” has various elements to the entirety of the song, be it ornate guitar picking or the back and forth piano work.  You’ll come to find that the various layers that were present during Yellow House have now been polished, to the benefit of every minute of the album.

Then comes the first single, “Two Weeks.” You could count this song as one of the best songs of the year, based merely upon the multiple layer harmonies that go throughout, but that probably wouldn’t do the song any justice.  Each layer of sound just seems to compile more melody as the song inches along like a caterpillar; the song builds with “ooh oooh oooh oohs” until the end, and when it’s complete, you feel a little bit worn out.

You find yourself two songs into the album, which most will prematurely title as best of the year.  From this point on, you cannot go back into the past; you cannot look back into the music of this year, for nothing will seem as complete as this album. Songwriter Daniel Rossen, who also fronts Department of Eagles, definitely has left his mark on this album, or at least you can see his maturity throughout the evolution of this album. What once seemed like quiet bedroom songs now have blossomed into full compositions, each worthy of standing on their own.

“Dory” seems like a simplistic enough song, but the magic in the vocal harmonies carry it above your average tune, into a new level of greatness few bands have yet to achieve.  “Ready, Able” has this brooding rhythm beneath the surface of the song, but with the intricate additions to the song, the tension is released, and the song courses on into one of the albums more beautiful moments.  “About Face” is the perfect song, with subdued percussion backing the song; the band has paid attention to the most minute detail, which, of course, makes each song stronger than the one before it.

You can hide behind the hype, declaring that the band is just riding the waves of popularity by the Internet popularity they’ve garnered, but listening to Veckatimest, you will truly see that Grizzly Bear deserves every kind word that was written about them.  Very few people will find that there is anything negative to say, and in that statement, you have the best album of the year.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/08-about-face.mp3]

Download: Grizzly Bear – About Face [MP3]

New Tunes from Personal and the Pizzas

pizzaIt’s Friday, and as you cruise into the weekend, you definitely need something meaningful to carry you all the way to the end of the day.  Well, let the wonderful sounds of Personal and the Pizzas put you on their backs and carry you into the weekend.  Sure, it’s a bit derivative, but if you don’t like this song you aren’t a United Statesian.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/personal_and_the_pizzas-i_dont_feel_so_happy_now.mp3]

Download: Personal and the Pizzas – I Don’t Feel So Happy Now [MP3]

Electric Owls – Ain’t Too Bright

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Rating: ★★★½ ·

When The Comas decided that it would be best to call it quits, at least for the day, I knew that I would miss their fuzzed-out space pop.  Ever since their first break on Dawson’s Creek, I was absolutely in love.  Luckily, leader of the bunch, Andy Herod, opted to take on the Electric Owls moniker and release Ain’t Too Bright on Vagrant Records.

As soon as this album kicks off, the fuzz begins, coating the acoustic strumming before Herod’s distinctive voice jumps into song.  For a fan of this man, it’s good to hear these familiar vocals, and the return of that space-age pop sound that Herod and friends perfected with Spells.

It’s great to see that Herod and his new posse haven’t neglected that quirkiness that made his old band so interesting, using electronic samples and other sounds to add an atmospheric background to the scope of each song.  But still, they maintain the feel of all the current bands. “Halloween Mask” easily fits in the modern pop landscape, dancing not far away from the works of Rogue Wave.  This song reminds us of Herod at his best, crafting careful cool hits with a hint of futuristic hipsterdom.

Reading notes about his return, it would seem that Herod needed this return to music.  His first foray had left him and his mates exhausted, but as all great writers do, he got the itch to write again.  That personality breaks through the surface of this album, as more traditional songs have been penned.  Songs like “Darken Me” with it’s folk leanings and foot stomping percussion remind listeners of the personal touch that music can bring. “Two Stories” has that similar personal stretch, with the song being drawn gently from personal experience of the narrator, presumably Herod himself.

This outing is less intense than the past efforts that have involved Herod, but this is not entirely a bad thing, as he first warmed his way into my heart with A Def Needle In Tomorrow long ago, which seemed to be a stripped down affair in comparison to his later work.  Still, it’s great to have the voice of an old friend bringing back memories of simple pop tunes with a space-age edge.  You never know how much you miss a particular songwriter until they make their way back into the music industry; we gladly welcome back Andy Herod and Electric Owls to the foray.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/04-darken-me.mp3]

Download: Electric Owls – Darken Me [MP3]

New Tunes from Doveman

tombartThomas Bartlett is a New York based keyboardist, currently backing up The National on tour.  But, as most touring musicians do, he’s got his own gig on the side, Doveman.  This new track is really quiet, almost inaudible, but it makes the beauty of the arrangement jump out in the end.  Expect the album to come your way later this year.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/doveman-breathing-out.mp3]

Download: Doveman – Breathing Out [MP3]

Clues – s/t

clues

Rating: ★★½ · ·

From the ashes we shall rise, or at least the former members of Unicorns, Alden Penner, and Arcade Fire, Brendan Reed, believe this.  They have risen from their past with the formation of a new group, Clues.  Their self-titlted album is out now on Constellation, and while it may not demonstrate the brilliance the two are capable of creating, it has some moments worthy of highlighting in your music catalog.

You see the Unicorns resemblance immediately, as the opening track “Haarp” begins with a quiet little whisper before slowly picking up the pace.  As the pace is quickened to a steady trot, the tension rises, and even the guitar styling is so similar that you would swear that this is a B-Side from Penner’s former mates. This is either a complaint for those who loved that project, or an place worthy of garnering interest among new hordes of fans.

It would be great if we could discard that reference, but unfortunately we cannot; as of this point in time, Penner is being marked by the success of Nic Thorburn. While you can find similarities in the playing styles of the two former Unicorns, it seems that what sets Clues apart from the past is the jaggedness that he seems to hold onto.  “Approach the Throne” is full of just that, as the choppy guitars hammer away.  It’s not the sort of pop sensibility of Islands, but one should be happy is set to making his own mark here. “Cave Mouth” similarly shares the affinity for disjointed melodies and angular guitars, with the lyrics being turned down in the mix so that the music takes the focus.

There are moments that do approach chasing that pop sensibility, or at least the ballad aesthetic.  “You Have My Eyes Now” and “Ledmonton” are just a few songs that show the slower side of things; these songs unfortunately don’t encourage the listener’s attention span, which render them, sadly, as throwaways.  Not throwaways necessarily, but the mellow moments are not very successful here, though “Ledmonton” does sport some chanting choral moments near the songs ending.

Oddly, the Arcade Fire influence is not really here, unless you tie it all in to some of the zany moments that exist throughout.  But it’s clear that Reed’s style of drumming was not the founding influence that broke his previous band.

In the end, you wonder whether it’s fair to judge a band by it’s members former labors. Is such a judgment just?  Probably not, but that is the unforutunate truth in dealing with Clues.  You look at the sparkling moments here, and look back to their past; you look at the dull moments and wonder where this band will go. Truth is, only time will tell.

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

Download: Clues – Perfect Fit [MP3]

Jason Lytle – Yours Truly, The Commuter

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Rating: ★★★★ ·

A few years back, California’s great Grandaddy decided to break up; they cited lack of financial success despite critical acclaim as one of their reasons for going away.  Many heartbroken fans were happy to hear that Anti Records had signed frontman and lead songwriter, Jason Lytle, to a record deal.  His album, Yours Truly, The Commuter, is exactly what you would expect from a man who left California for Montana in search of a new muse and new inspiration.

Opening the album with the title-track immediately brings back all the memories of your old Grandaddy record collection.  Electronic blips and keyboard steadily build before the percussive element joins the fray.  Furthering the song with simple strings (samples possibly) and Lytle’s familiar voice marks this album as the return of one of indie rock’s great voices.

If one were to go on song titles alone then we would be led to believe that Jason came to Montana in seach of new horizons and a return to a different type of focus that would create inspirational songs once again.  In so many ways, he does seem to have regained his form on this album, but it’s that retreading of old tricks in his bag that seem to work the best for him.

“Brand New Sun” discusses the departure for greener pastures, and the simple acoustic song is filled with what one can only assume are laser noise created by martians, or Lytle’s keyboard.  “Birds Encouraged Him” is simply a beautiful song; it’s one of the better songs in the Lytle catalog.  Very light percussion accompanies the acoustic fingerings here, and string arrangements allow for the song to create a more atmospheric element; this is all added by the electronic whizzing of space noises.

Jason even decides to break out the rock element on this album with  “It’s The Weekend.”  Chugging power chords create a bouncing song that begins just as soon as it really ends, closing with Jason mellowing out on piano before zooming out one last time.  But, it’s the softer element on this album that seems to take precedent.

A piano ballad appears courtesy of “This Song is a Mute Button.” It’s one of the simpler songs on this record, but it reminds you of how personal songwriting can be for the likes of Jason Lytle. And it’s followed by another spectacular number in “Rollin Home Alone.”  Using string arrangements really seems to bring out a lot of the vocal melodies in Lytle’s voice, and the arrangement of the song is equally beneficial.  You’d find difficulty not including this as one of your favorite songs of the year.

It’s refreshing to note that not a lot has really changed in the capabilities of Mr. Lytle.  He still fuses guitar and electronic elements as breezily as in his days of Grandaddy, which not only makes you nostalgic for the good old days, but grateful he’s returned with an album as good as Yours Truly, The Commuter.

Chaos in Tejas

chaosThe great thing about Austin is that we get the benefit of having our local promoters put together amazing weeks of shows, and this week, Chaos in Tejas proves just that point.  Sure, the bands might be a little bit on the harder/faster/heavier side of things, but there are some great bands; just check out these names: Ted Leo, The Thermals, Harvey Milk, Propaghandi, Strange Boys, Times New Viking, The Business and The Shaky Hands.  All bands that deserve your time and attention…not to mention the other great bands that will grace the stage along the whole Red River district.  A detailed list of shows and venues can be found here.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/03-under-the-hedge.mp3]

Download: Ted Leo – Under the Hedge [MP3]

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