Division Day – Visitation

ddayRating: ★★★☆☆

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]

New Tunes from Lucero

luceroMemphis 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]

New Tunes from Voxtrot

voxtrotMake 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]

The Cave Singers – Welcome Joy

cavesRating: ★★★★½

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]

New Tunes from Headlights

headlightsOne 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]

Brendan Benson – My Old, Familiar Friend

brendRating: ★★★½☆

Lately, we’ve seen more of Brendan Benson trading licks with that one guy from the White Stripes, but when he first came onto the scene, he was a pop crooner.  His album Lapalco remains overlooked, despite all the gems it offers listeners. Now he returns with a new record, My Old, Familiar Friend.  It’s a return to form, for the most part, though you can see the shift in his writing if you’re familiar with his work.

Opening the album, you see a glimmer of the Brendan of the past on “A Whole Lot Better.”  His vocals start low, as they always go, and change to the higher tones mid-syllable.  Even the lyrics seem to recall some of the old territory, but it’s the choruses that remind you of the old songwriter of yesterday.  But, noticeably, the structure of the songs themselves have begun to change a bit, which is good, considering we all admire growth with our favorite artists.

“Eyes on the Horizon” is yet another example of his growth.  It just seems that so much more is going on within the song, and while it may not be as clean as his previous output, you can glimpse the familiar, especially in the chorus. Perhaps the inclusion of guitar solos, of the classic rock sort, give away his most recent act The Raconteurs.  It’s a more mature songwriter we find here, which explains a lot of the lyrical content, as the story line in the album seems to revolve around reflection of a lost love.

Just as you thought you had a collection of b-sides from The Raconteurs sessions, at least the ones Brendan wrote, he kicks it up a notch near the end of the album, starting with “Poised and Ready.”  While he once sounded similar to the early Ben Kweller, he appears more like a rocking version of A.C. Newman. This second half of the record though is chock full of straight ahead pop rock songs of the most sublime sort. It’s the sort of stuff you know you’ll be singing along to during your days at work.  The catchiness of “Don’t Wanna Talk” will surely have you and your friends singing along in your cars. From there you can slide right into “Misery,” which is probably one of the best songs that you’ll find here on the album.  As far as song construction goes, it’s probably one of the more open songs, and the extra space allows for Brendan to work his magic for his audience.

Nothing on this album will blow you away with creativity, but if you’re the kind of person that cherishes solid pop rock to go along with a nice long drive, then you will definitely find something for yourself here.  Brendan Benson has a quality voice that will keep you coming back for more, as he churns out pop gems with his crafty songwriting and vocal inflection.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/09-misery.mp3]

Download: Brendan Benson – Misery [MP3]

Pissed Jeans – King of Jeans

jeansRating: ★★☆☆☆

On their third album, King of Jeans, Pissed Jeans come out firing, as you would expect them to do. It’s high energy barroom brawling, but in order to really dig deeply into their album, you would have to listen to the whole record extremely closely, which is often difficult to do given the intensity of the sonic force on display.

One of the difficulties in approaching this album is that you really can’t discern the relevance of the album.  It’s grounded in 90s hardcore, or even further back if you want to dance around with some of the influences. Still, a barrage of noise is not necessarily something that you find on the scene nowadays.  Perhaps this is refreshing in a certain regard, but in the end, you’re more than likely to lean back to teenage angst and nostalgia, or be turned off altogether.

Like most of the music the band wears upon its sleeve, you can barely follow the lyrics throughout the album.  Most of the vocals seem to waiver upon the screaming of various syllables, though the liner notes indicate otherwise. Even looking at the lyrics, you can’t really decide whether or not to take them too seriously.  It’s as if they come straight out of the notebook of a teenager, or some disgruntled youth trying to find his or her way.  Barking the lyrics doesn’t do much justice for the listener either, making the majority of the songs somewhat unlistenable.

Still, the album isn’t all filled with negativity, as this review may lead you to believe.  You have to be refreshed at the idea of a band bucking modern musical trends in pursuit of their own rewards.  Such a ferocity has not come across these ears in quite some time, and while that is probably due to age, albums like this tend to bring you back to your own angst-ridden collection, if you haven’t discarded everything at this point.

Probably one of the most enticing aspects, for those traveling the road of their past, is that the riffs even seem reminiscent of every hardcore band you listened to when you were at that phase of your life.  It comes off as a familiar rendition, yet done with a little bit more of an edge.  The ominous chords persist, and the growling vocals remind you of the band you always dreamed of making when you were in 9th Grade. Such is King of Jeans, fueled in the anger of our past dreams, turning and burning all the way.

New Tunes from Sea Wolf

seawolfSea Wolf has a new album titled White Water, White Bloom coming out on September 22nd here in the States on Dangerbird, and as a prelude to the release of the album, he’s offering “Stanislaus” as a bonus track for those interested. It’s definitely similar to his last release, and has that folk passion mixed with his wavering melancholic voice. Have a listen.

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

Download: Sea Wolf – Stanislaus [MP3]

FT5: Best Austin Music Venues

0814top5coverWe spent a lot of time this week debating our favorite venue.  What constitutes the perfect place to catch a show?  Is it sound alone, or beer prices?  Maybe it’s both.  We decided that we wanted to narrow it down to the best five places in town where you’ll most likely see one of us, or one of our favorite bands playing.  We even developed a rating system for them.  We’ll be using our typical 5 Star system (1 being the lowest, 5 the highest) to rate the following areas: Sound Quality, Band Quality, Beer Prices, Atmosphere, and Mobility during packed shows. Follow the jump for full article.
Read more

1 925 926 927 928 929 973