The Glands – The Glands

Rating: ★★★★★

The Glands released this album in 2000.  I came across it a little after that via good taste.  This has been an album that consistently comes into my playlist year after year after year.  For me, it’s the perfect album, and one I will listen to for years.

When the alarm bell rings in “Livin Was Easy” you know that you’re in for an awakening.  Here we come across the dirty driving guitar work made famous by Built to Spill on Nothing Wrong with Love. Singing about a time when things were easier, Russ Shapiro wins you over on the opening track.

Then comes “Swim.”  It’s full of a trouncing piano beat that keeps the pace for the entire song.  There’s no choice other than to bob your head with this track.  I often use this on mix tapes for friends, and I’ve never heard a complaint.

Suddenly, the pace is flipped up.  The band offers a slow burner here in “Mayflower,” which resembles a lot of present day dream pop.  The guitar shoots off into the background of the song, as Shapiro slowly soothes you with his voice. Special.

“Lovetown” is up next.  It sounds an awful lot like Dear Catastrophe Waitress-era Belle and Sebastian.  The difference is that The Glands were here first.  Lyrics are kind of sparse here, but the song drives on through, pushing you with the fuzziest of bass lines.

Afterwards, you get the rushing pace of “Straight Down,” which is just a solid rock track.  Everything about this song epitomizes what indie pop was all about in the early days, before it got too bogged down with seven member collectives and such.

If you like a little alt-country in your ears, then you can grab hold of “Fortress.”  The vocals match every inch of this song–almost as if Shapiro is walking you slowly escorting you through his words.  He brings it down just a bit, then blasts straight into “Work It Out.”  Everything about this song sounds extremely modern, yet it precedes its own sound.

“Ground” is a song that brings us back to a lot of the dreaminess in pop music.  You could leave out the lyrics and still find yourself traveling through this song with ease.  I guess a popular way to label this song is to throw out that word ambient. There you go, I did it.

I love “Favorite American.”  It’s an acoustic number accompanied by some interesting reverb on the vocals, which give it that dark bubbling effect that Black Rebel Motorcycle Club seem to have perfected.  It’s got a political undertone, but it’s one that would only become relevant a few years following the release of the album, so decipher the code.

In the closing three minutes, “Breathe Out” kind of lets me out.  It’s not a bad song by any means, it just doesn’t hold up to the rest of the album.  There is some light synthesizer that awkwardly keeps track of time, while the vocals just sort of float in midair.

Fans of Grandaddy, Modest Mouse, Built to Spill, Flaming Lips, Wilco and The Wrens will all find themselves loving this album.  You can even say that a lot of those bands followed in the steps of The Glands, but their short-lived career makes it hard to assess their lasting effects.

I know it’s hard to take the words of another man on buying something that you’ve never heard of in your life, or perhaps you have, but take my word here.  Go to iTunes and buy this.  You will thank me for it later on, or I hope you do.

New Glasvegas Tunes

I’ve been following this band recently, and now that they have a release date for their album (September 9th in the UK) I thought I would throw it out for a listen.  I expect some really solid tunes from this album, and I can’t wait until it gets here.  Just another reason why September is shaping up to be a good month, musically. 

Here’s the track, Geraldine, for your ears. 

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/glasvegas-geraldine.mp3]

Download: Glasvegas – Geraldine [MP3]

The Dutchess and the Duke – She’s the Dutchess, He’s the Duke

Rating: ★★★★½

Before giving in to a dear friend’s suggestion, I hadn’t heard much about The Dutchess and the Duke.  Sometimes a lack of knowledge is precisely what you need to come across a brand new album with open arms, awaiting the approach of greatness.  Thanks Corey.

Here is some background information, though limited.  The band hails from Seattle, although they resemble very little of that signature sound.  Currently, they are touring our nation in support of Fleet Foxes.  Apparently, they’ve been friends for a long time.  That’s about all I’ve come across.

The opening “Reservoir Park” immediately brings to mind the Rolling Stones, which isn’t a bad place to start off an album.  The chorus, with dual harmonies, is absolutely perfect.  I believe that this song is going to be in my Top 5 Singles of the year.  I’ve placed it their already.

After opening appropriately, they switch it up–they go off sounding more like a product of Nashville or Louisville, filled with American traditional country pop goodness. The interplay between Jesse Lortz and Kimberly Morrison on the following songs is precisely what makes this so special. I feel like it’s everything that She and Him were built up to be, but here it’s much more real–much more authentic.

“Strangers” has them returning to that Stones flavor.  It’s everything you want in a song, with both singers harmonizing the whole way through the song.  There isn’t a bad thing to say here.  And they follow that up with “Back to Me,” a song about trying to recapture that great love of your life.  Sure, its cliche, but the earnestness wins you over.

And all of a sudden, they bust out the ghost, well soul really, of Bob Dylan.  “Mary” is the perfect song at this moment because it switches the sound, though not too much.  The band maintains their personality here, keeping the album interesting.  This band has an arsenal of classic musicians to reference, but never once does it feel as if they faked it.

The album closes with “Armageddon Song,” which, for me, is the exact ending I wanted to this album.  It’s an acoustic affair full of harmonies and whistling–its the song where they seem as if they’ve completely shed their influences, just to let you in closer to themselves.

Despite wearing their heroes on their sleeves, The Dutchess and the Duke have created a wonderful debut album; this is one that is sure to hold up as one of your favorites for a long time to come.  Don’t take my word on it; please please please listen.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/01-reservoir-park.mp3]

Download: reservoir_park.mp3

Ratatat – LP3

Rating: ★★★★ ·

What does one actually have to say about instrumental music that can garner any attention? How on Earth do you come across a Ratatat record and give it any justice without completely losing the point of the album? I’m not sure how to do this, so I am going to take a different approach.

Shiller: The curtain is pulled back immediately, revealing a lonely woman in a chair. A light appears just above her heart, and it pulsates with the rhythm. Her eyes blink candidly, occasionally shooting towards the window at the back of the stage as lightning strikes. Towards the end of the scene, rain falls hard against the window; her heart beats on.

Falcon Jab: This is a Lance Armstrong commercial. He is pedaling slowly uphill, fighting the winds in his face. Down he cruises through the town, racing past buildings on all sides. Stopping, he takes in a few short breaths, then continues on his journey.

Mi Viejo: While in Mexico for summer vacation a few years back, I sat outside a local bar at the outskirts of Saltillo. Empty, I opted to sip slowly on my Negro Modelo. Suddenly, two dancing sirens entered the bar, bright flowing dresses circling their ankles as they pulsated to a silent rhythm. Mesmerized, my beer grew warm. I opened my eyes and they were gone.

Mirando: This is the sequel to Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Tired of the l label of classically trained aliens, only able to play symphonic harmonies, the aliens step it up. Instead of their traditional beeps, they opt to add some guitar; all riffs taken from their latest version of Guitar Hero.

Flynn: This is what it feels like to be on mushrooms in the middle of nowhere, as your college roommate plays guitar by the firelight. He thinks he is the next Bob Marley.

Bird Priest: I’ve never been able to beat the game of Zelda. I bought Nintendo Power Magazine because it had all the maps to get through the game in the quickest fashion. I’m not good with directions, and my father never told me how to read a map, so I just sat there watching the credits roll down my anti-HD TV.

Shempi: Iv’e been sitting in my room all week trying to write music to dance to with my friends. I’ve got some solid loops going in the background; the basic beats aren’t anything special. Still, when I threw those bongo beats in at the end, we grabbed our glow-sticks and shook it until my mom told me to turn it down.

Imperials: DJ Shadow is a close friend of mine. We like to get together and blow a lot of bubbles while lounging in the comfort of his home. Occasionally, we just chill out while he lets the washing machine make the bubbles for us. Today was one of those days.

Dura: When you hang out with Stephin Merritt of Magnetic Fields you think that he is only good for one thing; brilliant ukulele songs. This is not true. On off nights in New York City, he likes to write serious electronic music. I still hear the ukulele.

Brulee: Girls love to jump rope, especially when its double-dutch. Sometimes they jump and jump and jump, and the rope becomes a blur on the horizon of the suburbs. At some point, they have to catch their breath, pouring water over their heads to cool off in the summer heat.

Mumtaz Kahn: Electronic dragons are the biggest thing in Japan right now. Instead of roaring and shooting flames, which we know is not good indoors, they now purr like kittens. It’s the perfect house pet, and sure to keep the neighbor’s minding their own business. Of course, they all come with their very own Mongolian Kahn.

Gipsy Threat: Do you like to listen to Beirut? I do. The problem is, I only have a computer; there isn’t money enough for real instruments. I spend my days trying to write Beirut cover songs with Garage Band. I made you this one for you.

Black Heroes: We all know that Bruce Leroy defeated Sho’nuff in their epic battle during the eighties, but most never saw this side of the two enemies. In the Criterion Collection of this movie, it has a flashback scene where Sho’nuff and Bruce Leroy were making lemonade in their neighborhood. This is just before they parted ways, most likely due to a poor profit margin.

Now you try.

Hear opening track “Shiller” below or listen to “Mirando” elsewhere on our website:

You can also stream the whole darn thing over on spinner.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/01-shiller.mp3]

Download: shiller.mp3

Chromeo – Fancier Footwork

Rating: ★★★★ ·

This album doesn’t really need a review. Odds are you already have it, or at least you should have it, but just in case you haven’t. This album is a “Deluxe Edition,” but I am not sure that it really warrants that title. It’s the original album, and then they add a bunch of remixes. I guess that merits a reissue.

Now, if you don’t have this album, here is why you need it.

Remember those really cheesy songs from your dances in middle school. The ones where you danced in a circle with all your friends while you were carefully avoiding contact with the opposite sex? They were songs full of carefully constructed beats; the majority of which were made on really simple keyboards. If you remember that with fondness, you have that nostalgia right here.

“Fancy Footwork” evokes everything from an eighties staple song that you want. There are effects on the vocals, and the lyrics don’t really have much purpose, but you know that with the simple beats that you and your friends will be dancing around the living room with Lone Star in hand.

I think that any person could find great faults in this album. There isn’t an ounce of of originality in the music, and the lyrics are nothing but comedic–a good thing in my opinion. But, Chromeo approaches there craft unapologetically. They didn’t come here to make you wax poetic about the hidden meaning in their songs; this band came to make you dance. Dance you will.

The most playful track on the album for me is “Momma’s Boy.” Lyrically, it speaks of a boy and girl who are a little too much into their attachment with their parents. Now, if you don’t find the lyrics mildly hilarious, then something is probably wrong with you. And, you can shake it to this song as well!

The bonus disc here has some new material not present on the original album. But, for the most part it is filled with remixes, which don’t really do much to the original songs; I guess they give you a different perspective.

All in all, this album is the dance album you need to own. Okay, so some of the songs go on a minute or two too long, but you will find that every track on this record is worthy of some booty shaking. After all, its summer time, and you have no excuse not to dance the night away with your friends. Go buy it. Go dance with it. Thank me later.

Fancy Footwork!

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/fancy_original.mp3]

Download: fancyfootwork.mp3

Beck – Modern Guilt

Rating: ★★★ · ·

When reviewing a Beck record I think you come across some very difficult waters. The man is revered by so many, and at the same time, it’s become increasingly difficult to put a definition on his music. You have to respect that, yet at the same time, it’s not the easiest thing to write about.

With this album, you have the uber-producer Danger Mouse aiding the production along the way. It’s kind of an odd step, and one that I was skeptical of – I’m not a DM kind of guy. That’s where we begin.

The album opens well enough with “Orphans.” You have some of the staple touches of DM, accompanied by the gentle guitar work of Beck, for which he always wins me over. He throws in some hand-claps as well, which I believe is becoming a bit of a Beck staple. It’s a good start.

“Gamma Ray” is the next track, and its the track you expected to hear on this album. It’s got a bouncing little bass line that pushes the song all the way through. Sure, you have vocals and such, but if you can’t get into this bass line, then you can’t get into this song. This is definitely a high-point on the album.

“Chemtrails” seems like an odd song to follow the previous track. It’s mellow atmospherics leave it completely juxtaposed to “Gamma Ray,” which is probably the intention. Stay with this song because it picks up in the end, with Beck or Danger Mouse, doing his best Stereolab/Air imitation.

The album’s title track comes next. Once again, this is a head bobber. You can’t help but realize that your feet are tapping, while Beck’s familiar voice dances on in the background. Honestly, I’m starting to realize that his voice is playing second fiddle on some of these more upbeat songs, which is kind of disappointing.

I didn’t get much from “Youthless.” You can blame me for poor tastes I guess. Perhaps because it comes off to me like Beck vs. Gnarls Barkley.

I love the next track, or I love the vocals on this next track, “Walls.” The beats present in the background don’t do much to enhance this song. Beck has that passion in his voice here, but it’s the kind of passion that makes you wish he would just pick up his guitar and sing it to you straight.

Then you can skip the next track. I did.

We find ourselves at “Soul of a Man.” This is a solid track, and another of the upbeat numbers you will find, even if the guitar sound does come off like every other garage rock tune you’ve heard in the past years. But, the pace is stepped back up on the album, which is probably where the focus of this album should stay, which it does. “Profanity Prayers” continues the pace, with pounding drums in your ears. One of the better songs on the album. To me this album just screams good times. This should definitely be included in the live set; it just has that feel to it.

Then we close the album with “Volcano.” A down-trodden little number where the acoustic guitar work really makes me reminisce about Sea Changes. It’s a good call to close the album here. For me, its the song that most resembles the Beck I came to know and like. Nice call here.

As I play this time and time again, I can’t help but feel a little distance from it. I don’t find Danger Mouse’s work very interesting, in fact, I think it kind of comes off like everything else he’s done recently. Perhaps he’s just tapped into the same thing one too many times. Due to that, it just doesn’t have the feel of a solid Beck album. Sure, there are some high points, like “Gamma Ray” and “Volcano,” but there are some moments that just don’t reach the listener.

I guess at the end of the day, he can do whatever he really wants to do. He’s earned that right, and as long as he keeps releasing albums with several great songs, I think he’ll still be important. I’m just waiting for him to put out that solid album, all the way through. I’ll keep waiting.

Below is “Gamma Ray” off the new album:

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/02-gamma-ray.mp3]

Download: gammaray.mp3

Albert Hammond Jr. – Como te Llama

Rating: ★★★½ ·

When Albert Hammond Jr. released his first record, I was completely skeptical. Could the guitar player step outside of his work with The Strokes and go it alone, successfully? The answer was an astonishing yes! That record filled my ears with gem after gem of sunny pop tunes. The new question was could he maintain that on his newest effort? Could he make me question the genius behind his other band once again?

Yes and no.

The opening track, “Bargain of a Century” comes in with swelling guitars, and what sounds like some bass lines stolen from the closet of his old band, added with a flare of piano. The vocal effects are all very reminiscent of his last effort, yet also quite like his pal Julian Casablancas. This song sets the pace for the rest of the record, demonstrating that at his best, Albert can write a really infectious tune.

The next two songs are good enough, but I go through them time and time again without really holding on to any redeemable quality. This isn’t to say that these are bad songs, for surely someone will enjoy them, but I just kind of found them as filler, holding time before we get to the next track.

Now, “GfC,” the fourth track is the single from this album, or the first one at least, and deservedly so. Every time I listen to this track, I immediately want to push repeat. A song like this shows just what a great songwriter Albert actually is; he’s a forced to be reckoned with more often than not. My head bobs, the wind blows in my hair, and all I can do is grin like a child. Beautiful.

Once again you find yourself at an impasse. The next few songs don’t pack the punch you’ve grown used to by this point. He seems to have missed a step with these songs, but I urge you to proceed through these songs with open ears because the chorus on “Rocket” is a superb moment in a fairly subpar song, which I suppose makes this song wonderful in its own way. Chills creep down my skin each time those guitars come blasting in to my speakers.

Hidden in those tracks is “You Won’t Be Fooled by This,” which is a track that most closely resembles his work in that other band . It’s a classic song, and it makes me wonder if Albert is just better off to go it alone. Really.

“Spooky Couch,” is an awful song. It is a seven minute instrumental tune that adds nothing to the album. I am not sure why its on here. Please skip this song.

Albert steps up the pace again after that yawner. He proceeds through the next few tracks with fervor, and possibly too much. A little more focus would have made those songs as memorable as the earlier tracks on this album.

And then we come to a close ladies and gentlemen with “Feed Me Jack…” which is as close to a classic ballad as this fellow has come. It might not be the best ballad of all time, but I like it for the fact that he went another direction entirely, using this song to display just how strong his voice is. It’s lacking lyrically, but a good solid step.

You see, Albert Hammond can write some amazing songs. He doesn’t need that other band to establish his credibility, but the weaknesses of this record hint that if there were a few more members battling against his ideas, then we might just have another great record in our future. All in all, Albert stands on his own, continuing to show us that he is force to be reckoned with in the pop world; all on his own. Dig it.

Below is the single we posted a long long time ago “GFC”:

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/04-gfc.mp3]

Download: gfc.mp3

Earlimart – Hymn and Her

Rating: ★★★½ ·

California’s Earlimart has released their 4th studio album, this one coming just a year or so after the release of Mentor Tormentor, which was one of my favorite releases of 2007. I found it an odd choice to release another album so quickly, but I wasn’t let down by this effort.

“Song For,” the opening track, begins with some bouncing percussion, as the music crashes in behind it, you are reminded of similar California acts such as Grandaddy or early Rogue Wave-neither of which is a bad comparison in my book.

Aaron Espinoza has a perfect voice for the melodic sounds of his band, as he gently sings through this album, resembling the softness of his friend Eliott Smith. It’s a comparison I am sure he is sick of at this point, but one that creeps up time and time again in his music.

“Before it Gets Better” introduces the audience to equally strong voice of Ariana Murray, the other mainstay member in the Earlimart lineup. Backed by the softness of a piano, she sings about the realization that before anything gets better, its bound to get worse. Despite the undertones of this song, Ariana allows the listener to empathize with her feelings–a good feat I dare say. Her lead role on “Time For Yourself” makes it another bright spot on the album, which I think has a lot to do with her voice in contrast to Espinoza. At some points I just find her more fitting, but that could be due to her songwriting on such songs.

Unfortunately, I found that there were some spots that missed their mark–for me as a listener. Tracks like “God Love You the Best” or “Cigarettes and Kerosene” found me searching in earnest for the uniqueness that opened the album. Even when the guitars burst in on “Cigarettes and Kerosene” I found it lacking the personality of other songs that are present. Even the title track, “Hymn and Her,” seems like a track that blends into the background of this album.

However, I found a beautiful gem on this record in the song “For the Birds.” It has the gentle quality of Espinoza, backed by the “ooohs” from Murray, all thrown into the mix with a quiet backing of piano and a strumming acoustic guitar. This is the most special moment on this album.

At times, Earlimart waiver from their focus, and it is that tendency to operate on musical tangents that has always hurt their albums. Their strengths come in when they combine Espinoza’s voice with Murray’s, using carefully constructed soundscapes to back the vocals. Lucky for us, there are plenty of those moments on this record.

Listen to the first single off the album “Song For” below:

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/01-song-for.mp3]

download: songfor.mp

Alkaline Trio – Agony and Irony

Rating: ★★★★ ·

For those expecting Alkaline Trio to come up with an entirely new formula for this album–their sixth full length–it may come as a disappointment, although it shouldn’t, that the band sticks close to their guns. They’ve been honing their skills at the pop-punk game for so long, that it might do more damage to fans if they strayed in a new direction.

Of course this album has the classic Alkaline lyrical stylings, filled with allusions to the darker side of things, which has always been Matt Skiba’s forte. An example of this lies in the song “Into the Night,” where Skiba sings “The carrion has been forgotten/Left for dead in the sun rotting.” It’s also visible with track titles such as “Calling All Skeletons” or “In Vein.” There is a real personal vibe in the lyrics as well, but I’ll let you listen to those on your own time.

There are some slip ups on the album such as the redundant lyrics in “Do You Wanna Know,” which is forgivable because of the quality of the music. Also, “Love Love Kiss Kiss” just doesn’t pack the same punch that the rest of the album offers listeners–not to mention how ridiculous the chorus is on this song.

However, there are some phenomenal songs here, such as “Over and Out,” which is probably one of the best songs I think that they’ve written in recent years– driven during the verses by some solid bass work. “Ruin It” is just another song that exemplifies everything that Alkaline Trio has been creating since their jump to the majors–and they throw in a nice vocal effect near the end to boot.

At first, I was weary of the really clean production on here–as I love the grit of that dirty guitar sound–but it really works to the benefit of the band here. Skiba’s melodies are well-suited by the newer sound the band has taken on. It makes the band sound sound really close to being at their absolute best. All good things.

Like I said, there isn’t anything new here–excluding the fact that there are new songs, of course–yet this is a solid effort from a well-seasoned band that has been doing it longer and better than most. Not quite the perfect album, but pretty close.

Below is a song called “Help Me” off the new album:

Download: helpme.mp3

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/alkaline-trio-help-me.mp3]

Modey Lemon @ Emos – 6/28

Modey Lemon was one of the more intriguing artists I caught a few years back at SXSW.  Their particular blend of post-punk was the perfect dosage of rock n’ roll that I needed.  Now they are headed our way again this Saturday night at Emos.  They’ll be accompanied by The Strange Attractors, Manikin and Black Panda.  

For those in need of a good evening, check out this guaranteed show. As usual, doors at 8, show at 10. You can get a good sample of their tunes by checking them out personally.

1 931 932 933 934 935 936