New Tunes from Publicist

pubSometimes we dig dance music, especially when it involves old DC stalwarts like Ian Svenonius of Nation of Ulysses fame, and now of Chain and the Gang. He’s been working with Sebastian Thomson of Trans Am, and they’ve come up with this floor banger, under Thomson’s Publicist moniker, destined to move your hips at the local party. I mean, take a look at this picture and envision yourself dancing away. Let’s hope there is more to come from these guys.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/publicist-momma.mp3]

Download: Publicist – Momma [MP3]

Malcolm Middleton – Waxing Gibbous

malcolm Rating: ★★★½☆

Singer Malcolm Middleton is better known as one half of Scottish band Arab Strap, but as that band has closed its final chapter, he is eager to carry on with his musical career. He’s always been working on the side creating his own tunes, but Waxing Gibbous comes at listeners with a bit more promise and consistency than his previous efforts.

You will find echoes of his past musical musings this time around, as they will surely never fade into the background of his life.  The splendid single “Carry Me” is a soft-spoken number; some might even call it downtrodden.  Middleton’s voice seems to ask for the support of his listener to support him by putting him upon their backs; he breaks his request to give the spoken-word explanation of his desire mid-song.  This approach remains one of the marked remnants of his time spent in Arab Strap.  Regardless, this song belongs on every mix tape you put together for your friends.  Also, you find usage of the electronic touch; this is yet another piece of his past.

Similarly, “Zero” begins with spoken-word before the percussive element kickstarts the rest of the song.  Once that becomes visible, the song takes off in a completely different direction, though his vocals still never seem to be far away from the spoken rather than sung forte.  But, before the song comes to a close, he slows it down to end the song with a gentle acoustic strumming carefully placed atop steady organ work.

Don’t think that he’s suddenly grown into a happier being, with many of these songs lamenting various facets of his life.  In “Ballad of Fuck All” he complains of the complacency in which his life seems to have slipped; his dreams of stardom and travels now disappearing in the rearview of his life.  And, quite frankly, its this element that seems to relate his lyrics to those of the listener; he has mundane problems we can all associate with our own lives.  This sort of connection has always been his specialty, but here he also asks, as he does frequently in the album, for someone to aid in his survival.

Unfortunately, some of the songs on the album drag on for longer than they should, with Middleton afraid to pull back on the reins entirely.  When he holds the songs in he succeeds beyond a doubt, but as other songs meander past the five minute mark it becomes a bit of a labor to listen to the entirety of each song, let alone an album full of such songs.  But, for those with patience you will find that Malcolm Middleton has crafted yet another wonderful piece of bedroom folk tunes we can all appreciate.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/10-made-up-your-mind.mp3]

Download: Malcolm Middleton – Made Up Your Mind [MP3]

Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca

bitteRating: ★★★★½

Dirty Projectors last effort, Rise Above, saw the band reconstructing Black Flag’s Damaged;  then they worked with David Byrne on the Dark Was the Night Compilation. How would their new album, Bitte Orca, transpire?  Let’s just say that the band uses elements of all their past work in the last few years and creates one of the most interesting records that has been released this year, if not THE most interesting.

As the album opens, you can tell that there will be more than enough going on in this album.  “Cannibal Resource” has a song that relies less upon the musical instruments and more upon the diverse collaboration of vocal harmonies of Longstreth, Coffman, and Deradoorian.  Still, a lot goes into this song; it’s the texturizing that makes the listening process so intoxicating. For some, you might find that the meandering seems pointless, as guitars twist and turn, often being dropped momentarily, then picked right back up.  At times it seems as if the songs aren’t going anywhere at all, yet as the move on, you can discern the band’s direction.

“Stillness is the Move” uses a predominantly female vocal, which at times resembles some of the work of The Knife.  Still, the guitar sounds as if it were sampled, and the percussion seems more electronic as well.  All in all, the vocal harmonies give the song a bit of urgency that moves the song along; then it completely changes in the middle of the song, as one of the ladies sings in a more traditional approach.  Once again, the band exhibits their willingness to deconstruct modern songwriting techniques, creating fresh sounds.

“Two Doves” is probably the group’s most straightforward song. Gentle guitar plucking, backed by crafty string arrangements created the perfect mood for which the female vocal has no choice but to soar.  It’s one of the most beautiful songs on the album, which owes more to the care taken to craft the perfect song, as the vocals never seem too forced, and the accompaniment of the music is extremely fitting to the overall tone of the song.

Then you come across the montage that is “Useful Chamber,” which is constructed like a modern symphonic piece.   There are some many different pieces to this song, it’s as if the band compiled several pieces in to one ornate song.  The pacing is irregular at first, and sort of fragmented, which is to be expected from such a song, but it peaks with Longstreth shouting out the album title, before the girls chime in with their high-pitched “oohs” and “aahhs.”  You won’t find a better crafted song this year.

And so the album goes, carefully constructed from the beginning until the end. The infectious melodies drive the album, but beneath it lies the clever craftwork of a band who is at the top of their game.  It seems like Dirty Projectors have climbed atop the world yet again.

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

Download: Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca [MP3]

Gomez @ Waterloo Records – TODAY!

gomesThose clever Brits in Gomez have been around for over a decade, and yet, they’ve never really broken huge overseas, that is until recently. Their consistency and dedication have finally broken through, and the band is getting much deserved acclaim over in los Estados Unidos. You can catch them for free today at Waterloo Records at 5 PM or you can catch them outside at Stubbs on the very same evening!  Catch one or catch both and you’ll be glad you did.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/gomez-ruff-stuff.mp3]

Download: Gomez – Ruff Stuff [MP3]

New Tunes from J Tillman

jt J Tillman has most recently gotten a lot of notice for his participation as part of the current Fleet Foxes line-up, but this gent has a wonderful set of tunes in his closet as well.  He’s set to release a new album on September 22nd on Austin’s own Western Vinyl, and we have an unmastered peak at one of the album’s tracks.  It’s hard to find anything at fault with such an understatedly beautiful song.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/j-tillman-earthly-bodies.mp3]

Download: J Tillman – Earthly Bodies [MP3]

Sonic Youth – The Eternal

theeternal Rating: ★★★★☆

In the musical landscape today, many bands have now begun to focus on the more ornate aspect of musical creation, choosing to spend their time carefully constructing harmonies and explosions of sonic noise.  Still, when it comes to combining both, none have done it better in the recent history than Sonic Youth.  They return again to give us The Eternal, which holds some of the more explosively brooding moments recorded this year.

Kim Gordon opens the slaughter by groaning over the enthusiastic barrage of guitars on “Sacred Trickster.” As an opening statement, you’d be hard-pressed to find one as passionate as this, with Kim sounding younger than she has in years.  It’s a vibrance and enthusiasm that the group sometimes seemed to lack in their previous efforts.

Here, you find the band reverting to a more classical sense of songwriting, much as they did on Rather Ripped, at times pandering to the hordes of fans that still hold nineties guitar rock as the ultimate god.  “Little Lifeboat” is the perfect example, with Gordon and Moore trading vocal duties, often overriding one another.  Guitar work throughout the song is exceptional, as we always expect, but the fact that there exists a melodious balance as well showcases the band’s growth through the last two decades whilst still holding tightly to their experimental roots.  Even so, with songs like “Antenna,” their experimentation has been honed such that they seem more like an arty version of Pavement rather than a sporadic noise band that occasionally conjures up a tune with pop sensibility.

Let us not forget though, that this is still Sonic Youth, and they still have the capacity to unleash the fury upon listeners with walls of noise meant to shatter your ears in an instant.  “Calming the Snake” is anything but calming; rather it is a raucous number with Gordon providing the vocal ammunition that most punk-singers crave, even to this day.  Clearly, this is a band still very much on top of their game.

In closing the album, the group chose to pull back on the reins just a bit, so as to not go overboard with their monstrous power.  “Walkin Blue” is one of the more straight forward songs the group has composed, and while it comes off as simple, a close listen to the musicianship reveals that this song, as with all their songs, is anything but simple.  Of course, they completely end the album with the sprawling number “Massage the History.”  Musically, this song covers a vast expanse of territory, ranging from noise experimentation to bedroom guitar strumming, all the while Gordon softly moans.  It’s a closing statement just as strong as the beginning, exemplifying the balance of the group.  The Eternal benefits greatly from the varying musical approaches, and once again make Sonic Youth a band to be reckoned with in the modern age.

FT5: Show Pas

0605top5coverFirst, let me assure you that the plural of faux pas is indeed faux pas; it’s just like the word deer. Now, there has been a lot of recent discussion around the ATH camp about proper rock show etiquette, so after careful deliberation, I opted to lay out my Top Five Faux Pas; these are the things you shouldn’t be doing when you attend a rock show, or really any social event where a stage is involved.  If you find that you commit these atrocities while in attendance at a rock show, you should definitely consider reevaluating your behavior; this is for the benefit of everyone I assure you.
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