New Tunes from Tara Jane Oneil

tjThere’s something to be said about a young soul with the spirit of a wise one, and Tara Jane Oneil is precisely such a person.  She’s got the spirit of wonderment, and despite the beauty of this song, “Drowning” there’s something haunting in her delivery, but in a completely endearing way.  Yea, it’s a mellow number for sure, but one to ease you into the weekend with the magic of her voice alone.  Her record A Ways Away comes out via K Records on May 5th. Also, be on the lookout for this young lass during SXSW.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/tjodrowning.mp3]

Download: Tara Jane Oneil – Drowning [MP3]

From the Closet: Leonard Cohen

lenny1 We’ll go a little old school crooner this week, well, not that entirely old school, as the feature of this week is still up and at it.  Ladies and gentlemen, we bring you Leonard Cohen. The man has been honored by everyone, and this Friday we have a chance to honor the man  as well.  You can do so by purchasing tickets to his show on April 2nd at the Long Center. This will be the show you will tell your kids about.  Get a hold of your tickets here, and buy me one as well please!

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/02-chelsea-hotel-no-2.mp3]

Download: Leonard Cohen – Chelsea Hotel No. 2 [MP3]

Odawas – The Blue Depths

odawasRating: ★★★½☆

Odawas come to us from Berkely, California via the Midwest, which is definitely an attribute one can find on both ends of the spectrum when listening to their newest album, The Blue Depths, off JagJaguwar Records.

This an album of soundscapes, carefully sculpted with an artists touch, as the duo of Isaac Edwards and Michael Tapscott, pay attention to every inch of the recording process and the musical concept.  Clearly, this is an album where they sat down together, determined a common path they wished to depart upon, and decided to take us their with them.  Even the album artwork and the song titles illustrate a journey of sorts, for all those participating in the listening experience.  Titles like “Swan Song of the Humpback Angler” and “Moonlight/Twilight” clearly represent a canvas on which the band can paint.

Oddly, they choose to do a lot of the percussive work with a twinge of eighties pop keyboard elements.  The backing sounds are remarkably similar to every soundtrack you would hear in the pop-culture movies of the eighties.  Still, it keeps some of the more brooding moments rising above the seemingly somber moments that exist throughout. And yet the band push on with their sound, carefully filling every single inch of space with some form of instrumentation, be it harmonica, string arrangement or vocal melody; they don’t leave a single musical stone unturned here.

Vocals all over the album are a little bit in the vein of something we would have seen with Jason Lytle, just a whole lot gentler, as if the Californian has been sampled, slowing his voice down to a whispering tone.  It’s a trait that allows for the band to put the music on the forefront, with the vocals remaining just an extra instrument for them to utilize in the ultimate construction of this album.  This being the case, its hard to take a lot of quality understanding from the vocals in the realm of lyrics, but that probably isn’t the point at all.  They want you to be drawn in, pulling your ears closer to the speakers as you fight to take meaning from their compositions.

In the end, this is the seeming purpose behind this release, as it surely is a moment of pure mood music.  This isn’t to suggest that you need to be in a certain mood to grasp the record; this is by no means the purpose of that statement.  The purpose of making a blanket statement such as that means that while listening to this album in its entirety, as you should do with all albums, you will find that your mood has been altered.  This is precisely what Odawas wants of you, they want you to immerse yourself in their wonderful world of space and sound.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/02-swan-song-of-the-humpback-angler.mp3]

Download: Odawas – Swan Song of the Humpback Angler [MP3]

New Tunes from Cursive

cursiveTim Kasher has long been penning incredible tunes, both as the frontman for Cursive, and as the man behind The Good Life. Now comes the time of year where we can all be grateful, as new tunes are now available in preparation for Cursive‘s release of Mama, I’m Swollen, out on March 10th via Saddle Creek Records. You can hear “I Couldn’t Love You” over at Entertainment Weekly.

Also, they released another track yesterday to the public, which is also another song off the upcoming album.  This song, “From the Hips” illustrates Tim at his best, writing great lyrics, and the song just seems to churn out those special moments we missed on the band’s Happy Hollow last time around.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/cursive-fromthehips.mp3]

Download: Cursive – From the Hips [MP3]

New Tunes from Bricolage

bricoGlasgow, Scotland has a certain place in my heart, as my favorite band stems from the region, not to mention their influence Orange Juice. Yet, here comes another great band, Bricolage, that seems to owe a bit of love towards the aforementioned band.  Throw in a touch of The Smiths, and you’ve got a rollicking good time.  The band is set to release their self-titled album on Slumberland this May.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/08turnuover.mp3]

Download: Bricolage – Turn U Over [MP3]

Clem Snide – Hungry Bird

clemRating: ★★★☆☆

Eef Barzelay had promised us long ago that his days with Clem Snide were well over, which was odd, seeing as he was the primary musician behind the band’s music.  But, here we are again with Clem Snide’s newest album, Hungry Bird.

Barzelay is one of those singers who has a very distinctive voice.  It’s somewhat near the nasal region, yet in an endearing way.  This quality in his voice makes you immediately familiar with him as a frontman, and it draws you in closer to the group; it is meant to draw you in closer to the lyrics.

As in the past, Barzelay weaves his lyrics around the most mundane of things, though this time around, there is less of a childishness to the entirety of the lyrics.  Well, childish is probably not the word to use, so let’s use wit in this case.  Seemingly, he’s thrown these lyrical concepts a little bit away from the group, which inevitably bring a more serious tone to the album as a whole.  It’s a different approach for the group, one that might lead long-time fans through a period of adjustment.

A serious tone has been established through the vocal and lyrical element, which really sets the mood for the listener.  The band, always lumped into post-country genres, has never been one to fiercely pick up the pace, but it seems here they definitely slow the tempo all the way down.  Take “Hum,” for example, a slowly sprawling song, ending with a seeming crescendo of ferocity, but pulled back just in time for the band to hone that slowdown hoedown that covers the album.

Most will appreciate this album’s gentleness, as the level of intimacy achieved here is one that will bond with listeners.  The quietude of the mood is soothing, and it forces you to pay attention to every little aspect of the album.  Strong production allows you to see those littlest details, as the band has filled out all possible areas of their sound.  It’s almost as if its a late slocore album, shedding the walls of country tinge away as they created, and ultimately finished this album.

Long time fans will surely be glad to have this band back together, working to create that soft edge of country sound that many people lovingly dote upon.  While it may not be the best of the group, songs such as “Burn the Light” will surely show that Clem Snide is still a strong force to be reckoned with, now, and in the future.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/03-hum.mp3]

New Tunes from Swan Lake

swansSwan Lake is a supergroup, featuring members of Frog Eyes, Wolf Parade, and Destroyer. Their newest album, Enemy Mine is slated for release via Jagjaguwar Records on March 24th. While early indications claim Frog Eye’s Casey Mercer as the better writer this time out, you can’t count out Destroyer’s Dan Bejar. Just take a listen to the following track.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/swan-lake-spider.mp3]

Download: Swan Lake – Spider [MP3]

SXSW Watchlist: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

pains1The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have recently been lauded, not just by ATH, but by many others for their self-titled release. It’s shrouded in atmospherics and melody, the perfect blend of everything going on nowadays. Suffice it to say, that very record is one of the only albums released thus far in 2009 that succeeds in every song. Follow the jump to find out a little more about the band.
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The Black Lips – 200 Million Thousand

Print Rating: ★★★½☆

The Black Lips have recently gotten more acclaim, or seemingly so, for their exploits off the stage.  They’re followed around like the Paris Hilton of the indie world, but the questions that follow should really pertain to the quality of their music. It’s clear that their a ramshackle bunch of lads, but when that carries over to their music, can we follow along? 200 Million Thousand attempts to answer that question.

It’s really hard to find a ground from which to approach this album.  Sure, the obvious psychedelia surrounds the band, not to mention the garage quality that has been there from the beginning of the band’s climb into our record collections. All these qualities point to an album worthy of critical acclaim, but only if the band can bring it all together.

Here, they don’t quite execute.  There are some clear misses on the album, such as the vocal quality.  Every time this band releases an album, it seems as if they shy away from the singing being a focal point. When you come across a song like “Starting Over” or “Old Man,” it seems as if they might unleash some hidden vocal talent, but its just not there.  The rest is hazily smothered in shadowy production, disguising the vocal for the most part.

Then, you come face to face with the fact that the band finally seems to have gotten a cohesive sound together, but the sound just doesn’t quite seem original.  It’s shrouded in the past of bands like The Velvet Underground and The Rolling Stones. Are they trying to be ironic by miming some of the most heralded acts around or is this an honest representation of who the band truly is as a group?  The answer is certainly difficult to come by, so one must take the songs into account.

“Drugs” is a California surf-pop romper, fueled by the twang of the guitar.  Even with the shotty vocal effects, you still can feel the catchiness of the song as the group sings in unison. And of course, that is followed by the super “Starting Over,” which may very well be one of the best songs that we hear all year.  There is an inexplicable quality to the song that wins you over as soon as the guitar comes in during the opening moment.

Interestingly, there is also a soul tinge on this record, which may display some of the more banal qualities of the group as a whole, but the power of such songs is undeniable.  “I’ll Be With You” is the song you expect to hear when watching a scene from the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance.  It’s got that classic Buddy Holly guitar sound, but with a more juvenile approach to songwriting.  It’s earnest, and it deserves appreciation.

At the end of the album, you have to take the Black Lips for precisely what they are: a gaggle of ruffians eager to write soulful psychedelia that they hope wins your heart.  It might not be the most original piece of work to ever come our way, but rest assured there are a bunch of songs here worthy of high praise.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/10-old-man.mp3]

Download: The Black Lips – Old Man [MP3]

New Tunes from Boston Spaceships

bobWhat better way to end a pretty great week than by throwing a little Robert Pollard out to the masses. This tune comes via his new band Boston Spaceships, who are set to release their new album, The Planets are Blasted on Guided by Voices, Inc. February 27th, but the album is already available for digital download. Enjoy this tune; enjoy your weekend. 

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/bigogetsanearful.mp3]

Download: Boston Spaceships – Big O Gets an Earful [MP3]

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