The Mary Onettes – Islands

maryRating: ★★★★☆

A few years back I walked into this band, unintentionally, and they’re melodic popscapes have since been part of my valued collection.  Really, it’s hard not to love a good band from Sweden.  Alas, The Mary Onettes return with their latest album Islands.  It’s still got that sweeping emotional grab to it, though listeners familiar with their older work will be able to see that the band sounds much larger than they ever sounded in the past.

“Puzzles” just steps up the band’s reputation from the get go.  You’ll find that shrouded wall of noise opening the album, but the electronic bounce that brings the song full circle will catch you in its grandiosity. It bares the mark of Ekstrom’s delightful vocals, warm and dark one minute, then pushing for the upper limits of catchy melody.  This is all followed by “Dare,” which was issued on the Dare EP earlier this year.  Two for two from the opening moments.

One of the interesting steps aside for the group comes on “Cry of Love.”  It’s full of negative space, almost a dark void, but filled with Ekstrom’s brooding vocals.  And in the middle of the song, level drumming comes in, almost as if it’s meant to just move the song along until the end.  This is one of the band’s moments where they show restraint, scaling back the melodic attack on your ears, quietly sitting in the middle of the album.

And just like that, the winds of the album have turned, well, they’ve calmed down rather.  Large bursting sonic pop-tarts are being replaced by a steadier hand  in the middle of the album.  “The Disappearance of My Youth” and “God Knows I Had Plans” definitely take a turn away from the bombastic jump-start of Islands. For me, this provides a subtle change in the band’s dynamic, which enables the group to push more variation into their songs.

But, the darkness returns with Cure influenced “Symmetry,” which oddly, is one of the best moments on the record.  You can hear the eighties in the song, almost too much, but then again, the band has always bordered on being labeled as relevant nostalgics. And with this, they’re off again, jumping right into “Century,” a song aided by pounding drums and sky-high vocals.  It’s like Glasvegas-lite, and you know your heart can’t fight that sort of audio attack.

And there you have it, another successful album by The Mary Onettes.  Nothing is daring on this album, but nothing need be.  You’ll find yourself with an album worthy of harmonies and brooding, just like you remember them talking about (or maybe you participated) in the tail-spin of the eighties.  Still, there progression and perfection of pop music labels the group as more than classic revisionists; if anything, they’re definitely relevant, as Islands clearly proves.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/01-Puzzles-1.mp3]

Download: The Mary Onettes – Puzzles [MP3]

Thomas Function @ Beerland (10/31-11/1)

thomas

Date October 31 and November 1
Location Beerland
Doors 1000PM
Tickets Tickets at the door

I’ve alluded to the great spastic shows that Thomas Function puts on, and I have been spinning their newest album, In the Valley of Sickness, non-stop for the last few weeks.  Well, lucky me, they are doing a two-night stand at Beerland.  Sure, one of the nights is on Halloween, but if you’re like me, and not into costumes, then you’ll want to find your way here for their jangle pop.  And, Austin’s hardest working band, Harlem, will be opening for these fellows on Saturday night.  But, in case you miss them, check out the show on Sunday too!

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/06-Belly-Of-The-Beast-1.mp3]

Download: Thomas Function – Belly Of The Beast  [MP3]


Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson @ Emos (10/29)

miles

Date Thursday, October 29th
Location Emos
Doors 900p
Tickets $10 at the Door

We won’t deny that we’ve been in love with Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson since his self-titled debut came out a few years ago, pushing it into our Top 40 Albums of 2008.  Now, he is making his way to Austin in support of his newest album Summer of Fear, which is equally as stellar, if not a bit more developed sonically.  You should definitely make your way out to Emos tonight to check on him.  He’ll be on stage at 11PM, followed by Warpaint, and preceded by My Education.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/03-The-Sound-1.mp3]

Download: Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson – The Sound [MP3]

New Tunes from Dominant Legs

dominantlegsWe first caught wind of Dominant Legs by way of Stereogum a few weeks back.  Any allusion to Belle and Sebastian will catch my eye! Still, this new tune isn’t quite the twee pop one expected, but it’s more summery, as if there is a lighter air to the crafty writing here. You decide.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/Dominant-Legs-Clawing-Out-At-The-Walls.mp3]

Download: Dominant Legs – Clawing Out At The Walls [MP3]

New Tunes from The Bats

batsJudging by the look of this picture, you would think that New Zealand band The Bats might be just a touch to old to bring sweet tunes to your ears, but rest assured, they don’t have a 25 year old history for nothing.  Just like The Clean, they still have what it takes to spin phenomenal gems out of thin air, ones that inevitably get stuck in your head. Try this one on for size. If you dig it, you can find it on the 7″ over at Slumberland Records.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/bats-face-inside-the-sun.mp3]

Download: Bats – Face Inside the Sun [MP3]

New Tunes from Surf City

Surf+City+surfcity140A while back we brought you the sweet tunes of Surf City fresh off releasing their first EP, but now the group has more new tunes in the works, and we’re glad to bring you the new tune.  While it takes “Autumn” a few second to wind up, the band let loose once the song gets going, bringing us more than we expected.  Guess we’ll have to wait until 2010 to get more great tunes such as this.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/Surf-City-Autumn.mp3]

Download: Surf City – Autumn [MP3]

Islands @ Mohawk (10/27)

Islands-band-a01

Date Tuesday, October 27th
Location Mohawk
Doors 800 PM
Tickets $12 @ the door

While the jury is still out on just how good Vapours is, we still look forward to an always energetic show from Islands. Touring behind their new album, they will also be bringing along Jemina Pearl to back the group up.  Tickets are fairly cheap, so you can’t really not attend this show can you?  Sure, there are loads of good ones this week, but the way Nic plays onstage is enough to get us out there. And who knows, maybe he’ll throw us a bone and give us “The Sound.”

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

Download: Islands – Vapours [MP3]

New Tunes from Field Music

fieldMusicIt’s hard knowing who to follow in this group, as the members of Field Music also represent School of Language and The Weeks that Was. So, when news came that Field Music had new tunes to offer up on their web site, of course we jumped at the chance to get our hands on these songs.  You can do it yourself by heading to the band’s web site, or just borrow one from us.

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

Download: Field Music – Measure [MP3]

Tegan & Sara – Sainthood

tegansarasainthoodcoverRating: ★★★★☆

My affair with Tegan & Sara began when I first got my hand on the largely acoustic-based So Jealous.  When they switched it up on The Con, I could sense a move in a new direction, and while I liked the album, it didn’t seem like the girls had quite gotten to where they wanted to be. Now, with Sainthood, you can finally see the progression as its come to fruition.  From the opening moments of the album, you can see that they’ve continued to progress, and the production throughout is spot on.

“Arrow” opens the album, and you can hear the poppiness pumping from your stereo, and the emphasis from the bits and pieces of electronic samples (or sounds) brings out the strengths in the song.  You can feel the turning and whirling of the song as it grabs ahold of you, refusing to let you loose until you’ve absorbed all the pop goodness it has to offer.

And the first single, “Hell” is one of the hardest hitting songs the girls have ever put together.  Initially (as in a few weeks ago) it seemed out of place on its own, but when placed in the whole of Sainthood, it’s one of the best songs the girls have written.  The stutter step delivery of the lyrics propels the song forward, and the backing vocals fit perfectly into the greater spectrum of the song.  It might be awhile before you get this song out of your head.

Suddenly, the pacing of the album seems to take a step.  After rushing forward with their stories of love and loss (and possibly the role of playing the martyred lover) they seem to put on the brakes.  “On Directing” through “The Cure” are classic Tegan & Sara, stripped to some of their basic elements, the girls continue to find a way to draw you into their storytelling and catchy melodies.  Then they move into some new direction, a place we haven’t seen them.

“Night Watch” is a short number, backed up to one of the most straightforward pop-punk moments of their career with “Northshore.”  There is a brooding quality here, and the music seems so sparse that you have no choice but to focus on the lyrical value here. The dual vocal delivery of the chorus is precisely what makes this song attractive, although it’s the fact that the girl’s explored some empty space that will fascinate many.

From this point on, the rest of the album runs from hit to hit until the end.  Personally, “Sentimental Tune” reminds me of a great Albert Hammond Jr. (get well buddy) driving song.  Jangling guitars and captivating hooks provide diversity that other albums have lacked.  It proves that Sainthood is one of the most complete albums the Tegan & Sara have put together.  Their maturity shows, and with lyrics that everyone can relate to, this is the record when everyone will truly fall in love with Tegan & Sara, if they haven’t already.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/11-The-Ocean.mp3]

Download: Tegan & Sara – The Ocean [MP3]

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