Share the Jaguar Love

I just recently picked up this fanciful new EP from Jaguar Love–featuring two members of The Blood Brothers and one young gent from Pretty Girls Make Graves. Now, if you are expecting a conglomeration of post-punk sounds, well, you are pretty close with that one . The single “Highways of Gold” is incredible, putting me on the edge of my seat for the full-length–which is set to arrive in stores on August 19th via Matador Records. My one warning–and those of you that liked The Blood Brothers will know–the enjoyment of J. Whitney’s voice must come with time.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/01-highways-of-gold1.mp3]

Download: highwaysofgold.mp3

Mason Jennings – In The Ever

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Mason Jennings has long been the troubadour of my heart. From the first listen of his self-titled album–which would probably go in my Top 50 list–he had won me over. There was fire and originality, something I had yet to come across from others in the same genre of music. I buy every album; I am a loyal fan.

However, I finally feel that Mason and I are through. I feel it has been coming for a long time; I think now it is officially time for the two of us to part ways. Finally I feel as if he arrived at a point completely on the opposite end of the promise he once showed.

I first noticed this departure in common ground on his last album Boneclouds, which felt a little over-produced, and by that I mean everything sounded really clean. It didn’t feel as intimate as his past albums had. Not to mention there were throw away songs.

What about the new one? Well, I found several throw away songs, in fact, I found one in “I Love You and Buddha Too.” I understand the search for spirituality, and the welcoming of all religions-as we should–but this is quite possibly the worst song I’ve heard all year. You can add to the list of throwaway songs “How Deep is That River.” Sorry Mason old pal, but you have so much more.

I don’t want to slam this record entirely because I feel like there are some promising moments. For instance, “Memphis, Tennesee” has the heart and soul of earlier recordings, and the opening track, “Never Knew Your Name,” does hold onto some of those intimate moments that I feel like Mason and I shared in the past.

Unfortunately, this album has drawn a line in the sand. I’m now going across to that side where I can no longer afford to buy Mason albums on our old bond alone. If you like Mason Jennings, or singer\songwriters, then you most likely will find some solace in this album, but I don’t think this is an album that will win him a lot of new fans–it might lose him some old ones.

Hear “Fighter Girl” off the new album In The Ever
[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/04-fighter-girl.mp3]

Download: fightergirl.mp3

American Princes – Other People

Rating: ★★★★☆
Long ago, in a land quite our own, we weren’t really concerned with sound oddities or atmospherics; we liked our rock n’ roll straight up. Pour it in a glass and drink it down–then again, I was really young. Nonetheless, American Princes are that band serving up a tall glass of straight-forward rock–the kind I miss the most.

I think the first notice of this is comes across immediately upon the first listening of the voice. There is a sincerity in the fact that you can identify with the vocalist and the scratchiness accompanying his vocals–see Arts and Crafts band, The Constantines for a reference point. I like sincerity–not to mention minimal production.

Now, if I were to pick a radio single, and I like to pretend that I could, I would easily put “Real Love” on my set list. The chorus alone is enough for me to purchase this album. Its got the hook one needs to keep coming back.

One song that I didn’t expect from this veteran band, “Wasted Year,” doesn’t have any of the post-punk reference points of their other songs, but in fact, its this freshness that makes this an album worthy of repeated listens. Not to mention they toss me a ballad–clearly I am a sucker for such things–in the beautifully written “Don’t Ever Promise.” I must say, I appreciate differentiation in regards to albums.

Now, this band could have stuck to their guns, maintaining varied success as a solid post-punk outfit from Arkansas, but they pushed themselves. In that act, they push their fans–like me–to ask for more from their rock music. No longer can we settle for oddities and atmospherics, for, in fact, the simplest approach is quite possibly the one we love the most.

Hear “Real Love” off Other People:

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/05-real-love.mp3]

Download: reallove.mp3

Spiritualized–Songs in A & E

Rating: ★★★★½

What else can I say to you that you haven’t already heard about this record? Probably not much, but I’ll give it a solid go.

You guessed it, this record deserves all the credit and applause that people have thrown its way. In fact, “Soul on Fire” will probably make my Top 5 Songs of 2008, and I can honestly say I am reserving it a place.

What on Earth is wrong with this record then? Very little. But, if I must give those that wish to find faults with the world something to enjoy, it is that the repetition of the word “fire” becomes a bit redundant, and in fact, makes the album disappear at various times. At points, during my listening pleasure–and I do mean pleasure–I found myself scrambling to find out which song was which.

Now, you combine that with the unnecessary atmospherics–yes, I realize that is a J. Spaceman staple-and you have some weak moments on this record. You, depending on your taste-those atmospherics pop up at least six times- will find something to dislike.

But hey! I love this album. Its got real slow burners like “Sweet Talk” and “Don’t Hold Me Close,” along with the aforementioned “Soul on Fire.” Then toss in a solid stomper like “Yeah Yeah” or the gaze-able “You Lie You Cheat”; this pretty much rounds out all angles necessary on a solid album.

This album gives you something to think about, by way of some in depth thinking, but it also lets you indluge that darker vein of rock n’ roll that we all have-or at least I suggest purchasing one. You can’t ask for more from this album, which is why I suggest you go out and get your hand on it–NOW!!

May I also suggest “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space” for those unaware of the history of this band.

Hear one of the best tracks of ’08 “Soul on fire”:
[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/05-soul-on-fire-1.mp3]

Download:Soul on Fire.mp3

Islands – Arm’s Way

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Immediately, I want to say that this record is probably worth the purchase–albeit one when there isn’t much else out there to buy. Initially, I listened to this album four or five times in a single day, but therein lies the problem–I can’t recall great moments about this one–I can’t recall the shapes of the songs, give or take one or two. Care to explain you ask? I do indeed.

For starters, this album is far too long to listen to in one sitting, and if you do, you will find it does nothing more than blend into the background as you and your buddies make dinner–steaks right? By my count, 8 of the 12 songs go over the 5 minute mark. Sorry, Nick Thorburn, I just don’t have that sort of time these days. Sure, they dabble in length, but not quite like this.

Now, is the music worth it? Yes-but not like you want it–not like your “Rough Gem.” The closest Islands come to replicating that playfulness is on the 4th track “Creeper,” and it doesn’t quite hit its mark. Here is our problem listeners: the affinity for clever, circus-laden melodies is gone. But, on the plus side–so are all those faux hip-hop moments. I miss the former–its always been the attraction for me.

What I do like about this album, especially apparent in the last three tracks, is the new darker side of this band, and I don’t mean that in regards to lyrics–I mean it in reference to the somber mood apparent in these tracks. We all know that Jaime Thompson is no longer a member, and this is really apparent, or at least to me, in these lyrics. I could be off, but, whatever the cause, it makes for some of the more special moments on this record. Like I said–I bought it. I listen to it from time to time, but I can’t tell why. Maybe you can?

Islands is playing Emos Austin on June 23rd. Click here to purchase tickets for da show.

Hear “The Arm” off the brand new album:

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/islands-the-arm.mp3]

Download: Islands – The Arm [MP3]

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