Reggae Time with the Meditations

I love my friends Corey and Levi, for many reasons, but one being their interest in music outside of my spectrum. This year they finally converted me, via The Big Takeover’s Top 50 Reggae Albums, to the ways of true reggae. I opted to share with you one of my recent discoveries, The Meditations, on this fine Thursday. This ain’t your mother’s reggae tunes!

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/07-life-is-not-east.mp3]

Download: The Meditations – Life is Not East [MP3]

J Tillman – Vacilando Territory Blues

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Local Austin label, Western Vinyl, has caught hold of yet another bedroom country musician, but this time with a familiar name, at least to many. J Tillman is one of the various vocalists in last year’s adored Fleet Foxes.  On his latest release, Vacilando Territory Blues, he offers the public his take on meandering folk tunes, this time sans multiple part harmonies.

While most that are unfamiliar with Tillman’s solo work will see similarities with his other group, this is an album that sonically goes outside of the spectrum of the aforementioned group.  A noticeable difference upon first listen is that he does not seem overeager to fill all the empty space.  He allows for the presence of hollow moments, or negative space if you will.  This allows him to spend more time crafting the individual song structure, but that is the role when one chooses to go solo.

Oddly, the absence of multiple harmonies reveals one telling detail, that being that his voice might hold more strength than that other guy.  There is an element of sincerity, tinged with personal clarity, that makes his songs immediately personable to the listener.  It’s as if stepping out of the shadow allows him to find himself, and he does it through his songs.

Fans of modern alt-country and folk tunes will surely find a great deal of comfort in listening to songs like “No Occasion.”  Sure, there is a definite sense of familiarity with the acoustic styling of the song, not to mention the vocal tones, but you’d be hard tapped not to notice the force behind the song.  He uses a similar pattern throughout the album, which may be his one downfall.

As each song meanders through the album, the entirety of it all gets a little tedious.  Often it’s hard to differentiate one song from the next one, though separately they all are somewhat striking.  However, the patterns just go on and on, which can easily wear on any listener who is listening half-heartedly, allowing this album to merely seep into the background.

All in all, you’ll find comfort in the listening experience you get with J. Tillman here, though you may not fall head over heels in love.  It’s an above average piece of output, but it simply needs a little extra something to push it beyond the level where it rests.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/02-no-occasion.mp3]

Download: J Tillman – No Occasion [MP3]

Antony and the Johnsons – The Crying Light

Rating: ★★★★½

Much can be made about the sexual identity of singer Antony Hegarty, the man behind Antony and the Johnsons, just as much can be made of his choices for album artwork, which is equally as haunting, yet beautiful, as his his music.  But, aside from the front pages of gossip columnists, one most focus on one thing, and one thing alone. This album is f**king awesome.

The very instant that that The Crying Light begins, listeners are confronted with the overpowering presence of Hegarty’s voice.  His gentle piano carefully walks you through his lyrics, accompanied by the unique string arrangements we’ve all come to appreciate from his work.

As the album plays out, you grow to appreciate the simplest details of everything that this album brings with it.  Look closely at the lyrics, and you will not that Antony does not delve into the overly verbose vocabulary, choosing instead to tell his tales with the simplest of words, all the while creating superior poetry.  It’s something that only the truly greats can do.

And ever more daunting is the power behind his truly unique voice.  Sure, one could proximate it due to similarities to one Jeff Buckley, but the power behind Hegarty’s voice is second to none.  At each turn he seems to reach into thin air and pluck the perfect pitch from the sky.  At times, it can be overwhelming, and perhaps it is not for every listener out there, but the pure emotive quality behind his voice demonstrates what has made him one of the newest greats in our world.

A standout track, that demonstrates Antony willing to push forward comes via “Kiss My Name.”  A light inclusion of percussion, quick and to the point, beats through the background.  Perhaps his recent foray into dance-pop with Hercules and the Love Affair has encouraged him to open new doors.  If this is a sign of things to come, surely everyone will have to soon open their doors for Antony and the Johnsons, as nothing will match this spectacular album.

It may be early on, but it is hard not to reserve room for this album in year end lists.  Give it time, and don’t stand to the side while Antony and the Johnsons take over the world, one beautiful masterpiece at a time. Simply put, it’s perfect.  It’s f**king awesome.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/02-epilepsy-is-dancing.mp3]

Download: Antony and the Johnsons – Epilepsy Is Dancing [MP3]

Jennifer O’ Connor @ Stubbs – 1/20

The beautiful voice of Jennifer O’ Connor will be making its way into Austin tonight. Her folky singer/songwriter set is set to open of for Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls tonight at Stubbs, but we’re sure that the Matador signee O’ Connor will be the one who steals the show with her passion-filled harmonies.  It’s Tuesday, so what do you have to lose?

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/jennifer-oe28099connor_here-with-me_04_valley-road-86.mp3]

Download: Jennifer O’ Connor – Valley Road 86 [MP3]

New Telekinesis

One of our favorite labels, Merge Records,  just signed Michael Benjamin Lerner, and his project Telekinesis, to their label.  The first single that’s been floating around is catchy as all get out, and we’re really looking forward to the release of his first album, set to hit stores on April 7th. 

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/coast-of-carolina.mp3]

Download: Telekinesis – Coast of Carolina [MP3]

New Television Personalities

There is something about British jangle-pop that really hits home with me.  Perhaps it’s the lo-fi quality or the romanticism, but at the forefront of it all has always been Television Personalities. They just recently released a new 7 ” titled The Good Anarchist on Elefant Records, which means we should hopefully have a new full length album coming our way sometime in March.  Check out the title track of said 7″!

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/the-good-anarchist.mp3]

Download: TV Personalities – The Good Anarchist [MP3]

A.C. Newman – Get Guilty

Rating: ★★★★☆

The majority of the listening world will know A.C. Newman by his other gig in New Pornographers. This new effort, released by Matador Records, isn’t far off from the land of his pop-supergroup, especially when one looks back at an album like Challengers.

From the minute “There are Maybe Ten or Twelve” takes off you can tell exactly the direction that this album is going to go.  It’s a subdued number, with high volume interludes, but the focus remains predominantly on Newman’s voice.

An album such as this is blessed by such a voice, as his is one that remains truly unique in this modern age.  He can go higher than most, while he brings it all back again to his normal singing voice.  In all his recordings, this is clearly the best he has sounded, which may owe a lot to remarkable production.

Keeping that in mind, most will settle with this album, knowing that your expectations will be met precisely.  Melodies will rise and fall, being matched at every corner, but, the pace isn’t exactly pushing listeners forward, looking for more from each song.  In fact, the only song that picks up any speed is “The Palace at 4 A.M.” Still, you can sit through this album in it’s entirety with a great deal of enjoyment; it’s just not going to grab you like other tracks A.C. Newman has done in the past, especially those featuring a certain Destroyer. Be sure to get through until the end for “All of my Days & All of my Days Off” is probably one of the best songs he’s written in years.

All in all, you come to the end of the album with one clear realization: A.C. Newman can spit out pop genius no matter where he is in his life.  Each song is interesting, in both melody and structure, as he often uses his voice to carry the songs, which is precisely where the whole album began.  It’s not every day when you come across a musician who can win you over with his voice alone.  And for that, we should all Get Guilty.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/01-there-are-maybe-ten-or-twelve.mp3]

Download: AC Newman – There Are Maybe Ten or Twelve [MP3]

Frantic Clam – Anatomica EP

Rating: ★★★★☆

This is the second EP from new Austin band Frantic Clam, and this one easily demonstrates that the horizon could be endless. Anatomica screams of a young band progressing, moving beyond their influences in order to discover their own sound.

Opening stomper “We Own the Night” still maintains the roots rock remedy of their first album, but the increased focus on the vocals show the band pushing beyond the boundaries they faced on their previous effort. But, they don’t just rest with their old styling, as they push forward into “Korean Beauty Queen.” Many will see a TV on the Radio vocal similarity, but there is more beneath the vocals. Slick guitars seem to cut through the song, creating space for the rest of the band to fill out the sound with various elements.

Then you encounter a song like “Indiana,” which goes in a completely different direction than the earlier tracks on the EP. It’s a mellow number that shows a band who knows when to hold back, bringing in the listener closer. The chorus gets a little muddy in the middle, but each verse really is able to stand on its own as a perfect piece of modern pop. The title track “Anatomica” is unlike any song on this short collection. It’s a bit like early Kings of Leon, emotionally, but it has it’s own attitude-an attitude altogether Frantic Clam. Throw in a sing-along element, and you have an inspiring song.

Lyrically, you can tell that the band has fallen upon hard times, which is unfortunate, as we wish that upon no one, but perhaps this has led to the focus of this new EP. One thing for sure, is that this band is set upon leaving themselves with varying directions to pursue. You can tell by listening to this effort, along with their last, that they are not eager to be pigeonholed, which is refreshing in and of itself. Congratulations to the band for another positive step forward.

Stop by the Beauty Bar this Wednesday, January 14th, to get your hands on this new EP. Not to mention a slew of other shows they have lined up for your listening pleasure.

The Donkeys @ The Mohawk – 1/13

This Tuesday evening California’s The Donkeys will make their way into Austin. Something about this band begs to be noticed, and perhaps it’s the sunshine of bands like Beulah that make this a show we should all attend as winter dances in and out of our lives. The show goes down at The Mohawk, on the inside stage no less. Our friends over at Transmission Entertainment tell us the show kicks off at 10 PM.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/08-nice-train.mp3]

Download: The Donkeys – Nice Train [MP3}

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