The Authors – Get Haunted

Rating: ★★★★ ·

A few weeks into fall, cooler temperatures are surprisingly here and you feel lost in the jumble of work or school, missing those summer days that are not so far gone. What better way to fall back into the relaxing mood of summer than to listen to music that feels like sunshine and ocean waves? With only an EP released prior to this, The Authors look to establish themselves as experts of the beach-pop, summer feeling genre. With Get Haunted, they do just this.

 “Timebomb” kicks off the album strong and fast right from the start. The guitars buzz away the background while slightly fuzzy lyrics float on top of all the other components of the song, swimming to the beat. Next comes “Never Know,” which is great in its vocals, almost a yelp, to the high pitched noise that blends in with the rest of the song, yet gives a “haunted” feeling, as does the raspy vocals at points.

But perhaps in all the jangly guitars and the hyper drum beats, Get Haunted would become banal, like some of the dog days of summer? False. “Feels Like Running,” an excellent song, starts with a hooking guitar rift that takes turns dominating with the vocals. The drums sit back in the spectrum of what the listener will notice, but they drive the whole of this song, as well as the album; simple, yet refined and precise enough to add en element of constant clarity. They then transition to slightly groovier tunes with “Battles” and “Lonely Ways.” The bass line is quite prominent in these songs, giving them the less washed out feel of previous songs and a more solid foundation, which is an enjoyable turn for this album to take as the band continues with their garage rhythms.

The Authors finish just as strong as they started with “The Night.” This brings the album full circle, from quick shadowy beats to a softer and less fuzzy end. They finally kind of slow down with the last few seconds of the song reserved to some ambient noises. Those melancholic ending notes the same as those final days before fall.

This album reminds me a lot of Surfer Blood’s album from earlier in the year. Like that album, it is a sharp and high speed chase from start to finish, but The Authors prove their distinctive sound with clearer vocals, all while staying inside the garage rock jangle that is Get Haunted; a true trip back to those blissful summer days.  

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/01-Timebomb.mp3]

Download: The Authors – Timebomb [MP3]

Women – Public Strain

Rating: ★★★ · ·

As a Canadian indie band, Women made some waves with their self titled first release two years ago, be it a spot on “Pitchfork’s top songs of the 2000’s,” and comparisons of their sound to the likes of Deerhunter and, to stretch it, The Velvet Underground. Since then they have been hard at work with this new album, Public Strain, which would hopefully follow their debut in the combination of moody rock music.

Opening up the album is “Can’t You See,” which begins with an intense amount of feedback and ambient noise. This background noise continues through the whole song as somewhat monotonous vocals echo slightly above. The bass line throbs constantly, but those screeches in the background seem a bit too prominent for this simple of a song, and I find myself wishing they were gone about halfway through. “Heat Distraction” then loses the nasty noise in the background and moves to a faster, out right rock beat with repeating layers of guitar that serve as the main focus of the song.

Such is the main focus for this whole album, layers of sound topped with wavy guitars as icing on the cake (not your favorite kind of cake, but one that is still edible). Women vary between slow movers that showcase the dark sound that this band does so well, such as “Penal Colony,” whose melancholy lull carries over into a purely instrumental piece, leaving the listener to ponder where exactly the band is trying to lead you, but they attempt to give an answer to this question on exceptional tracks like “Locust Valley,” where intricate guitar playing and a simple chorus of just “oohs and aahs” make up the simple song. With songs like these, Women know where to put the builds in their album; it comes after another song that, I feel, has too much feedback and not enough actual music to hold it up.

They finish off with “Eyesore,” a rather long closer, but probably the best song on the whole album, as “Black Rice” was on their prior work. It seems like the singing and the guitars are almost equal, which gives this song an eloquent balance between pure instrumental and indie rock. There are breaks in the song in which the guitars outweigh the vocals, and in turn, bits where the vocals seem to be the main focus, which makes this song enjoyable for the six minutes and twenty five seconds it lasts.

This leads me to my biggest problem with this album: the vocals are not prominent enough, and they seem to blend together with each song. Every listen, it becomes more tolerable and the flaws become less noticeable. However, it just seems as though Women haven’t really made up their mind in terms of who they are.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/women-narrow.mp3]

Download: Women – Narrow With the Hall [MP3]

Frankie Rose and the Outs – s/t

Rating: ★★★★ ·

With all the great lo-fi bands floating around, something is to be said about making a space pop album that doesn’t sound like all the rest. Frankie Rose should know this the best out of anyone, as she has been a member of many successful pop bands herself:  Crystal Stilts and Vivian Girls. Other bands cast aside, Frankie proves her knowledge of this craft with this semi-solo project.

The album starts out on a gradual pace, with only bare instrumental to begin, slowly submersing you into each layer of the opening song. First heard is the quivering feedback, which holds steady until Frankie Rose comes in to soak the song in a tone of wonder and bemusement that her echoed vocals provide. Next, sleigh bells are added for an element of percussion that carries the music slowly on, as Frankie repeats the same simple words, over and over. Is this the same person who was apart of bands that brought light and jangly pop songs to the table? Apparently not, as “Hollow Life,” is a deeper and completely different sound than anything Frankie and any of her previous accompaniments have put out before. Different, but overwhelmingly good.

That being said, this solo effort is not a complete turn from Frankie’s prior works. “Little Brown Haired Girls,” shoots out of the gate with driving drum beats, crashing cymbals and girlish gang vocals; sort of a combination of elements from the first two songs. You have the softer vocals from “Hollow Life,” mixed with a more prominent guitar part that “Candy,” the song in between these two, brings. It is a sure sign that there are still excellent quality pop beats to be enjoyed on this album.

 The rest of the album mostly follows suit from these two songs. There are softer songs such as “Lullabye For Roads And Miles,” which is as expected from its title, reliant on the lack of the quick drum beat and more focused on leaving a little emptiness to carry the song instead. And there are instances of superior jams, like “Girlfriend Island.” On this number, some la la la’s add to the catchiness of the guitar and proves this to be a song that is difficult to stay still to; it is impossible for me to stop tapping along with that irresistible drum beat.

 From this point, Frankie Rose And The Outs move through the rest of the songs quickly and wrap up their first full length album gracefully. They successfully combine a new hollow sound with the well loved, classic low-fi pop that bands like Vivian Girls are known for. With the slow moving songs so effervescent and the fast paced songs reminiscent of the sunny summer days not too far gone, there isn’t a more perfect time for this album to debut; at the brink of fall.

The Vaselines – Sex With an X

Rating: ★★★ · ·

Twenty years ago, after bridging the gap from small, unknown Glaswegian noise pop group, to indie stars, The Vaselines broke up, leaving their fans in awe of why a band at their prime would dissolve so quickly after their sudden success. Now, they’re back, twenty years wiser and hoping to make an album that holds the distinct and fast sound from their previous release, while adapting it ever so slightly so that it might fit in with the current music scene. It is a feat that may prove easier said than done.

After a brief, lullaby-esque, introduction, “Ruined,” picks up right where The Vaselines left off; rocking and rolling. With low grinding guitars and steady drums, pounding away in the background, Eugene Kelly and Frances Mckee harmonize to tell us the ever positive reminder that “you’ll die, we’ll all sigh.” While not the most upbeat of lyrics, the ever present drums juxtapose with said lyrics to balance the song, a great start to the album. Following this is the title track, which is also a song with a darker tone lyrically, yet comes across almost cheery. Mckee’s honey-sweet vocals serve as the temptation to which Kelly’s self deprecating words try so desperately to get away from, yet gives into at the end of each chorus, just as the listener gives into the enticing empathy of feeling completely controlled by desires.

Then, Sex with an X takes a turn to a slower pace, and begins to lose me.

At four minutes and thirty four seconds, “The Devil’s Inside Me” seems to hang on about two minutes entirely too long for a song that doesn’t have that much meat musically, or lyrically. Next, they follow up with another fast paced song, which disappointingly sounds much too similar to the title track, only without the depth and hooks that dueling vocals in the earlier song provided. This is the pattern for the next two songs “Overweight But Over You” and “Poison Pen.”

“I Hate the 80’s,” comes with some form of change: a layer of tambourine and high pitched organ for parts of the song, which serves as a sort of awakening from the lull that the past four songs doled out. This then leads up to “Mouth to Mouth,” which holds a tone of desperation that carries this song into the distinct category where “Ruined,” and “Sex With an X” reside. It has a strong build up to the chorus, yet doesn’t feel too worn by the end of the song.

Sadly, following the ninth song on this album, it feels almost as if The Vaselines have given up, with three songs left. “Whitechapel” drags on for a little too long like “The Devil’s Inside Me,” followed by another attempt to pick up the pace before closing the album with the same melody in which it began.

In the end, there just isn’t enough depth to this album. Yes, my feet are tapping vigorously and the lyrics are pretty damn catchy, but it is too difficult to keep all the songs from running together in my head. This is what makes Sex With An X a good collection of songs, but not a cohesive album that I will want to listen all the way through repeatedly. I applaud The Vaselines in their attempt at a comeback, but I am bored by the lack of variation that seemed to get lost with the passage of such a long period of time.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/The-Vaselines-Sex-With-An-X.mp3]

Download: The Vaselines – Sex With An X [MP3]

Review written by Nicole Baumann

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