Belle and Sebastian – BBC Sessions

Rating: ★★★½ ·

It’s difficult to rate a release of a band which has achieved adoration throughout the independent music world, especially when that release consists of various John Peel Sessions and a live recording in Belfast.  However, the gauntlet has been layed down, thus the rating has been thrown out.

The compilations is made up of multiple discs, the first being the BBC Sessions alluded to in the title of the release.  Now, Belle and Sebastian has always been a quiet band, especially if you listen to the mix of Tigermilk or If You’re Feeling Sinister, but on this disc you will find many of the classic songs from that era, such as “Judy and The Dream of Horses.”  A lot of these songs haven’t really changed much from the original recordings, in fact, they stay exactly the same as the first time they came out of your speakers.  Still, the quality of the recording is exceptional here, perhaps even better than the original recordings, so there is something to take away.

Overall, the first disc is a reminder of the band’s distant past, as the presence of Isobel Campbell is no more.  Listeners will find beauty in the intro of “The Magic of a Kind Word,” but those sorts of reminders only show how far the band has come.  Favorites still sound wonderful, such as “Sleep the Clock Around” and “Seymour Stein.”  It’s a pleasant reminder, but the lack of variance leaves much to be desired for the most die-hard of fans.

Disc two is a live album, recorded in Belfast, which is right near Holywood, in 2001.  It’s got a decent offering of songs, though they don’t really meander far from various other live recordings that have been thrown around for years.  There are some pleasant surprises that come from the band’s past, like their covers of “Here Comes the Sun” and “I’m Waiting for the Man.”  It’s a pleasant reminder of the youthfulness the band has maintained, always dancing the night away in your bedroom speakers.   It also demonstrates the leaps and bounds the group has made in more recent live performances.

In the end, its a very decent offering of music for those who are in love with Belle and Sebastian. For those who haven’t steeped themselves in the history of the band, or are completely oblivious to their existence, they might find some value here, but all true fans know that there are much greater starting points to the history of one of the greatest bands in modern history.

Win The New Black Keys DVD

Word on the street is that The Black Keys are releasing a live DVD of their performance at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland this week. Lucky for you, we here at ATH have a copy to give away to one lucky reader. 1st place receives a copy of the new DVD and 2nd place gets hooked up with a signed copy of the band’s latest effort Attack & Release. All you have to do is leave a comment with your favorite Black Keys song and why it means so much to you. We’ll be contacting winners by email on Monday so get the entries in by this weekend and be sure to leave a valid email. The DVD features 17 live and gritty songs performed at their Portland show earlier this year.  Watch the trailer for the DVD or follow this link to make a purchase (if you aren’t feeling so lucky).  We’ve also got an MP3 of the song “I Got Mine” from the DVD below.  Based on this Mp3, the DVD should be a must have for the holiday season.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/blackkeysigotminelive.mp3]

Download: The Black Keys – I got Mine(live) [MP3]

Unwed Sailor @ Emo’s (11/19)

Johnathon Ford will be bringing his instrumental outfit Unwed Sailor to Emo’s Austin on Wednesday evening.  Doors for the show are at 8 with music beginning around 10.  Local Austin act, The Calm Blue Sea, will also be playing in support of the Oklahoma based act.  Preview the show with recent single from Unwed Sailor “Copper Islands”.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/01-copper-islands.mp3]

Download: Unwed Sailor – Copper Islands [MP3]

Horse Feathers On Woxy

One of my favorite discoveries of the year, Horse Feathers, just recorded a Woxy Lounge session and the nice folks at The Futurist have all the live songs available for download.  The band plays 3 songs from their stellar 2008 album House With no Home and one from their 2006 release Words Are Dead.  Here’s the live track from the 2006 album called “Mother’s Sick”.  Beautiful.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/horse-feathers-mothers-sick.mp3]

Download: Horse Feathers – Mother’s Sick(live) [MP3]

Marnie Stern In Austin

Marnie Stern, the current master of finger-tapping guitar play, will be playing a couple times in Austin this week.  First show comes this evening(11/18) at the Mohawk in Austin with tickets available now for only $8.  Marnie is accompanied by local Austin band’s Ume and The Sour Notes.  The following day, Mrs. Stern will be playing one of Waterloo Records weekly in stores at 5pm.  Do I need to mention the free keg beer?  If you haven’t heard any of Marnie’s insane guitar work, here’s a dandy called “Transformer”.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/marnie-stern-transformer.mp3]

Download: Marnie Stern – Transformer [MP3]

Frantic Clam – Celebrity EP

Rating: ★★★ · ·

Local Austin band Frantic Clam originally joined forces while serving in the armed forces in Iraq.  The two founding members, Zack and Joe,  spent their spare time crafting simple tunes.  Celebrity is the band’s first EP, but a full length album is scheduled for release this Winter.

Opening track “Mary Elizabeth Winstead” is definitely rooted in a Southern soul sort of vibe, as the guitar work is really gritty.  The vocals are reminiscent of a Issac Brock being raised in the Deep South, with backing vocals added to fill in some the empty space in the song.

They wander off to “Everything is Perfect,” which is probably the best song on the album.  The vocals at the beginning are really crisp, which packs a stronger punch than some of the fuzzier recording that comes along later.  It’s a gentler approach to their songwriting; an attribute the band should consider employing full time.

“Richard Cory” is another mellow number at track 3.  A slower pace allows the band to focus on the melodies here, and this ends up demonstrating the band’s abilities to intertwine hooks with their space infused Southern rock sound. Similarly, “Amnesty” is filled with space keyboards and lyrics battling the mundane world, along with mundane problems.  It comes off like an old Grandaddy b-side.

They close the album with samples of Oz, as they finish with “The Emerald City.” It’s a song that exhibits a bit of funk, as if the band smashed into Stereolab all of a sudden.  It is another sound that demonstrates the possibilities the future holds for this band.  Keep an eye on this group, as I’m sure we’ll hear more of them in the future.

Speaking of hearing more, the band has a gig on December 12th at Hole in the Wall, so go check it out; keep it local.

You can also check out single from the album Richard Cory elsewhere on our site.

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