The Mary Onettes – Dare Ep

dare

Rating: ★★★½ ·

Sweden’s The Mary Onettes have long been one of those bands that I wished everyone would get into, as they clearly deserve the recognition I’ve built for them in my brain.  Perhaps some will find them drenched in nostalgia, but their self-titled debut showed that they could rise above and beyond limitations of the past. So here they come with their first release in a few years, the Dare EP.

Right away, you sort of have to knock it down a bit based on the fact that there are only three songs on the EP, which is short, even for EP standards.  In the end, you find that this is possibly the only knock on these exceptional tracks; you’ll find nothing else wrong here.

“Dare” is the opening track, and one I threw your way earlier on in the year.  Opening the song you have a swirling guitar sound reminiscent of the opening moments of “Geraldine” by Glasvegas, though the lyrics here will delve further into true meaning than some of the simpler lyrics by the latter.  Also, as with most current bands, the melodious moments are accompanied by layers of atmospheric guitar screeching and pounding drums.  Everything about this song sums up carefully the abilities of The Mary Onettes when they’re at their best.

Following the opener is “Kicks.”  It’s a far cry from most of their earlier work; it’s clearly more subdued in mood and pacing.  This is one of the first songs in their career that I feel is driven by the vocals and lyrics rather than the beat.  Broodingly gently piano accompaniment continues to push this song into traditional ballad format.

“God Knows I Had Plans” closes the Dare EP with a shimmering wall of guitars and harmonies.  A certain warmth exist on this song, which immediately implies a certain craft leaning towards soundscapes.  This is perhaps a fitting association, though they fill the traditional elements with belting harmonies and pounding drums.

It’s a really short effort, but at its best, it portrays a band pushing beyond the boundaries of their glorious first efforts and bounding forwards towards new horizons.  Expect to continue to hear brilliant moments from this band in the near future.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/02-kicks-1.mp3]

Download: The Mary Onettes – Kicks [MP3]

God Help the Girl – s/t

god

Rating: ★★★★ ·

God Help the Girl is the project of Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian. It’s a fourteen song story created by Murdoch meant to be accompanied by his musical craftwork.  His devotion to the craft of pop writing has expanded greatly as evidenced by this album, which began during his writing for Dear Catastrophe Waitress.

Unlike most Murdoch penned songs, this entire album is fairly void of his soft-spoken voice, instead being replaced by Catherine Ireton on almost every song, aside from “Funny Little Frog” and the two instrumental tracks, “A United Theory” and “The Music Room Window.”

Here we find a remaking of The Life Pursuit’s “Act of the Apostle” opening the album, though it hardly seems recognizable, if any connection at all.  This version comes with Ireton’s vocals accompanied by some appropriate string arrangements.  For all intents and purposes you see this song as the introduction of the story’s narrator.

“God Help the Girl” quickly follows the opener, and it’s one of the most similar to the traditional Murdoch stylings.  Piano backbone and Ireton’s delivery remind you of other Glaswegian band Camera Obscura, which is all the more appropriate seeing as that band, and this project, both travel back in time to 60s pop girl groups. You can just imagine this song coming across with a dance routine and sharply dressed females filling the void in sound.

“Pretty Eve in the Tub” is a track one can possibly dismiss, but it’s going to strike home with most listeners, including the author, for the full use of Murdoch’s voice during the song.  It’s one of the few instances here when he steps in front of the microphone during this project.  However, he also utilizes his voice to trade verses during “Hiding Neath My Umbrella.” Such a song seems fitting in the B&S catalog, though the string arrangements take it further into the musical spectrum.  You’ll find that Murdoch’s arrangements allow for the presentation to go beyond their usual limits.

One of the more developed songs is “Musician, Please Take Heed.” Slowly, for the first minute, it builds with the focus playing upon the vocals, but then the chugging jangly guitars Stuart typically utilizes come into play.  From here the song takes off with a galloping pace as strings are added atop the entire track.  Stuart then returns in the following track with “Perfection as a Helper.”  Backing vocals are so noticeable in this song, which is due to their immediate throwback quality.  At this point, it’s clear just how far he’s really pushed himself in the production of the album.

Every song makes a powerful statement on the album, and there isn’t one that really goes awry when put into the perspective of the album as a story.  Murdoch is at his best with his songwriting, and even the closing moments are spectacular, such as “I’ll Have to Dance with Cassie.” Lovers of his pop song writing will see he’s gone beyond his concise tunes and into a whole other world; this album is the better for it.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/02-god-help-the-girl.mp3]

Download: God Help the Girl [MP3]

FT5: Bands I Refuse To Apologize For

0619top5coverSince this is my first post, I thought I should give everyone a little bit of insight into who I am. Unlike the other ATH writers, I refuse to have “Guilty Pleasures.” Either I like a band, or I don’t. I won’t apologize or make excuses for what I listen to, and I try not to give other people a hard time for what they like (one exception would be Nathan). I’m not saying every band I like is great. Sometimes they have great musicians with bad lyrics and catchy beats. Sometimes they’re just catchy. And the best is when I hate a band, but I hear them so often that I’m tricked into liking them. That being said, here are five bands on my iPod that have play counts at or around 30, and that’s just since April.  Follow the jump for more.
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Jenny Lewis @ Stubbs (6/22)

jennylewisOur #5 hot lady of indie rock Jenny Lewis is making a stop in Austin Monday night with her superb backing band.  We listed Jenny as one of our favorite acts of ACL so we are of course excited about this set.  An added bonus, an ATH fave Heartless Bastards will be providing opening support and start around 8pm.  Tickets for this one run $21.50 and are available now online.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/06_see_fernando.mp3]

Download: Jenny Lewis – See Fernando [MP3]

Sunset Rubdown @ Mohawk (6/20)

sunsetrubdownIf you’re looking for some solid indie rock on Saturday night in Austin, head over to Mohawk for a show by Spencer Krug’s band Sunset Rubdown.  Music starts at 9pm with opening act Witchies followed by Elfin Saddle.  Tickets are relatively cheap and on sale now for $13.  Better seize the opportunity to see such a talented act in an intimate setting as you’ll probably never see Mr. Krug’s full time band Wolf Parade in such a setting.  Sunset Rubdown is touring in support of their new album Dragonslayer which is due out next week via JagJaguwar.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/02-idiot-heart.mp3]

Download: Sunset Rubdown – Idiot Heart [MP3]

Pudding

pudding_athWho decided to make washing machines and toilets the exact same color? A simple color code system could prevent accidents like this. Clearly there should be some sort of advocacy group for drunks

Hollywood Gossip @ Nomad Bar (6/20)

hollywoodWe’ve always been big fans of Austin band Hollywood Gossip so we were excited to see that they are playing a free show at Nomad Bar on Saturday night.  If you aren’t familiar with the bar, here’s a little map to help you find your way to the show.  Fellow locals Household Names and Harlovve will be kicking things off around 10pm.  Should be a good one!

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

Download: Hollywood Gossip – Bicycle [MP3]

From the Closet: Screeching Weasel

weaselsLet’s not forget that some of us had to start our musical fandom somewhere, and for myself and many of my friends it was in the land of punk rock. This heralded land has been taken down by a lot of things lately, namely any genre wherein you add the word -core as a suffix. But, back for the attack are some of the forefathers, as Screeching Weasel comes to town this Friday at Emos.  Not only that, but Ben will also be playing a Riverdales set Saturday night.  The song below is one of my favorites that comes off Screeching Weasel’s Anthem for a New Tomorrow. Yay, punk rock didn’t completely die!

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/18-a-new-tomorrow.mp3]
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