The Calm Blue Sea – s/t

Rating: ★★★½ ·

It would be extremely easy to come across this band, lumping them in as thieves of the popular instrumental music scence, yet that approach to this album would be a coward’s way out.

Sure, the self titled album from The Calm Blue Sea is filled to the brim of your stereo with sprawling guitar sounds that walk the thinnest lines back and forth between songs, almost as if the guitars intend to pace back and forth.

One element that sets them apart, and I know others use it, but I think the usage of the piano as the skeletal background for a good deal of the songs places a different spin on the entire album as a piece.  It coats the instrumental core of the album with a melodious undertone;  listen carefully for the treasures in this genre always rely upon close listening.

Another difference lies in the fact that they occasioanly use lyrics, predominantly in the song “Literal.”  It’s usage here recalls, to these ears at least, the atmospheric sounds of Statistics.  It creates an entirely different layer to the song, which is encouraging because various bands get trapped beneath the singular layers created by guitars and drums; The Calm Blue Sea uses vocals as a textural layer–admirable.

While other bands simply rely upon the ebbs and flows of their albums, withholding the more rocking elements for their live show, The Calm Blue Sea unleash these heavier moments upon us with joy, creating a beautiful cacophony of atmospheric noise.  It’s great to see that there are new bands still trying to put their own spin on an age-old tradition.

10/27 Gnarls Barkley ACL Taping

Even with Austin City Limits Festival in the forefront of the weekend, many of the major acts found their way to the University of Texas campus to tape an episode of the Austin City Limits television show. One of the groups making their ACL debut in front of the famed Austin backdrop was Gnarls Barkley on Saturday night. Show review and setlist after the jump.

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These United States On Daytrotter

These United States showed up on an encore performance on Daytrotter. We say encore because the band already performed for Daytrotter way back in March of 2007. Check out the band’s latest session on the slick Daytrotter website. Also, check out standout track “Burn This Bridge” from the performance in mp3 format below.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/theseus2_daytrottersession_1.mp3]
Download: These United States – Burn This Bridge(live) [MP3]

Ra Ra Riot @ The Parish – 10/3

The crooning pop of Ra Ra Riot will make its way into Austin this Friday, twice!  They will be playing a free show at our favorite record store, Waterloo Records at 5 PM.  Then they’ll graba bite to eat before heading on over to the Parish to close out the evening.  If you’re not sure about whether you want to go, just check out our review of the latest album The Rhumb Line .

You can find yourself tickets for the show at Frontgate Tickets.

Gentleman Jesse and His Men – s/t

Rating: ★★★★★

A few months back I was fortunate enough to come across a short album by Atlanta band, Carbonas. After careful research I came across Gentleman Jesse and His Men, a band fronted by Carbonas bass player, Jesse Smith. I adore the more abrasive album featuring Jesse on bass, nothing comes close to my level of enjoyment when listening to the power-pop of the band he fronts.

Immediate references will draw upon similarities to bands such as The Exploding Hearts, due to vocal delivery, and Buzzcocks, based solely on emotional similarities. Still, one would have to go much farther back, back into the 50s bandstand rock n roll in order to complete the circle of influences. Every riff seems straight out of an era, but done so refreshingly that its hard not to fall in love right away.

Remember those bands you grew up listening to when you were younger? This should have been one of those bands. This should have been the only one. Every song has staying power, and it goes beyond the box we’ve placed Gentleman Jesse inside. If teenagers had good tastes, then they would spend countless hours in their mirrors singing and bouncing along to this album with a hairbrush in hand, wishing they could take to the stage. This album has that much power.

Vocal inflections allow for the listener to differentiate between each song, though you might find that the rhythm section becomes a little redundant at times. Still, you could list every single song on the album as a hit. Pick a song, sing along and you’ll bob your head for the rest of the day.

“All I Need Tonight,” the third track definitely jumps out at you as one of the more powerful songs. The backing vocals bring back the simplicity in garage rock, just in time for the killer solo at the end of the song. It’s precisely the way it was always meant to be; straightforward rock music without meandering into noise and atmospherics. “The Rest of My Days” ask “where is time going,” and its clear that the rest of my days will be spent listening to this album, this song.

The latter half of the night packs just as much punch as the first half of the album. Songs like “I Get So Excited” and “You Got Me Where You Want Me” are meant to be sung by entire audiences. Each song is full of fervor, hoping to grab the audience and hold them close to the speakers one last time before the album winds down to its end. No one should skip a song.

After listening to the album in my ears for days, its hard to be really objective here; this album is the most refreshing thing to come by and cleanse my pallet, which is odd due to its apparent nostalgia in the realm of power-pop. Those of you interested in good clean pop rock will do well to find this immediately. I can see it nearing the Top 10 right now as it plays again and again.

The Broken West @ The Mohawk — 10/1

Longtime members of Merge Records, The Broken West are hitting up Austin tonight. The band comes to town fresh on the heels of their newest release, Now or Heaven and will be taking to the stage along with Hollywood Gossip. Mohawk says that they will open the doors at 8 PM, so expect the bands to take the stage around 9:30.

You can head on over to Merge Records to listen to the latest album from The Broken West. 

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