Helio Sequence @ The Mohawk (6/4)

heliosequenceOne of Sub Pop’s great bands, Helio Sequence, will be making their way to the stage at The Mohawk this Thursday night, in what is sure to be another beautiful set from the band. Last year’s Keep Your Eyes Ahead was one of the more quiet albums that grew as the year wore into it’s final season.  They’ll be taking the stage with D*R*I* and Low Line Caller. Doors to the show open at 8 PM and you can purchase tickets by heading over to Transmission Entertainment.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/05-shed-your-love.mp3]

Download: Helio Sequence – Shed Your Love [MP3]

New Music From Son Volt

son_volt-band-2005It’s really sad that Jay Farrar’s band Son Volt has gotten little to no attention from online media after Uncle Tupelo broke up.  All praise continues to fall on Jeff Tweedy’s Wilco as they grow and grow to huge levels of success.  Well low and behold Son Volt has a new record coming out July 7th called American Central Dust and we just found first single “Down to the Wire” today on the internets.  Farrar still has one of the best voices in the modern alt-coutry era.

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

Download: Son Volt – Down to the Wire [MP3]

Blank Dogs – Under and Under

dogs

Rating: ★★★ · ·

Currently, the music scene is filled with waves upon waves of bands who are forging ahead with music under the lo-fi moniker, creating tunes shrouded in disguise. It’s as divisive a topic as whether or not to like Grizzly Bear or Animal Collective; clearly the jury is out, but Blank Dogs is yet another band opting to use a barrage of noisy atmospherics in order to compose the music on Under and Under.  Of course, you’ll find that the man behind the project Mike Sniper is familiar with other leading acts in the scene such as Crystal Stilts or Dum Dum Girls.

Musically, all listeners will have to admit that the skeleton of the album itself is quite interesting, and would normally garner huge popularity in another format.  Take the lead track “No Compass” with the bouncing rhythm and angular guitar cutting through the song.  Even when the tracks come across fueled with electronic elements such as keyboards on tracks like “Blue Lights” you can catch melodies that otherwise one would typically enjoy.

However, the presentation of these skeletons is what leads to a discourse on whether or not this music can be deemed as such.  Has the deconstruction of pop sensibility gone so far that we can accept as a listener lyrics run through some sort of effect machine, creating nothing more than what appears echoes of noise?  It’s actually a deeply haunting effect that pervades the entirety of Under and Under, but it takes a certain breed of listener to endure this for long periods of time.

Taking the album fragment by fragment, you have what looks to be the construction of a very basic pop album; the guitar work that is present is not super difficult, and not far off from what  is currently on the market.  An issue with many listeners will be that the recording and the creation of all these fragments has been marred for the most part by these elements of noise that coat both the music and the vocals.

Still, you can’t deny that there is magic in this album.  Standout track “Tin Birds” would easily be on any best of compilation from the eighties, even with the foggy vocoder effect on the song.  Mike Sniper has created some really intriguing music as Blank Dogs, and a lot of it is worthy of the praise that has been heaped upon him.  But, wouldn’t it be great to see if one could create such sublime music without all the frills of making it a deconstructionist lo-fi album?  Surely it would, and only the man behind the music can lead us there, so for now we’ll have to stick for the marginally great tunes we have.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/10-tin-birds.mp3]

Download: Blank Dogs – Tin Birds [MP3]

Rarest of Them All Party @ The Long Center – 6/3

gruposBefore you decide to hit up Passion Pit at Emos on June 3rd, you might want to stroll on over to the Long Center where Austin’s Rare Magazine will be hosting a little gathering of local rareties, and what could be more rare than great music here in Austin? Aside from local food vendors handing out booze and food for free, you can catch tunes from great Austin bands such as Grupo Fantasma, Harlem and White Denim. You can snag yourself a pair of tickets for this evening by heading here.

Passion Pit @ Emos – 6/3

passionpitPassion Pit seems to have been on the tongues of every person discussing music this year, and they return to Austin to show us what they have, in the live setting at Emos that is. Along with them they bring Harlem Shakes and Cale Parks, two bands who have been making waves across the country with delightful albums of their own. Be sure to catch this show, for if the band explodes, you likely won’t catch them in this sort of semi-intimate setting again.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/05-sunlight.mp3]

Download: Harlem Shakes – Sunlight [MP3]

New Tunes from The Cave Singers

SUN0124 Cave SingersLong ago there was this killer band called Murder City Devils. They had this one guy who ended up in Pretty Girls Make Graves, who then left to start The Cave Singers. Now that I’ve name dropped enough, let me tell you that Derek Fudesco’s new outfit resembles neither of his past efforts, not even close. Still, it just goes to show you that punks like to folk it up. So, the new tunes are slated to appear on the next Cave Singers album, Welcome Joy, which is slated for an August release. Here you go folks.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/the-cave-singers-beach-house.mp3]

Download: The Cave Singers – Beach House [MP3]

The Sounds – Crossing the Rubicon

the-sounds

Rating: ★★ · · ·

When The Sounds first crossed the Atlantic, everyone was abuzz with the rehashing of eighties synthesizers and guitars.  Glittery punk-pop took the hipsters (and hipspanics) by storm; you all liked The Killers at first, and you probably liked The Sounds too.  Now on their third album, Crossing the Rubicon, the question remains as to where the band can possibly go musically without treading water in the same spot they’ve lived in for years.

From the moment the first single “No One Sleeps When I’m Awake” crashes into your speakers, it’s clear that the band have stepped up their game, at least with regards to their approach.  Long gone are the sexy days in the tiny clubs, as this song represents a louder, more brash, band destined to carry out their shows in larger arenas.  Songs like these are perfect for radio play; they’re everything a good pop song should be: catchy melody and singable elements.

However, the band still maintains a firm grip on their club attitude. The presence of songs like “Beatbox” and “My Lover” show that the band is very much still enthralled with creating a club hit with that punk attitude.  Maja always seemed like the heir to Debbie Harry, and perhaps crossover songs such as these will provide the platform from which she can finally jump into mainstream stardom.  But, it is precisely this element where the band has lost what made them so ferocious and dangerous when they first hit took to the stage.  Releasing such songs has also led to forays into other musical genres, some which are not quite as forgivable as creating a club hit.

Let’s take “Midnight Sun” and use this as our point of discussion.  Guitar work is drowned out for the most part, despite the cheesy solo in the middle that does nothing more than mimic a number of solos on Guitar Hero.  You combine that with the vocals and you have the band doing their first take on what we will refer to as Kelly Clarkson pop.  Everything about this song feels contrived and heartless.

Unfortunately, that is where you find The Sounds at the end of the day on this album.  Those killer guitar parts that led you to believe you were still listening to a band with some sort of punk sensibility have been exchanged on the market for more polished sounds.  Polished is the perfect word for this album.  What once made the group come off as edgy and exciting has been dumbed down to reach a new audience entirely.  They created Crossing the Rubicon and threw everything out the window entirely.  We expected them to change, just not into this.

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

Download: The Sounds – Underground [MP3]

Eels – Hombre Lobo

hombrelobo

Rating: ★★★ · ·

According to the group’s web site, or to the words of Mark Oliver Everett, this album attempts to hint at the idea of coming to terms with realizing that despite one’s best intentions, it’s difficult to live the life of a loner, or a lone wolfman; this is where the Spanish title comes into play.  Hombre Lobo literally means wolfman, so it’s no surprise that the Eels would tackle such issues on their latest release.

Really, when you pull away the layers, the album’s lyrical content comes across pretty straightforward.  You find the narrator in said songs chasing after his muse, turning to said love time and time again, despite his/her desire flee and go elsewhere.  In “Ordinary Man,” our narrator willingly gives into his love, realizing that this is where he wants to be in the end, ordinary man or not.  Let’s face it, it’s hard to be a lone wolf sometimes.

Musically, the album, is pretty much all over the place; it’s rather scatterbrained. It jumps from the opening barn-stomper of a tune in “Prizefighter” to “That Look You Gave That Guy.”  Opening the album you have the wild man at heart, playing his soul, and banging out blues-fueled riffs for the listener.  How quickly it turns, however, as “That Look..” is a much more somber affair, with the narrator begging for that same look.  This is is one of the more solid tracks on the album, and an illustration of the dichotomy that is Eels records.

One thing that always jumps out during the listening process is the similarity to a Beck song.  Take one listen “Lilac Breeze” and you will swear that you are listening to a brand new track by the hyperactive troubadour. Even the shifts in vocals and the usage of electronics mark it as eerily similar.  It’s always been hard to escape this comparison, and with songs like this one, it surely won’t go away.

While there are some up-tempo tracks scattered here and there on the album, it is generally the slower elements that bring about the more soulful moments in Everett’s voice. Keeping in mind the subject matter, he seems so much more fragile when you listen to songs like “The Longing,” and you can almost experience the sentiment just by listening to the emotional quality of the song. Faster, guitar-laden tracks just don’t connect in the same manner, which does tend to weigh down the album in parts.  If listeners could stick to the simpler songs, then this would surely be a wondrous album to spin over and over again on the record player.  Unfortunately, the Eels include their diversity as usual, leading some listeners to turn a deaf ear to Hombre Lobo.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/09-my-timing-is-off.mp3]

Download: Eels – My Timing is Off [MP3]

New Tunes from Holden

holdenI’m not really up on the scene of the independent world music, but somehow I stumbled across the sublime tunes of the French duo Holden. Their understated combination of melody and electronics reminds me of a slower paced Stereolab, which is never really a bad comparison to make. They have a new album coming out titled Fantomatisme, and though you will have to search the Internet to find it, I’m bringing you a nice little track to give you a little taste test. Enjoy.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/05-un-toit-etranger.mp3]

Download: Holden – Un Toit Etranger [MP3]

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