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  • ATH Top Albums – 2018

      This is our year end list for albums of the year. There’s four of us here, so it’s hard to come to a consensus, but we did our best.

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Polvo – In Prism

polvo-inprism

Rating: ★★½ · ·

 Chapel Hill, North Carolina’s Polvo began in 1990 when most of us were mere babes.  After four critically acclaimed albums, a sting of EPs released on Merge and Touch and Go, and tours across the United States and Europe with bands like Sonic Youth and Pavement, Polvo called it quits in 1997.  But, as is the recent trend, Polvo reunited in 2008 for All Tomorrows Parties and several stateside shows, this string of performances then mutated into Polvo’s first album in twelve years, In Prism.

To this reviewer, Polvo has always been one of those bands that is familiar in name, not by output; the scene workhorse that consistently releases albums without much fanfare.  I always felt a bit guilty about not really giving Polvo my attention: they wrote solid well-crafted songs and delivered them genuinely, what’s not to love?  The problem I saw Polvo having was that they there were other active bands at the time (Archers of Loaf, The Jesus Lizard, and Jawbox, to name a few) that were doing the exact same things, only better.  Polvo got relegated to the indie rock B-team with bands like Giants Chair and Gauge.  I am not trying to slight these bands. They all deserve much more credit than what they received for one reason or another.

That brings us to In Prism, which, like the rest of Polvos career, isn’t good or bad, it’s just okay.  The songs are interesting, but they all seem to follow the mid-nineties math rock playbook: riffs on top of riffs, changes on top of changes, quiet part, vague emotional lyrics, noodling solo, repeat for 5-8 minutes, TA-DAH!  The songs that having staying power are track three “Beggar’s Bowl” and the album closer “A Link in the Chain”:  “Beggar’s Bowl” deserves recognition for two reasons, besides being one of the stronger cuts on the album, 1) It’s laughable, yet endearing use of chimes, and 2) I defy you to listen to the song without singing Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust”.  “A Link in the Chain” displays the slower side of Polvo, which does well to show how truly great guitarists Ash Bowie and Dave Brylawski are at their instruments (although I could’ve done without the epic Yes-ian build-up only to be met with, essentially, an instrumental cock-block [don’t worry I won’t quit my day job]).

We live in a time where everyone longs for their favorite bands to reunite and release “just one more album” or go on “one more tour” and while In Prism is a solid album that any band should be proud of, I think it’s time to retire those thoughts of Pavement, Archers of Loaf, or Quicksand reuniting and just be happy with memories of the way things were, rather than grieving over what those bands have become (I’m looking at you Weezer).

New Tunes From The Rocketboys

rocketboys_1002_loI don’t know a whole lot about Austin band The Rocketboys, but I do know that I just got this new song in my inbox and I dig it. This track “We Are a Lighthouse” is the first single from the band’s upcoming album 20,000 Ghosts which is due out September 29th. You can also catch these guys live at Stubbs on Sept. 24th for their CD release show.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/The-Rocketboys-We-Are-a-Lighthouse.mp3]

Download: The Rocketboys – We Are a Lighthouse [MP3]

The Lemurs @ Mohawk (9/10)

lemurs

Date 9/10/09
Location Mohawk
Doors 9pm
Tickets $8 @ Door

Mohawk is the place to be on Thursday night for some great local music.  The lineup features headliners The Lemurs along with openers Brass Bed and The White White Lights.  Should be a fun night for you music fans to check out some of the best local music we have to offer.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/The_Lemurs-Blackspot.mp3]

Download: The Lemurs – Blackspot [MP3]

Vivian Girls – Everything Goes Wrong

 vivian_everything

Rating: ★★★½ ·

After riding a wave of critical acclaim with their 2008 self titled debut, the Brooklyn based Vivian Girls return with their brand of lo-fi garage-pop on the sophomore release of Everything Goes Wrong.

Having hated, HATED, their debut, I approached Everything Goes Wrong with much trepidation.  I was already coming up with snarky comments based on the album title and track names like ‘I Have No Fun’ and ‘Before I Start to Cry’. I was pre-planning diatribes asking questions like “Do bands hide behind the ‘lo-fi’ aesthetic to mask their lack of talent?” It was going to be fun tearing this thing apart. 

The first three tracks, ‘Walking Alone at Night’, ‘I Have No Fun’, and ‘Can’t Get Over You’ didn’t do much to assuage my fears. It was sloppy with bored vocals and maybe the worst guitar ‘solos’ I have ever heard.  It’s almost like, mid-song, the bass player mouthed ‘guitar solo’ to the guitarist, and feeling tired of arguing over the pettiest shit with the bass player (that’s what you do with bass players) the guitar player relented, and the unnecessary solo was born.  I digress.

Something happened in the fourth track, ‘The Desert’, though, and I began enjoying myself.  The music tightened up, the vocals become more dynamic. By track seven, ‘The End’, I became a fan.  ‘The End’ is definitely the winning track on this album, the Vivian Girls take the best parts of early Hole (yes I feel odd using that comparison, but Live Through This was and is a great album), and the garage-y aesthetic and makes it their own.  The rest of the album plays out much the same way. It’s light, airy and fun: Everything Goes Wrong is great for a road trip or a quick jog around Williamsburg (from the hipster J. Peterman catalog).

If you have one Vivian Girls album in your collection (and really, you only need one) make it Everything Goes WrongBut, and this is a big but (HA!): I get the feeling that the Vivian Girls don’t have many more tricks in their bag, and will have to step it up big time on their third release, because, while Everything is Wrong is a fun record I can see more of the same getting awfully tiresome.

New Tunes from The Mary Onettes

the mary onettesRiding high on the great press they received over their self-titled debut and their most recent Dare EP, The Mary Onettes are slated to take on the world.  Their newest number is a little bit more straightforward than their previous efforts, though it still shines through with a glimpse into the past.  This song, “Puzzles,” will be on the band’s new album Islands, which is scheduled to arrive in America on November 3rd.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/01-Puzzles-1.mp3]

Download: The Mary Onettes – Puzzles [MP3]

Amy Millan – Masters Of The Burial

amy-millan-masters-of-the-burial-art

Rating: ★★★ · ·

Having clocked in years with Canadian indie mainstays Stars and Broken Social Scene Toronto native Amy Millan struck out on her own in 2006 to release her debut album Honey from the Tombs to mostly favorable reviews, receiving comparisons to Emmylou Harris or Lucinda Williams.

Arts and Crafts Records will be releasing Amy Millan’s sophomore release, Masters of the Burial, and I must admit, coming into this review the only exposure I had had with Amy Millan was her work with the aforementioned bands.  Being a fan of Broken Social Scene and the solo outings of Brendan Canning, Kevin Drew, and Leslie Feist I was excited about the prospect of jangly, slightly quirky indie-pop album. Boy, was I in for a surprise.

Masters of the Burial is a very mature record. The majority of the eleven tracks could easily be seen as middle of the road adult contemporary, but in the best way possible.  This album is very easy to listen to, relying on softly brushed drums, well placed mandolins and, of course, Millan’s beautiful voice.  On tracks like ‘Bruised Ghosts’, ‘Towers’, and the album closer ‘Bound’ it is evident that Millan could easily hold her own with the Allison Krauss’ and the Norah Jones’ of the world, just ask your parents or Brenda in the accounting department if you don’t believe me.  When Millan breaks away from the country-tinged folk trappings on tracks like ‘Bury This’, the percussion heavy ‘Day to Day’, and the beautifully haunting ‘Lost Compass’, she truly shines, easily evoking feelings of loss and regret.  Plus there is a cover of Death Cab for Cutie’s ‘I Will Follow You Into the Dark’, if you are into that kind of thing.  Like my mama always says “A cover is as a cover does…” (my mama never says that).

While this record won’t be on my end of the year lists, I have nothing but respect for it.  It is comforting, and I know it has an audience out there that will love it. I just fear that, with it’s ties to indie rock, it will be shot down before it even has it’s chance to shine.

ACL Spotlight: !!!

chkchkchk

We continue our ACL coverage this week with the Brooklyn via Sacramento band !!! (properly pronounced as Chk Chk Chk or Pow Pow Pow). 

Let’s start off this business with a memory of a little-known Ghostland Observatory making their mark on the dusty fields by encouraging thousands of people to dance off the previous night’s hangover.  Well, this year, I predict that it will be !!! doing the moving and shaking this year with all the fans, as they’ve been doing it on a small scale for quite awhile.

Imagine their combination of horns, guitar, percussion and electronics blasting out of those mammoth festival speakers, as you casually sip on your beer.  Then Nic Offer shakes and jives all across the stage, further encouraging you to feel the rhythm; you’ll be shaking it in no time at all.

The band have several CDs to their name, and personally I’d go with the funky grooves off of their self-titled debut, but other really dig the work of Louden Up Now, which came out shortly after the Me and Giuliani Down by the Schoolyard single.  It gave a new twist on the band’s grooves by adding a little more electronic push to the music.

Hopefully we’ll all get a chance to preview some of the new tracks the band has been working on as of late, but if not, we’re at least guaranteed a good long set of sweat-dripping, hip-shaking funk-rock to get our hearts racing and our feet moving in the early afternoon.

!!! take to the AMD Stage at 2:00 PM.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/intensify.mp3]

Download: !!!- Intensify [MP3]

New Tunes from Kings of Convenience

kings_of_convenience_bTime is nearing for the arrival of the soft-spoken Kings of Convenience album Declaration of Dependence.  Said album comes ashore on October 20th, though you can get the latest single “Mrs. Cold” if you search around the world.  The song we have here for you is off the “Mrs. Cold” single, and also appears on the band’s upcoming record.  We’re excited for this, as you should be too!

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/02.-Freedom-and-Its-Owner.mp3]

Download: Kings of Convenience – Freedom and It’s Owner [MP3]

The Drawing Board @ Mohawk (9/8)

athshowcase04

Date 9/8/09
Location Mohawk
Doors 900p
Tickets ??

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Austin band The Drawing Board so we’re excited to see that they are returning to the stage at Mohawk tonight.  Joining in for the evening are fellow locals St. David and The Ashes.  Not sure of ticket price but it should be pretty cheap.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/the-drawing-board-the-writer.mp3]

Download: The Drawing Board – The Writer [MP3]

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