Harlem Shakes – Technicolor Health

harlem

Rating: ★★★½ ·

Every once in a while you walk across a band with a little bit of a reputation, and very little else.  This is where you come across Harlem Shakes, a band that has been slowly climbing the indie-pop ladder rung by rung.  Their new album, Technicolor Health, will only encourage more people to climb upon their back as they aim to reach the top.

Opening the album, you’ll find that various electronic elements are crawling all over the first song, much the way that they crawl all over the entire album. But, these little bleeps and blips grab more urgency when the rest of the band kicks in, throwing horns and guitar into the mix.  It’s an eclectic sound to say the least, but they manage wrangle it all together in an effort to create pop gems.

Singer Lexy bares a strong resemblance to the vocal registry of John K Samson of The Weakerthans, especially in “Strictly Game,” though just as you start to hear that in his voice, it changes directions.  This is precisely one of the elements of this album that allows listeners to maintain their interest, as the band takes turn after turn through their pop repertoire, leaving nary a stone unturned.  The entire kitchen sink has been nicely set in this album, and yet it still all sounds remarkably charming.

Some of the songs are downright destined to encourage you to shake your boots, but then there are other moments that seem to show a certain bit of restraint.  “Niagra Falls” appears to pay homage to a bit of classic rock elements, and one might even say shares a missing link with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, back when they were still good.  The piano laden track bubbles gently beneath the surface of your ear drum, drifting off quietly just before it gets annoying.

Such seems to be the story of the band.  What once would be considered overbearing self-indulgence in instrument usage is restrained just enough so as not to appear as such.  Just as you think it all begins to get to be a bit too much, the band pulls it all back in, honing their skills in the craft of restraint. Your left with a great sense of respect, as the combination of such instruments never seems to be entirely too much, though looking at the inclusion of these things would lead you think otherwise.

Everything here is simpler than one expects, which is how this band will win you over.  They’ve created an album full of songs that push your boundaries of listening, yet draw you in with catchy melodies and clever lyrics.  At times, it might be a bit much for the listener due to the overabundance of sounds, but like the band, you should show restraint, and give this album a proper chance, as repeated listening provides for great rewards.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/04-niagara-falls.mp3]

Download: Harlem Shakes – Niagra Falls [MP3]

The Bubbles @ Mohawk (3/26)

mohawkposterSeveral great local and rising to fame acts will be playing at Mohawk on Thursday night.  The lineup features Great Nostalgic (who have a great new album you need), Frantic Clam, Whitman, and The Bubbles.  Frequent visitors to our site know that we give lots of coverage to these bands and always support you seeing them live.  If you’ve got a little bit of time on your hands, head over to our friends do512 to like this event and get the buzz train movin!  Music is set to start at 10pm with Great Nostalgic.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/the-bubbles-late-long-night.mp3]

Download: The Bubbles – Late Long Night [MP3]

Sound Advice Vol. III

sunsetpromoOur friends over at Austin Sound just came out with volume III of their Sound Advice series and it’s pretty sweet this year.  The huge sampler features 21 tracks from all the best under the radar acts currently playing music in Austin.  You can get music from Built by Snow, Model UN, Harlem, and tons of other great bands.  Thanks for putting this together guys!  Here’s a track on the sampler from ATH favorite Sunset.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/04-when-perfect-flames-expire.mp3]

Download: Sunset – When Perfect Flames Expire [MP3]

Free Album Streams

So many artists are beginning to realize that actually selling albums is impossible and are turning to streaming music online to possibly spark album sales.  Not sure about the strategy, but this week features a slew of solid releases that you can try before you buy.  Spinner is streaming loads of new releases this week like The Decemberists, Obits, the flippin’ Pearl Jam Ten re-issue, Gomez and several more.  Peter, Bjorn & John are also streaming their new album Living Thing over on their myspace page.  What’s your take on some of these new albums?

New Tunes from Death Cab for Cutie

deathSomewhere in the history of my adolescence, I adored this band. I’ve watched them change and grow from album to album, always finding something to appreciate. There newest album Narrow Stairs saw them branch further than before, but it also didn’t seem to fulfill Ben Gibbard’s desire for perfect acoustic songs with Death Cab. This number reminds us all why we fell in love with his songwriting, and check the midway mark for a change in the song’s progression. The song is the first track off their new Open Door EP coming out next week digitally.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/deathcabforcutie-littlebribes.mp3]

Download: Death Cab for Cutie – Little Bribes [MP3]

Strange Boys – and Girls Club

strange

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Austin’s very own The Strange Boys finally have an album for everyone to share with their friends, though we suggest doing so in a legal manner.  After all the waiting, we finally get to see what these young gents have to offer us all; it’s precisely what we all expected, and this is meant in an endearing fashion.

One of the first things most listeners will come across is that the album sounds a bit muddy, as if the boys dragged these songs from beneath a rock on the patio of your favorite dive bar. It’s a taste that most listeners will have to endure, but many more will find rewarding.

Similarly, listeners will likely complain that singer Ryan Sambol’s vocals are a little bit shattering.  At times his lyrics are downright hard to decipher, drowned in a Southern sort of drawl, and drawn out until the very last possible syllable.  Still, if you give it a bit of love and devotion, it’s bound to worm its way into your heart.

Where precisely would one place the music on this record?  Besides Austin?  Well, step back into the storied history of a struggling middle class during the sixties.  Turn right just past the nearest alley, and walk into the dingy bar filling with smoke as we speak.  Here you will find the band and their album and Girls Club. It’s a dense sound, filled with frustration, fear and a destiny all of its own; a destiny soaked, more often than not, in debauchery.

Similarities abound, especially when one focuses on some of the melodic moments, such as the guitar during “No Way for a Slave to Behave,” which resembles the last era of the great American sock-hop.  It swings you left and right, as you grab the girl nearest you.  If it didn’t have that raw emotion and production, one might find such a song on American Bandstand.

Blues and R&B elements are also in abundance, making one reminisce for the legendary days where teenagers snuck off to cozy up to their romantic interest such as on the song “This Girls Taught Me a Dance.”  Even with such elements, they band pull out little rays of sunlight with the guitar work, creating moving songs intended for masses motivated for the subversive culture.

Combine this all with various other classic rock n’ roll elements, and by that we reference Chuck Berry, not your local station that plays everything by the Eagles.  It’s a fusion of everything dirty about the story of rock n’ roll, and even the lyrics seem to draw from a day when causing a ruckus was more of just a good time as opposed to a violent act.  Stories of stealing girls from their man along with serving time don’t seem to revel in senseless crimes, rather the need for diversion in the sterile world.  Use hit song “Heard You Want to Beat Me Up” as an example for such lyrical meanderings.

And the story is written.  You find yourself slowly warming up to a band intent upon returning to the day when music not only had artistic elements, but moments devoted purely to the enjoyment to those on stage and in an audience.  Every twist and turn, every influence, and every word will make you yearn for precisely the same thing, and you’ll want to share it with the band.

SXSW Top 10 Live Acts

sxsw_liveacts_coverIs anyone else just a little bit sad today as we wrap up another amazing SXSW Festival in Austin? I know we here at ATH are as depressed as anyone to head back into the real world today. Gone are the carefree days of roaming around downtown in search of the best music and the best parties with free red bull and vodka. While still nursing our hangovers and mending our bruises, we would like to share with you the best live acts that we caught this past week. You may have heard of most of these bands or they may be completely new to you, but regardless, these bands brought the noise at SXSW. We tried to be fair and pick the acts that either lived up to a certain hype or just rocked our faces to the floor.  Follow the jump for our top 10 live acts of SXSW.

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SXSW Recaps

As you eagerly await our recap of a few things SXSW (we promise we’ll keep it brief), why not head over to some other super sites with tons more information than we plan on having.  Our friends Ultra8201 have some great shots of Kanye along with a ton of other coverage.  Sonic Itch has cool video of Dan Aurbach at The Parish.  Gorilla Vs. Bear already has some of his fancy polaroids up.  Austinist has a nice news and photos section as well.  New York Times even tells us how much stuff costs and who the hell pays for it.  Check back later for our top bands of the week that was SXSW.

Free NIN/JA EP

ninja-small-745899Nine Inch Nails and Jane’s Addiction are teaming up to give you a sweet new EP for free.  The EP features exclusive new rare tracks from both bands along with tracks from Tom Morello’s new project Street Sweeper.  Your free music is being used to get fans excited for the upcoming tour between the three bands.  Tickets for the Austin date at the Erwin Center go on sale this Saturday at 10amHead to the new NINJA site to get the free EP with a valid email address.

New Tunes from Bill Callahan

billWe know this is a few days late, but seeing as we were busy enjoying SXSW, we didn’t have time to throw this up right away, which is a shame because we love our fellow Austinite, Bill Callahan.  This track is off his forthcoming record Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle, which hits stores April 14th on Drag City. 

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/bill-callahan-eid-ma-clack-shaw.mp3]

Download: Bill Callahan – Eid Ma Clack Shaw [MP3]

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