Spiritualized–Songs in A & E

Rating: ★★★★½

What else can I say to you that you haven’t already heard about this record? Probably not much, but I’ll give it a solid go.

You guessed it, this record deserves all the credit and applause that people have thrown its way. In fact, “Soul on Fire” will probably make my Top 5 Songs of 2008, and I can honestly say I am reserving it a place.

What on Earth is wrong with this record then? Very little. But, if I must give those that wish to find faults with the world something to enjoy, it is that the repetition of the word “fire” becomes a bit redundant, and in fact, makes the album disappear at various times. At points, during my listening pleasure–and I do mean pleasure–I found myself scrambling to find out which song was which.

Now, you combine that with the unnecessary atmospherics–yes, I realize that is a J. Spaceman staple-and you have some weak moments on this record. You, depending on your taste-those atmospherics pop up at least six times- will find something to dislike.

But hey! I love this album. Its got real slow burners like “Sweet Talk” and “Don’t Hold Me Close,” along with the aforementioned “Soul on Fire.” Then toss in a solid stomper like “Yeah Yeah” or the gaze-able “You Lie You Cheat”; this pretty much rounds out all angles necessary on a solid album.

This album gives you something to think about, by way of some in depth thinking, but it also lets you indluge that darker vein of rock n’ roll that we all have-or at least I suggest purchasing one. You can’t ask for more from this album, which is why I suggest you go out and get your hand on it–NOW!!

May I also suggest “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space” for those unaware of the history of this band.

Hear one of the best tracks of ’08 “Soul on fire”:
[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/05-soul-on-fire-1.mp3]

Download:Soul on Fire.mp3

Islands – Arm’s Way

Rating: ★★★ · ·

Immediately, I want to say that this record is probably worth the purchase–albeit one when there isn’t much else out there to buy. Initially, I listened to this album four or five times in a single day, but therein lies the problem–I can’t recall great moments about this one–I can’t recall the shapes of the songs, give or take one or two. Care to explain you ask? I do indeed.

For starters, this album is far too long to listen to in one sitting, and if you do, you will find it does nothing more than blend into the background as you and your buddies make dinner–steaks right? By my count, 8 of the 12 songs go over the 5 minute mark. Sorry, Nick Thorburn, I just don’t have that sort of time these days. Sure, they dabble in length, but not quite like this.

Now, is the music worth it? Yes-but not like you want it–not like your “Rough Gem.” The closest Islands come to replicating that playfulness is on the 4th track “Creeper,” and it doesn’t quite hit its mark. Here is our problem listeners: the affinity for clever, circus-laden melodies is gone. But, on the plus side–so are all those faux hip-hop moments. I miss the former–its always been the attraction for me.

What I do like about this album, especially apparent in the last three tracks, is the new darker side of this band, and I don’t mean that in regards to lyrics–I mean it in reference to the somber mood apparent in these tracks. We all know that Jaime Thompson is no longer a member, and this is really apparent, or at least to me, in these lyrics. I could be off, but, whatever the cause, it makes for some of the more special moments on this record. Like I said–I bought it. I listen to it from time to time, but I can’t tell why. Maybe you can?

Islands is playing Emos Austin on June 23rd. Click here to purchase tickets for da show.

Hear “The Arm” off the brand new album:

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/islands-the-arm.mp3]

Download: Islands – The Arm [MP3]

Texan Edition

We’ll be regularly offering up a new comic by our wonderfully talented cartoonist Ed Booth. If you’d like to see a larger version of any comic, just click on the image… and you can always click on the Comics category up top to check them all out at once.

Mates of State – Rearrange Us

Rating: ★★★ · ·

Who doesn’t want to wrap this band up in a Taco Cabana tortilla, dip them in some queso and eat them for a late night snack? Maybe that’s not exactly the image you had in mind but can you blame me? Mates of State is the band you want to bring home and introduce to the family. The band you wish no one caught you smiling about every time you heard their songs. Mates of State have been doing their thing for a while now and doing it very well I might add. Doin’ it and doin’ it and doin’ it well. The first time I heard “La’hov” from My Solo Project (2001) I knew this band had something good going on. They brought you the sound that always made you want to dance and sing at the top of your lungs. After My Solo Project Mates dropped three more very solid and likeable albums each with superbly written pop jams that all ages can’t resist. On top of these three albums, MOS got hitched and also dropped two kids along the way. So now the act manages the music industry along with two little ones.

The bands most recent effort, Re-Arrange Us, sees the band growing up a lot or showing their age if you will. Kori Gardner(every indie fan boy’s dream girl) begins to use less and less of her famous electric organ that everyone fell in love with in the first place. I wouldn’t say this is a bad thing but I can see some die hard fans turned off by this, me being one of them. I do like the way Mates is attempting to grow up a bit & seeing what’s going to work for them as a band in the future. They are evolving as a band, refining their sound & trying new things, I’m just not sure if it is paying off. The album starts off with “Get Better” with it’s slick drums and tight hook that you can’t say no to. “The Re-Arranger” is the feature track of the album. It shows Mates going back to what they do best: sing-a-long lyrics and the best pop rhythms money can buy. If every song on the album sounded like this one, mark it down as the best of the year. Unfortunately, that’s not the case….Not every song on the album will cause you to sing-a-long, but at least will make you tap your feet. The songs are strong but something seems to be missing.

The beats are good, the lyrics are like always, the sound is refined, so what else is there? The songs tend to be good but what about after several listens? They start getting hard to tell apart…. And this can’t be Mates best work… can it? What happened to the days of “Nice Things that Look Good” or even “Fluke”? I miss the organ. Fine I said it. Who doesn’t? As much as I like these songs, I also find some faults in them. After a few listens, the album starts to sound like maybe it was rushed or the band is just going through the motions. They still put a smile on my face but I miss the old rockin’ days of Mates of State. Mates is still putting out music that rivals most any pop outfit but I think they could be the best pop band around if they really put their minds to it. Here’s one fan boy missing the days of the mighty Kori Gardner and her trusty electric organ.

Don’t miss Mates of State blowing through Austin at Emo’s June 13th. Click here to purchase tickets before they sell out. Never miss the chance to see Mates live!

Hear “Get Better” off the new album now:

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/01-get-better.mp3]

Download: Mates of State-Get Better.mp3

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