New Old Tunes from XTC

xtcBack in the day, the great band XTC recorded a few albums under the moniker Dukes of Stratosphear, pressing their music in the way of 60s psychedelia. They recorded two albums, under this name, 25 O’Clock and Psonic Psunspot, both which are pretty hard to come by nowadays. Lucky for us, a certain Andy Partridge of XTC fame will be reissuing said albums on Ape House. Also, staff-writer Corey would be mad if we didn’t also tell you to check out XTC album Black Sea, which he loves. Here is one of the tracks from The Dukes of Stratosphear.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/xtc-as-the-dukes-of-stratosphear-brainiacs-daughter.mp3]

Download: The Dukes of Stratosphear (XTC) – Brainiac’s Daughter [MP3]

Great Lake Swimmers – Lost Channels

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Rating: ★★★★ ·

Toronto’s Great Lake Swimmers have consistently managed to put out albums of sufficient folk-pop, resting on the tightrope between overtly melancholy and cleverly sprawling acoustic-pop.  Their newest album, Lost Channels is of precisely the same vein; this isn’t an entirely bad thing considering it’s done so gracefully.

Immediately, “Palmistry” establishes the album’s purpose, as the gentle voice of Tony Dekker is accompanied by a similarly gentle strumming of guitar, as other instrumental pieces flesh out the song; it’s as if the band is painting precision landscapes with a brush so gentle it barely scratches the surface of the canvas.

Every number on this album has a familiar touch, as the band never tries to push too far beyond their pre-established boundaries.  The one admirable quality here is that they can continuously add layer after layer to each individual song, but never take away from the crystal-clear quality of the song.  Take, for example, “Concrete Heart;” it opens with a basic approach to a soft folk tune, just before strings creep into the background, and all the while there is a tinkering piano waiting to enter stage left, completing the song.  It is this delicate approach to songwriting that makes Great Lake Swimmers crafters of the perfect song; no tune has too much, or too little for that matter.

Even with a majority of the songs resting in the same spectrum of the genre, the band never stays in one place for too long, which allows them to keep the listener from growing bored.  Just a song away from solemnity comes “The Chorus in the Underground,” which shifts the approach over to a more bluegrass playing field, equipped with banjo and all. It’s a pleasant enough number, but the focus always rests around Dekker’s voice.

Sure, most bands rest their case on the singer’s voice, but not all bands will utilize this as an instrument all its own.  Dekker has a certain softness to his voice, which lends it to rest carefully in several different ranges of music; he can go from traditional folk to country-pop to bluegrass.  Up and down he rides with his voice, but it still maintains its very distinct quality, which seems as if current artists have borrowed from its fragility.

And with each new moment on the album, comes an entirely new picture to be painted in your mind, hidden in the caverns of your subconscious. The band, like Gravenhurst, crafts their songs around a certain moment within the group dynamic, and these moments are later fleshed out to create enjoyable moments for the listener.  You could describe it as organic, or as folksy soundscapes, but you best describe it as restful beauty, as this is the ultimate adjective for Lost Channels.

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

Download: Great Lake Swimmers – Concrete Heart [MP3]

New Tunes From Eels

eelsMark Everett and his band Eels have a new single hitting the internet like wildfire today.  The new single is called “Fresh Blood” and will appear on upcoming album Hombre Lobo out June 2nd via Vagrant.  Here’s to hoping that this guy never looks on the sunny side of life.

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

Black Kids Want To Play Your House

AWE Black KidsThe Black Kids are coming to town on April 28th at La Zona Rosa and they want to play at your house.  No kidding, the band wants to play one free house show in every town on their current tour with Mates of State.  All you have to do to is submit a video to the contest website explaining why you should be the lucky winner.  Sounds easy enough.  If anyone who reads our website enters this contest, shoot us a clip of your video and we’ll gladly link to it.  Enter the contest here or just get some tickets early.

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

Download: Black Kids – I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You [MP3]

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz

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Rating: ★★½ · ·

In the year 2002 and 2003 the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hit the indie scene with a certain verocity and vitality that kept us all on the edge of our seats, seething with anticipation for future releases.  Fever to Tell, for the most part, lived up to the expectations, though it still felt a little clean in comparison.  Jump seven years ahead, and we have It’s Blitz, the latest effort from the band.  The distance couldn’t be greater.

One of the first elements that you will notice upon listening to the first track “Zero” is that frontwoman, Karen O, seems to have lost a bit of her animalistic prowess, as if she has been caged in a zoo.  The ferocity in her voice on the opening track, and the entirety of the album is rather lacking.  Where we once lauded her for her passion and energy, we’re now left confused by what seems a sort mild indifference.  Still, she does demonstrate her ability to carry a note here, but we saw such abilities on “Maps.”

Much will be made in the press for this album about the entirely new sound the band has come to take upon themselves.  The brashness and angular guitar work from previous efforts has completely disappeared; electronics samples and tired beats have replaced the fervor that once existsed as a tractor beam for listeners everywhere.

Mellow songs, such as “Skeletons” do show the band willing to explore that sonic range outside of their traditional forays, but such moments don’t seem as well mapped out this time around.  It’s difficult when listening to such tracks to figure out where the band was going, which loses some listeners, encouraging them to skip ahead to the next track. “Runaway” is another such song, and the piano structure just isn’t enough to psuh the song in any new direction.

“Dull Life” is one of the few songs on the album that seems to recall the past greatness of Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Still, even when this song picks up the pace, where are those demonic guitar licks from Nick Zinner? It’s as if the man traded in his trusted axe for a child’s hatchet, a bejewled one nonetheless.

All in all, the album has some moments that every listener will most likely enjoy, but it doesn’t seem like this is really enough to warrant repeated listens.  The band shows their maturity as a group, but they discard everything that made them abrasive and frightening, exchanging them instead for a bunch of furry rabbits that you keep in a cage behind your house.  Sure, electronic moments make for great sound, but this band isn’t the one that was supposed to be giving those to us.  We asked them to break us down with passion and voice, but instead they just want to hold hands and walk along the beach.

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

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Zero

Stephen Malkmus On Daytrotter

20030557-6729The great Stephen Malkmus and his band The Jicks just laid down an awesome Daytrotter session.  The band records a 4 song session featuring a cover of the James Gang funk track “Funk 49” that really cooks.  Check out the full session and the website’s new layout now.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/stephen-malkmus-and-the-jicks-funk-49.mp3]

Download: Stepehn Malkmus & The Jicks – Funk 49 (daytrotter) [MP3]

Leonard Cohen @ The Long Center 4/1 & 4/2

lennyLet’s face it, there really isn’t a better show in town this week. If you are nearing the end of your life, wouldn’t you like to say that you were there when Leonard Cohen played the Long Center in Austin? Sure, tickets may be a bit much, but you can’t go wrong with buying one of these. I mean, really, you can pay your bills next month, but Leonard only comes to Austin once in a lifetime, so live it up with Leonard this week.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/07-a-singer-must-die.mp3]

Download: Leonard Cohen – A Singer Must Die [MP3]

POBPAH On Woxy

pains1Hands down the most hyped band in the music world right now, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, have some live MP3s posted over on the Woxy blog.  This is just the first SXSW artist recap post on the site with many more said to be on the way.  Check out the 5 song set now including this new unreleased song “103”.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/pobpah-103-lounge.mp3]

Download: POBPAH – 103 (live on Woxy) [MP3]

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