Beep Beep – Enchanted Islands

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Rating: ★★★½ ·

When Beep Beep released their first album off of Saddle Creek Records, one was hard pressed not to find the similarities to heralded post-punk groups like Q and Not U, which is not really a far off comparison, seeing how far the group have gone in changing their sound on the group’s second album, Enchanted Islands.

Of course you will notice that knife-like guitar licks still cleverly cut through the album with precision, but what has evolved beyond the angular guitar-play is the evolution of the funk.  Bass lines are much more pronounced this time around, at least on songs like “Secrets for the Well” or “The Whispering Waves.”

More pronounced on this album, however, is the conceptualization, or the effort that Eric Ray and Chris Terry put into telling a story with each different tune.  Some stories revolve around traditional mysticism, such as struggles with mermaids, while others like “Seppuku” are interested in Japanese ritualistic suicide through disembowelment.  It’s not necessarily a unified concept that runs throughout the album, but one of different perspectives on enchantment. It’s is this disjointed approach to the album that both succeeds and holds the band back at moments.  In success, the band has crafted a varying album, layered with changes in tempo and structure, as well as vocal pitch.  Each song opens up like a Russian matryoshka dolls, revealing pieces within pieces.  At the same time, the effort seems disjointed at moments, as if the epic storytelling proved too much for those at the helm.

You will find some straightforward songs in the presentation of this album, both seeming to tie into each other, lyrically.  The ease with which a listener can approach these songs allows for them to shine in the mix of the album, as they step out for just a moment before being consumed again by the whole of the album.  “Return to Me” and “I Miss You” both loosely rely upon a classic approach, with gentle guitar accompanied by soaring lyrics.  Odds are that most casual listeners will find these the standout tracks, as they are easily consumed, but more rewarding moments exist throughout the entirety of the record.

And that is how it all comes to be on Enchanted Islands, as one must journey with the band, through the dark and light moments, behind the chords and into the lyrics.  Each time you find yourself traveling one way, the wind blows, moving you in an entirely new direction within the album, which makes Beep Beep one of the more interesting listens to come out at this point in the year.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/10-i-miss-you.mp3]

Download: Beep Beep – I Miss You [MP3]

FT5: Anticipated SXSW Artists Releases

0313top5cover1While we were roaming around town last week, we started thinking about some of the upcoming releases that have got us peeing our pants in anticipation this year. Then we saw some of these artists during SXSW and got even more excited for what’s to come. For today’s Top 5, we wanted to take a look at some of theses new releases and rank them in order of just how excited we are about them. Some big names who were in town (Decemberists, Dan Auerbach, etc.) have already put out some solid releases this year, so we’re hoping that these won’t let us down. Follow the jump for our full Top 5 of anticipated releases from SXSW artists.
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New Music From Super Furry Animals

642x600mrsuperfurryprevThis new Super Furry Animals track has been getting heavy rotation around the ATH offices over the past few days.  We weren’t sure what to make of it at first, but now we just can’t get enough.  The track “Inaugural Trams” will appear on Dark Days/Light Years out April 14th digitally and April 21st physically.  What’s your verdict on the new material?

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

Download: Super Furry Animals Inaugural Trams [MP3]

Calm Blue Sea Score Film @ Alamo (3/29)

siegfried20-webLocal and ATH favorites, The Calm Blue Sea, are one of those bands with music that just screams movie soundtrack/score.  The guys in the band have apparently listened to our demands and will be doing a live score at The Alamo Ritz on Sunday night.  The film to be scored is an old school black and white/silent movie from 1924 called Siegfried.  Alamo describes the silent film as one that “ranges in scope between the hellishly intense defeat and death of a Dragon to more quiet emotional moments”.  Sounds like a perfect fit for the band’s emotionally charge instrumental music.  We’re sure you won’t want to miss out on this unique opportunity to relive the days of live scoring.  Show time is set for 7pm with tickets on sale now for only $11.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/the-calm-blue-sea-we-happy-few.mp3]

Download: The Calm Blue Sea – We Happy Few [MP3]

ATH Showcase Recap

athshowcase_coverSo in case you didn’t hear, Austin Town Hall put on a little SXSW showcase last weekend.  We had 5 bands handpicked based on how much we like them and how much we wanted to hear them play live together.  All in all, the show turned off without a hitch and even ended on time for everyone to get their shit together and still get a beer afterward or make it to Auditorium Shores.  Follow the jump for a brief review of our bands and see some fancy photos.

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From The Closet: Soundgarden

soundgarden-pressphoto10Our From The Closet this week features one of the hottest bands from the age of grunge, Soundgarden.  We bring you the rock this week to coincide with Chris Cornell brining his new solo act to town Monday at Stubb’s.  We hope that this reminds you about how completely insane this new project with Timbaland is.  Remember the rock?  We do.  And hey!  Get tickets for Chris Cornell’s show on Monday and get a free digital download of new album Scream. What a deal.  We promise this is the last time we make fun of the Cornell/Timbaland project.  Maybe.

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

Mastodon – Crack The Skye

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Rating: ★★★★½

From the opening guitars and drummer Brann Dailor’s seize of the first verse on “Oblivion,” it’s undeniable that Mastodon’s objective on Crack the Skye was to transport the listener to an ethereal universe, far beyond the hellfire and brimstone of Remission, way past the treacherous waters of Leviathan, and hundreds of miles over the inescapable and brooding hills of Blood Mountain. You know what else is undeniable?  I feel high listening to this record.

Before transcribing my heavy-metal thesis, I must’ve conducted twenty-three listens (on separate occasions, of course) to Crack the Skye, the Atlanta, Georgia quartet’s fifth album and most accomplished work to date.  Prior to diving into individual songs, it’s impossible to elude the story behind the making of this record.  First, there was the decision of having producing juggernaut Brendan O’ Brien (Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam) at the helm.  Then, there was guitarist Brent Hinds inebriated altercation with System of a Down’s Shavo Odadjian and his entourage outside the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards that left Hinds with severe brain hemorrhaging.  And last but not least, we can’t ignore Dailor’s explanation of the concept of Skye:  visions of astral travel, wormholes, out-of-body experiences, Rasputin, and a tribute to the drummer’s late sister who committed suicide when she was 14-years old whose name happened to be Skye.  The expectations were of Thor-like proportions.

Crack the Skye is a seven-song, fifty-minute classic rock triumph.  This is the album headphones were made for.  I wish I could gun it to 88 in Doc Brown’s time-traveling DeLorean to 1976 and experience it with Mitch Kramer in the final scene of Dazed and Confused. Trust me, it beats the hell out of Foghat’s “Slow Ride.” First single “Divinations” is a brutal two-guitar assault for the ages.  The second Hinds and Bill Kelliher’s menacing “surf rock” guitars explode out of the speakers, you’re guaranteed to wipeout like Bohdi in Point Break. Excuse my Patrick Swayze reference, I saw the movie on TNT the other night and it still cooks.  The title track on this record features organ and mellotron courtesy of Rich Morris and guest vocals from Scott Kelly (Neurosis).  You may remember him from the “Crystal Skull” of Blood Mountain. It’s   refreshing to hear his blood-curdling screech during the verses adding a fierce intensity leading up to the choruses sung by Hinds and Troy Sanders.  Add robot vocal effects ala STYX’s “Mr. Roboto” on crack over eerie keys and you have yourself a thrilling combination.   Astonishingly, Skye showcases Hinds and Sanders powerful vocals and manages to prove these Southern boys can write a kick-ass melody and belt the hell out of it.  Occasionally, Hinds’ vocals sound jarringly similar to a certain bat-eating, Texas-landmark-pissing front man, but aren’t distracting enough to take away from the strength of these songs.

“The Czar” and “The Last Baron” are Skye’s centerpieces.  Clocking in at 10:54 & 13:00 respectively, Mastodon taunts the prog-metal monster by shifting from visceral melodies to Dailor’s spacey grooves, and manages to keep our minds fully engaged.  “The Czar” is a modern-prog classic, divided into four movements: I.) Usurper, II.) Escape, III.) Martyr, & IV.) Spiral.  These movements showcase the band’s most intricate and complex musical arrangements to date.  “The Last Baron” is no exception.  It’s challenging but most importantly, wildly engrossing.  By the six-minute mark, your head and ears should simultaneously combust with the band’s jazz-fusion freak-out that sounds like Pat Metheny just shook hands with Robert Fripp of King Crimson and bought him a Pabst Blue Ribbon.  “21st Century Schizoid Man” be damned!

Mastodon have publicly stated they wanted to craft a record that was destined for “shelf life,” an album you can listen to twenty years from now and say, “Shit, that was great.”  Of course, that remains to be seen.  But one thing is certain; Crack the Skye stands the test of time.  While some bands grow weary of inspiration, Mastodon continues to grow ambitious with every record and it’s never been more evident now.  Put your headphones on.

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

Download: Mastodon – Divinations [MP3]

Austin 360 Writer Hates Austinites

Okay so maybe that headline is a little harsh, but you’ve got to read this Austin 360 article by Michael Corcoran.  Michael apparently thinks SXSW is being ruined by all you locals who just want to go to free parties, see some good bands and aren’t part of the “industry”.  Thems fightin’ words if you ask me!  It’s hard to tell if this is intended as a piece of satire just to mess with your head or if he’s really upset.  Regardless, check it out and give him a piece of your “tatooed daycare worker” mind.  Thanks to Mike from Sonic Itch for the tip.

Strange Boys @ Beerland (3/28)

the-strange-boys-410x4101One of the best local acts around right now, The Strange Boys, are playing a show at Beerland this Saturday.  This should be a pretty nice way to work your way back into some live music after your exhausting week at SXSW.  The Austin boys are joined by opening acts Mass Hysteri and The Hex Dispensers.  Music starts at 10pm.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/895mp3_07_heard_you_wanna_b.mp3]

Download: The Strange Boys – Heard You Wanna Beat Me Up [MP3]

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