The Return Of Shearwater

After a brief tour with Coldplay, Shearwater will make their triumphant return to Austin this Thursday night at Mohawk (9/4).  Tickets for the show are only $8 with things starting off at 9pm.  Buy your tickets from the Transmission Entertainment website.  Instead of a song to preview the show, how about some live video of the band?  The Interface on Spinner AOL recently featured a short set by Shearwater on their website.  If anyone is interested in covering this show with pictures and/or a review, feel free to contact us (we get busy too).  We’ll hook you up with free stuff!

Times New Viking Bring New Tunes

Times New Viking are giving you even more music before the end of the year in the form of a new EP entitled Stay Awake due out Oct. 21st.  Happy happy joy joy to all you limited edition vinyl hunters, the thing will only be available as a 7″ vinyl EP on Matador records.  If you don’t own a record player, get one!, or check new song “Call and Respond” from the EP down below.  If you’ve never heard of Times New Viking before, give the sound time, it’ll get inside your head.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/timesnewviking_callandrespond.mp3]

Download: Times New Viking – Call and Respond [MP3]

Arcade UFO

So for any one who hasn’t heard, a new arcade opened up in Austin this past weekend. Its called Arcade UFO and they are currently one of only nine arcades in the country to import Japanese Street Fighter 4 machines! The American release date isn’t until Jan. 2009 so if you grew up playing Street Fighter like I did, this is a pretty big deal. They also have tons of other great games so do your part to help keep arcade gaming alive in Austin and check out Arcade UFO!

Los Bad Apples

Part three of our build up to Xemumba Festival features local Austin band Los Bad Apples.  Los Bad Apples plays a high-energy fusion of Hip Hop with Reggaeton, Cumbia, Flamenco, Samba & Salsa.  Band members include the sweet songstress, Anita Benner, critically acclaimed MC Zeale who was a finalist in the World Rap Championships of 2007, as well as former members of Kumbia Kings, Menudo & Grupo Fantasma. Los Bad Apples will take stage on the Friday evening of Xemumba.  Don’t forget to read our original post on Xemumba or check out a few Los Bad Apples songs from the band’s myspace page.

Bloc Party – Intimacy

Rating: ★ · · · ·

Several years back, Silent Alarm blew us away. It’s angular guitars cut and diced as we all spun in awe of the newest British band to hit the states. Our minds spinning, we salivated at the chance for more Bloc Party. All I can ask for at this very moment is no more Bloc Party.

Two albums after their debut, they’ve weighed me down with their efforts to recreate that original brilliance, and I’ve got few nice things to say about these boys. In all honesty, this album has left me to encourage them to hang up their hats… call it a day boys.

The opening track doesn’t do anything to prepare the listener for the barrage of trash that is to come their way, except to offer the lyric that “this s**t is long.” Too long indeed. Sprawling guitars matched with little music creativity push my fingers to fast forward beyond this useless noise.

Once you arrive at the second track its clear that the band have taken on an entirely new direction. Intimacy‘s production lacks the exciting percussive sound that they established long ago, instead mixing in what one can only assume are digital drum samples… and do I hear horns? At this point in my listening experience I’m not sure what to say. Speechless.

However, there is some exciting guitar work on the third song, “Halo,” but it’s so muddled in the mix of the song that it almost disappoints you to hear the promise of this band’s sound being watered down by shoddy engineering. And that is thrown immediately into one of the worst songs the band has written. “Biko” not only lacks any passion, but there isn’t even a trace of real musicianship in this song. I think they might have looped the guitars. Gross.

Bloc Party, however, just continue to push on, angering me with each new track. I’m not sure who came up with the idea, but whoever covered all of these songs in walls of noise, and I don’t mean precious ambience… I mean ridiculous noise, obviously had a few too many pints. The album is lacking a certain clarity, which is where it lost me. Skeletal song structures have promise, but the level of noise deems almost every moment of promise useless.

They’ve piled on loads of electronic samples into this album, which doesn’t really do them any favors. Their strength was always in the dueling guitar work, but once they strip that away, they don’t have much to offer us anymore. All the passion they once threw our way has been lost in new directions. I only wish they knew about the power of guitars, since they fail to use them often enough on this album.

By the end of the album, I just feel like I’ve been drained of every drop of social niceties. There isn’t a decent thing to say about this album at the end of the day. Some have indicated that the latter half offers a touch of redemption, but in all honesty, the latter half is equally as aggravating as the first half. Bloc Party have discarded their musicianship for an electronically fused album, and in the process they have discarded the majority of their adoring fans.

The GZA @ Emos – 9/3

We don’t often do a lot to cover our hip-hop brethren, but I figured that I would take this moment to pay homage to one of the only rappers that I ever really paid attention to when I was  younger. For me, hip-hop was Wu Tang, and the GZA was the glue.  This Wednesday night at Emo’s he’s going to play his classic Liquid Swords in its entirety.  Those into hip-hop won’t want to miss this night.

You can pick up your own set of tickets over at Ticketweb.

Stereolab – Chemical Chords

Rating: ★★★ · ·

When listening to Stereolab, my mind always travels back to that great moment when Caroline Fordis walks into the record store in High Fidelity to interview Rob Gordon.  That brief snippet of sound highlighted their electronic influences, as well as their abilities to capitalize on fans of pop music, despite using inaudible, or non-English–if you will–, lyrics.

Years later, I still hold onto that purest of moments when I realized that their music had somehow become easily accessible to the masses.  For me, this was not a knock, but a step in the direction you felt that they were going.  Popularity on the brink, they kind of suck back a bit, coming back from time to time for their adoring fans.

On this new record, their first LP since 2006, they come back with the same formula.  Their complex structure melding electronic pop gems with simple string arrangements and cloudy vocals is still completely intact, which may or may not be such a positive thing.  I’m not the ultimate collector of Stereolab LPs, but I swear that I’ve heard all these songs a million times over. There are absolutely some special moments, like the opener, “Neon Beanbag,” with its spectacular electric organ work, not to mention its use of English.  “Silver Sands” is equally as beautiful, with its marching beats and usage of horn work.

Still, one of the issues I’ve always had with the band is that they vocals are never really clear enough to capture your mind. This time around, they use a lot more English, but the vocals are almost secondary, seemingly meant to match every single one of their harmonies.  It works, but it leaves those searching for a connection to the lyrics without much to hold onto.

By the end of the album, the music sort of blends into the back of your brain, as the formula grows to be overly repetitive.  Some of the songs even appear as if they were mere copies of the previous tracks, leaving the listener with the feeling that they’ve been listening to a collection of demos for the same song over and over.

Ups and downs.  That is the secret to this entire album.  You go up with some highlights, then return to the Earth with a sense that its all been done before.  At the end of the day, it is undeniably a Stereolab record, but that is what you were expecting in the first place.  Those of you looking for that moment of twee pop will find places to reside, while others will just pass by on a brief vacation through Chemical Chords.

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