…Trail of Dead – Century of Self


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Rating: ★★★½ ·

Long ago, or so it seems, Pitchfork gave Austin’s Trail of Dead, the highest honor, a perfect ten for their album Source Tags and Codes.  Since then, the band has experimented with various changes in sound and direction, and it seemed, unfortunately, that people had gradually begun to look the other way. Century of Self is perhaps the album that gets them back on top of it all.

When “Far Pavillions” gets under way, listeners are greeted with the bombastic drumming, as pounding rhythms blast through the speakers. The call and response vocals recall a greater day when post-punk definitely had its hold over the world; its a credible start to the album, and what some might call a return to form.

In previous efforts, the band might go off at this point, jumping in a new direction, but this time around, they keep right at it, as a large wall of sound crushes listeners, in a good way.  Once again, the drumming is spectacular, and it continuously pushes the band forward.  “Isis Unveiled” is a somewhat epic tune, sprawling out over six minutes, all of which keep your attention.

Then we are visited by the softer, slower elements of the group.  “Halycon Days” and “Bells of Creation” take a different approach to the audience, slowing down the tempo, albeit momentarily.  These songs demonstrate that the band has grown a great deal in the process of coming to this album, yet they still maintain a certain sense of impending doom and chaos, which is precisely what this band has always been known for in the past.  Here we find them able to soothe you in a moment, and then crush you the next. A perfect balance of sorts.

All of a sudden, the band hold it all back, throwing what one would call some ballads at the listener.  “Luna Park” is somewhat of an unexpected turn on the album, as its driven primarily be gentle piano work, coated in guitar accompaniment. Honestly, if it had come at a different time, as far as album placement goes, this would be one of the many highlights on this record.  There is a personality to this song that hasn’t been present in past efforts. But, this is also where the album switches gears.

From here on out, the album has a different sense of urgency.  Songs like “Pictures of an Only Child” and “Insatiable Two” show that the band may have just outgrown the ferocity they once held.  Sure, there are still elements in the latter half that are pleasing in an aesthetic sense, but its a bit of a juxtaposition when compared with the first half of the album.  While one side presents a fierceness that dares you to hold on tight, the other side wants to draw you in closely.

Its precisely this element that makes the album a little bit uneven.  In a way, they’ve crafted the perfect LP.  Side one is full of a barrage of shear noise and pace.  Side two is a slow drive down a carefully soundscaped highway.  Either side surely can stand up on their own, both with lots of quality, but when thrown together, its a bit of an odd combination.  Then again, the band has never been one to worry about falling along a prescribed path.  They prove their willingness to follow their own path with Century of Self, and we’ve got to respect that.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/09-pictures-of-an-only-child.mp3]

Download: Trail of Dead – Pictures of an Only Child [MP3]

FT5: Songs with the Word Valentine

0213top5coverSeeing as the Hallmark Holiday is hours away, I thought I would browse through my collection and throw out my Top 5 Favorite Songs with the word “valentine” in the title. Sure, one would think that songwriters have better things to do than sing about a nonsensical holiday with little or no meaning, but then again, they are just love songs in the end, aren’t they? Some of these bands have made appearances on our lists before, and some you might not be aware of, until now that is. So here is to you and yours on this most sacred of holidays. I hope your Valentine’s Day is as good as these songs.

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Car Stereo(Wars) @ Beauty Bar (2/14)

carstereoOur favorite resident DJ man Car Stereo(Wars) is bringing down the house with a special Valentine’s Day show at The Beauty Bar this Saturday night.  Doors for the dance party open up at 9pm.  Forget your silk panty rose and take your girl to the dance party!

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

Download: Car Stereo(Wars) – Ghostface Observatory [MP3]

New Tunes from the Strange Boys

strangeWell, it’s Friday, and what better way to end the week than to premier a new song by local Austin favorites, The Strange Boys. This is a track off their album And Girls Club, set to come your way on March 24th on In the Red Records.  The track is titled “Heard You Wanna Beat Me Up.” Happy Friday folks. 

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/strange-boys-heard-you-wanna-beat-me-up.mp3]

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

From The Closet: The Beach Boys

beach_boysWe wouldn’t dare to insult you by saying you don’t know who The Beach Boys are, but how about a little “Don’t Worry Baby” to make your day go by a little faster?  The song originally appeared on the 1964 album Shut Down Volume 2, and later as the B-Side to “I Get Around”.  There are so many great Beach Boys songs to choose from, but we’ve been jamming this one all over the ATH offices recently and it just makes time fly.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/dont-worry-baby.mp3]

Golden Bear @ Club Deville (2/13)

goldenbearThis Friday, Golden Bear will be releasing their newest EP, Everest,  at Club Deville.  Not only will the locals be treated to the great tunes of Golden Bear, but they will also get to witness one of our favorite acts, as The Great Nostalgic will also be opening the evening’s festivities.  Rumor has it that Pink Nasty will be on hand to play a set as well.  Show begins around 9, so get there and have fun.

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

Download: Golden Bear – All the Stars [MP3]

New Tunes from Max Tundra

maxIt seems that the dance craze must go on, so here is a new tune from Max Tundra to keep you moving as the week winds to a close. Hopefully you’ll find a touch of happiness in the joys of this one-man army. If this is up your alley, keep your eyes and ears peeled, as this group will be all around town during SXSW

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

Download:  Max Tundra – Which Song [MP3]

Dent May – The Good Feeling Music of…

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Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele – The Good Feeling Music of Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Not much has been made of Dent May, which is quite a shame, as he is the man that fills the void for all those in need of a decent lounge singer to mix with their pop-culture references.  He’s part Jens Lekman, part Stephin Merritt.  The release of his album, The Good Feeling Music of Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele, is worthy of your ear, so do the man a favor and tune in.

One of the more original elements in Dent May‘s albums seems to be his reliance upon sun-soaked tunes, lending many to note that he leans towards tropicalia. It’s like he’s gone and mixed all  his elementary bar lineage with a trip to somewhere in the Caribbean.

Sure, the use of the ukulele definitely will draw comparisons to the work done on must-have albums like 69 Love Songs, but he’s not simply taking a rip off of his influences.  The infusion of various island elements brings an entirely new spin on the genre of uke-pop.  Each song has its own personality, which is all you can ask when the origins of the songs stem from such a domineering instrument.   He even adds various sound bites throughout to add a little something extra; its his own spin on the genre.

Vocally, you’ll find him walking the line of Merritt and Lekman, which all owes a great debt to lounge singers throughout the history of time.  It’s a vocal that contains remnants of soul, but has a heavy influence of showmanship.  Mixing these qualities together provides for a uniqueness all his own.  Despite similarities to those who visited the land before him, Dent May has a sound all his own.

One thing you can pick out immediately is the songwriting touch, which pays an homage to the obvious influences.  Lyrical content reflects his ability to take mundane, trivial even, stories of life and spin them in a fantastical sense that keeps the listener interested.  It’s a quality of writing that only few before him truly possess, and we’ll leave those names to historians for the time being.  Who wouldn’t love to hear a song about one’s love for Michael Chang?

Rest assured, in the silence times of uke-pop, Dent May has taken over as the king of swinging lounge acts eager to win your heart and your ear.  It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but dammit if it doesn’t make you want to swing someone around in pure glee.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/02-meet-me-in-the-garden.mp3]

Download: Dent May – Meet Me In The Garden [MP3]

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