Oxford Collapse – Bits

Rating: ★★★★½

Throughout this summer, music fans have mostly been greeted by mellower forms of tunes, with an absence of rock coming our ways–and by this, I mean the kind of music with loud guitars and banging drums. Well folks, Oxford Collapse wants to change that.

As the car peels out in “Electric Arc,” the drums come banging in your ears. Soon, the guitar will join this fray, and off the band goes. It’s hard not to feel your heart beating a little quicker in this song. Nice start boys.

They follow that up with another short song full of angular guitars and simple melodies, but its done just the right way, throwing the band back to the classic post-punk sounds of the mid-90s–a la Braid and Jawbreaker. Then they come with a tension building song in “Vernon Jackson,” which builds up continuously through the song, only to have the band slow it down in the end as the song begins to fade out. It’s clear by this point that they have enough control over themselves to pull back the reigns at just the right time.

They just keep going from here, pushing their guitars into your ears, as the drums pound away. Oxford Collapse sound tighter than they have, and a lot more comfortable as well, which may be why they claim “we’re doing fine” in “Young Love Delivers.” But, then they throw a change up. “A Wedding” slows things down, and sounds as if they took a cue from Final Fantasy, using string instruments to back the strength of their vocals. Its a good breathing point.

Then they go right back to it–walls of feedback thrown right back into your face as they continue their rocking onslaught. For me, they seem really straightforward with their approach, and they don’t seem to go off into the distance of atmospherics and noise as they did on their last album.

Towards the end, they start to switch it up, and its for the betterment of the album. “Children’s Crusade” is a brilliant song, and one that will probably make a lot of my mixes throughout the year. “John Blood” similarly slows things down, at least during the chorus, where a female chants her way through the chorus. Still, there is enough guitar work on this song, to make it border between rocker and ballad. “B Roll” also takes a gentler approach, but that approach is matched again by the tension building of the guitar work.  I do wish that this time, they just would have unleashed that guitar completely, but for me, this is their first misstep.

They close it off with “I Hate Nobody” which isn’t immediately gratifying, but as you work your way through the end of the song, it wraps up the album perfectly. Anguished guitars fueled by the deliberately dense drumming, and finally, you can breathe. It’s over.

It’s hard to find much wrong with this record. Personally, I think the mix on the vocals had some issues in a few places, but for the most part, I just went along with the album. It’s enjoyable as you follow around each of the corners and twists and turns.  Let’s hope for more rock like this as we wrap up 2008.

Oxford Collapse returns to Austin on August 27th at The Mohawk, but as of yet, tickets are not readily available.

Have a listen to a new song from their album:

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/birthdaywars.mp3]

Download: Oxford Collapse – Birthday Wars [MP3]

Gravy Train

I like xkcd as much as the next guy, but all the wannabe programming comics are starting to get annoying. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that I know nothing about programming myself, but annoying none the less.

Jay Reatard @ Red Seven–8/3

This Sunday we will be fortunate enough to get to hear the garage rock of Jay Reatard.  He’s made lots of music news with his hard to come by set of 7″ series on Matador Records, and he will take the stage in our hometown at Red Seven.  If anything, it should just be a good old fashioned rock n’ roll show–just don’t get punched in the face. That means keeping your hands and feet in the bus at all times.

Pick up your tickets.

Also, you can hear University of Minnesota’s Radio K stream some in-studio performances by Jay if you hit this spot.

The Pack A.D. @ Hole in the Wall

Remember when we posted about an awesome new song by The Pack A.D.?  Well, I just noticed that the band will be showcasing their talents at The Hole in the Wall here in Austin on Saturday night (8/2).  I’ve never seen this band live, but I imagine this to be a killer show.  Show time is set for 10pm with a cover of only $6.  Click the link above to hear “Making Gestures” off the band’s new album Funeral Mixtape to give yourself a preview of what’s to come.

New Music From Of Montreal

Polyvinyl label greats Of Montreal have a new song called “Id Engager” which you can listen to below. The song will appear on the “Id Engager” single due September 9th available for pre-order on the Polyvinyl website. It will also appear on the band’s upcoming LP Skeletal Lamping, due out in October.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/of-montreal-id-engager.mp3]

Download: Of Montreal – Id Engager [MP3]

Lollapalooza

If you’re like me and can’t really justify spending all that money to fly out to Chicago this weekend, you can catch most of Lollapalooza live on the Lollapalooza website. A lot of the mid-range acts from the festival will also be seen at our little ACL festival later in September. Maybe that will make your schedule planning a bit easier? I suggest tuning in first thing tomorrow at 12:15 for the Holy F*ck set. C3 also somehow landed Radiohead AND Rage Against the Machine as headliners but couldn’t get either for ACL. I suggest checking those two out. See the schedule for the event on the festival website.  You can also download an mp3 from each artist playing this weekend on a Lollapalooza mix created on Stereogum.

Chris Cornell & Timbaland

No, the title of this post is not a typo.  Chris Cornell is actually teaming up with Timbaland for his new solo album Scream due out sometime this September.  Even better, you can hear 5 new songs off the album over on the planet radio website.  I have always been a fan of Soundgarden and most of Audioslave’s material but I’m not sure I’ll be on board for this venture.  It’s…. interesting to say the least.  Let’s get some good comments on this one.

Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson – s/t

Rating: ★★★★ ·

I know I’m a little bit late with this review, since other people have already fueled the career of Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, but I feel like I have to encourage this even more so.

Much has been said about the singer/songwriter’s difficult past, and a few touch on his TV on the Radio/Grizzly Bear connections. I want to focus on the strength of his debut self-titled album.

As a fan of music, this is exactly what you want a debut album to be. You want to see a lot of promise, and you sort of want to see a weak spot or two; a weak spot shows that there is more to be improved upon; a hopeful glance into the future.

I expected this to be sort of a folk record, dominated by acoustic guitars and gentle vocals. From the opening track, “Buriedfed,” you can tell that this is not the case. It starts off gently, as many of the songs do, but then the song picks up with percussion, and the vocals really can stand alone. His voice is somewhere along the lines of a warble, but at the same time, there is a certain assuredness in its delivery. Imagine Conor Oberst if he used to sing hardcore tunes.

There is a lot of loss going on in this album, lyrically. It’s clear that MBAR has had some rough times, and he definitely uses that for his songs. The sad thing, and I don’t know if it is a personal reference or not, but a lot of the album questions the purpose of living, which I know can only come from a person who has truly been in that position. Its got a touch of tragedy, but you want to route for the man. My own personal reference reminds me of Eliott Smith, and his way of connecting you to his life trials–MBAR does the same.

For some reason, this album is really hard to put into exact words. It feels really new, or at least the approach comes from somewhere else. The album comes across really dirty in a certain sense; there is a certain sound developed in this man’s songwriting that makes you go into the the darkness with him. Each turn the album takes allows you follow willingly, which you will.

With lines like “Fuck you, I just wanted to die,” I worry about MBAR, even if he is writing from an omniscient perspective. This man has some demons, but music fans know that this often creates some of the more powerful tunes. Hopefully he has his act cleaned up, and we can look forward to more great releases from him in the future.

Check out a new song called “Buriedfed” by Miles right here:

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/buriedfed.mp3]

Download: Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson – Buriedfed [MP3]

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