ATX Converge @ Mohawk (9/19)

We just discovered that the White Denim show posted on the Mohawk website is actually a free by RSVP show put on by ATX Converge.  The lineup is pretty dang impressive: White Denim, Black Joe Lewis, Freshmillions and Belaire will all be on hand.  The show isn’t until Friday, but you better RSVP now before the window closes.  Make sure you get in line early since those RSVPs rarely guarantee you get in anything.  Doors are at 8.

Kings of Leon – Only by the Night

Rating: ★★★ · ·

Kings of Leon’s trajectory has been a strange and relatively quick one. Following 2003’s Youth & Young Manhood, they took the sexual swagger out of the garage for the next year’s Aha Shake Heartbreak, which proved that they were in fact more than the “Southern Strokes,” (though both not so secretly harbored arena-rock intentions). Heartbreak, especially songs like “King of the Rodeo” and “Razz,” saw Kings adding nuance and precision to their sound; they became a garage rock band with a an impeccable sense of melody and no pretensions. How could you not like them?

Then something happened. Last April’s Because of the Times saw the band sharpening even tighter their sound, and in the process supplementing their straight-ahead rockers with some out-of-left-field creative rhythms (“McFearless,”) and true-to-form stadium singles like “Black Thumbnail,” (a perfect show opener, which it was for years).  So they were toeing the line, experimenting and staying true, but toeing it well, growing and taking fans along for the journey.

But they seem to have hit a wall on Only By The Night. Rather than coalesce their forward-thinking intentions with four-on-the-floor burners like Aha Shake’s “Four Kicks,” and “The Bucket,” Kings of Leon have fully embraced a sort-of mechanized hybrid of rock: the rhythms are constantly creative thanks to drummer Nathan Followill, but the soul, the danger, the mess – they’ve all been stripped away.

Songs like “Be Somebody,” “17,” and “Revelry” lack any semblance of the tenacity and passion of much simpler, direct songs like “Razz,” or Youth’s “Molly’s Chambers.” On “Be Somebody,” singer Caleb Followill’s optimistic chorus sounds pallid and forced. (Even on Aha Shake’s “Soft,” when he was signing about erectile dysfunction, at least it was heartfelt. At least he was into it, so to speak).

Gone also are the rave-ups like “Spiral Staircase” “Velvet Snow,” “Taper Jean Girl,” “Pistol of Fire,” and “Wasted Time”; taken their place are songs like “Manhattan” and “I Want You” – essentially worn-down Because of the Times sequels (note that rhythmic similarities between “Manhattan” and Times’ “Fans”), and the paint-by-numbers slow-blues exercises of “Cold Desert” and “I Want You,” which, despite its title, has little heart besides a true desire to do something different in the studio.

There are a few wonderful moments on the album, included entirely in the first three songs. Synthesizer-led opener “Closer,” makes a strong case for their pursuit of the ambient, non-traditional rock song, and “Crawl,” despite the somewhat nonsensical lyrics – is it fair to even dissect them? – pounds with the distorted intensity of the Secret Machines song “Sad and Lonely.” Even “Sex on Fire,” retains some of the bounce of Times’ standouts “Ragoo” and “Fans.”

But with the dirt wiped clean and the gears on display, Only By The Night shines in an uncomfortable, affectless way. There is no build, no climax, no sweat, no come down. There’s only the intricate and precise instrumentation of an incredibly well recorded sound that, like their singer’s trademark indiscernible screech/wail, says very little.

No One Cares What You Think, Slipknot

Corey Taylor of Slipknot recently stated that the record labels are to blame for music piracy. Corey says the problem is that the bands that are being promoted aren’t “up to standard”. You can read what he has to say here. Hmmm, I could probably take that argument a bit more seriously if it were coming from, say, anyone other than a member of Slipknot…

Denison Witmer Covers

My Old Kentucky Blog alerted us to this intimate cover of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make you Love me” by Denison Witmer.  This follows his release of another superb cover of the Red House Painters tune “Have You Forgotten” which can be download from Denison’s myspace.  Mr. Witmer also has a new album Carry the Weight due out on November 11th.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/denison-witmer-i-cant-make-you-love-me-bonnie-raitt.mp3]

Download: Denison Witmer – I Can’t Make You Love Me[MP3]

Kimya Dawson – Alphabutt

Rating: ★★ · · ·

Fresh off her new found fame from the Juno soundtrack, Kimya Dawson decided that those hordes of kids would appreciate an album directed solely at them. Alphabutt is her chance to win the kids over, again.

Of course, we all aren’t surprised at this move, considering her lyrical output up to this point has typically revolved around childishness. I wondered, of course, would she further this venture and aim directly at the child market. Well, she does, but not necessarily in a successful manner.

Those of you that fell in love with the Juno soundtrack, and fell in love with Kimya for the first time will find yourselves extremely disappointed. The songs are not as neatly crafted as her previous solo efforts. Often times, the tinkering noises in the background are far too distracting for a listener to even focus on the music itself; how those kids will get it I don’t know. One thing for sure is that she could definitely get away from using the baby noises in the background. It was cute once, but to keep using it is absurd.

There are a few songs on this album with redeeming qualities, namely “Happy Home” and “Sunbeams and Some Beams.” They are more traditional in the style that Kimya has come to give us, though they do seem a bit boring. Still, this is the closest she comes to replicating her unique sound.

My reference point for indie stars going the child route is Matt Pryor’s Terrible Twos. Sure, Matt sings about things most of us no longer adore, like ladybugs, but he still manages to maintain his talents as a songwriter within the childhood realm. The style is still Matt Pryor. In contrast, you have Kimya Dawson who seems to have walked down this road blindfolded with her dick and fart jokes still strapped to her back. It doesn’t do much for this listener, and I doubt it will do much for the childhood genre.

As Matt mentioned in our interview with him, the child music market is pretty wide open. We might see many more indie stars with kids take this route, but for me, I just hope Kimya focuses more on what she is offering us in the future. This piece didn’t turn out too well. There are some high points, but in the end, you wish she would go back to her adult-centric output. That’s where I’ll stay.

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