Silver Jews – Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea

Rating: ★★★★½

Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea is the fifth full length album from David Berman and the Silver Jews, and by my estimation it is the best he’s come up with yet. From the opening track until the very end, you’ll find yourself hanging on every single word out of his mouth, trying to understand each little line. Berman’s words here are at their best, but that is for you to decide.

Opener “What Is Not But Could Be If” begins the album with the darkened voice of Berman, somewhat reminiscent of a certain man in black. It’s clear at this point that Berman has definitely found his own niche in the world of off-beat country.

The album picks up pace with “Aloyisius Bluegrass Drummer,” where a solid rhythm section and a dancing piano rush us through the most clever two minutes to come across my ears.

The third track, “Suffering Jukebox” is full of sprawling guitars, but most importantly is the album’s introduction to Berman’s wife Cassie. Her sunny vocals seem to contradict those of her husband, but all in an effort to show the balance of a solid Silver Jews song.

“My Pillow is the Threshhold,” to me, comes off as an ode to the love song. “The pillow that I dream on is the threshold of a kingdom/ threshold of a world where I’m with you,” seems to sum up the meaning of the song, though one can never have just one simple meaning in a Berman song; this is just me guessing.

“Strange Victory Strange Defeat” is my personal favorite on this album. The battle of rebellious squirrels to win their freedom warms me inside. Then you throw on top of that the harmonizing of the Berman family at 1.5 minutes, and you have one of my favorite moments on an album this year.

You will find a taste of sunny California “oohs” and “ahhs” all over “Open Field,” which is probably one of the only songs on this album I don’t want to listen to ten times a day, probably just 7 or 8.

Literary genius abounds on “San Francisco BC,” the albums 7th track. See these two samples: “Romance is the douche of the bourgeoisie” and “I thought the wages of Metal should be heavily garnished.” A friend of mine told me that Berman comes up with the cleverest lines that you know you thought, but you just didn’t say them fast enough.

I dare not even attempt to make sense of “Candy Jail,” but the song still has this unending draw to me. Something about “peanut brittle bunk-beds” just sort of calls my name.

I have to admit that nothing stops a “Party Barge,” the 9th track on this album. Electric guitar mixed with sounds of sea ports (gulls, foghorns, etc), along with requests for coordinates from “lake directory,” just makes is all seem like summer.

Album closer, “We Could Be Looking for the Same Thing,” wraps up the album with a gentle number reminding us all that despite dreams and hopes, everything isn’t exactly perfect; still, Berman seems to insist that we all give it a try. And I say why not?

Obviously, I went about this review a bit differently, but that is just the thing about a Silver Jews album: no two people will ever get the same thing out of one of Berman’s songs, let alone albums. It’s the perfect conversation piece for you and your friends, trying to eat dinner as you all take turns at deciphering words and song meanings. Each person will walk away with their own interpretation, as they should. I just wanted to show ya’ll mine.

Now, if you are looking for that alt-country album with witty lines and gentle harmonies then you won’t be doing yourself a disservice if you purchase this album. Honestly, if you don’t buy this album, no matter what you are into, you are damned to admitting that you have done yourself a disservice by not allowing yourself the proper amount of time to enjoy Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea; there is only one way to remedy that situation, and that is to get your hands on this album as soon as possible.

You can stream this entire album on the band’s myspace page if you want to try before you buy.

We also have a song off the album entitled “Strange Victory, Strange Defeat” available for download:

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/silver_jews_-_strange_victory_strange_defeat.mp3]

Download: strangedefeat.mp3

At Mount Zoomer

Our crazy bothers from the northern side of the border Wolf Parade are streaming their new album At Mount Zoomer on my favorite social network website. The much anticipated follow-up to 2005’s Apologies to Queen Mary doesn’t hit stores until next week so why not try before you buy? Give it a listen and tell us what you think. Also, Wolf Parade will be blowing through Austin later this summer on July 25th at LaZonaRosa. Purchase your tickets for the show before it sells out! If you just can’t deal with the madness that is myspace, check out the song “Language City” below:

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/languagecity1.mp3]

Download: Wolf Parade – Language City [MP3]

Black Kids

The Black Kids just released a new single “hurricane jane” off their forthcoming album Partie Traumatic due out July 7th on Mercury Records. Get ready for your Friday night with some sweet new dance music from The Black Kids.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/01-hurricane-jane.mp3]

Download: Black Kids – Hurricane Jane [MP3]

Joan of Arc – Boo Human

Rating: ★★★ · ·

From the minute this album opens you are opened to the intricate guitar work of Tim Kinsella; its always the most delicate of strumming or so it seems. Its as if he is taking his guitar for a little journey; he speeds up, he slows down, but its always very personal. His work in Joan of Arc, and various other bands, has always been witness to this delicate guitar; it goes throughout the album.

In fact, this album, and this band for that matter, will always benefit from the unique playing of Kinsella. Each song he puts together has an entirely different feel than the last, yet each song on this album fits uniquely together. Somehow Kinsella consistently manages to use other musicians to construct unique mini-masterpieces of song; all these songs could stand alone without the use of lyrics.

Sadly, it is Kinsella’s lyrics, and more so, his voice, that seem to plague this album. His voice is usually too gentle to believe that there is passion in his voice, but when he does provide that passion, it is as if he straining to fake it. It never really comes together cohesively, and at times, his voice can destroy entire songs.

Lyrically, this album deals with a break-up, which has some really beautifully written moments. Unfortunately, the general theme of this album get a bit old, despite the variation in each song. It is a great album of break-up songs, but unfortunately the entire album is break-up songs; that doesn’t really work for this album.

There are two standout tracks on this album, worthy of your purchase, somewhere on the Interweb: the unfortunately named “Tell-Tale Penis” and “So-and-So.” The vocals and lyrics on “So-and-So” are the perfect way to finish this album, which continues to keep Joan of Arc swimming along in the rock n’ roll canon.

06/11 Shearwater Show @ Waterloo

Shearwater provided an intimate set to the crowd at Waterloo Records on Wednesday.  The venue was packed solid with Shearwater supporters who were excited to catch one more glimpse of the band before they head out on tour.   Lead singer Jonathan Meiburg started the show off right  by belting out several lines of lyrics acapela style just to make sure everyone was paying attention.  The band was spot on for their set with each member taking on a “jack of all trades” role and playing a countless number of instruments.  (Is that a flute?) Read more

Jay Reatard Singles Compilation!

My favorite garage-rocker, Jay Reatard, is said to be distributing a brand new collection of singles this coming Tuesday, June 17th, via In The Red Records. The track listing has four old songs, which means we’ll get 13 brand new Jay Reatard songs, well, sort of. All the songs come from various 7″s, but if you don’t have those, this is brand new! It also comes with a complimentary DVD of four Reatard shows, which might help win you over to the gloriousness of Jay Reatard! According to Jay’s website, he will apparently be showing his face in Austin at Red 7 on August 3rd.
[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/01-blood-visions.mp3]

Download: Jay Reatard – Blood Visions [MP3]

Beck’s Modern Guilt Details & New Song

Details about Beck’s new album Modern Guilt have been flooding the news trails on the interweb today. The album is set to be released on June 7th in the UK and June 8th stateside. The album is produced by the great Danger Mouse who seems to be turning everything he touches to gold. The recently released Black Keys album Attack & Release produced by Danger Mouse will surely be in my top ten of the year so I’m sure Beck’s newest will be killer. Beck’s also playing that little thing called ACL Festival later this summer and If you’re still waiting to get tickets to that, stop what you’re doing and buy one now. You can also stream a new song off Beck’s new album on his ilike page entitled “Chemtrail”.

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