In conjunction with our recent review of “Evil Urges”, we present our recent (fake) interview with Jim James. This (fake) interview is in no way endorsed by the MMJ or JJ camp. Neither Jim James or Prince were injured in the making of this strip.
Are you looking for that dance hit of the summer? If you are, I think Mystery Jets can provide it for you. The band released a single called “Two Doors Down” earlier this year off their new album Twenty One which has already hit stores in the UK. We have no idea when this album will be coming to us in the US so enjoy what you can from the Mystery Jets. You should also check out the video for the song on youtube in all its Duran Duran/A-Ha awesomeness.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/06-two-doors-down.mp3]
When describing “Evil Urges,” the title track from Louisville-based My Morning Jacket’s new album, frontman/chief songwriter/spaceboots-wearin’ fearless leader Jim James talked about how the band would just “go off into space” when writing new parts to the song. The five-minute plus tune evokes soulful R&B grooves to Kentucky fried-dual guitar freakouts and back to it’s central refrain as it is relaunched into orbit. “Evil urges baby, they’re just part of the human way. It ain’t evil baby, if ya ain’t hurting anybody,” James sings in high-falsetto. And he couldn’t have made it more obvious himself because My Morning Jacket not only are throwing fans a musical curveball, but have some inner demons to conquer themselves on their latest offering.
As a faithful MMJ fan, I was fully aware writing a review of “Evil Urges,” their first album since 2005’s life-altering, astonishing marvel “Z,” was NOT going to be easy. However, it wasn’t as difficult writing this blurb as it was hearing this record in it’s entirety. “Urges” is a frustrating listen from the opening drum-wraps to the album’s final four seconds of nonsense. Missing are MMJ’s trademark reverb-soaked vocals, “motivated” guitar jams, and most depressingly, songcrafting.
The one thing I will forever adore about this band is how they create inspired songs laced with an honesty behind their Southern-tinged seven-to-eight minute rockers. Inspiration is certainly M.I.A. on this record.
“Evil Urges” zig-zags like a staggering “Glass Joe” in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, shifting from funky R&B grooves (title track) to James Taylor man-crushin’ (“Sec Walkin'”) to arena-sized riff-rockin (“Aluminum Park”) to WTF!? (“Highly Suspicious”) The song is so painful that by the time you’ve endured Olmec from Nickelodeon’s “Legends of the Hidden Temple” chanting “Highly Suspicious of You” for the 27th time, it makes you yearn for the cheesy, but appropriate sounds of Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watchin’ Me.” Hell, if “Highly Suspicious” was released in 1984, MMJ would’ve given Berry Gordy Jr.’s prodigee a run for his top 40 blood money. Now if they could just get Jermaine Jackson to guest vocal on the chorus instead of a giant animatronic talking piece of foam.
After the undeniably disastrous first half of “Urges,” we’re introduced to a little ditty called “Two Halves.” It’s a nice 60’s-style doo-wop rock tune that reminds us this band can do anything they damn-well please and it works in all it’s Roy Orbison-worshiping glory.
“Librarian” has to be one of the best narratives James’ has ever penned. “Sweetest little bookworm, hidden underneath is the sexiest librarian…take off those glasses and let down your hair for me.” Obsessed much, I know, but the way this tune floats around amidst it’s dusty stack of books and pitch-black summer skies, it’s difficult not to be enthralled by the mood of James’ storytelling. Plus, it’s about damn time someone wrote a great song about a sexy librarian. Gentlemen, we’ve all been there, don’t deny it.
The album concludes with the haunting one-two punch of “Smokin’ from Shootin'” and “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Part 2.” “Shootin” is an excellent builder from Bo Koster’s quiet key-tappin’to guitarist/MVP Carl Broehmel’s heavy-plucking as James brings his A-game to a deafening climax that would make Charles Bronson proud. The song wanders into “Touch Me…,” an eight-minute disco “jambulance” where drummer Patrick Hallahan’s beating eerily reminds me of the B-52’s “Summer of Love.” It’s space-rock-prog-disco-psychedelia at it’s finest…woah.
“This feeling is wonderful…don’t you ever turn it off,” James exclaims as his gang caps off a confusing conclusion to a record that is more intrigued with sounding eclectic than creating the memorable MMJ moments we’re so fond of. If it weren’t for “Urges'” hard to swallow first half, this album would be destined for healthy repeated listens instead of turning the “wonderful feeling” off.
Don’t forget that the band will be showing off one of the best live acts around later this summer at Stubbs. The show isn’t sold out yet so hurry up and buy some tickets. And be sure to check out our (fake) interview with Jim James.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/mmj_evil_urges.mp3]
From the minute Apologies to the Queen Mary came out a few years back I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the new Wolf Parade album. I loved that record so much so that I bought everything released by all the members of the band. But, it seems as if all those side-projects sucked the life out of the band.
“Soldier’s Grin” starts out the record promisingly. It’s an upbeat song from the get-go; the kind of song that we know the band will blow you away in the live setting–and they will blow you away live–I hope.
From here, you get the best two songs on the album in succession, those being “Call it a Ritual” and “Language City.” Both songs are full of keyboards/piano bouncing heavily along, with just enough grit and clarity in the music to make them both exceptional songs. It’s at this point in the album that we find Wolf Parade at their best, with Spencer Krug yelping at his best.
From here it starts to gently slide away in the wrong direction. I’ll admit this: the chorus on the 5th track,”California Dreamer,” is really a rocking moment–once again I salivate at live possibilities–but the rest of the song doesn’t have much to it. Then you have the final good moment of the album,”The Grey Estates.” Something about Dan Boeckner’s voice is one of my favorites.
That’s it though…the remaining three tracks of the album seem to me as if the band lost some steam. The songs don’t seem to be as fleshed out musically as the previous 6, and they come off sounding like skeletons of mediocre songs, or B-sides of one of the various side-projects.
My other complaint is that the vocals have matured. They’ve lost that oddity in their vocals, which-personally-takes a lot of the really interesting moments away from the band. These fellows come off sounding half-hearted, but like I said, this is only apparent in the last three songs.
All in all, this is a record worth listening to, but I’m just not sure how many repeated listens those first few songs really garner when paired with the latter half of the album.
Rest assured, the band will bring the rock when they come to La Zona Rosa on July 25th–this is a must see. You can buy tickets for the show at this fancy place .
Austin Town Hall recently made nice with our friends Radio Free OKC, a podcast/mix tape based out of Oklahoma. Radio Free will be taking a recommended song from Austin Town Hall each week and doing a special segment about our site. This is arguably one of our favorite podcasts around so we are pumped about this new partnership. Go to Radio Free OKC’s website to get this weeks episode featuring the song “Highways of Gold” by Jaguar Love straight from Austin Town Hall. You can also find and download all of Radio OKC’s podcasts for free from the itunes store.
One of our favorite Austin bands Spoon recently sat down with Daytrotter and played a few songs in their studio. One of the songs was a cover of Paul Simon’s “Peace like a River” which has been a live favorite of fans for quite some time now. Catch the Simon cover and three other great Spoon songs live on the Daytrotter web page.
Eef Barzelay, alt-country great and lead singer of Clem Snide will be playing Mohawk on Wednesday with a few other up and coming artists. Eef is touring in support of his new album Lose Big which hits stores tomorrow. Promising opening act Collin Herring wrote what could be one of my favorite songs of the year “Punches”. This should be a good way to spend your Wednesday evening. Check out Mohawk’s website to get tickets.
Here’s the title track off Eef’s new album Lose Big and that great track “Punches” from Colling Herring:[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/08losebig.mp3] [audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/punches.mp3]
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.
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]
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]