• Top Songs of 2019

    Phew, the end of the year really snuck up on me this time and it’s crazy to think we are moving on from the 2010s. Before we do so, Nathan

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  • Top 25 Albums of 2019

    This is the list you’ve all been waiting for, well, sort of. This is my Top 20 LPs of the year. Admittedly, there’s none of the high profile hitmakers on

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  • Levitation 2019: A Reflection

    Team ATH has been covering Austin Psych Fest/Levitation since its early inception, probably in the second year at Radio Room (sorry we missed the first year!), so we’ve seen the

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  • ACL WE2 in a Nutshell

    Another Austin City Limits is behind us boys and girls and it’s always a good time to reflect on the music and experiences from the weekend. I considered myself very

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  • SXSW 2019 – A Recap

    Yet another SXSW is in the books and it’s time for the ATH crew to reminisce a little and offer some highlight from the week behind us. I think we’ve

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Chad Van Gaalen – Soft Airplane

Rating: ★★★★ ·

“Willow Tree” opens up the newest effort from Chad Van Gaalen, Soft Airplanes.  From the start you experience what Chad is all about, but only one aspect.  The quite folk song is underlined by his soft vocals, which appear to have some sort of vocal affect that provides an emotional echo.  Regardless, this is the song you want to hear while sitting on your back porch.

Then you swing at the folk moniker and you miss.  “Bones of Man” completely throws you off track, walking the line of rhythm based bands such as Pinback.  Even his vocals aren’t exactly the same, which is a bit refreshing.  It’s a good song, though I must admit that it doesn’t have the draw of the opening track.

And back he goes again with the off-kilter folk tunes, though this one has stronger percussion work than the first song, though by no means is it over-powering–just more noticeable.  By this point, his voice is back, and you can really immerse yourself in it.  For some reason, it sounds like a folkier version of Brendan Benson.

From here he cruises off to sunnier times, or at least the feeling in “Inside the Molecules” is all things California.  His guitar sounds a little more bluesy, but the atmospherics clinging to his vocals kind of carry that breezy aura you’d expect to find in a California bar band. He doesn’t jump so far with his next song, “Bare Feet on Wet Griptape,” but this song just didn’t work for this listener.  It seems sort of casual, and even the lyrical commentary isn’t too insightful.

Suddenly, you’re transferred to future land where folk meets samples, and I know its been done before, but it’s sort of like James Figurine meets Grizzly Bear.  I still can’t decide if that is a good thing or not.  You should probably decide for yourself.

At this point I feel like I’ve run the course of this album.  I don’t mean to say that in adding that point that you can turn off the record at this point, because there are definitely some key points to be visited throughout the rest of the album, but he jumps and jives across genres.  Van Gaalen does it so effortlessly that a listener agreeably goes with him, no matter where he travels.  His vocals have a haunting sense of freedom attached to them, and when he steers away from the folk as he does on “TMNT Mask,” its believable. Sure, one could ask for more focus here on this album, but at the same time I think the differences in sound add a texture to the album that you won’t really find elsewhere.  Besides he paid homage to the long forgotten Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  I’d down with that.

This is good stuff.

Fujiya & Miyagi – Lightbulbs

Rating: ★★ · · ·

Fujiya & Miyagi have garnered interest all over the world for several years now, and to a certain extent, they’re a band that does deserve some of the accolades that have been thrown to them.  However, they have got to do something to mix it up before they grow entirely stale for music audiences across the globe.

On the opening track of their last album, Transparent Things, they threw “Ankle Injuries” in our face.  It’s throbbing bass line moved your feet, but not too much because, let’s face it, it’s not this band’s style. On Lightbulbs they offer us a very similar tune in “Knickerbocker.”  It’s a clever trick because you immediately think the band will fulfill our fantasies of a danceable album.

Unfortunately for us, we don’t ever get to reap the benefits of their aptitude. The rest of the album comes off extremely mundane, which, in all honesty, is quite along the same lines as their debut release.  Every single beat is enjoyable enough, but not a single one has anything out of the ordinary to offer up, which tends to make the entire album sound seamlessly boring.  For some reason they take the most straightforward approach to writing dance songs, and the more focused they get on this album, the less danceable the songs get.  It’s like we all started dancing together, but everyone got bored and went home with their significant others.

I could speak on the lyrics and their attributes, but it’s extremely hard to find a lot of redeemable qualities about the words across this album.  Each song has little differentiation in the lyrics themselves, and most repeat throughout the album.  It makes everything entirely too redundant, limiting the ability of the song to rise above the music.  For me, it’s hard to even recall a special song because each one ends up sounding like a repeat of its predecessor.

This album is shorter than the previous one, which does make the songs more listenable, if you are into this sort of streamlined dance music.  For all the promise that they have, they rarely come across as a band that has warranted our attention.  Throw out the single, and you would probably find an album that you played once through and then put on your iPod strictly for workout tunes.  It’s an album that easily sinks into the background of your subconscious, where it will likely stay for eternity.

New Appleseed Cast

We may be a tad late on this, but I couldn’t resist when I found this little gem from The Appleseed Cast.  Below is a demo version of “Road West” which is said to appear on the band’s recently completed album Sagarmatha. Members of AC have also said that a pre-ep will be out in November with a full length due sometime in January.  The new track clocks in at over 8 minutes with no vocals in sight.  A new direction for the Lawrence boys?


Download: The Appleseed Cast – Road West(demo) [MP3]

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