• 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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Blitzen Trapper – Furr

Rating: ★★★★☆

On their first album, Wild Mountain Nation, Blitzen Trapper was all over the place.  They played classic rock in a crooked modern pop manner, but the vocals lacked clarity in delivery.  Their newest album, Furr, offered hopes of better production with the backing of Sub Pop Records, and dreams of consistency.

Those of us with high hopes might have to admit that despite the band’s efforts, we are only having our needs fulfilled on one level, that of the vocal delivery.  It’s predominant departure from their previous effort, which does make this one exceedingly better than its predecessor.

One would be hard-fought not to notice the 60s-70s rock influences draped across this entire album, but they were there in the past.  The previous albums spoke softly of such influences, but they step it up entirely on this album.  All of this is furthered by the strength in production on this album, which pushed the influences to the forefront, rather than disguising them in  a lack of clarity created by walls of noise.

They did write one of their worst songs ever, and chose to include it.  “Love U” is full of unadulterated yelping, and it rarely provides anything worth holding onto.  It’s merely walls of screaming, accompanied by sloppy musicianship, and it stands right in the middle of the album–just skip it.

Almost every single listener who has a weakness for the folkier moments in rock n’ roll will surely find the rest of the album enjoyable.  Each track seems to recall another musician at every turn, as if the band set out to write an album full of covers.  Songs like “Echos/Always on/EZ con” and title track “Furr” are purely magnificent.  The subdued tones of each song warrants repeated listens for the rest of the year; the folkier side of Blitzen Trapper is where the band, ultimately, performs at their best.

It would be easy to pigeonhole this band as one intent upon revisiting the past, but they seem to have their own spin on our heralded past.  One would be remiss to toss this band to the side due to a lack of originality; give it a couple of spins and you’ll find that the songs seem strikingly modern.  The band is knocking at the door step of a solid album, and Furr is an album that furthers that dream for both the listener and the band.

The ACL Top Ten

We decided to take a different route in reviewing the events of ACL and we thought a Top 10 List would be the way to go.  This isn’t just a list of our favorite bands, rather a list of the best things, moments, memories or any other tasty randomness we could come up with that went down over the weekend.  We obviously would love to hear what else we maybe missed from our list.  This isn’t just our opinion, it’s what we heard from you good peoples that attended this year’s ACL.  List is after the jump.
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Little Joy vs. Los Hermanos

I’m all kinds of into audience participation, so I thought I would throw one more your way. Today, we will debate over whether the singer for Fabrizio Moretti’s (of The Strokes fame) newest project, Little Joy, is in fact better suited to front a band backed by Fab or by his old band, Los Hermanos. The kids love Little Joy, and Devandra Banhart produced the album, but something about the bossanova sounds of Los Hermanos are really working for me today. You make the call.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/little_joy_no_ones_better_sake.mp3]

Download: Little Joy – No Ones Better Sake [MP3]

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/09-09-condicional.mp3]

Download: Los Hermanos – Condicional [MP3]

Metallica – Death Magnetic

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

In the presence of editorial constrants, which would have guided me to review this album in two words, those two words being, Shit Magnet, I have decided to elaborate on the actual quality of this album.

The first question I asked myself when reviewing this album was, “Would anyone spend more than two minutes reviewing this album if the composing author wasn’t Metallica?”

In the past I could have easily made the case that judgement of Metallica albums was so dependent on past quality albums that despite the quality of albums released, the response would have been the same: Metallica doesn’t have it and hasn’t had it for more than 10 years. And in that time I would have been able to argue that high expectations had as much to do with disappointment as did the actual quality of the album.

However, this is the first time that I am absolutely convinced that the quality of the product would not have even warranted a record contract for any band other than Metallica. Albums like Load, Reload and St. Anger at least had the redeeming factor of providing the audience with music that, even though unoriginal, appealed to a basic sense of urgency in the world of metal. What Death Magnetic provided to the world of metal was not only a well deserved kick in the ass, but a wake up call: the band that brought metal to the masses has effectively become a weaker version of prepubescent metal bands.

Although most metal fans would feel ashamed of having to expose their favorite band to the world of musical criticism, Metallica has managed to make even the most respectable metal fans ashamed of their own taste in music. The primary question in this whole ordeal has to be exactly why we are listening to songs that are obviously rehashed versions of old, obviously great, better versions of Metallica songs.

I was one of the several people that considered Unforgiven II to be one of the biggest travesties in the history of music when it was first released. However, after 5 years worth of even worse music, and the realization that the change in person on the Unforgiven series from first to second person was enough to warrant attention, I came to terms with the fact that Unforgiven 2 was a much better song than given credit to. I am unforgiven, now you are unforgiven. I get it. Awesome. I can live with that.

Imagine how many things I kicked when I realized that there would be an Unforgiven 3. Unforgiven 3? Really?

Hetfield: we get it. You want to be forgiven. I don’t even care why. Maybe you had inappropriate relations with an underage cat. Maybe you touched yourself too much. I don’t care. One song is enough. Two songs were too much. Three songs are a direct kick in the left testicle.

As a good Metallica fan I was forced to give you the benefit of the doubt. I listened to songs that no other human being should have listened to.

“What don’t kill you make you more strong”

That line by itself should be enough to push fans over the edge. But the mediocrity of the lyrics was not the end… this album was the biggest insult to a 20 year old fan base.

If you can listen to this entire album and not feel like every song was a direct rip-off of Master of Puppets, Ride the Lightning or the self-titled black album, I cannot even elaborate further.

There are very few albums that have disappointed me more than this album. I guess the last Bonnie Tyler could have been close, but it really wasn’t. I’d rather listen to Total Eclipse of the Heart every time I work out than being forced to listen to any song in this album.

Metallica, much like Santana, has sunken into the sea of bands that, trying to ride one good period of their lives into oblivion, managed to destroy their image rather efficiently. I award this band zero points, and may god have mercy on their souls.

New Music from The Decemberists

We all love The Decemberists, and we are stoked to hear that they are releasing a series of singles this year (October 14, November 4, December 2). The single series is titled “Always a Bridesmaid,” and this is the track off the opening single titled “Valerie Plame.” Those in the know might recognize the name, but for now, let’s just listen to the tune. Follow this link to preorder.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/01-valerie-plame.mp3]

Download: The Decemberists – Valerie Plame [MP3]

We Survived ACL

Yes ladies and gentlemen, we made it through ACL and we are working on our write-ups, interviews, etc.  We will start giving you guys the goods tomorrow and we promise it will be worth your while.  The exhaustion, dust, and late nights have taken their toll, but we have some of the best staffers around and the content should be great!

Gentlemen Jesse and His Men

I cannot stop listening to this album, or this song; Gentlemen Jesse and His Men seem to know where its at. Sure, it’s a little bit of a throwback, but we all loved The Strokes the first time around right?  Blast this song into the afternoon, and if you dig it like I do, then you can find the band’s self-titled debut out now on Douchemaster Records.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/i_dont_wanna_know.mp3]

Download: Gentleman Jesse and His Men – I Dont Wanna Know [MP3]

The Shaky Hands – Lunglight

Rating: ★★★★☆

Lately it seems that the world has gone completely soft, or at least the spectrum of rock n’ roll has gone soft.  We desperately need a band that can grab us and shake the dust from our record collections.  The Shaky Hands appear to be that band, and their album Lunglight is just a taste of what they have to offer.

Opening track, “A New Parade” comes off with jangly pop affection, as pounding drums drive the song towards the end.  The vocals are a little raspy, with just a tinge of countrification a la Kings of Leon.

The band name is quite fitting, considering the sounds on this album have a sort of shakiness that can only be associated with pure, unadulterated rock.  It has this post-punk feeling to it, but fused with a country soul, and stirred with just the right amount of pop sensibility.  Although they carry such a signature sound, the album never seems to get old, always maintaining a sense of freshness in each song.

Lyrically, it seems that the album is filled with issues of struggle.  In today’s world we come across such battles between friends, lover and, ultimately, ourselves.  Understanding this, The Shaky Hands have set out to let us know that we are not alone in our daily issues; they, too, are confronting these demons.  If such battles must be fought, then we shall do it together.

And, the percussion is simply amazing here.  The drum work is all over the place, hammered out with precision that only comes to the those with the most devout practice routines.  You’ll find it difficult not to bounce your feet along to the driving rhythms here, which is at it should be with rock n’ roll.

Faults do exist on Lunglight, but they are things that can easily be overlooked.  The last three songs, for instance, extend over a minute longer than the previous songs, which has the effect of dragging the last moments of the record to the end. Also, it’s hard to completely buy into the vocals here.  Yes, they are reminiscent of other acts, as mentioned earlier, but at times you’ll find it hard to chase down the words.

In the end you will find that the band has created an album full of bright moments you can listen to time and time again.  Those who fall in line with bands like Kings of Leon (thats you RayRay) will surely find that great album you’ve been waiting for KoL to finally put out.

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