Trail Of Dead @ Waterloo (2/17)

trailofdeadAustin’s finest …And You Will Know us by Trail of Dead are playing a sure to be rowdy Waterloo in-store on Tuesday.  Things are set to kick off around 5pm with all the free beer you can drink.  The show coincides with the release of the band’s latest LP Century of Self, which we reviewed yesterday.  If you’d like to know more about the band, check out a recent interview we did with the guys during Fun Fest.

M Ward – Hold Time

holdRating: ★★★★☆

M Ward has won over fans this past year for his role in She and Him, which is deserved accolades, but lets not forget that the man on his own has always been able to record some of the more intimate bedroom listens of the decade.  He returns now with Hold Time, his first solo outing since releasing Post-War.

Opener “For Beginners” is the perfect album opener for this album, as the cooly calm vocals hum gently over the guitar, being strummed as if a slow train were approaching.  Ladies and gents, this is a slow train coming, so sit back and enjoy.

There is just something about the way that the man records his albums that seems to win you over every single time.  Based on his previous confessions, its easy to see here that he adores recording of the olden days, and he treats his own songs with similar care, coating each tune in pleasant melodies and a general warmth.  Yet, it never sounds dated when he pulls it off.  Unless, of course, he covers “Rave On” by Buddy Holly. His version is a little less clean than the original, as a little feedback seems to suit his aims purpose.  Where he lacks in the precision of the original, he makes up for it in his presentation.  M. Ward owns this song, and recreates it with a new spin, all the while holding onto the blueprint of the original. The song also features Ms. Deschanel, one of the two songs she guests on throughout the duration of this album.

For some reason, it’s really hard to escape the feeling that the singer of these songs, our narrator, belongs in the present day.  It’s as if every song, although based on modern times, is rooted firmly in the history of the past.  Perhaps this is why it always seems so intimate as you listen to the sounds coming out of the stereo.  Take “Fisher of Men,” which seems to have that same train-track guitar plucking.  It’s as if the whole song was sung in camaraderie around a campfire at a work camp during the Depression.

“Oh Loneseome Me” offers us yet another great collaboration, this time with Lucinda Williams.  Lyrically, it offers a glimpse at a lost love, and having to confront the free time on one’s hands afterwards.  But, the vocals on behalf of both artists really do remove every ounce of emotion from the listener, which always makes for a perfect song.

Interestingly, there are some genuinely upbeat moments here too, like “To Save Me” and “Epistemology.”  The repertoire that the man has at his hands allows for a great deal of variance throughout the entirety of this album.  At the core, his voice is able to adapt to varying levels of instrumentation, always holding onto the more personal level of presentation.  With each twist and turn, you hear an old friend, or even grandparent, softly rocking you to sleep.

As the beginning of the year take off, lets all hope that M. Ward gets loads of accolades for his endeavors as a solo musician with vast talent, and not just for his wonderful collaborations.  Hold Time will surely be a step towards that accomplishment.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/02-never-had-nobody-like-you.mp3]

Download: M Ward – Never Had Nobody Like You [MP3]

Murder City Devils Re-Press

murderFrom the shadows of death Murder City Devils return. We all were lucky enough to catch them at Fun Fun Fun a few years back, and now, we get brand new vinyl thanks to Sub Pop Records. The band is re-releasing their albums in honor of their brief West Coast stint, and just because they aren’t coming to Austin doesn’t mean we can’t run out and get that vinyl today! Good luck old friends.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/01pressgang.mp3]

Download: Murder City Devils – Press Gang [MP3]

Free Album From Joy Formidable

09212_125354_joyformidableUK indie pop band Joy Formidable have been tearing up the music blog scene over the past year and it’s about time we put their music on our site.  If you’ve never experienced their sound, now is your chance with a free album download from NME.  Head to their site now where you can download the band’s debut LP A Baloon Called Moaning which hit stores in the UK today.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/3-austere.mp3]

Download: Joy Formidable – Austere [MP3]

Miles Benjamin On Laundromatinee

milesbenjaminanthonyrobinson-01-bigAlbum of the year list maker Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson just recorded a live performance for the MOKB run site Laundromatinee.  The in studio features 4 songs by the ATH loved singer songwriter.  Check out some live video or download MP3s of the set.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/miles-benjamin-anthony-robinson-03-above-the-sun-live-on-mokb-radio.mp3]

Download: Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson – Above the Sun (live) [MP3]

Broken Spindles @ The Mohawk (2/16)

joelTo start off the week, Austin will be visited by Broken Spindles. The man behind the band is Joel Peteresen, better known for his participation in The Faint. Opening acts will be Loxsly and New Roman Times. The show kicks off at 8 PM at The Mohawk. Tickets are $8 at the door. 

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/brokencassettesremix.mp3]

Download: Broken Spindles – Beatdown Break Up (Casettes Won’t Listen Remix) [MP3]

…Trail of Dead – Century of Self


trailofdead1Rating: ★★★½☆

Long ago, or so it seems, Pitchfork gave Austin’s Trail of Dead, the highest honor, a perfect ten for their album Source Tags and Codes.  Since then, the band has experimented with various changes in sound and direction, and it seemed, unfortunately, that people had gradually begun to look the other way. Century of Self is perhaps the album that gets them back on top of it all.

When “Far Pavillions” gets under way, listeners are greeted with the bombastic drumming, as pounding rhythms blast through the speakers. The call and response vocals recall a greater day when post-punk definitely had its hold over the world; its a credible start to the album, and what some might call a return to form.

In previous efforts, the band might go off at this point, jumping in a new direction, but this time around, they keep right at it, as a large wall of sound crushes listeners, in a good way.  Once again, the drumming is spectacular, and it continuously pushes the band forward.  “Isis Unveiled” is a somewhat epic tune, sprawling out over six minutes, all of which keep your attention.

Then we are visited by the softer, slower elements of the group.  “Halycon Days” and “Bells of Creation” take a different approach to the audience, slowing down the tempo, albeit momentarily.  These songs demonstrate that the band has grown a great deal in the process of coming to this album, yet they still maintain a certain sense of impending doom and chaos, which is precisely what this band has always been known for in the past.  Here we find them able to soothe you in a moment, and then crush you the next. A perfect balance of sorts.

All of a sudden, the band hold it all back, throwing what one would call some ballads at the listener.  “Luna Park” is somewhat of an unexpected turn on the album, as its driven primarily be gentle piano work, coated in guitar accompaniment. Honestly, if it had come at a different time, as far as album placement goes, this would be one of the many highlights on this record.  There is a personality to this song that hasn’t been present in past efforts. But, this is also where the album switches gears.

From here on out, the album has a different sense of urgency.  Songs like “Pictures of an Only Child” and “Insatiable Two” show that the band may have just outgrown the ferocity they once held.  Sure, there are still elements in the latter half that are pleasing in an aesthetic sense, but its a bit of a juxtaposition when compared with the first half of the album.  While one side presents a fierceness that dares you to hold on tight, the other side wants to draw you in closely.

Its precisely this element that makes the album a little bit uneven.  In a way, they’ve crafted the perfect LP.  Side one is full of a barrage of shear noise and pace.  Side two is a slow drive down a carefully soundscaped highway.  Either side surely can stand up on their own, both with lots of quality, but when thrown together, its a bit of an odd combination.  Then again, the band has never been one to worry about falling along a prescribed path.  They prove their willingness to follow their own path with Century of Self, and we’ve got to respect that.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/09-pictures-of-an-only-child.mp3]

Download: Trail of Dead – Pictures of an Only Child [MP3]

FT5: Songs with the Word Valentine

0213top5coverSeeing as the Hallmark Holiday is hours away, I thought I would browse through my collection and throw out my Top 5 Favorite Songs with the word “valentine” in the title. Sure, one would think that songwriters have better things to do than sing about a nonsensical holiday with little or no meaning, but then again, they are just love songs in the end, aren’t they? Some of these bands have made appearances on our lists before, and some you might not be aware of, until now that is. So here is to you and yours on this most sacred of holidays. I hope your Valentine’s Day is as good as these songs.

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