• top50

    Top 50 Albums of 2016

    You’ve all been waiting, anxiously. Waiting for our arbitrary list of the opinion of four folks who run this site, and what we think were the best albums of 2016.

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  • Album-Cover_Online-Version

    Slack Capital Is Here!

    When I was preparing to release Big Bill’s Weird Walk/Mainly Manly 7″, I began to talk to Eric Bill about the idea of creating an Austin compilation. Well, we released

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  • The Spook School

    SxSW 2016: Welcome to the Jangle

    Thank you, Spider House. Thank you, Mother Nature. Thank you, bands. The weather was absolutely perfect. We were given blue skies, the occasional cloud, a lovely breeze to pair with

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  • The Crookes

    SxSW 2016: ATH Takeover @ The Nomad

    Next bucket of awesome comes fromRayRay’s neighborhood bar, Nomad. A friend owns the place and we were ready to take things on the road at a place that we knew

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  • ATH at Vegas

    SxSW 2016: ATX Showdown @ Hotel Vegas

    Let’s get the artist notes and pics kicked off with our first party of the week. It was an all day affair, oh the huge manatees. So many great locals

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Looking In on Shelflife Records

LIFE097_Cover480Been following Shelflife Records for a bit now, and I had almost forgotten to check back with them on plans for 2013.  Good thing I took a look-see, as they’ve got two great new acts I want to share with you.  First, you’ve got Spain’s When Nalda Became Punk.  It’s refreshing to hear spirited jangle-pop coming with just a hint of a Spanish accent. They’re debut for the label, A Farewell to Youth, is out now.  Also, the label has just put out the Goodly Thousands 7″, with the Irish group kicking out really rad indie pop, like a less-angular version of The Lodger.  Music like this really makes it easy for me to come back to work on a Monday.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/01-When-Itll-come.mp3]

Download:When Nelda Became Punk – When It’ll Come [MP3]

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Goodly-Thousands-Goodly-Thousands-04-Honest.mp3]

Download: Goodly Thousands – Honest[MP3]

Girls Names – The New Life

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Rating: ★★★★½

When a band makes a sonic change, sometimes you lose fans or confuse fans, but the slightest change here should be considered a leap, with Girls Names releasing what I believe is one of the best records that will come out in 2013.  The New Life maintains the group’s penchant for uniting jangling guitars with atmospheric psychedelia, but creates this brooding darkness that propels the group into a category all their own.

“Pittura Infamante” was one of the first singles leaked out, and almost immediately you could tell that the group had something building.  The bass line alone brings in a different level of darkness, with Cathal Cully hauntingly crooning atop the verses.  Yet, two things minimize the black effects: the guitars and the chorus.  Cully’s voice carefully sways from the moment he sings “across,” accentuated by some nice keyboard additives. From there The New Life moves even further into its ghastly presentation with “Drawing Lines.”  My ears can’t get over the vocal here, in a good way.  It sounds as if they’ve been recorded in some ancient cathedral, evoking the purest emotion from any listener.  Also, you’ll note that the first of the two tracks, excluding the introductory “Portrait,” are far greater in length than the work done on Dead to Me–their debut had not a song over 4 minutes, but here, you’re lucky to find the two that just barely fit under that mark.  It demonstrates a bit more creativity and budding craft as songwriters, all which benefit the record.

While Girls Names have created more sprawling adventures this time out, don’t let me convince you that it all has to be affected by doom and gloom.  The swirling guitars that eventually open “Occultation” surely display an added light to the record.  Of course, Cully enters again with that demonic croon while the distorted guitar reverberates in your speakers.  Sonically dark, yes. Emotionally light, check!  Towards the end, the song has its own negative space exploration before jumping right back into a spirited close.  But, just because the band can traipse off into their own sonic realms in spectacular fashion, that doesn’t mean you should ignore the shortest track on The New Life.  Neil’s drumming really pushes the pace here, and the brighter side of the group’s guitar playing really shines through.  Even when they do things in tighter fashion, they give you more than you bargained for.  Right now, I’m particularly in love with the chorus.

Hopefully I’ve given you some insight into what listening to The New Life will be like when you let that needle hit the record. However, those are just some personal highlights, and I think what each listener brings to the table will really play a huge role in how the record is perceived.  That being said, I couldn’t be happier for Girls Names–they’ve taken on their remarkable promise as a young band and taken things to an entirely different level.  Feel free to swoon over this record for the rest of 2013…and beyond.

The New Life is available from Slumberland Records on 2/26.

Paperfangs – Past Perfect

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Rating: ★★★½ ·

I’ve spent the better part of the last two weeks playing Past Perfect over and over again; it’s an album that travels well regardless of where you go, be it your bedroom, your car, the gym, home office, whatever.  While there are definitely bright spots, the overall execution from Paperfangs demonstrates a well-rounded effort that any music aficionado can sink their teeth into.

My first few runs through the record, I definitely gravitated towards the 1-2 punch of the openers.  “In Age” takes a second to open up, but the calm electronic playfulness that ensues reminded me of a Finnish Arab Strap.  It’s not a track that hits you over the head with production, yet somehow it manages to hit home every time I press play.  But, “Bathe In Glory” is where I lost myself; the light keyboard wash, the deep vocals and the glancing guitar in the background fit perfectly into a nice bit of nostalgia…nostalgia done right.

As my time with Past Perfect unfolded, I began to give the group more credit for their production values.  For instance, take a song like “This Power,” which could be perceived as just another bedroom pop hit.  However, there’s little touches of horns and piano that really add depth to the track, and don’t miss the sampled vocals that lurk far far in the background of the tune.  It’s easy to overlook such little touches, but I think that’s what’s really allowed me to delve into the record repeatedly for so long.  It’s like an audial puzzle, begging for you to identify the various layers and textures the group put into the recording.

Another aspect of the band that many should take note of comes through in their music as well…the visual.  It’s always been the band’s focus to include such touches in the live production of their music, but several minor sound bites allow Paperfangs to include those notes in their music too. One moment that stands out is in the closer, “His Famous Last Painting,” where the samples open the song, but also reappear throughout the track momentarily.  I think it’s important for all to be aware of such things, as it will definitely lend itself to a more complete understanding of the group’s aesthetic, not to mention clues to how one should listen to the album.

At first, Past Perfect may appear as just a simple electronically enhanced pop record, but don’t sell the effort or yourself short.  Spend a few quieted hours listening to the songs that Paperfangs have created and the odds are that you’ll be constructing your very own visual landscapes where the tunes are fitting.  The more you allow yourself to uncover and dream with the album, the more emotional benefits you’ll get, allowing you to spin the record for hours on end.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/2.-Bathe-In-Glory.mp3]

Download: Paperfangs – Bathe In Glory [MP3]

Past Perfect is available now from Soliti Music. 

Even More New Music From Sweet Serenades

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I’ve been following Swedish based pop band Sweet Serenades for a few years now and I’ve always enjoyed their fresh style of pop music with a certain Scandinavian raw twist.  Saving you from another biography of the band, I just wanted to share this new track they recently sent my way called “Run (Run Run)”.  It’s just been pointed out to me that the song is sort of reminiscent of a certain Austin band Built by Snow and I think I’m cool with that comparison.  This song appears on the band’s new album Help Me! which is out now and available for purchase via Leon Records.

Something Different with New Mexico

1178Sometimes going through my email at the ATH offices I realize that I get stuck in musical ruts, listening to music that I think defines my tastes.  But, that being said, this new jam off the upcoming album from New Mexico is sort of taking me in a different direction, although just for a wee bit (probably). There’s something about the track that’s really gotten to me.  At times, I can hear a bit of post-punk influence, especially with the opening minute and the manipulating of negative space. I can also hear just a really tried and true alternative rock center.  Regardless, I’m digging it.  If you feel the same, check out the group’s new album, Malpais, which surfaces on April 23rd.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/01-Alpha-Male.mp3]

Download: New Mexico – Alpha Male [MP3]

Show Preview: Matt Pond @ Stubbs (2/22)

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Date 2/22/13
Location Stubbs Indoor
Doors 9pm
Tickets SOLD OUT!

Music fans have a great show option for Saturday night with a solid lineup over on the indoor stage at Stubbs.  The show features an old ATH favorite Matt Pond along with fellow great bands Jukebox the Ghost and Lighthouse & The Whaler.  As far as lineups go, I’d say that’s pretty stacked if you’re asking me.  See you there?

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/MPPA-01_Love_To_Get_Used.mp3]

Download: Matt Pond PA – Love to get Used [MP3]

New Catchy Pop Tune From Goodman

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I’ve really taken a liking to this new tuneage sent my way from a young chap based out of NYC going by the name Michael Goodman.  Now Goodman does the primary songwriting for his group, but he had help from a few of his friends when recording his brand new album What We Want.  What I notice when listening to the song below, “Night Person”, is an immediate old school doo wop sound that might be best compared to someone like Buddy Holly.  Sure that may be a bit bold, but I think the tunes can speak for themselves.  The new album I just mentioned is actually streaming for free over on the Goodman soundcloud page.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Goodman-Night-Person.mp3]

Download: Goodman – Night Person [MP3]

Show Review: Unknown Mortal Orchestra @ Mohawk (2.20) + Tiger Waves

Rainy weather won’t keep us down, especially if we’ve got rock n’ roll on our minds.  The Mohawk gradually swelled to capacity with Foxygen and Unknown Mortal Orchestra having a huge draw in town, both touring behind pretty solid album releases in 2013.  I even stuck around to watch our friends Tiger Waves do their thing on the indoor stage afterwards.

Read on for brief thoughts and Brian’s rad photos.

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Fuck Yeah with Shellshag

sspromopic2013JIt only took me two seconds to realize that I was going to dig this tune from Shellshag. The opening bit of guitar noodling had me immediately hooked, and only furthered my attention as the band plugged in a bit.  It’s just a good tune to roll the windows down and turn up real loud, especially on such a nice day today.  The vocals are sort of throaty, but I appreciate that aspect–it only improves when Jen Shag softly enters in the background.  You can enjoy this track and more on the group’s new record, Shellshag Forever; it comes out on April 16th via Don Giovanni.

Journey Through the Dark (for 10 minutes) with Disappears

disappears_zoranorlicI don’t know how often some of you read these pages, but back during Psych Fest and FFF, I raved about Disappears.  They’re noisy rock n’ roll has always had a special place in my heart, especially their captivating live sets.  Today news came that the group is about to release their new Kone EP, and they’ve unleashed a sprawling track of dark experimentation to wet your appetite.  You’re going to spend about 3 minutes of your day falling into a darkened trance with the group before they offer you even a hint at a vocal.  Then you’re off into the world carefully crafted by the band, so I won’t ruin it for you…everyone has their own journey to take.

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