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Austin Sound’s Sound Advice Volume IV

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Before you head out into the fray of SXSW, head over to our friends Austin Sound to check out their new digital Sound Advice SXSW sampler.  The massive 19 track sampler features the best and brightest of up and coming talent in Austin.  You can also read a little about each band and see some live dates they have going on this week.  Below you’ll find a track from our new favorite locals The Happen-Ins, who have this track “Be Your Fool” featured on the compilation.  Well done gents.

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Download: The Happen-Ins – Be Yer Fool [MP3]

SXSW Watchlist: Hurricane Bells

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While his longtime rock band Longwave takes a short break from the music world, Steve Schiltz has been working hard to make a name for his new project Hurricane Bells.  This band/side project from Schiltz has been in the works for a few years and just saw a debut LP, Tonight is the Ghost, drop late last year.  That album, while similar to Longwave in some aspects, tones things down just a bit and the songs feel a lot more like a solo record.  Schiltz has since put a band together and plans to stop in Austin during our SXSW music festival.  We had the chance to email Steve a few SXSW oriented questions before his band makes it into town.  You’ll see a musician who is passionate about the industry and hopes you don’t know him as “that band on the New Moon soundtrack”.  Follow the jump for full interview.

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Kick Off St. Patty’s Day With Broken Records

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As tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day and I like to pretend that I’m part Irish, let’s celebrate with a new digital single from Scots Broken Records.  This track, “Lies”, actually appeared on a single a few years ago, but has just now been made available for free online.  You’ll find that it fits right in with the themes of tomorrow’s heralded day.  If you dig, you could also check them out on Wednesday at one of the following free SXSW parties:

Rare Party @ 4th Street Fort (216 E 4th st.) – 12:30am

Dirty Boots Showcase @ Wave Bar (408 E. 6th st.) – 3pm

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Download: Broken Records – Lies [MP3]

SXSW Music Sampler From Amie Street

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So SXSW music starts tomorrow and you still aren’t to sure about who to see?  Well, you can make the decision easier (or harder?) by downloading a free SXSW music sampler from music website Amie Street.  The sampler features 22 tracks from the likes of Fool’s Good, Flying Lotus, Born Ruffians, and tons of others.  Check check check it ouuut now.  Disclaimer: You will be required to sign up for an account on the site.

Seabear – We Built A Fire

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Rating: ★★★★ ·

It’s heating up around Austin with SXSW right around the bend and with spring weather here, wildflowers across the state spring to life.  Nevertheless, Seabear is coming through town to cool things down a little. Icelandic septet Seabear, led by soothing songster Sindri Már Sigfússon, is set to release their nature-infused sophomore album, We Built A Fire. Iceland is renowned for its otherworldly landscapes and ethereal musicians (i.e. Bjork and Sigur Ros), but this record hits a familiar chord closer to home.

The release is premium indie-folk and shows the “Icelandic Beck” at his whimsical, yet haunting best. Although based in Iceland, Seabear’s lyrics are all in English; which makes it a surprise that this year marks the band’s first trip through North America, starting with SXSW. Beginning as a lo-fi solo project for Sigfússon, Seabear has expanded to a full 7-member band with the emphasis on the collective creative process. Their first release, The Ghost That Carried Us Away, was a much more intimate release with delicate, orchestral arrangements containing many indie-folk gems. Similarly on their latest, there’s no shortage of them. This time around, mutual input in the writing process was the modus operandi and what materialized is an improved confidence in all the parts. This translates into a stronger sound and superior effort as a whole.

Sigfússon songwriting talents (whose last solo effort came under the moniker Sing Fang Bous) is in full bloom starting with the opener, ‘Lion Face Boy’. His voice is a force, both full and soft simultaneously, driving the tempo throughout the track and ultimately the extent of the record.  ‘Fire Dies Down’ is a more up-tempo and moving track, displaying the rest of the group’s expanded instrumental vocabulary.

The pseudo title track and first single ‘I’ll Build You A Fire’ is a stand out track with wonderful harmonies. On Sigfússon’s 2009 solo tour, he was joined by headliners and fellow Icelandic indie poppers múm, and it’s obvious that a little rubbed off. ‘Cold Summer’ begins with a poignant piano intro. Then the vocals and cello drift in and out like a summer breeze over an Icelandic meadow. The depth and soothing nature of his voice prove to once again be the driving force followed by the country influenced ‘Wooden Teeth’; which is one of the more joyful moments on the record. This country influence continues into ‘Leafmask’ with a guitar intro displaying true country roots, before Sigfússon slows things down and emerges with one of the more impressive vocal tracks on the album.  After ‘Softship’, the album loses a little momentum and becomes more introverted before the back and forth crescendos and decrescendos of ‘Warm Blood’.

Seabear brings the tempo back up for the final track ‘Wolfboy’, completing one of my favorite releases of the year. We Built A Fire is thought-provoking music while physically moving to boot, and we can only hope their tour is so successful they return with more dates for years to come. Amazingly, this time around Austin gets 4 (yes 4!) chances to see them. You will not want to miss at least one of these free sets:

March 17th @ Epoch Coffee (221 W North Loop) – 7:15pm

March 18th @ Scoot Inn (1308 E 4th st.) – 1pm

March 18th @ The Hideout (617 Congress Ave.) – 1am

March 20th @ Cafe Mundi (1704 E. 5th st.) – 2:45pm

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Download: Seabear – I’ll Build You A Fire [MP3]

Happy Birthday – s/t

Rating: ★★★ · ·

One of the most recent signees to historic Sub Pop is a relative newcomer to the music scene.  Happy Birthday, for those of you stumbling upon the band, just formed in 2008, and their self-titled album is their first official recording.  This album fits nicely into the new fascination with fuzz-riddled guitar pop, though the band isn’t just a one trick pony.  While the majority of the album is filled with charm, there are a few missteps that keep it from taking off.

Happy Birthday kicks off their debut with one of the catchiest tunes of 2010, “Girls FM.”  Jangling guitar rings hollowly in the background as Kyle Thomas wails a bit, just before the drums are added.  Once you get to the chorus, where Ruth Garbus joins Thomas, you can’t escape the sugary sweetness.  Placing this song up front establishes a lot of the music as surf-pop, though the group does go in different directions at times.

One of the tricks the band employs to great effect is to have Kyle’s vocals carefully backed by the warmth of Ruth’s voice.  “2 Shy” utilizes this tool, and it moves the music away from garage band to polished power-pop.  Such a combination creates blissful moments for the band, and they pull it out just often enough to make it memorable. You’ll see the same elements in “Maxine the Teenage Eskimo,” which might be the secret gem of this album.  It’s late in the collection, and this general sweetness comes in a bit later in the song; stay with this one folks, as you’ll be rewarded greatly.

Interestingly, there are some odd Marc Bolan-esque vocals floating throughout spots on this record.  “Subliminal Message” has that trademark T. Rex guitar, and Thomas seems to channel a bit of Marc’s vocal inflections on his delivery–this actually makes for a really fixating slow jam.  Unfortunately, they return to this same formula for “Pink Strawberry Shake,” at a point in the album when you’re really looking to be revitalized by something new; you might find yourself bogged down at this point.

Still, a new band has to have some drawbacks, right?  Well, this is true of Happy Birthday.  At times, they seem to have a little bit too much simplicity in their songwriting, which can be translated to childishness.  “Zit” is just one of those songs that demonstrates some of these weaknesses; it’s a juvenile song, both lyrically and musically.  While the lyrics throughout definitely hint at the unpolished quality of the group, this song takes it a bit too far.  Clearly, there is room for simplicity and youthfulness, but it kind of goes too far at points on the album.  This is just another factor the band will eventually work out on the next album, as they sometimes don’t seem to know when to hold back, pushing songs beyond a point of impact for the listener.

However, don’t end the album without listening to closer, “Fun.”  Yes, it does use that recently popularized style of mundane lyrical songwriting, but there is a touch of real brilliance here.  Some might recall Superdrag or Teenage Fanclub, and fans of those bands will surely love the ending to this album.  All things considered, Happy Birthday‘s debut has demonstrated room for growth, with touches of brilliance throughout, so we should expect a solid second outing based on the charms of this beginning.

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Download: Happy Birthday – Girls FM [MP3]

New Tunes from Sweet Apple

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Let’s face it, everybody loves that nostalgic sound from the 90s, and the recent revival of J Mascis in the past several years can’t hurt.  So, we’re excited for his new band, along with several member of Cobra Verde, Sweet Apple to release their debut Love & Desperation on April 20th.  This new single is ridiculously good, and it has that dirty pop feeling only Mascis seems to perfect. It’s time you took a listen.

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Download: Sweet Apple – I’ve Got A Feeling (That Won’t Change) [MP3]

SXSW Watchlist: We Were Promised Jetpacks

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It’s as if these incredible Scotish bands just keep pouring outta the country!  A band that sometimes gets lost in the depths of the Scotish scene is Edinburgh boys We Were Promised Jetpacks.  Now their sound will sometimes sound a bit similar to country mates Frightened Rabbit or The Twilight Sad, but they’re still able to stand out on their own.  I’ve also heard that these guys bring the noise in the live setting, so you’ll definitely want to check them out when they stop in town for SXSW.  Prior to their arrival in Austin, we had the chance to speak to guitarist Michael Palmer about his band.  After the jump you’ll find his answers.

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New Tunes From Wye Oak

Not far released from their stellar 2009 release Knots, Wye Oak are returning this year with new EP My Neighbor/My Creator.  Below you’ll find a download of, “I Hope You Die”, which is a new single from the upcoming EP.  It’s a powerful lil’ ballad that shows a bright future for this up and coming band.  You can get My Neighbor/My Creator in the Merge Records store digitally on April 20th and physically June 8th.  Enjoy.

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Download: Wye Oak – I Hope You Die [MP3]

Stream She & Him’s Volume Two

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Way before it’s March 23rd release date, the fine people over at NPR are streaming the brand new She & Him album Volume Two.  Head over to the NPR Music section for a first listen to the new tracks.  Anyone care to offer a first opinion in the comments section?

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