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  • 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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    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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  • 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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  • 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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Generationals – Heza

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Rating: ★★★ · ·

Heza is the third proper full-length from Generationals, and while the sound remains largely the same, there are some definite shifts that alter the musical landscape for the group.  One thing is for sure though, the band consistently find themselves crafting perfect pop tunes that we’ll all enjoy.

“Spinoza” starts things off the right way, giving you some quick paced guitar work that reminds me of the modern surf-pop of bands like The Drums.  Of course, one thing the Generationals always have to make them stick out is the affecting vocal tone present on all their efforts.  It’s the perfect way to make surf-pop their own.  But, just as you think you’ve got the group pinned down, they go in a different direction on “Extra Free Year.”  This tune is filled with a thick bouncing bass, and the delivery of the vocal is much more subdued than on the previous track.  Little bits of guitar trickle in and out of the song, but it’s largely driven by the rhythm section.  It took me awhile to warm up to it, but it grew on me eventually.

By the time you arrive at “You Got Me,” you realize that Heza definitely has an emphasis on giving you hooks surrounded by the blips and beeps of electronica, though that’s not a huge step in a new direction, as those elements have been present before.  But, while past songs have seen those attributes used to push the track, here it seems to flesh out a mellower vibe.  There’s even vocal samples from a speech that fill out some of the empty space.  It’s tracks like this that suffice, though they’re not necessarily going to go down as my favorite. Still, it sets the mood for “Put the Light On,” which is one of the album’s standouts.  Guitar work is sparse, yet jagged, and there’s a warm atmospheric mood accentuated by some keyboard touches.  Those soaring high vocals that always do the trick are here too, allowing listeners to really fall in love with the great vibes provided by Generationals.

While I think that Heza is a little unfocused at points, the remarkable tracks are extremely memorable.  “Awake” is perfect in that it shows some restraint in pacing.  Had the band forced the issue, pace wise, I think they might have had a guaranteed iTunes commercial spot, though I’m glad they didn’t, as the true joy from this track comes when you let it slowly unfold.  This is where the band excels most on this effort, rather than their more traditional bouncing pop ditties.

After spending several weeks listening to Heza, I think that it’s an album with some great high points, and not really any lows.  Surprisingly, Generationals have excelled this time around on warmer, slower tracks.  You’ve still got your catchy pop tunes that will no doubt become live favorites, but if you spend time with the record, you’ll surely find clarity in their more pristine ballads.  Might not be top of the pops just yet, but the group continues to win my heart.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/02-You-Got-Me.mp3]

Download: Generationals – You Got Me [MP3]

Hypnotic Electro-Pop from pacficUV

Pacific-UV-Pacific-UvI always have this preconceived idea about Athens, Georgia, at least in referencing the city’s musical history.  But, with bands like Twin Tigers and now pacificUV coming into their own, perhaps my ideas will begin to change a bit.  This tune has a hypnotic electro beat that just grooves the whole way through.  You’ll also find some rad interplay between male and female vocalists that really ups the ante on mass appeal.  The band has a new record titled After the Dream You Are Awake, which comes out on May 14th via Mazarine Records…but if you can’t wait, they have a sampler HERE with a few new tracks, as well as some of their other career retrospective tunes.

New Pop from Marmalakes

557990_10151464720897210_989583134_nAustin’s music scene isn’t the easiest to break into, let alone stick around in, but Marmalakes have been holding their own for some time.  What bodes well for the group is this ridiculously great new single that they just released over the weekend.  It starts with this bouncing bass line that gives great tempo to the group’s blend of folk and pop.  Personally, I like the changing in tempo that comes in and out of the song, especially the quick to soft to quicker that closes this jam out.  One of Austin’s best acts just keeps getting better. Get in on it now.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/wells.mp3]

Download: Marmalakes – Wells [MP3]

Frank Smith – Nineties

franksmith

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Frank Smith is a band, not a man.  I figured you would know that, as the group has been knocking around for nearly 10 releases, but I’m thinking Nineties is their best work to date.  It’s got roots in the world of folk music, sure, but it pushes the envelope with more than its share of loud guitars and careful musical accompaniment.

You won’t find a better opener for Nineties than “We All Win;” it opens with little more than vocals and strummed guitars…a few of the notes receive an extra twang in the mix.  While it might be one of the quietest tracks on the record, it provides a teaser of sorts, just whetting your appetite.  Soon you’ll find the pure pleasure that is “Beaten Sacks of Death.” I love the way the guitar turns at the chorus, taking the Americana roots and gearing it up for a more rocking ensemble.  What steals the show, at least in this tune is the accessorizing done musically; the accompaniment draped all provides perfect accentuation at every turn.  Oh, and wait for the stomp just after the 2 minute mark; you’ll surely come back for more.

What will stand out to many of the fans of Frank Smith will be the more complete, even louder, presence here.  If you look at the middle section of the album with songs like “How Many Ways” and “It’ll Be Over Soon,” you will see the decibels rising in your ear, but importantly, the band’s sound isn’t lost here.  There’s a slight drawl on the vocals on “How Many Ways,” and the song opens slowly.  However, the group jumps off into a rocking jam; dig the echoing guitar in the background.  “It’ll Be Over Soon” nears a full on rock track, though with hints at country nostalgia with slight electric organ touches throughout.  The chorus reminds me of how good simple lyrics can come across in this genre, like those great Old 97s tunes.

Even with the louder sound here, don’t sleep on the band’s ballads.  “One Day” is probably one of my favorite tracks on Nineties.  Everything on this track fits; there’s acoustic strumming, changes in the vocal pitch, gang vocals, piano tinkering, even a distorted guitar breakdown…this song has it all.  It all prepares you for the elegant album closer, “Chewing Glass.” The piano serves as the backbone on this number, with the guitar swirling around both vocals and piano.  Personally, I like the fact that the lyrics can be easily sung, as is the case with all the tracks on the record.  If you’re not affected by one listen to this tune then I have a feeling that something’s wrong with your heart.

I don’t want to make too much of a fuss about a more pronounced sound on Nineties, as I think that’s really unfair to the record.  While it may be louder, you’ll find absolute joy listening for the finer touches in the nooks and crannies of the album; you’ll also rejoice that Frank Smith sounds exactly like, well, Frank Smith.  I think the band is officially ready to take on the world, so join in on the fun, won’t you?

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/10-Chewing-Glass.mp3

Download: Frank Smith – Chewing Glass [MP3]

Warm Soda – Someone For You

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Rating: ★★★★½

Out of the ashes of Bare Wires comes Warm Soda, but this time around things are going to be glistening with pure pop.  It’s not like this wasn’t lurking around the corner, but with Someone For You the band has created something that will inevitable find itself stuck in your head, and heart.

Let’s get the bad thing about this record out of the way, if you can even really find a fault here.  Okay, it does sound a little bit the same through and through, but I’m not biting that that’s entirely awful.  After all, when you find so many songs filled with hooks and anthemic choruses you’re going to be happy they didn’t try to diversify their sound too much, choosing to rock it the way they do best.

“Violent Blue” kicks off the album with one of the heavier tracks present on Someone For You, using a quick pace and steady drumming to propel the track.  But, the chorus of “violent blue” hints at the more pop-centric leanings of the group, preparing you for a fun filled ride of hits.  Basically, that starts as soon as you hit tune #2, “Someone For You.”  While the cymbal work and drumming hint at a more garage filled sound, the soft quality of the vocals working against the chiming guitars definitely makes you feel good.  I especially like the way vocals blow you away with the drawn out “you” at the 1:47 minute mark. It’s just a teaser though, making way for the crunchy goodness of “Jeanie Loves Pop.”  If you need a standout track to pass along to your friends in mixtape format, then you have to include this song.  There’s a rawness to the guitar playing, yet the chorus is as anthemic as you can get, begging you to shout it out at the top of your lungs.

I think one of the best attributes of Warm Soda is the ability for the drums/guitars to work against the brighter quality of the vocals.  For the most part, the drums are pretty steady and pushed up in the mix, like in “Waiting For Your Call.”  Here, the guitars and the cymbal work build this incredible tension that you expect the band to unleash, but the twist of the knife comes via the melodic chorus relief.  Is the track heavy? Is it a pop tune? Neither, it’s just a rad tune. The same can be said for “Busy Lizzy” with its knife’s-edge guitar work and quick blasting drum work, all centered around a cool vocal that’s slightly coated.  Just wait for the boys to bang out the ending with pure pop class.

Honestly, I know a lot of people that think the Exploding Hearts sound could never be done again.  It came at the perfect time in indie rock, but now is the time for Warm Soda.  They combine elements of garage rock and power-pop to perfection; there’s not a band out there doing things as well as these lads.  Someone For You is filled with hit after hit, and you can’t ignore a single song for fear of missing greatness.  The best thing you can do? Buy this LP right now!

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/06-Waiting-For-Your-Call.mp3]

Download: Warm Soda – Waiting For Your Call [MP3]

 

Sharing A Track By Fol Chen

Good Friday. Slow Friday.

How about a little something you might have missed post? Well, don’t mind if I do do. Take a listen to this lovely track by Fol Chen off the album The False Alarms on Asthmatic Kitty. <- one of my favorite label names Hang with it through the lead in…

BTW, there will be a couple more SxSW related posts from this kid next week. Not done yet. Nope, not me.

Pure Beauty from Wintercoats

705236_533455266681988_285299108_oIt’s really remarkable when you listen to the music of James Wallace, the one man composer who works with various friends to flesh out his sounds under the name Wintercoats. I like the light-hearted feeling and the feathery quality of the vocals. He’ll be releasing his new Heartfelt EP over in Australia on April 7th through Yes Please.  If you need a composition piece with an other-worldly edge, then allow yourself to be carried away by this new tune.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/01_Everyone-Mixdown_MSTR.mp3]

Download: Wintercoats – Everyone Seems To Be In On Something [MP3]

New Pop from TORCHES

tochesYou know, I definitely have been enjoying straight rock n’ roll this year, but I don’t want to forget that I really do love great pop music; I won’t hide from that.  This new jam from TORCHES is really enjoyable, and you’ll be able to get your hands on it via the band’s new If the People Stare EP on May 6th…for free I might add.  On this jam the vocals are way up front in the mix, and they definitely have a strong focus, but I like a lot of the light cymbal work that’s going on in the background of the song.  It’s just a good pop ditty. You can enjoy that can’t you?

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/01-When-You-Gonna_.mp3]

Download: TORCHES – When You Gonna [MP3]

Rad Post Rock from Cobalt Cranes

CobaltCranes_album_LOW_RESI’m really stoked on this new jam from Cobalt Cranes.  There’s something about it’s nostalgic 90s post-rock bent that really is working for my ears.  At the same time, that heavy bass line combined with the atmospheric guitar work cascading in and out of the tune definitely provides the song with modern appeal; I also appreciate that it’s a bit more melodic than some of the rocking tracks I’ve been jamming to lately.  If you like what you’re hearing then you can grab the band’s debut album, Head in the Clouds, on April 9th when it’s released by Anticc Records.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Shake.mp3]

Download: Cobalt Cranes – Shake [MP3]

Welcome Return from Blue-Eyed Son

W139I actually haven’t heard anything about Blue-Eyed Son in so long that I can’t even remember the last time I busted out their old record, but I’m glad the group is back in the fold.  They’ve got a new five song EP titled Shadows on the Son that will be heading your way on May 28th courtesy of Eenie Meenie Records. It’s weird, but every time I listen to the group, I think back to the innocent days of Beulah, where great pop songwriting and usage of horns was bred out of late night jams rather than extensive layering.  Regardless, I really think people should write more songs like this, both musically and lyrically.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/01_All_Went_Black.mp3]

Download: Blue-Eyed Son – All Went Black [MP3]

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