SXSW Interviews: DYGL

As I comb my way through the SXSW lineup, I continue to find more and more bands to be excited about. One of those bands is relatively young Japanese quartet DYGL. Their songs have this great, almost vintage Strokes style sound to them which isn’t surprising considering their latest album Say Goodbye to Memory Den was produced by none other than Albert Hammond Jr. He’s a pretty big deal, or so I heard. If you’re looking to learn more about the great bands coming to town in a couple of weeks, hit the jump for an interview with DYGL.

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Listen in to Landlines

landlinesLandlines is just another one of the many Portland bands that people are going to have to get to know, even if they’re not immediately on the public radar. Musically, I guess you’d describe their sound as casual guitar rock, working on rising harmonies that work to beat the guitar’s to the song’s climax. It’s all about pop sensibility and songwriting, so it’s hard for me to look away from the band’s brand new album, Problems 24/7, which just went up via Eggy Records. I think you’ll dig it; I do. Sort of sounds like Albert Hammond Jr.

ACL 2015 WE2 In Pictures: Friday Edition

ACLSo, let’s start with the photo portion of our ACL coverage. I have a confession; I sold my soul to take photos of the Foo Fighters. Yes, I signed a release. If the Foo people read this, please try to keep up to your end of the bargain and leave the watermark for ATH and send a little credit our way “as allowed”. I’ll probably never check if you guys use my pics, but be nice.

The Friday edition of photos starts with Avers and ends with the Foos, Son Little, Royal Blood, London Souls, Albert Hammond Jr., Billy Idol, Run The Jewels and Tame Impala in between.

Click through and gaze…

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What Do You Think: The New Albert Hammond Jr Single

albertThis track has me a bit perplexed, so I figured I’d reach out to you faithful readers.  On one hand, I love both the Strokes and Albert Hammond Jr, but on the other hand, there’s something that seems amiss in this track.  There’s some great guitar work and catchy harmonies that I’ll definitely back any day of the week, but the stuttering piece at the opening few seconds of the verses sort of rubs me the wrong way.  Even the vocal there sounds odd, but that’s why I’m asking for your help.  Am I just a disgruntled aged blogger?  Regardless, I’m still looking forward to his AHJ EP, which will be released by Cult Records…which is run by some Julian Casablancas character…never heard of him.

Hurricane Bells – Tonight is the Ghost

Hurricane_Bells_FNL

Rating: ★★★ · ·

Many may not remember the band Longwave, the band that bubbled just beneath the breakthrough success of bands such as Kings of Leon and The Strokes.  Working hard for years, differentiating themselves from their contemporaries, they sort of disappeared.  Yet, all along, they continued to create vibrant music with creative guitar work.  Why does this matter?  Well, at the heart of Longwave is Steve Schiltz, the core songwriter for Hurricane Bells.  He’s been collecting demos and working on fleshing out the first full-length under the new moniker; here we have the story behind Tonight is the Ghost.

One of the things you’ll enjoy the most is how soft Schiltz’s vocals are throughout his recordings, with old band and new.  It’s somewhat reminiscent of Albert Hammond Jr., but you can rest assured he has got much more range than the aforementioned character.  It’s this pleasant delivery that makes Schiltz the perfect person to go into the singer/songwriter sphere of things.

Alas, the music isn’t too far off from where you usually find him. “This is a Test” reminds you immediately, for those that are familiar, with Longwave, albeit a less grand version.  You can even tell in the harmonics of the guitar as they stretch out into the atmosphere where he’s coming from, but you can’t blame a guy for relying upon what he knows best.  Such are the opening moments of Tonight is the Ghost; he doesn’t clearly step out of the shadows of his own career.

Yet as the record progresses, you can find yourself seeing the variance in the craft of writing that Schiltz must have endured when recording this album.  “Tonight I’m Going to be Like a Shooting Star” is the first moment when he doesn’t seem to completely revolve around his writing of the past.  It’s a more direct approach to writing, as simple as it gets for this chap.  And in such a fashion, you won’t find yourself surprised when that slide guitar comes around the bend in “Freezing Rain,” though this has a different effect than the country-fied version used with so many other band across the globe. And in this moment, you realize why you really like Steve’s tunes.

The great thing about both Hurricane Bells and Longwave is that you can always clearly hear the vocals.  In a world coated with lo-fi tendencies and indecipherable lyrics, it’s rare to find a singer who puts it out there so plainly for the listener.  Subject matter is personal, and yet ultimately relatable, which allows for that connection between musician and audience, something lacking in a lot of modern musical movements.

As you would expect, the album is generally successful, though not too far off from where you find Steve in his day job.  Luckily, I like Longwave a whole lot, and so any new tune from the great Steve Schiltz never hurts these ears.  For fans like me, and music fans looking for something a little more pure, and a lot less contrived, you’ll find joy in Hurricane Bells’ Tonight is the Ghost.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/04-Tonight-Im-Going-To-Be-Like-A-Shooting-1.mp3]

Download: Hurricane Bells – Tonight I’m Going To Be Like A Shooting Star [MP3]

Tegan & Sara – Sainthood

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Rating: ★★★★ ·

My affair with Tegan & Sara began when I first got my hand on the largely acoustic-based So Jealous.  When they switched it up on The Con, I could sense a move in a new direction, and while I liked the album, it didn’t seem like the girls had quite gotten to where they wanted to be. Now, with Sainthood, you can finally see the progression as its come to fruition.  From the opening moments of the album, you can see that they’ve continued to progress, and the production throughout is spot on.

“Arrow” opens the album, and you can hear the poppiness pumping from your stereo, and the emphasis from the bits and pieces of electronic samples (or sounds) brings out the strengths in the song.  You can feel the turning and whirling of the song as it grabs ahold of you, refusing to let you loose until you’ve absorbed all the pop goodness it has to offer.

And the first single, “Hell” is one of the hardest hitting songs the girls have ever put together.  Initially (as in a few weeks ago) it seemed out of place on its own, but when placed in the whole of Sainthood, it’s one of the best songs the girls have written.  The stutter step delivery of the lyrics propels the song forward, and the backing vocals fit perfectly into the greater spectrum of the song.  It might be awhile before you get this song out of your head.

Suddenly, the pacing of the album seems to take a step.  After rushing forward with their stories of love and loss (and possibly the role of playing the martyred lover) they seem to put on the brakes.  “On Directing” through “The Cure” are classic Tegan & Sara, stripped to some of their basic elements, the girls continue to find a way to draw you into their storytelling and catchy melodies.  Then they move into some new direction, a place we haven’t seen them.

“Night Watch” is a short number, backed up to one of the most straightforward pop-punk moments of their career with “Northshore.”  There is a brooding quality here, and the music seems so sparse that you have no choice but to focus on the lyrical value here. The dual vocal delivery of the chorus is precisely what makes this song attractive, although it’s the fact that the girl’s explored some empty space that will fascinate many.

From this point on, the rest of the album runs from hit to hit until the end.  Personally, “Sentimental Tune” reminds me of a great Albert Hammond Jr. (get well buddy) driving song.  Jangling guitars and captivating hooks provide diversity that other albums have lacked.  It proves that Sainthood is one of the most complete albums the Tegan & Sara have put together.  Their maturity shows, and with lyrics that everyone can relate to, this is the record when everyone will truly fall in love with Tegan & Sara, if they haven’t already.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/11-The-Ocean.mp3]

Download: Tegan & Sara – The Ocean [MP3]

New Tunes from Free Energy

freeenergyFree Energy busted out their self-titled 7″ off DFA recently, and we brought you that track, and all its glam-rcok swagger, but we’re here now to throw you the other side of the coin.  “Something in Common” is the B-Side, but it’s completely different, wearing the tag of maybe an Albert Hammond Jr. pop influence, which knowing us, is sure to win our hearts. Get into it.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/Free-Energy-Something-In-Common.mp3]

Download: Free Energy – Something In Common

Nickel Eye – The Time of the Assassins

Rating: ★★★ · ·

The last several months have brought the music faithful three different Strokes side-projects, the newest being from bassist Nikolai Fraiture, aptly titled Nickel Eye.  All this output makes one wonder what could have been accomplished had all the players remained as prolific as they seem to be.  But, this one leaves some questions for listeners.

Opening the album, it’s clear that Niklai holds his instrument of choice dear to his heart, as the bass-work is precisely what he provided listeners with when he took to the stage with his mates.

Then comes “Back From Exile,” the first appearance of an acoustic guitar.  It’s not that the songs aren’t enjoyable, as they surely are just that, but you start to go elsewhere with the music as you listen.  His voice sounds oddly like his band-mate’s, which leads one to wonder precisely what Julian thinks of his friends finding replacements for his vocal styling. Still, the second song featuring acoustic guitar, “Fountain Avenue” definitely is worth a listen, possibly over and over again.

Enter “Dying Star,” a possible suggestion at where The Strokes could have gone, or were going, or are going for that matter.  It’s winding guitars and hurried sound seemingly fit the mold of that other band.  It’s at this point that it all begins to slowly make sense.  “Brandy of the Damned” has a similar bounce to that of Fab’s band, Little Joy, but still definitely has a quality unmistakably similar to the central band.  That is where you begin to figure it out.

Nikolai seems to have a lot of difficulty moving away entirely from the sound he helped to establish. Whereas you feel like Albert Hammond and Little Joy have both established themselves, distancing their sound in certain ways away from their alma mater, Nikolai flirts with walking away, but never quite goes the distance here. He can’t seem to eclipse the huge shadow that looms large over his career.

That being said, the last few songs, “Another Sunny Afternoon” and “Hey, Thats No Way to Say Goodbye” both push those boundaries just a little bit, in a folkier manner.  It’s at the end of the album, which makes it come off as an afterthought, though you’ll surely enjoy “Another Sunny Afternoon.”

While listening to this album, you will definitely find a lot of it’s appeal, as there are many songs worthy of making your favorite mix-tape.  Yet, this album, is not one where you ask for more from Nickel Eye.  It’s pleasant and enjoyable, but where you wish Little Joy had another record, here your okay with just a few listens.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/07-brandy-of-the-damned.mp3]

Download: Nickel Eye – Brandy of the Damned [MP3]

Top 40 Songs Of The Year

So when we thought making an albums of the year post was hard, this one proved to be even harder.  How do you take literally thousands of songs and narrow it down to the best 40 of the year?  Not too sure how to answer that question, but we tried.  Each of these songs scream 2008 in our ears.  As evident by this list, the year in music was quite a good one and we had some tough choices to make.  We’ve got some of the songs streaming for you or links to the song on youtube.  Follow the jump to see if your favorite tune of the year made the list.

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Longwave – Secrets are Sinister

Rating: ★★★★½

Long ago, circa 2003, Longwave released The Strangest Things. It was an album full of possibilities; part pop album, part New York cool. Then comes 2005 and There’s A Fire loses everyone, pushing the band back to start. So where on Earth will we find them with Secrets are Sinister?

Briefly, lets journey back into the late 80s/early 90s, a time when pop music was a socially acceptable medium. Let’s face it, The Cure was a pop band; they still are. Yet, somewhere along this path, marketing interrupted creativity, rendering pop music virtually useless. In steps Longwave, circa 2008.

This album is precisely what a pristine pop album should and still is. Opening track “Sirens in the Deep Sea” is a heavy hitter, blasting guitar swells from the instant you press play, but then it drapes careful melodic vocals upon the walls of the song. It’s not the most novel approach, nor do we ask it to be, but there is not an instant where this song doesn’t immediately feel familiar and lasting.

“No Direction” keeps the pace with it’s predecessor, continuing the beating, yet this song is one of the one’s that harkens back to the band’s heyday. Most unique here are the levels to which singer, Steve Schlitz, pushes himself; it’s the most passionate he’s ever sounded.

However, it’s not all scowling guitars and walls of feedback. Let’s take “The Devil and the Liar,” for instance. It’s a calm moment in this storm of a statement; it’s also fairly reminiscent of Albert Hammond Jr, one of Schlitz’s dear friends, or at least old friends. This song clearly states that the band can play both ends, and they play it well. Similarly, you play a song like “Shining Hours” and you find yourself basking in the rays of pop goodness. It’s got a youthful edge, but one we can all identify with, no matter who we are. Longwave‘s ability to tug at any and every emotion is clearly where the band is at their best.

In trying to find a detractor here, one could easily state that there isn’t too much here that is pushing the limits of the local musical lexicon, but since when did everyone really have to go out of their way to be different in order to garner some sort of fandom. Clearly Longwave treasure those moments musically that we can all share; those moments when we realize we all love music for the same reason. That’s the secret.

You can listen to the record, Secrets are Sinister, in its entirety by visiting the band’s web site.

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