The Kills – Blood Pressures

Rating: ★★★½☆

With a name like The Kills, there is a general connotation of thick, deep-set rock and roll that comes with this band. With past releases that have realized this connotation, this group consisting of merely Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince, has methodically strummed and beat their way to the front of the indie rock music scene. With Blood Pressures, they keep on with their distorted guitars and slightly rough around the edges sound.

The first track, “Future Starts Slow,” begins with some twangy yet grunge guitar work accompanied by vocals from both members. With the drums resounding slightly higher over the top of the track at points, you can get a clear grasp of the emphasis on percussion elements in addition to that of just the guitar. As the words “You can blow what’s left of my right mind,” are doled out during the chorus, you can feel the sweet release of this band. They are just trying to make some swell tunes, and by poking fun at a failing sanity, they offer everything that’s left of their creativity to their audience to take and make their own.

Whereas their last record, Midnight Boom, was a step away from their traditional serious sound, Blood Pressures is a culmination of their grainy rock alongside lighter bits. There are the simple songs that bring lighter notes on the short “Wild Charms.” While hardly offering whimsy, it is a quick break from the thick guitars and the vixen-esque voice of Mosshart and a glimpse at a solo from Hince. Contrarily, on the very next track “DNA,” you have everything that the track before it was not; the garage rock guitars, some choppy percussion and the seductive vocals of Mosshart.

But for me, the band’s full excellence comes on “The Last Goodbye,” in the latter half of Blood Pressures. Gone is the prominent guitar and present are the comforting lullaby feeling words. With just a piano and some crackly record player sound effects, the track makes you feel as if you are in a different time, perhaps saying goodbye to a good friend, or even a lover. At this stripped down level, the basic fundamentals of this group are savory and sweet, despite the solemnity of the song.  Despite the cheese factor that it could have had on this album, I feel like it would have been much wiser to end with this track. It is such a strong track from this group that the other songs that follow just kind of get lost in the shuffle.

Regardless of track order, this is still a fairly enjoyable album. With its ups and downs, and transitions from grit to clean, The Kills have once again produced a good effort.

The Dead Weather – Sea Of Cowards

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Jack White is on a mission of late. Between three bands touring extensively in recent years, a new White Stripes’ DVD, a marriage to his model wife, Karen Elson, and 2 albums in 10 months with his latest project, there’s no shortage of insatiable, swampy blues guitar riffs in his bag of tricks (or drum licks in this particular case).  Following up 2009’s Horehound is their latest Sea of Cowards. Right away the differences between the two albums are apparent, on the vocal front, there’s more Jack White’s smarmy howl, which was primarily the Kill’s lead singer Allison Mosshart’s forte; and secondly, there’s more secure percussive stylings from White, which steadies the record as a whole from start to finish. If there was a question about their last release, it was not focused on intent or motivation, but in the execution.

At first spin of the vinyl, the bass lines and kick drum rumbled my speakers. From the first few lines of ‘Blue Blood Bones’ it’s obvious that White has been practicing. He is no doubt one of the hardest working musicians in the game nowadays, but he manages not to over-extend himself. That may be in part to surrounding himself with like-minded uber-talented musicians which push towards high quality in every collaboration. With the afore mentioned Mosshart approaching rock goddess status, Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Dean Fertita and Raconteurs‘ bassist Jack Lawrence are by no means pushed into the shadows. Even though it may seem that way with White’s growing influence and Mosshart larger than life personality. In only 10 months the group seems to have hit their stride and are thriving in the new found confidence which translates to one of the best live shows in the world, though the creativity for song-writing is still lacking. As with the last, the intent is solid and the execution is much stronger, but the tunes just don’t carry as well on the turntable as well as they do on stage. For some, that’s not a bad thing; and I just happen to be one of those people. If you caught the group’s last stop through Austin at Stubb’s, you know exactly what I mean. These songs just can’t be contained in a formal studio release, though try as they might.

Sea of Cowards is much angrier than their former, allowing the band to show their angst and fierce nature, letting loose on tracks like ‘Hustle and Cuss’ and ‘I’m Mad’. ‘The Difference Between Us’ is the first track which solely highlights Alison Mosshart’s full potency as she dominates the track.  The first single, ‘Die By The Drop’ is no doubt one of the highlights of the album with Mosshart and White each taking turns howling alongside strong performances from Fertita and Lawrence. During ‘Looking At the Invisible Man’, White it seems to be making a symbolic gesture of his desire to step out of the spotlight and to let his accompaniment shine, and the realization that it is no use. He exclaims that he is the invisible man, though his presence is always felt. On the final track ‘Old Mary’, White recites last rites with a simple piano accompaniment before the band pounds out the finale in style. Something tells me this however is not the last breath of this rendition of White (and Company). In fact with White’s steadier percussive talent, I feel the best may be yet to come. This is by no means the best album of the year, but it is a worthy successor to Horehound.

FT5: Hot Ladies Of Indie Rock

0612top5coverI think you all knew that ATH would go here at some point and alas today is the day that I take the leap and display our true male hormone driven selves with a top 5 about the hot ladies of indie rock.  I won’t beat around the bush here, this post has little to do with the musical talents of these ladies, and more to do with how they drive me crazy with their good looks.  I promise not to offend anyone and also promise that these women have made my list because they are empowered and musically talented women who also just so happen to be pleasing on the eyes.  I love them all and would probably just turn into a bumbling idiot if they ever actually spoke to me…  You will see a lot of familiar faces on the list and probably take issue with some big names being left off.  I love you too Feist and Neko, just not quite enough for you to break into my Top 5.  If you really wanted to mess me up, you should have gotten to me sooner!  Follow the jump for our full top 5 breakdown.
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The Dead Weather

dead-weather-jack-whiteSo we’re fairly certain that this track is soon to be on every blog in the country by the end of the day.  Regardless, this killer new tune comes your way from Jack White’s latest supergroup going by the name The Dead Weather.  The group features of course Jack White on vocals & drums, Raconteur Jack Lawrence on bass, Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Dean Fertita and best of all, The Kills‘ Allison Mosshart on lead vocals.  Sounds like a match made in heaven right?  Apparently the band played their first gig at Jack White’s Third Man Studios in Nashville last night and gave out a limited 7″ vinyl of new single “Hang You Up From the Heavens”.  You probably don’t live in Tennessee so we’ve got the track for you below.  The debut full length from the group, Horehound, is due out in early June.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/the-dead-weather-hang-you-from-the-heavens.mp3]

Download: The Dead Weather – Hang You From The Heavens [MP3]