Friday Top 5: Best Pics of 2011

The photo guy has to have his best of list, right?

The five photos featured are my favorite moments shooting music this year. I want to share some background about them, what was going on when they happened. These aren’t the “best” photos I have taken, but they are all my best memories captured. Thank you, 2011 Live Music, and thank you Austin Town Hall for inviting me to be part of the team.

Break it for the rundown and a gallery of other favorites…
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ATH @ ACL 2011 – Sunday

The news of the Longhorns’ victory lifted spirits, Cut Copy killed it – Saturday was a good day. I was tired, yet nervous and excited. The rain, though nearby and luckliy watering our lawns, never really pounded the grounds. Sunday was a day with a few bands I knew I wouldn’t see otherwise.

Head on past the break for the final batch of images from Sunday.

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Friday Top 5: ACL Departure Soundtrack

I have a feeling that like most of you out there, the headliners for ACL aren’t the real reason for going to the festival. At first glance, this year may be a bit weak, but even early walk-ins will find excellent acts like Cults, Telekinesis, The Head and the Heart, The Antlers, An Horse, and so on. The middle of the lineup is great with Cut Copy, Kurt Vile, Smith Westerns, The Moondoggies, TV on the Radio, The Walkmen, Broken Social Scene, Empire of the Sun – I could go on. The headliners are left with the task of clearing the venue, the triggers for the long walk back to the car, the soundtrack for a mosey. Here are my Top 5 (anticipated) songs from this year’s Headliners to make me head out.

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The Veils – Troubles of the Brain

Rating: ★★★ · ·

The last time we heard from The Veils on a recording was in 2009 with Sun Gangs.  But, we’re sure to get more from the band soon, as their latest Troubles in the Brain EP indicates. 

You’ll find traditional touchstones of the group throughout this 7 song collection.  “The Wishbone” uses singer Finn Andrews voice to carry the song, whilst the rest of the group uses intricate touches of production and layering to flesh out the rest of the track.  It’s odd, but for some reason I hear a lot of Jason Spacemen in this track. 

Personally, “Grey Lynn Park” is my favorite track on this EP.  Andrews has a bit of a heavier tone to his voice, but it’s the way the strong was constructed that really gets at me.  It’s as if every little piece of instrumentation serves the perfect purpose, making this one of my favorite tracks from the band’s career. 

Of course, these stronger tracks all live at the back end, as the first half of Troubles of the Brain are a little bit bouncier.  It’s not necessarily a bad way to approach the songwriting, but “Don’t Let the Same Bee Sting You Twice” and “The Stars Came Out Once the Lights Went Out” are very similar, perhaps just because of the rhythm.  The latter has a bit of Arcade Fire construction to it, even in the way that the lyrics are composed.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just a bit of commentary. 

It seems clear throughout that The Veils are listening to their peers, as a lot of this EP has touches of current products out in the indie world.  From guitar sounds to the various layers being used, it all has some sort of link.  But, their bread and butter lives in their quiet place, or rather those moments like “Iodine and Iron” when Finn sounds fragile.  These are the moments when Andrews as a songwriter is clearly above so many, and creates the kind of work you wish there was more of in the world.  Troubles of the Mind clearly has indicators as to where the band goes from here.  Either way the band goes, it seems grounded in continual growth, which is never a bad thing.

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

Download: The Veils – The Wishbone [MP3]

The War on Drugs – Future Weather EP

Rating: ★★★★ ·

If you’re listening to The War on Drugs, or even interested in following the band, then odds are you’re a fan of Kurt Vile. While we can respect his individual works, it’s not Vile who makes a statement here, rather it’s frontman Adam Granduciel.  Future Weather was written predominantly by Adam, with a little help from some other friends, and it might possibly win over more fans, letting him step out of the shadow of Vile.

During the opening moments of “Come to the City #14” you will find that atmospheric ambient noise associated with Philly at the moment, but as it subsides, it goes right into “Baby Missiles,” kicking off a great three song set.  While you can definitely feel a bit of hazy, primarily in the background, this has more of an upbeat folk approach one might reflect upon if they’ve listened to Arcade Fire. The quickly spoken lyrics, that pounding drum rhythm, they all add up to that sound, and its so enjoyable, you can’t help but realize The War on Drugs is coming into its own.  Heading into “Coming Through,” you’re likely to find a bit more of a somber tone, perhaps given by Adam’s vocals or by the established mood of the music itself.  Guitars meander through various audio channels consistently, bordering on jamming, but there’s enough restraint here to keep a bit of focus.  Lyrically, you’ve got imagery associated with parting ships, a possible nod to Vile.  The sound of Future Weather goes even further into folk territory on the following track, “Pile of Tires,” with its ambling guitar effects, and its distant vocals, almost as if you were listening to the band from a far off stage. It’s got a certain warmth hinting at its influences, but it makes for a strong three song start.

The latter half of Future Weather EP is filled with just as much quiet beauty as the first half, leaving you wanting more than your getting, with only six complete songs present.  “Brothers” is like a pure American classic rock hit, carrying the melody with an understated bit of sunshine, unable to escape the darker mood of the lyrics and Granduciel’s vocal quality. Seems like the sort of jam you want to sing-a-long to with your friends, if you’re in to singing classic rock tracks.  The War on Drugs closes the EP out with a nice long track, yet it differs a little bit from the previous tracks, allowing the atmospheric touches to extend beyond their normal range. Vocals, like the music, comes across a bit drawn out, but it is refreshing to see a bit of a switch on the offerings up to this point in time.  But, don’t turn away too quick, as the pace slightly picks up, even though the vocal delivery remains slow. A nice way to close out this effort.

By the end of this listen, you’ve probably forgotten the association with Kurt Vile.  Adam G. has done a great job with The War on Drugs, and Future Weather cements his role as a songwriter in his own right.  As the weather waivers between warm and cold, I can feel this spinning on my turntable into 2011.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/03-Comin-Through-1.mp3]

Download: The War on Drugs – Comin’ Through [MP3]

Friday Top 5: Top Five Song Spots

In a conversation with one of our local blogger friend’s, Sonic Itch Mike, I decided that I really needed to take a close look at which spots on any given album are the killer spots to put your hits.  Some people think that the immediacy really makes Track 1 the best, but I’m going to look a little closer at this idea.  I mean, there are hundreds of classic albums out there, and surely they ascribe to this great song placement formula.

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Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

Rating: ★★★ · ·

After what seems like forever, Arcade Fire have finally made their return to the fold.  Their third album, The Suburbs, is being released by Merge Records, and while it obviously deals with the modernity of culture in the burbs, will its musical concepts be greeted by the masses, re-raising the flag of the band above all others?

“The Suburbs” brings the album about with a nice bouncy piano, and Win Butler’s eerie croon.  It’s a casual song, one thing that seems really commonplace in this collection of songs.  While there’s a bit of a fluctuation in the vocals, there aren’t really a great deal of changes in this track.  Moving along, you find a bit of a darker-edged swing with “Ready to Start.”  However, much like the opening track, it finds itself stuck in a sort of complacent circle, almost going nowhere.  In fact, the album doesn’t really go the places you’d like to see Arcade Fire go.

“Empty Room” is the first song, well, the fifth, where you actually see the band pushing themselves in a way we’re used to seeing them do.  It begins with a flurry of strings, cutting in through almost the entire song.  Beneath it, quietly, is a pounding rhythm that drives the pace of the song.  Interestingly, the band is exploring a bit of some odd atmospherics, but in doing so, they give the listener a different dynamic altogether, something that lacked in the earlier moments of The Suburbs.  The two mutually inclusive songs, “Half Light 1” and “Half Light 2” also show some changes in the structure of the band’s traditional writing, but all within reason.  Elements of strong synths and layers of noise provide a little bit more depth to these tracks.   That being said, there’s still not a lot of power behind these tracks, even when they do venture down new paths.

Oddly, while nothing immediately stands out within this album, as many of the tracks did on past works, you can’t really hate on a lot of these songs.  “Modern Man” is by no means the world’s most creative song, and perhaps its not meant to be pushing boundaries.  But, criticism on simplicity will only get you so far, as the song slowly grows on listener’s ears. “Deep Blue” is a great little ballad, but again, the band isn’t pushing too many limits.  It sort of gives the impression of a demo track that would have benefited from better orchestration or production, yet at this point, it’s probably one of the tracks I’ve most enjoyed.  For some reason, depth and passion seem to have waned throughout, which is personal opinion, of course, but it takes a lot of the luster away from songs that at their core, are quite enjoyable.

Everyone will surely appreciate the undertaking of commentary on the burbs, and you have to credit Win’s writing, as it is probably the strongest we’ve seen from him, at least in parts.  However, as the album goes on, one might find themselves losing interest in it all, as it clearly drags out in parts.  Arcade Fire will be the most polarizing talk this week around your water cooler, as brilliant moments do exist within The Suburbs. Still, it all seems a touch to mundane.  If we weren’t talking about the band that came out with Funeral, then this might be a great piece of art, but knowing the band is capable of more, you get the feeling like they’ve sort of settled down, perhaps in the middle ground of their own musical suburbs.

FT50: Albums of the ’00s

0828top5coverWhat?   You still listen to THAT album?  That record is so 2004!  Well, that’s okay, because we really like that one too, which is why we decided to come up with a list of our favorite albums of the last decade (2000-2009).  Sure, these might not be YOUR favorite records, or the most critically acclaimed, but we sat down and really thought out every record from the past ten years that we keep coming back to in our collections.  You’re likely to disagree with some of these, and we won’t tell you we’re absolutely right we just know that these happen to be OUR favorites.  If you think we totally blew it here, feel free to tell us so, but be nice, as our egos are kind of fragile.  Follow the jump for more.

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7/19 – Foreign Born/The Veils @ Mohawk

og_v_fb_06Sunday night wrapped up a rather moderate week of live music in Austin, but let’s not forget that we’ve had a pretty awesome summer of live music. Fortunately for us at ATH, we were able to catch Foreign Born, The Veils and Other Girls at The Mohawk on Sunday night, just after we did our best to pretend to be entertained by the Anarchy Wrestling Tour outside of the Mohawk. You can’t argue with $1 Pabst or good tunes. Follow the jump for our take on the show and a few snapshots.

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