New Music from Quiet Company

The guys in Quiet Company have been hard at work the last few years, building a large fan base in Austin, and moving their popularity beyond our fair city.  On October 4th, the band will release their latest album, We Are All Where We Belong. They’ve been kind enough to offer the public a free glimpse of the record with the song “Fear & Fallacy, Sitting in a Tree.”  It’s based around a piano structure, and as it bursts into a pop euphoria, you’ll notice some similarities to the old tunes of Ben Kweller. It’s gentle, it’s hook-laden, and it’s just a joy to listen to, so give yourself a chance to familiarize yourself with Quiet Company.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/fear-_-fallacy_-stitting-in-a-tree.mp3]

Download: Quiet Company – Fear & Fallacy, Sitting in a Tree [MP3]

Frank Smith – Nineteen

Rating: ★★ · · ·

Frank Smith comes off as a culmination of several genres. You have the bluesy guitar and the classic bass lines that make up an alternative country group, yet the raspy and distinct vocals that correspond with a more rock or pop genre. At first listen to this group my mind immediately thought of Ben Kweller, whom shares a similar sound. This country/indie sound comes across as incredibly enticing at first, but as with Mr. Kweller, it can get a tad flat and colorless after a while.

The album begins with “Nineteen,” a slow burner at first, carried by the methodical drum beat for about a minute and a half of the song. Aaron Sinclair provides the hazy tune with his unique voice, which has a clear, yet somehow gritty quality about it that instantly draws you in. When the song picks up at just the right time, an enticing sound of the blues guitar is added to the sped up pace and prevents the song from turning into a dud. It instead leads listeners to the next song, “5, 10, 15…” which continues the mellow tone of the first track. The waves of echoed twangy guitars together with the soft vocals and the “oohs,” give it crisp and pure indie/country song feel, making this a stand out track for Nineteen.

 Perhaps it is just my general dislike for country music, but the rest of the album sort of blends together after this for me. The overall slow tempo and the super distinctive sound of Frank Smith grows a little dull after the first few tracks and loses my interest. There isn’t enough variation between slow song and fast song, or rather any different aspects to help discern song from song. The whole feeling with the album is too mellow; it becomes boring too quickly and stays that way for too long.  

But through the monotonous and flat line “chillness” of this album, a slow, yet interesting track floats its way to the surface in “Swollen Tongue.” The bass and drums start the song, sounding the same as the others, but then the band moves to the bridge, where all the members chime in with their respective instrument, providing the edge you’ve been waiting for this whole album. On this song, they put together their cool, and mellow sound with instrumentation that makes the song interesting and new.

This is an album that is fairly simple, yet offers a few great tracks that really show the potential of Frank Smith as a band. Nineteen isn’t a standout album at all, but it still has some good qualities about it.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/01-Nineteen.mp3]

Download: Frank Smith – Nineteen [MP3]

Ben Kweller @ Threadgill’s (8/31)

Date 8/31/10
Location Threadgill’s
Doors 8:30pm
Tickets $20 @ Frontgate

The always solid Ben Kweller has a show planned Tuesday night at the Threadgill’s south location.  It doesn’t look like any opening act is in store so it’ll be all Ben all night.  Make it out if you’ve been living under a rock for the last 10 years and haven’t seen Kweller live.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/05-ballad-of-wendy-baker.mp3]

Download: Ben Kweller – Ballad of Wendy Baker [MP3]

New Music From Ben Kweller

So our very own locally grown boy Ben Kweller is offering up this new track “It All Happened” for free.  The song doesn’t appear on any of Kweller’s previous releases and apparently is just a one and done single situation.  We had to shrink the quality of the song just a bit since it’s so long and we can’t be uploading 8min songs at super high quality.  If you’ve got a little time on your hands, check out the extended story telling song.  I still dig his simple approach.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/ItAllHappenedBenKweller-2.mp3]

Download: Ben Kweller – It All Happened [MP3]

Brendan Benson – My Old, Familiar Friend

brend

Rating: ★★★½ ·

Lately, we’ve seen more of Brendan Benson trading licks with that one guy from the White Stripes, but when he first came onto the scene, he was a pop crooner.  His album Lapalco remains overlooked, despite all the gems it offers listeners. Now he returns with a new record, My Old, Familiar Friend.  It’s a return to form, for the most part, though you can see the shift in his writing if you’re familiar with his work.

Opening the album, you see a glimmer of the Brendan of the past on “A Whole Lot Better.”  His vocals start low, as they always go, and change to the higher tones mid-syllable.  Even the lyrics seem to recall some of the old territory, but it’s the choruses that remind you of the old songwriter of yesterday.  But, noticeably, the structure of the songs themselves have begun to change a bit, which is good, considering we all admire growth with our favorite artists.

“Eyes on the Horizon” is yet another example of his growth.  It just seems that so much more is going on within the song, and while it may not be as clean as his previous output, you can glimpse the familiar, especially in the chorus. Perhaps the inclusion of guitar solos, of the classic rock sort, give away his most recent act The Raconteurs.  It’s a more mature songwriter we find here, which explains a lot of the lyrical content, as the story line in the album seems to revolve around reflection of a lost love.

Just as you thought you had a collection of b-sides from The Raconteurs sessions, at least the ones Brendan wrote, he kicks it up a notch near the end of the album, starting with “Poised and Ready.”  While he once sounded similar to the early Ben Kweller, he appears more like a rocking version of A.C. Newman. This second half of the record though is chock full of straight ahead pop rock songs of the most sublime sort. It’s the sort of stuff you know you’ll be singing along to during your days at work.  The catchiness of “Don’t Wanna Talk” will surely have you and your friends singing along in your cars. From there you can slide right into “Misery,” which is probably one of the best songs that you’ll find here on the album.  As far as song construction goes, it’s probably one of the more open songs, and the extra space allows for Brendan to work his magic for his audience.

Nothing on this album will blow you away with creativity, but if you’re the kind of person that cherishes solid pop rock to go along with a nice long drive, then you will definitely find something for yourself here.  Brendan Benson has a quality voice that will keep you coming back for more, as he churns out pop gems with his crafty songwriting and vocal inflection.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/09-misery.mp3]

Download: Brendan Benson – Misery [MP3]

Ben Kweller @ Emo’s (6/27)

WebThe always steady and entertaining Ben Kweller is making another stop in Austin at Emo’s on Saturday night.  Joining Mr. Kweller on the stage will be Jones Street Station and a special acoustic set by The MurdocksTickets are on sale now for $18 and music starts around 9pm.  Most recent single “Ballad of Wendy Baker” can be found below for your listening pleasure.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/05-ballad-of-wendy-baker.mp3]

Download: Ben Kweller – Ballad of Wendy Baker [MP3]

Telekinesis – Telekinesis!

tele

Rating: ★★★½ ·

Telekinesis is more or less made up of one man, Michael B. Lerner, who gathered what one can assume is a group of close friends to flesh out his debut album.  The self-titled album, well, save for a change in punctuation, is the first most will hear from Mr. Lerner, and with such a solid album, we’re sure to hear more from the man and his band in the future.

“Rust” is the album opener, and it sets the mood, or revels in the setting of the music, as it would be hard not to place the music on this album somewhere in the Northwest.  Here, you’ll find the band sounding a bit like old Earlimart bedroom recordings.

Then listeners will come across what we will call the meat of the album, which is probably the most consistent tracking on any album this year.  Kick starting our hearts is “Coast of Carolina,” which begins with gentle acoustics before kicking right it in with its energy legs. There is an element of lo-fi recording to this song, and to the majority of the songs that appear on this album, but they also have a surefire pop sensibility.  Rock songs like “Look to the East”  will remind some of us of early Ben Kweller recordings before he thought coke and country was where its at.

“Foreign Room” is another song that clearly locates the album and its narrator, as Lerner does his best to emulate Eliott Smith; the wavering in his voice will be the first key to this comparison.  But, he doesn’t just rely upon Smith’s old tricks, instead pushing forward with a quick paced guitar.  It’s like the entire Northwest went pop as the rain made way for a years worth of sunshine.

Just as you get used to the harder moments on the album, or the faster elements one should say, Lerner slows it all down with “Great Lakes.”  His voice is pitch-perfect here, and the space on the song is all filled in such a fashion that one would be hard pressed not to adorn the band with praise just like the rest of their cohorts along the Northwest Corridor. And so the album closes with an acoustic number that bookends the album precisely the way one would expect.  Through all the peaks and gorges, it’s hard not to appreciate such a subtle ending as this.  A love song no less.

And with the entirety of this album, each listener will find something that they can appreciate, as Telekinesis appeals to many different styles and many different tastes.  It’s an album that many will appreciate, a few will love, and most will respect; the best thing about the album is it leaves the door wide open for future accomplishments by Michael Benjamin Lerner.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/05-awkward-kisser.mp3]

Download: Telekinesis – Awkward Kisser [MP3]

Ben Kweller – Changing Horses

bkhorses

Rating: ★★ · · ·

Ever since Ben Kweller flopped down upon the floor of stages to play his keyboard many years ago, we were all instantly hooked. His uncanny knack for creating simple pop tunes had long been known, but at such an early point in his career it was hard not to be flabbergasted by the young lad.  Now, two albums later, can he still win us all over with Changing Horses?

His first release brought us a slew of pop tunes that seemed to be centered around creative tunes written strictly on his piano, but then he brought out the rock with his release of On My Way. If anything, Ben Kweller couldn’t be pigeonholed for a staple sound, and this album is just another example of his musical maneuvering.  We find Ben channeling his inner country soul throughout the entirety of his newest release.

Sure, it’s nice to see a singer-songwriter push forward into new ground, and we all saw this coming with the release of his latest EP.  Still, the twang of the slide guitar seems to be a step to far in a different direction from Ben.  It comes off entirely forced, as if Ben wasn’t really pushing to break new ground so much as he was trying his best not to fall into old patterns.  He had tried it the ways he knew best, so why not go in an entirely Texas direction?

For one thing, the clever sensibility that he always maintained seems to be a bit far off on each of these songs. “Gypsy Rose” sounds too much as if he wanted to go down the path of the forefathers of folk music, resting on gentle guitar plucking.  You can juxtapose that with “Sawdust Man,” which may share similarities to Dr. Dog, but comes off more in the vein of a teenager trying to write the score to his latest homemade Western movie.

Now, the one thing that always remains true for Ben is his ability to keep you interested by holding onto his voice.  You’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t have a soft spot for some of his better traits, namely this spectacular voice.  The way he can manipulate his inflection mid-melody is definitely something you could use to pass the time.  However, sometimes it just doesn’t seem to fit the country-mold of the album as a whole.

You’ll find a few gems lying beneath the covers here, such as “Ballad of Wendy Baker,” which comes across like a more subdued version of some of his earlier releases.  Here he lays his voice on the line, backed by appropriate guitar strumming and simple string instrumentation.  It’s one of the shining moments.  “Things I Like to Do” is very simplistic in its lyrical content, but that is precisely where Ben has always succeeded. He’s never been one to get to deep with the discussion in his lyrics, and simple suits him just fine.  It just might not be enough for most fans.  Even “On Her Own,” which seems to channel a little Pete Yorn vocal has some fine elements worthy of repeated listening; it just seems like these moments come few and far between.

Ben Kweller has always supplied us with hit after hit, creating seamless albums you could play all the way through. Changing Horses, in the title alone, demonstrates a move in a different direction, as he can no longer ride the same one-trick pony to stardom.  Sadly, this might not be a winning horse either.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/05-ballad-of-wendy-baker.mp3]

Download:  Ben Kweller – Ballad of Wendy Baker [MP3]

Ben Kweller On Daytrotter

How many of you remember that Ben Kweller has a new album, Changing Horses, due out next month?  It seems like Mr. Kweller generally flies right under the radar so buzz about his new album has sort of faded.  Regardless, you can hear some new tunes from the album on his recent Daytrotter performance.  He plays 3 songs from his upcoming LP and one from On My Own. Here’s a taste of the new country sounding album with “Wanting Her Again” live on Daytrotter.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/benkweller_daytrottersession_3.mp3]

Download: Ben Kweller – Wanting Her Again (live) [MP3]

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