New Tunes from Beach Fossils

After breaking out a pretty solid debut, Beach Fossils are at it again, ready to release a new EP on Captured Tracks, which is quickly making waves in my book. The collection is titled What a Pleasure, and it adds just another thing to look forward to on February 22nd.  You’ll find that the vocals are really up front in the mix, while the guitar just sort of meanders back and forth throughout the song.  It’s got a feeling of labelmates (and founder) Blank Dogs, if you removed the fuzziness and distortion.  Neither of those things are bad in my book, but that’s just one man’s opinion.  I’ll let you make the final call.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Beach-Fossils-Calyer.mp3]

Download: Beach Fossils – Calyer [MP3]

New Music from The Soft Moon

After releasing two 7″s, it’s time for Luis Vasquez to bring on his debut record as The Soft Moon.  Of course, there’s a lot of dark undertones, created by the ominous atmospherics carrying the faintest hint of melody in the background.  The Soft Moon album will hit the streets on November 16th via Captured Tracks, which is home to other great artists such as Blank Dogs and Wild Nothing.  If you’re looking for that post-punk sound, riddled with haze and smoke, then you’re going to really enjoy the work here by Luis. Take a listen to the newest track.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/thesoftmoontinyspiders.mp3]

Download: The Soft Moon – Tiny Spiders [MP3]

Blank Dogs – Land and Fixed

Rating: ★★★★☆

Mike Sniper has two things going for him: his label Captured Tracks and his project Blank Dogs.  Running a label that’s releasing a lot of the best music around allows Mike to keep in touch with the heartbeat of the indie community, which really benefits his own work, as you’ll see on the newest record, Land and Fixed.  This is easily the most accessible, and enjoyable, release from Blank Dogs, while still maintaining that covert aesthetic he’s always utilized.

“Goes By” starts things off, and immediately the beats are dark and moving, just as that angular guitar line starts to dance about in the background of the track.  Sniper’s vocals are still coated, though they’re easily the clearest vocals he’s used to date–there also appears to be some backing tracks used to give more depth to his voice this time around.  As the guitar walks in and out of the verse and chorus it creates a nice powerful hook, sure to shake the dance floor.  “Collides” won’t do too much different than the opening track, though the song does a bit more as far as building tension up before jettisoning off into blissful dark-wave.  If you’re a fan of the band, or a casual listener, the clarity of the vocals this time around still has to grab your attention.

“Northern Islands” is the track that exemplifies everything about Land and Fixed.  It’s got this glitch beat erratically going on in the background, and Mike’s coated vocals haunt the dark edges of the song.  But, there’s this dark jangling guitar that recalls everything innocent about pop music, which goes a long way to establish the aesthetic of this record–beautiful in the club and in your bedroom. It’s this stylistic choice that makes Blank Dogs so interesting to listen to in the current market.  They’re neither chillwave or lo-fi, but more of a progressive element of both, moved forward by a focus on classic pop hooks.  If you take a song like “All Around,” it recalls bits of old school post-punk and new wave, yet nothing sounds entirely too trapped in complete nostalgia. And a track like “Treelines” shows how easily magic can slowly unfold before you unexpectedly when listening to this record.  Every bit and piece seems carefully selected and placed, creating optimal reward for musician and listener alike.

If you were looking for one thing to knock, which we know everyone wants to find, that angular beach guitar sound does get a little bit redundant at times.  At spots, its brilliantly included in the scope of Land and Fixed, but other times it could be pushed in a different direction, perhaps a little bit more mischief in the guitar line.  Still, that’s hardly reason to dislike an album, now is it?  With the latest release from Blank Dogs you’ll see an artist who is tied into the culture of a great deal of left of the dial music nowadays, and his influence clearly goes beyond his work with Captured Tracks. It seems that as Mike Sniper has allowed time to progress, his music has grown substantially, leaving us to reap the rewards of his hard work.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Blank-Dogs-Northern-Islands.mp3]

Download: Blank Dogs – Northern Islands [MP3]

New Music from Blank Dogs

I knew this was coming.  I had heard quiet whispers in the underground world if music nerds, and now P4K has helped us out, giving a little press to the newest of releases from Blank Dogs.  His last record was one of my favorites, and it blended the line between post-punk and electronic–usuaully with a twinge of gloom.  His next album, Land and Fixed, comes out on October 12th via Captured Tracks, which he runs.  If you go off this very first single, it definitely seems a little bit brighter, though his voice always has that appeal with the darkside.  Whatever, I’m digging it.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Blank-Dogs-Northern-Islands.mp3]

Download: Blank Dogs – Northern Islands [MP3]

New Tunes from Blank Dogs

Blank Dogs is the project of Mike Sniper, and while much is unknown, the guy likes to put out a fair amount of material.  Speaking of new material, he’s got a new 12″ coming out titled Phrases, which should be in stores real soon (slow vinyl production) according to Captured Tracks.  Having listened to several tracks, the vocals are a little bit more clear than they were on Under and Under, his last full-length.  This tune shows Blank Dogs delving into the darkness of nostalgic dance pop, with a touch of oddball artistry. It takes a bit to kick in completely, so stay with it.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/01-Heat-Depression.mp3]

Download: Blank Dogs – Heat & Depression [MP3]

Dum Dum Girls – I Will Be

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Initially gaining notoriety during the rise of similar bands such as Vivian Girls, it would be easy to lump Dum Dum Girls into the exact same pile, yet something separates those two groups from being perfectly aligned (despite sharing a DDG sharing a former member of VG).  On I Will Be, which is primarily the work of Dee Dee, there remains a large bit of influences, but underlying all that lies a certain sense of darkness.

You can put on “It Only Takes One Night” and immediately feel the edge that runs throughout the album.  Rather than buzz and pop, the guitars seem to ring from a darker place, not ever quite breaking out of that seemingly haunting place.  The vocals, too, have a bit of a dark influence to them, partly due to a bit of a vocal echo effect.  Surely this is the influence of Dee Dee’s friend Mike Sniper (Blank Dogs), who makes similarly haunting tunes.

Even with that sinister tone hiding beneath, the band also have a touch of a softer side to them, one that definitely has its roots in girl groups of the 60s.  You’ll find that style prevalent in songs such as “Bhang Bhang, I’m a Burnout” or “Rest of Our Lives.”  The former uses backing vocals to bring back that nostalgic aesthetic, and it does so effectively.  “Rest of Our Lives” is sort of a late 60s prom dance number.  It’s slow moving, and the rest of the girls in the group, or perhaps just Dee Dee’s overdubs, gently float vocals in the background, as one would expect to see.  These songs are easily enjoyable, though not necessarily pushing any new ground.

However much this band seems to stay in one of two places, they are capable of creating some spectacular songs.  “Jail La La” is every bit as catchy as anything that has come out this year.  This is one of the few songs in the collection that seems to rise above the influences and standout for its individual promise, making it a currently relevant pop track.  Whether its the precision drumming pushing the pace of the song or the vocal quality here, the song wins you over instantly, never letting go. Another winning track is “Blank Girl,” featuring Brandon from Crocodiles trading vocal parts.  The juxtaposed vocal tradeoffs are quite successful, and the psychedelic guitar cuts don’t inhibit this song either.

Adding a touch of kitsch, Dum Dum Girls cover Sonny & Cher’s “Baby Don’t Go” to close out the album.  Personally, this song is a lot more affecting than the original number, as you can’t resist Dee Dee’s warm vocals here.  Everything else seems to stop during this song, and the instruments themselves are just a tool for the female voice. At least you can accept the inclusion of the song for thematic purposes on this record, and for the fact that its a pretty enchanting cover.

As it ends, I Will Be is neither astonishing, nor is it a letdown (not by any means).  You just have to weigh your personal feelings about whether or not this style is fitting for your listening habits. There’s not necessarily an over-abundance of originality, but you can’t let that detract from the fact that Dum Dum Girls have recorded some quality moments of music, such as “Jail La La.” You’ll find more enjoyable moments than not on this record, which is something you can’t say too often nowadays.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/04-Jail-La-La-1.mp3]

Download: Dum Dum Girls – Jail La La [MP3]

2009 Top 50 Albums

bestof2009cover_albums

Creating a Top 50 Albums list is never easy.  You have to battle with what you think the world believes, and what you truly believe in your heart, to be solid jams.  We have even more trouble because we have to three writers, all who have different ideas, and we have to make those ideas fit into a neat box.  Well, we got it done, and honestly, our criteria was based on two things: how great we thought the album was, artistically speaking, and how long we listened to it without getting bored.  That’s it. It’s fool proof; you might not like it, but it’s our list, so here it is… Read more

FT50: Songs of 2009

bestof2009cover_songsWe have to start this list off with a disclaimer.  We have three writers, all with different tastes, so the list should reflect that a little bit.  Also, these are our opinions, and by no means, are they meant to be seen as an “end all be all” to the question of what were the best songs of 2009.  That being said, we like our list quite a bit.  Sure, it’s got some expected numbers at the top, but the rest of the list is genius.  We’ve got some of the songs streaming for you, and the rest take you straight to youtube.  Follow the jump for full list.

Read more

Blank Dogs – Under and Under

dogsRating: ★★★☆☆

Currently, the music scene is filled with waves upon waves of bands who are forging ahead with music under the lo-fi moniker, creating tunes shrouded in disguise. It’s as divisive a topic as whether or not to like Grizzly Bear or Animal Collective; clearly the jury is out, but Blank Dogs is yet another band opting to use a barrage of noisy atmospherics in order to compose the music on Under and Under.  Of course, you’ll find that the man behind the project Mike Sniper is familiar with other leading acts in the scene such as Crystal Stilts or Dum Dum Girls.

Musically, all listeners will have to admit that the skeleton of the album itself is quite interesting, and would normally garner huge popularity in another format.  Take the lead track “No Compass” with the bouncing rhythm and angular guitar cutting through the song.  Even when the tracks come across fueled with electronic elements such as keyboards on tracks like “Blue Lights” you can catch melodies that otherwise one would typically enjoy.

However, the presentation of these skeletons is what leads to a discourse on whether or not this music can be deemed as such.  Has the deconstruction of pop sensibility gone so far that we can accept as a listener lyrics run through some sort of effect machine, creating nothing more than what appears echoes of noise?  It’s actually a deeply haunting effect that pervades the entirety of Under and Under, but it takes a certain breed of listener to endure this for long periods of time.

Taking the album fragment by fragment, you have what looks to be the construction of a very basic pop album; the guitar work that is present is not super difficult, and not far off from what  is currently on the market.  An issue with many listeners will be that the recording and the creation of all these fragments has been marred for the most part by these elements of noise that coat both the music and the vocals.

Still, you can’t deny that there is magic in this album.  Standout track “Tin Birds” would easily be on any best of compilation from the eighties, even with the foggy vocoder effect on the song.  Mike Sniper has created some really intriguing music as Blank Dogs, and a lot of it is worthy of the praise that has been heaped upon him.  But, wouldn’t it be great to see if one could create such sublime music without all the frills of making it a deconstructionist lo-fi album?  Surely it would, and only the man behind the music can lead us there, so for now we’ll have to stick for the marginally great tunes we have.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/10-tin-birds.mp3]

Download: Blank Dogs – Tin Birds [MP3]

New Tunes from Blank Dogs

blankdogsBlank Dogs has steadily released lo-fi bedroom recordings for the past couple of years, garnering interest from fans and bloggers alike. As he prepares for the release of Under and Under, which is set to come out on In the Red, we get a hint of what the new album will sound like. This track is a little bit more straight forward, though still coated in fuzz and mystery, like the man himself.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/x53r-blank-dogs-tin-birds.mp3]

Download: Blank Dogs – Tin Birds [MP3]

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