Malajube – Labyrinthes

mala1Rating: ★★★☆☆

With the release of their second album, Labyrinthes, our favorite francophiles, Malajube, were poised to hit the United States running full steam ahead.  The question everyone wanted answered was whether or not they would convert from their first language to a more commercial language, one that would surely break them into the independent scene in the neighboring country. The answer, dear reader, is an emphatic “no!”

They open the album with the epic “Ursuline,” which has a certain sense of urgency once the songs gets going, but just as you expect the band to push over the top and rush through the song, they scale the entire number back, slowly leading you towards the outro of the song.  It’s a statement the listener must respect, as the band has the capabilities to lead you wherever they wish.

Still present this time round is the organic sound.  Usage of gang vocals, both brash and soothing go in and out of the record.  Pianos, guitars, drums and extemporaneous instruments/sounds are also used indiscriminately.  It’s a sound that one has come to expect from our northerly neighbors, as they seem to rely a lot on the soundscapes of fellow Canadians, Broken Social Scene. This time around, the band sounds a lot warmer than on Trompe L’oeil.

Yet, through it all, the band sound just like something you would listen to on something like KEXP. The guitars are driving, providing the pace of the record, but the band can pull that sound away from you immediately, resting, instead, on atmospheric “oohs” and “ahhs.”  Clever combinations of sound come within each song, which is precisely why this band garners the interests of fans today.

And you’ll come across songs such as “Heresie,” which will win you over in a short span of time.  In fact, the coupling of the aforementioned song with “Dragon de glace” is probably one of the more special moments you find on the album.  It’s a mellower Malajube than the one presented on the earlier part of the album.  It’s a pleasure to come across a band that puts out an album where to layout of the songs on the album shows a strong thought process, as if they wanted you to listen to the album all the way to the end.

But, the one detractor, as alluded to earlier on, is the fact that the band, while respectable, maintain their allegiance to their native tongue.  It’s not that the vocal element is not appealing, as one can take a certain emotive quality away from the songs, but its the lack of a connection between the band and most listeners.  Musically, the band can take you many places, but a lot of people will want to connect with the lyrical content, and that is simply not possible for people versed in English.  It’s the one miss on this album, though for many, it’s a pretty big miss.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/06-les-collemboles.mp3]

Download: Malajube – Les Collemboles [MP3]

Charles Spearin – The Happiness Project

charlesRating: ★★★☆☆

When Charles Spearin, member of Broken Social Scene, decided he needed something new to cleanse his pallet, he turned to an idea that had been fermenting for several years.  In his mind, he could hear the vocal inflections in every day conversations, as only a man with a keen ear can do.  His next step was to fuse these natural inflections into a pop-centric album.  The album would be titled The Happiness Project.

Setting the scene for this masterpiece of sorts, Charles set out to record his neighbors conversations with the subject matter revolving entirely around the idea of happiness. Once recorded, Charles would enter the studio to incorporate a plethora of instruments in order to match the melodies in the speeches on tape to musical melodies.

His attempt has proven quite successful, though it’s easy to say that this might not be everyone’s cup of tea.  For all intents and purposes, it’s an avant garde concept album, with a leaning towards the pop elements; these elements rely more on the personality of Spearin than the final product.  Each recorded session is fit in with a unique sound meant to follow the exact vocal inflections of the speakers.  You may not regard this as something entirely remarkable, but when listening, one can’t help but feel a sense of wonderment when you hear just how tightly wound the two melodious elements are on tape.

A problem for most listeners certainly will lie in the timing of the album, and by that I refer to the appropriate time to listen to such an album.  It’s not exactly something you just throw on the record player in the middle of the party, but this could be precisely what Spearin wants from his listeners.  Perhaps he is begging you to step aside from the normal barriers of conversation and listen closely to the natural music we all make every day of our lives.

This experiment, as the man proved live, is quite beautiful when heard in the live setting.  Conceptually, its both brilliant and intriguing. You’ll just have to set aside a fair amount of time to actually sit down and let this record crawl into your head, and if you do so, you are sure to reap the rewards that Charles set out to share with us all.  Though it’s merely a reminder of the beauty that surrounds us each day, even in our most mundane conversations.

1/31 Broken Social Scene @ Bass

bss1This past Saturday we were lucky, as were many of our fellow Austinites, to catch Broken Social Scene in the act. The band played for nearly three hours, despite Kevin Drew’s illness, which forced him to cancel their show in Dallas on the previous evening. Here are some solid pictures from the show for you to relive those special moments, or to pretend you were there. You can also read our interviews with Charles Spearin and Brendan Canning.

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ATH Interviews: Broken Social Scene

bss_coverPrior to Broken Social Scene taking the stage at Bass Concert Hall we were able to grab a few minutes with Brendan Canning and Charles Spearin. They talk about the current state of the band, their most recent tour, and details about their solo albums. Thanks to Robin and Brendan for all of the arrangements and preparations.

Read the Brendan Canning Interview

Read the Charles Spearin Interview

Broken Social Scene @ Bass (1/31)

Here’s the one we’ve all been waiting months for.  Canadian super group Broken Social Scene is bringing the house down at Bass Concert Hall this Saturday evening in Austin.  If you’re foolish enough to not have tickets yet, try searching craiglist because tickets are sold out.  The band will be joined by special guest Lymbic System.  Music starts promptyly at 8pm.  This may be the one show you’ll regret missing this year.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/11-lovers-spit.mp3]

Download: Broken Social Scene – Lover’s Spit [MP3]

ACL Interviews: Stars

Amy Millan is a quite the busy lady. She sings for major Canadian bands Stars & Broken Social Scene, tours with both acts, and somehow found the time to put out a solo record. The Canadian songstress, currently on tour with Stars, answered a few questions for us before her band’s performance at last weekends ACL festival. Amy and I discuss why she won’t be doing a BSS Presents album, how Stars can win a Juno award and why MP3s are just as good as vinyl. Read about these topics and many more after the jump.

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Brendan Canning – Something For All of Us

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Dear Arts and Crafts (and Broken Social Scene),

You really had me fooled.  From the minute you threw You Forgot It In People at me, I was hooked; I pledged allegiance to your label and its output. I trusted you; I considered you a friend.

You kept dishing it out, and even the first song on this record, “Something for All of Us” had me thirsty. It was murky, with driving percussion that just sounded like I needed it. You knew I would just listen to the first song and buy it.  I now call you out, tricksters!

There was magic, albeit momentary, then it disappeared. Immediately Brendan jumps into a song that eliminates the magic. It’s really slow, which isn’t a fault, but a majority of the song sounds like he just re-recorded the end of a Broken Social Scene song as the band faded away.

I thought that “Hit the Wall,” with the pace of the song alone would bring it back to the goodness, but there just doesn’t seem to be a focus in this song. I just couldn’t get that feeling back.  So you thought you’d let him get away with a soft acoustic song, “Snowballs and Icicles.” It was good, but then it ended – how is one of the better songs on this album the shortest?

So you try and get groovier with the next couple of numbers, but this is when I caught your ploy. You’ve been covering Canning‘s voice over this whole album. Sure, he doesn’t have the greatest range, but it sounds as if you disguised it, hidden behind a mask of harmonies, staying low in the mix.

I got lost in the next couple of songs, spending more time trying to make myself like this than anything else. Even after those two songs, “Possible Grenade” showed me promise, then it just floated way off into nowhere. That’s exactly what happened with the rest of the album, and in time, I am sure the whole album will float off into the back of my collection

I know that Broken Social Scene is a collective of sorts, but I don’t know where Canning fits in. I suppose his ideas are fleshed out by the rest of the band; or else he just completely went far off his usual course here. You unleashed him Arts and Crafts. You let him put out an entire album that meanders in and out of listenability, often within the same song. I hold you responsible for this. I don’t want my money back; I enjoy the majority of your output, but I would like the four straight hours I spent listening to this album back. You owe me. Or else we are not friends.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/under-the-stairs.mp3]

Download: under-the-stairs.mp3

Brendan Canning Plugs the Leak

So Brendan Canning has decided enough is enough. Some of you may or may not know that his new album Something For All of Us has leaked all over the place on the interweb. Brendan has decided to combat this evil doing by forgoing his July 22nd release date and making the album available for digital purchase on his label’s website. If you just can’t wait for the next Broken Social Scene Presents album, go to the Gallery AC website for Brendan’s new album Something For All of Us. If the Broken Social Scene Presents: Kevin Drew album is any indicator of this album’s quality, I highly recommend it. This is the second in what is supposedly a series of Broken Social Scene musicians releasing solo projects under the BSS moniker.

Here’s a new song off the album entitled “Hit The Wall”:
[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/brendan-canning-hit-the-wall.mp3]

Download: hitthewall.mp3

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