What’s aHappening Austin? Weekend Show Spotlight

austin-skyline-mark-weaverAs rock n’ roll season heads into full swing, it’s time we all take advantate of the many shows that are coming our way in the next few months before SXSW hits us hard.  Surely you know Ty Segall is playing at the Mohawk on Friday night with Ex-Cult and OBN IIIs, but what else is going on in town?  Well, in case Ty isn’t your taste, or you can’t make it, here’s some other show suggestions for a pretty solid weekend in Austin. Read more

Bat For Lashes – The Haunted Man

Rating: ★★★★☆

If you’ve been paying attention to the state of music in the indie world, it should be apparent to you that there has been a rise of the powerful female archetype. This year, there have been a number of powerfully female-centric albums that have been released—names such as Cat Power, Metric and Beach House come to mind. Natasha Khan is no stranger to the music scene either—this is her third studio album under the Bat For Lashes moniker, and shows a vast amount of growth for Khan. Stripped down and reliant on vocal power, The Haunted Man is work of fine production and even finer artistry.

At a little over fifty-one minutes, this album is epic in nature, but is gripping upon first listen—it just depends at which point in your first listen that you yield to Khan’s enchanting spell. Some will fall in love upon hearing the opening number to the album, “Lilies,” which is a softer number for Bat For Lashes upon surveying the whole album, but still holds the understated power of this female. The number begins quietly: minimalistic instrumentation of synthesizers and other electronic sounds are held together with Khan’s voice, which easily explores her range. As it progresses, the song builds upon the instrumentation, adding in orchestral sounds to the electronic beat to give it the signature electro-bohemian pop sound.

But if the first four numbers haven’t called your attention to Bat For Lashes, “Laura” ought to, or perhaps you should stop listening. Fairly hard to ignore, this track gives listeners a bit of a break from the pulsating beat that his been effervescing in the backdrop of previous songs and allows you to really focus on what is the main-event of this album: Khan’s vocal strength. Lana Del Ray done right, the song doles out a raw cut of emotional vulnerability that pulls at your heart. It’s quite a dramatic number, tough to follow, but “Winter Fields” does a good job at transitioning to the rest of the songs with it’s mellow, pan-flute sounding intro that transitions into a driving rhythmic section. Another song with overt rhythmic dominance comes a little later with “Marilyn,” whose drum machine beats will have you grooving right along.

With each and every twist and turn of this album, Khan is there with you, her strong presence serving as a guide to traverse the electronic as well as stripped down tunes that are found on The Haunted Man. All the way through its duration, the energy level never falls, or loses your interest. So sit down and have a listen, or maybe a few listens, to this release—maybe you won’t be sitting for too long.

Cat Power – Sun

Rating: ★★★½☆

Cat Power, or rather, the woman behind the moniker, Charlyn Marie Marshall, is essentially a staple in a great deal of self-professed indie music fans. Since as early as 1995, Cat Power has been releasing albums, though the success of Marshall has been debated over the years, as her live performances showed signs of her degradation from problems with alcohol. That was back in ’06; in ’08 Jukebox surfaced and showed signs of revival, though far from a knockout record. Now it is 2012…has this front woman and backing band put the “power” back in their name?

Starting things off on a wonderfully groovy note, “Cherokee” opens on a bubbly note. Simmering in its slow, rolling drumbeat and its angled guitars, it slowly builds, layering sounds so that you focus on Marshall’s purr of vocals, whose transfixing, yet subtle elements blow other female vocalists (i.e. Lana Del Ray) out of the water. The tone of the track is kept pretty mellow throughout due to the steady percussion, but the vocals push it further and further, each chorus swelling. Marshall spits her words out quickly, relying on assonance to aid her in the flow of the lyrics and you’ll be singing along with her, joining in on the chill and yet stimulating opener. Akin to that hiss you hear when you twist the cap on an ice-cold soda, “Cherokee” is a sure sign of good things to come.

A similarly catchy number that follows a song later is “Ruin,” on which the fluidity is still present, but the song comes across with more a pop sound due to piano sounds, and a more casual approach to the percussive elements. The instruments all bleed into one another, and yet have their place at some point at center stage in the song, which is owed to the tone that the group has established early on in the album. As the album progresses, Cat Power hits you back to back to back with effortless, yet stylistically complex tracks that allow for total immersion in the music a quality that felt a little lost on past efforts.

So the answer to the question aforementioned is yes—Marshall is on point in her songwriting and the instrumentation on Sun enhances the seductive, but never lewd, prowess of such a front woman.  Fans of Cat Power will rejoice, while newcomers will find another artist to enjoy; it’s a solid enough of an album to induce interest in the entirety of the songs created by this band, which is what any already established band can hope for.

FT5: SXSW Bands I Have To See

What’s that ya say?  SXSW is almost upon us?  Get the F*** out!  With our fancy little music festival we call SXSW coming up in March, I wanted to take a quick look at some of the bands I just gotta see during the upcoming week.  Now obviously I had to stick to a few strict rules here.  For starters, the band has to be one I haven’t seen before.  Two, it has to actually be possible to see the band (sorry STP & Band of Horses).  Three, the band needs to be fairly new with high praises coming from us and others.  I’d say that about does it.  These are bands on the verge of breaking it big in the national scene.  Will they have what it takes to impress me and the snobby Austin music scene with their live shows?  Only time will tell…  Follow the jump for my full list of bands I’ll be waiting in line to see during SXSW.
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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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Cat Power @ Stubbs (10/11)

The always lovely Chan Marshal, known to us as Cat Power, will be putting on a rescheduled show at Stubbs on Saturday night.  The show is a make up of her canceled show way back in April, and of course Stubbs will be honoring any tickets bought to the previously scheduled show.  If you need a ticket, get one for $30 on the Front Gate Tickets website.  Also check out Cat Power’s most recent single “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” originally performed by Bob Dylan.

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Download: Cat Power – Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again [MP3]