More from Cool Ghouls

coolzYou know how we love Cool Ghouls around these parts? Well, here’s just another song to sell you on it, as if you need that. Listening to this track from Animal Races, it really reminds me of a lot of Bend Beyond-era Woods, which is enough for me to fork out my money to pick it up. There’s clearly a nod to California, and perhaps even the Grateful Dead (pre-jam band era of course!); I love how that piano almost seems like the group decided to rock this song out in some old Western bar. You’ll be happy to know you can get your very own copy from Empty Cellar Records on August 19th.

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Mac Demarco – 2

Rating: ★★★★☆

Earlier this year everyone raved about Mac Demarco after the release of Rock N’ Roll Night Club, which had Mac scatter-brained, musically speaking.  He’s back already with his first proper full-length, 2, focused and ready to take aim at your most intimate chill session.  If you need that will help you unwind, then turn on the subtle genius of Mac.

Almost immediately, I was won over.  “Cooking Up Something Good” is a catchy little guitar ditty, opening with a funky guitar line that almost seems off-key at points–in fact I’m positive he bends those strings out of tune.  Still, you wouldn’t be able to escape the relaxed atmosphere Mac Demarco offers you from the get-go.  Following that laid-back vibe is “Dreaming,” a tune that’s coated slightly in the atmospherics of Demarco’s guitar.  There’s something about his voice that draws you in, even with its lack of polish; it’s got a smooth delivery, yet it resonates as if he’s singing from your couch.

My ears can’t help but think of 2 as the perfect counterpoint to Real Estate‘s Days.  Where as that band pleasantly spun harmonies around bright guitar sounds, Mac seems content to slow things down with a similar guitar sound and a more intimate approach.  “The Stars Keep on Calling My Name” definitely has that twang in the guitar, but the slower pacing, if that’s possible, allows for the listener to sit back and absorb the melody, rather than pursue a more passionate sound.  That’s not to say that Demarco isn’t passionate about what he’s doing, or that you won’t feel an emotional draw, but rather that he seems more content to be your friendly couch-crashing troubadour. One listen to “Still Together,” the record’s closing number and you’ll completely understand my sentiment.  The tune features a quiet guitar strum and vocals that strain to reach the right pitch.  Those little imperfections demonstrate that 2 is created by an artist in his own world, but one that’s willing to let you be a participant.

There’s also some of that clever electric guitar jamming that made Mac Demarco so mesmerizing, even though he spins it in his own way.  He uses it to open “Freaking Out the Neighborhood,” and then sinks into his groove to offer more of a croon with the guitar sinking further into the background.  The added touch of backing vocals helps perfect this tune too. But, for me the most special moment comes during “My Kind of Woman,” featuring a swirling guitar that wraps around Mac’s voice, and the faint hint of a female vocal counterpart.  Here you’ll find the song a slow trudge of what one can only describe as pretty sounds–and that’s never a bad thing.

I hate comparing musicians to others, especially if it really has nothing to do with the artist at hand, but I’m going to say that Mac Demarco seems poised to make a Kurt Vile-ish run at the masses.  As a songwriter, he seems to be equal in his output, and 2 is a representation of a musician you can’t really put in one place.  We’re witnessing the unique birth of a man who’s got a true craftsman’s style to songwriting; he’s just getting started, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/03-Freaking-Out-The-Neighborhood.mp3]

Download:Mac Demarco – Freaking Out The Neighborhood [MP3]

New Music from Ducktails

Last year I really got stuck listening to Ducktails III; it made my year end list, in fact!  Now we return with news of a new record, this time on Domino Records.  The first single sees Matt Mondanile and Ducktails again crafting his own sonic genre, with mellow guitar lines turning around minimal percussive elements.  He seems subdued here, which could make for a great listen when Days comes out on January 29th, wrapping up the winter months with his beautifully spun pop tunes.  I can’t find any faults with the music he’s creating when it sounds as good as this tune.

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The Bankees – Home

Rating: ★★★★½

Occasionally you encounter a band and a record that fits perfectly into who you are or where you are; these are the sorts of albums that you’ll always find endearing, no matter who tells you otherwise.  Home by The Bankees, just might be that album, reaching beyond my expectations and finding its way straight into the core of my being.

Admittedly, I’m not in the same place as the lyrics on “Single Life” by any means, yet I’m drawn to the songs emotional appeal.  I love the way there’s some restraint in the delivery of the verses, which is only strengthened when the chorus comes through with a bit of brightness. The cascading electric guitar solo nicely ties the song together as it continues through the track.  And then you come into “Days,” one of the standout tracks from the Home.  For me, the quality of the recording is what does it; it’s not overblown with production, allowing the craftsmanship of the group to shine through.  The lyric of “I don’t have that much to say, no one listens anyways” seems perfectly fitting to my wandering mind.  This track is perfect.

The Bankees put songs together so well that you have no idea what hit you until the track is over, so you rush to play it again.  Every time I listen to “Big Fish” this is the exact sentiment I get, hitting that repeat button.  Quietly strummed guitar, stomping drum beat and male/female vocal duo all feature on this jam, warming my spirit with each play.  Mid-track the song seems to come to a halt for just a moment, then carries off again as the cymbal is used for extra bits of emphasis.  But, making songs like this surely can’t come easy, even if they sound so incredible.  “Home” creates nostalgia personally, though it’s not just in the lyrical material, but also in its likeness to Arab Strap.  Similar to the Scots, this French band seems to strip things down to such simplistic moments that you sometimes aren’t even aware of the musical quality, despite how moving it is as it comes out of your speakers.

There’s hardly a misstep on Home, which alone makes it worthy of your listening pleasure.  More importantly, it’s hard to write about one song, or even several, as each song seems to deserve some attention.  “Under the Sun” closes things out in a softer space than where the album began, relying mostly on the guitar work and the vocals.  It’s almost a personal farewell from The Bankees, although the subject matter might not lead you that way.  That’s precisely why I’ve annoyed everyone playing this record over and over again: it’s extremely personal.  Whether you relate to the lyrics or your drawn to emotional appeal of the tracks themselves, you can’t help but feel enwrapped in the whole of it all.  In my mind, that makes for a memorable record I vow not to put down anytime soon.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/02-Days.mp3]

Download:The Bankees – Days [MP3]

Solid New Track from the Bankees

I’ve long been a supporter of Bankees ever since I came across their last album, Kimono.  Unfortunately, the French group has largely gone unnoticed over here in the States, but I hope I can change that.  This song is their first single from their upcoming record, Homes, which is shaping up to be one hell of a listen.  On this tune, they’re taking a casual approach to effortless pop, just letting the guitar trickle in while the vocals calmly win you over.  It’s the sort of pop tune with a melody that gets stuck in your brain, which is the kind of stuff I like.  I’ll keep you all posted on the new album as more details come our way, but you can spread the word on these guys in the meantime.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/02-Days.mp3]

Download:The Bankees – Days [MP3]

Show Preview: Real Estate @ the Parish (11/16)

Date Wednesday, Nov. 16th
Location The Parish
Doors 800 pm
Tickets $13 from Frontgate

I have no idea how this show hasn’t sold out as of Monday night.  Opening the night is Big Troubles, who’ve released their Romantic Comedy just recently, and it’s done fairly well with the fans, not to mention this writer.  That alone warrants attendance, yet the big headliner is Real Estate. These kids have pretty much dominated the news headlines all over the Internet since their inception, and the band’s October release of Days, got all sorts of praise.  This is the type of show people dream about, so go on and get yourself a ticket.  Oh, and to top it off, it all gets played through the amazing sound of the Parish; now if I could only get them to lower their beer prices!

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/03-Its-Real.mp3]

Download: Real Estate – It’s Real [MP3]

Real Estate – Days

Rating: ★★★★½

With the release of their self-titled album, Real Estate practically made themselves a household name among the indie rock cognoscente.  Not that their second release, Days, is upon us, things look even brighter, with a more refined sound filled to the brim with such pristine pop moments that it’ll be hard not to give the group recognition.

Opener “Easy” instantly brings the jangling guitar lines to the surface, leaving room for sailing melodies to burst through.  But, the ensuing track, “Green Aisles,” which is a bit of a long jaunt, really emphasizes the inherent warmth in the sonic craftwork of Real Estate.  Guitar lines gently glide, as if the band’s dialing in sunshine from within their recording space.  It all seems so effortless, as if the group’s been doing this for years…and they probably have.

“It’s Real” might have won over fans immediately upon its release as the lead single, but it’s just another sign that Days was perhaps designed with the longevity of the tracks in mind.  Soaring “oohs” might be a bit over-utilized by musicians in this pop spectrum, but there’s a hardness to the steady drumming that makes it more than just your average fare.  Still, other tracks are equally as successful within this recording, clearly willing to be played through your stereo for years to come. “Out of Tune” is perhaps my personal favorite, seeming to resonate in the past of California popsters of years gone by.  Despite two solid verses, this track holds onto a bit of guitar noodling, which, having listened to it on repeat a dozen times or slow, still sounds incredible (and not like “jamming” at all).

I’m sure that someone’s going to call the band out for creating a sound that doesn’t offer enough differentiation for your modern listener, but “Wonder Years” is a track that breaks out of the mold.  For one, it seems that Alex Bleeker might have taken over the vocal duties, giving a new quality to Real Estate. The more you let this song unfold, with its “doo-doo” humming and odd background solo, the more you just fall in love with the track.  It’s be nice to see more such moments coming from the trio in the future.

All in all, it’s hard to say anything truly negative about the entirety of Days.  Yes, it doesn’t grab you by the throat forcing you to fall in love, but it does more in being an unassuming collection of some of the most endearing pop tunes we’ve heard.  That alone should be enough to encourage you to pick up this latest release from the group, but if not, then the fact that Real Estate is sure to continue to be on everyone’s radar/blog/podcast for some time will eventually force your hand; give in now; you’ll be grateful you did.