Top Albums of 2017

Lists are arbitrary and burdensome, but why not join the fun everyone else is having? We gathered our lists, separate lists for all of us, then combined them into one that had 50 albums. What you get here are the four writers/contributors of ATH, giving you their meaningless opinions on what we thought was the jam in 2017. It’s alphabetical, and we put the initials next to it so you could track down your enemy!

 

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Martin Gore Announces New Album

Photo Copyright Travis ShinnI make no bones about my love of Depeche Mode. I even cried at a show a few years back; I miss my Maggie dog, they got me with the sad doggies on the video screen during “Precious”, it was an emotional time, family stuff, whatever, man enough to admit it.

Anyway, the driving force behind Depeche Mode has always been Mr. Martin L. Gore. You will see that name on the writing credits for every song, only joined by David Gahan a few times. The guy is a prolific songwriter, I even have a rather rare “solo” album where Gahan still provides vocals. Depeche Lite? But Martin’s latest project is truly solo, instrumental electronic music and the preview track is wonderful. Solemn and melancholy, as could be expected, it works as a great prelude to the album called MG due in April on Mute Records because you want it to be five minutes longer.

ACL 2013: Weekend One In Pictures

I’ll take things seen at a festival for $1000, Alex.

Weekend One of ACL was nothing but fun. Hopefully, you followed along on the intarwebs with the Twitter and Bookface. Me and the people I like a lot spent time in the sun, luckily. It was like a fest of two halves split by a cold front. Oppressing heat and humidity dominated until about 3pm on Saturday and after that, Chamber of Commerce. I will be making a #dontmovehere flag for next year just in case the stars align to give us that glorious cold front of blue skies.

I loved Wild Cub, Electric Six, Lionel Richie, Depeche Mode and The Cure. The collection of photos includes plenty of random revelers that we know as festival people. Click through for a couple extra notes and plenty of pics. See if you can find yourself…

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ACL 2013 Lineup Announced

In case you are a normal human being and were sleeping, the lineup for this year’s two weekend festival was announced. These are the bands that allegedly will be there both weekends so there is still a little room to play, but the lineup is really good. Sure, you can find things to complain about, but a Lionel Richie sing-along is not allowed to be one of them.

As leaked, The Cure is a big name as is Depeche Mode. If the organizers dare put them up against each other, there may be a guyliner revolt of 40 somethings. Who cares about Muse besides the guys that program bumper music at ESPN?

We do get Atoms For Peace, Wilco, The National, Vampy Weeks, Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand, Tame Impala, Local Natives, Grimes, Portugal. The Man, Divine Fits, Purity Ring, Haim, Smith Westerns, Junip, Phospherescent, Thao & The GDSD, Foxygen, Parquet Courts, Fidlar, Wild Nothing and Electric Six, to name a few.

Wristbands are on sale at 10am. Get in line online. Full list after the break…

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SxSW 2013: Panels and Interviews

One aspect that gets lost in all of the day party RSVP anxiety is the ability for peeps registered with the conference to attend panels and interviews at the Convention Center. This year, there were four participants high on my list: Rachel Maddow, Danny Boyle, Depeche Mode and Dr. Steve Weinberg. That last guy you may not have heard of before, but he is a legend in physics. I am a nerd.

Thought I would share some thoughts about each session and share a few pics.

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New Jam from Cold Cave

Okay, so it’s not a new jam obviously, as it was recorded awhile ago as a B-Side for the Cold Cave‘s latest effort, Cherish the Light Years. It’s a heavy-handed dance jam, precisely what we’ve come to love from the group in the last few years.  For me, it sounds like a dark-edged Depeche Mode, rooted in the history of 80s, but obviously it’s got that modern twist.  Admittedly, there’s nothing new and sparkling about this song, nor the style, but it’s a jam I felt would kick off your Monday in the right manner.  Hope it does you justice.

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

Download:Cold Cave – Believe In Our Blood [MP3]

LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening

Rating: ★★½ · ·

It’s really hard to imagine the 00s without James Murphy.  Whether he was bringing Daft Punk to your house, or whether he was manning the boards for someone else, it seems like Murphy was always around.  Now we come to what he is calling the swan song for LCD Soundsystem, This Is Happening.  Will it be enough to leave us with lasting memories of fondness, or will we turn towards indifference as his star begins to fade on the horizon.

“Dance Yrself Clean” begins the record, and while it could be a whole lot stronger, this isn’t the worst way to begin the new album. It begins with just some minimal percussive elements, which go on for what seems like an eternity, while lyrics are sort of spoken, as opposed to sung.  At the 3 minute mark, the song turns into a club banger.  While you can appreciate the development of sonic textures that Murphy has placed emphasis on with his last two album, one can’t help but feel that getting straight to the point would have left the record to start with one of his best complete tracks.

You jump right into the single from there with “Drunk Girls,” which sort of seems like a haphazard song.  The beats seem reminiscent of songs past, while the lyrics don’t really offer too much, no matter how many drunk girls you claim to know.   And from there you go on to “One Touch;” yet another song that doesn’t do a whole lot to further Murphy’s credentials in the musical annals of time.  Sure, showing the masses you can make a dance song go for 8 minutes is something to tip your hat to, if the song doesn’t do too much, it all seems irrelevant, and such is the case here.

But, then LCD Soundsystem takes you for an entirely different ride.  “All I Want” doesn’t seem to far of a stretch from some of the more exploratory tracks on Sound of Silver, and you can really find yourself sliding inside this song despite a the length and a touch of redundancy. “I Can Change” follows suit with a bit more exploration, and even pushes the dancier side of the things.  Murphy’s vocals don’t come off in that shouting chant he’s usually known to release, and it creates a joyous song that brings back the nostalgia of bands like Depeche Mode and OMD.

Then, he takes a U-turn, and sort of goes back on the promise of the last two tracks.  “You Wanted a Hit” has some redeeming qualities towards the middle of the song, and while I appreciate his stance on not trying to make hits, choosing instead to follow his own path, I’m not sure he always chooses the best options, especially when he has such quality tracks to offer, as he did in the middle of the This Is Happening. Don’t even get me started on “Pow Pow;” I think I’m owed an extra amount of time in my life just for listening to this track.  Ugh.  “Somebody’s Calling Me” just continues the downward slide from there.  It just seems like he could have done so more, and at time, the song just sounds like even James himself was bored with writing it.  Then again, that just might be personal taste.

Then he comes back with “Home” to close out the album.  It has a bit more of a singing vocal here, and the beat has this underlying hook that sucks you back into the album.  If you add the length of the song, you can clearly see what kind of dance party ensues here, and that’s precisely what you wanted from This Is Happening.  Unfortunately, the brightest spots on this record don’t really break through the inadequacies of the rest of the tracks.  Personally, it seems like such a shame, as the last decade wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun without having LCD Soundsystem in our lives, and perhaps this is why he’s walking away, as James Murphy hasn’t convinced anyone with this effort that his heart is still in it.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/LCD-Soundsystem-I-Can-Change.mp3]

Download: LCD Soundsystem – I Can Change [MP3]

Beirut – March of the Zapotec…

beirut

Rating: ★★ · · ·

Long before Zach Condon of Beirut presented us with his most recent output, a double EP titled March of the Zapotec and Realpeople: Holland the media presented us with a rumor of some grand orchestral scheme including bands from the Oaxacan region of Mexico.  Patiently, we awaited for the arrival, of not only new tunes, but for the next set of exploratory sounds pushed out by the young genius.

Sadly, the first EP, March of the Zapotec, doesn’t really seem to be rooted into much of the Latin culture.  For one, the presence of tuba and accordion definitely detract, or perhaps are more overbearing, in regards to the sound one would typically hear in quaint Mexican neighborhoods. “La Llorona,” the first real song, doesn’t even have a Latin twist at all, instead seeming like an extra piece left over from Gulag Orkestar. Maybe adding and extra layer of horns aids the cause, but very little.

The songs where he does delve into a little bit of the flavor one would come to expect from a Oaxacan regional band have little or no lyrics at all.  In fact, they seem like instrumental pieces tacked on to the EP as filler, and in a way, to show that Zach indeed did follow through with his desire to include a new flavor from South of the New Mexican border, but perhaps he should have gone way mariachi because the songs on this half of the EP are lacking.

Realpeople: Holland is an entirely different step then what we are given on the first EP; instead, Zach seems to go into the bedroom, digging deeply into that box in his closet in order to pull up all those Depeche Mode bits he recorded as a young child wearing eyeliner.  It’s his voice that wins you over here, which is going to be the case when juxtaposed from with the simple keyboard elements presented here.

Interestingly, some of these songs actually work well.  It’s a side we, as listeners, aren’t accustomed to when listening to a Beirut product. His voice always carries a semblance of the personal touch along with it, but here the quiet behavior of electronic elements in the background make it  more so than ever before.  He seems almost vulnerable.

Wait, did he just loop his accordion?  Is that what you hear on “The Concubine?” If so, then this part of the album definitely has showcased new direction and strengths, but still, it’s far too short to climb the walls to that spot reserved for your favorite albums.  His inconsistency here leaves one questioning exactly where he can go next, as it has been quite some time since he completely won you over with his originality and style.  For now, he seems to be treading water, trying new things and putting out mediocre EPs.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/01-my-night-with-the-prostitute-from-marseille.mp3]

Download:  Beirut – My Night with the Prostitute from Marseille [MP3]