The New Pornographers – Together

Rating: ★★★★☆

After the release of Challengers it seemed like people were ready to disregard The New Pornographers altogether.  Poor reviews for an album couldn’t keep this band down though, as they’ve returned with their fifth record, Together. It stands in the same ground as a great deal of the rest of the last record, but it pushes the rock element a little bit further, brightening the sound a bit, just making things louder overall.

Opening moments on “Move” have that shredded guitar sound you’ve come to expect from an AC Newman penned song, but with a little strings to match the top of it all.  Throw in the bounce and those pop-perfect vocals (girl harmonies thrown in for good measure) and you’ve got a great opening track.  But, you get the perfect mix when you move into the next tune, “Crash Years.”  It’s fronted by the female force this time around, though the jangly guitars and orchestral accompaniment aren’t anything to shake a stick at.  Then you find yourself at “Your Hands (Together),” finding the band employing all their old tricks.  A rolling drumbeat, guitars strumming off beat, and the combination of male/female vocals.  Together starts out great, and it doesn’t seem to slow down.

However, the band switch gears a bit by going to a Dan Bejar penned number.  He’s written three songs for this record, and each one is remarkable in its own right.  Not sure if it’s Bejar’s odd vocal delivery, or just his craftsmanship, but his songs always stand out in The New Pornographers sound.  “If You Can’t See  My Mirrors” is probably the best of the three Bejar tracks, using some brilliant swirling guitar melodies to balance out Dan’s vocals.  The light female vocal beneath his adds a perfect touch as well.  Don’t skip out on “Daughter of Sorrow” as it’s reminiscent of Dan’s work with Destroyer, but instead of him working solo, he uses the posse at hand to expand his own distinctive sound.

While the album does slow down a bit right in the middle, it’s not entirely a detractor.  Perhaps the sequencing comes as a bit of a shock, as you can find better places to fit these quieter moments, but “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk” and “My Shepard” showcase the band’s ace in the hole.  Female vocals have long been a part of the groups dynamic, and they come into perfect play in the middle of this album.  Fans of Neko Case and Kathryn Calder will appreciate the fact that the girls get to carry their own weight for a sustained period of time.

One of the strengths of the band, and Together, is that they seem to have returned to uniting all their forces into one cohesive product.  “Up in the Dark” is a powerful song, using the dual vocal approach, and a stomping rhythm to move it along. Even when the song takes turns for the swirly pop moments, you can’t help but feel that this is the band at its best.  While “Valkyrie in the Roller Disco” might seem a bit odd, really just using the vocal approach of the band to make its point, it really is a good song, though it might not fit that well with this collection.  So they close it with “We End Up Together,” making the perfect statement for the album’s closing.  Everyone seems to play a part in this song, fitting the whole band, well, “together.”  Seeing such sentiment makes you appreciate the effort on Together all the more, and it demonstrates to us all that as long as The New Pornographers put in all the pieces, they can create great records just like the one we find here.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/new_pornographers_your_hands_together.mp3]

Download: New Pornographers – Your Hands Together [MP3]

Top Ten Fun Fest Artists

FFFFest2009_Top10We hope all of you stayed dry on Sunday at the Fun Fun Fun Festival and we also hope you soaked in the great weather of Saturday. All in all we had a great time over the weekend and saw tons of great bands.  Just as we did with ACL, we’d like to give you a brief recap with our top 10 favorite bands from the weekend festivities. We’re putting these in no real order and just listing them with some brief reasons why we liked them so much. Follow the jump for our top 10 Fun Fest bands.

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More Fun Fest Leaks

FFF_VINTAGE_ORANGE_ROCKWe were shutdown on Friday for this badass new ATH V2 so we missed the second wave of Fun Fest leaks.  Today the third round of leaks has hit the internet so we’ll tell you about the 2nd and 3rd leaks all in one post.  Second wave additions are: Harlem, Fucked UpAlaska in Winter, and Brian Posehn.  Leaks today are: Destroyer, Mika Miko, Metallagher, and Shonen Knife.  These bands are in addition to the ones we leaked Thursday along with several other artist like King Khan and Shearwater who were confirmed many moons ago.  Full lineup will be posted tomorrow.

New Tunes from Swan Lake

swansSwan Lake is a supergroup, featuring members of Frog Eyes, Wolf Parade, and Destroyer. Their newest album, Enemy Mine is slated for release via Jagjaguwar Records on March 24th. While early indications claim Frog Eye’s Casey Mercer as the better writer this time out, you can’t count out Destroyer’s Dan Bejar. Just take a listen to the following track.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/swan-lake-spider.mp3]

Download: Swan Lake – Spider [MP3]

A.C. Newman – Get Guilty

Rating: ★★★★☆

The majority of the listening world will know A.C. Newman by his other gig in New Pornographers. This new effort, released by Matador Records, isn’t far off from the land of his pop-supergroup, especially when one looks back at an album like Challengers.

From the minute “There are Maybe Ten or Twelve” takes off you can tell exactly the direction that this album is going to go.  It’s a subdued number, with high volume interludes, but the focus remains predominantly on Newman’s voice.

An album such as this is blessed by such a voice, as his is one that remains truly unique in this modern age.  He can go higher than most, while he brings it all back again to his normal singing voice.  In all his recordings, this is clearly the best he has sounded, which may owe a lot to remarkable production.

Keeping that in mind, most will settle with this album, knowing that your expectations will be met precisely.  Melodies will rise and fall, being matched at every corner, but, the pace isn’t exactly pushing listeners forward, looking for more from each song.  In fact, the only song that picks up any speed is “The Palace at 4 A.M.” Still, you can sit through this album in it’s entirety with a great deal of enjoyment; it’s just not going to grab you like other tracks A.C. Newman has done in the past, especially those featuring a certain Destroyer. Be sure to get through until the end for “All of my Days & All of my Days Off” is probably one of the best songs he’s written in years.

All in all, you come to the end of the album with one clear realization: A.C. Newman can spit out pop genius no matter where he is in his life.  Each song is interesting, in both melody and structure, as he often uses his voice to carry the songs, which is precisely where the whole album began.  It’s not every day when you come across a musician who can win you over with his voice alone.  And for that, we should all Get Guilty.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/01-there-are-maybe-ten-or-twelve.mp3]

Download: AC Newman – There Are Maybe Ten or Twelve [MP3]

Top 40 Songs Of The Year

So when we thought making an albums of the year post was hard, this one proved to be even harder.  How do you take literally thousands of songs and narrow it down to the best 40 of the year?  Not too sure how to answer that question, but we tried.  Each of these songs scream 2008 in our ears.  As evident by this list, the year in music was quite a good one and we had some tough choices to make.  We’ve got some of the songs streaming for you or links to the song on youtube.  Follow the jump to see if your favorite tune of the year made the list.

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Albums Of The Year: 30-16

The year of 2008 is winding to a close, so it’s only appropriate that we wrap it up with our year-end albums list. We don’t expect many to necessarily agree with our list, but we worked really hard to make sure we had what we thought were the best thirty albums of the year. These are the records that spun over and over again in our heads and stereos, so this list is dedicated to their longevity in 2008.  We’ve conveniently broken it down into two segments, with albums 30-16 after the jump. Read more

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