Fresh Paul Bergmann

paulIt looks like every one has a case of the Mondays, at least based on the music coming about today. That’s not a bad thing, as it brings us this glorious tune from Paul Bergmann. This song really has the feeling of Devandra Barnhart, relying upon the strength of lyricism and vocals, while the music coolly sits in the background, trickling through your ears. His debut album, Stars and Streams, is high on my list of anticipated releases for this month, or even this year; it’s set to be released on August 26th. You’ll just need one listen to understand why.

Gold Leaves – The Ornament

Rating: ★★★★½

Every once in awhile, you come across a record that fits into your life perfectly, filling the empty emotional space, revitalizing your spirit.  Just one listen to Gold Leaves is all it takes to find that The Ornament seeps into your soul, establishing itself as an album that meets all your musical needs.

“The Silver Lining” is one of those perfect pop songs, carefully constructed for the maximum benefit of listeners.  It’s a gentle number, similar to the recent work of Camera Obscura (in construction at least).  But, what makes the track stand out is Carl Olsen’s voice.  It waivers somewhere between Ward and Banhart, touching every emotional chord for those with a hankering for all things sad-bastard.  While there’s a bit of solemnity to the opener, “The Ornament” provides a bit of brightness with just the slightest change in pacing.  You’ll find that same careful arrangement with every bit of accompaniment propelling the song’s essence. It’s not a track to be taken lightly, echoing in your memory long after the song has skipped onto the next.

“Endless Dope” opens a new chapter for Gold Leaves.  While other tracks have featured lush arrangement, this track seems more sparse in those regards, though elements still remain.  But, Olsen’s vocals play the main role here, drawing you into his poetic verse, as opposed to letting you get washed away with waves of pop brilliance. Similarly, “Cruel & Kind” refuses to rely upon the maximum arrangements, carefully meandering through your mind.  Inside this track you’ll find yourself getting lost, but in a manner that only the best of music can accomplish; it’s simplicity lets you drift in and out of consciousness, always drawn back by the inherent melody built within the tune.

Even when The Ornament doesn’t draw itself out with meandering tracks, a great deal can still be accomplished.  For instance, “Hard Feelings” is one of the shortest songs on the record, but in a short span you’ll find trickling guitar lines, string pieces swirling in the background, and Olsen at the center of it all.  Eventually, it crashes spectacularly in the middle, switching things up just slightly. There’s a denseness to this number, as it seems filled to the brim, but in writing in that fashion, Gold Leaves still leaves room for the melody and the emotion to find its way to your inner ear.

If you haven’t found room in your day for this collection, then you need to put down everything immediately.  The Ornament is the kind of album that begs to be listened to, begs to be played over again and again.  After one listen, you’ll end up clearing your schedule, finding yourself lost inside the depth and emotional pull of everything Carl Olsen has managed to put together for this outing. Not a note goes wasted, and that in and of itself, is something to praise–but this record is so much more. So stop reading this now, and drift away with Gold Leaves.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Gold-Leaves-Cruel-And-Kind.mp3]

Download: Gold Leaves – Cruel/Kind [MP3]

SXSW Liars Contest!

We’ve long been admirers of Liars; they seem untouched by their peers, always exploring their own sonic pallet.  Luckily, they have an incredible live show to back up their ridiculously respectable musical chops.  You’ll all get a chance to glimpse them in Austin this week (if you’re here, that is).  But, to top that off, we’ve got a killer contest brought to you by the friendly people at Mute Records that will allow you to win a package with all the band’s works, and a bonus disc of their latest, Sisterworld, with reinterpretations from the likes of Thom Yorke and Devandra Banhart.  Leave us a comment with your favorite SXSW moment, and we’ll select 3 winners!  Contest will end Tuesday, March 16th 12 PM CST. Good luck.

Make sure to make it out to these SXSW dates:

3/18 @ Insound Day Party – 4 PM  & 3/19 Billions Showcase – 1 AM

We bet that closing set at Antones will be one of the best moments of SXSW!

Jason Collett – Rat a Tat Tat

Rating: ★★★½ ·

Many people will recognize the name Jason Collett for his involvement in Broken Social Scene, but this is not his first foray into solo work. Rat a Tat Tat is Collett’s fourth official album, and it has all the trademarks of his previous work, while also stepping forward into a bit of playfulness that wasn’t present on earlier recordings.

Opening this album, you find Jason dealing with relationships in his own way.  “Rave On Sad Songs” reveals his prowess as a songwriter of heartfelt tunes, something probably not accredited to his role in BSS. It’s a soft spoken song relying upon soft piano and very gentle guitar strums, which allow his distinctive vocals to tug at your heart.

Such mellow numbers were commonly featured in his last few releases, especially Idols of Exile, but as you move into tracks like “Love is a Dirty Word,” you find that Collett has gotten a little bit more lively.  As the bass line seems to shake your body, Collett delivers his idea that love is not quite all its cracked up to be.  Bouncing rhythms haven’t always been his forte, but he pulls it off here, showing that he’s got room to grow as a songwriter.  The idea that Jason is out to goof around a bit with his audience is only made stronger when you listen to “Bitch City,” which has a vocal performance reminiscent of Devandra Banhart, not to mention the subject matter.  Oddly, that same vocal effect shows up once again at the end of the album “Vanderpool Vanderpool,”  something that wasn’t noticeable on his earlier releases.

On his last record, Here’s to Being Here, we saw him exhibit a little bit of straightforward polished pop.  He still brings those lighthearted moments to this album, on songs like “Cold Blue Halo.”  There’s a fuzzed out keyboard groove that opens the number illustrating his widening set of tools, some provided by his longtime backing band, Zeus.  All that being said, the tune has a bit of foot shuffling feel to it, something sure to win out in the live setting. All playfulness aside, Collett still has the ability to write quiet numbers that find their way into your regular listening rotation on iTunes. “Long May You Love” and “Winnipeg Winds” are two songs that illustrate this point perfectly, as both have the steady stroll of acoustic pop moments attached. “Winnipeg Winds” creates an effective wind motif with the howling vocal backing that haunts the song when Jason is not at the helm.  One can assume he’s added these quiet moments to the record in hopes of keeping a perfect balance, and he succeeds in accomplishing that feat.

Focus at this time is surely on the upcoming BSS release, but aside from that project, it’s clear that Jason Collett has his own style and his own agenda to push.  Rat a Tat Tat is just another record that demonstrates what a strong songwriter he is, proving that he grows stronger as his music evolves.  Sure, it’s a lot more fun than previous works, but by making that change, Jason balances out this record, giving himself more options to write great songs in the future.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/jasoncollett-loveisadirtyword.mp3]

Download: Jason Collett – Love is a Dirty Word [MP3]

Elvis Perkins in Dearland – s/t

elvis

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Elvis Perkins finally has a band to back up his soft-spoken folk leanings, but that isn’t too say that he’s moved entirely away from his original sound; in fact, he hasn’t traveled that far from where he once began his journey into the musical world.  His latest release, Elvis Perkins in Dearland, is just another reminder of how capable a songsmith the man truly is.

Opening the album is “Shampoo,” which starts off with a mellow little progression on the acoustic guitar, as an organ fills out the background.  Suddenly, the band kicks in, and Elvis’ voice comes sweeping in with a slightly more country-fied tinge than most listeners might be used to at this point in his career.  It’s a testament to the man’s capabilities when he’s backed by a complete band, and it’s a phenomenal start, nearly a perfect song.

The next few tracks find Elvis walking the lines of his past, as he slows the numbers down so his voice can unfold before listeners.  You can tell that he’s yearning for more, reaching for more with his voice, which is perhaps the reason why he brought in a complete band for the recording process of this album. Steady percussion fills in the space where Elvis previously was forced to fill it all with his voice.

His trademark six minute song, “Send My Fond Regards to Lonelyville” is just another example of how wonderfully he can craft a song.  Simple strumming typically doesn’t have the lasting power to garner your interest through six minutes, but when accompanied by his voice, and his attention to lyrical details, you find that you are drawn into the depths of the song.  Horn arrangements added midway only build upon the already sound structure of this song.

Each time you listen to his voice, it seems to waver just a bit, much like Devandra Banhart, but with a less aggravating persona behind it all.  It’s surely the focal point of each song, but his ability to maneuver in and out of different pitches is what makes the entire set of songs listenable, as he clearly understand exactly when to pull back.  It’s an emotional attack on the listener, and it succeeds on almost every level.  Listening, your drawn into the strength of the songs, but your mostly attracted to his voice, and that feeling is certainly not fleeting.

You’ll find that every song along the way has extra details added in to create an ornate composition.  The folk stylings are merely just the beginning, as the backing band here has fulfilled the promise of Elvis Perkins, pushing his songs far beyond anything he’s written to date, and the listeners will be rewarded time and time again, as each listen unfolds new little secrets.

Little Joy vs. Los Hermanos

I’m all kinds of into audience participation, so I thought I would throw one more your way. Today, we will debate over whether the singer for Fabrizio Moretti’s (of The Strokes fame) newest project, Little Joy, is in fact better suited to front a band backed by Fab or by his old band, Los Hermanos. The kids love Little Joy, and Devandra Banhart produced the album, but something about the bossanova sounds of Los Hermanos are really working for me today. You make the call.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/little_joy_no_ones_better_sake.mp3]

Download: Little Joy – No Ones Better Sake [MP3]

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/09-09-condicional.mp3]

Download: Los Hermanos – Condicional [MP3]