Photo Pop 2012 Preview: Rick Kern @ Red 7 (11.9)

Here’s another one of the great photographers that will be displaying and selling their photography at Photo Pop 2012 this Friday at Red 7.  If you’re lucky, Rick might give you the sexy photo of me stuffing my face with a cupcake backstage at ACL.  His photo to the left is from a GWAR shoot, and you can also read on to find out why he’s mad I called Emily Haines to just chat. Here’s Rick.  Read more

Metric – Synthetica

Rating: ★★½☆☆

When it comes to catchy pop with a superstar of a front woman, Metric has been a staple for years now. Their last effort from 2008 showed a transition to a stronger electronic sound from the angular guitars that early releases relied on. Three years later they are back and the title, Synthetica tells you where this band is headed with their sound before you even hear the first song; artificial and synthetic and further down the road they turned onto with Fantasies.

If the album title wasn’t enough to clue you in to the direction of the album, the first track ought to the do the trick. “Artificial Nocturne” starts out with waves of synthesizer and Emily Haines’ sleek vocals claiming she’s “as fucked up as they say.” This lasts for the opening two minutes of the album, before the guitar and drums kick in and the song begins to go anywhere. At this point, Metric eases into the familiar sound that they’ve given you before, but it feels distanced, as if you have to search to find the pop music that this band has previously doled out with ease.

As far as songwriting goes on this album, it seems as though Haines has grown a bit lazy, which is the main reason that Synthetica falls flat upon listen. Before, the band put out songs with a heavy electronic presence, but the lyrics that Haines spat at you were catchy and interesting, gracing the music with human accessibility. A lot of the tracks on this release feel lazy, with overly repeated lines, which may be catchy, but become stale after they are the very crux of the songs. One of the worst offenders of this repetitive business is “Dreams So Real,” whose two-minute-and-forty-one seconds of existence feels like it goes on forever while Haines reiterates that she’ll “Shut up and carry on,” and sadly, you wish she would.

Of course there are exceptions to this phenomenon that are quite enjoyable. Embedded in the far away tracks are those that you can connect to with hooky guitar lines and Haines sultry vocals leading you along. Songs like “Breathing Underwater,” and “Lost Kitten,” prove to be interesting and real additions to your listening bank of Metric songs. “Breathing Underwater” is a seamless combination of the synthetic elements with the grounded guitar lines, reminiscent of “Gimme Sympathy” off of their previous release. “Lost Kitten,” is a sassy number on which the quick lyrics draw you in and then Haines holds you with her understated power vocals.

Synthetica is not the step into a new, interesting direction that I was hoping Metric would take. Rather, the majority of this album is muted and lacking the shimmer that sets Haines and company apart from the average pop band, however, I invite you to wade through Synthetica to find those gems.

Introducing Alcoholic Faith Mission

Danish bands always need a little love over here in the United States, especially when they’re on small labels like our good friends over at Old Flame Records (we’re looking at you Rob!). We’d like to give you a nice little introduction to Alcoholic Faith Mission, the newest Danish export, crafting some really elegant pop tunes that head straight for the soft spot in your soul. My personal favorite is the one below featuring Sune on the lead vocal, with her raspy vocal recalling hints of Emily Haines.  That being said, the band also crafts more dynamic tunes as well, all which will be featured on the band’s upcoming release, Ask Me This, that comes to stores next week.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/07-Ask-Me-This.mp3]

Download:Alcoholic Faith Mission – Ask Me This [MP3]

Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record

Rating: ★★½☆☆

It’s been a good five years since we’ve heard from Canadians Broken Social Scene, and with their return, news comes that the large entourage has dwindled to a merry band of six (now with even more guests!).  How would the departure, or lack of involvement of key members, play out on the band’s new album, Forgiveness Rock Record?  Honestly, this album will be a divisive one, at least it looks that way now.  Some will find they love it from the start, while others (like myself) will be reluctant to completely disregard it due entirely to the band’s back catalogue and the ridiculous talent pool still intact.

By now you’ve all heard “World Sick,” but in contrast to the rest of the album, it feels really as if the song was sort of phoned in, for lack of better wording.  It appears as if the band, unsure of their identity as a six piece, fell upon common ground from days of old, in hopes of establishing their footing.  You’ll find the crashing percussion, though it seems a little bit cleaner, and the swelling vocals during the chorus.  Sorry, but you’ve done it better.  Similarly, the following song, “Chase Scene” has this driving electronic feel, but for some reason, it lacks that emotional release that made the band so enchanting.

Opening moments of “Texico Bitches” build great possibilities, relying upon the great guitar hook and Drew’s vocals to draw you in, and while that hook remains, it gets buried in the rest of the textural elements, such as string instruments, that are piled onto everything here. Still, this is the first song I think I really enjoyed, which is more than can be said for the following tune “Forced to Love.”   The vocal delivery is enough to turn you off every time, and all the guitar chords cutting through the song just get on my nerves.  Throw that in with the chorus, that once again seems like re-using something from the closet, and this is one of the more disappointing moments on Forgiveness Rock Record.

When I came across “Art House Director,” I wasn’t really sure where to find this song.  It’s full of horns, and it sounds a lot more like they’re channeling a bit of Guided by Voices, but as you listen to this song more, this is precisely what you wanted the group to do.  They’re throwing something entirely new into the mixture; it feels fresh immediately, yet still remains a since of smooth pop that the band tends to evoke.  Throw this in with “Ungrateful Little Father” and you have the band going places where they haven’t gone before, so you get excited.  The latter song uses Drew’s vocal as the focus, then throws in the pop instrument collage, crafting careful cacophony.

Those looking for old friends will find their joy in “Sentimental Xs” as Emily Haines of Metric makes her appearance.  Her coy little voice seems to float atop the song, as layer upon layer continues to build.  There’s electronic blips, percussion, feuding guitar lines. and despite being a good song, it doesn’t explode where you want it to, instead it remains sort of reined in to the album.  You’ll echo these exact sentiments the more you listen, waiting for the classic sound of Broken Social Scene to pop its head out.

Here’s the thing with this album: it doesn’t ever quite deliver.  I will admittedly agree that there are moments of brilliance, creativity and such all over this record, but they don’t ever seem to come together.  In the past, you always felt like no one in the band was in control, that they could release furious pop on you at any moment.  Here, Broken Social Scene seem to have gotten a bit more cohesion with the group, but in doing so, they’ve made their sound less dangerous and a little watered down.  Perhaps I’m just jaded by personal relationship with past records, but isn’t that the case with this band?  Don’t you just love that one record, that one perfect song?  You do; you know it, and I’m positive that in my world, Forgiveness Rock Record just doesn’t hold water to those moments.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/06-Art-House-Director.mp3]

Download: Broken Social Scene – Art House Director [MP3]

Headlights – Wildlife

headlights-wildlifeRating: ★★★☆☆

When Headlights released Some Racing, Some Stopping, they showed hints of absolute pop glory.  “Cherry Tulips” was one of the best songs I heard that year, and I still use it, but could they build on the continued promise and move forward with their third album Wildlife?

Whilst recording the album, turmoil struck the band, and they lost a guitarist, so it won’t surprise many to see this album as a side-step, rather than a natural progression.  Erin Fein’s presence is definitely felt here more prominently than I expected, as each song is filled to the brim with her fusion of keyboards and angelic vocals. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a record you can dismiss, it just doesn’t necessarily live up to the dreams in my head; then again, little does.

“Secrets” is one of the songs you’ll definitely fall in love with once you get your hands, and ears, on it.  Slowly it builds with keyboards and rimshots, but the faster the handclaps go, the faster the song seems to pick up the pace, before it bursts forth.   Juxtaposed to this tune is “You and Eye,” which builds on some of the haziness from the band’s first album, Kill Them With Kindness.  It’s a song that seems to trod along, built upon the voice of Fein and her little electronic flourishes.

One of the standout tracks comes just as early, but the oddity here is that Tristan Wraight seems to take the spotlight from Fein.  His voice recalls the sunny-side of pop music, and the song is structured carefully around the percussion and guitar work.  This definitely is the direction I saw the band heading when I got my hands on this album, but unfortunately it’s one of the distinct moments, only because there aren’t many songs that live up to it on Wildlife.

By the middle album, the group seems to have taken the middle ground between Emily Haines solo work and Stars. Not all will find this as a disappointment, as those bands deserve as much acclaim as they get.  But, the problem with songs such as “Long Song for Buddy” or “Wisconsin Beaches,” which is an acoustic number, is not that they aren’t enjoyable or artistic, but rather that they seem to be a lackluster performance in comparison to the brighter moments of the record, and the promise of the record before.  Clearly, the lyrics point to a darker side of the human relationship, dealing with love and loss throughout as the subject matter, but one can still discuss such things with a certain panache.  The fact that it’s not there is what holds this album back from being one of the great indie-pop albums of the year, but if you take a careful look inside, you’ll find that Headlights have left you with plenty to be happy about.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/04-Get-Going.mp3]

Download: Headlights – Get Going [MP3]

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.
Read more

Metric – Fantasies

metric-fantasies-album-cover1Rating: ★★★½☆

It has been extremely difficult not to fall in love with Metric; the band has consistently put out enjoyable pop tunes throughout their evolution as a band.  Their fourth album, Fantasies, is just another progressive step in whatever direction the band chooses to go.  Yes, maybe it’s not the same band that you couldn’t get enough of on Old World Underground, but this album is stocked full of fantastic singles and even more ridiculously good moments than ever before.

The world caught wind of “Help, I’m Alive” a few months back, and the album couldn’t have a better opener than this. As the synthesizer and drums push the song forward, you are on the edge of the seat waiting for the song to crash down, but as always, the band remains coy, pulling back with just enough restraint to play innocent; that is until Emily hits the high notes, and warms your ears. “Sick Muse” follows immediately keeping the fast pace.  It’s a lot more straightforward than previous songs in the Metric canon, but the chorus is where the band seems to excel this time around. In fact, the choruses throughout the album are one of the elements that differentiates this album from the past.

You’ll also find some moments on this album that seem like they were skeletons left in Emily Haines’ closet as she wrapped up her solo work to work on this album.  “Twilight Galaxy” is just such a song, as it rests on “oohs” and what sounds like a programmed drum track.  While one could complain about such a moment being on this record, it shows just how far Haines has come since her inception as rock-goddess extraordinaire. “Gimme Sympathy” is a similar song, though it’s fleshed out a bit more by the presence of the rest of the band.  All in all, it’s a twist we hadn’t seen yet, and it’s one that works well for the band.

Unfortunately, a lot of the angular guitar work is gone from this album, or at least it has hidden itself behind the hills of electronic presence.  On one hand, this makes this album ready for those who wish to take it to the dance floor, as the synths will definitely blast out of speakers around the world, but it also makes the album comes across as a lot more polished than before.  The ferocity of the group here is subdued; Emily now is more than just the pretty face of the band.  She seems to be the leader in every sense here, and for some, that might be a little disheartening.

Suffice it to say that most of those fans who fell in love with the band will still be happy with the most recent output, as there are gems all over this record.  Who knows where the next step will lead the band, but as long as they can continuously pump out pop music this good, they are sure  to have followers for years to come.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/06-gimme-sympathy.mp3]