The Fresh & Onlys – Play It Strange

Rating: ★★★★½

Let’s face it, a lot of the stuff coming down the pipe from San Francisco is going to be labeled with some sort of psychedelic tag, but as we’re all likely to see, a great deal of the bands are starting to mature, crafting stronger songs, music that’s meant to be deemed nothing more than that, music.  The new record from The Fresh & Onlys, titled Play It Strange, still holds hints of the psych-tag, but listening closely, you’ll surely notice the great strides this band has made with this effort.

“Summer of Love” probably doesn’t do much to move the band out of the San Francisco sound, but what it does show, upon first listen, is a cleaner sounding band, though there are still haunting effects on singer Tim Cohen’s vocals.  The guitars sound much sharper, the drums have a bit more clarity, and you’ve got a winner already.  Pushing forward, “Waterfall” seems to have the faintest hint of “oohs” secretly hiding in the far background, but that’s just one extra touch to make you fall in love.  The chorus is perfected, with the slightest echo as Tim sings “fall with me into the water,” but the greatest part is that spaghetti western guitar line beneath the group’s normal jangle.  This is perhaps one of the brightest moments on Play It Strange.

If you’re looking to see the band bring on something a bit more headstrong, look no further than “All Shook Up.”  You’ll get pounding drums in your ears as soon as you press play, highlighting one of the oft overlooked factors in the band’s success, their rhythm section.  While it may not be the strongest performance by Cohen, the intermingling guitar lines fit perfectly into the fuzzy bass lines and steady beat.  It’s reminiscent of classic 50s rock n’ roll, just cowering beneath a hazy fog of darkness, sort of like the cover art. It’s funny, but if you remove some of the recording processes from The Fresh & Onlys, you’d probably find a really solid pop band lurking somewhere.  “Fascinated” brings to mind various lesser-known Brit pop groups of the early 90s, but the band bring it out through a lens of their own.  The melody is catchy as you would expect, but you have to listen closely, digging deeper into the relevant nostalgia the group offer up to your ears.

While the majority of the songs on Play It Strange fall under the 3 minute range, there are some real slow-burners, none more special than “I’m a Thief.”  Cohen has this coy vocal walk through during the verses, pleading for his lover to remain faithful to her heart, which he claims to have stolen.  But, the chorus is a bit brighter, not lyrically, but emotionally, providing a bit of swing to the song, just before they close it out in instrumental fashion. Such songs clearly illustrate that the band has gone back further than the psychedelic era, drawing from more classic rock sounds as their influence, but they’re coating it in the dingy atmosphere of dive bars and seedy hole-in-the wall establishments.  It’s clear that The Fresh & Onlys are growing, and with the prolific songwriting of Tim Cohen, Play It Strange is just a sign of greater things to come.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/The-Fresh-Onlys-Waterfall.mp3]

Download: The Fresh & Onlys – Waterfall [MP3]

New Music from Cheap Time

I’ve really been enjoying the great work by In the Red Records this year, as they’ve been putting out some really solid releases, at least in the vein of garage pop bands.  The newest record from Cheap Time, Fantastic Explanations (and Similar Situations), is just another gem waiting to be grabbed up by everyone.  For some reason it reminds me, vocally, of that old punk band The Saints, but the music is a bit slower, and a little bit more straightforward.  You can get your hands on these sweet tunes now!

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/cheaptimealone.mp3]

Download: Cheap Time – I’d Rather Be Alone [MP3]

New Music from The Parting Gifts

When Coco Hames and Gret Cartwright took a break from their respective bands, The Ettes and Reigning Sound, they had no intention of writing a whole album.  Their work together began with a 7″ in mind, but led to an entire album’s worth of material under the name The Parting Gifts. Their album will be called Strychnine Dandelion, and it hits stores on November 9th via In the Red Records. This first single has a bluesy grit to it, and a pounding rhythm that kicks you in the teeth from the get go.  It’s that good old classic rock sound with a hint of dirt thrown in to keep it real.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/partinggiftskeepwalkin.mp3]

Download: The Parting Gifts – Keep Walkin [MP3]

New Music from Fresh & Onlys

This band is ridiculously good.  They’ve got something special in the live setting, and now, they’re recorded material is really catching fire too.  Their new record, Play It Strange, has been rocking on my iPod for a few weeks now, and its their best to date.  The new Fresh and Onlys album hits the streets on October 12th via In the Red, and you’ll want to grab hold as soon as you can.  Just take a small sample here, and see what’s in store for you this go round. Sounds good, right?

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/The-Fresh-Onlys-Waterfall.mp3]

Download: The Fresh & Onlys – Waterfall [MP3]

New Music From The Intelligence

Seattle based band The Intelligence are a simple band with a simple approach to pop music.  The single below “Like Like Like Like Like Like Like” will best convey their idea of less is more.  You can expect this tune to appear on the band’s upcoming 6th full length album Males hitting stores next week on In the Red Records.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/intelligencelikex7.mp3]

Download: The Intelligence – Like Like Like Like Like Like Like [MP3]

New King Khan & The BBQ Show

kingkhan1We love the man known as King Khan and we get amped up when he makes new music with The Shrines or with The BBQ show.  This new jam comes from the BBQ show and will appear on upcoming album Invisible Girl out November 3rd on In the Red Records.  Do these guys put out bad music?

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/King-Khan-BBQ-Show-Invisible-Girl.mp3]

Download: King Khan & BBQ Show – Invisible Girl [MP3]

Vivian Girls – s/t

Rating: ★★½☆☆

Everyone seems keen on the Vivian Girls lately; you’ll find their name on every independent blog or web site across the world.  Despite their recent rise to glory, it’s completely clear that the girls have a great deal of work to do in order to rise all the way to the top.

After a set of 7 inches, and a short run of their self-title debut, the girls have re-released the entire debut; this time on In the Red Records. It’s odd how such a short career has risen sky-high, and one must question whether the downturn in the global market has finally led to inflation in the minds of indie connoisseurs .

“All the TIme” opens this album, and the earnestness in the song definitely creates a sense of interest for the listener. The soulful female vocals, reminiscent of ancient R&B singers, carries the song amidst waves of sheer noise.  This is about as far as one can go with garnering loads of praise upon the band; their efforts here fail in regards to the critical praise they have recently achieved.

Throughout the entire album, the drum work is somewhat shoddy, relying upon the cymbals and pounding snare work, which harks back to the more straightforward punk sounds that came out of New York in the eighties.  For some reason, the drums lack the proper clarity in the final mix, which destroys their overall effect, almost rendering them the label of juvenile.

Every song seems to follow in the footsteps of the first track, playing upon the the female harmonies.  Momentarily, one might be distracted from the walls of noise and feedback at first, but as the album continues to push forward with the varying levels of sonic noise it appears as if Vivian Girls are trying to hide their capabilities behind such noise, disguising their talent from the ears of listeners.

No one seems to be linking the girls to the fame and popularity of Beat Happening.  Sure, Calvin  Johnson carried the band for years, but just go back to the album Jamboree and listen to Heather Lewis sing on “In Between” and you will clearly see that the Vivian Girls have quietly lifted their style from everything in that song.  The only difference is that they surround the pop elements with unnecessary noise.  Clearly, they have work to do if they want to achieve the longevity of Calvin’s low-fi pop genius.

Listening to this album is something that one should do with skepticism.  All the hype in the world just doesn’t come through your speakers the way that you want it to do.  You can’t blame the Vivian Girls for this, for it’s clear that they didn’t rise to fame without merit.  There are elements of enjoyment here, along with promise, but the punch in the face you all hoped for doesn’t come through in the end.

Jay Reatard – Singles 06-07

Rating: ★★★½☆

About a year ago I stumbled into Jay Reatard, well, his record, Bloodvisions. Since that day I have eaten up every piece of news I can find on the man and his band. Out of nowhere news hit me that In The Red Records would be releasing a compilation of all his old singles from various 7″s. I don’t have the money to bid for such things on eBay, so I opted for the more economical solution, buying this here compilation.

The compilation is seventeen new–well, new to me–songs, but you need to examine the tracklist first. The listing includes four different versions of songs that made their way onto Bloodvisions. The songs that might sound familiar to you are “Bloodvisions,” “Oh Its Such a Shame,”Turning Blue,” and “It’s So Easy.” You will also find that the song “Haunting You” from this very compilation sounds really familiar. In fact, if you changed the name to “Nightmares,” you would already have this song. So, you have 12 new songs, but this is all accompanied by a DVD featuring 4 live shows, which are all worth the your viewing.

Do these singles compare to the greatness of the full length? I think that depends on what exactly you are looking at when you listen to this album. Is this your first Jay Reatard experience? If so, then you might find this unique blend of lo-fi garage rock with perfect melodies simply refreshing. It’s hard not to find something to like with this band.

However, if you have previous Jay Reatard experience, you might find this collection of songs kind of a miss. The production quality is the first thing that I noticed that was different. It just didn’t pack the same punch that Bloodvisions brought you. The vocals sometimes appear more muddled than usual. Then you come to the older versions of the songs on Bloodvisions and the only one that really surpasses or equals the newer version is “Haunting You,” which was changed to “Nightmares.”

There are some interesting new twists, such as the keyboard infused “Another Person,” which brings in the bouncy melodies that typically adorn a Jay Reatard song. Also, the bluesy “Hammer I Miss You” is also an interesting touch.

All in all, this is a worthy collection for either listener, Jay Reatard newcomer or diehard. As the newcomer, you get a proper introduction to the rock stylings of Jay Reatard, which we all know is necessary when few bands are making solid rock music nowadays. For the diehard, you get to look into the past of one of your favorites. This album is really a stepping stone for any and all listeners.

Jay Reatard Singles Compilation!

My favorite garage-rocker, Jay Reatard, is said to be distributing a brand new collection of singles this coming Tuesday, June 17th, via In The Red Records. The track listing has four old songs, which means we’ll get 13 brand new Jay Reatard songs, well, sort of. All the songs come from various 7″s, but if you don’t have those, this is brand new! It also comes with a complimentary DVD of four Reatard shows, which might help win you over to the gloriousness of Jay Reatard! According to Jay’s website, he will apparently be showing his face in Austin at Red 7 on August 3rd.
[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/01-blood-visions.mp3]

Download: Jay Reatard – Blood Visions [MP3]

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