The Wooden Birds – Two Matchsticks

Rating: ★★★ · ·

It’s not like Andrew Kenny is new in town, so if you haven’t heard of his work before, you better get back to your homework.  But, that being said, his work with American Analog Set has seemed to dominate discussions, at least in comparison to his other projects.  While he made small steps away from that with the first Wooden Birds release, Magnolia, it appears he can clearly put the past aside, as Two Matchsticks is his best work date.

The meandering guitar line, softly walking across your speakers on “Folly Club,” is something that has come up often in Kenny’s work, as he’s really simplified his compositions of late.  What does stand out upon the first track is Leslie Sisson, who has spent time with Matt Pond PA (Matt is also all over this album).  Her voice is the perfect accompaniment for Andrew’s gentle warmth, providing almost a folk aspect to the minimal indie rock sound. Listening to the title track from Two Matchsticks, you continue to immerse yourself in a bit of folk, with the group giving what might just be a small nod to Iron and Wine.  This should come as no surprise, as the recording was done in a small bedroom in Austin, as Sam B. used to do in the golden years.

While the proper pacing might lack at times for The Wooden Birds, it’s the differentiation of presentation that really appeals to you on this LP.  For instance, Sisson takes control of the lead vocal on “Baby Jeans,” which provides a different dynamic, though the music sounds similar.  But, that’s the thing this round that makes the album a new step for Kenny and his mates, they share in the songwriting/singing duties fairly equally, giving the record a wider range than what you might have found on Magnolia.

Still, there’s something classic to the way the lyrics are being written on Two Matchsticks.  In a time when many are likely to shirk literary responsibilities in favor or obscure references or “carefree” (read careless) lyrics, things go differently in this land.  While I have no idea about the narrators in the songs, at least you can see story lines,  and personable notes within the lines, allowing listeners to make those connections with either the band, or themselves.  This isn’t to say this Oxford English here, a la Colin Meloy, but the crafting of the phrases and the stories within the songs should definitely be something that piques your interest.

You know, the first dozen listens to this record, and it might be fewer for most, may not strike you as anything breathtaking or otherworldly, but give Two Matchsticks just a bit more time.  Just as you begin to find things rather drab, you discover lyrical gems, drawing yo closer into the landscape of the songs, such as “Too Pretty to Say Please,” laying in wait for you near the end of the record.  If anything, those extra listens will lead you to see the careful little touches made by Kenny and The Wooden Birds, leaving you with a fairly remarkable listen.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/02-Two-Matchsticks.mp3]

Download: The Wooden Birds – Two Matchsticks [MP3]

New Music from Talons’

First, lets just say that this isn’t the instrumental band from the UK! Talons’ is some mellow singer-songwriter tracks from M. Tolan, who recorded the album up in Akron, Ohio.  It all comes from his album Song for Boats, which just came out.  It’s supposedly loosely based on his dreams detailing his return to the US from Spain if the world were to come to an end. You’ll definitely find it in the vein of other songwriters like Iron and Wine (back in the day), filled with this whispering voice of a man coming to grips with his own reality.  I stumbled across this record last week, and I’ve been slowly listening to it all week. Maybe it’s time you give it a try.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/04-Ferry.mp3]

Download: Talons’ – Ferry [MP3]

Iron and Wine on Daytrotter

Can we claim Sam of Iron and Wine as an Austinite yet?  I mean, he’s still living on the outskirts of town, right? Well, we know you’re excited as can be for his newest release Kiss Each Other Clean, which hits the streets on January 25th.  While we’ve had some of the singles hit the Internet, you can now listen to three of the new songs done for today’s Daytrotter session.  You’ll probably be just as excited, if not more so, for this record once you give it all a listen.  And hey, sign up with the site, and it’s all free, so it can’t hurt to get yourself a nice taste of new Iron and Wine.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/002-Tree-By-The-River.mp3]

Download: Iron and Wine -Tree By The River (Daytrotter Session) [MP3]

FT50: Albums of the ’00s

0828top5coverWhat?   You still listen to THAT album?  That record is so 2004!  Well, that’s okay, because we really like that one too, which is why we decided to come up with a list of our favorite albums of the last decade (2000-2009).  Sure, these might not be YOUR favorite records, or the most critically acclaimed, but we sat down and really thought out every record from the past ten years that we keep coming back to in our collections.  You’re likely to disagree with some of these, and we won’t tell you we’re absolutely right we just know that these happen to be OUR favorites.  If you think we totally blew it here, feel free to tell us so, but be nice, as our egos are kind of fragile.  Follow the jump for more.

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Wooden Birds – Magnolia

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Rating: ★★★ · ·

Local Austinite Andrew Kenny made waves long ago as the leader of American Analog Set; he returns to Austin after a lengthy absence with a new band in tow, The Wooden Birds.  While you immediately recall his vocal styling, the music definitely takes a different approach on the band’s first proper album, Magnolia.

Musically, this album comes directly at you.  There are no waves of distortion or ambient sounds; this is an album comprised very simply of guitar, vocals and percussion.  Kenny’s gentle guitar plucking will bring to mind some comparisons to Iron and Wine, though Andrew’s been at it longer, so we should give him credit there (not that it’s a competition).

While the approach may be very simple in it’s delivery, you can tell that in the writing process Andrew spent a great amount of time fleshing out the melodies that would accompany the softness of the music he composed.  His voice, at times, seems oddly similar to that of Ben Gibbard, especially when he takes on that bedroom-quiet whisper.

Oddly, a lot of the songs do seem to play off the same set of standards, with only the slightest of variations.  For instance, “Quit You Once” and “Never Know” open in precisely the same way, which also appears to happen with “Hailey” and “Hometown Fantasy.” Despite the lack of change in much of the album, you still take interest in how the songs develop individually; this is all due to the abilities of Andrew as a songwriter.

From start to finish the album is carefully and quietly written.  It’s the type of album that draws you in with its approach to the craft of the song, and such talent allows listeners to look beyond the similarities that might otherwise render the album dull and boring.  Luckily, Mr. Kenny has been at this long enough to know precisely how to rise above such issues, and his success is just another reason why he is regarded with such respect among the musical elite (as you could witness by his recent performance with Broken Social Scene at Bass Concert Hall). Sure, the quietude of this album may not be your precise cup of tea, but it’s great to have one of our local boys back composing such softly wonderful music.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/04-hailey.mp3]

Download: The Wooden Birds – Hailey [MP3]

ATH Interviews: Calexico

ATH recently had the good fortune of chatting it up with famed songwriter Joey Burns about his Tucson based band Calexico. The interview should give you an adequate preview for the band’s upcoming sure to be sold out show at Antone’s on Friday night. Mr. Burns answers the tough questions and also reflects on his one and done stint as an actor. Follow the jump to read this incredible interview with Calexico’s front man, Joey Burns.

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Death Vessel – Nothing Is Precious Enough For Us

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Sub Pop records claimed that most journalists would find it quite difficult to place Death Vessel, as the band is virtually indescribable.  However, I like a good challenge, and since I like this record, I have vowed to do it justice.

Joel Thibodeau is the man behind the music, and perhaps the reason people find it so difficult to classify his music is his voice.  His voice is what you might call androgynous, standing a thin line between being thrown in one direction or another.  Regardless, it is very soothing whilst matching the music that it carries along.

Musically, it isn’t as difficult to put into place, if you were one to do such things.  I suppose I am one for such things, and in my decision to this I have come to three various pieces of Joel’s musical recipe: Iron and Wine, Deerhoof and Stephin Merritt (solo).

Death Vessel has previously toured with Iron and Wine, and the touches of folk leanings are immediately noticeable, though not necessarily ripped off.  The production has the intimacy of early Sam Beem works, while maintaing its own personality altogether.  It’s not as gentle as Iron and Wine, which is where I think the strength lies in this album.

As far as referencing Deerhoof, that lies in the ability for the songs to operate on various tangents, pulling back together uniquely, and never making you feel as if you really strayed very far from the core of the song.  The first few songs alone go from folk, to a hint of rockabilly and on to vaudeville.  It makes for an interesting listen, yet maintains its own uniqueness.

Now Stephin Merritt references I don’t throw around lightly, but if you’ve ever run across his solo works, and looked at the instrumentation he uses, you will find that Mr. Thibodeau is not far off in his own endeavors.  He calls upon many many friends to gather and flesh out his songs, much as Merritt has always done.  The best thing about this effort is that while several songs contain multiple instruments outside from the usual fashion, they all seem to find enough room in these songs.

My only draw back with this album is my own inability to connect to the lyrics.  They are indeed outside the typical writing style, but at times they resemble Lewis Carroll. Despite my inability to connect, they are still displayed in such a polite manner as to make a listener draw in closely, going deeper into the music as they do so.

When its all said and done, this is a genuinely unique album worthy of multiple l suggest picking it up immediately.  And, if you fall in love with it, as I did, you can check out the band on September 12th at Emos Lounge.  Tickets are available at TicketWeb or you can click this link.