You’ve got about a month to close out the existence of Holy Mountain, and like we all expect, the venue is doing it in style, leaving you with some great shows (and memories). Tonight is no different, as they’re bringing Nick Diamonds of Unicorns, Islands, Human Highway and Mister Heavenly. Whether you know it or not, Nick’s had a pretty big influence in the indie music realm, and in the ATH offices, so it’s probably best you go see him in such a small space. Plus…he’s friends with Michael Cera, so maybe that guy will show up since his movie career is over. The Tulips will be opening, so come early, celebrate Nick and Holy Mountain.
Download: Human Highway – The Sound [MP3]
Bear’s Den is a three-part band from London that first caught my attention when I saw them open for someone right here in Austin. I was struck by their folksy based indie rock—some of the songs had that immediate tangibility in the live setting that comes with a group with good energy and chemistry. Islands is their debut record, one which has the group giving you ten tracks of this energy into one neat package for your consumption.
The band opens this debut with “Again,” which will immediately catch your attention for its looping banjo, full sounding acoustic guitar and steady drumbeat. This track has a cyclical kind of build to it, each time the band comes back around to the chorus they seem to have gained some steam. The vocals have this hollow yet vastly deep quality to them that intensify with the song as well as the addition of backing vocals to make them emotionally charged. Genre wise, this opener harkens that of folk, rock, and pop all in one, which is the case for the first part of the album.
Track, “Isaac,” takes a different approach than what you’ve heard thus far on Islands, turning to a softer sound that has me reminiscent of some Great Lake Swimmers track. It’s a pleasantly delicate tune, beginning with the plucking of banjo and acoustic guitar and vocals, devoid of any percussion. This song crawls along, the gang vocals combining with the instruments to generate a beauty of a number that finds itself in the lack of a steady beat created by drums. The rhythm comes directly from the expressed elements—it’s simple but also simply moving. Other well-crafted numbers that strike my fancy later on in the album are “When You Break” which has the band building up the suspense all the way through the track to its end. The song has this bubbling undercurrent of an electronic element that you may not even notice until the other elements cut out before the bridge kicks in. This is one of the best numbers on the record, and its got me listening over and over, each time the little nuances of it becoming apparent and appreciated.
While Islands is very easy on the ears, at places, it feels almost too easy. I’m left wanting some tracks that push the boundaries of folksy quiet indie rock, whereas a lot of these fall into the Mumford & Sons pattern of alternating quiet moments of stripped sound with loud twangy jam sessions. Bear’s Den moves beyond this at times, but if that’s your bag, this band does it well. Find a track or two to jam to before you hear it too many times on the radio.
When it hits September, the Austin music scene takes off completely. We’ve got a whole bunch of must see gigs this weekend with album releases and more left and right. Couldn’t highlight them all, so here’s my picks for you all. Tried to throw in a little of everything for equality’s sake. Read more
I failed you all; I’m sorry. I should’ve been more on the up and up with Jim Guthrie, who first came to my attention with his participation in Islands and Human Highway. As I was reading the long list of the Polaris Prize nominees, I noticed the Canadian songwriter had released an album a little over a month ago. The big single definitely warrants our attention, using Jim’s unique voice and fabulous melodies with some beautiful string arrangements. His latest record is called Takes Time, and I’ve spent my entire afternoon immersing myself in the pleasures of this release.
Download: Jim Guthrie – Difference A Day Makes [MP3]
We’ve long been fans of Islands, not to mention the various other projects by Nick Thorburn (especially Human Highway), so we’re always happy when he pops up with a new song. His group are back, after a little over a year, with a brand new album titled Ski Mask; it hits stores in September. The first single we get to here builds really slowly, but jumps off into the collage-o-pop masterpiece that has made Nick so endearing over all these years. Plain and simple, the guy knows how to write catchy tunes. Listen and see.
One of the most recent releases from the Famous Class stable has really won me over today. Of course, it does come with a bit of sadness, as the band in question, Tough Knuckles, is the one of Ariel Panero, a promoter and popular man in the NYC music scene who passed away last year. I’m pretty sure this record came to light awhile back, but FC just out up VANNAWHITE on their bandcamp for FREE, which means you need to go check this out now. For me, it doesn’t really matter when or where it came out, as the songs themselves are pretty timeless, and for those of us not fortunate enough to know the backstory, it’s a great discovery. Made my day.
Download:Tough Knuckles – Islands [MP3]
Islands is an Austin Town Hall favorite. Nicholas Thorburn heads the band that creates a wide range of music, poppy in the beginning, maturing as the project continues. Islands came through Austin with Idiot Glee and decided to take a shot at hosting a show in the St. David’s Episcopal Church.
If you get the chance, go to a show in a church. It is all about the acoustics and the ambience. It’s just different.
How different? Read on, I’ll tell you and show you.
Man Friday is really shaping up as one of those nights in Austin with so many live music choices that your head just might explode. One can’t miss choice would be getting some tickets to see now legendary indie band Islands at St. David’s Church downtown. Not only is the venue a once in a lifetime type deal, Nick has always been one of the best front men in the game. Opening support is provided by Idiot Glee.
Download: Islands – This Is Not a Song [MP3]
I’ve never wavered in my adoration for The Mary Onettes, and with the upcoming Love Forever EP, it looks like I won’t have to change my position. You’ll probably notice a slight change if you’ve been following the band, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. On this track, there’s a bit more of a studio polish to the daunting pop number, giving more clarity to the lyrical element than you might have found on previous effort Islands. You can find this track, and three others when the EP debuts via Labrador on February 28th. Try to hate this song; you just can’t.
Download:The Mary Onettes – Love’s Taking Strange Ways [MP3]
After the release of the Human Highway record, featuring Nic from Islands, I truly expected a lot more of a mellow approach to singwriting. But, then Nic went out and threw Vapours at us. It’s not that I minded, but I was looking forward to a more contemplative side of the man, which might be what we’re getting when Islands release A Sleep and A Forgetting on February 14th via Anti- Records. He seems calm here, willing to lay down a great harmony to build the song around. He’s great when he’s spastic, but this is an interesting touch on an ever-changing career.
Download: Islands – This Is Not a Song [MP3]