ACL 2012: Saturday In Pictures

We battled the elements. We battled our livers. We battled the battles. Really happy I had a legit excuse to not watch the Longhorns. Yech.

Rain was in the forecast. The poncho that had been neatly folded in factory specifications previously dormant in my camera bag for three festivals was going to be called into duty. Two heavy bursts occurred, before and after the Shins. I was able to keep relatively dry as the revelers drank in the rain. People that weren’t there asked me yesterday how muddy I got. Apparently, the news sensationalized the few real mud holes I saw into #Mudpit2012.

Oh yeah, the artists for this installment are Zola Jesus, Gardens & Villa, Oberhofer, Metric, The Shins and Jack White.

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Jack White – Blunderbuss

Rating: ★★★½ ·

Jack White‘s pretty much done everything musically speaking at this point: he’s played in various bands (White Stripes, Raconteurs, etc) and he’s produced/written with music legends.  Heck, he even got to date Bridget Jones and marry a British super model, so what does he have left to prove to us?  Absolutely nothing…and that’s the point of Blunderbuss.

Old fans of Jack’s will probably enjoy the album opener “Missing Pieces;” it seems like one of the simpler songs he’s written in a long while, not to mention the fact that his distinctive voice really takes the song’s focus.  It’s also got a muddy feel with the chorus, which provides that raw energy his early White Stripes stuff carried with it. But, he then goes into “Sixtine Saltines,” a tune that I could probably do without.  It’s a definite rocker, so if that’s the Jack you’re looking for then it’s in this song; I just hate that it comes off as braggadocio rather than fragility and ingenuity.  The juxtaposition of the many faces of Jack White is something you’ll encounter time and time again on Blunderbuss.

“Love Interruption” was the first single from the album that really grabbed hold of me because of it’s stripped down structure.  Ruby Amanfu’s presence provides Jack with a familiar female counterpart, but the delivery of the two vocals is something that varies greatly from the work he’s done with other ladies. There’s something about this tune, as well as “I Guess I Should Go To Sleep” that demonstrates White’s ability to work others backing vocals easily into his songs.  What amazes me is that on Blunderbuss they all sort of seem to come off as a bit of impromptu jams, which probably isn’t too far from the truth in the end.  These are great songs that any fan will add to their favorites list.

There’s probably some songs on this album that most people will find appealing that just haven’t sunk in as of yet.  “I’m Shakin” and “Trash Tongue Talker” delve into White’s fascination with traditional blues-influenced rock n’ roll that first won over teenagers in the early years. It’s definitely clever, and his voice is more than fitting, but these songs don’t seem to be his strength–still, you can’t blame anyone for wanting to throw a rocking stomper out there.  Funnily, these two songs (my least favorite) move right into what’s my personal standout, “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy.”  This tracks is centered around a nice bit of barroom piano, and what I suspect is a bit of banjo in the background.  It stands out to me because it illustrates just how strong a voice Jack White actually has (no matter how often I forget).  It’s not even the most complex song in the world, but you better believe it’s a sweet tune all around.

With Blunderbuss you get sort of a mixed bag of Jack White.  He throws in a few rockers (not my cup of tea) to appease that side of his fans, but for the most part these are blues/country/bluegrass/barroom influenced tunes that are by and large pretty successful.  I guess there’s only a few stunning tracks on the effort, but he’s still able to accomplish a lot more in one album than most people will do in an entire career; I’ll gladly take a solo Jack over 99.9 % of the rest of the music out there. Such are the gifts of one of America’s finest songwriters.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/04-Love-Interruption.mp3]

Download:Jack White – Love Interruption [MP3]

Nice New Track from Little Hurricane

Sometimes you get some information on a band, and you’re tempted to look the other way, panning them as just another run of the mill bluesy duo. But, along the way to my dismissal, I just couldn’t escape this track getting stuck in my head. Little Hurricane might have a hell of a lot of swagger in the live setting, but I’m really enjoying the sound on the first single from their album Homewrecker; the album hits on May 1st via Unknown Behavior. There’s something about Tone’s (singer/guitarist) vocals that definitely raise the bar on blues-rock; it’s not that typical country whine.  With Jack White rocking solo, a song like this propels Little Hurricane to the top of the pack.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/little-hurricane-Haunted-Heart.mp3]

Download:Little Hurricane – Haunted Heart [MP3]

New Tunes from Pujol

We’ve all been running a little lethargically with the holiday season upon us, so I thought I would kick start Monday with a bit of amplified heat. We’re bringing you a new single from Pujol, and this one’s got the backing of Jack White, seeing as he’s the man who produced it, not to mention the man putting it out on Third Man Records.  You’ll find furiously pounding drums in the forefront, with some really clever guitar work going on throughout, all bringing some powerfully energetic rock n’ roll.  This kid can play, which is no surprise, as you wouldn’t expect Jack to back someone who can’t play their instrument. If you dig it, get your hands on the Black Rabbit 7″.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Too-Safe-1.mp3]

Download: Pujol – Too Safe [MP3]

FT5: Music Fashion Accessories

We here at ATH hope that all of you had fun over the past 3 months soaking up the Vitamin D, getting wasted, and subsequently wreaking havoc across our city, but now it’s time to get back into the dreaded educational mentality. One of the truly great things about going to school is the first day. You’ll be meeting new people and making a good first impression is all it takes sometimes to get an excellent shot at a get-together with that certain someone you’re sure to see that day. Well, if music has taught me anything, musicians usually know how to dress to impress. I’m sorry to say it, but summer is over. Get some style for the new school year after the jump.

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The Dead Weather – Sea Of Cowards

Rating: ★★★ · ·

Jack White is on a mission of late. Between three bands touring extensively in recent years, a new White Stripes’ DVD, a marriage to his model wife, Karen Elson, and 2 albums in 10 months with his latest project, there’s no shortage of insatiable, swampy blues guitar riffs in his bag of tricks (or drum licks in this particular case).  Following up 2009’s Horehound is their latest Sea of Cowards. Right away the differences between the two albums are apparent, on the vocal front, there’s more Jack White’s smarmy howl, which was primarily the Kill’s lead singer Allison Mosshart’s forte; and secondly, there’s more secure percussive stylings from White, which steadies the record as a whole from start to finish. If there was a question about their last release, it was not focused on intent or motivation, but in the execution.

At first spin of the vinyl, the bass lines and kick drum rumbled my speakers. From the first few lines of ‘Blue Blood Bones’ it’s obvious that White has been practicing. He is no doubt one of the hardest working musicians in the game nowadays, but he manages not to over-extend himself. That may be in part to surrounding himself with like-minded uber-talented musicians which push towards high quality in every collaboration. With the afore mentioned Mosshart approaching rock goddess status, Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Dean Fertita and Raconteurs‘ bassist Jack Lawrence are by no means pushed into the shadows. Even though it may seem that way with White’s growing influence and Mosshart larger than life personality. In only 10 months the group seems to have hit their stride and are thriving in the new found confidence which translates to one of the best live shows in the world, though the creativity for song-writing is still lacking. As with the last, the intent is solid and the execution is much stronger, but the tunes just don’t carry as well on the turntable as well as they do on stage. For some, that’s not a bad thing; and I just happen to be one of those people. If you caught the group’s last stop through Austin at Stubb’s, you know exactly what I mean. These songs just can’t be contained in a formal studio release, though try as they might.

Sea of Cowards is much angrier than their former, allowing the band to show their angst and fierce nature, letting loose on tracks like ‘Hustle and Cuss’ and ‘I’m Mad’. ‘The Difference Between Us’ is the first track which solely highlights Alison Mosshart’s full potency as she dominates the track.  The first single, ‘Die By The Drop’ is no doubt one of the highlights of the album with Mosshart and White each taking turns howling alongside strong performances from Fertita and Lawrence. During ‘Looking At the Invisible Man’, White it seems to be making a symbolic gesture of his desire to step out of the spotlight and to let his accompaniment shine, and the realization that it is no use. He exclaims that he is the invisible man, though his presence is always felt. On the final track ‘Old Mary’, White recites last rites with a simple piano accompaniment before the band pounds out the finale in style. Something tells me this however is not the last breath of this rendition of White (and Company). In fact with White’s steadier percussive talent, I feel the best may be yet to come. This is by no means the best album of the year, but it is a worthy successor to Horehound.

FT5: Modern Rock Stars

0115top5coverWe really live in a day and age when the idea of being a rock star is just about gone. Gone are the days of the lead singer who gets mobbed by fans everywhere they go or sleeps in hotel rooms full of strange women.  We don’t even get a lot of musicians with drug and alcohol problems anymore or who quite obviously don’t give a shit what anyone thinks.  You know, those people who were just way cooler than you ever hoped to be?  Dylan, Jagger, Plant, etc.  We all know the names.  That’s what makes them rock stars.  So today I wanted to create a list of those “modern rock stars” who have carried the torch of debauchery and coolness into a new age.  These guys (and gals) represent all the great things about being a rock star: alcohol/drug rehab stints, celebrity girlfriends, trend setting, don’t give a shit attitude, members of popular bands, and decent music all earn you a place on this list.  As a disclaimer I’ll say that all these artists rose to fame in the last decade so this means you won’t see a Dave Grohl or Eddie Vedder on this list because they have long been in the halls of the greats.  I’ll also make an attempt to compare each artist to who they most closely resemble from years past.  Please don’t assume that I’m comparing anyone artistically, I just wanted to give you a  frame of reference.  Follow the jump for the full list.

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Dead Weather – Horehound

deadweath

Rating: ★★ · · ·

Did you say Alison Mosshart? Yes please! Wait, Jack White too? Absolutely! These were the thoughts of many as news broke of a collaboration between the two, to be named Dead Weather.  Now the band have released their debut, Horehound, and for many, this album will be precisely what you wanted to get from the band, but for others, it might seem like the blues-rock version of Phish.

As the album opens with “60 Feet Tall” Mosshart makes her presence known.  Her sexually toned lyrics are full with the spirit of the blues, much as they were on the The Kills first album, Keep On Your Mean Side.  Sure, the song is full of ear-splitting guitar work, but it kind of seems as if the band is trying to indulge in their classic-rock chops just a bit too much, leaving Mosshart as the standout for the album within the opening minutes.

“Hang You From the Heavens” was the first single from the album, and it definitely packs a bit of a punch.  Fuzzed out guitars burn up and down through the song, meeting with the vocals of Alison as the seems to writhe in the negative space of the song. Perfecting the single is Jack White’s drumming, which will never be confused for the most exhilarating, but as he shows in this song, he knows just how to put the right touch on a song; he’s done this for years, and we can assume he will continue on that path.

“So Far From Your Weapon” demonstrates the lackluster elements of Horehound. Slow pacing and sparse instrumentation definitely make the tracks a lot weaker, as if the band’s meandering through their pantheon of influences took too much of the focus away from the band’s songwriting.  But, it’s juxtaposed with “Treat Me Like Your Mother,” a stomper of a song where White and Mosshart’s vocals collide in a furious explosion before guitars splice up the song, albeit momentarily.  But, yet another fault is that this song goes on way beyond where it should.  The groups seems to carry on, treading the proverbial water of this song.

So you come to the latter half of the album with songs like “Bone House” and “3 Birds.”  The only thing that goes on for a majority of this part of the album is the vocals of Mosshart.  In “Bone House” it’s her come-hither-howl that draws any attention to the song at all.  “3 Birds” as an instrumental song doesn’t seem to tell a story at all, as most instrumentals should do, instead it just exposes the lack of creativity that seems to be thrown into the mix far too often for the liking of most listeners.

This all sort of sums up the record as a whole.  Mosshart saves the album, as her dominating vocals never seem to lose their touch on the ear of listeners, but the music itself doesn’t seem to be much more than an exploration, and a poor one at that, of styles long gone away.   Sure, blues and classic rock have their place in the history of American music, but this album can’t kiss the feet of either of those two genres.

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