Kramies Drop New Single with Jason Lytle

There are two big reasons to share this new track from Kramies. The first, is fairly easy, as Jason Lytle of Grandaddy worked on this song, so that sort of cements the important if Lytle believed in it enough to work on it. Second, I feel like I’ve really been missing a good quality sad-bastard folk songwriter since the passing of Nicholas John Talbot; I’ve been searching for something, something ethereal that helps you escape your everyday world. I think the care given to this track, from the way the vocals were recorded to the atmospheric touches that bring the song to life, helps establish that mood. This tune appears on Of All the Places Been & Everything the End, the new LP dropping on October 19th.

Admiral Radley – I Heart California

Rating: ★★★ · ·

Odds are you know more about Admiral Radley than you think you do.  Comprised of Grandaddy members (namely Jason Lytle) and Earlimart members, the band has concocted an album titled I Heart California, which has left the Internet hounds wondering precisely what would come of this collaboration.  Well, if you know these artists, then you know precisely what the sound will be, and you’ll either love it or hate it, depending on your attachment to aforementioned parties.

Kicking things off is this Grandaddy-esque “I Heart California.”  It’s laden with pounding piano, blended with textures from electronic land, and it blossoms during the chorus with that trademark wall of euphoria. Odd lyrics, well, for a song about California, such as “fake tits in the symphony” make one wonder about Lytle’s dedication to his homestate, especially after his move to Montana.  Nonetheless, it’s the catchiest number of the collection, and one worthy of so many repeat listens.

But, bubbly software pop is not all that fills the minutes on I Heart California.  Aaron Espinoza takes the lead vocal on several tracks throughout the duration, and his soft touch gives tracks such as “Ghosts of Syllables” a warmer, less-quirky sound.  It’s an interesting dynamic, providing listeners with a substantial bit of deviation between songs, although this might lead some to look at a lack of cohesion, or perhaps a schizophrenia within the writing process. Aaron isn’t the only Earlimart member to share his voice here, as Ariana Murray gets her own number with “The Thread.”  It’s something that seems to fit with her own personal style, using a certain light-hearted approach to the crafting of the melody, which really takes control of the song itself.  However, it seems oddly placed smack in the middle of the record, and it kind of breaks up any momentum the album had.

All their appearances aside, Jason Lytle is really the mainstay, or the big ticket here.  His presence alone provides Admiral Radley with a substantial amount of credibility from the get go, and it pays off with songs like “GNDN.”  Skeletal piano holds the song up, as quiet guitar strumming and light percussion build the landscape of the song itself.  Electronic beeps and blips, a Lytle staple, are largely absent, at least in the final mix, which actually makes a strong argument for Jason as a songwriter.  There’s something in the fragility of his voice here, something unnamed that makes it all extremely affecting.

Most listeners will likely find the last four songs the most enduring in their playtime of I Heart California.  “End of Me” starts the final run, and if you could strip the casio keyboard effects away, it might succeed as the best song on the album.  Beginning quietly, it erupts into a pretty solid rocker.  In fact, the more you listen, the more this might be  your favorite song here.  From there you go to “GNDN” all the way to “I Left U Cuz I Luft U.”  All if makes a strong closing statement, providing some structure and cohesiveness that seemed a little bit scattered from the beginning.

Casual listeners of Admiral Radley will definitely find some really rewarding moments on I Heart California. They’ll find pop gems waiting to make your day brighter; they’ll find the attraction to Jason Lytle many discovered years ago.  Those who fell in love with Grandaddy and Earlimart might be a bit disappointed, however, as you expect these four to knock it out of the park, blasting us all into sunshine.  Instead, they give us a good record, not a great one.  There’s nothing wrong with that in the long run, as good records are often rare nowadays, and, besides, isn’t it just nice to have Lytle still around writing music?  One listen here, and you’ll be sure to agree.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/1-I-Heart-California-1.mp3]

Download: Admiral Radley – I Heart California [MP3]

Jason Lytle – Yours Truly, The Commuter

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Rating: ★★★★ ·

A few years back, California’s great Grandaddy decided to break up; they cited lack of financial success despite critical acclaim as one of their reasons for going away.  Many heartbroken fans were happy to hear that Anti Records had signed frontman and lead songwriter, Jason Lytle, to a record deal.  His album, Yours Truly, The Commuter, is exactly what you would expect from a man who left California for Montana in search of a new muse and new inspiration.

Opening the album with the title-track immediately brings back all the memories of your old Grandaddy record collection.  Electronic blips and keyboard steadily build before the percussive element joins the fray.  Furthering the song with simple strings (samples possibly) and Lytle’s familiar voice marks this album as the return of one of indie rock’s great voices.

If one were to go on song titles alone then we would be led to believe that Jason came to Montana in seach of new horizons and a return to a different type of focus that would create inspirational songs once again.  In so many ways, he does seem to have regained his form on this album, but it’s that retreading of old tricks in his bag that seem to work the best for him.

“Brand New Sun” discusses the departure for greener pastures, and the simple acoustic song is filled with what one can only assume are laser noise created by martians, or Lytle’s keyboard.  “Birds Encouraged Him” is simply a beautiful song; it’s one of the better songs in the Lytle catalog.  Very light percussion accompanies the acoustic fingerings here, and string arrangements allow for the song to create a more atmospheric element; this is all added by the electronic whizzing of space noises.

Jason even decides to break out the rock element on this album with  “It’s The Weekend.”  Chugging power chords create a bouncing song that begins just as soon as it really ends, closing with Jason mellowing out on piano before zooming out one last time.  But, it’s the softer element on this album that seems to take precedent.

A piano ballad appears courtesy of “This Song is a Mute Button.” It’s one of the simpler songs on this record, but it reminds you of how personal songwriting can be for the likes of Jason Lytle. And it’s followed by another spectacular number in “Rollin Home Alone.”  Using string arrangements really seems to bring out a lot of the vocal melodies in Lytle’s voice, and the arrangement of the song is equally beneficial.  You’d find difficulty not including this as one of your favorite songs of the year.

It’s refreshing to note that not a lot has really changed in the capabilities of Mr. Lytle.  He still fuses guitar and electronic elements as breezily as in his days of Grandaddy, which not only makes you nostalgic for the good old days, but grateful he’s returned with an album as good as Yours Truly, The Commuter.

NPR Streams New Stuff

lytle300NPR is streaming a few new to stores albums and one that isn’t even out yet as part of their Exlcusive First Listen series.  For Starters, they are streaming the new Camera Obscura album, St. Vincent’s latest Actor, and the new Conor Oberst joint.  On top of that, a First Listen for Jason Lytle’s new album Yours Truly, The Commuter, which isn’t our for a week or so, went up a couple days ago.  We gave you first single “Brand New Sun” from Lytle’s new album a while back and we’re really digging the whole thing.  What’s your take?

Odawas – The Blue Depths

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Rating: ★★★½ ·

Odawas come to us from Berkely, California via the Midwest, which is definitely an attribute one can find on both ends of the spectrum when listening to their newest album, The Blue Depths, off JagJaguwar Records.

This an album of soundscapes, carefully sculpted with an artists touch, as the duo of Isaac Edwards and Michael Tapscott, pay attention to every inch of the recording process and the musical concept.  Clearly, this is an album where they sat down together, determined a common path they wished to depart upon, and decided to take us their with them.  Even the album artwork and the song titles illustrate a journey of sorts, for all those participating in the listening experience.  Titles like “Swan Song of the Humpback Angler” and “Moonlight/Twilight” clearly represent a canvas on which the band can paint.

Oddly, they choose to do a lot of the percussive work with a twinge of eighties pop keyboard elements.  The backing sounds are remarkably similar to every soundtrack you would hear in the pop-culture movies of the eighties.  Still, it keeps some of the more brooding moments rising above the seemingly somber moments that exist throughout. And yet the band push on with their sound, carefully filling every single inch of space with some form of instrumentation, be it harmonica, string arrangement or vocal melody; they don’t leave a single musical stone unturned here.

Vocals all over the album are a little bit in the vein of something we would have seen with Jason Lytle, just a whole lot gentler, as if the Californian has been sampled, slowing his voice down to a whispering tone.  It’s a trait that allows for the band to put the music on the forefront, with the vocals remaining just an extra instrument for them to utilize in the ultimate construction of this album.  This being the case, its hard to take a lot of quality understanding from the vocals in the realm of lyrics, but that probably isn’t the point at all.  They want you to be drawn in, pulling your ears closer to the speakers as you fight to take meaning from their compositions.

In the end, this is the seeming purpose behind this release, as it surely is a moment of pure mood music.  This isn’t to suggest that you need to be in a certain mood to grasp the record; this is by no means the purpose of that statement.  The purpose of making a blanket statement such as that means that while listening to this album in its entirety, as you should do with all albums, you will find that your mood has been altered.  This is precisely what Odawas wants of you, they want you to immerse yourself in their wonderful world of space and sound.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/02-swan-song-of-the-humpback-angler.mp3]

Download: Odawas – Swan Song of the Humpback Angler [MP3]

M Ward – Hold Time

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Rating: ★★★★ ·

M Ward has won over fans this past year for his role in She and Him, which is deserved accolades, but lets not forget that the man on his own has always been able to record some of the more intimate bedroom listens of the decade.  He returns now with Hold Time, his first solo outing since releasing Post-War.

Opener “For Beginners” is the perfect album opener for this album, as the cooly calm vocals hum gently over the guitar, being strummed as if a slow train were approaching.  Ladies and gents, this is a slow train coming, so sit back and enjoy.

There is just something about the way that the man records his albums that seems to win you over every single time.  Based on his previous confessions, its easy to see here that he adores recording of the olden days, and he treats his own songs with similar care, coating each tune in pleasant melodies and a general warmth.  Yet, it never sounds dated when he pulls it off.  Unless, of course, he covers “Rave On” by Buddy Holly. His version is a little less clean than the original, as a little feedback seems to suit his aims purpose.  Where he lacks in the precision of the original, he makes up for it in his presentation.  M. Ward owns this song, and recreates it with a new spin, all the while holding onto the blueprint of the original. The song also features Ms. Deschanel, one of the two songs she guests on throughout the duration of this album.

For some reason, it’s really hard to escape the feeling that the singer of these songs, our narrator, belongs in the present day.  It’s as if every song, although based on modern times, is rooted firmly in the history of the past.  Perhaps this is why it always seems so intimate as you listen to the sounds coming out of the stereo.  Take “Fisher of Men,” which seems to have that same train-track guitar plucking.  It’s as if the whole song was sung in camaraderie around a campfire at a work camp during the Depression.

“Oh Loneseome Me” offers us yet another great collaboration, this time with Lucinda Williams.  Lyrically, it offers a glimpse at a lost love, and having to confront the free time on one’s hands afterwards.  But, the vocals on behalf of both artists really do remove every ounce of emotion from the listener, which always makes for a perfect song.

Interestingly, there are some genuinely upbeat moments here too, like “To Save Me” and “Epistemology.”  The repertoire that the man has at his hands allows for a great deal of variance throughout the entirety of this album.  At the core, his voice is able to adapt to varying levels of instrumentation, always holding onto the more personal level of presentation.  With each twist and turn, you hear an old friend, or even grandparent, softly rocking you to sleep.

As the beginning of the year take off, lets all hope that M. Ward gets loads of accolades for his endeavors as a solo musician with vast talent, and not just for his wonderful collaborations.  Hold Time will surely be a step towards that accomplishment.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/02-never-had-nobody-like-you.mp3]

Download: M Ward – Never Had Nobody Like You [MP3]

Loney, Dear – Dear John

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Rating: ★★★½ ·

When you first press play upon your record player, you will immediately be transported to the days of yesteryear, listening to Warren G and Nate Dogg.  Opening track, “Airport Surroundings,” off of Loney, Dear’s newest album, Dear John, is drastically similar to a famed song from years back, but in a more electronic folk presentation.  As the album moves forward, Regulators, mount up!

If you could discard the merry tones of Emil Svanangen when listening to this record, you will find that the pleasant acoustic driven album he created last time out with Loney, Noir, has been largely removed with this effort. Sure, the album is pleasantly coated with layer upon layer of various musical elements, but we found that on the last go round. Here, he has immersed himself, and his band, into a darker spectrum.

Electronic sound patchwork beeps throughout, as string instruments carefully accompany  the melodies the band created.  It all comes across a little denser than the previous effort, which one could  be led to attach a darker quality to this album.  But, the one thing you can’t do is erase the quality and tone of Emil’s voice, which is the driving force behind this group.

Sure, at times, his voice is shrouded in layer upon layer, but on songs such as “I Was Only Going Out” you find yourself presented with the favorable voice of this songwriter.  Like Jason Lytle, there is a deeper tone carried with the vocal, but he still manages to sound extremely humble and personal.  Listening, you want to put all your faith in every word that he shares with you, which is perhaps why this record wins you over.

At times, the various elements that present themselves in each song can be a bit overbearing.  It’s a more complete sound, more so than on the band’s debut, but at times that can be a bit daunting for listeners.  In your search to find some sort of sentiment in the mist of music, you find Emil Svanangen singing to you, almost as if he’s not singing to anyone else at all.  Personable voice is one of those rare qualities, but here it will allow you to go through the entirety of the album, even when finishing a song sings like a Herculean task.  You’ll thank him for it in the end.

You can find Emil and his band opening for Andrew Bird all across our great nation, and set to hit home here in Austin on February 12th at the Paramount Theater.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/03-i-was-only-going-out.mp3]

Download: Loney, Dear – I Was Only Going Out [MP3]