Show Review: My Morning Jacket @ Austin City Limits (5/1/16)

jamesOften when it comes to the Austin City Limits Television program, performers can come across as coy or taken aback at just the honor of being invited. With 42 seasons running, the tapings do hold a certain special quality all their own. For My Morning Jacket however, this was just another show in a new leg of their extended tour. Another show of which they absolutely commanded from the final introductory syllables from Terry Likona’s mouth. Read more

Weekend Dance Jam: Sonen – Aiko

Caught this jam thanks to Bagel Radio out of San Fran via SomaFM. Ready to dance?

It is almost the weekend after all. Are you going to see Iron Man 3? I am. Maybe go see a band (scroll down for deets). Relax for sure. There have been a lot of shows coming through, plenty of stress. You sign up to win Jim James Tix?

Anyway, I share with you Sonen.

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Contest: Jim James @ Stubbs (5/6)

mmj-jim-james1It’s time for a big contest around these parts kids. Today we’re excited to be offering up a pass to you and a friend to the Jim James show on Monday @ Stubbs in Austin. We anticipate a heavy list of entries so let’s get this thing going with some deets:

Up For Grabs: Your name on the promoter’s list with +1

Show Time: Doors @ 7pm

Closing Time: Friday @ high noon

How to enter: Leave a comment with your favorite MMJ or Jim James song

We’ll pick a winner and shoot you an email on Friday. Please don’t forget to leave a valid email address so we can get in touch with you.

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JBM – Stray Ashes

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Truly heartfelt emotion is difficult to insert into a song, but it seems that Jesse Marchant, aka JBM, really excels in this sphere of the musical world.  His newest album, Stray Ashes (Western Vinyl) is soaked with emotion, and a lot of that has to do with Marchant’s voice, but he also implements careful accents to each song, giving listeners with an active ear pure joy.

Make no mistake about it, listening to Stray Ashes is probably going to leave you in a sullen/somber mood; there’s very few tracks that could even be described as upbeat, but that’s what will enable listeners to completely lose themselves in the work of Marchant. “Only Now,” which is a piano driven tune, is one of the few numbers on the record that I could see as even remotely light-hearted, and that revolved around the mood created by the pounding piano (and the brief drill of the snare drum). Still, Marchant’s vocals do their best to sway you away from feeling light-hearted; it’s as if he wants you to sink into the tracks, just as he dove into writing them, lost in his own world.  “Forests” is the other tune that I feel has a brighter quality.  I really enjoy the opening guitar line, and the way it sort of trickles in and out of your consciousness as you go to focus on Jesse’s voice; this song is my personal favorite.

Clearly, JBM‘s art is personal; you don’t write songs of this sort without completely investing your soul in the composition.  So when listening, it’s hard not to look deep inside of these songs, and yet close examination just lets you lose yourself in the construction of the song.  For instance, the opener, “Ferry” has this shaker that comes in and out of the track, then disappears, only to be replaced by a thinly veiled backing vocal.  Each time I listen, I try to search to see where, or if, they overlap, and each time, I’m more and more involved in the track; well played Jesse Marchant.  This a theme throughout the entirety of Stray Ashes, which is what helps you escape the occasionally monotonous tones of Jesse’s voice, which, by the way, I can’t entirely place.  It’s definitely familiar and been referenced to Jim James, but I’m not sure that’s what I’m thinking.  Anyways, aside, aside. Even the gently strummed tracks like “You Always Keep Around” or “Crooked Branches” have these faint flourishes (slide guitar, random percussion, etc) that are barely audible, but they’ll guide you to the immeasurable joy you’ll take out of each individual song; I can attest to this.

Initially, I couldn’t get into Stray Ashes as a whole.  It had some standout moments, but I wasn’t sold entirely on Jesse Marchant’s voice (might not be still).  However, the wonderful thing I discovered about JBM, as I’ve alluded to, is that he has the innate knack to draw you in emotionally with the song itself, then bring you in deeper with those extra touches that only come from truly gifted songwriters.  Each time I listen to a track, I immediately play it again to see if I heard what I thought I heard initially, and in the end, I find myself falling aimlessly into the song, and into the record itself.


Download:JBM – Winter Ghosts [MP3]

ACL Preview: The Many Faces Of Monsters Of Folk

We’re going off the deep end here with a bit of a different look at our next featured artist for our Austin City Limits Festival coverage.  The band is a sort of super-group, made up of renowned musicians in the indie world, and we’ve borrowed some ideas from our great friends over at  Hopefully you enjoy this feature, and without further ado, we introduce you to The Many Faces Of Monsters of Folk.  Follow the jump for more.

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Monsters of Folk – s/t

Monsters-Of-Folk-Monsters-Of-Folk-483560Rating: ★★½☆☆

Let’s face it, rarely do collaborations with bands you love to death ever truly work out.  Sure, Queen and Bowie pulled off a song, but could they pull off an entire album?  I doubt it.  Now, we’ve been presented with Conor Oberst, M. Ward, and Jim James, along with Mike Mogis, joining together as Monsters of Folk.  Could these boys rise above the hype and fulfill our dreams?

First off, I’m not sure where to begin with Jim James vocals as of late.  Sure, he definitely has a bit of range that I didn’t expect, but it’s not nearly as warm as it once was, especially if you listen to the album opener “Dear God.” He just sort of lost me after Z, so it’s hard to get into his vocals on this album.

Conor Oberst, of late, has let me down.  I once swore by his name, and bought every little bit of music he put his hands on, especially when Mike Mogis was at the helm.  Still, his work with the Mystic Valley Band has taken a turn for something that I just really get behind at all.  You’ll find that a lot of the tunes on this record sort of seem like they branch off of the ideas he’s been throwing at us lately.  “Temazcal” appears to be a left over from his time in Mexico, and it’s one of the stronger tracks on this album, as it features minimal input from the others.  Sorry Conor, but your strengths lie when you leave the band behind you.   I mean I know it’s not about record sales, but have you noticed sales dropping since you did that whole double album thing?

To be frank, M. Ward seems to be the only one here who has sort of won me over lately with Hold Time.  His guitar stylings and delivery are definitely consistent on this album, especially when you look at songs like “Baby Boomer.”  This easily could have been on any of his last few recordings, except when Conor Oberst interjects during sparse moments.  You have to love the warmth of Ward, and the controlled warble of Oberst does provide a decent counter-point.  His trademark sound is all over this album, but since he doesn’t get to give it the full go, it doesn’t quite have the same impact as you think it should.

As you can see, there are obviously great musicians all over this album, which is precisely why there are going to be some pretty decent moments on this album.  You can’t have two great songwriters, and Jim James, put together in a room to come up with just random slop.  But, the album doesn’t really connect the way that you want it to in the end. A lot of the sounds showcase the recent missteps of the various authors, instead of allowing for their individual talents to open up and rise above the group.  For me, it seems as if they are all huddled to close together, not allowing each other the necessary breathing room to push each other as you would hope that they would do.  If they aren’t going to push one another, why not just write songs for each other to share?  I think the outcome there might have been more effective.  In the end, you’ll listen to this record a few times, find your favorite tunes, and then put it away.


Download: Monsters of Folk – Say Please [MP3]

New Music From Yim Yames(Jim James)

mmj-jim-james1Shortly after the death of George Harrison, Jim James (under the moniker Yim Yames) recorded a 6 song EP of Harrison covers that has been on the shelf up till now.  Next week this covers EP, and the first solo release by the MMJ frontman, will be released in digital, CD, and vinyl fashion.  We’ve got a little taste of the EP below.  Not sure why the man needs to use a different name, but the songs are sounding superb.


Download: Yim Yames – Behind That Locked Door [MP3]

FT5: Disappointing Albums Of 2008

In 2008 we saw all kinds of releases across the board. Noise-pop seemed to be a pretty big deal, as did lo-fi production. But when preparing for our year-end lists, we came across the conundrum of deciding the biggest disappointments in 2008. Today’s Friday Top 5 is full of albums that our staff really looked forward to listening to when they were released, but instead fled in fear as to what our ears had just heard. List is after the jump

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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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