Blood Orange – Coastal Grooves

Rating: ★★★ · ·

Dev Hynes changes names like most of us change pants, you know, once or twice a week.  First there was Test Icicles, then Lightspeed Champion, and now Blood Orange.  While names may come and go, Dev will always be the same, and Coastal Groove, his new record, finds him sort of running in place, albeit a more 80s influenced place.

When “Forget It” hits your speakers, those familiars won’t find too much different than the most recent Lightspeed Champion record.  But, the slightest nuance can change things; you’ll notice a more electronic beat driving the track, but Dev’s sultry voice is always front and center.  Moving right into “Sulphin Boulevard” will have you catching the essence of the entirety of Coastal Grooves.  There’s a delicateness to every musical note, breathing sexuality over electronic down-tempo tunes a la Twin Shadow.

It’d be real easy to throw lots of Prince allusions throughout this first record by Blood Orange, especially if you catch the vocal performance on “Instantly Blank,” but that’s probably selling Hynes short, as he’s always had this odd combination of indie rock and R&B; this is one of the reasons I’ve always adored his work. But, for the majority of the record this sort of feels like his attempt at mediocre bedroom pop, and that might not be his foray; if you strip him of his orchestration, he seems less dramatic, less artistic even.

One of the saving graces about Mr. Hynes is that he’s always been fairly open about his projects, willing to do pretty much anything he’s asked, just for the sake of it.  That being said, there are some successful tracks that I’ve found myself jamming to throughout the day, such as “The Complete Knock” with its steady stuttering guitar line kicking off a nice little groove throughout. “Are You Sure You’re Really Busy” seems like the track where he could take off into a different level, as the drama in his voice, wavering ever so slightly gives this track an extra step above the rest of Coastal Grooves.

For what it’s worth, this isn’t a bad record at all; I’ve heard much worse (from the Foo Fighters) this year alone. Yet, having followed Dev for quite some time now, I can’t help but be a little let down by the entire Blood Orange project.  He’s missing something here, such as his orchestration or his flare for spinning words into new melodies mid-word.  Coastal Grooves seems to lose a bit of focus, turning out the same guitar line over and over, but I’m still going to get into it over time because that’s just what Dev deserves.

FT5: Indie Rock African Americans

This is a serious subject, and one I don’t plan to take very lightly.  As I’ve attended several shows recently, even small local ones, I began to look at the racial dynamic in the Austin music scene.  Oddly, one giant sore thumb sticks out: the lack of African-American attendees at these shows.   This is probably the same way in every city across the land, and I tend to think it’s quite unfortunate.  I’m not here to debate how to solve the problem, if you deem this a problem, but rather to honor my Top Five African-American participants in the realm of indie rock.   This is just my opinion, but I immediately banned the guy from Bloc Party because he put out two bad records and continues to make bad electronica music.
Read more

Lightspeed Champion – Life is Sweet! Nice to Meet You

lightspeed-life-is-sweet

Rating: ★★★½ ·

Years ago, Dev Hynes had it all as a member of Test Icicles.  The English press fawned over him and his mates, and yet it didn’t last.  Still, he has maintained his role in the spotlight by pushing forward with Lightspeed Champion.  His second album under the moniker, Life Is Sweet! Nice to Meet You, carries him in a slightly different direction than his first outing, albeit one that exhibits Dev taking more musical risks.

The moment you realize Dev has grown up, at least in the musical sense of the word, is the moment you arrive at the album’s single “Marlene.”  For one, the production here has been amped up quite a bit, which surpasses his earlier work on Falling of the Lavender Bridge.  Aside from the production, the arrangements here are much larger, and a touch more significant.  Just take the very British “The Big Guns of Highsmith,” which uses a chorus from what appears to be a troupe of actors who adore Sweeney Todd.  Such touches have more emphasis this time around, rather than just acting as filler for the empty space left behind by his lone guitar.

What hasn’t changed a great deal is the subject matter of his songs. He still lives in a world where being left alone and pining for women seem to dominate his thoughts.  One can’t blame him too much, as he’s still a young chap, but the future will show if his writing offers more for the listeners.  Still, while his lyrics often seem somewhat adolescent, you can see hints of a young Jarvis Cocker lying in wait.  His storytelling and his affection for large production bring that all to one’s mind.

Those looking for classic Dev, at least in the vein of his other album, will find “Madame Van Damme” a delight.  It’s one of the few songs on Life is Sweet… that doesn’t seem to demonstrate his progression as a songwriter.  It feels as if he has regressed in age on this song, which also alludes to the lyrical content.  All that being said, it’s still a great song.

One of the great surprises for those familiar with Dev is that he offers a lot of variation throughout the album.  “Middle of the Dark” wraps up the end of the album with a bit of soaring vocals atop a pounding piano.  “Smooth Day (at the Library)” seems to find Dev living it up in that dessert bar, singing out his heart, leaving no emotion untouched.  You can’t forget the Western-ish feel of “Sweetheart” either! Lightspeed Champion is interesting in this fact because you clearly see all the influences of the man behind the project; he never seems to leave a musical stone unturned.

At the end of the day, Life is Sweet! Nice to Meet You is another good Lightspeed Champion record.  You’ll find that there are several great songs for you to dwell upon, all depending upon your mood and desire for subject matter.  Most listeners will relish the fact that the album is much more dynamic than Dev’s previous work, leading the masses to believe that there is only more great moments to come.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/02-Marlene.mp3]

Download: Lightspeed Champion – Marlene [MP3]

Stream New Lightspeed Champion LP

lightA week prior to its slated U.S. release date, Lightspeed Champion is streaming his new album Life is Sweet! Nice to Meet You over on myspace.  The new album is one of our most highly anticipated releases of the new year, and from first listen, it may live up to the billing.  Latest single from the LP “Marlene” is featured below, which also just appeared on an EP of the same name out now on Domino Records.  Check that one out on itunes if you aren’t into those physical relationships.  Pre-orders of the sophomore LP out next week (already out now in the UK) can be found here.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/02-Marlene.mp3]

Download: Lightspeed Champion – Marlene [MP3]

New Tunes from Lightspeed Champion

devIt’s almost 2010, and  one of my most anticipated releases is the new album from Lightspeed Champion.  Dev Hynes just hits a nerve with me, especially after watching THIS VIDEO.  So, while I wait for that new album, I’ve got something to hold me over until then.  Dev released an entire album of bedroom recordings while housesitting for a friend.  It might not go down as the best work of all time, but for a fans of Lightspeed Champion, it will definitely hold you over. I’m including my favorite track from the album, but if you want it, you can grab it for free over at Dev’s site.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/9.Is-This-Really-Me_.mp3]

Download: Lightspeed Champion – Is This Really Me [MP3]

New Tunes from Lightspeed Champion (sort of)

Dev Hynes (Lightspeed Champion) at the Sound Fix CafeDevonte Hynes is the former Test Icicle who has now gone on to fame of his own accord with Lightspeed Champion, and he now has some new tunes for us to listen to whilst he puts the finishing touches on his new LP.  But, he has opted to release this piece of tunes under the Blood Orange moniker, which is probably due to the fact that it doesn’t sound quite like his other works, but definitely wears the influence of his new home in Brooklyn. Enjoy this track from Blood Orange (not Lightspeed Champion).

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/1said-no-demo-1.mp3]

Download: Blood Orange – Said No [MP3]

Top 40 Songs Of The Year

So when we thought making an albums of the year post was hard, this one proved to be even harder.  How do you take literally thousands of songs and narrow it down to the best 40 of the year?  Not too sure how to answer that question, but we tried.  Each of these songs scream 2008 in our ears.  As evident by this list, the year in music was quite a good one and we had some tough choices to make.  We’ve got some of the songs streaming for you or links to the song on youtube.  Follow the jump to see if your favorite tune of the year made the list.

Read more