New Single from Vow

vowAnother week, and another track from rising label, The Native Sound: Vow’s “Green Light”. Musically, Vow often times resembles the construction of Beach House, though they seem to have polished off those atmospheric edges in favor or more direct contact with the listener; there’s an immediacy that comes with the delivery of of Julia’s powerful voice. It even takes a nice turn in the latter half of the song that recalls the early days of Metric. Ultimately, it leaves you with this soaring bit of indie rock that you’ll spin time and time again. Look for the band’s debut LP, Kind Eyes on May 27th.

Hooks and Sunshine From Saltwater Sun

11048684_714288565347271_4455269171299750488_oLittle is known about Saltwater Sun other than that they’re a London based band that seem to have fallen right out of the sky to give us this lush and appealing track. When you first start this song, you really don’t know what you’ve stumbled upon until you reach the first catchy-as-all-get-out chorus, but those sleek white hot guitars should give you some kind of clue as to what you’re getting into. Once you’ve hit the first chorus, a wash of warmth seems to hit you via your headphones as though the sun has broken through the clouds to grace your day, reminding me somehow of a sunnier Metric. The growling female vocals provide the perfect contrast and compliment to the electric guitars and shimmering percussion. This song puts Saltwater Sun on my to-watch list, and they should find themselves on yours as well.

Show Pics: Metric @ Stubb’s (5/1)

Metric is a band that is very fun to shoot. Emily is charismatic and energetic, the rest of the band implements proper use of guitar, drum and bass face. Add to that a killer lighting rig and some beauty pop jams, you have the recipe for a fun night out. Heading to Stubb’s on a Wednesday, there are worse ways to spend a weeknight.

I’ll sum things up, offer advice to the openers, The Colourist, and share the pretty pics after the break.

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Photo Pop 2012 Preview: Rick Kern @ Red 7 (11.9)

Here’s another one of the great photographers that will be displaying and selling their photography at Photo Pop 2012 this Friday at Red 7.  If you’re lucky, Rick might give you the sexy photo of me stuffing my face with a cupcake backstage at ACL.  His photo to the left is from a GWAR shoot, and you can also read on to find out why he’s mad I called Emily Haines to just chat. Here’s Rick.  Read more

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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Metric – Synthetica

Rating: ★★½ · ·

When it comes to catchy pop with a superstar of a front woman, Metric has been a staple for years now. Their last effort from 2008 showed a transition to a stronger electronic sound from the angular guitars that early releases relied on. Three years later they are back and the title, Synthetica tells you where this band is headed with their sound before you even hear the first song; artificial and synthetic and further down the road they turned onto with Fantasies.

If the album title wasn’t enough to clue you in to the direction of the album, the first track ought to the do the trick. “Artificial Nocturne” starts out with waves of synthesizer and Emily Haines’ sleek vocals claiming she’s “as fucked up as they say.” This lasts for the opening two minutes of the album, before the guitar and drums kick in and the song begins to go anywhere. At this point, Metric eases into the familiar sound that they’ve given you before, but it feels distanced, as if you have to search to find the pop music that this band has previously doled out with ease.

As far as songwriting goes on this album, it seems as though Haines has grown a bit lazy, which is the main reason that Synthetica falls flat upon listen. Before, the band put out songs with a heavy electronic presence, but the lyrics that Haines spat at you were catchy and interesting, gracing the music with human accessibility. A lot of the tracks on this release feel lazy, with overly repeated lines, which may be catchy, but become stale after they are the very crux of the songs. One of the worst offenders of this repetitive business is “Dreams So Real,” whose two-minute-and-forty-one seconds of existence feels like it goes on forever while Haines reiterates that she’ll “Shut up and carry on,” and sadly, you wish she would.

Of course there are exceptions to this phenomenon that are quite enjoyable. Embedded in the far away tracks are those that you can connect to with hooky guitar lines and Haines sultry vocals leading you along. Songs like “Breathing Underwater,” and “Lost Kitten,” prove to be interesting and real additions to your listening bank of Metric songs. “Breathing Underwater” is a seamless combination of the synthetic elements with the grounded guitar lines, reminiscent of “Gimme Sympathy” off of their previous release. “Lost Kitten,” is a sassy number on which the quick lyrics draw you in and then Haines holds you with her understated power vocals.

Synthetica is not the step into a new, interesting direction that I was hoping Metric would take. Rather, the majority of this album is muted and lacking the shimmer that sets Haines and company apart from the average pop band, however, I invite you to wade through Synthetica to find those gems.

Stars – The Five Ghosts

Rating: ★★★ · ·

Toronto band Stars has spent years crafting albums full of emotion, politics and love.  It’s now 2010, and the band have switched labels for The Five Ghosts, perhaps signaling a change in the band’s mentality, or at the very least, their dynamic sound.  Signing to long-running emo label Vagrant may not have been a bad idea in regards to exposure, but would such exposure exist on the merit of the music alone?

“Dead Hearts” oddly begins with the feel of a melodic Death Cab for Cutie song, with the guitar barely trickling beneath the alternating vocals of Torq Campbell and Amy Millan.  It’s a pleasant enough number, and one that newcomers to the band will surely enjoy, but it seems as the album begins to take flight that the group is already taking a rest.  “Wasted” similarly seems uninspired, as if Stars opted to craft songs in the vein of friends Metric; the lyrics even bear the mark of Emily Haines.

By the time you encounter “I Died So I Could Haunt You” you’re looking for some sort of extreme contrast.  The sonic barrage apparent on In Our Bedroom After the War (“Take Me to the Riot”) is no more.  Sure, the thick bass line definitely adds a brooding quality, but as the song builds towards an unknown climax, listeners will find themselves a bit unfulfilled.  Really, where are the drums here?  But, perhaps this is the direction the band has chosen to head, so we shouldn’t knock them for treading new ground, that is until you arrive at “We Don’t Want Your Body.”  Frankly, it’s a bit of a juvenile number, and where you want to find a bit of passion, you only get a little coy vocal from Millan.  Oddly, none of it really seems too bad, but at this point, it all seems bad in comparison to other works by the group.

Luckily for the band, Amy Millan is just incredible.  Lack of inspiration never seems to hold her back, as witnessed in “Changes.”  She practically carries the song all on her own, with, as usual on The Five Ghosts, very minimal instrumentation shining through.  You have to give her credit in the end, as her light definitely has a bit of shine to it, while the rest of this album seemingly fades into banality.

Still, there are some bright elements on this record to assure us all that they still have a knack for writing good hooks.  “Passenger” has this catchy little moment during the chorus that appears as part electronic, part vocal, and for whatever reason, it just grabs the listener. On “How Much More” there’s a bit of a ringing guitar to go with another great vocal Millan performance.  Back beats here give a little boost of energy to go along with it all, rounding it out to be one of the better tracks.

Not long ago I would have sworn by Stars, such was the quality of their back catalog, but The Five Ghosts just seems like an anomaly.  It doesn’t seem like a record within the character of the group I’ve gotten (or we’ve) to know for the last ten years or so. It would be wrong to call it uninspired, but you could easily say that this is nowhere near the band’s best work to date.  Hopefully, this is just a brief identity crisis, and one that will bring the band back stronger next go around.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Stars-Wasted-Daylight.mp3]

Download: Stars – Wasted Daylight [MP3]

Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record

Rating: ★★½ · ·

It’s been a good five years since we’ve heard from Canadians Broken Social Scene, and with their return, news comes that the large entourage has dwindled to a merry band of six (now with even more guests!).  How would the departure, or lack of involvement of key members, play out on the band’s new album, Forgiveness Rock Record?  Honestly, this album will be a divisive one, at least it looks that way now.  Some will find they love it from the start, while others (like myself) will be reluctant to completely disregard it due entirely to the band’s back catalogue and the ridiculous talent pool still intact.

By now you’ve all heard “World Sick,” but in contrast to the rest of the album, it feels really as if the song was sort of phoned in, for lack of better wording.  It appears as if the band, unsure of their identity as a six piece, fell upon common ground from days of old, in hopes of establishing their footing.  You’ll find the crashing percussion, though it seems a little bit cleaner, and the swelling vocals during the chorus.  Sorry, but you’ve done it better.  Similarly, the following song, “Chase Scene” has this driving electronic feel, but for some reason, it lacks that emotional release that made the band so enchanting.

Opening moments of “Texico Bitches” build great possibilities, relying upon the great guitar hook and Drew’s vocals to draw you in, and while that hook remains, it gets buried in the rest of the textural elements, such as string instruments, that are piled onto everything here. Still, this is the first song I think I really enjoyed, which is more than can be said for the following tune “Forced to Love.”   The vocal delivery is enough to turn you off every time, and all the guitar chords cutting through the song just get on my nerves.  Throw that in with the chorus, that once again seems like re-using something from the closet, and this is one of the more disappointing moments on Forgiveness Rock Record.

When I came across “Art House Director,” I wasn’t really sure where to find this song.  It’s full of horns, and it sounds a lot more like they’re channeling a bit of Guided by Voices, but as you listen to this song more, this is precisely what you wanted the group to do.  They’re throwing something entirely new into the mixture; it feels fresh immediately, yet still remains a since of smooth pop that the band tends to evoke.  Throw this in with “Ungrateful Little Father” and you have the band going places where they haven’t gone before, so you get excited.  The latter song uses Drew’s vocal as the focus, then throws in the pop instrument collage, crafting careful cacophony.

Those looking for old friends will find their joy in “Sentimental Xs” as Emily Haines of Metric makes her appearance.  Her coy little voice seems to float atop the song, as layer upon layer continues to build.  There’s electronic blips, percussion, feuding guitar lines. and despite being a good song, it doesn’t explode where you want it to, instead it remains sort of reined in to the album.  You’ll echo these exact sentiments the more you listen, waiting for the classic sound of Broken Social Scene to pop its head out.

Here’s the thing with this album: it doesn’t ever quite deliver.  I will admittedly agree that there are moments of brilliance, creativity and such all over this record, but they don’t ever seem to come together.  In the past, you always felt like no one in the band was in control, that they could release furious pop on you at any moment.  Here, Broken Social Scene seem to have gotten a bit more cohesion with the group, but in doing so, they’ve made their sound less dangerous and a little watered down.  Perhaps I’m just jaded by personal relationship with past records, but isn’t that the case with this band?  Don’t you just love that one record, that one perfect song?  You do; you know it, and I’m positive that in my world, Forgiveness Rock Record just doesn’t hold water to those moments.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/06-Art-House-Director.mp3]

Download: Broken Social Scene – Art House Director [MP3]

FT50: Songs of 2009

bestof2009cover_songsWe have to start this list off with a disclaimer.  We have three writers, all with different tastes, so the list should reflect that a little bit.  Also, these are our opinions, and by no means, are they meant to be seen as an “end all be all” to the question of what were the best songs of 2009.  That being said, we like our list quite a bit.  Sure, it’s got some expected numbers at the top, but the rest of the list is genius.  We’ve got some of the songs streaming for you, and the rest take you straight to youtube.  Follow the jump for full list.

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