It looks like we’re hanging out in North Texas today, with a new tune from Two Medicine (Paul of Midlake’s new project). The song is paired with footage of Glacier National Park, from whence the band’s name is derived; it’s a perfect pairing for the cinematic track. It all begins so carefully, building ornately by tossing in some bubbling bass work and twinkling electronic splashes. At times, those sounds combine in a gentle forcefulness, though the beauty of this tune, for me, occurs when that all fades away to reveal the softer underbelly of the song’s latter half. If you feel like getting swept up, see below. Astropsychosis will drop on November 2nd via Bella Union.
Admittedly, I haven’t even thought about Midlake in some years, though that’s not meant as a slight to the band. So it’s good to see that Paul Alexander will be stepping out on his own under the moniker of Two Medicine. Our first listen to anything from the album is quite special in my mind; it’s like a sheet on clothesline, billowing in the wind, and with each gust, it soars higher and higher into the air. And that’s all just surface level ear candy, but the real treat is the careful worked happening below with harmonies and quiet bubbling bass providing the song with some advanced texturizing. The debut LP, Astropsychosis, will drop on November 2nd via Bella Union.
Just because we rep Austin doesn’t mean we don’t look around Texas for great tunes from our neighboring cities, which is where we ran into Denton’s Birds of Night. The group’s new single has this guitar that cuts through the pounding rhythm section, tied in tightly with a great Southern vocal that wears a Texas drawl proudly. It reminds me a lot of local band A. Sinclair, just offering up a heavy dosage of great no-frills rock n’ roll. Their album, Birds of Night, was recorded by Midlake‘s McKenzie Smith at his Redwood Studio, so you know they’ve already caught the ear of some Texas heavy-hitters. Here’s to them reaching beyond our state line; look for the album on April 21st.
Midlake may as well have named that record Lightning in a Bottle. Since then, the band has been middling for me. So here we have a title track from the new record due in early November, “Antiphone” on Antiphon. The boys from Denton are offering up this track for download at their site, for what I assume will be the price of an email adress, but the site is slow, real slow. Guess there is buzz, we’re rooting for you.
Check it out below, let us know what you think.
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Let’s face it, every site is doing it, and perhaps we’re a little late on the run in, but technically, we just got to the midway point of the year, so I was holding off until the exact date–I don’t want to get ahead of myself. So, in all honesty, this is going to be sort of a list of my 2011 albums of the year up to now, but I reserve the right to drastically change my opinion on any, if not all, of these choices. Come on, it’s just now July, so I’ve still got six months to hammer things out in a fully functional list. Please remember, this is one man’s opinion, not the site as a whole, nor do we disagree with your opinions, unless you like that new Beyonce.
In all likelihood, you’ve probably heard very little about Kenny Anderson up until this point in time; I was definitely in the same boat. However, the release of Thrawn, the first King Creosote album to make its way overseas should hopefully change that, at least if you’re listening closely to the album. It’s a Scottish influenced folk affair from a man who doesn’t seem to be seeking out the fame and fortune of other bands, instead he’s quietly releasing his own music, whether we pay attention or not.
Once you play the opening track “Bootprints,” you might find yourself thinking of cleverly crafted pop music a la Sondre Lerche. Anderson’s voice is so perfect, in both pitch and tone. The music has a hint of cocktail lounge, giving a little hint at some sort of modern tropicalia. But, Thrawn isn’t a record that’s going to stay in one place for too long.
“You’ve No Clue Do You” recalls Van Occupanther-era Midlake, or one could throw Fleetwood Mac into that too. However, it’s Anderson’s slight change in pitch during the chorus, going just a tad bit higher, that really makes such a track truly remarkable. Then it moves off into “King Bubble’s in Sand,” which has more of an oddball folk appeal, though not in an overly quirky sense. It’s a short track, and it uses some non-traditional percussion to go along with slight piano dancing in the background, then it’s over in less than two minutes. But, that’s okay, as King Creosote offers up one of the album’s greatest tracks, “Missionary.” You’ll probably notice some similarities in the vocal performance here, and the strumming for some reason reminds me of innocent campfire scenes surrounded by fans. There’s nothing contrived or dishonest here…just straight-ahead pop glory.
One of the unique things about Thrawn is that despite various nod to other musicians, whether intentional or not, the entire record sounds perfectly fresh. You get a song like “Little Heart,” which sounds like a great deal of Scottish janglers, yet it’s one of those songs that rises out of such an homage, establishing itself on its own merits. There’s some backing vocals to provide more-depth, and the pacing just fits perfectly with the overall mood of the song. I mean, listening to this song, “what’s with the frown?”
For the little I know about King Creosote, despite my research and press bios, I wasn’t entirely prepared for such heartfelt songs like “My Favourite Girl.” It’s a pretty simple ballad, similar to many marking the twists and turns of this album, but there’s something emotionally moving about the track. It’s an unexplainable thing; it’s not the piano atop the gentle strumming, or the softness of Anderson’s vocals; its just got that “it” factor that we all yearn for in our everyday listening experience. You’ll find many tracks like this throughout the whole of Thrawn, probably different than the ones that stood out to my ears. Such is the force of this record, appearing out of nowhere to win over countless listeners, on the recommendation of one man alone. Hopefully this great work will not go unnoticed any longer; go check out the King.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/04-Missionary.mp3]
Download: King Creosote – Missionary [MP3]
So our lovely weekend is over and it’s time for us to begin recapping what went down over the ACL Festival days. To do that, we’ll begin with an interview conducted right before the weekend with Midlake guitar player Eric Pulido. We’ve long been fans of the Midlake sound so we were excited to have some time with Eric. Follow the jump for more.
When Denton, TX band, Midlake, released The Trials of Van Occupanther in 2006, they received critical acclaim, which put the pressure on the group to follow up with similar success. Four years later, the band has finally prepared the next installment in their catalogue, The Courage of Others. Influences for the album are said to rest somewhere in the British-folk era, but would the four years since their last release match the acclaim the band received last go round?
Upon first listen, “Acts of Man” opens the introduction with Tim Smith’s trademark vocals, seemingly floating on the winds. As a completed song, it does have the wintry affect one would associate with a lot of 60s folk-undertakings, marked most notably by the way the guitar is strummed. Still, there isn’t a wow factor, or something that stands out as brilliant, like “Roscoe,” but it’s only the first track.
But, herein likes the problem with The Courage of Others; you can make it through the first four songs of the album, and nothing really differentiates itself; nothing is begging for you to come back for a repeat visit. Admittedly, all the songs are pleasant enough, with gentle guitars and Smith’s floating vocals, which can’t really hurt the overall value of the album. However, it doesn’t bode well that nothing really seems to change in the craftsmanship of the songs either; they all sort of stay in the same place, as if they’ve been created as small pieces to fit into a larger puzzle.
“Fortune” is one of the few songs on the album where the approach to writing the music seems to have been altered. It’s got little to no percussion, and the song rests on the idea that Smith appears as some sort of musical bard, just picking his way through his life. It also touches with imagery that is more personal than some of the more nature related themes you’ll find elsewhere on the The Courage of Others.
This isn’t to say that all the blandness doesn’t have its rewards. “Bring It Down” is worthy of repeated listens, and though it clearly has roots in the past, the barely audible female vocal buried beneath the lead vocal tracks adds an extra bit of layering that the entire album could of used as a whole. “In the Ground” is another number that grows with repeats. It begins a bit slow, but there’s just a bit of a quiver in the vocal delivery, which does just enough to make it come across a bit differently, though those flutes (are they horns) get a touch annoying.
After four years of waiting, you would have hoped that the next work from Midlake was as rewarding as their previous effort, but it seems that letting the songs fester for too long might have led the band down the path towards complacency. For what its worth, The Courage of Others is listenable, but other than that, it’s far short of remarkable, which makes it a disappointment to many, if not most.