Coachella 2014 Lineup

Coachella 2014I am sure all of you have posted this on Facebook, but I figured we need to add it here just in case someone can’t find the pic later on…

Coachella is again using the two weekend format and will feature Outkast, Muse and Arcade Fire as headliners. I get Outkast and Arcade Fire, but please stop booking Muse at every festival. Please. It has to stop. I walk out when I hear Muse; it is my “you’re drunk, go home” alert. Or maybe that is why they are booked as headliners. “Hope you had fun, this is your queue to leave and rest up for tomorrow.” So many lasers. So many.

The festival is getting spendy, passes are $375 and $435 with daily shuttle service. Yikes. Weekend One only has the passes with shuttle service available. VIP will run you $799 with $150 more for parking.

Notables for me on the lineup, as with most festivals, are further down the list: Flume, Jagwar Ma, Dum Dum Girls, Wye Oak, Holy Ghost!, Blood Orange, Mogwai, Chvrches, STRFKR, Daughter, Poolside, Surfer Blood. Mid-levels I’d be stoked on are Bryan Ferry, The Knife, Pet Shop Boys, Beck, Neutral Milk, Motorhead and Little Dragon. You going to the desert? You wearing flip-flops?

Show Preview: Mogwai @ Stubbs (5/16)

Date Monday, May 16th
Location Stubbs BBQ
Doors 700p
Tickets $20 from Frontgate

If you’re looking for an incredible show to kickstart next week, then you should definitely make your way to Frontgate and get your hands on Mogwai tickets.  The Scottish band is perhaps one of the best known post-rock instrumenalist groups, and they’ve just recently released Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will, which has actually grown a lot on me since I first reviewed it. I’ve seen the band several times, and always find myself encapsulated in walls of sound, music that borders the fine line between beauty and sheer noise.   You’ll also be fortunate enough to catch opening act Errors, who are supporting the group on their current tour.  If your lucky enough to catch a cool breeze, this could make for one of the best nights of your life.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/8346.mp3]

Download: Mogwai – San Pedro [MP3]

Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

Rating: ★★★ · ·

You know that old addage, if it works, don’t change it?  Well, for long-time fans of Mogwai, it seems that this has sort of been their mantra for quite a while.  Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will is the band’s seventh studio album, and while I honestly can’t say that I hate this record (not in the least), I also don’t think I’ll be able to say that I’m going to fawn over it for any lengthy period.  That being said, it’s one of their better releases, of the last three or four.

“White Noise” sort of begins where you’d expect a new Mogwai album to lift off.  It’s got some nice little guitar lines, one of those cymbal-heavy drum pieces, and then electronics begin to burst forth, though not in an overbearing fashion. It never really goes anywhere, yet it’s not like you’re asking the song to take you on some journey necessarily.

When you arrive at “Rano Pano,” that distorted guitar humming in the foreground really makes you hopeful, praying that the band’s just going to unleash a wall of sheer noise on you.  And I suppose that in some manner, this is what they do provide, building guitar line upon guitar line, adding synthetic noise atop it all.  However, the one thing that’s been unfortunate is that the band has such great prowess with their songwriting that they almost always show a fair amount of restraint.  Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will is filled with songs that leave open the space for some sort of sonic explosion, like “Rano Pano,” yet they hold back.  I reckon they’re probably laughing at us all, knowing that we’re here pleading for them to unleash some fury.  If you’re looking for that, you’ll probably find that “San Pedro” is one of the tracks on this effort that fits the bill, and it’s sure to be one of those Mogwai stage songs where the band completely let loose, as they’ve been known to do on occasion.

Perhaps one of the oddballs in this collection, though one you should listen to, is “Letters to the Metro.”  It’s by far one the quietest moment on Hardcore, and it’s possibly the most beautiful, if only in the sense that it doesn’t have the same tension building tactic that other songs utilize.  These are the sort of tracks that you wish Mogwai would infuse in their albums more often, and not solely because they’re deemed “pretty,” but because they provide a more subtle step in the album’s pacing as a whole.  They can clearly still show their craftsmanship as a band here, but it provides for a more dynamic listen.

As with all Mogwai records, I know that I’ll break this out at some point in my year, yearning for something that will just clear my head for a little bit, allowing the musical part of my brain empty out.  Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will should be seen as a band that seems to always maintain their skills, yet never forage into new territories.  Perhaps, if you’re looking for a fault, it’s that this record, as well as a few in the past, doesn’t see the band trying to break into anything new and bold.  Instead, it’s a good album, but nothing that will have us asking why aren’t there more bands like this one?

The Album Leaf – A Chorus of Storytellers

thealbumleaf

Rating: ★★★ · ·

A Chorus of Storytellers is Jimmy LaValle’s third album for indie label Sub Pop, and at it’s finest moments, it proves that this is the most cohesive Album Leaf record to date.  While it maintains many of the electronic flourishes that existed on past works, the latest piece somehow comes together a little bit tighter, forming stronger collection of songs.

For me, it all starts with the title, and for that part, the cover art.  Artists of this ilk can rely upon these mediums to further their message.  Sure, all artists should do this, but it’s even more important with acts that remain instrumental.  And the title,  A Chorus of Storytellers, should really say it all.  While I’ve lambasted electronic music in the past, it is works such as this that strive to make a coherent story, to create a plot within their music.  Such is the story within this record, as illustrated on the cover.   It just begs you to create your own story of the man ashore while his boat drifts aimlessly away.

Of course, one thing that differentiates this album from purely electronic or post-rock music, if you wish to call it that, is the inclusion of songs which use lyrics.  “Falling From the Sun,” for example, is a pleasant enough tune, and you can easily follow as the melody rises and falls, especially in the vocal performance.  But, moments such as this make things to clear for the listener; this is something that detracts from the overall listening experience.  Lyrics, in this case, push a story upon you when you’d rather just float off into your own world.

You can take a song like “Within Dreams,” which in itself recalls the ability to drift off with your own thoughts.  Slowly, you can feel the song fall asleep on you, as if you too are going into that deep REM sleep.  Then you can hear the faint touches of string instruments, and you’re off an running in a dream of your own.  It is here where LaValle succeeds the most, as he allows you to immerse yourself in the song, and take the song wherever you want to go.  Happily, it’s not constructed of mere loops, and the national progression lends itself to the telling of tales.  “Until the Last” is another such song; it is along the lines of Balmorhea or even a less-dangerous version of Mogwai.

Up until the middle point of the album, the record is really strong.  It has its ups and downs, but it also adds enough diversity for you to be invested wholly into the album.  However, towards the end, there are a bit too many songs with vocals.  This isn’t a disaster by any means, as the songs are actually really good, “Almost There” in particular, but it does break up the flow of the album.  Still, A Chorus of Storytellers provides many listenable moments that prove Jimmy and The Album Leaf still can concoct magic out of their post-rcok potions.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/05-Falling-From-The-Sun.mp3]

Download: The Album Leaf – Falling From The Sun [MP3]

The Twilight Sad – Forget the Night Ahead

twilightsad

Rating: ★★★★ ·

From the depths of the Glasgow music scene burst forth another band in 2003.  Since then, The Twilight Sad have slowly been building up a reputation for their melodic rock meets shoegaze, creating beauty surrounded by squalling guitars.  Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters won over many critics, and the world was eager to see if Forget the Night Ahead could keep the band riding the wave of popularity into the hearts and ears of everyone.

As “Reflection of the Television” opens the album up, you can see the screaming feedback you can see that the band still has some of their traditional elements in place.  But, you will also notice that those elements no longer live in the foreground of the song, as they did on previous efforts.  Singer James Graham now has his vocals standing before you for all to see, and while it dramatically changes the aesthetics of the release, you still catch onto the power of music.

“I Became a Prostitute” is the band’s first single off this album, and you can see that it definitely has a presence that can rise above the indie status. Like Glasvegas, it’s a grandiose number full of wave upon wave of guitars accompanied by Graham’s vocals, which just so happen to crash atop the song as well during the chorus.  All in all, it’s a softer approach to writing than the group took in the past, but for most listeners, you will find that it’s equally as effective.

Fortunately for us, this album is longer than their previous affairs, despite the fact that each song reaches well beyond the mark of 3 minutes, with most running near the five minute mark. However, the dynamics of the atmospheric guitar flourishes combined with Graham’s new vocal presence do make some of the songs blend into one another, making it hard to differentiate between the album’s best numbers.  Don’t take this to mean that there aren’t standout tracks in abundance.

“That Birthday Present” is a clever song, with the majority of the tune relishing in the bouncy guitar work.  All this comes to light even though this also happens to be one of the noisier songs on the record.  The Twilight Sad at this point seem sort of like a cross between M83 and Mogwai, except they rely upon a more traditional songwriting structure.  It allows their songs to breathe, instead of wallowing before they fade into obscurity like other bands that implement noise attacks.

“Floorboards Under the Bed” is different than most tunes you’ll find in the groups catalogue.  It seems to wear the influence of tour-mates Frightened Rabbit, but then it fades into a piece of tinkering flare.  Albeit an interesting opening, the song quickly disappears into the back of your mind.  All the build up will lead you into the final three tracks.  Of the final three, “The Neighbours Can’t Breathe” is the stand out, although the closer, “At the Burnside,” has an emotional appeal, with a hint of Glaswegian balladry wrapping it all up.

This album has some really beautiful moments, more than way out the few weak points.  The Twilight Sad are able to build upon their own sound, pushing the shoegazing into the realm of a more pop-centric world, and Forget the Night Ahead wins because of its ability to step into these new realms, encouraging the band to become more than just another stagnant noise-rock act.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/reflection-of-the-television-1.mp3]

Download: The Twilight Sad – Reflection of the Television [MP3]

Mogwai – The Hawk is Howling

Rating: ★★½ · ·

Finally, I found music that I can run to these days, or at least music I could imagine myself running to, if I ever were to actually run.  That being said, Mogwai always offers me something that I can run to, or at least think about running to; actually, they always make music that lets me think.  The Hawk is Howling is just such an album.

First, I have to think about what I have done to begin thinking about running, which I will most definitely not do.  Then, I have to think about why Mogwai makes me think about running.  Finally, I have to think about what it is in Mogwai albums that makes me think.

In thinking about running, I came to the conclusion that its irrelevant to the topic at hand, the new album.  Then I thought long and hard about why Mogwai makes me think about running. This is my conclusion.

The band in and of itself does not make me want to run, but it is their music that makes me do so, and more important, it is their latest releases.  You see, they used to grab you, and fill your ears with swelling noise and sounds that irked your thinking caps.  They have since retired these strong arms of the axe, and exchanged such powers for mellower affairs.

Opening tracks are never going to be considered the best on the album, but here, they don’t really break new ground, and instead, they wallow in the tried and true formula they used off their last album.  It’s not unique anymore, considering the plethora of bands nowadays that are intent upon creating mood altering music.  Let’s take songs like “Local Authority” and “Scotland’s Shame.”  Each song has some offerings for music listeners, but for the most part, they are restrained musings of a band that once let go with such force that my ears rang for days, and that was with earplugs in my ears.  It is gone; they have lost the ferociousness.

There is, but of course, a song like “Batcat” which recalls that grandiose noise they used to bring on a daily basis, but the availability of such noise on this album is minimal.  They did, however, pen the greatest song this side of M83 with “The Sun Smells Too Loud.” Ridiculous song title aside, its the perfect sprawl of Mogwai at its best.

So then I just thought.  Mogwai makes me think about running nowadays because I can ignore their albums.  They used to strike me with a feeling of grandeur, but those days have long passed.  I can enjoy them for their minimal offerings, but, like their songs, the albums gently float away.

My thinking has led me to declare that the glory days of Mogwai have long since passed. In asking them not to rest on their laurels we asked them to throw away what we loved the most.  In the end, we were given sub-par albums that are always worthy of listening to, but never worthy of playing time and time again.  We can take them for a run, but like The Hawk is Howling, their albums are used solely for special moments; lets face it, the moments just don’t seem as special as they used to seem.