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

Digging on This Quiet Hollers Tune

quiethollersAs soon as this Quiet Hollers tune rolled out, I was hooked enough to play the track over and over again, with nothing else on my mind.  The vocals have a familiar air, similar to MMJ, but rather than jam it out in parts, I really enjoy the fact that the song has these minimal little movements, all brimming with hook-laden melodies. The band will release their self-titled LP on October 23rd just before heading out on the road to support it; they even have a date booked in Austin at the Blackheart. Have a feeling a lot of people will enjoy this jam.

Friday Top 5: ACL Departure Soundtrack

I have a feeling that like most of you out there, the headliners for ACL aren’t the real reason for going to the festival. At first glance, this year may be a bit weak, but even early walk-ins will find excellent acts like Cults, Telekinesis, The Head and the Heart, The Antlers, An Horse, and so on. The middle of the lineup is great with Cut Copy, Kurt Vile, Smith Westerns, The Moondoggies, TV on the Radio, The Walkmen, Broken Social Scene, Empire of the Sun – I could go on. The headliners are left with the task of clearing the venue, the triggers for the long walk back to the car, the soundtrack for a mosey. Here are my Top 5 (anticipated) songs from this year’s Headliners to make me head out.

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Country Mice – Twister

Rating: ★★½ · ·

You don’t tend to think of Southern rock when you think of the musical influences of New York City, but that doesn’t seem to affect the kids in Country Mice.  They’ve been building a name for themselves slowly, and Twister has the band poised for bigger horizons.  It’s a little scattered here in there, in regards to over all sound, but don’t let that be a detractor, as there are really special moments inside.

When “Ghost” breaks into its stride to begin the record, those of you who’ve listened to the few singles from the band might be surprised to find a heavier version of what you remembered.  Sure, there’s those sprawling country effects, but it’s definitely a heavy-handed song.  “Festival” takes hold of the same theme, and if anything, it steps up the Southern rock repertoire even more.

Just as you thought you were getting a feeling for the band, they offer up what is easily one of the best songs on Twister, if not one of the best of the year.  The vocals of “Morning Son” seem distant, as if Justin Rueger recorded his vocals from the back of a barn.  Still, there’s this rolling movement to the song, guiding you along, as if following a trail through some wooded land.  And, this is the ground where Country Mice seem to be so comfortable.  “Rabbit on a Leash” follows a similar pattern, though you’ll find this number fueled with various guitars cutting back and forth across the background of the sound.  It’s the simple country approach, and in that, you’ll find joy and comfort for during your listening.

Despite its softer moments, Twister, definitely can’t escape the leaning towards alt-country and like-minded Americana outfits.  “Clover” is an example of a track that seems to wear the influence of My Morning Jacket.  It’s not quite a rocker, but it has the influence of bands that have come before Country Mice.  It’s a good song, but not one that is exceptional, which may weigh on the ears of the listener.  It leads right into a bit of a misstep for the band too, as “Worn Hearts,” a track that seems to venture too far into the pop-country medium for the liking of most.  But, they return with the very pleasant “Bullet of a Gun,” showing that they still have what it takes to win over any listener, crafting another joyous moment that culminates in a rise and fall melody.

So you come to the end of Twister, and my bet is that you’ve found several tracks that really stood out, whether you like your Southern rock or your more country-balanced pop.  That’s the good and the bad about Country Mice, at least up to this point in their career.  They seem to be walking the line between the two, and those two are vastly different, but that’s a decision we can expect to see the band make as they come more into their own.  Let’s label this effort a good starting point, with great moments, and hope there’s more to come in the near future.

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

Download: Country Mice – Morning Son [MP3]

FT50: Albums of the ’00s

0828top5coverWhat?   You still listen to THAT album?  That record is so 2004!  Well, that’s okay, because we really like that one too, which is why we decided to come up with a list of our favorite albums of the last decade (2000-2009).  Sure, these might not be YOUR favorite records, or the most critically acclaimed, but we sat down and really thought out every record from the past ten years that we keep coming back to in our collections.  You’re likely to disagree with some of these, and we won’t tell you we’re absolutely right we just know that these happen to be OUR favorites.  If you think we totally blew it here, feel free to tell us so, but be nice, as our egos are kind of fragile.  Follow the jump for more.

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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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My Morning Jacket – Next Stop Austin

For those of you lucky enough to have tickets to tonights SOLD OUT MMJ show at Stubb’s, here is a little taste of what’s to come via ATH’s Dallas TX correspondent.

The band played the Palladium Theater in south Dallas Saturday night to a packed and enthusiastic crowd. This venue is similar to Austin Music Hall in size and presentation, but even with a line stretching around the block waiting on the doors, there were tickets still available (for a time) at the box office.

Show review and pictures after the jump

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My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges

Rating: ★★½ · ·

When describing “Evil Urges,” the title track from Louisville-based My Morning Jacket’s new album, frontman/chief songwriter/spaceboots-wearin’ fearless leader Jim James talked about how the band would just “go off into space” when writing new parts to the song. The five-minute plus tune evokes soulful R&B grooves to Kentucky fried-dual guitar freakouts and back to it’s central refrain as it is relaunched into orbit. “Evil urges baby, they’re just part of the human way. It ain’t evil baby, if ya ain’t hurting anybody,” James sings in high-falsetto. And he couldn’t have made it more obvious himself because My Morning Jacket not only are throwing fans a musical curveball, but have some inner demons to conquer themselves on their latest offering.

As a faithful MMJ fan, I was fully aware writing a review of “Evil Urges,” their first album since 2005’s life-altering, astonishing marvel “Z,” was NOT going to be easy. However, it wasn’t as difficult writing this blurb as it was hearing this record in it’s entirety. “Urges” is a frustrating listen from the opening drum-wraps to the album’s final four seconds of nonsense. Missing are MMJ’s trademark reverb-soaked vocals, “motivated” guitar jams, and most depressingly, songcrafting.

The one thing I will forever adore about this band is how they create inspired songs laced with an honesty behind their Southern-tinged seven-to-eight minute rockers. Inspiration is certainly M.I.A. on this record.

“Evil Urges” zig-zags like a staggering “Glass Joe” in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, shifting from funky R&B grooves (title track) to James Taylor man-crushin’ (“Sec Walkin'”) to arena-sized riff-rockin (“Aluminum Park”) to WTF!? (“Highly Suspicious”) The song is so painful that by the time you’ve endured Olmec from Nickelodeon’s “Legends of the Hidden Temple” chanting “Highly Suspicious of You” for the 27th time, it makes you yearn for the cheesy, but appropriate sounds of Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watchin’ Me.” Hell, if “Highly Suspicious” was released in 1984, MMJ would’ve given Berry Gordy Jr.’s prodigee a run for his top 40 blood money. Now if they could just get Jermaine Jackson to guest vocal on the chorus instead of a giant animatronic talking piece of foam.

After the undeniably disastrous first half of “Urges,” we’re introduced to a little ditty called “Two Halves.” It’s a nice 60’s-style doo-wop rock tune that reminds us this band can do anything they damn-well please and it works in all it’s Roy Orbison-worshiping glory.

“Librarian” has to be one of the best narratives James’ has ever penned. “Sweetest little bookworm, hidden underneath is the sexiest librarian…take off those glasses and let down your hair for me.” Obsessed much, I know, but the way this tune floats around amidst it’s dusty stack of books and pitch-black summer skies, it’s difficult not to be enthralled by the mood of James’ storytelling. Plus, it’s about damn time someone wrote a great song about a sexy librarian. Gentlemen, we’ve all been there, don’t deny it.

The album concludes with the haunting one-two punch of “Smokin’ from Shootin'” and “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Part 2.” “Shootin” is an excellent builder from Bo Koster’s quiet key-tappin’to guitarist/MVP Carl Broehmel’s heavy-plucking as James brings his A-game to a deafening climax that would make Charles Bronson proud. The song wanders into “Touch Me…,” an eight-minute disco “jambulance” where drummer Patrick Hallahan’s beating eerily reminds me of the B-52’s “Summer of Love.” It’s space-rock-prog-disco-psychedelia at it’s finest…woah.

“This feeling is wonderful…don’t you ever turn it off,” James exclaims as his gang caps off a confusing conclusion to a record that is more intrigued with sounding eclectic than creating the memorable MMJ moments we’re so fond of. If it weren’t for “Urges'” hard to swallow first half, this album would be destined for healthy repeated listens instead of turning the “wonderful feeling” off.

Don’t forget that the band will be showing off one of the best live acts around later this summer at Stubbs. The show isn’t sold out yet so hurry up and buy some tickets. And be sure to check out our (fake) interview with Jim James.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/mmj_evil_urges.mp3]

Download: evilurges.mp3

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