Twin Sister – In Heaven

Rating: ★★★½☆

Hailing from Long Island, New York, Twin Sister is a primarily chillwave, but also pop band who, according to their website, recorded this album in a rented house during the off season in the Hamptons. Filled with shadows of longing for summer days, In Heaven is solid electro-pop album that serves as a transition from summer into those crisp fall days, or rather, if you live here in Austin, from uncomfortably hot to just hot.

In Heaven packs a punch in the beginning portion of their album. The first song is “Daniel,” which starts with some eerily calm xylophonic sounds that are joined by mechanical sounding drums, which gives the song it’s pick up into dream pop from simple electronic noises. Andrea Estella chimes in with her angelic falsetto vocals that coat the song in a buttery warmth that juxtaposes with the electronic hard that the instruments bring. “Stop,” follows, which jumps right into its groove with the male voice of Eric Cardona leading the way. For a track that doesn’t go very far in four minutes, you would think the sound would get overbearing quickly, but it simmers reasonably groovy for its duration; the dual vocals serving as some kind of cooling agent to counteract the spice of the jam.

Highlights later on come in the form of short little songs like, “Gene Ciampi,” whose prevalent guitar parts move the sound closer to the plain pop as opposed to the computer generated sounds. This track is propelled by the natural guitar, which shows the musical variety that this band is able to pull off. It isn’t an album of all one note. Rather, each song fits with another, but takes liberties from the track before it. Another example of this is apparent on the last track, “Eastern Green,” which builds slowly over the course of four minutes. It breaks from this climax at about three minutes, and gives the album a delightfully soft close, devoid of those harsher elements that were at the beginning.

As far as electro-pop/chillwave goes, In Heaven is a good balance of atmosphere and presence. Due to the production on this album, the vocals are the central focus, allowing listeners to grasp onto something memorable. For this reasons, Twin Sister has got something really going for them. You are sure to find one or two, or maybe even more songs that strike your fancy here.

New Music from Golden Bear

We were fortunate enough to throw some love to Golden Bear on our Summer Mixtape, offering up the new track “Who We Are” for you to enjoy.  Still, as the October release date for the band’s new record, Alive, nears, we wanted to throw out another track that’s been floating around.  It’s more pop rock goodness from these local boys, indicating that you’re set to have a whole new record worth of tunes for your vast enjoyment.  The light keyboard/piano sound in the background really provides some great little details to this number.  Hope you enjoy it, and get behind this great local act.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/03-Prospect-Park.mp3]

Download: Golden Bear – Prospect Park [MP3]

St. Vincent – Strange Mercy

Rating: ★★★★☆

Annie Clark has definitely been around the musical world a fair number of times for the short amount of time that her music has been in circulation. Granted, she was in several other bands before her debut as front-woman in St. Vincent, such as The Polyphonic Spree and backing for Mr. Sufjan Stevens. So it wasn’t a surprise when this lady took things by storm and it isn’t a surprise that this third release is just as savory as the previous two.

A clear standout track that you can pick up on first listen, or even before, is “Cruel,” a single from this album.  From the beginning, you have this creepy sweeping, lullaby-gone wrong trance-like sound, which then switches quickly to a down-right dance able tune, with psychedelic beat in tow. Clark’s vocals resound solidly through the whole song, switching between power and wispy, but nevertheless, pushing the song forward. The end result is a song that lends itself to almost the dance-pop genre, which is a bit of a surprising, darker twist for St. Vincent that is sure to have you bobbing your head and shaking yourself all over the place along to the buzzing guitar and the steady dance beat.

Something different on Strange Mercy that wasn’t so apparent on the last releases is the shift from innocence and the transition to darker, deeper tracks that aren’t afraid to pack a punch. “Cheerleader,” the third track, holds such intensity, as Clark asserts that she “don’t wanna be a cheerleader no more,” over and over again while resolute drum beats drill her vocals in like a hammer driving in nails. Clark is assertive and adopts a woman-in-charge flair whose presence can be felt all the way until the end of the album, especially on the very last song “Year of the Tiger,” in which the band builds to it’s explosively powerful ending. Meanwhile, Clark’s voice remains impeccable, holding you to listen like a super charged magnet until the gritty musical elements kick in towards the end, and the song switches from sweet to the prowl of a tigress.

Overall, it’s a pretty complete album; there is a range of various types of songs, all of which seem like different aspects of Clark’s soul, as her voice is the delightful motif that makes its way through all the tracks. While the elements that surround her vocals may change, what remains is a strong front woman who isn’t afraid to experiment with varying kinds of sound and you are bound to enjoy at least a few of these lovely songs.

New Rocker from Diarrhea Planet

What can you get out of four guitarists? Just one listen to Diarrhea Planet and you’ll see that it’s a pretty heavy sound, if not one rooted in a bit of pop.  With the vocals, I want to throw them in as a more rocking Against Me, but there’s a lot less angst.  This Nashville outfit is busy prepping their debut Loose Jewels on Infinity Cat Records, which you can find in stores on September 20th (next week!).  It’s possibly not the deepest of tracks you’ll find out there, but it sure is a whole lot of fun jamming to this at the end of the day.  Crank the speakers and let go.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/03-Warm-Ridin.mp3]

Download: Diarrhea Planet – Warm Ridin’ [MP3]

New Music from The Sweet Ones

As a younger music fan, I just needed fast guitars, maybe some shouting and a good melody.  Nowadays, I find myself attached to all sorts of sounds (you can’t rule anything out these days), which is why I’ve been enjoying this track from The Sweet Ones.  At first, it sorts of comes off like an oddball Modest Mouse, but the more I listen to it, the use of horns doesn’t seem like excess, so I tend to align these guys with more of a Rock Plaza Central feel–just with a bit more pop.  Make no doubt about it though, it’s definitely quirky, in the most endearing way.  You’ll find this track and others on the group’s new album Big Mistakes, which is in  stores now.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/carburetor.mp3]

Download: The Sweet Ones – Carburetor [MP3]

New Music from Megafaun

What? You don’t want more new music from the bearded lads in Megafaun?  Well, too bad! They’re prepping their self-titled double LP, Megafuan, which will land in your lap on September 20th via Hometapes.  As more new songs leak out, you can’t help but hope that the mastery these guys have shown in their gentle song construction will be replicated throughout the entire album.  There’s bits of banjo, which the band promises is the only time its used on the record, and the whispering vocals compliment the emotional quality of the song.  Is September here yet?

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/State_Meant.mp3]

Download: Megafaun – State/Meant [MP3]

New Music (and album) from Fungi Girls

Earlier this year I caught Fungi Girls as an opening act, and I remember thinking to myself how young they were, in looks, not musical sound.  The Cleburne, TX trio definitely do seem young in person, but their music seems like it was washed in the glory days of San Francisco.  It’s sort of jangly, but it’s also got this mysterious coat of fog that drifts atop of it.  You can hear the whole new record from these Texans by visiting their BANDCAMP page, so get there fast.  That album is called Some Easy Magic, and it will be in your record store next Tuesday thanks to the good folks over at Hozac Records. Also, if you dig the song below, P4k ran a sweet video for it HERE.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Fungi-Girls-Velvet-Days.mp3]

Download: Fungi Girls – Velvet Days [MP3]

New Tunes from Wheeler Brothers

It’s hard keeping updated with the ever-growing masses of music coming out of Austin, but every now and then you just have to stop and revisit the good tunes this town has to offer. Lately I’ve been listening to some of the tracks from Wheeler Brothers, who’ve just put out their album, Portraits.  It’s definitely appealing to my softer side, the one drenched in my dad’s love of Americana and folk music.  But, don’t think this is going to be an entirely weepy affair, as the great thing about the country-tinged outfit is that they still maintain a great bit of pop sensibility.  Sink your teeth into this song, and go get yourself a copy of Portraits.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Wheeler%20Brothers%20-%20Home%20For%20The%20Holidays.mp3]

Download: Wheeler Brothers – Home for the Holidays [MP3]

Lost in Austin Take Away: Her Space Holiday

Ladies and gentlemen, we’re proud to introduce you to the “Lost in Austin Take Away.” We’ve been working hard behind the scenes for some time trying to find the best way to incorporate our love for Austin music (or music in general) and video footage.  Lucky for us, we ran into the excellent filmmakers of Guerrilla Waltz.  Together, we’re hoping to bring you a new experience that incorporates our love for music with the greater Austin community, shooting film all about town, capturing our favorite artists playing our favorite songs.  This is the first of what we hope will be many great videos. Read more

Bon Iver – s/t

Rating: ★★★★½

If someone were to tell me that a band with falsetto, auto tuned on occasion vocals, and folk music backing was one of the most soothing and beautiful sounding groups they had ever heard, I would probably scoff at them and laugh. When describing Bon Iver, it seems as though this band should not fundamentally sound as lush and gorgeous as it does, but I’m not complaining. After their first album, For Emma, Forever Ago, was released back in 2008, Justin Vernon and company have been gaining praise, as well as attention, and this sophomore effort certainly seals their place as giants of the Indie world.

From their last album, there is certainly not that much immediately different to the sound of Bon Iver. You have the faded and distant sounding drums, the swells and builds in sound, the delicate ferocity in Vernon’s falsetto voice. It’s all there, but now it sounds a touch more refined and practiced than that of the previous release, as though the band went the extra mile to make these tunes sound polished and pristine. On “Holocene,” the third track, the intricacy in the layers of sound is especially noticeable. Gentle guitar floats upon subtle waves of synthesizer, the ever-graceful vocals leading the song at a meander. Such is the kind of song where you just want to close your eyes and let the music hit you like a gentle breeze; it’s simply beautiful.

One of the more noticeable changes of this group is the distancing of lyrics and the focus on the sound of their wispy music. The instruments do not overpower the songwriting, but they share the space coming out of your speakers rather than the words riding above. This does make it a bit more difficult to discern exactly what words Vernon utters, which is only a drawback if you don’t have the luxury of looking them up in the album booklet. If anything, this vagueness makes me want to listen to this collection of dramatic songs more, in attempts to ascertain the meaning behind them.

The bottom line is that this album is simply magnificent. Whatever you want to call it, folk, drifting soft rock, it is beautiful in every song, in every note, and capable of pushing you emotionally. It is the perfect anthem for anything: driving, walking the dog, bedroom listening, and I can see this becoming a staple in a large number of listening catalogs. Rightly so.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/08-Calgary.mp3]

Download: Bon Iver – Calgary [MP3]

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