As many artists from that pivotal time in my musical life have fallen apart or lost their way, New Order is kind of back to being themselves. No matter how much anyone laments Peter Hook‘s departure, the band has held on the sound that defined it’s later releases once free of Joy Division era material. …and I like those records. It should be a surprise that I am on board for the new self-produced record, Music Complete via Mute, that has the band finding inspiration by working with people like Brandon Flowers, Iggy Pop and Elly Jackson. The fist single “restless” is just straight up New Order. It is a level-setting single that I have a feeling preludes a more up and down affair when listening front to back.
I know we’ve all got our eyes on the Fun Fest prize, but let’s not forget that there are some great things happening in town, leading up to the night. There’s a great album release, a good local show, and some traveling bands that deserve some attention. If you check below, you can see some of the places on your list…there’s something for everyone. If tickets are available beforehand, you can pick them up by clicking the price. Enjoy your Tuesday. Read more
Let’s take a moment to reflect. New Order and (by inevitable association) Joy Division have been a massive influence on what I listen to even now. Recent songs shared here from bands like Flaamingos and Knifight could easily be tagged. Substance is standard issue listening, isn’t it? How could it not have an impact? So to see New Order, an elusive bucket-list band, announce the first North American show of their tour would be in Austin – well, it was a big day.
…and then I got the approval email to shoot the show. My head nearly exploded.
Holy Ghost! opened, added win. Read on for gushing fanboyisms and plenty of pics.
Spending your Halloween at Stubbs seems like a weird route to go, but I was pleased to see at least of a third donning costumes for the show. I had high hopes for the acts, having missed Divine Fits last time around, and always loving a good Cold Cave jam.
Read on for more words and excellent photos.
The difficulty for Bear in Heaven with I Love You, It’s Cool is how do they push beyond the limitations they placed on themselves by creating a brilliant first album, Beast Rest Forth Mouth? Surely, they were aware of the difficult task ahead of them when going into the studio, which probably only increases the anxiety of making a record. But, luckily, they’ve come out on top, crafting an album of electronic pop songs that if anything, only increases their accessibility, guaranteeing them further success.
For me, album opener “Idle Heart” is the perfect identity statement by the group, delving into a sort of electronic wash for nearly a minute, shortly before the lyrics open up the melody. There’s a particular brightness that lurks beneath the surface of the track, providing them with the ability to reach a new, larger audience. It’s the sentiment one expects a band to make upon their return to the indie limelight with I Love You, It’s Cool. They continue in the vein of bright electronic-pop with the following track, “The Reflection of You.” This is perhaps one of the standout tracks on the album, but it’s also a reminder at 4.5 minutes (more or less) that pop songs can be drawn out, furthering the emotional release for the listener.
When Bear in Heaven pull out the pop stops in a song like “Sinful Nature,” it becomes evident that the group has evolved into something entirely different from their previous affair. Driving synthesizers propel the melody, but there’s this wash atop it all, sort of reminiscent of Republic era New Order. It makes almost every song perfect for the dance floor–or wherever you choose to shake it. However, they still mix in some varying sounds, making this more than just your run of the mill dance record.
On “Kiss Me Crazy” there’s flirtations with negative space within the song, almost from the opening moment, especially when you fit in the drumming. At times the percussion doesn’t fit the tempo of the track at all, yet it falls precisely into place when looked at from afar. Another song on I Love You, It’s Cool that helps further this idea is “Space Remains.” It’s perhaps one of the grittier tracks on the record, reminding you of the band’s earlier work; it has elements of electronic noise covering an inherent danceability. And, by placing it near the end of the collection, it also serves to break up the monotony one can find in long electronic albums.
Bear in Heaven don’t seem to be breaking any new ground with this record, but they seem to be evolving on their own merit. I Love You, It’s Cool will remind listeners and fans that the band are definitely one of the premier electronic acts trucking about the world today. They’ve definitely got their own musical concept (and a visual one live!), and you’ve got to credit them for sticking to their guns, pushing ahead, and giving us another killer collection of songs we’ll play for some time.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Bear-in-Heaven-The-Reflection-of-You.mp3]
Download:Bear in Heaven – The Reflection of You [MP3]
Just recently we brought you a tune from Tobias Isaksson and his project Azure Blue, and we’ve got another wonderful track to share with you. This number comes from the band’s Rule of Thirds record, which you can purchase right now from Matinee Recordings (one of my favorites). On the track below, there’s this old school New Order feel, at least in the organic construction of the song, but Isaksson’s vocals have a very different quality, almost airy or dreamy. It alters the club-driven soundscape, but carries you into a far off place in your mind nonetheless. Pick up the album at your local store now![audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/04-Little-Confusions.mp3]
Download: Azure Blue – Little Confusions [MP3]
For me, it’s been a great week, seeing the triumphant return of probably the best small label out there. Matinee Recordings had a silent summer, but they’re back, and their roster now includes Azure Blue. The group is primarily the project of Tobias Isakkson, who played prominent roles with Irene and Laurel Music. Matinee will be releasing Rule of Thirds this December, and the band is already getting comparisons to groups such as OMD and New Order. Sounds like a perfect way for Matinee to wrap up the year, and for you as well. Try out this little gem.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/azure01.mp3]
Download: Azure Blue – The Catcher in the Rye [MP3]
The Drums have been on everyone’s radar for a little under a year now, but their star has continued to shine all the way up to the release of their self-titled album. Their combination of surf guitar hooks and 80s electronic beats is destined to make this record the smash of the summer. It might possibly be too sweet, but this is the kind of fun we should all have as we sit in our kiddie pools drinking beers with our friends this summer.
Opening with “Best Friend” you’ll find that bouncing groove of the bass moving you right into your first dance movement of the album. Jonathan Pierce’s hip little croon will keep you swaying, just as it should. It’s possible that this might not be the most artistic work, but there’s no denying that from the moment The Drums begins, it’s catchy as all get out.
First single from the group “Let’s Go Surfing” was one of our favorite Songs of 09, and it still has the same charm it did when we first heard it. Beach guitar sounds fused with whistling and a charming lyrics make it hard to ignore this song, and no matter how long you listen to it, it still has the kick you ask for in a great single. Then you come into the beneficial “Book of Stories.” While it retains the same surf-dance sensibility of early tracks, it definitely slows things down, turning the album in a different direction. It’s pleasing to see such a variance here, as too much straight lo-fi pop might have put listeners in a sugar coma. Similarly “Down by the Water” does the same thing, just a few songs later. It provides a nice contradiction to the infectious pop moments, and Pierce’s voice rises high in the most charming way possible. Personally, it gives The Drums more in common with bands like The Church rather than the surf version of New Order or The Smiths.
“Forever and Ever Amen” is accompanied by a killer video, and the swirling melody within this sound, despite a redundant bass line, really makes you swing your arms in pure ecstasy. As the chorus goes “forever, baby its forever,” you feel as if you’re being sucked into some perfect John Hughes montage. In fact, you can see the Breakfast Club dancing about the library here, at least in my mind, which is perfectly fitting. It’s a reminder that the album is filled with a certain sense of innocence and frivolity that, when done in good taste, reaps marvelous rewards for listener and songwriter alike.
Time will surely tell how important The Drums self-titled debut actually is. But, one thing is for sure right now: their intelligent pop tactics combining summer sounds with electronics is the perfect music for kicking off summer in the right way. This album is full of melody, hooks and just simple fun, and while that might not always be my cup of tea, it surely seems to be working with this record.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/02-lets-go-surfing.mp3]
Download: The Drums – Let’s Go Surfing [MP3]
A lot of people work their whole life struggling to make music a life pursuit, switching bands, touring and such. Often times it comes to nought, but occasionally it leads you on a path of your own. Such is the case for Jack Tatum, the man who composed the music under the moniker Wild Nothing. His debut record Gemini is something of a hidden gem; it’s not overstated, yet there is a quiet beauty that lies beneath it all. Such is our luck.
Instantly you can tell that this album is going to be accompanying you on those days when you’re lost in your own mind, as the ringing guitar sounds, reminiscent of New Order come in real low and soft. Tatum’s voice enters the picture in a similar manner, resting lightly atop the steady percussion and guitars. You can feel yourself lost in thought as the song plays into the next, “Summer Holiday,” which has a very similar appeal. Here you’ll find a more upbeat pace pushing you along, and female backing vocals that add to the overall layering of the song. It’s as warm and soothing as the title suggests.
While the first part of the song features some prominent guitar work, other aspects of Gemini are filled by electronic loops that provide a different sensibility to the record. Take “Bored Games” as an example, with a vibrant guitar wash splashing against the electronic beats. It pushes the songs in a bit of a speedier direction, which is contrasted by the rest of the sound breezily pushing against the beat to a wonderful effect. Still, the nostalgic musical references mixed with current fads such as warm washes over the vocals is where Wild Nothing earns its paycheck.
“My Angel Lonely” has some dark undertones that exist outside of the title itself. Echoing effects used on the vocals, along with that chiming guitar, give it a haunting sensation. Once again, as the wash effect billows in the background you find yourself in a state of bewilderment, completely absorbed in the song. Yet a few tracks later you find a somewhat stomp of electronic happiness fused with angular guitar lines walking beneath. Perhaps it might encourage you to circle about your room, but if not, you’ll at least have a slight boost to your step as this song comes through your speakers. This is just an example of Jack Tatum’s ability to mix things up, all the while staying in a range where he feels comfortable.
Stay tuned in until the album draws to its close, as you surely won’t want to miss the final moments of “Our Composition Book” and “Gemini.” This one-two punch is surely as rewarding as the rest of the Gemini, which really proves the point of our discussion here. Throughout a career as a musician it finally seems that Tatum has found his calling with Wild Nothing. It’s a creative album of melody and beauty to get lost amidst, which is all we really need sometimes from our favorite records.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/02-Summer-Holiday1.mp3]
Download: Wild Nothing – Summer Holiday [MP3]
While many of the indie rock followers will surely be all about The Depreciation Guild due to the main gig of its two core members, that being The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, that’s about the only similarity. Sure, the mood of the music, and a bit of the texturing due share a close proximity to their other band, Spirit Youth steps out of the shadows and into its own space.
Electronic beats open the album on “My Chariot,” which is just an indicator that Kurt and Christoph (PoBPA touring guitarist) have a map all their own to follow. Musically, it has a lot more of a bedroom aesthetic to the vocal quality than one would come to expect. It’s really reminiscent of the same sort of vocals you heard on many of the more pop friendly albums of the early 90s. It’s the same ground they’ll live in on “Crucify You,” and the dynamic doesn’t do much to distance itself.
But, in a sense, they mix it up on “Blue Lily” by opening up with a more prominent guitar piece. Then almost immediately they bring in the warmth by adding the vocal texture. Here you might see that often the vocals are a tool, never really stepping out from the instrumentation. But, the guitar definitely serves its purpose in the background of the song, and that might remind some of Republic-era New Order, though a heavier atmosphere hangs over these songs. This is the sort of place that it seems The Depreciation Guild hangs their hats.
Almost every song from here on out fuses a little bit of careful programming with guitars that ring out through the far off horizon of the song. At times, such as in “Trace,” those little parts really hang there, creating a dense electro-guitar collage of atmospherics, but without the vocals to brighten the moment, these songs really just seem to hang in air for the most part, almost like a pop-oriented fog. Don’t get me wrong, however, there are a few moments when the beats really do the song justice, like in “A Key Turns.” A calm mood established itself early, and every noise on the song, including the vocals, is accented by the beats (the most creative on the album thus far). It makes the perfect song for sitting outside as a storm drives itself into your town.
Oddly, there are a few heavy moments, or at least heavy in regards to the general sound of Spirit Youth. The albums title track and “Through the Snow” have the benefit of harder hitting guitar pieces. While the band manages to keep that quiet sensibility here, the chords of the guitar bring in a heavier punch, changing the overall quality of the tunes, and in fact, making them rising above the rest. It would have been nice to see those numbers placed randomly earlier on in the album, rather than slotted in near the end.
All in all, Spirit Youth is an enjoyable listen, albeit one that does tax the listener a bit. You’re caught in a world, unsure of whether or not you want to try and unravel the key to the lyrics (which are quite good) or just immerse yourself in the depth of sound that The Depreciation Guild have presented you with here. It’s not an easy choice, and that’s probably the biggest fault with the album: you have to make a choice on which instrument is the most important to follow, music or vocals. Still, stepping out of from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart is never a bad thing entirely, especially when you can craft generally heartfelt songs that will keep you glowing inside.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/02-crucify-you.mp3]
Download: Depreciation Guild – Crucify You [MP3]