Friday Top 5: Mix Tape Closers

That’s right, I said mix TAPE. The days of sitting in front of a boombox waiting for a song to come on the radio may be over, but I refuse to say “Mix CD” or to refer to a “digital playlist.” Too many syllables. Just doesn’t roll off the tongue like “mix tape.” Yeah, I know a while back ATH ran a “Top 5 Album Closers” list, but this is different. Because I added the whole “mix tape” angle. So it’s totally not the same thing. You’re buying this right? What’s that? You don’t give a flying squirrel’s ass anyway? Oh thank God. Because I forgot I was supposed to write something this week, so I just threw some garbage together at the last minute. These songs really are good mix tape closers though, I swear.

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Yuck – s/t

Rating: ★★★★☆

Listening to Yuck time and time again makes it one of the easiest albums to review.  The band hs influences all across the alternative rock spectrum, and while the majority of those are from bands of yesteryear, their spin provides some refreshing energy into a sound we’re all familiar with at this point.

Everyone should immediately recognize that there is one drawback, and only one to the first album from Yuck: it’s got really obvious influences.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however, as the band never go too far into mimicking their heroes, usually using various methods to further their own sonic pallate, which should be acceptable considering the band’s young age. Put that thought aside though from the get go because despite a perceived lack in originality, you’ll find everything you need in a great record: melodies, guitar hooks, edginess and anthem-like lyrics.

“Get Away” begins this self-titled affair with a bit of distorted guitar a la Dinosaur Jr., with a hint of Kim Deal playing bass beneath it.  It’s a reminder of innocence that we often associate with early purveyors of indie rock, doing what they can just to show off their musicianship and guarantee us a good time.  It’s been awhile since I’ve enjoyed listening to this sort of chugging, jagged guitar riffage.

Three tracks into Yuck and the band offers up a different spin with their tribute to the past.  This time around, they bring in the melodic moments of Teenage Fanclub, and they’re successful in precisely the same way the TF is; they bring a warm breeze into the guitar playing, which is odd considering the rain and fog associated with Great Britain.  But, the band also uses a nice little jaunt into a guitar solo to take the song to a different level, giving it more power than your normal tribute-style track.  You’ll find a similar stylistic presence on “Sunday,” as well, which is one of my faves here.

There are some different spins on this record though, one’s that show Yuck finding their own ground.  “Sucidie Policeman” comes off as a nice little ditty, but having a female foil to challenge the male vocals gives this song more depth overall.  It doesn’t read as just a stopping point in mid-album, rather it’s a place for the band to hang their own hat as they continue to flesh out their very own distinctive sound in the near future.  That also comes into play with the album’s original single, “Georgia.”  Perhaps it does fall into an more distorted version of C86 bands, but the important thing is that combining male/female vocals demonstrates the band’s willingness to mess with their own formula…and with tracks like all the ones on here, Yuck are sure to come across a horizon filled with gems for our ears.

The bottom line of it all is that Yuck is a band you should really pay close attention to for the time being.  Sure, songs like “Operation” definitely have a nod to Pavement, but who really cares?  I mean, are you going to tell me if you heard a record full of solid new tracks from your favorite nostalgic act that you’d be upset?  The bottom line is that despite all its nods to the past, Yuck is a record full of amazing songs that never bore you, that never seem dated.  It’s just a sign of great things to come, as there doesn’t seem to be many ways this band can go wrong.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Georgia-wavv-1.mp3]

Download: Yuck – Georgia [MP3]

Friday Top 5: Top Five Song Spots

In a conversation with one of our local blogger friend’s, Sonic Itch Mike, I decided that I really needed to take a close look at which spots on any given album are the killer spots to put your hits.  Some people think that the immediacy really makes Track 1 the best, but I’m going to look a little closer at this idea.  I mean, there are hundreds of classic albums out there, and surely they ascribe to this great song placement formula.

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New Tunes from Spiral Stairs

stairsSpiral Stairs is Scott, one of the founding fathers of Pavement, so you can already label us stoked on the news of his solo release this October on Matador Records.  The album is titled The Real Feel, and it features various artists making guest appearances, including Austin’s own Ian Moore.  Some guy named Kevin Drew is on there as well. Sit back and enjoy the brightness of this new tune by Spiral Stairs.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/spiral-stairs-maltese-terrier.mp3]

Download: Spiral Stairs – Maltese Terrier [MP3]

Sonic Youth – The Eternal

theeternal Rating: ★★★★☆

In the musical landscape today, many bands have now begun to focus on the more ornate aspect of musical creation, choosing to spend their time carefully constructing harmonies and explosions of sonic noise.  Still, when it comes to combining both, none have done it better in the recent history than Sonic Youth.  They return again to give us The Eternal, which holds some of the more explosively brooding moments recorded this year.

Kim Gordon opens the slaughter by groaning over the enthusiastic barrage of guitars on “Sacred Trickster.” As an opening statement, you’d be hard-pressed to find one as passionate as this, with Kim sounding younger than she has in years.  It’s a vibrance and enthusiasm that the group sometimes seemed to lack in their previous efforts.

Here, you find the band reverting to a more classical sense of songwriting, much as they did on Rather Ripped, at times pandering to the hordes of fans that still hold nineties guitar rock as the ultimate god.  “Little Lifeboat” is the perfect example, with Gordon and Moore trading vocal duties, often overriding one another.  Guitar work throughout the song is exceptional, as we always expect, but the fact that there exists a melodious balance as well showcases the band’s growth through the last two decades whilst still holding tightly to their experimental roots.  Even so, with songs like “Antenna,” their experimentation has been honed such that they seem more like an arty version of Pavement rather than a sporadic noise band that occasionally conjures up a tune with pop sensibility.

Let us not forget though, that this is still Sonic Youth, and they still have the capacity to unleash the fury upon listeners with walls of noise meant to shatter your ears in an instant.  “Calming the Snake” is anything but calming; rather it is a raucous number with Gordon providing the vocal ammunition that most punk-singers crave, even to this day.  Clearly, this is a band still very much on top of their game.

In closing the album, the group chose to pull back on the reins just a bit, so as to not go overboard with their monstrous power.  “Walkin Blue” is one of the more straight forward songs the group has composed, and while it comes off as simple, a close listen to the musicianship reveals that this song, as with all their songs, is anything but simple.  Of course, they completely end the album with the sprawling number “Massage the History.”  Musically, this song covers a vast expanse of territory, ranging from noise experimentation to bedroom guitar strumming, all the while Gordon softly moans.  It’s a closing statement just as strong as the beginning, exemplifying the balance of the group.  The Eternal benefits greatly from the varying musical approaches, and once again make Sonic Youth a band to be reckoned with in the modern age.

FT5: Things To Buy On Record Store Day

0417top5coverThis Saturday, April 18th, is Record Store Day all across these United States. Sure, that seems like just another Saturday to most buyers, but the true record geek in all of us is already waiting in line. You see, on Record Store Day, you get to do two things: you get to support your favorite local indpendent record store and you get loads of limited edition stuff.  Me, personally, I can’t wait. I’ve already crafted a list so as to move through my favorite record store with ease in pursuit of such rarities that one can only dream.  The following is the list of the great things one can find at their local indpendent store, and we encourage you to do so, as this is the day the stores give back to us, and we give back to them.

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Iran – Dissolver

irandissolverRating: ★★★★☆

It has been seven years since the last release from Iran, which makes the forthcoming record Dissolver one of the more curious and anticipated albums of 2009. Especially after the song “Buddy” was found all over blogs in October of 2008, we heard the new direction that the sound was heading in — Hi-fi(ve) and thank-you for doing so boys. Fresh off of living in Norway for two years to make a successful documentary about the black metal movement, “Until the Light Takes Us,” Aaron Aites returns with an album that touches on many musical templates. Pop, soul, doo-wop, folk and of course- the NOISE can all be found on this outing. Helping bring the sounds to life are Kyp Malone (TV on the Radio), Peter Hoffman (The Mendoza Line) and Aaron Romanello (Grand Mal).

The first thing that catches your ear from the get-go is that this wasn’t recorded in a bedroom, on a 4-track recorder like the first self-titled album and the second called The Moon Boys. It is a natural progression for a band with more resources, a bigger pocket book, and everyone in it being more established. Where The Moon Boys built upon being a tinge poppier and more restrained than the mega-experimental freak-outs of its predecessor, Dissolver aborts the pit stops and emerges with its fundamentals in tact, boldly new and refreshing.

The album was recorded at Gigantic Studios with Malone’s bandmate of TVOTR Dave Sitek putting his thumbprints all over the sound of the album. With concise and controlled fuzz always being the trademark on his own albums, Sitek’s sound meshes perfectly with the sound initially made by Aites during his gritty, 4-track days. While listening to these beautiful harmonies accompanied by larger than life doubled voices, it’s hard not to notice the TVOTR bleed over. Songs like “Buddy” and “Can I Feel What” are prime examples of Malone’s contributions of high, ball-grabbing harmonies and tasty fuzzed out guitar playing. “I Already Know You’re Wrong” is a Beach Boys inspired number ala’ “Sloop John B” that carries a great surf groove with a similar vocal rhythm and again, great harmonies.

Then there’s the experimental noise of “Baby Let’s Get High Together One Last Time” with its Pavement infused undertones. The sassy wordplay and erratic guitar lines have a familiarity about them that bring back memories of mid 90’s slacker rock. The song ends in a wall of sound of electronic bleeps and glitches which segues into “Digital Clock and Phone.” Not leaving their roots far behind, Iran shows they still like to make a little noise. This will take you old fans back to “The Music Plays Itself” from their first album. Enjoy!

Btw-do yourself a favor and buy this album, though rumor has it that it may not be released until February 17th, because chances are, you will never get to see them play live. They are renowned for not going near stages very frequently with their only show being scheduled for March 6th at the Mercury Lounge in New York.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/02-buddy.mp3]

Download: Iran – Buddy [MP3]

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