Austin Show Spotlight: Jonly Bonly @ Hotel Vegas (10.4)

1292093_463301757118779_791286496_oI get it folks, ACL just isn’t your thing.  You’re probably trying to stay away from the hordes of people in the downtown area too.  So why not enjoy a righteous night of rock n’ roll by heading over to Hotel Vegas to catch one of the hottest new bands in town.  Okay, so Jonly Bonly might not be new boys, with members of Sweet Talk and OBN IIIs taking the helm, but the band itself is fairly new; I’ve been rocking out to the few songs they passed my way, and I’m expecting them to blow the socks off Austin in no time.  You like catchy proto-punk with a garage rock bent? Yeah, you better be there this Friday night.  They’ll be playing with Trustees and DJ Andrew McCalla to make your night both cheap and fulfilling; it all follows the Richard Buckner set! Oh, and here’s one of those sweet rocking tunes I was talking about.  Meet your favorite new band people!

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/02-A2-Never-Thought-Id-Die.mp3]

Download: Jonly Bonly – Never Thought I’d Die [MP3]

Crooked Fingers – Breaks in the Armor

Rating: ★★★½☆

Our knowledge of Eric Bachmann predominantly resides in his roll as the main man in Archers of Loaf, but as years have gone by, Eric’s crafted some beautiful records.  Some have been under his own name, but most have come via the Crooked Fingers moniker, and Breaks in the Armor might just be his best non-AoL record yet.

Bachmann has this greatly affecting voice, and it’s this voice that carries album opener, “Typhoon.”  Musically, the song has this dark trickling guitar line, which fits the vocal nicely, as Eric’s voice has this deep wooded quality to it.  By the time we move into the second track, “Bad Blood,” you get two things that Breaks in the Armor is really all about, Backmann’s storytelling, and this sort of alt-country, middling between mellow rocker and Americana.

But, while those elements definitely earn their keep throughout the entirety of this record, there are quieter moments for which I’ve always appreciated Eric’s solo work, especially with Crooked Fingers.  “The Hatchet” is little more than a slow-picked ballad, with Bachmann doing his best to yank at your emotions through the power of his voice.  It’s similar to Merge Records label-mate Richard Buckner, using little more than the vocal to evoke maximum emotion. “Heavy Hours” also lives in this same vein, although you’ll find a bit more of a lush arrangement helping to carry the harmony along, not to mention the help of Liz Durrett on backing duties. For some reason, this track sounds a whole lot like Bill Callahan, not that there’s really any need for comparisons, since Mr. B has been around for so long–perhaps it should go the other way!  If you’re not sure which side to take, listen to “Our New Favorite,” the album closer, before you make up your own mind.

One of the best things on Breaks in the Armor, aside from the emotional storytelling, are those semi-rockers that pop up here and there. “The Counterfeiter” is a gem of a track, and it picks up a rolling movement from the get-go.  In the end, Eric belts his way in and out of the chorus, but in doing so with Durrett (again) he maximizes the song’s emotive quality.  He even has a bit of fun, throwing a little “whoo” in the middle of the track.  These little flourishes have been present throughout the Crooked Fingers period, but it’s the lush arrangements that accompany songs like “Your Apocalypse” that really show the growth  in Bachmann’s writing and recording.

The release date of this record seems perfect, as fall begins to creep into our lives, bringing cooler weather and darker days. Breaks in the Armor is filled with introspective stories, allowing you to search on your own during those days when the rain keeps you inside.  For a man with such a rich musical history, Bachmann’s work with Crooked Fingers only seems to be improving with each continued release.

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

Download: Crooked Fingers – Typhoon [MP3]

Richard Buckner – Our Blood

Rating: ★★★½☆

Well seasoned and well-versed, Richard Buckner has been producing deep and devoted albums ever since 1994, which is, by my math, around seventeen years now. As this is an admirable feat in itself, it is even more important that in this time this gentleman has established himself as one of the greats of alt-country; a genre that is known to divide some fans. However, those familiar to Mr. Buckner’s sound should find what they are looking for, and those who are new to this man’s work should find something worth sticking around for.

Our Blood starts with “Traitor,” an opening number that kicks a little of everything your way. You have the deep and soulful voice of the man himself, the methodical guitar strumming, the gentle percussion instruments keeping things moving and some old fashion steel guitar to give it that country twinge in the background. But these are not the only elements of the track; as it progresses, the electronic elements (the synthesizer) become more apparent, and so does the darkness of the song. At the end, you are left in a state of bitter resentment, as you mourn the loss of someone close who chose betrayal, with Richard.

As it continues, the elements on this album that make you fully immersed in the music and the stories are the songwriting and those rugged, emotionally expressive, vocals. Like I just mentioned, it’s quite easy to lose yourself to this man’s tales, but it’s not because the sound is something radically life changing; as a matter of fact, the songs are musically quite simple in their nature. It is the songwriting rather, that makes this album stand apart from others. Listening to the weathered voice of a man singing about his troubles via intricate lyrics make them tangible. Buckner lures you in with his sentimental voice, and then keeps you with the story behind the emotion.

That being said, the instrumental parts of Our Blood are definitely nothing to overlook either, they just may not be the first thing you pick up on in your listening experience. For example, on “Witness,” amidst the fluttery guitar, you can hear delicate jingling of some percussion instrument twinkling in the background. It’s minute details like this embedded in these songs that provides for some variety on this very acoustic, yet good, album.

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

Download: Richard Buckner – Traitor [MP3]

More New Tunes from Richard Buckner

As we near the release of Richard Buckner‘s first album in five years, Our Blood, more new music is slowly starting to come to light.  Buckner did a great interview with IFC this week, and they offered up another great track before the album comes out on August 2nd from Merge Records.   I love how you can feel the emotion in his voice, and the music is so quietly unassuming that you really can’t help but let yourself be drawn into it.  At this point in time, I don’t really see a way that I can’t fall in love with this record. There’s just no way; how about you?

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Richard-Buckner-Escape.mp3]

Download: Richard Buckner – Escape [MP3]

New Music from Richard Buckner

I’ve always really enjoyed the work of Richard Buckner, quietly loving his music in my bedroom for countless hours.  We haven’t heard from his since Meadows, which quickly burned out in my CD player, but now Merge is announcing his newest release, Our Blood, which will hit stores August 2nd. If you like things like Bill Callahan, you’re going to love listening to Buckner.  His vocals have such great quality and emotion that he could probably sing without music and I’d be just as enthralled with the idea of a new release as I am with the music attached.   This is going to be something truly special, I can feel it.

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

Download: Richard Buckner – Traitor [MP3]