New Music from Adam H Stephens

A few weeks back we brought you news of Adam H. Stephens prepping his debut solo album titled We Live on Cliffs, which will now be released by Saddle Creek on September 28th.  The first single we brought you was what we would expect from one of the lads from Two Gallants, but this new single, “Second Mind,” has an entirely different feel to it altogether.  Slower pace, a bit of organ, and a steadier vocal performance demonstrate that Stephens can offer us so much more than I think we expected.  Be sure to give this one a try folks.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/02-Second-Mind-1.mp3]

Download: Adam Haworth Stephens – Second Mind [MP3]

New Tunes from Adam H Stephens

Those of you who have had your eyes and ears on Two Gallants will be pleased to know that Adam H Stephens will be releasing his solo debut.   He’ll be releasing We Live on Cliffs on September 28th via Saddle Creek Records. The first single is a gentle little ballad, but of course it has that country/punk sound, though quite a bit softer than his work with TG.  I’ve been pressing repeat all day on this one, and I’m sure you’ll be doing the exact same thing once you give this track a listen.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/05-The-Cities-That-Youve-Burned-1.mp3]

Download: Adam Stephens – The Cities That You’ve Burned [MP3]

Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson – Summer of Fear

mbarsummeroffear-cover

Rating: ★★★ · ·

Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson burst onto the scene a few years ago with the support of the New York hierarchy.  Now, as he releases his second album, Summer of Fear, which is his first for Saddle Creek, he goes and grabs Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio to aid in production duties.  Would having such a producer ultimately effect the aesthetics of our new favorite troubador?  How would Malone put his own touches on the record, or would he?

Upon first listen all the way through, you can immediately tell the difference between Summer of Fear and Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson.  Sure, there are ecclectic touches, no doubt influenced by the presence of Malone, but there is a certain sesnse of urgency lacking in these songs.  “Shake a Shot” opens the album without making that statement you expected, although you can still feel the passion in the lyrics.

“Always an Anchor” is the second song, and it happens to be one of the more powerful song on the record. You can hear the struggle of daily life in the guttural power behind MBAR‘s vocals, which is precisely what made his first effort so powerful.  This time around, it’s a bit more sparse than you would otherwise want, or rather, expect.  If you listen to it closely, you can almost hear the “Wolf Like Me” guitar chug in the background.

What does seem more pronounced on this album, or perhaps clearer due to the clarity of the voice is the clarity of the lyrical content.  We all know by now about MBAR‘s struggles, but it’s how he spins those around to churn out great tunes which is admirable.  Not only that, but he sings about the despair of humanity, but in doing so, he seems to sing it with such conviction and understanding that you can’t really be worried about it any longer.  It’s as if he has come to accept it more as fact, and the listener should too.

Listening to this album, you will find your songs that you like, and you’ll find flourishes of things un-MBAR, such as the various string elements, seen in songs like “Hard Row,”  that occasionally seem out of place mid-song.  Still, the more songs this guy churns out, you feel as if the better off we all are, as Summer of Fear, though hindered by various elements, demonstrates the songwriting capabilities of Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson; we should all be grateful for such an emerging voice.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/03-The-Sound-1.mp3]

Download: Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson – The Sound [MP3]

New Tunes from Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson

MilesBenjaminAnthonyRobinsonLast year, Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson swept into our top albums of the year, and he looks like he’s trying to make it for two years in a row.  He’s about to release his new album Summer of Fear on Saddle Creek Records (it’s already available on iTunes) on October 20th.  The production on “The Sound” is a lot stronger than the previous album, and you might just be able to pick out a few of Miles’ friends.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/03-The-Sound-1.mp3]

Download: Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson [MP3]

New Tunes from Land of Talk

landoftalkMontreal’s Land of Talk have a new EP headed your way, but it won’t be the easiest thing to find in the world, so you should probably get it from Saddle Creek Records while you can.  The Fun and Laughter EP features four new tracks, and several videos.  We’ve got one of these new songs to offer you today, so enjoy, and don’t forget to get your hands on this while you can.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/LandOfTalk_MayYouNever.mp3]

Download: Land Of Talk – May You Never [MP3]

Beep Beep – Enchanted Islands

islands

Rating: ★★★½ ·

When Beep Beep released their first album off of Saddle Creek Records, one was hard pressed not to find the similarities to heralded post-punk groups like Q and Not U, which is not really a far off comparison, seeing how far the group have gone in changing their sound on the group’s second album, Enchanted Islands.

Of course you will notice that knife-like guitar licks still cleverly cut through the album with precision, but what has evolved beyond the angular guitar-play is the evolution of the funk.  Bass lines are much more pronounced this time around, at least on songs like “Secrets for the Well” or “The Whispering Waves.”

More pronounced on this album, however, is the conceptualization, or the effort that Eric Ray and Chris Terry put into telling a story with each different tune.  Some stories revolve around traditional mysticism, such as struggles with mermaids, while others like “Seppuku” are interested in Japanese ritualistic suicide through disembowelment.  It’s not necessarily a unified concept that runs throughout the album, but one of different perspectives on enchantment. It’s is this disjointed approach to the album that both succeeds and holds the band back at moments.  In success, the band has crafted a varying album, layered with changes in tempo and structure, as well as vocal pitch.  Each song opens up like a Russian matryoshka dolls, revealing pieces within pieces.  At the same time, the effort seems disjointed at moments, as if the epic storytelling proved too much for those at the helm.

You will find some straightforward songs in the presentation of this album, both seeming to tie into each other, lyrically.  The ease with which a listener can approach these songs allows for them to shine in the mix of the album, as they step out for just a moment before being consumed again by the whole of the album.  “Return to Me” and “I Miss You” both loosely rely upon a classic approach, with gentle guitar accompanied by soaring lyrics.  Odds are that most casual listeners will find these the standout tracks, as they are easily consumed, but more rewarding moments exist throughout the entirety of the record.

And that is how it all comes to be on Enchanted Islands, as one must journey with the band, through the dark and light moments, behind the chords and into the lyrics.  Each time you find yourself traveling one way, the wind blows, moving you in an entirely new direction within the album, which makes Beep Beep one of the more interesting listens to come out at this point in the year.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/10-i-miss-you.mp3]

Download: Beep Beep – I Miss You [MP3]

Cursive – Mama I’m Swollen

cursive

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Tim Kasher has always been a voice living on the darker side of lyrical content, filling his words with his own animosity, with the subject often turning to his own reflection.  Aptly titled, the new Cursive album, Mama I’m Swollen, is another album based on his own self-reflection, and, well, deprecation.

It takes a few seconds of ambient noise, thirty-four to be exact, before Cursive burst in with a fever known to most fans of the band.  The guitars cut through your ears with the sharpness of a polished knife, as Kasher sings ” don’t want to live in the now/don’t want to know what I know.” The sentiment seems to be that the man, himself, is unhappy with the way things have turned out.  Regardless, the ferocity of this song is a welcome opener.

Skip right ahead to the obvious single, “From the Hips,” which starts the opening minute with a gentle pace, pushed along by the guitar; its reminiscent of The Good Life, Kasher’s other focal point for musical expression.  That is until the drums kick in, carrying the song forward, with the remainder of the song revolving around the drums and Tim’s remarkable voice.  Happy Hollow horns close the song, a wonderful second track.

Then we find the angular guitar work of the band echoing in the dense hollows of the next few songs, as the sounds seems to bounce off your ears, just as Kasher’s voice rises and falls with that dark edge that only he can wield with such perfection.  It’s clear that he’s borrowed a bit from his other musical outing, but the darkness associated with Cursive albums clearly shines through the familiar elements. By this point, your four tracks into the latest musical excursion.

“Caveman” brings in a newer element to the fold, as it seems like a barroom stomper, filled out with the accompaniment of horns.  Here we find a man that seems content with where he’s at in his life.  On top of that, its clear by this point, the middle of the album, that Tim’s voice is back; its probably never sounded as strong as it does here. But, the sentiment is contradicted by the following song, as the gentle statement of “we’re going to hell, we’re going to hell” rings in listeners ears.  Lyrical content aside, this is one of the most beautiful songs on the albums, one where we once again see the passion of our pained hero.

From here on out, the fierceness of the songs diminishes, but there is clearly a brighter side to things.  Each of the following songs has a new attitude in the songwriting process.  While still holding tight to the stylistic leanings that put Saddle Creek Records on the map, there’s a new sense of clarity to the songs, as they seem less dense than previous efforts, which has made way for some of the stronger songs this side of the Cursive catalog.

Closing out the album is “What Have I Done.” Here, you find one of the better lyrics of the album, if not, the year, as Kasher sings “I spent the best years of my life, waiting on the best years of my life.”  It seems as if he’s looking back upon his whole life, or career, with a sense of regret, which is unfortunate, as this sets of songs are some of his best yet.  When he asks the audience “what have I done,” our response to Tim should be that he’s put together a complete album, full of masterful songs, including the grandiose closing statement at the end.  You’ve done great Tim.

New Tunes from Cursive

cursiveTim Kasher has long been penning incredible tunes, both as the frontman for Cursive, and as the man behind The Good Life. Now comes the time of year where we can all be grateful, as new tunes are now available in preparation for Cursive‘s release of Mama, I’m Swollen, out on March 10th via Saddle Creek Records. You can hear “I Couldn’t Love You” over at Entertainment Weekly.

Also, they released another track yesterday to the public, which is also another song off the upcoming album.  This song, “From the Hips” illustrates Tim at his best, writing great lyrics, and the song just seems to churn out those special moments we missed on the band’s Happy Hollow last time around.

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

Download: Cursive – From the Hips [MP3]

Sebastien Grainger – Sebastien Grainger & The Mountains

Rating: ★★★½ ·

The majority of the world might not recognize the name of Sebastien Grainger, but most of you know who he is, and I’m sure some of you saw him play. Grainger is the former drummer for Death From Above 1979, that dueling barrage of blips and banging that burst onto the scene a few years back. Dude’s on his own now; the question is can he deliver like he used to do when he stood atop his stool breaking our ears and his drums?

Upon first listen, you will immediately discover that Sebastien has long ago departed from the intensity he once carried into our bedrooms. “Love Can Be So Mean,” the opening track, is about as deliberate a step into the pop spectrum of things we could expect him to go; he goes there unexpectedly, but he still brings a punch or two with him.

For some you might hear a touch of his past in a good amount of these songs, as the guitars usually carry a large amount of fuzz with them, much like that horse we’re beating into the ground. Another similarity in transitions is the vocal quality built into these songs; the vocals never sound very clear, coming off muddled in the mix. It’s not horrible, especially since he attaches a lot more melody this go round, but you can still see the shadow of his past looming just over his shoulder.

“I’m All Rage Live 05” is Sebastien doing Wolf Parade, which is okay since they both hail from north of the border, but the most disheartening thing about this song is that Sebastien holds back during the chorus; he has every opportunity to let loose like we know he can, but he holds back instead. It gives a less angst-ridden approach to the song, but most would love to see him belt it out. And it’s clear he has plenty of angst to let out, as evidenced by songs such as “I Hate My Friends.”

There are steps in all sorts of directions here, which makes this album a little unfocused. There are some allusions to 80s power ballads mixed with shadows from his past wrapped around various other late-nineties influences (see Saddle Creek Records, the label releasing this album). You’ll even find more direct approaches to ballads and harmonies, but you won’t find focus. When he’s on, the record has amazing moments worth playing again and again; when he’s not, you just hope he can rein it all in for the next go round. Really, you just want him to let loose completely.  A record without the evident inhibtions from this record could just prove brilliant.

Have a listen to latest single “By Cover of Night” below:

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/03-by-cover-of-night-fire-fight.mp3]

Download: Sebastian Grangier – By Cover of Night [MP3]

Land of Talk – Some Are Lakes

Rating: ★★½ · ·

Land of Talk is yet another band from Montreal, Canada, intent upon re-creating pop music in their own likeness and bringing it to your ears.  Their latest effort, Some Are Lakes, has just been issued by Omaha label Saddle Creek Records.

According to press information, the opening three songs of the album seem to revolve around the band’s earlier sound, which seems to reflect the earthy undertones of the album’s title track.  It is a female-dominated sound that recalls similarities between various Canadian acts that have made their way south of the border.  While these first three tracks definitely showcase the band’s musical repertoire, there isn’t anything too remarkable from these first glimpses.

Then they come straight at you with “Some Are Lakes,” which features stronger vocals from front-woman/guitarist, Lizzie Powell. Here you will find the band cleaning out their sound, ridding the song of extemporaneous noise in place of a more direct approach to your ears.  “Give Me Back My Heart Attack” has the band going back a few steps, those this song definitely has a stronger groove than the opening tracks present on the album.

“It’s Okay” is one of the simpler songs on the album.  Picture Amy Millan singing along to piano ballads and you’ll get the picture for this one.  The band pulls it off, but it’s not altogether very inspiring.  Then the band seems to pick it up from here.  Land of Talk pushes forward with more Canadian influences, but they do it this time with a certain brashness that makes it all seem more worthwhile; it comes off a lot more personal.  At its best when they unleash their guitars, they pull them back momentarily for what is the album’s stand out track, “Got A Call.”  As it sweeps in and out, it sweeps you away in the process.

After all that progress they sum it all up with an acoustic number that doesn’t seem to stray to far from the works of Feist, which is not necessarily a bad thing, it just makes the album feel entirely too uneven. Some Are Lakes is an album with varying levels of accomplishment, and those mainly come in the form of a band that let’s loose on the listener, releasing the power they seem to hold back for the majority of the album.  It all ends without the band establishing itself as the predominant force in the music presented here, and they fail to step out of the shadow of the Canadian heavy hitters.

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