Intimate Number From Chris Staples

10440874_10152250750192857_1649314468670230278_nSeattle based musician Chris Staples is often times more well known for the artists he frequently supports as a guitarist than for his own outstanding solo material.  Today I want to put the spotlight on Chris and share with you his beauty of a new single called “Hold Onto Something”.  You can expect a mellow tune that may take some time to get under your skin and find a home, but once it does, you will find it’s not going anywhere.  Chris easily has one of my favorite voices in the business.

Pick up new album, American Soft, on August 12th via Barsuk Records.

New Surf Pop From Hibou

221684_10151362741977901_2011493402_nIt’s the perfect time of year for a song like this one from Seattle based Hibou.  The surfy and jangly vibe should be perfect to carry you along your way to the beach or possibly the lake.  Hit play on “Sunder” and start your summer relaxation off the right way.

Hibou has a new EP entitled Dunes out June 13th.

Wimps – Repeat

wimps

Rating: ★★★½ ·

As a pseudo-music critic it pains me to admit that I often have a tendency to over-analyze the music put before me.  Sometimes music is just meant to be fun; it doesn’t have to have this higher meaning you can only discern by thumbing through the lyrics sheet.  The debut LP, Repeat, by Seattle’s Wimps is just that.  It’s a rock n’ roll record meant to be blasted loud through your speakers. If you approach it just right, you’re going to pogo about your house like your teenage self.

“Slept In Late” kicks Repeat off in a great fashion, getting your energy pumping from the very get-go.  Rachel Ratner’s vocals have this natural brattiness, but in the endearing manner that most of us who love punk rock will easily enjoy.  Guitars are turned up to just the right levels, careful not to appear over-bearing in front of the drum kit.  That same no-frills attitude comes in again with “Grump,” a song that immediately begins with exuberant shouting.  But, before the group dallies in repetition, they decide to switch things up with careful guitar work instead.  It’s a slight move away from the opening track, albeit not too far.

Upon repeated listens with Wimps my ears seem to gravitate towards “Hello Frustration.”  I love the sound of the guitar here, which almost has a bit of a stutter to it.  The call-and-response lyrics of “let’s grow old and be boring” are perfectly delivered, allowing the song to stand-out just a bit from its predecessors.  From here it only gets better as you blast off into “UFO.” There’s a bit of a swing to the overall feel of this tune, which will have you tapping your toes as you rock along.  And sure, the lyrics might be a bit juvenile, but when did we start taking our rock n’ roll so seriously?

Repeat has a lot of songs that don’t necessarily have lofty lyrical aspirations, but I don’t remember “Judy Was a Punk” being the most poetic piece ever.  Perhaps there’s even a bit of tongue-in-cheek nerdiness, especially when you listen to songs like “Stop Having Fun.”  I mean, come on, the opening line is “I got a long face/that’s because I’m a horse.” You’re allowed to appreciate music just on its own basis, and that’s just what I feel this debut from Wimps provides.  You’re not going browse through the insert looking for deeper meaning in lyrical craftsmanship, but you’re going to have a hell of a time turning this one up really loud.  Throughout Repeat, the vocals are shouted in joy, and the guitars bring in a distorted garage rock mess.  It’s rock n’ roll music, and I love the way Wimps pull it off.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Stop-Having-Fun.mp3]

Download:Wimps – Stop Having Fun [MP3]

Unnatural Helpers – Land Grab

Rating: ★★★½ ·

It’s a good thing ballsy rock n’ roll is back in fashion, otherwise the hits that Unnatural Helpers have been churning out up in Seattle might not sound as sweet.  But, that’s not the case, so the short hits from the foursome hit hard and fast, then they’re gone, leaving you with the desire to hit repeat over and over again on their latest LP, Land Grab (Hardly Art).

“Medication” immediately introduces you to the bouncing garage pop side of the group, using a rolling drum beat and catchy guitar line that forces your toes to tap themselves to death.  Vocals are delivered in a sort of spoken word manner, though I enjoy the bratty edge of Dean Whitmore, even when the poppy backing vocals join in.  They’ll stay in the same place for a moment with “Stiff Wind,” although you’ll probably find the guitars a bit more dangerous than on the opener.  Land Grab is definitely a record you can turn up loud while the wind blows your hair straight back.

While the pop element exists in spots for Unnatural Helpers, I’m particular to the more punk leaning sounds that they’ve been able to balance in between the bubbly elements. You’re first real taste of this sort comes via “I Trust It Hurts;” I imagine this song being best sung by Whitmore stalking an audience with sweat dripping down his face–it’s over just as you get yourself moving, which might be a slight drawback. “Hate Your Teachers” is another such song, beginning with a heavy bass sound, which continues with a barrage of noisy guitars and frenetic pacing.  For me, the punk rock ethos pervades the entire album, but it’s good to have the above mixed tracks in here to provide some differentiation in the group’s sound.

All that said, Land Grab has a few incredible hits that weren’t represented in the singles, my favorite being “Waiting Girl.”  It closely represents the poppier side of the band, with forceful riffs blasting through the speakers from the moment the song opens. Here, the vocals have a bit of a cool swing, something you’d find in old UK post-punk records; it’s helped by the addition of vocals that chime in in unison during the chorus.  It might not be the hardest hitting song the band’s got, but I’ll be damned if this isn’t everyone’s favorite track by the end of your listen.

There’s two great things that Unnatural Helpers have going for them, aside from being on a great label: short songs and differentiation.  The short songs are great because with a sound like this, you don’t want to be overbearing or grow too complacent, which is why the differentiation factor is so important.  Yes, you can see a similar strain of thought in the music, but not many of the songs sound exactly the same.  That’s really refreshing considering the genre has the uncanny ability to grow stale after too many repeated listens.  Fortunately for you, Land Grab benefits for the group’s hard work and stylistic choices, leaving you with one of those records you want to turn up loud and play for all your friends.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/UnnaturalHelpers_HateYourTeachers.mp3]

Download:Unnatural Helpers – Hate Your Teachers [MP3]

Land Grab is available now from Hardly Art.

 

Killer Pop Tunes from Zebra Hunt

You’ve gotta depend on your Internet friends when it comes to discovering the scene across the country, so I’m glad Toby over at Finest Kiss in Seattle turned me onto this band Zebra Hunt. The three-piece outright definitely has some Oceanic hints in their works, but I also see a modern bent in the recording process, allowing for the central melody to really burst through here. They’ve got a short little EP that you can download for free over at their BANDCAMP page, and I promise you’ll be spending the rest of your day listening to these three gems.  Have fun here folks.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Zebra-Hunt-Zebra-Hunt-01-Half-Right.mp3]

Download:Zebra Hunt – Half Right [MP3]

Summer Pop from Orca Team

I’ve heard whispers of Orca Team for sometime, and now that I’ve got some time to sit down and listen to their new release, Restraint, I think I’ve found the album that will be with me for the rest of this warm Texas summer.  Oddly, the group’s from the Northwest, but a great record is a great record, right?  It’s got a little bit of a beach party vibe, but wrapped in a nice box of pop. If you’re looking for something light-hearted, yet written really well, then you’ll probably find yourself, like me, spending an awful lot of time with this record.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/06-Too-Busy-To-Love-Me.mp3]

 

Grave Babies – Gothdammit EP

Rating: ★★★ · ·

When a band tosses out a five song EP, such as Grave Babies have done with Gothdammit, it’s often difficult to see it as much more than a stop gap along the way to the next album. But, regardless of where this lives in the band’s on-going catalogue, there are definite steps being taken here towards positive progression.

“Fuck Off” is the start to this rather short affair, but in the matter of time, it’s the longest, although you could easily skip beyond the first minute or so; the band uses the moment as an intro, but you can hear the crackling of the stereo that takes a large precedent over the recording. When the song kicks in, however, it’s just this delicious post-punk moment, possibly hinging upon “goth.”  Brooding bass lines definitely benefit the sound, with the drums seeming a touch to hollow and metallic; this is my stand out track on the EP.

Musically, I dig the following track, “Mourning Heir,” particularly that lofty guitar line, but this is the track where I think the recording process began to lose a little bit of the plot overall.  There’s something about the shotgun sounding drums that just doesn’t do the live show, nor the record itself, any justice.  It ends up sounding muddied like the band blew your speakers out.  A bit of the composure returns for the third track, “Nightmares,” with the pop senses taking a bit more of a leading role on this song in comparison to the heavy hitting drums.  Listening closely, you’ll see that there’s musical genius lurking just below the surface.  Then the band seem to get move in another direction…entirely.

With the first three tracks dabbling in noisier, goth-affected post-punk, the last two songs seems more to delve into sonic exploration.  They’re not nearly as focused on the songwriting here, relying more upon heavy chant-like vocals as on “Bloodstains.”  And “Wasting” seems to regain a touch of the songwriting capabilities, but it’s still not quite up to par with the three primary tracks featured at the onset–perhaps it’s just too short to really find its groove.

You see, this is the problem with EPs like Gothdammit: you find some great moments that get you really excited; you also find some areas where execution could be much stronger.  Personally, I think there’s a good future (and a good market) for a more concise version of the first three song–maybe cleaning up the drum sound.  Should they choose to go in that direction, things could get big real fast.  Should they choose to go in the other direction, there’s a market there too—either way, I’m sure they’re good, I just have my preference.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/GraveBabies_Nightmare.mp3]

Download:Grave Babies – Nightmare [MP3]

Gothdammit is out now on Hardly Art.

Great Garage Jangle-r from Blooper

It’s taken me almost a full week to completely recover from SXSW, but luckily I can go to our friend Toby’s site, Finest Kiss, and catch up on the good stuff he’s stumbled upon in his neck of the woods (Seattle).  This track he ran by Blooper is superb, and reminds me a lot of basically every sweet jam I’ve been rocking in my house for the last several years.  There’s a bit of swing within the jangle, and an infectious aura that sucks you in.  The band’s working on a new EP as of now, but they’ve also got a free Ballard Avenue EP you can grab to wet your appetite while you wait if you go HERE.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Blooper-SecretSong.mp3]

Download:Blooper – Secret Song [MP3]

Dark Post-Punk from Grave Babies

Hopefully you’ve heard about the Grave Babies by now, as they’re about to start winning people over across the Internet. The band’s about ready to release their Gothdammit EP on April 17th via Hardly Art, and while the title might have some allusions to the music itself, there’s still a whole lot beneath that wall of darkness aching to be released.  If you listen to this track, you’ll hear the pounding rhythm and the wall of noise, but that tiny hint of melody held back by the slightest bit of restraint is exactly what grabs you.  I can’t wait to get this EP in my hands!

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/GraveBabies_Nightmare.mp3]

Download:Grave Babies – Nightmare [MP3]

New Song from Elba

There seems to be a small amount of buzz growing behind Seattle group Elba, and I’m here to further their endeavor.  In September, the group will be releasing their self-titled album, which will hopefully put the band’s name out there.  On this track, the ringing guitar floating is mesmerizing, while the quieted backing vocals provide a new level of depth to the song’s sound.  Like me, you’ll scour the Internet for more tracks; you can find one on their BANDCAMP, and another HERE.  All signs point to a great release to further our already busy listening schedule in the fall.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Elba-From-A-Sinking-Ship.mp3]

Download: Elba – From A Sinking Ship [MP3]

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