Her Space Holiday – s/t

Rating: ★★★½☆

It seems like just yesterday that Marc Bianchi began his Her Space Holiday career, when in fact it was 15 years ago.  Finally, the sun is setting on the project, and with this close, Marc’s releasing his final album with the moniker, Her Space Holiday.  It’s perhaps his most complete work, leaving us all with one final album, but so many memories.

“Anything for Progress” begins with a soft-spoken Bianchi singing over light instrumentation; it’s a solemn beginning for a farewell.  But, as the drums march in, arrangements rise and fall, giving us a splendid pop venture fitting for our goodbye as Marc sings “this is all I know.”  Even with the sadness of giving up Her Space Holiday, the explosion of joy and melody at the end of the track is evidence that Mr. Bianchi has come to terms with his decision, aiming to go out with one last momentous affair.  He even follows this up with “Black Cat Balloons,” a song that seems to follow with similar construction.  Gentle beginning, exuberant chorus, wash, rinse, repeat; well played sir.

Despite the bright beginnings, there are some more somber moments throughout Her Space Holiday, though they eventually evolve into well-crafted pop.  “The Candle Jumped Over the Spoon” offers up lightly strummed guitar, Marc’s quiet singing, nice female accompaniment, but it really takes off with the influence of accordion, turing the quiet affair into a piece of swinging good fun.  It’s interesting, as none of the tunes on this record completely give into one style or genre, even with prolonged entries.  Like the aforementioned tune, “The Bullet, The Battle, The Trigger, The Barrel and Me,” presents us with some quiet time with Bianchi, but it can’t last forever, can it?  Well, in short, the song ends with a burst of light, stomping until the sound has subsided.

Perhaps one of the best things about Her Space Holiday is the attention to detail; every sound is purposeful, being used to flesh out each song.  It’s made Bianchi one of the stronger songwriters, oft-overlooked by his peers.  Hopefully as the curtain closes on this chapter of his life he’ll finally receive some recognition for this characteristic.  “Death of a Writer” employs subtle touches of string arrangements, and while it would be easy to see this as fanciful fleshing out of bare tunes, it’s clear that Marc left space in the music for such bursts of accompaniment.  It could be horns, strings, backing vocals; it could even be empty space, but it’s there for a reason: that’s craftsmanship.

I’m sure that somewhere in the future we’ll hear from Marc Bianchi again, and we’ll all be grateful for his return.  That being said, it’s sad to say goodbye to something that has been a part of our lives for so long, especially when it’s executed as well as we find on the last proper release of Her Space Holiday.  We bid you a fond farewell, and we hope to see you soon.


Download: Her Space Holiday – Black Cat Balloons [MP3]

New Music from Light for Fire

You would think that a band made up of former members of The Village Green would have some sort of Davies-esque influence of their songwriting, but this doesn’t seem to be the case for Portland’s Light for Fire.  They’ve just released their self-titled debut, and you’ll be disappointed if you don’t give this a good solid listen.  Personally, I hear an edgier Dr. Dog, but that’s probably based on the piano line.  Still, that guitar chord that knifes its way through the song just cleanses your palate before the band brings it all home again, making for one heck of a single.  Be sure to check out the band’s SITE to preview their entire album.


Download: Light for Fire – NY (By the Hand) [MP3]

Gardens & Villa – s/t

Rating: ★★★½☆

So much can be said about a band’s debut album; most importantly, it is the first real taste at the style of the group. For Gardens & Villa, this debut is even more important considering the fact that they did not produce an EP as an introduction. With that in mind, this album feels even more impressive, as the songs feel much more mature and aged than that of a group just getting things together.

The opening track proves to be one of the finer moments from the start. “Black Hills,” begins with pulsating synthesizer beckoning your ears to wait keenly for this song to kick into gear. Then percussion is added to bump things up a notch, but not to an outright dance number. Instead it comes across as more of a casual psych pop number, with the vocals pushing it to something more. In stark contrast with the deep tones of the synth, the vocals are edgy, and borderline on falsetto in moments. Mellow, yet still bubbly, this opener finds the right balance between moody and groovy.

The next noticeable standout comes on “Thorn Castles,” a short number that only feels shorter when sandwiched in between the rest of the numbers on this album. On this track, what stands out the most are the vocals provided by lead singer Chris Lynch. Running along the lines of a shriek, it completes the eerie-cheery vibe that Gardens & Villa have definitely got going for them. In fact, this theme seems to persist into every song, and even takes over completely at the end of “Spacetime,” when the beat slows down to a gait and the vocals eases from its starkness into to a creepy whisper.

As far as variation in pacing goes, this album is all about the changes: one instant, you have “Chemtrails,” and the next “Star Fire Power,” which are perhaps both songs at the opposite end of the pace spectrum for this band. “Chemtrails” is a crawler, laden with minute details and elegant harmonies at its close. It is followed directly by “Star Fire Power,” which is a stellar dance party number that begins slowly, and then builds to a catchy chorus with a deep bass line that is sure to have you bobbing your head.

Looking at the whole album, I do not see a song that sticks out as horrible or misplaced. There are definitely some that resound above the rest, and others that fell mediocre in comparison, but on a whole, this is an impressive and enjoyable first effort.


Download: Gardens & Villa – Star Fire Power [MP3]

New Music from All the Apparatus

Portland seems to attract music of the shanty sort, much like All the Apparatus.  The ensemble cast have just completed and released All the Apparatus, the self-titled album that will surely have you fawning.  An easy comparison would be to make a Decemberists association, but the heavier vocals give me a the feeling of a more complex Murder by Death.  It’s sort of like a folk-core version of Efterklang, but maybe that’s a stretch.  Regardless, the group makes sweeping music for sweeping your house, and for all those other times when you just want to listen to really great tunes.


Download: All the Apparatus – Portland’s Rose [MP3]

New Track from Soft Metals

My boy Nick passed this track along, and it’s got several interesting little twists that really made me a fan of Soft Metals today.  I began falling for the atmospheric wash that breached my ear drums for the first few seconds, but then it dropped some electronic beats before fleshing out the track with some female vocals.  I mean, if you’re going to make electronic music, it should sound like this; reminds me of Soviet.  So if you’re a fan, like I am, be sure to give the band a good listen, then go off and buy their record next week, July 19th, via Captured Tracks (the hottest label around).


Download: Soft Metals – Eyes Closed [MP3]

Cults – s/t

Rating: ★★★½☆

For a band that basically came out of nowhere last year, Cults have gathered quite the following in the past year that they have released music. Be it praise from various musical critics, or just growing popularity of fans, this band had a lot of hype. However, upon listening to this self-titled debut, it is clear that this excitement and attention is well deserved; Cults have crafted a gem of a summer album here.

The band opens with “Abducted,” an explosive and energetic entrance. For about the first thirty seconds, you have the muted and echoed version of Madeline Follin’s angsty vocals, playing the role of heartbroken female. Then things get turned up to full volume for the chorus, and the song takes off, xylophone raging right alongside Follin’s voice whist she screams the pain away. She hands the vocals over to the male perspective of the two-member group, Brian Oblivion, who assumes the position of heartbreaker, giving the song the edgy tradeoff between the two of them. After this song fades away, the single that got everyone talking about this band, “Go Outside” follows and keeps the energetic and sinfully sweet pacing for this band.

A big part of this album is the large youthful presence of several elements of the band. For starters, you have the valley girl esque, high pitched, and extremely female vocals. Accompanying this is a Fisher Price sounding xylophone, which only adds to the childlike feeling of Cults’ sound. It reaches an all time kiddy feeling on the song “Oh My God,” whose chorus sounds akin to a little girl taunting one of her playmates, which is ironic in that lyrics reach farther than that. It’s a cute little number, one that stands out from the others on the latter half of the album.

That being said, the extreme amount of energy that makes it enjoyable is also what makes it sound a bit too juvenile and grating after repeated listening. For this reason, this album becomes one that needs the right mood to be listened to, as opposed to an all day every day kind of release. But when you’re in that youthful and happy go lucky mood, there are a slew of great tracks to dance to and enjoy. As a first release, it’s a decent start for Cults and I look for interesting future albums from this duo.

New Music from Teens

What’s the best new music your $3 can buy?  In my opinion, it’s gotta be the new self-titled record from Teens.  It’s the perfect short little release for summertime, filled with bits of garage rock, hints of psychedelia, and perhaps a hint of classic surf twang.  The vocals are a bit gritty, but you can’t deny the passionate approach of these guys.  Each song breezes in, making you shuffle your feet just a bit, then goes off into the next song before you’ve had a chance to sit down and breathe. If you want to have a wet n’ will summer filled with hooks and debauchery, I suggest you choose the Teens to be the soundtrack.


Download: Teens – O’Lay [MP3]

New Song from The Happy Thoughts

Need a little pep in your step?  Well, then you’ve got to get into The Happy Thoughts, the newest power-pop band to burn a hole through my stereo.  The band is releasing their self-titled record on May 31st with Hozac, and it’s going to be one hell of a record, as I’ve already spun it halfa-dozen times since I got it late last night.  There’s good speed to this single, with a steady vocal delivery, and a little bit of grit in between.  You’ll find yourself yearning to blast these tunes as your speeding down the highway on that road trip by yourself.  Seriously, it’s going to be a helluva ride with The Happy Thoughts. [audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/03-Sweet-Dirty-Love.mp3]

Download: The Happy Thoughts – Sweet Dirty Love [MP3]

New Single From Bon Iver

Kanye West’s favorite folk rocker is about to make his triumphant return, which surely has the Internet abuzz today with the first single from the upcoming self-titled album, out on June 21st via our friends over at JagJaguwar.  At first listen, this sounds much like his work from his previous Bon Iver releases, then it gradually begins to build.  Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t going to be an all out rocker of a tune, but it’s definitely got a more upbeat feeling towards the end, crafted with some beautiful soaring melodies, much as Vernon is want to create.  With songs like these, we can only assume that this record’s going to be something special.


Download: Bon Iver – Calgary [MP3]

1 14 15 16 17 18