The Helio Sequence – Negotiations

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Oregon duo The Helio Sequence are over a decade into their career, carefully crafting intimate tunes that seem to be enduring in most people’s record collection, and hearts as well.  On their fifth full length, Negotiations, there are some stunningly brilliant moments of pop, though their intimate approach often heads in only one direction, which may (or may not) wear down listeners come the end of the record.

Coming out of the gate, The Helio Sequence clearly have lofty intentions.  “One More Time” has a vocal that rises almost immediately after its introduction, but a slight change in the pitch provides a different direction.  All the while, the guitar rings in the far background of the song, and the drums provide a perfect pace.  Negotiations continues to climb higher towards perfection with “October,” utilizing a soft vocal introduction, before it playfully turns you on your ear with the “go go go, if you wanna go” refrain.  Each time I listen to this track, I swear it continues to warm me, making it one of my favorite tracks from the duo.  But, while the opening segment is rock solid, it peaks out here, unfortunately.

There’s definitely a noisier approach to the duo’s craftsmanship as the record proceeds, using bits of feedback on tracks like “When the Shadow Falls” or a heavier bit of emotion on “Hall of Mirrors.”  Both songs are interesting to a certain extent, but their power is diminished by the album’s opening moments, which will still remain in most listeners heads.  Perhaps it’s not the most apropos conversation to have, but I feel like the rehearsal or studio time falls short on the latter half; it just doesn’t quite fit with the beautiful moments that came in early on Negotiations.

Yet, despite some mild pitfalls, there’s also an interesting mix of more traditional folk-influenced tunes that one could consider winning efforts, such as “Harvester of Souls” or “December.”  The former track is definitely a quieter track, mostly revolving around vocals and carefully picked guitar, with hints of atmospheric accompaniment use to provide depth.  On the latter of the two songs, the band tries to remain quiet to a certain extent, but they can’t seem to escape the formulaic approach that seeps through your stereos as you listen to The Helio Sequence.

I’m not going to lie; I quite like this record.  It comes to me at the perfect time of the year, with a slight change in the weather, and a slight change in what I plan on listening to during my days.  That being said, the more I listen to Negotiations, the more it has a tendency to blend into the background as I play it from start to finish.  You’ll find exceptional highs, especially near the beginning, and you’ll find some that fall short, but it’s very much a record by The Helio Sequence in sound and scope; I think that’s just enough to please the fans of the group.


Download:The Helio Sequence – Hall of Mirrors [MP3]

Negotiations is out now via Sub Pop.

Poor Moon – s/t

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Side project of two members of Fleet Foxes or not, Poor Moon is essentially the child of Christian Wargo, bassist/vocalist for the aforementioned band. For years, Wargo wrote and recorded songs on his own before he decided to bring along Casey Wescott, as well as Ian and Peter Murray to help bring his bank of demos and songs to fruition. Thus was born Poor Moon—a band to adapt a collection of songs into a collective album.

Naturally, with musicians from such a well-known band in the folksy/indie scene, people will be drawn to Poor Moon for its ties, but those who come looking for the vast dependency on warm harmonies and big, swelling folk sounds will have to keep on looking, because for the most part, this effort showcases folk sound on a smaller, minimalist scale. Take the first song “Clouds Below” for example, begins with some gentle guitar plucking and the soft vocals of Wargo, which meander in coolly, harmonizing with the impossibly higher backing vocal to create a serene and simple opener. This sets the tone for the album, alluding to signs of a peaceful, folksy sound.

But, the band picks it up a bit from where they leave you after “Clouds Below” especially on the third track “Same Way,” where things get groovy. One of the strongest on the album, the song employs some opening ‘ooh’s’ and is backed by strong melodic xylophonic sound as well as big echoing drums that fill the previously empty background of the song. There is a quite an enjoyable breakdown towards the end of the song that is just long enough to give you a taste of the musical ability of the members of this band and it makes you desire a bit more depth from the songs of Poor Moon. Through the rest of the album, you listen for little pieces of this depth that the band demonstrated on this song, but sadly they are in short supply. It isn’t the lengthy and full storytelling and serene folk album that feels right for the genre and it comes across as a group of songs that were forced to sound similar, as opposed to the authentic and natural production of an album.

Most of the songs are relatively short for folk numbers that are reaching to be meaningful and impress a feeling upon their listeners, which leads me to my biggest complaint about this album; there just isn’t enough on here to really make an impression on those who take a listen the first way through. With repeated listens, it’s possible to grasp and really hold on to the music that has been so meticulously laid out for its audience.

New Tune From Daughn Gibson

I know many of you have already heard this track over the last couple of days on other sites, so I’ll go ahead and apologize for being a little late to the game.  That aside, something about this electronica/country/deep vocals movement going on by Daughn Gibson is extremely interesting to me at the moment.  It just seems more creative than your everyday electronica band and the unique vocals really add a nice touch to each track.  This new song below “Reach Into The Fire” is a single of sorts hoping to drum up some positive press for Daughn’s recent signing to Sup Pop Records.  A brand new album, to follow up his underrated solo debut All Hell from earlier this year, is said to be available sometime next year on his new label.

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More New Music From The Helio Sequence

Last month we heard a new single from The Helio Sequence called “October” and I know the entire ATH crew was pumped to hear the band was back into action.  Today the band is offering another new song called “Hall of Mirrors” up for free download and it’s getting us even more amped up for the upcoming album.  As previously mentioned, Helio Sequence have a new album coming out entitled Negotiations which is available on September 11th via Sub Pop.


Download: The Helio Sequence – Hall of Mirrors [MP3]

More Mellow Music From Poor Moon

Towards the beginning of summer, Nate shared with you guys a sweet little tune called “Holiday” from recent Sub Pop acquisition Poor Moon.  Today we have another new song entitled “Birds” from the band’s upcoming self-titled debut LP out August 28th.  Nathan compared them to Jens Lekman last time, and I totally see that here and throughout the upcoming release from the band.  I also see a little bit of ATH favorite band Crayon Fields in there somewhere and you know we’ve got to love that.


Download: Poor Moon – Birds [MP3]

Brand New Dum Dum Girls

This track’s been all over the Internet today, and deservedly so.  Dum Dum Girls always seem to have something going on, be it a tour, an EP or a full-length album.  You’ll find this track on the group’s upcoming End of Daze EP, which will be in stores courtesy of Sub Pop on September 25th.  Of course, it’s one of those drawn out tunes the band has been working towards for some time, and I love the light little touches of backing vocals that come in about midway through the track. You’ve got to love the consistency from these ladies.


Download: Dum Dum Girls – Lord Knows [MP3]

Show Preview: Jaill @ Trailer Space Records (8/1)

Date Wednesday, August 1st
Location Trailer Space Records
Doors 700 pm
Tickets FREE (Donations Encouraged

The end of the week here in Austin is jam packed with killer shows, so you better start your night off the right way with a free show over at Trailer Space Records.  As always, it’s BYOB, with donations encouraged to help out the bands.  You’ll get to see Jaill, who just released the excellent Traps on Sub Pop, so there’s some solid pedigree (they’ll also play the following night at Red 7).  You can also catch The Coathangers, who just released a solid 7″ with Suicide Squeeze for the singles club, plus opening the night is Austin’s own John Wesley Coleman.  It’s free, it’s early, and you can buy records. No excuse not to see it.


Download:Jaill – Waste A Lot Of Things [MP3]


Brand New Beauty from The Helio Sequence

There are some bands who you wonder how they’ve remained in obscurity for so long.  I know it’s been four years since The Helio Sequence last released Keep Your Eyes Ahead, but even still, that record is super solid. And now, with the band set to release Negotiations on September 11th via Sub Pop Records, you expect big things, even if no one else does.  Listening to this track, it has the marks of the current indie climate, capturing both beauty and melody simultaneously, while still maintaining the intimacy I’ve always appreciated about the group.  If there was one band more people need to love, it’s this one.  Listen in to see if you don’t agree.


Download:The Helio Sequence – October [MP3]

Jaill – Traps

Rating: ★★★½☆

It’s quite interesting to see the progression of modern indie rock, noticing that many bands are going back to classic rock n’ roll sounds to win over fans.  Milwaukee’s Jaill are one such band, and their second effort for Sub Pop, Traps, sees them getting close to perfecting the formula.  There’s bits of classic rock, elements of psych, drunken swagger, and hints of recording in your garage; now seems like the perfect time for the band.

“Waste a Lot of Things” kicks the record off, and it’s here where I first noticed that Jaill opted to hold back a little bit on this new release, which actually works in their favor.  There’s a steadier pacing to the track, rather than more immediate tracks from That’s How We Burn. It ends up as a stomping track with crashing cymbals that reveals itself as you draw near the end.  Even with “Everyone’s A Bitch,” you get the feeling like the band could possibly blast this one off, but while holding back on the song’s speed, they’ve allowed for the hooks to grow stronger.  It’s very anthemic in it’s construction, even featuring in “ooohs” in the chorus; you gotta love it.

Traps won me over with less urgency and songs that resemble more of a ballad.  “Horrible Things (Make Pretty Songs)” says all that it needs to in the title of the track.  It features a strummed guitar, and even some female vocals harmonizing in the background; I don’t feel like these sorts of songs would have survived on That’s How We Burn.  “Madness” is another such song, which feels very much like a campfire song that was created in someone’s basement–I mean this in a truly endearing way, I swear. Light touches of keyboard and tambourine bring the rest of the track to life for the listener.

But, just because mellow tracks live here, this doesn’t mean Jaill still can’t throw out a rocker for you, even if it’s just a touch less furious than it was before.  “Ten Teardrops” lurks near the end of the record, hanging out behind some softer tunes, but it’s definitely a jam.  You’ll find jagged-edged guitars feuding with classic rock tendencies, giving the whole track a country-fied power-pop feel to it.  Bit of this sort lay all over the record, but aside from the earliest tracks, this is the most rocking in the latter half of the album.

Now, I’ll admit being taken aback when I first listened to Traps, as I was expecting something a little bit different.  That being said, after a couple of listens all the way through, my musical mind made the adjustment, and I think I ended up enjoying the record as a whole a bit more than their first release.  It’s progression, and it’s good; that and that alone is a reason for you to pick up this new Jaill album.


Download:Jaill – Waste A Lot Of Things [MP3]

KIng Tuff – King Tuff

Rating: ★★★½☆

In the brief bio on Sub Pop‘s web page for King Tuff, and his new self-titled album, it alludes to the fact that the entirety of the record is just rock n’ roll and that you can’t really listen to it with critical ears.  For what it’s worth, the bio is pretty spot on, as King Tuff is something you’re just going to have to experience for yourself.  But, I’ll do my best to point out some highlights.

While “Anthem” is the official song to kick off the record, the best served song to begin your listening experience might be “Alone & Stoned;” it’s a bit on the poppier side, which could ease you into the listening experience.  King Tuff‘s vocals have a slight resemblance to Nobunny or Hunx, and his musical style is definitely similar, though this track does show you a nice bit of polish–though there’s still that element of playfulness.  That light-hearted attitude is something that definitely benefits the record, coming through on other songs like “Keep Movin” and “Baby Just Break.”

But, while KT can come across as setting out to have fun, he’s also got a penchant to infuse a bit of traditional garage rock into his tunes, just as he does on the album’s standout track, “Bad Thing.”  It’s fueled with guitar solos and an angrier moment that’s not present anywhere else on the record.  Personally, I dig the way the he slows the chorus down just a bit before blasting off into “I’m a bad thing” one last time.  It’s the hit single for sure, but stick around as this thing is full of other noteworthy tracks.

There’s softer ballad-ish moment lurking here and there, such as “Swamp of Love.”  It’s built around a strummed guitar and a piano backbone, but it illustrates that King Tuff might not be as tough as the name indicates.  He’s got other moments that come earlier, although possibly too short to be completed ballads, like “Baby Just Break.”  I think these are the tracks that standout the most to me, as I expected the whole record to have an certain amount of ferocity like “Bad Thing,” but aside from album closer “Hit and Run” there’s really nothing that’s just a straight out rocker.  Personally, it fits better this way; you get peaks and valleys on the journey, all with different bits of enjoyment, depending on the listener and what he/she is looking for in King Tuff. 

While it may not need critical ears to listen to this self-titled record, most of the audience will surely find it successful because of its ability to keep you from finding the songs stale.  You can get a quick rocker or a ballad; you can find hints of garage rock; you basically can find gem after gem waiting for your own personal discovery, so it’s probably best to get on it now–go pick up this album from King Tuff.


Download:King Tuff – Bad Thing [MP3]

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