Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear

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Rating: ★★★★ ·

Josh Tillman, or rather Father John Misty, has garnered a notorious reputation over the years, and this reputation has only grown as of recent—there’s no point in denying that. Whether it was launching his faux-stripped of artistry-midi version of this album, or performing new tracks around New York City with a karaoke machine, he’s developed a sarcastic and cynical side to his infamous hip shaking and suave performance style. I Love You, Honeybear is the musical counterpart to this performative transformation, and our reaction mirrors that of our reaction to his publicity shenanigan; that is to say we are simultaneously with and against Father John Misty in his battle with sincerity versus cynicism in the 21st century.

It was the best of times, it was the not so best of times: the tracks on here range a great deal in their merit as they traverse the genre of pop folk with hyper clear production. In some of the numbers on here, Father John Misty’s lyrics are apt and brilliant, describing the perilous plight he faces with quick quips and with colloquially deep storytelling. These lyrics, the heart of the album, are often accompanied by sweeping musical arrangements that will make your skin crawl with goosebumps. The strings are often the perfect counterpart to his words, demonstrating his talent for creating drama and emotionally moving pop music.

But on a few tracks on this album, things don’t quite add together as eloquently and neatly as the rest of I Love You, Honeybear. Particularly numbers like “True Affection,” or “The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apartment” seem to be flattened by the production, the very soul of the music stamped out by the desire to maintain an ironical distance between artist and substance.

These, of course, are overwhelmingly overpowered by those completely wonderful songs, of which I could go on about for days. There’s each of the singles that we were tantalized with before the rest of the songs were revealed, like hitting-the-nail-on-the-head “Bored In The USA,” or the title track, which comes equipped with lines like “The future can’t be real/ I barely know how long a moment is/ unless we’re naked, getting high.” Then you have some completely surprise numbers that take you by storm. “Ideal Husband,” is the most rambunctious tune you’ll find on the album, with a full on melt down from our fearless blasé leader. But Father John is at his best with “Holy Shit,” which feels stripped and sincere, as he weighs love with a long list of the things that make up our own absurd reality: “Oh and no one ever knows the real you and life is brief/ So I’ve heard, but what’s that gotta do with this atom bomb and me?” It is the moments like this number that make me want to give this album 5 stars.

On first listen of this album, I was completely enamored with what Father John Misty had crafted, and with good reason: musically, it’s easy on the ears with its lush and gorgeous sound. However, after several rounds through, some of the tracks simply don’t have the same amount of sweeping power that the majority of the tracks do. Perhaps these other songs’ staying enchantment will kick in over time, but for now I Love You, Honeybear is a rather valiant effort at depicting love in our modern times in which the highs outweigh the lows.

 

Sleater-Kinney Are Back, Y’all

sleaterWhile the Internet has been all a twitter over the box set reissue that has been put on sale from Sub Pop, Sleater-Kinney, of late 90’s girl group fame, have announced that they are back with a new single and a new record, No Cities To Love. The group broke up back in 2006, but they’ve decided to give the gritty emo badass rock another go. You probably know one member, Carrie Brownstein, from her role as producer/star/all-around-funny-lady in Portlandia, or even her work in her other band, Wild Flag that also featured Janet Weiss from the S-K lineup.  Have a listen to the new track and follow along with the words here, and get ready for the new album to be released January 20th of next year. You can also download the track for free with an email address on the band’s website.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Sleater-Kinney-Bury-Our-Friends.mp3]

Download: Sleater Kinney – Bury Our Friends [MP3]

Holopaw – Oh, Glory. Oh, Wilderness.

holopaw-oh-glory-oh-wilderness

Rating: ★★★ · ·

Holopaw had a decent output back in their days on Subpop, but they had been quiet for the better part of the last four years.  That is until Bakery Outlet released news that they would put out Oh, Glory. Oh, Wilderness.  And, despite that singer John Orth has ties with Mr. Brock from Modest Mouse, you can’t really feel the odd signatures and multi-instrumental moments that he threw into the completion of the Ugly Cassanova album.  It’s much more of a mainstream approach, but by that, perhaps it just means it’s more straightforward than what one would expect.

When “The Art Teacher and the Little Stallion” first burst onto the Internet, there was something really casual about the vocal delivery.  It seemed like a band that was comfortable in what they were creating, and that, for me, was quite refreshing.  It was just a simple guitar driven song, nothing special about it, but nothing one would consider mundane.

For the most part, the album doesn’t do too much else to steer you away from that understanding.  “Boys on Motorbikes” has a strange feeling of 90s radio meeting with vocals of someone like Bazan or Enigk or even one of the Kinsella brothers.  Something in the vocal just seems to pull at that emotional level just enough to differentiate itself, but not so much to where you will forever remember the vocals.

A special moment does appear on “Cherry Glow,” the album’s fourth track.  Strummed guitar serves as the primary background for Orth’s voice, and then it slowly builds towards a quickening of the pace.  And as the lead guitar takes over, you’re reminded that you’ve found a song; the female backing vocals cooing in the background don’t hurt too much either.  Similarly, “The Last Transmission” is perfect as a single instrument strong.  Sure, the flourishes in the background from the slide guitar aren’t really going to hurt anyone, but by itself, you can really get pulled into the song itself.  All this can probably be placed at the foot of Holopaw‘s history, as they were forced into a duo years ago, only to pick back up as a group very recently.  

The group aesthetic is all well and good, but some of the songs, such as “Little Stallion with a Glass Jaw” sometimes seem a bit overdone by having the full band presence.  This is what makes Oh, Glory. Oh Wilderness. a good album as opposed to a moderately great one.  Intimate moments across the album are perfect and rewaring, but occasionally, you just seem to get stuck in the middle of the album.  Alas, they’ve just reformed a proper band, so the future for Holopaw could be very bright.

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

Download: Holopaw – The Art Teacher and the Little Stallion [MP3]

07/02 Fleet Foxes Show @ Mohawk

Do you believe the hype? I’m not sure the band even believes the hype coming their way: “How are so many people here?” Believe it or not, Fleet Foxes played to a sold out crowd at Mohawk in Austin last Wednesday night and I can’t say I recall anyone selling out the Mohawk recently. The band’s name has recently spread like wildfire across the internet and music world, giving them a whole mess of new fans as evidenced by the mass of people at Mohawk.

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New Music from CSS

If you haven’t heard by now Cansei de ser sexy, known to most as CSS, have made a few songs off their new album Donkey available for download and stream on their myspace page. The myspace page has one new song and also a sampler of tracks from the new album out July 21st on subpop. Below you will find the new song “Rat is Dead (Rage)” which is not available on the myspace page. I’m not sure if this song will land them another hot spot on the ipod commercials, but it’s pretty catchy none the less.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/01-rat-is-dead-rage.mp3]

Download: ratisdeadrage.mp3