Elliott Smith-Esque Gem From Angelo De Augustine

Oh man, do I love a good quiet melancholic bedroom pop track. Maybe it’s the cold snap we’ve had here in Austin that draws me in so deeply to “Tomb,” but most likely it’s the fact that Angelo De Augustine just knows how to craft a solid tune. While I’ve been a longtime fan, he’s made a big wave in the indie rock world as of late for sharing a live version of his tune, “Time” with Sufjan Stevens’ help on piano. That’s a gorgeous tune, but it seems like he’s really outdone himself with this video for “Tomb,” as you can peek below. Augustine has these impossibly beautiful vocals that float in with a falsetto whisper. Couple that with brilliant songwriting (“You’ve been living your life from the outside / like a stranger inside of your own mind”) and you get the devastating, Elliott-Smith reminiscent, “Tomb.” Safe to say I’m very excited for the full-length this track is taken from. Pre-orderTombbefore its January 18th release date on Asthmatic Kitty.

 

Quiet Tune From Angelo De Augustine

Big news for LA’s Angelo De Augustine— he’s just signed to Asthmatic Kitty Records and released his first 7″. “Truly Gone” is exactly the kind of music you would expect to be on Sufjan Stevens’ record label. It’s a soft and delicate number, with whispery vocals that flow through the song like trees swaying in a gentle breeze. I’m reminded a bit of Elliott Smith here in the simplistic, yet moving, quality in the guitar and vocal combination. Check out Angelo De Augustine and add a little serenity to the afternoon.

You can pick up this limited edition 7″ here, and then look out for a full length coming this summer.

 

Festival Recap: Eaux Claires

oh clair bannerEau Claire, Wisconsin is a long ways a way from Austin, but not too far away in terms of mindset: here, we call our city the Live Music Capital of the world, and in the Eau Claire is the Music Capital of the North. Nestled in the Chippewa Valley and overlooking the the river, we were treated to three days in the woods with 22,000 of our newly formed friends celebrating music, arts, and the spirit of the river valley. At the center of it all was the man who dreamed up such a festival: Justin Vernon, who, alongside Aaron Dessner, brought all of us together in essentially his backyard to experience something greater.

Read on for our recap of the inaugural Eaux Claires Music and Arts Festival and see some pictures from the fest.

**Feature Photo Courtesy of Graham Tolbert

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Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

sufjan

Rating: ★★★★½

For years now Sufjan Stevens has been a household name, a staple when it comes to indie rock with both art and folk influences. While he has carved out his own space in terms of genre, defining himself with distinction, his sound has manifested itself in varying directions under the umbrella of his sound. Carrie & Lowell is a deeply personal retreat back into the quietest reaches of Sufjan Stevens‘ musical spectrum, one that enchants and charms with its elegant lyrics and gentle sound.

Nothing that Sufjan Stevens ever does musically is simple. After more than a decade of releases from this man it’s fairly easy to make this statement, but when you listen to this album, the effortlessness of the music is what is striking and powerfully emotional. Upon first listen, it’s sort of difficult to truly grasp just what you’ve got your hands on, as Stevens’ style is exceedingly graceful and smooth. Yes, it sounds lush and gorgeous, his whisper of a voice uttering euphonious lyrics atop often just one other musical element, be it the plucking of a guitar or a bouncing piano part; the sound is akin to that you would hear in a gentle lullaby. While the sound is soothing, it’s also deeply haunting, but this is the quality that you perhaps don’t truly and totally latch onto on your first go round.

But on your second or third pass through the album, or maybe even once you’ve reached the final track on Carrie & Lowell, you begin to feel exactly what Sufjan wants you to through his arrangements of indie folk. Tracks like “Should Have Known Better,” and “All of Me Wants All of You” are sing-songy, the lyrics are subtle but brilliant, giving you one liners that come across like poetry “I should have known better/ nothing can be changed/ the past is still the past/ the bridge to nowhere.” And then there are the deeply dark tracks like “Fourth Of July,” and “No Shade In The Shadow of The Cross.” The former of this pair is a gut-wrenching track in which Stevens traverses through memories of his fallen mother, uttering what sounds to be pet names amidst the other images of her last days. The latter is emotionally distressful and you can hear the desperation behind the lyrics: “I’ll drive that stake through the center of my heart,” or “fuck me, I’m falling apart.” Here he is, emotionally and musically raw, spilling his soul to you like he would the pages of his journal, but these things are brilliant and apt, reaching out to you through your headphones or from the speakers of your car or stereo.

There’s not a song on this album that you’ll ever want to skip: they all fit together like melancholy powerful puzzle pieces of Stevens’ life and childhood that he has retrospectively assembled to reveal he’s missing some vital pieces. Carrie & Lowell, as melancholy as it is, is a mighty work of art, one that I’ll be revisiting again and again.

 

St. Vincent – Strange Mercy

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Annie Clark has definitely been around the musical world a fair number of times for the short amount of time that her music has been in circulation. Granted, she was in several other bands before her debut as front-woman in St. Vincent, such as The Polyphonic Spree and backing for Mr. Sufjan Stevens. So it wasn’t a surprise when this lady took things by storm and it isn’t a surprise that this third release is just as savory as the previous two.

A clear standout track that you can pick up on first listen, or even before, is “Cruel,” a single from this album.  From the beginning, you have this creepy sweeping, lullaby-gone wrong trance-like sound, which then switches quickly to a down-right dance able tune, with psychedelic beat in tow. Clark’s vocals resound solidly through the whole song, switching between power and wispy, but nevertheless, pushing the song forward. The end result is a song that lends itself to almost the dance-pop genre, which is a bit of a surprising, darker twist for St. Vincent that is sure to have you bobbing your head and shaking yourself all over the place along to the buzzing guitar and the steady dance beat.

Something different on Strange Mercy that wasn’t so apparent on the last releases is the shift from innocence and the transition to darker, deeper tracks that aren’t afraid to pack a punch. “Cheerleader,” the third track, holds such intensity, as Clark asserts that she “don’t wanna be a cheerleader no more,” over and over again while resolute drum beats drill her vocals in like a hammer driving in nails. Clark is assertive and adopts a woman-in-charge flair whose presence can be felt all the way until the end of the album, especially on the very last song “Year of the Tiger,” in which the band builds to it’s explosively powerful ending. Meanwhile, Clark’s voice remains impeccable, holding you to listen like a super charged magnet until the gritty musical elements kick in towards the end, and the song switches from sweet to the prowl of a tigress.

Overall, it’s a pretty complete album; there is a range of various types of songs, all of which seem like different aspects of Clark’s soul, as her voice is the delightful motif that makes its way through all the tracks. While the elements that surround her vocals may change, what remains is a strong front woman who isn’t afraid to experiment with varying kinds of sound and you are bound to enjoy at least a few of these lovely songs.

John Vanderslice – White Wilderness

Rating: ★★★★ ·

It seems odd that John Vanderslice doesn’t get more praise all over the world.  He’s done great work as a producer, put out some pretty solid records, and collaborated with favorites like John Darnielle.  Yet he never seems to get the credit.   However, on White Wilderness, he should begin to get some recognition, not only for his work with the Magik Magik Orchestra, but as an incredible songwriter as well.

You have to love the fragility in John’s voice from the minute that “Sea Salt” takes off, perfectly matching the quiet piano tinkering in the background of the song.  It might be a subdued opening, but as the string arrangements join, the depth of the song really begins to take off.  But, it’s almost as if John’s an on-looker sitting beside the orchestra, never really letting the strings overwhelm his sound.

“Convict Lake” seems to have a brighter side to it, as the horns and female vocal accompaniment definitely create one of the shiniest moments on White Wilderness.  What will stick out to listeners, however, is how well the lush orchestration fits in perfectly with Vanderslice’s songs.  He breaks into chorus at just the right time, and even lets his voice falter just a bit, evoking strong emotions from listeners. Surely one can appreciate his work as he goes quiet, then loud, then grows quiet, almost to a cool whisper, begging you to listen to his storytelling.

Perhaps for some, though, the album might be a bit tedious to work through.  Orchestrated moments left and right will definitely call a less self-indulgent Sufjan Stevens, but that’s a lot to endure for many listeners.  “The Piano Lesson” is one such song, where everything doesn’t quite fit together, as it has throughout the whole of White Wilderness.  It’s one of the few times where even John’s restraint doesn’t seem to give justice to the song living beneath the Magik Magik Orchestra.  But, bold artistic moves are made to divide us, and perhaps my subjectivity is getting in the way here.

John Vanderslice‘s bread and butter are those songs when he holds the orchestra back, as stated earlier.  “After It Ends,” though one of the shortest numbers on the record, is precisely the type of song that really should render the man a household name for music fans.  His gentle vocals and light guitar strumming provide the listener with the intimate moments we always yearn for from our greatest songwriters.  Even those songs like “Alemany Gap” where there’s light arrangements in the background allow Vanderslice to break on through with his love for melody.  Those enjoying this style of song will also adore “English Vines,” which is perhaps my favorite track of the entire album.  Light strings in the background, a little woodwind action and a softly strummed guitar.

All said and done, White Wilderness is a bold statement by a songwriter who hasn’t really gotten the praise he deserves.  He might have set out on such a large undertaking to finally make his name known.  Every track is worthy of repeated listens, some more so than others.  It’s time we gave John Vanderslice his acclaim because this record shows that he deserves every bit of it, if not more.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/01-Sea-Salt-1.mp3]

Download: John Vanderslice – Sea Salt [MP3]

FT5: My Most Divisive Bands

It’s interesting being a huge music fan. You come across bands that you absolutely adore, and you rush to make mixes for your friends who ultimately decide that they hate the one song you were most excited for them to fall in love with when you made it.  I started thumbing through my catalog and the Internet, diligently searching for the bands in my collection that I love, but I feel people hate; I also looked at bands on the net I know people love, but I hate.  Here’s my list of the Top 5.

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Daniel Martin Moore – In The Cool of the Day

Rating: ★★★ · ·

When Sub Pop sent out the press release, they told of a man possessed by a Steinway inside a Cincinnati radio station.  If this is possession, perhaps we shouldn’t be so inclined to shy away from such things because this new record from Daniel Martin Moore, In the Cool of the Day, is quite beautiful–perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea, but you can see the genius clearly.

Honestly, writing gospel songs for those outside the gospel seems a bit odd to me, but the entirety of In the Cool of the Day has Moore reinventing classics he heard growing up, or going it on his own. For instance, “Dark Road” definitely has that swing in the step you would envision being sung in some Southern Baptist  church. The string instruments definitely provide that bluegrass feeling at the same time, so you get a bit of both life in church and outside.

He’s got some funky elements thrown in, demonstrating that Moore is out to illustrate his talent as a compser/songwriter.  “In the Garden” has some light hi-hat, and that walking bass line that many will immediately associate with jazz.  But, Daniel has this angelic voice, and his control over pitch and tone really allows him to pull some honest emotions out of listeners. However, it’s his numbers when he sounds more like the elemental folk musician from Kentucky that really piqued my interest.

For instance, you can take “Up Above My Head,” and apply it to more modern artists such as Mason Jennings, though this definitely doesn’t have that humorous pep Jennings carries.  It’s got a funky little groove that sort of pushes it on, yet there’s a definite pop feel to the way Daniel Martin Moore sings the vocal that takes it beyond a mere gospel song.  It even has a bit of a banjo/guitar breakdown near the end.  These things don’t really apply to church tracks, the ones I know, at least.  The title track, “In the Cool of the Day,” also goes beyond church, although it relies predominantly on the piano backbone to elevate the solemn melody.  Still, Moore uses his voice as a tool to take the track somewhere else, almost like Sufjan Stevens

Personally, “It Is Well With My Soul” hits a note for me, and that’s probably because it’s the most recognizable gospel track that I know of, as I haven’t been much of a church goer in some time. Perhaps I can envision myself singinig this at some campfire, with my father playing his guitar, trying to get the family involved.  This is pretty much the way a lot of people will feel about In the Cool of the Day. You take a religious background, even a mild exposure, and you elaborate, almost pushing the spirit out of the church doors and into the rest of the world. This is precisely what Daniel Martin Moore has done, and while I may not be your favorite listen this year, it’s assuredly worth several spins around the record player.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/dmm.mp3]

Download: Daniel Martin Moore – Dark Road [MP3]

Show Preview: Sufjan Stevens @ Long Center (10/19)

Date 10/19/10
Location The Long Center
Doors 7pm
Tickets Sold Out

How many of you have been eagerly awaiting this Sufjan Stevens show at the Long Center to finally arrive?  I know I’ve been looking forward to it for quite some time and I’m pumped that Tuesday is finally the day.  Unfortunately this bad boy is sold out so I hope you bought some tickets ahead of time.  I believe that Sufjan labelmate DM Stith will be opening things up for the night.  You can also check out his new single “Too Much” below or stream his entire new The Adge of Adz album on his bandcamp site.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/02-Too-Much-1.mp3]

Download: Sufjan Stevens – Too Much [MP3]

New Sufjan Stevens EP Online Now

The interwebs is going crazy today with news of a brand friggin’ new EP from songwriting great Sufjan Stevens.  The EP, All Delighted People, features 8 new tracks and can be streamed for free on the Sufjan Stevens bandcamp site.  Stevens is using the new material to promote his upcoming fall tour which sees a stop at The Long Center in Austin on October 19th.  Tickets are currently on sale for that date and are running at $35.  Take a listen to the EP and feel free to share your thoughts.

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