Top 50 Albums of 2016

top50You’ve all been waiting, anxiously. Waiting for our arbitrary list of the opinion of four folks who run this site, and what we think were the best albums of 2016. It’s really really important. We’re going to make our site great again with this list. We’re going to win, bigly. But really, it’s just a list of the stuff we loved the most that we covered throughout this year on our site. The comment section is open, so feel free to tell us where we’ve gone wrong or what we’ve got right or anything else fitting. Read more

Stream the New Single from DA Stern

daWhen I first pressed play on this track, I immediately thought of Joey Ramone’s voice, which took me to a happy place. Something in the opening with the guitar reminds me of “I Want You Around,” but then it turns into a more calming take on Teenage Fanclub. Take those two things into play, and you’ve got a really great pop tune that rings in your speakers loud enough to make you feel alive. DA Stern will release his new album, Aloha Hola, on January 20th of next year via Twosyllable Records, so be on the lookout for huge riffs and good melodies.

Obligatory Teenage Fanclub Post

teenagefanclubWell, you had to know this was coming, and you had to know I was going to be the one to remind you about this new Teenage Fanclub tune. It just popped up yesterday, offering that classic TF sound, bringing heavy distorted guitars into a melodious zone while the vocals carry your heart home. I’ve listened to their new album Here quite a bit lately, and I think anyone remotely interested in the finer side of guitar pop will want to get their hands on it; it’s available via Merge on September 9th.

Rejoice! New Teenage Fanclub

teenagefanclubSome bands never get old. Album after album, you devour the songs, put them on playlists and share with all your friends. For me, one of the bands I always go back to is Teenage Fanclub, and they’ve just announced their newest album in their long running career. It’s exactly what you’d expect, filled with careful power chords and great vocal melodies that carry warmth to listener’s ears. And of course, it’s a love song, but with lines like “there is pain in this world/I can see it in your eyes,” they show that their subject matter is as timeless as their songs. Look for the new effort, Here, on September 9th via Merge Records.

Blasting Rock from Frail

12472803_1674740646109481_2095567835399816333_nTell your ears to hold on, the distortion level runs high with Frail. But, that being said you’re likely to fall in love with the band’s blend of melody and heavy riffs. There’s some resemblance to Teenage Fanclub (or Growl if you’re in Austin), though these guys play a bit louder, and perhaps a bit more youthful. Sounds like they just want to turn their guitars up as loud as possible and invite you have a bit of fun with them. This tune appears on the band’s forthcoming debut EP, which will be released on May 13th via Fleeting Youth Records.

New Music from Warm Brains

1421044_585658611487612_1302266135_oIt’s great watching little labels grow and blossom, and I’m continually impressed by the work of the guys over at Art Is Hard Records.  They up-the-ante on their subscription every year, and with that hard work, have afforded more time and finances to put out other works, such as this new piece from Warm Brains.  I can’t help but to hear little bits of Brit Pop lurking within the track, though it seems much more modern than that.  I guess you can say it’s a more angular version of what I hear when I listen to Teenage Fanclub.  The EP is titled Happy Accidents, and they’ll be releasing it on December 16th to wrap up a great year.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Warm-Brains-Happy-Accidents.mp3]

Download: Warm Brains – Happy Accidents [MP3]

New Music from Lightships

It’s been a solid year so far for Gerrad Love, having released his latest Lighsthips album, Electric Cables, earlier this year to great fan fare.  But, that’s what you’d expect from a member of Teenage Fanclub, at least what I expect.  He’s back already with some brand new tunes featured on the Fear and Doubt EP, which includes three tracks that didn’t make it on the album, including this new gem. Love just floats in with his vocals here, letting them playfully rest atop the track, while the instrumentation is steady, yet chilled out.  Can’t say enough good things about this dude and the tunes he’s writing in 2012.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/01-Fear-and-Doubt.mp3]

New Pop Number from Pale Sunday

It’s already been a great year for our friends over at Matinee Recordings, having released the new Cats on Fire and several great EPs.  And they’re at it again with a new EP from Brazil’s Pale Sunday.  The title for the release is The Fake Stories About You and Me, and you can grab it from the label right now.  Gentle pop music seems to be the group’s specialty, and you can see similarities to the great Teenage Fanclub, but personally I think that things on this listen are a lot softer–in an endearing way of course.  Find yourself falling in love with this new track…it’s easy to do.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Happy.mp3]

Download:Pale Sunday – Happy (When You Lived Here)  [MP3]

Beautiful Pop from Lightships (Gerard of Teenage Fanclub)

If you’re a fan of 90s indie pop/rock, what have you, then you’re surely geeking out already about Lightships, the new project from Gerard Love of Teenage Fanclub.  The line-up includes members from TF (past and present) as well as Belle and Sebastian and the Pastels; that alone is enough to make anyone swoon.  Lightships will be releasing Electric Cables on April 2nd, but they just dropped off this wonderful new single this week. It’s exactly what I expected it to sound like: beautiful.  I cannot wait to get my hands on this one.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/03-Sweetness-In-Her-Spark_Sweetness-In-Her-Spank.mp3]

 

Big Troubles – Romantic Comedy

Rating: ★★★ · ·

What happens if you remove a bit of fuzz in the production process?  You get a breezy pop gem like Romantic Comedy.  It’s the second record from Big Troubles, and their first from Slumberland Records.  All those looking for a brighter vocal sound, but with the same general feel as the group’s first outing, will certainly be pleased.

You can definitely hear the polish in opening track, “She Smiles for Pictures,” as the guitars have sort of an angular bounce. Vocally, there’s a nice bit of soft comfort in the delivery, sort of like what you’d expect an American Teenage Fanclub to sound like.  But, it’s the next track that will force you to stand on one side of the track or the other.

“Misery,” for all intents and purposes is Pains of Being Pure Heart lite.  Get rid of the scuzz from the aforementioned band’s debut, and you’ve got little gem.  However, I like the fact that the vocals are so clean and clear; it’s something you don’t normally associate with a PoBPaH record, so for me it wins.  Yet, I can see it being derivative, but weren’t the Pains originally the same thing? Perhaps some people grow up faster.  “Sad Girls” is similar here, providing a hint of soft-bit swagger, but the vocals during the chorus are what allow the band to differentiate themselves, sounding much different than the nearest comparison.

Personally, I really like the straight pop gems, such as “Softer Than Science,” which has a bit of the Lucksmiths sense of melody.  There’s a pounding bit of drum work, and the guitars are definitely sharpened.  But, there’s a nice bit of restraint in this number, letting the band focus on their harmonies.  It’s a song that contradicts its successor, “Time Bomb,” the closest track you could call a straight ahead rocker.  The noisy solo in the end definitely reminds you of those 90s guitar moments we’ve all come to treasure.

Yet, Big Troubles faces sort of a problem in the long run.  Romantic Comedy, while definitely enjoyable, wears down listeners quiet quickly.  You’ll likely go from really enjoying the whole record, then the magic begins to fade a bit.  It’s not entirely their fault, as we’ve just been bogged down with so many like-minded records in the last few years.  In order for you to be the best, you’ve got to rise above the rest, and I’m just not entirely convinced the band accomplished that feat.  Still, a good listen from start to finish.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Big-Troubles-Misery.mp3]

Download: Big Troubles – Misery [MP3]

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