FT5: Ted Leo Albums – An ACL Preview

Are you ready for Austin City Limits Festival?  Well, we certainly are, and we’re working with the fine folks at the festival to guarantee that you’re filled in on all the great sights and sounds coming our way.  We’re bringing you an introduction, to those who don’t know him, to Ted Leo, one of my personal favorites, and admittedly, my man-crush of many years.  I’ve seen him solo, in the club and at a festival, and he never fails to win me over.  So, I’ve decided to rank his 5 albums, excluding his work with Chisel, so if you’re a newcomer, you’ll know where to start, and if you’re not, then you can throw out your two cents to make your case. Be sure to follow ACL Festival for more updates on great bands, and we’ll do our part to keep you updated as well.

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Ted Leo @ Emos (3/31)

Date Wednesday, March 31st
Location Emos
Doors 900 pm
Tickets $15  @ TicketWeb

In case you didn’t know how much we loved Ted Leo, you haven’t read our latest review of his album The Brutalist Bricks! So many people love Ted’s live show that they had to move it from The Parish over to Emos.  This is one of those shows that you will certainly be sorry you missed, as Ted always guarantees a great live show; it’s just the way the guy rolls. He’ll be taking the stage with Screaming Females and Sally Crewe & the Sudden Moves.  Make sure to show your support of one of the great American songwriters. Period.

Ted will also be playing at End of an Ear @4 PM. 

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/01-The-Mighty-Sparrow.mp3]

Download: Ted Leo – The Mighty Sparrow [MP3]


Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – The Brutalist Bricks

Rating: ★★★★½

Ted Leo has been around long enough to have amassed a great deal of influences and personal touches on his musical repertoire.  Throughout the years he’s tried hard to squeeze all those influences into one cohesive album, to varying results.  Finally, The Brutalist Bricks sees Ted meeting expectations, combining influences and flair to create one of his best records to date.

His voice opens the album on “The Mighty Sparrow” with his trademark yelp meets croon.  You’ll notice that ringing guitar in your ear just before the drums kick into the song.  But, like the perfect Ted song, he slows it down in the middle just before a solid drums solo.  It’s this kind of classic songwriting that makes his music seem so refreshing and enjoyable listen after listen.

Then the group kicks it up a notch with “Mourning in America.”  Here is the hard-hitting song that began to surface on Living with the Living, but instead of a non-stop barrage of fury, he tones it down around the 2 minute mark.  Somehow, the rockers on this album seem so much more refined, as if he found the perfect recipe for his creations.

You’ll find yourself already involved in the album by the time you reach the one-two punch that is “Ativan Eyes” and “Even Heroes Have to Die.”  It’s the way that he strikes the chords that grabs at you emotionally in “Ativan Eyes,” but the vocal performance near the end grabs you when he strains to push his notes a bit higher.  The latter number is one of the catchiest tunes Ted has written, yet you’ll find it hard to figure out precisely why this is such an incredible song.  It seems like any other song he’s done, until you hit that ridiculously poppy hook in the chorus.  Some might say that this is a radio-friendly song, but the way he mutes his picking just prior to the “ooooooh, oh well” moment that is the hook makes it distinctively Ted.

Even when you hit the seemingly highest point, a place where Leo has occasionally fallen off in the past, The Brutalist Bricks continues to deliver great moment after great moment.  “Bottled in Cork” begins with a riotous fury of guitar and commentary of the political sort, but he pulls back and throws in an acoustic moment talking about “the path of least resistance” that carries until the end.  He mixes it up further with “One Polaroid a Day,” which is sort of a groovy number fueled by his “chugga-chugga” guitar rocking out (there might even be some sort of harmonics in the background) prior to a mini-solo, then going back into the groove.

Be sure not to miss “Bartolomeo and the Buzzing of Bees.”  For me, a long time fan, this is probably one of my favorite tracks.  The throbbing bass lines provide the backbone, which gives Ted the freedom to maneuver his guitar back and forth throughout the song.  This time he seems to relish in some negative space, filling it with feedback, but his vocals feel so warm here, that you just have to fall in love with Ted all over again (if you ever stopped).

And then there is the swan song, “Last Days.”  It’s the perfect closing statement for The Brutalist Bricks. It encapsulates everything about this record, and about Ted Leo.  It’s got that twangy guitar sound that is all things Ted, but there are some eruptive blasts throughout, both vocally and musically.  It shows you that he finally found the formula that allows him to put the tenacity and vigor of his live shows into his music without going too far on record.  It makes for a perfect personal statement for Ted Leo and should push the band further into the hearts of listeners.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Ted-Leo-Even-Heroes-Have-to-Die.mp3]

Download: Ted Leo – Even Heroes Have to Die [MP3]

New Tunes from Ted Leo

57540037AJ001_Breaking_the_Everyone’s all over this album lately, especially with the release of the second web single for Ted Leo.  As we prepare for his new album, The Brutalist Bricks, we’ve got a few thoughts to share.  Writer RayRay says it’s his favorite album of the year so far.  Personally, after years of adoring Ted, I think this is finally the album that combines his traditional pub rock leanings with his energetic stage presence.  It’s everything you always wanted a Ted Leo record to be, and you, too, can get your hands on it March 9th via Matador Records. So here’s that new tune, the album’s opening track “The Mighty Sparrow.”

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/01-The-Mighty-Sparrow.mp3]

Download: Ted Leo – The Mighty Sparrow [MP3]

New Tunes from Ted Leo

Ted Leo hotHow I love thee Ted Leo.  Luckily for me, and all you like-minded fans, Ted Leo will be bringing us a new album on March 9th titled The Brutalist Bricks, his first album for Matador Records.  We’ve gotten to hear the new single, and it’s everything you’d expect from a Leo-penned tune.  The man’s no stranger to power-pop, nor classic pub-rock, and you’ll find hints of each in the workings of this new tune.  Hope you dig it like I do.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Ted-Leo-Even-Heroes-Have-to-Die.mp3]

Download: Ted Leo – Even Heroes Have to Die [MP3]