Sat/Sun Austin Weekend Show Spotlight

austinAs I said yesterday, there’s tons of places you can find yourself this weekend for a good old fashioned music concert.  But, maybe you need a suggestion or two as to where you wanna go? Well, I’m here to point you in the right direction, based on my extremely biased opinion.  Feel free to ignore these options, or play everyone’s favorite game of Where’s Norman Wanklord? Here’s the list. Read more

The Cave Singers – Naomi

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Rating: ★★★½ ·

While I love a good folksy record on the softer side, sometimes it is nice to have some variation in your audio repertoire, and Pete Quirks grungy vocals will sure do the trick. Step aside mellow folk bands, The Cave Singers have a new release to rock the delicate harmonies right out of you.

Though, Naomi isn’t really a record that falls into the easy categorization of a single genre, but rather one that falls into many. While its pandering guitar lines gently nudge you to believe it’s a folk record, the hillbilly vocals of Quirks push you towards the raw edge of rock. For example, the first track, “Canopy,” is one of those tracks that really just fits in with The Cave Singers classic sound of folk. A seemingly gentle, yet pervasively intriguing riff welcomes you to the album, but the rawness of the vocals gives an edgier touch to the folk tune. The riff continues through this opening number, feeling as though The Cave Singers are picking up right from where they left off on 2011’s No Witch. Towards the end of the song you get this great little break down that makes you yearn to see this song in the live setting.

“Have to Pretend,” the song immediately to follow, shows the rocking side of The Cave Singers. Pete Quirks spits his lyrics at you as if some moody and broody rock star front man who takes control of the stage rather than a bearded folk man plucking away at his guitar. Some gang vocal variation between sharp and soft “oohs,” keep things interesting as Quirks continues on his lyrical monologue. It’s a great track, and in my opinion one of the stronger tracks that The Cave Singers have on this album.

There are certainly other gems to be found on Naomi, especially later on with “Easy Way,” in which the percussion, which is never that prominent in the mix for this group begins to stand out through the utilization of cymbals in the chorus. It’s also pretty hard to miss “Evergreens,” a soft number in the middle of things that strips this group down to bass, guitar, and vocals—a nice step back from the constant movement this collection of songs seems to possess.

Though some long time fans may wish for a little more variety in sound on this album, if this happened to be your first exposure to The Cave Singers, it would not be a bad thing at all. This band keeps putting out albums that continue to hold true to their base sound and yet move away slightly in the ways that you want it to.

Show Preview: Cave Singers @ Red 7 (6/11)

Date Monday, June 11th
Location Red 7
Doors 900 pm
Tickets $10 at the Door

I was so excited to get the chance to see Crocodiles perform tonight at Stubbs that I completely went unaware of the impending show by Cave Singers tonight.  I aim to rectify my oversight, knowing that Cave Singers always bring their A game to the live setting.  Their last record, No Witch, spent a lot of time on my playlist, and I hope you spent some time with it as well.  If you’ve got the funds, then this is definitely a show you should get out and see.  Smoke and Feathers will probably kick things off around 10 PM.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/02_Swim_Club_1.mp3]

Download:The Cave Singers – Swim Club [MP3]

 

Show Preview: Fleet Foxes @ Stubbs (5/10)

Date Tuesday, May 10th
Location Stubbs
Doors 700 PM
Tickets Sold Out!

There’s a reason this show is sold out, that being that Fleet Foxes are one of the hottest bands around, even though they seemingly disappeared for several years while recording Helplessness Blues. All that extra time led to the crafting of a magnificent album, filled with those warm harmonies and folk stylings, better than practically anything else out there. You won’t just find one great band, however, on this bill, because Cave Singers are a phenomenal act in their own right.  They released their third album, No Witch, and it established the band as one of our favorites here at ATH.  You might not be able to buy tickets, but you know there will be tons of folks trying to earn a buck by scalping a ticket or two.  If you got one, you’re lucky, if you’re looking, keep on, as this show aims to be nothing more than one of the most remarkable nights in Austin.

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

Download: Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues [MP3]

The Cave Singers – No Witch

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, The Cave Singers have a different blend of folk than most of the more traditional stuff coming out of the East.  No Witch is their third proper album, and it continues to further the band’s sound, this time adding some newer elements that give a bit of a twist to their sound.

Beginning the album is “Gifts and the Raft,” which has an extremely quiet whispering element to it, perhaps reinforced by placing vocals atop vocals.  String arrangements give the song more depth, especially when they sound like a shimmer, rather than the more pristine parts that come later. Quiet folk presides with the second track, “Swim Club,” barely changing things up from the first track.  This isn’t a knock by any means, as this song uses some more production twists that enhance The Cave Singers on this adventure.

“Black Leaf” gives No Witch a bit of a lift, with a grittier bit of guitar.  For the whole of the song, you can feel a bit of a folk-stomp building, and this allows for some differentiation before the sound is swallowed up.  However, this song shares so many sonic similarities to “At the Cut” from Welcome Joy that it’s hard to get past the track as a bit of a rehash from the previous record. Still, it allows the group to go beyond just this gentle folk with raspy vocals, moving into a slightly haunting “Falls.”  Here, the pacing alone forces you to fill in the empty space.  Pete Quirk definitely shows off a bit more range here, or at least a bit more technique.  And then suddenly the band heads off into a bit of a psychedelic folk groove mid-track, even using some organ.

It is, of course, great to have some of the past living here, especially with songs like “Outer Realms,” but one would be mistaken to call the rest of the album more run of the mill Cave Singers tracks.  For instance, you have “Clever Creatures,” a song that uses a more present drum track than I remember the band utilizing in the past.  Put that alongside Quirk giving more of a forceful vocal performance throughout the entirety of No Witch, and you have the band moving in a more complete direction.  In the past, while I’ve loved everything, there’s always seemed to be just one thing missing, but this is not the case here at all.  “Haystacks” is one of the record’s stronger offerings, beginning with some harmonica to open it all up.  But, in the middle, you get the feeling of a gospel-influenced folk song, much as they’ve all been traditionally.  It now seems that band have completely moved from being labeled as just a post-punk folk outing.

Whether or not you’re familiar with The Cave Singers is probably irrelevant by this point, as the band seem to have really pushed themselves forward on No Witch.  Yes, you’ll find pleasurable, yet traditional, tracks like “Swim Club” to keep around old fans, but there seems to be so much more within the folds of these tracks.  Just take the brief shrieks on closing track “No Prosecution if We Bail,” and you’ll see that a more rocking element is beginning to emerge.  In the end, the band seems to have grown, filling out their sound with new elements, giving us a record that is anything but incomplete.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/02_Swim_Club_1.mp3]

Download: The Cave Singers – Swim Club [MP3]

New Tunes from The Cave Singers

We absolutely loved Welcome Joy, the last album by The Cave Singers, so you know we’re going to be really excited by their new record, No Witch.  Of course, you’ll notice a label change, as they’ve ended up on JagJaguwar instead of Matador.  It’s got that same whispering folk feel we’ve come to love from the band, all made every bit more gentle by Quirk’s throaty vocal approach.  You can expect to see No Witch on February 22nd of next year, so get ready for another incredibly brilliant piece of work from the group.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/02_Swim_Club_1.mp3]

Downlaod: The Cave Singers – Swim Club [MP3]

Adam Haworth Stephens – We Live on Cliffs

Rating: ★★★½ ·

Two Gallants is a rocking good time, so what would we see when Adam Haworth Stephens decided to go it alone for his first solo release, We Live on Cliffs.  It’s precisely what you don’t expect, as aside from his distinctive vocals, you find a young man fleshing out his sound, exploring territory that’s familiar to him, though not necessarily associated with his work.

When we first jump into his solo debut, you can immediately see that Stephens wasn’t too sure about how far he wished to take this venture, as opening “Praises In Your Name” definitely has some alignment with the tunes of his main gig.  It has that little bit of twangy swing to it, and you might find it hard to see his disassociate his recognizable vocals from his prior outings.

However, when you encounter the softly picked “Vengeance Come,” you begin to see that he does have the capability of establishing his own sound.  A female vocal accompaniment allows the song to take on a much for folk-rooted sound, coming off in the same genre as other bands like The Cave Singers.  The song has a subtle quality, giving the listener plenty of time to just sit back and absorb the melodies, and the ornate instrumentation.  Similarly, “Heights of Diamond” goes the route of a slow-walking number.  It’s at this point where Adam Haworth Stephens really begins to distance his vocal, using less of that throaty raspiness, giving off a more calming presence.  Using this approach definitely provides a mellower quality to the songs themselves, as Stephens doesn’t sound as urgently rushed as he has at times.

We Live on Cliffs definitely uses musical patterns that continue to build upon each other. “The Cities That You’ve Burned” slowly creeps along, but eventually bouncing drum beats and barroom piano sort of give the track a bit of extra momentum.  You can’t help but get carried away as Stephens’ vocals soar in and out with the rhythm of the song itself.  “Southern Lights” uses that same piano sound, with a little bit of a southern drawl to eek out the emotion, and the chorus will certainly grab you, if you haven’t been hooked by this slow jangle already.

By the time you’ve wrapped up the entire listen, you’ll probably note that there’s nothing wrong with any of the sounds or construction elements.  Given, at times there’s not a lot of differentiation from track to track, but its clear that Adam intended to take on an entirely different approach here, giving himself a warmer, fire-side folk appeal.  While you can knock that like-minded song pattern, you have to admit that as you pour through We Live on Cliffs, every song seems to have its own strength, its own ability to stand on its own merits.  Isn’t that really all you want from a good songwriter?  If we didn’t know Adam Haworth Stephens could write great songs, this album is yet another reminder for us all.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/02-Second-Mind-1.mp3]

Download: Adam Haworth Stephens – Second Mind  [MP3]

The Cave Singers – Welcome Joy

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Rating: ★★★★½

Most people who have followed this band will surely know that the components that make up The Cave Singers have established themselves in a world outside the folk realm in which they currently live.  Guitarist Derek Fudesco, for example, probably is most well known for his role in Pretty Girls Make Graves, but let’s not get carried away here, as the band are now establishing themselves as a new voice coming out of the rainy Northwest. Welcome Joy is their second album, and it builds upon the strengths of the last record, and in doing so, finishes as one of the better releases of the summer.

When the gentle strumming of “Summer Light” begins the album, you immediately find yourself lost among the foothills of the Appalachians, coated in an earthy morning mist, as the guitars gently strum.  Pete Quirk’s throaty vocals are met here in this scene with additional vocals from Amber Webber of Black Mountain. You expect campfire songs from this band, but you don’t expect them to come off as beautifully simple as this one.

As the group introduces you to “At the Cut” you can here the post-punk influences in the vocal, and they seem to carry over through the song itself, giving it more than just your traditional neo-folk appeal so many people have been living with lately.  It’s this interesting aspect that makes The Cave Singers so appealing to so many.  They aren’t here to play the role of pretty balladeers, though their songs may come off as such; they came here to rock a bit…jangly percussion and all.

While it appears at times as if Quirk smoked too much at times, this album finds him with perfect accompaniment.  Amber Webber is joined by her sister Ashley on “Shrine,” and it carries the song from something rather banal into an otherworldly country stomp towards the end of the song. This is followed by “Hen of the Woods,” which stands out as one of the great tracks on this album, among many great tracks.  There’s nothing you can really explain about this song, but you’ll be sure to feel it as it comes through your stereo.

“VV” is one of the brighter songs on the album, coming in near the end with harmonious guitar parts, as light as you’ll find on this album.  Oddly, this is the one song on the album that seems rooted in traditional folk writing, although the structure of the song itself towards the middle definitely has a more modern spin upon it.  And as Welcome Joy draws to a close with “Townships” and “Bramble” you begin to notice the care that The Cave Singers put into the production of this album.  Every inch of space seems well thought out, as if they left various places open for your mind to wonder in the woods of your own brain.  To top it off, it never seems to get old; it never runs in place.  An album such as this is a delight, and dare we say, a Welcome Joy, as the summer comes to a close.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/the-cave-singers-at-the-cut.mp3]

Download: The Cave Singers – At The Cut [MP3]

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