In a blogosphere long ago, I once gave All the Pleasures of the World a 4.5/5 rating…that was back when I had the freedom to write full on album reviews. I stand by that rating, and if anything, I might just round it up to a 5/5. Lucky for the rest of the world, the Crayon Fields and their label Chapter Music are going to reissue the LP in a deluxe format, accompanied by some rarities, including a bunch of covers the band had stored away. The plus side for me is that this gives another reason to share the title track, now accompanied by a brand new video from the singer/guitarits, Geoffrey O’Connor. You can grab the reissue on February 7th!
Year-end lists are everywhere…and I can see why they’re important to people. But, seeing as we generally walk off the beaten path more often than not, our list of the Top 50 Albums of 2015 is in no particular order, save alphabetically. It seems pointless to rank one piece of art higher than another, especially when the four of us at ATH all have varying tastes. We just put this list together of the albums we loved the most this year. Are we saying they’re better than records by Grimes or Kendrick Lamar? No, we’re just saying that these are the records we loved more than others. So, you can read on for what we thought was hot.
Also…put links to individual stores where you can buy the albums from the bands…as that’s how we all survive in this music world.
A long time ago I met Guy Blackman at SXSW; he was working with our favorites The Crayon Fields/Twerps (he’s the head of their label) and checking things out in our city. I have to say, he was one of the most down-to-Earth and genuine people I’ve come across. And in that, it’s led to a lot of acclaim and success for the bands on his label, Chapter Music. But, he’s also been making music on his own account for a long time…and he just released a brand new track yesterday. It’s a smooth synth-pop jam, providing a solid groove that allows for Blackman’s voice to carry the rest of the song. Pop fans clamor for hits like this, and you’ll be able to get your hands on it as part of Kingfisher Bluez Buddy System Singles Club. What better way to kick back on a Friday than with this ridiculously rad jam?
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/230398782″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
What a week! Two of my favorite Australian acts have released new music, meaning new records are on the way! First, there was last week’s hit from The Crayon Fields, and now we’ve got the steady guitar pop of The Ocean Party. I always appreciated the band’s approach to songwriting; it always seemed so relaxed and effortless. But, this latest single shows some growth, especially during the chorus where the piano explodes and the vocals take on a loftier note. There’s no word exactly on a release date, but it looks as if the group will have more enjoyable tunes underway that we’ll all soon enjoy.
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/213421943″ params=”color=ff9900&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
It’s fair to say my love affair with heralded Chapter Music officially began when I discovered The Crayon Fields. I’m pretty sure I trolled the band, got them to play one of our SXSW shows at the Ghost Room, and fawned over anything they did. Still, the band’s been relatively quiet as a whole since 2009, though various members like Geoff O’Connor have been plying their trade at solo work. Today, we can rejoice rejoice rejoice; the band is back with a new offering, perfecting the beautiful adherence to pop that brought me to them long ago. There’s some great production value on here too, filling in the space with synth work and female backing vocals; it’ really fleshes out a near brilliant sound. They’re releasing No One Deserves You via Chapter on September 25th, so be on the lookout.
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/213630961″ params=”color=ff9900&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
Long have we supported the good folks over at Chapter Music in Australia, who brought us the great music of Twerps and The Crayon Fields. One of their lesser-known acts has really been making huge leaps and bounds, as far as popularity goes: Dick Diver. The group is about to release their new record Calendar Days from the label in March, and we’ve got one of those new tracks for you. I dig the brightness of the twanging guitar, accompanied by spoken word interplay between the male and female vocalists. It’s a casual track, reminiscent of the relaxed pop gems from other great bands in the label’s stable. Always happy to hear anything from the CM; it’s never going to let us down.
[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/76359905″ params=”show_artwork=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
With the current indie landscape coated in folk harmonies and wooded soundscapes, it seems only fitting that Beachwood Sparks would return after taking a break 11 years ago. Interestingly, The Tarnished Gold, while bearing similarities to the modern landscape, has a sound more classic in structure, carefully crafting the perfect listen for fans of all sorts.
Immediately you fall in love, or at least I did. “Forget the Song” sounds like an American version of The Crayon Fields, except filled with a bit of slide guitar and twang. It’s got the same slight echo on the vocal, with guitars and casual drumming all tied in to perfection. Other songs fit this exact same style like “Tarnished Gold,” which is perhaps why I’ve enjoyed listening to Beachwood Sparks so much lately. The guitars definitely give it a more country/folk feel, but the gentle vocals will absolutely carry you away. You’ll also find hints of other great American music throughout.
“Sparks Fly Again” is filled with noodling guitars and vocal harmonizing, but what caught me off guard was the seemingly Grateful Dead chorus jumping in and out. It’s not there in a jam band sort of way, which enables me to appreciate the track all the more, but it definitely reminds me that my age is having me walk a fine line with the hipster abhorred hippy ilk. But, please don’t tell anyone that I just admitted to that. The presence of these sort of moments are all over The Tarnished Gold, demonstrating that the band is much more rooted in the classic structure of Californian pop music, rather than joining the bandwagon of modern folk acts.
With all their traditional stylings, one of the things I like best about this Beachwood Sparks record is its ability to go live it out on its own terms. “No Queremos Oro” is a quirky Spanish pop tune, almost like a sunny Mariachi ballad. Of course, my love for all things Latin American forces me to love this track, but you have to have courage to put something like this in the middle of a classic folk tinged album; I applaud the band for that. Luckily, it’s also followed by my favorite track here: “Earl Jean.” I like the sound of the guitar strumming, spliced with some intermittent guitar jabs (noodles?) coming in and out. It’s explosion of bright guitars at the midway point is truly special, and feels so familiar that I swear I wrote it myself.
The more I get involved with The Tarnished Gold, the more I feel that it’s going to become the perfect soundtrack for my summer here in Texas. As the warm sun beats upon my back, I can hear the slide guitars meeting on the humid air of the harmonies. There’s elements of folk music, classic Americana, and even your modern indie feel; it’s pulled off to perfection, giving Beachwood Sparks a return to glory that seems much deserved.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Beachwood-Sparks-Sparks-Fly-Again.mp3]
Download:Beachwood Sparks – Sparks Fly Again [MP3]
Long have we lauded the sounds of Crayon Fields, the wonderful Australian pop group, but now we have more reason to cheer, as singer Geoffrey O’ Connor steps outside the band, releasing his first album under his own name. If anything, Vanity is Forever, establishes O’ Connor as more than your average songwriter; his apparent gifts are too great to label him anywhere near average.
From the moment “So Sorry” takes off you can clearly see that Geoffrey O’ Connor is concerned with the arrangements surrounding his songs. There’s a bit of sweeping ambiance that coats his cool vocal delivery, perhaps giving a nod to popsters of the 80s. But, it’s lead single, “Whatever Leads Me to You,” that combines modern tones with hints of nostalgia, crafting one of the year’s best tracks. Geoff has this frivolous crooner personality, at least in the vein of his vocals, as if he’s somewhere between whispering in your ear and serenading you at a club. The guitars are subdued, with emphasis on the string arrangements, building a wall of around the internal melody. Simply magnificent.
You might label some tracks on Vanity is Forever as throwback-kitsch, such as “Proud,” which clearly revolves around the keyboard driven moments of yesteryear’s club hits. Yet these tracks offer more in the way of his lyrics, which are always extremely personable, allowing O’Connor to present himself to his audience in a way that no longer seems in fashion. In what I personally find to be one of his best penned lyrics, he sings “I hope my friends don’t all get married/that they leave some part of themselves for me,” on “Like They Say It Does.” Perhaps one might find it a tad self-indulging, but one cane easily relate to the sentiment of longing to live a life filled with friends and accomplishments. There’s nothing abstract in the presentation, and the sincerity is quite refreshing.
While there’s definitely a bit of pace to the majority of the tracks, in so far as you can swing your hips a bit, there’s a few wonderful slow burners that show Geoffrey O’ Connor in a reflective state that benefits the listeners, and we hope the songwriter as well. “Surely,” the album’s closer, is built on a slow-moving piano, and even it’s basic construction, cleared for the most part of the record’s arrangements, shines a light on how much confidence he has in his writing and delivery. What may appear banal in most circumstances, shows its inner beauty under a different microscope.
As much as I’ve fawned over The Crayon Fields since I came across them years ago, Vanity is Forever is a different animal altogether. It shows Geoffrey O’ Connor crafting gems that seem to fit in any time period, filled with melody and a bit of sensitivity that often escapes your run of the mill indie affair. It’s an album that’s affecting on a personal level, even for those unfamiliar with his previous work, making the whole ordeal a timeless piece of beauty.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/07-Now-And-Then.mp3]
Download: Geoffrey O’Connor – Now And Then [MP3]
Damn you Pitchfork! Your big name status always gets you the singles first! Well, that’s okay, just because you got there first doesn’t mean I can’t continue to express my adoration for Geoffrey O’Connor of the Crayon Fields. I met Geoffrey years back when he played at our showcase, and I was grateful that we were able to have a show featuring one of my favorite acts. Now, he’s got some time, and with that, he’s crafted a solo record titled Vanity is Forever coming out on Chapter Music. The first single, though I’ve heard several other tracks floating around (which I posted before P4k back in November–I’m bitter), sounds a bit like O’Connor channeling a shy Jeremy Jay, just bringing a bit more sheen to the shimmering pop. I can feel in my heart that this album’s going to be a winner.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Whatever-Leads-Me-To-You.mp3]
Download: Goeffrey O’Connor – Whatever Leads Me To You [MP3]
We’ve got more great news from our friend over at Chapter Music in Australia. Geoffrey O’Connor, the lead man behind one of our favorites, The Crayon Fields, will be releasing a new solo record for everyone to enjoy early next Spring. Based on this first track, it’s a slower affair, illustrating Geoffrey’s ability to control the melodies within his mind. While it may be a slow-burner, it definitely has me excited, as I’ve loved everything I’ve heard from him up until now, so the guy can’t go wrong in my book. You might also go back and look for Geoffrey’s old solo work under the name Sly Hats.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/07-Now-And-Then.mp3]
Download: Geoffrey O’Connor – Now And Then [MP3]