Kuzin Is Where It’s At

kuzI’ve got a soft spot for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Sounds.  I got into both acts super early, as they provided a bit of hooks blended with a powerful punch; it’s the same sensation I get when I listen to Kuzin.  The vocals definitely harken towards Karen O, especially during the little inflections.  For the most part, the rest of the tracks is a straight forward pop rock track, and I hope you’ll enjoy it at your stereo’s loudest levels. This Spring Kill Canyon will be releasing her debut, Cavity; it’s just the sugary touch your Tuesday needs.

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Swedish Pop Punk from Terrible Feelings

We’re running a very rock oriented Thursday it seems, so Sweden’s Terrible Feelings fit right in with that motif. The group recently signed on with Deranged Records to release their album, Shadows, this April.  For my ears, it’s definitely got something going on, beyond stereotypical punk/pop; there’s something in the vocal delivery that harkens back to days before punk was even born, lending itself to sort of a haunting effect.  Sweden seems to think they’re full of angst and darkness, and I see that, but over here in the States, it’s just good old fashioned rock n’ roll–the kind we love here at ATH.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/2_Intruders.mp3]

Download:Terrible Feelings – Intruders [MP3]

The Sounds – Crossing the Rubicon

the-soundsRating: ★★☆☆☆

When The Sounds first crossed the Atlantic, everyone was abuzz with the rehashing of eighties synthesizers and guitars.  Glittery punk-pop took the hipsters (and hipspanics) by storm; you all liked The Killers at first, and you probably liked The Sounds too.  Now on their third album, Crossing the Rubicon, the question remains as to where the band can possibly go musically without treading water in the same spot they’ve lived in for years.

From the moment the first single “No One Sleeps When I’m Awake” crashes into your speakers, it’s clear that the band have stepped up their game, at least with regards to their approach.  Long gone are the sexy days in the tiny clubs, as this song represents a louder, more brash, band destined to carry out their shows in larger arenas.  Songs like these are perfect for radio play; they’re everything a good pop song should be: catchy melody and singable elements.

However, the band still maintains a firm grip on their club attitude. The presence of songs like “Beatbox” and “My Lover” show that the band is very much still enthralled with creating a club hit with that punk attitude.  Maja always seemed like the heir to Debbie Harry, and perhaps crossover songs such as these will provide the platform from which she can finally jump into mainstream stardom.  But, it is precisely this element where the band has lost what made them so ferocious and dangerous when they first hit took to the stage.  Releasing such songs has also led to forays into other musical genres, some which are not quite as forgivable as creating a club hit.

Let’s take “Midnight Sun” and use this as our point of discussion.  Guitar work is drowned out for the most part, despite the cheesy solo in the middle that does nothing more than mimic a number of solos on Guitar Hero.  You combine that with the vocals and you have the band doing their first take on what we will refer to as Kelly Clarkson pop.  Everything about this song feels contrived and heartless.

Unfortunately, that is where you find The Sounds at the end of the day on this album.  Those killer guitar parts that led you to believe you were still listening to a band with some sort of punk sensibility have been exchanged on the market for more polished sounds.  Polished is the perfect word for this album.  What once made the group come off as edgy and exciting has been dumbed down to reach a new audience entirely.  They created Crossing the Rubicon and threw everything out the window entirely.  We expected them to change, just not into this.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/06-underground.mp3]

Download: The Sounds – Underground [MP3]

New Tunes from The Sounds

soundSweden’s The Sounds are definitely one of my guilty pleasures, and I am not going to shy away from their catchy new-wave influenced pop-rock. Not to mention the fact that singer Maja is one hell of a front-woman. Now, the band have a new album coming out in June, and here is the first single off said album.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/thesounds-noonesleepwhenimawake.mp3]

Download: The Sounds – No One Sleeps When I’m Awake [MP3]

CSS – Donkey

Rating: ★★★★☆

This album kicks off with “Jager Yoga,” which-in my opinion-could have come off the last record by CSS. It’s got a throbbing bass line, some solid beats, backed by more prominent guitar work. It’s like a continuation, but in that, it kind of prepares you to travel with the band.

Suddenly, the next track brings in some heavy guitar work. This song resembles The Sounds, which bring in the full power of the band, giving them a different route to travel than just the typical dance track. It’s as if they came to rock, to melt faces if you will.

Then they go back to the old pattern with “Reggae All Night,” which kind of takes the album back a step, but sure enough, they bring back out the guitars in “Give Up.” I don’t know if the juxtaposition in songs builds a steady flow for a complete album, but most listeners will see a band with a new purpose.

The next three tracks offer something a little different, something a little aged. “Beautiful Song” and “Move” take the band as close to the eighties as they have been before, and in all honesty, it works for them. You can tell they put a little more focus on the instruments here, still creating rhythms we can all dance too, but without the requirement of blasting the beats in our ears.

“Beautiful Achieve” is a stranger phenomenon than other tracks. They slow it down here, but use the samples and loops that established the band. It’s an interesting touch to this album, throwing in a little variety.

“Air Painter” finally brings it all to a close, but it brings you to a new realization, quite different than the opening track. If I’m not mistaken, The Sounds singer, Maja Ivarrson, makes an appearance. The song is great – hands down, but it does come off a bit like a cover song.

The emphasis for me, and for the reference to that other band, is that this album lets CSS out of the the strict dance routine. Each song is over 3 minutes long, which means the band spent more time writing the songs, and fleshing out the sounds, allowing the songs themselves to carry the beat, rather than the beat carrying the song. I think its an impressive step, even if sounds like some other band did it before  It shows the band stepping out, and stepping up. At this point, there is lots of room for CSS to move towards for their next album, which should be a great one.

This is a good album, especially since it leaves you wanting more from the band in the future. It might not go down in history as their best, but it certainly solidifies them as a band to look out for in the future. Cheers to you Sub Pop Records; just another good release after another.

Check out the single from the album, “The Rad is Dead (Rage)”:

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/rat-is-dead-rage.mp3]

Download: rat-is-dead-rage.mp3