You Should Listen To: Window Twins

One of the worst things about the Internet is it’s hard to keep up with your favorite artists, but while looking up information on another act, I was reminded of the Window Twins.  I had heard of the project between Tim Cohen (Fresh and Onlys) and Jon Berson, but I hadn’t really seen a lot of buzz on the Internet about them, other than the distant memory of a video run a month back. It’s a good thing I checked in on Volar Records, otherwise I wouldn’t have had the chance to order the limited vinyl for Wish, the band’s new album.  It’s a minimal folk sound, accentuated by tinkering with various layers, much like Cohen’s Magic Trick, but more intimate.  It’s almost a no-brainer right? A great songwriter with a great set of tunes, joined by a friend to make an album. Have a sample.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/01-Two-Left-Feet.mp3]

Download:Window Twins – Two Left Feet [MP3]

The Fresh & Onlys – Long Slow Dance

Rating: ★★★★ ·

I listened to this record 8 or 9 times, all along thinking it was on the verge of either a 3.5, but not quite.  I figured my love and adoration might just push it over the edge, so I gave it a few more spins. Then it hit me, Long Slow Dance is perhaps the most focused and complete the Fresh & Onlys have completed up to this point in their short career.  Given, they’ve stripped away a little bit of the reverb, but it makes way for a clarity that is really appreciated by those following Tim Cohen and company.

“20 Days and 20 nights” opens with a bit of a catchy jangle, holding back on the pace just a bit.  It allows for the perfect introduction to a more polished-sounding Tim Cohen. His voice sounds steady, rather than wavering in the hazy distance as you’ve come to find on Fresh & Onlys records. If you listen closely this time around, you might even catch a bit more emotion in his voice–it’s barely audible, but listen closely.  For me, an avid fan, it all indicates a more confident singer, and group for that matter.  Years ago I couldn’t have imagine them creating tunes like “Long Slow Dance,” which closely resembles a folk ballad.  Percussion is turned down low, giving the strum of the guitar and the dancing tambourine a little bit more emphasis.  While they hold back in spots, they do unleash a little bit more power in various spots.

My first notice was “Yes or No?”  Once that guitar enters accompanied by the drum, you know exactly that these guys mean business.  Like most tunes on Long Slow Dance, it’s clearly linked to the annals of the band’s previous works, just with more punch. Or, you can listen to “Euphoria,” which again utilizes more pronounced drum work, not to mention some cascading guitar-lines. Honestly, the first ten second almost gave me a punk rock feel–that’s until Tim came into haunt the track with his heavy vocals. And, such emphatic songs are great in the scheme of things, but I really like the extra touches outside of the group’s normalcy that they’ve chosen to include.

Have you listened to “Fire Alarm?” It’s got a strong electronic bent to begin, and while that remains slightly in the back, there’s a definite groove that doesn’t sound too familiar on most Fresh & Onlys albums, being one of the reasons I really like it.  Take the group’s psychedelic touch, mix it in with hints of the 80s swatch, and you have one of the most intriguing songs on the record. Or you might want to take a look at “Foolish Person,” where you’ll find the band flirting with touches of modern pop construction, using Tim’s vocal to captivate listeners while the rest of the posse work their magic…and then it just blasts off into experimental noise to wrap out the 6 minute track.  There’s not much else like it in the band’s catalogue.

While I may have been on the fence a bit, that’s just my own idiocy. Long Slow Dance finds the San Francisco group mixing in newer influences and stronger studio production to knock this one out of the park.  You know Fresh & Onlys can write great songs, but this time they’ve written twelve, using every bit of their influences to create a refreshing record that only gets better the more you listen.

Magic Trick – Ruler of the Night

Rating: ★★★★½

You never really know what you’re going to get with a Tim Cohen listening experience; he’s a man of many faces, wearing various hats in Fresh and Onlys, Tim Cohen and now Magic Trick.  After the first few listens to Ruler of the Night (Hardly Art), you can clearly see that he’s put aside that psych-pop hat, just for a moment, crafting something truly remarkable that won’t leave your record player for days or even weeks.

If “Ruler of the Night” is going to be your starting point, it’s the place that first establishes a different approach for Cohen and Magic Trick, now that the band has been solidified.  You’ll find lightly strummed guitar and an extremely warm backing vocal; the careful construction of the song demonstrates how far Tim is willing to go on this outing.  Immediately following is “Torture,” which just might have the longevity to be one of my tracks of the year.  You can see the lineage of this track, and possible connection, to Fresh and Onlys, but the melodic harmonies backing your frontman here see him pushing that sound; he even takes a stab at a soaring vocal himself, to much success.

Ruler of the Night will probably be remembered most for the variance in songwriting that Magic Trick utilizes on the effort.  “Sunny” sounds like a San Francisco group taking a stab at writing a Magnetic Fields song, but perhaps that’s just the guitar sound, or the backing vocals.  The mood of the song resonates with the title, but it’s juxtaposition to the dark ballad “Next to Nothing” gives you reason to make sure your listening experience revolves around the completed record.  While similarities exist overall, each song creates its own bit of character, all dependent upon the accompaniment of the rest of the group.

“Same People” seemingly has its roots in Tim’s fascination with hip-hop, and it plays like a bit of electronic constructionism. Cohen’s vocals barely seem to rest atop of the beats, but it fits in with the mood of the album, especially when the tone is lightened during the chorus.  It’s a similar track to the appearance of sampled beats early with “Invisible at Midnight.”  The construction of the song definitely revolves around the electronic elements, but like the previously mentioned track, there’s an explosion of brightness that comes with the chorus.  Such delicate touches to the construction of each track demonstrate how careful the group has been in finishing off their compositions.

If anything, Ruler of the Night seems to be a statement for Tim Cohen.  While Magic Trick might be a side-project, it’s definitely one that forces everyone to take notice of the songwriter as more than just a purveyor of psych-pop.  He’s got a solidified group working with him in Magic Trick now, and together they’ve crafted a welcoming album that reveals more to your ear and heart with each careful listen.

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

Download:Magic Trick – Torture [MP3]

More New Music from Magic Trick

Tim Cohen‘s newest track has been floating around for a few weeks now, but it was just made available to us, so I’ve got to fawn over Magic Trick some more.  His newest LP, Ruler  of the Night will be out on Hardly Art this week, and I suggest you pick it up if you know what’s good for you.  Of course, if you’re familiar with Tim’s work in Fresh and Onlys, the slow progression of the guitar and Cohen’s vocals will certainly be surprising. There’s an abundance of creativity, however, in the song’s final construction, which is one of the things that’s made listening to Magic Trick so enjoyable.  Dig in folks.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Magic_Trick_-_Invisible_at_Midnight.mp3]

Download:Magic Trick – Invisible at Midnight [MP3]

Listen to the Softer Side of Tim Cohen (Magic Trick)

You all should know Tim Cohen as the lead in Fresh and Onlys, and hopefully some of you’ve heard his solo work as either Tim Cohen or Magic Trick.  This time around, he’s teamed up with some friends (members of Aisler’s Set and Kelly Stoltz band) to flesh out the line-up for Magic Trick; the group will release Ruler of the Night via Hardly Art on June 12th.  I love how you can always hear bits of Cohen’s other work slip into this sort of thing, but this effort definitely sounds like it’s being give a really mellow treatment.  Even so, it’s clear that Cohen’s always a captivating as a composer, so this is no surprise I’m loving this track.

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

Downlaod: Magic Trick – Torture [MP3]

Bouncing Power Pop from Warren Teagarden

Who’s that handsome chap in the photo? That’s Warren Teagarden, San Francisco’s favorite garage rocker.  He’s joined with his friends The Good Grief to create the album Warren Teagarden and The Good Grief, which you can get from Meaningless World Records. Listening to this track, Warren’s got that same darkened howl of Tim Cohen, but he’s also got his hands on the punk rock guitar chug; it’s the main ingredient that propels this song along.  If gritty garage tracks is your thing, then this is the number for you!

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/02-Stupid-Happy-Fun-1.mp3]

Download:Warren Teagarden – Stupid Happy Fun [MP3]

More Music from Fresh & Onlys

San Fran’s Fresh & Onlys are really starting to get on my nerves.  Whether it’s frontman Tim Cohen or the whole band, they just keep turning out tunes, and good ones at that.  I’ve probably spent close to $100 on this band this year alone (Tim Cohen included), which either means I’m a sucker, or they’re just that good; I’m going with the latter. P4K announced that they’ll be releasing another new 7″ in September, and based on this, there goes a bit more money from my wallet.  I’m guessing you feel the same about their whispy vocals and jangling psych guitars.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Fresh-Onlys-I-Would-Not-Know-the-Devil.mp3]

Download: Fresh & Only’s – I Would Not Know the Devil [MP3]

New Music from Tim Cohen

If you’ve been reading these pages for some time, then you undoubtedly are aware of my man love for Tim Cohen.  While he gets more press for his role in Fresh & Onlys, he’s definitely got other great things going on, such as his Magic Trick project.  He just released a song from The Glad Birth of Love, which will see a full release on August 23rd.  While there are hints of psych folk, that seems to live primarily in the trickling sound of the guitar in the background. The rest of the 7 minute song comes off like a crooner of sorts, but one completed in the realm of carefully orchestrated opuses. With patience, you’ll grow to love and appreciated Tim’s songwriting, as it continues to grow and amaze me.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/TimCohen-DaylightMoon.mp3]

Download: Tim Cohen – Daylight Moon [MP3]

Girls Names – Dead to Me

Rating: ★★★★ ·

While it may be extremely easy to write about Girls Names, based on the fact that they fit right into the musical landscape as it currently stands, it’s almost impossible to get their latest effort out of your head. Being released by Slumberland, Dead to Me displays a band that’s sharpened their knives, ready to go to work crafting infectious pop you can bounce about to while working on pretty much anything that comes your way.

One of the great things about Dead to Me is that you aren’t likely to get bogged down listening to one particular track over and over again, as only two songs go beyond the 3 minute mark.  “Lawrence” begins it all with that jagged club dance guitar, but the drums themselves sound as if you’re tapping your toes, not like your normal snare work. And that just takes you right along to another track that gives you a little bit of pep in the step, though “I Could Die” has a much more gritty guitar that hammers throughout those hypnotic melodies.  Strikingly, the guitar, at times, has a sunny disposition, which is odd considering the group hails from Belfast, not Cali, but you’ll be glad they’re utilizing such style.

“No More Words” takes a softer approach to the craft of Girls Names, as Neil Brogan’s vocals warmly float over the entire track.  It’s not like you’ll find too much different here, but Brogan manages to off-set the pep by slowly drawing out his vocals, which might remind listeners of early work by Tim Cohen. Still, it’s all done in short time, so you’re sort of taking at shot in the dark at finding various textures, that is until you get to the longest track on Dead to Me, “I Lose.”  There’s a cloudy coat that barely drapes itself over this song, and the guitar’s are furiously pumping through the track, and you can tell that this isn’t just your ordinary stab at rehashing things that have come before the band.  It’s at this point, while noticing the differences, that you can clearly say you see the Girls Names as a fully functioning entity.

There’s likely to be comparisons to band’s like Crystal Stilts, especially after listening to the record’s single “Seance on a Wet Afternoon.”  There’s a darkness to the track, and one that likely permeates from the title Dead to Me, but perhaps it’s not fair to lump the band in with anyone else.  Brogan clearly has similarities to other dark crooners of the pop cannon, but his performance here makes it’s own mark, often feeling a bit unsteady, but in a heartening manner.  Surely by this point, if you’ve made it through all ten tracks as you should have, then you’ll recognize that it’s simply a joy to involve yourself with Girls Names.  They’ve worked hard to tighten up the unit, flesh out the sound, and it pays off huge dividends for both the band and listeners alike.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/10_Seánce_on_a_Wet_Afternoon.mp3]

Download: Girls Names – Seance on a Wet Afternoon [MP3]

The Fresh & Onlys – Secret Walls EP

Rating: ★★★½ ·

If you’ve been following the Fresh & Onlys over the last year or so, you probably saw that the Secret Walls EP lurked just around the corner.  Tim Cohen has been changing his own approach, and with that, so too goes the band’s sound.  This isn’t a bad thing by any means, unless of course you’re against change and progression.

“Secret Walls” feels like the culmination of the last few things Cohen and his friends have released.  Those hazy guitars have dispersed, though you’ll still find a cascading bit of angular guitar soloing coursing through the song.  What’s unique is that Tim sounds like some forlorn crooner, and he does it perfectly.  Such steps are slowly redefining the group’s sound, surely bringing along more fans as they go.

If you listen carefully to “Keep Telling Everybody Lies” then you’ll probably see a bit of a resemblance to a lost recording of some David Lynch movie opener, but Cohen’s vocals here revert to that warmth, something he’s now got great control over.  There’s hints of spaghetti western guitar, and a steady percussive pace keep the whole number afloat. Then the Fresh & Onlys go back to what they do best, progressing their sound, while maintaining their effortless cool.  “Do You Believe in Destiny” definitely rings aloud like a love track, and the Western sway of guitars gives it a bit of that California cool.  While in the past the band have managed to have this darkness coating their albums, this track portrays the sunnier undertones that live throughout the Secret Walls EP.

“Wash Over Us’ provides more of the same, cleaning the guitar sounds, as the group has done over the past several releases, and light piano tinkering continues to show a move towards a more pop-oriented spin for this short collection.  Don’t fret, “Poison Wine” brings back the element of shadowy haunts that the band has always pulled off so well. Cohen’s vocals seem to be hiding, almost creeping behind the rest of the band.  It’s not the most musical of tracks, which is perhaps its drawback, as this appears more as a construction of mood.  If that’s what they’re going for on this number, then they pull it off with great success.

Secret Walls seems like a brief foray into the group’s material, a stop-over while they continue to develop their sound.  It’s a great collection, and one that fans will fall in love with, but what’s more important is that it demonstrates a band that has such diversity in their writing that they can pretty much go anywhere they want to; when they go, I’m sure we’ll all adore it.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/The-Fresh-Onlys-Do-You-Believe-in-Destiny.mp3]

Download: The Fresh & Onlys – Do You Believe in Destiny [MP3]

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