Frankie Rose and the Outs – s/t

Rating: ★★★★ ·

With all the great lo-fi bands floating around, something is to be said about making a space pop album that doesn’t sound like all the rest. Frankie Rose should know this the best out of anyone, as she has been a member of many successful pop bands herself:  Crystal Stilts and Vivian Girls. Other bands cast aside, Frankie proves her knowledge of this craft with this semi-solo project.

The album starts out on a gradual pace, with only bare instrumental to begin, slowly submersing you into each layer of the opening song. First heard is the quivering feedback, which holds steady until Frankie Rose comes in to soak the song in a tone of wonder and bemusement that her echoed vocals provide. Next, sleigh bells are added for an element of percussion that carries the music slowly on, as Frankie repeats the same simple words, over and over. Is this the same person who was apart of bands that brought light and jangly pop songs to the table? Apparently not, as “Hollow Life,” is a deeper and completely different sound than anything Frankie and any of her previous accompaniments have put out before. Different, but overwhelmingly good.

That being said, this solo effort is not a complete turn from Frankie’s prior works. “Little Brown Haired Girls,” shoots out of the gate with driving drum beats, crashing cymbals and girlish gang vocals; sort of a combination of elements from the first two songs. You have the softer vocals from “Hollow Life,” mixed with a more prominent guitar part that “Candy,” the song in between these two, brings. It is a sure sign that there are still excellent quality pop beats to be enjoyed on this album.

 The rest of the album mostly follows suit from these two songs. There are softer songs such as “Lullabye For Roads And Miles,” which is as expected from its title, reliant on the lack of the quick drum beat and more focused on leaving a little emptiness to carry the song instead. And there are instances of superior jams, like “Girlfriend Island.” On this number, some la la la’s add to the catchiness of the guitar and proves this to be a song that is difficult to stay still to; it is impossible for me to stop tapping along with that irresistible drum beat.

 From this point, Frankie Rose And The Outs move through the rest of the songs quickly and wrap up their first full length album gracefully. They successfully combine a new hollow sound with the well loved, classic low-fi pop that bands like Vivian Girls are known for. With the slow moving songs so effervescent and the fast paced songs reminiscent of the sunny summer days not too far gone, there isn’t a more perfect time for this album to debut; at the brink of fall.

New Tunes from The Babies

A few people in NYC’s The Babies have full-time gigs in other known bands.  Some of you might have heard of Woods or even Vivian Girls, but trust me, this band doesn’t sound anything at all like that. It’s got a bit of jangle, but the vocals and the guitar work are a lot more geared towards getting you to bounce all about your room (or cubicle), and we can’t see a single thing wrong with that.  This track is off their new 7″ Meet Me in the City, which you can get your hands on by going to Make a Mess. It also features the B Side, “Somebody Else.”

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Babies-meetmeinthe-city.mp3]

Download: Babies-Meet Me in the City [MP3]

Dum Dum Girls – I Will Be

Rating: ★★★ · ·

Initially gaining notoriety during the rise of similar bands such as Vivian Girls, it would be easy to lump Dum Dum Girls into the exact same pile, yet something separates those two groups from being perfectly aligned (despite sharing a DDG sharing a former member of VG).  On I Will Be, which is primarily the work of Dee Dee, there remains a large bit of influences, but underlying all that lies a certain sense of darkness.

You can put on “It Only Takes One Night” and immediately feel the edge that runs throughout the album.  Rather than buzz and pop, the guitars seem to ring from a darker place, not ever quite breaking out of that seemingly haunting place.  The vocals, too, have a bit of a dark influence to them, partly due to a bit of a vocal echo effect.  Surely this is the influence of Dee Dee’s friend Mike Sniper (Blank Dogs), who makes similarly haunting tunes.

Even with that sinister tone hiding beneath, the band also have a touch of a softer side to them, one that definitely has its roots in girl groups of the 60s.  You’ll find that style prevalent in songs such as “Bhang Bhang, I’m a Burnout” or “Rest of Our Lives.”  The former uses backing vocals to bring back that nostalgic aesthetic, and it does so effectively.  “Rest of Our Lives” is sort of a late 60s prom dance number.  It’s slow moving, and the rest of the girls in the group, or perhaps just Dee Dee’s overdubs, gently float vocals in the background, as one would expect to see.  These songs are easily enjoyable, though not necessarily pushing any new ground.

However much this band seems to stay in one of two places, they are capable of creating some spectacular songs.  “Jail La La” is every bit as catchy as anything that has come out this year.  This is one of the few songs in the collection that seems to rise above the influences and standout for its individual promise, making it a currently relevant pop track.  Whether its the precision drumming pushing the pace of the song or the vocal quality here, the song wins you over instantly, never letting go. Another winning track is “Blank Girl,” featuring Brandon from Crocodiles trading vocal parts.  The juxtaposed vocal tradeoffs are quite successful, and the psychedelic guitar cuts don’t inhibit this song either.

Adding a touch of kitsch, Dum Dum Girls cover Sonny & Cher’s “Baby Don’t Go” to close out the album.  Personally, this song is a lot more affecting than the original number, as you can’t resist Dee Dee’s warm vocals here.  Everything else seems to stop during this song, and the instruments themselves are just a tool for the female voice. At least you can accept the inclusion of the song for thematic purposes on this record, and for the fact that its a pretty enchanting cover.

As it ends, I Will Be is neither astonishing, nor is it a letdown (not by any means).  You just have to weigh your personal feelings about whether or not this style is fitting for your listening habits. There’s not necessarily an over-abundance of originality, but you can’t let that detract from the fact that Dum Dum Girls have recorded some quality moments of music, such as “Jail La La.” You’ll find more enjoyable moments than not on this record, which is something you can’t say too often nowadays.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/04-Jail-La-La-1.mp3]

Download: Dum Dum Girls – Jail La La [MP3]

Titus Andronicus – The Monitor

Rating: ★★★★ ·

“Good morning class and welcome to your American Civil War lesson. Today we will be discussing the fledgling US Navy and the Ironclad battle ship, The Monitor. Hey, WHO THREW THAT!? Titus! I know it’s you, damn trouble making teens with your loud rock and or roll music.”

After the roaring and ironically tame named debut, the Airing of Grievances, the New Jersey-based indie punk rockers are back with their sophomore album, The Monitor. With the new release, the band is taking a stab at the Civil War era, with the release serving as a period piece of sorts.  The title is in reference to the USS Monitor, which was the first commissioned warship by the US Navy during the Civil War.

That in no way means the group has changed their sound, so that means there’s plenty of low-fi, shoe gaze still involved, with a healthy dose of the ever-present fervent lyrics from front-man Patrick Stickles.  The moniker by which the young quintet refers to themselves is obtained from an obscure Shakespearean tragedy, known for it’s over the top drama and violence. Over the top, dramatic, and violent is a good way to describe the group and similarly their amazing live shows, which is providing much buzz for the group across the Country and abroad. In addition to that reputation, it’s obvious that these young men are cultured and know their history and that’s refreshing in itself.

Known for their raucous live shows in small, intimate venues, Titus Andronicus is set to have a very busy Spring Break.  The band has positioned itself to be one of the busiest bands around during SXSW which will give us a good great chance to hear the new album where it is best heard, in its face-melting, ear shattering, sweat-inducing live setting.  The new release also features appearances by members of Wye OakVivian Girls, and The Hold Steady amongst many others, which according to the record label XL recordings, all play a specific role as Civil War-era personalities.

The opener, ‘A More Perfect Union’, begins with the significant Abraham Lincoln quote, ominously stating “if destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author, and finisher.” Quickly, the group picked up where they left off in their debut, pounding into a seven minute jam with impressive melodies complimenting Stickle’s ‘agitated Oberst-esque’ lyrical stylings with fantastic results. Its good foot stomping Americana, proudly heralding “Rally around the flag!”, and proclaiming “I will not retreat a single inch, and I will be heard.” Not truer statement can be said about Titus Andronicus.

Throughout the record are more sound-bytes from the Civil War era, which hold much intrigue alone, but are especially portentous when heard alternate Spickle’s vocals and Eric Hold’s percussive fervor. The record is more or less about the conflict and subsequent unresolved misfortune followed by the ideals from the relationships forged nearly 150 years ago continuing today. However these principles have shaped our modern society, “you’ll always be a loser” quips the self-deprecating theme ‘No Future Part 3: Escape From No Future’, “and that’s ok.”

The two-part single, ‘Four Score and Seven’, which is set to be released on a 2-sided LP, is a great meditation on the subject of war and its absurdity. This track marks a turning point in the album, with the entrance of a brass section and beautiful interlude into the second half of the track which less introspective and more irate at the horrors of conflict more often seen.

‘To Old Friends and New’ displays a new side of the band with a touching duet with the Vivian Girl’s Cassie Ramone, which slowly builds to a crescendo proudly proclaiming “It’s alright now”. This touching moment is unexpectedly followed by ‘…And Ever’ which seems out of place at its ninth spot due to the drastic segue from the former’s tenderness and overall tone. Finally, the band finishes off the record with a powerful message of acceptance, liberation, and ultimately death. Per the band, the release is their way of celebrating the 148-year anniversary of the ship and much like the USS Monitor, this lengthy album fights a first-class battle and proves its worth in a great lyrical clash; only to sink quietly into rough waters following the afore-mentioned closing track, ‘The Battle of Hampton Roads’. And as we have all learned today, this battle served as the height of the Monitor’s service career and fittingly is a high water mark for the band. Any questions? Very well, class dismissed.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/Titus-Andronicus-Four-Score-and-Seven-Part-One.mp3]

Download: Titus Andronicus – Four Score and Seven (Part One) [MP3]

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/Titus-Andronicus-Four-Score-and-Seven-Part-Two.mp3]

Download: Titus Andronicus – Four Score and Seven (Part Two) [MP3]

A2W: Yellow Fever

yellowAt the end of the year, we had a hard time keeping our heads above water, trying to grasp our end of the year lists and what not.  In doing so, we missed the chance to alert you to the duo that is Yellow Fever.  Sure, they’ve been running around Austin for several years, but recently, they’ve seen their star rising in their musical horoscope.  Vivian Girls opted to release the groups self-titled debut album on their label Wild World.  It’s an album full of simple ditty’s a la early K Records groups such as the Beat Happening, but instead of Calvin as the front man, you have the wonderful Jennifer Moore.  It’s got enough hooks to grab the casual listener, and enough depth to instill true adoration from Austin fans. You’ll want to keep an eye on this group in 2010, especially on February 19th when they take the stage with Chain and the Gang and The Strange Boys.  Sounds like a line-up of classic indie rock, and by that, I mean the stuff pre-Pitchfork. Do yourself a favor and head on out to grab a copy of Yellow Fever so you’ll know all the songs in time for the show.

New Tunes From Titus Andronicus

ta_mm_04Shortly after the release of their 2008 album The Airing of Grievances, Jersey band Titus Andronicus are returning in 2010 with a new album entitled The Monitor.  The band’s sophomore LP is said to have a civil war theme to it with some spoken word/acting guest appearances by members of the Hold Steady, Vivian Girls and others.  Prior to that release Titus plan to release a 7″ single featuring the two songs we have posted for you below.  These two tracks were apparently meant to be joined into one song and were only split to fit neatly onto a two sided 7″.  I’d suggest firing up our ATH radio so you can hear the two songs together in all their epic glory.  Physical copies of the 7″ single will be available Feb. 9th and the new LP drops March 9th on XL Recordings.  More info and track listing can be found on the PFork.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/Titus-Andronicus-Four-Score-and-Seven-Part-One.mp3]

Download: Titus Andronicus – Four Score and Seven (Part One) [MP3]

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/Titus-Andronicus-Four-Score-and-Seven-Part-Two.mp3]

Download: Titus Andronicus – Four Score and Seven (Part Two) [MP3]

Vivian Girls @ Red 7 (10/16)

viviangirls

Date 10/16/09
Location Red 7
Doors 9pm
Tickets $10 from Frontgate

Blogger favorite fuzz-pop band Vivian Girls are stopping in town at Red 7 on Friday.  Support for this one will be provided by Yellow Fever, Deskonocidos, and Cowabunga Babez.  Not so sure how Vivian Girls will be live so someone check it out and let us know what you think.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/03-Cant-Get-Over-You.mp3]

Download: Vivian Girls – Can’t Get Over You [MP3]

Vivian Girls – Everything Goes Wrong

 vivian_everything

Rating: ★★★½ ·

After riding a wave of critical acclaim with their 2008 self titled debut, the Brooklyn based Vivian Girls return with their brand of lo-fi garage-pop on the sophomore release of Everything Goes Wrong.

Having hated, HATED, their debut, I approached Everything Goes Wrong with much trepidation.  I was already coming up with snarky comments based on the album title and track names like ‘I Have No Fun’ and ‘Before I Start to Cry’. I was pre-planning diatribes asking questions like “Do bands hide behind the ‘lo-fi’ aesthetic to mask their lack of talent?” It was going to be fun tearing this thing apart. 

The first three tracks, ‘Walking Alone at Night’, ‘I Have No Fun’, and ‘Can’t Get Over You’ didn’t do much to assuage my fears. It was sloppy with bored vocals and maybe the worst guitar ‘solos’ I have ever heard.  It’s almost like, mid-song, the bass player mouthed ‘guitar solo’ to the guitarist, and feeling tired of arguing over the pettiest shit with the bass player (that’s what you do with bass players) the guitar player relented, and the unnecessary solo was born.  I digress.

Something happened in the fourth track, ‘The Desert’, though, and I began enjoying myself.  The music tightened up, the vocals become more dynamic. By track seven, ‘The End’, I became a fan.  ‘The End’ is definitely the winning track on this album, the Vivian Girls take the best parts of early Hole (yes I feel odd using that comparison, but Live Through This was and is a great album), and the garage-y aesthetic and makes it their own.  The rest of the album plays out much the same way. It’s light, airy and fun: Everything Goes Wrong is great for a road trip or a quick jog around Williamsburg (from the hipster J. Peterman catalog).

If you have one Vivian Girls album in your collection (and really, you only need one) make it Everything Goes WrongBut, and this is a big but (HA!): I get the feeling that the Vivian Girls don’t have many more tricks in their bag, and will have to step it up big time on their third release, because, while Everything is Wrong is a fun record I can see more of the same getting awfully tiresome.

Ariel Pink @ Mohawk (4/10)

041009_mohawk_arielpink2Ariel Pink is one of those artists who is fairly unpredictable when it comes to the live show and you never really know what the hell the guy is gonna do.  Make your way out to Mohawk on Friday night to catch Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti along with blog hyped band Vivian Girls and opener Yellow Fever.  If nothing else, Vivian girls proved by their SXSW sets that they can put on a decent show.  Tickets for this show will be sold only at the door with music starting around 9:30.

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

Download: Vivian Girls – Where Do You Run To [MP3]

Vivian Girls – s/t

Rating: ★★½ · ·

Everyone seems keen on the Vivian Girls lately; you’ll find their name on every independent blog or web site across the world.  Despite their recent rise to glory, it’s completely clear that the girls have a great deal of work to do in order to rise all the way to the top.

After a set of 7 inches, and a short run of their self-title debut, the girls have re-released the entire debut; this time on In the Red Records. It’s odd how such a short career has risen sky-high, and one must question whether the downturn in the global market has finally led to inflation in the minds of indie connoisseurs .

“All the TIme” opens this album, and the earnestness in the song definitely creates a sense of interest for the listener. The soulful female vocals, reminiscent of ancient R&B singers, carries the song amidst waves of sheer noise.  This is about as far as one can go with garnering loads of praise upon the band; their efforts here fail in regards to the critical praise they have recently achieved.

Throughout the entire album, the drum work is somewhat shoddy, relying upon the cymbals and pounding snare work, which harks back to the more straightforward punk sounds that came out of New York in the eighties.  For some reason, the drums lack the proper clarity in the final mix, which destroys their overall effect, almost rendering them the label of juvenile.

Every song seems to follow in the footsteps of the first track, playing upon the the female harmonies.  Momentarily, one might be distracted from the walls of noise and feedback at first, but as the album continues to push forward with the varying levels of sonic noise it appears as if Vivian Girls are trying to hide their capabilities behind such noise, disguising their talent from the ears of listeners.

No one seems to be linking the girls to the fame and popularity of Beat Happening.  Sure, Calvin  Johnson carried the band for years, but just go back to the album Jamboree and listen to Heather Lewis sing on “In Between” and you will clearly see that the Vivian Girls have quietly lifted their style from everything in that song.  The only difference is that they surround the pop elements with unnecessary noise.  Clearly, they have work to do if they want to achieve the longevity of Calvin’s low-fi pop genius.

Listening to this album is something that one should do with skepticism.  All the hype in the world just doesn’t come through your speakers the way that you want it to do.  You can’t blame the Vivian Girls for this, for it’s clear that they didn’t rise to fame without merit.  There are elements of enjoyment here, along with promise, but the punch in the face you all hoped for doesn’t come through in the end.

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