Centro-matic – Candidate Waltz

Rating: ★★★★ ·

For close to two decades, Will Johnson has been all over the map, crafting songs under his own name, with various co-writers, and of course, with Centro-matic.  For the most part, his music has always had a sort of country-shade to it, and his voice has always made it heart-wrenching, no matter the lyrical content.  But, on Candidate Waltz, there’s more of an uplifting construction to the songs, giving you an album that could be considered his most widely accessible work to date.

You can easily discern that there’s going to be a sharper, polished sound on Candidate Waltz the minute “Against the Line” drops in with it’s sharp guitar chords.  Of course, the fragility in Johnson’s voice remains, creating an interesting juxtaposition that allows the song to be absorbed by your soul on multiple levels.  Jagged guitar lines cut through the following track, “All the Talkers,” with the group sounding a bit like a more rocking version of Lucero, but the interesting aspect of this song comes in near the final two minutes.  The track switches from a gritty rocker into this carefully crafted pop lullaby ending, created by the melodious backing vocals; this is perhaps one of the brightest moments on the record.

If you’re looking for that classic Centro-matic sound, with Johnson’s voice pulling at your gut strings, you’ll find that those songs, too, live within the confines of this latest effort.  “Estimate x 3” relies upon a time-keeping drum beat, quiet guitar lines, and Will.  The gruff quality of his voice always makes him seem so vulnerable, and that has consistently made his tracks seem tragic, yet towards the end of this number, as he repeats “give me what you want/don’t tell me” you can sense a softer side emerging in his work.

It’s going to be difficult to find something that allows you to disregard Candidate Waltz.  There’s sweeping melodies, great song arrangements, and really, there aren’t any misstep songs.  “Only in My Double Mind” has a banging piano and drum to start it off, while Johnson’s vocals do a great job carrying the melody throughout, giving you a short glimpse at just how powerful his voice can be, even when the music doesn’t appear to be the most innovative.  There’s a gentleness to the way he croons “ooh ooh,” providing those mono-syllabic moments with bits of depth you typically don’t see.  And the record finishes off with much the same fashion as it begins, bringing a warm rocker to your ears by the name of “If They Talk You Down.”  It shouldn’t cease to amaze you how emotionally charged Will’s vocals come across, even when he’s just using his voice as an instrument.  Personally, the gentle strings in the background make this track another standout.

There’s not a bad thing to say about Candidate Waltz, no matter how many times you listen to it, unless of course, you wanted more songs.  But, the brevity of the experience, combined with Will Johnson’s powerful voice provides listeners with more than enough to swoon over, just before Centro-matic wraps it all up.  The best thing is that as soon as it ends, you’ll want to start if all over again. And again.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/05.-Only-In-My-Double-Mind.mp3]

Download: Centro-matic – Only In My Double Mind [MP3]

New Music From Centro-matic (Premiere!)

So right after we dropped a brand new song from Will Johnson a couple days ago, we receive this new track from Will’s veteran indie act Centro-matic.  This song “Only In My Double Mind” is the first single from the band’s upcoming new album Candidate Waltz due out June 21st.  While you’re at it, check out the accompanying video for the song featuring painter Will, some flying pizza, and chickens.  It’s really hard to believe that a band with talent such as this still manages to somehow fly under the radar in the music scene.  On that note, you can also stream a huge selection of Centro-matic’s music on their website if you’re new to the band.

*Update: For the time being, we can only offer you a stream of the song but can direct you to the Centro-matic website for a download.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/05.-Only-In-My-Double-Mind.mp3]

New Music From Will Johnson

So we here at ATH love us some Will Johnson and always pay attention to the guy when he drops some new music our way.  This new number “Tangle for the Less” appears on a brand new EP entitled Little Raider that is currently available now while he is on tour or from the Undertow Music store.  The new joint was recorded over a two day period right here in Austin with our favorite producer Jim Eno.  You can also catch Will on tour with his long time band Centro-matic this summer with a stop in Austin at The Ghost Room in July.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/05-Tangle-For-The-Less.mp3]

Download: Will Johnson – Tangle For The Less [MP3]

Show Preview: Will Johnson @ Catcus Cafe (12/4)

Date Saturday, Dec. 4th
Location Cactus Cafe
Doors 830 PM
Tickets $10 at Door

We’re definitely glad to know that Cactus Cafe will still be around for some time, as they continue to bring us little treats, like Saturday’s show, featuring none other than Will Johnson. Dude wrote great songs for Centro-matic and his own solo-stuff, a bit with Jason Molina, not to mention playing drums for Monsters of Folk for a bit, at least on tour. Us guys here? We love him, everything he does. You can guarantee we’ll be there. You can also catch Some Say Leland opening up.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/will-johnson-closing-down-my-house.mp3]

Download: Will Johnson – Closing Down My House [MP3]

Will Johnson @ Ghost Room (8/12)

Date 8/12/10
Location Ghost Room
Doors 9pm
Tickets $8 @ Door

The great Will Johnson is making another stop in town without his band Centro-matic at the Ghost Room on Thursday night.  Joining the highly under appreciated musician is Austin Collins.  Go check this out if you haven’t seen Will do some of his stuff solo.  It’s truly great.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/will-johnson-closing-down-my-house.mp3]

Download: Will Johnson – Closing Down My House [MP3]

Will Johnson Live On Woxy

willjohnson2Long time ATH favorite Will Johnson had his session with the Woxy crew posted on their blog site a couple days ago.  Mr. Johnson plays 4 songs, including this gem “Almost Let You In” from his 2009 effort with Jason Molina.  I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, this guy has one of the best and most unique voices in the business today.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/will_johnson-almost_let_you_in.mp3]

Download: Will Johnson – Almost Let You In (live) [MP3]

Gibbard & Farrar @ Antone’s (1/27)

gibbardfarrar

Date 1/27/10
Location Antones
Doors 8pm
Tickets Sold Out

The super duo of Death Cab for Cutie front man Ben Gibbard and Son Volt leading man Jay Farrar are stopping into town at Antone’s on Wednesday.  The recently formed group are touring in support of their Big Sur inspired colaborative project.  One of our favorite songwriters Will Johnson will also be on hand to open things up.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/Ben+Gibbard+and+Jay+Farrar+-+California+Zephyr.mp3]

Download: Ben Gibbard & Jay Farrar – California Zephyr [MP3]

Molina & Johnson – s/t

molinajohnsoncover

Rating: ★★★★½

You had to know this was coming; you had to know that a combination of these two men could lead you to nothing but greatness.  Jason Molina and Will Johnson live two separate lives.  One man, Jason, fronts Magnolia Electric Co, while the other hangs out in Texas and fronts Centromatic, not to mention his own solo stuff under the name, surprisingly, Will Johnson.  United, they have risen above their individual prowess and united to make a conglomerate of sad-bastard music that surpasses most everything else that came our way this year, in regards to that particular genre at least.

When you first hear “Twenty Cycles to the Ground” you immediately feel the comfort of home. Will Johnson‘s voice always sounds like your aged father singing on the back porch with his acoustic guitar in his hand.  At the same time, the warmth of Molina accents the throatier moments from Johnson.  Such a natural harmonization could not be imagined in this mind.

And for the larger part of this album, you encounter such beautiful moments time and time again.  “Almost Let You In” sees the two gents casually trading vocal duties over gentle piano structures and simple strumming of acoustic elements. There is such a clarity in the music that can only come from its simplicity, leading the listeners to the height of audial enlightenment; such as it is when the two combine near the end of the song, just as the piano begins to carry you away.

You are not very likely to find anything overtly beautiful and fanciful in this album.  It seems steeped in a sense of melancholy, which is mostly due to the instrumentation.  Yet, despite the down-trodden mood simulated by the instrumentation, nothing is as enchanting as Will Johnson walking quietly through his songs, with throaty vocals intact, pushing you to the edge of your bed, grasping, no, hanging, on every last syllable that he emits. The light in this album comes largely from Molina, however.

Take, for example, “The Lily and The Brakeman,” one of the songs that only goes to Molina. There is a different emotional appeal in his vocal delivery, and as it yanks on your heartstrings, it also seems to soothe you just a bit more than his counterpart.  This is precisely why this album is such a wonderful collection of songs.  There exists a perfect juxtaposition between the warble of Johnson and the calm delivery of Molina, both captivating, and both working together in unison. Together, they’ve created an album that seems born of the past, only to live in the current landscape.

Not a moment on this album is really discardable; not a one. Perhaps the off moments will be off-putting to casual listeners, but once you immerse yourself in the waters of Molina & Johnson, you’ll feel as if you’ve been washed in one of the most masterful collaborations.  Do yourself a favor and get lost in the world of these two, as you’re likely to never want to leave.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/almostletyouin.mp3]

Download: Molina & Johnson – Almost Let You In [MP3]

More New Molina & Johnson

molinaandjohnsonphotoNot long ago we dropped a new track on you from the Will Johnson (Centro-matic) & Jason Molina (Magnolia Electirc Company) collaborative project.  Now, just a week away from the release, we have another new track to get you excited for the release.  This one’s called “Almost Let You In” and will appear on the duos self-titled debut album out Nov. 3rd on Secretly Canadian.  This one is just as quietly beautiful as the first.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/almostletyouin.mp3]

Download: Molina & Johnson – Almost Let You In [MP3]

Molina & Johnson Release First Single

molUnless you’ve been living under a rock for a while, you’ve heard that Will Johnson of Centro-matic and Jason Molina of Magnolia Electric Co. have teamed up for a collaborative release.  So after much anticipation, the duo has a single ready and we couldn’t be more pleased with the results.  You can pick up Molina & Johnson Nov. 3rd via Secretly Canadian.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/Molina-And-Johnson-Twenty-Cycles-To-The-Ground.mp3]

Download: Molina And Johnson – Twenty Cycles To The Ground [MP3]

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