New Music from Jonathan Rado of Foxygen

jonathanradoAdmittedly, I’m not a fan of Foxygen, at least in so far as the live setting goes. I thought the band was so horrible that I actually walked out of their set.  But, that being said, I can’t say enough about the songwriters in that band, especially Jonathan Rado.  He’s announced a solo effort for Woodsist, and it definitely harkens back to days of sincere pop.  If you didn’t hear the 60s influence on his writing before, you’re definitely going to hear it in this new track.  The album is titled Law and Order and should see a release date at some point in the fall.

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Eat Skull – III

eat-skull-IIIRating: ★★★★☆

I’m late to the party on this one, having only recognized Eat Skull by name, rather than by their previous efforts.  That being said, III seems like a good place to start for me, as it’s already made me a champion of the work the band are creating.  If, like me, you’re new to the band, then come along as I take you on my first journey with the band, which has already been an exceptional trip.

“Space Academy” immediately had me sold on III.  It’s got a fuzzy guitar riff that opens up the album, followed by some chanted vocals that dictate to us exactly “how it’s going to be.”  My ears recalled bits of a Brit-pop stomper, albeit an extremely louder/scuzzier version.  Even as the song trails off into an instrumental guitar dabbling, I still found myself enthralled. “Dead Horses” soon follows, and it doesn’t do anything to dissuade my adoration.  For one, the band references taxidermy, my favorite pastime, on multiple occasions, but it’s also got this rolling pop-centric guitar line that lives in the middle of the track, which oddly works in harmony with the discordant accompaniment.  I’m psyched to watch these “dead horses decompose with taxidermy eyes.”

Eat Skull do decide to turn things into a different direction on the third track, “How Do I Know When to Say Goodnight,” which seems like a blend of glitch-pop and their ramshackle folk influences.  There’s an other-worldly chanting going on in the background that at times can be a tad grating, but otherwise, the experimentation of the group opens your ears to some incredible pop moments. I think the group’s dallying between genres comes to fruition, however, on the most inconspicuous of songs. There’s a heavy coat of bass fuzz atop light guitar playing, yet the vocals have this certain clarity that isn’t present on all the other songs within III.  You’ve got to have patience on this number, and I appreciate that, leaving me with my own personal haunting. Another gem you’ll find lurking in the musical madness is “They Burned You.” This jam has its own ghoul, which comes in the way of a looped vocal circling through the foreground and the background.  For me, my appreciation comes from the strumming guitar work and the rising and falling of the vocals.  It starts off your final leg of the journey that will take you through the joyous “Amnesty Box” and the more exploratory pop of “Catch Em Before They Vanish.”

It’s easy to admit that Eat Skull might not be for everyone’s enjoyment.  There’s certain elements that I can see as being inaccessible, especially if you’re one to quickly push through your musical collection.  But, if you’ve got the patience for listening, then find yourself peeling back the layers of III; it’ll take you to places you might not go, musically speaking, for the rest of the year, making this a memorable listen time and time again.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/01-Space-Academy.mp3]

 

 

New Music from The Woolen Men

It’s always interesting when you can see a geographical stamp in a band’s sound, so it’s no surprise that new music from The Woolen Men bares some homage to the Pacific Northwest.  Sure, this most comes through in the bands vocal stylings, with hints of woodsmen, though the aesthetic of recording and running things on your own has also played a huge part in the region’s output.  The band just signed on with Woodsist to release their brand new self-titled LP, which will be in stores officially on March 5th.  I have a feeling a lot of you are going to find this release something you can really get behind.

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New Track from Eat Skull

2013 has a lot of great things coming our way, and I wasn’t really expecting to be as blown away by this new Eat Skull track, which only adds to my list of lofty expectations for the new year.  At first, I sort of felt like I was immersed in a Wes Anderson moment, but then the song sort of began to fill with a bit more noise, so if it’s an Anderson homage, then perhaps this is one of those rare action scenes.  I love the distance between the vocals and the listener, creating a haunting, yet enchanting, bit of psychedelia.  Their album III comes out via Woodsist on February 19, and here’s your first taste.

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The Babies – Our House On The Hill

Rating: ★★★½☆

The project between Woods‘ Kevin Morby and Vivian Girls‘ Cassie Ramone isn’t exactly a new project, but their newest effort for Woodsist seems like the side-project finally got some much deserved focus from the two core songwriters. Our House On The Hill is the perfect execution of sunny pop with a ramshackle approach, giving listeners exactly what we’ve been looking for since we first got wind of the band.

“Alligator” takes aim at my pop-centric heart almost immediately.  A ringing guitar accompanied by Morby’s sunny vocal approach definitely pleases, and when Cassie Ramone comes in for accompaniment midway through the track, I couldn’t have been happier.  It’s a simple tune, with fairly common writing, but it’s just the beginning of the infectious hooks coming from The Babies.  Immediately following you’re greeted by slow-walking, where Morby and Ramone take dead aim at bright pop by trading vocal duties back and forth. This is the track I longed for the group to create!

A few tracks ahead and you enter the realm of perfection with “Get Lost,” one of the standout tracks on Our House On The Hill.  This is definitely Morby’s track, and it’s his vocal performance that steals the show, though the low-key approach of the various verses just builds the tension for the group to blast off into a bliss filled meandering guitar affair to close out the song.  Just because there’s a hit like this laying in the middle of the record, it doesn’t mean there’s not enough interesting tracks to fill out the album exceptionally.

You can take “Mean,” which is mostly a one-man Morby affair, with the singer coming off with hints of Bob Dylan, both in the writing of the track and the vocal delivery.  Ramone’s quieted backing vocals only strengthen the track even more.  There’s also “Baby,” which belongs to Ramone, and definitely wears the mark of her other project, Vivian Girls, though there’s also similarities to Best Coast lurking in its structure and vocal delivery.  These are just a few of the various examples that mark this effort by The Babies, leaving you with an effort that doesn’t really repeat itself, though paces back and forth in similar territory.

Our House On The Hill is all over place, and in saying this, I’m meaning it as a compliment.  In combining the great songwriting attributes of Morby and Ramone, the record never really gets stale, and if anything, it only improves reveals more gems from listen to listen.  Depending upon your mood, you might light the sunny pop elements, but others might find themselves leaning towards the more stripped down tracks like “That Boy.”  Thats precisely why I think The Babies are so successful on this round, doing what they do best on their own terms, and excelling in every way.

 

New Music from The Babies

The following track is not like anything I’ve heard from The Babies as of late, but to be honest, I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve always enjoyed listening to the group: their sound is fairly unidentifiable.  They’ve got tunes that come off as garage-rock, but they’ll mix it up with some slow-paced ballad, keeping you on your toes throughout your listening experience.  This new tune begins with a bit of a wayward stomp, filled with a melodic hook that I can’t escape; of course, it also features a closing guitar ambling to wrap up the track.  Who knows what we’ll get when their latest album Our House on the Hill comes out November 13th (Woodsist), but I bet it’s going to be good.

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Woods – Bend Beyond

Rating: ★★★★☆

Honestly, I’ve never been one-hundred percent behind Woods.  Some of their tunes have been really good, and others I could have done without, but when you’re working as hard as this band, sometimes you get lost in the fold.  But, Bend Beyond is a pretty exceptional record, and it’s definitely gotten a hold of me.

You couldn’t have asked for a better opening track than “Bend Beyond,” which clearly owes a bit to California pop of yesteryear.  The song opens slowly, but when the chorus begins to take off in this perfect melody, it won me over completely.  Sure, there’s a bit much of the guitar noodling for my typical liking, but with the striking harmony as the central player, I can forgive that. And they followed it up with “Cali in a Cup,” a song that immediately had me awkwardly stomping about my stereo room with a huge grin upon my face.  One listen here and you’ll remember why those of us who are pop lovers really love music.  At this point, Bend Beyond is two for two.

I promise you, Woods aren’t letting up, but they do offer more than just this folk-laden sunny pop.  You don’t have to go too far to find “It Ain’t Easy;” it’s a number that mostly revolves around gentle guitar strumming and vocals.  You’ll hear some faint slide guitar shimmering in the background, providing the song with more depth, but it’s not like that’s needed, as the track’s pretty special standing on its own.  Or they can go in a completely different direction, just as they do on “Find Them Empty.” It opens with this shattering psychedelic guitar noise, which never fully fades away, circling in and out about the central idea of the track.  Definitely a pop tune, similar to the earlier tracks mentioned, but with a bit of ballsy guitar work making it something else entirely.

I’m not really sure what is about this release that has made me completely warm to the band, but right now I’m leaning towards the undeniable consistency on Bend Beyond.  You can skip all the way from the first track to “Impossible Skys,” which is the second to last track here, still seeing some lineage in the sense that they’re still grooming blissful pop tunes.  In fact, the majority of the songs in this collection share the same sentiment, though there are some differing variables that I’ve previously mentioned; those differences provide just another variation to leave you with a record that never sounds the same, but always sounds cohesive.

Ultimately, that’s where Woods leave off on this record, giving you a record that’s tied nicely together by the band’s focus.  You’re not going to get bored listening to this album, but you’re surely going to leave your listening experience with happier ears.  Some bands make pop music, others add elements of pop to their folk music, and when it’s done as well as it on Bend Beyond, you’re not going to see too many people complain.

Nice Jam from MV + EE

When I first got the latest LP from MV & EE, Space Homestead, I wasn’t really sure what to expect.  I had heard a few things, and I had mixed feelings, but over time, I’ve really fallen for the album.  You’re probably going to have the same feeling, at least if you’re in the same shoes. This new single that the band’s had floating around for the last 24 hours really encompasses some of the cinematic quality of the group’s tunes.  There’s hardly audible quality to the music, but I think that’s precisely what draws you in so intimately to the tracks that are present.  Might not be for everyone, but lately it’s been just for me.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/MV_and_EE_-_Sweet_Sure_Gone.mp3]

Download: MV & EE – Sweet Sure Gone [MP3]

Another Sleazy Rocker from White Fence

You’ve got to hand it to Tim Presley.  He can bring a nice psychedelic country number with Darker My Love, then turn around and bang out a noisy little garage rock number on the other hand. As we’ve mentioned before, Presley’s White Fence project is set to release one of two albums for Woodsist on April 3rd titled Family Perfume. And rumors have it that he’s also in the works with Ty Segall on a joint project.  If he’s going to keep kicking out solid jams like this one, then we’re going to stay on board.  Just hope this is more quality than quantity.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/White_Fence_-_Swagger_Vets_and_Double_Moon.mp3]

Download:White Fence – Swagger Vets and Double Moon [MP3]

Golden Calves – Collection: Money Band + Century Band

Rating: ★★½☆☆

Those of you familiar with Wooden Wand will surely recognize the work of James Jackson Toth, but it’s possible that his early project as Golden Calves might have slipped under your radar.  Luckily for you, Woodsist has run a small reissue of of his two releases, combining them into one double LP collection.  While there’s definitely some enjoyable moments on places, many listeners will find the tinkering a bit too much at times, and seemingly self-indulgent.

I’m not going to sit here and praise Toth and his Golden Calves for some incredible creation, as a great deal of this album seems like meaningless dribble.  In fact, there’s barely a completed four songs on the first half that is comprised entirely of Money Band.  That record comes off as an elementary attempt to create something artful and completely off the beaten path.   That being said, there are some elements that clearly come through on that side, such as “Seraphim Radar Rallies.”  It’s still a bit basic and experimental, but there’s an endearing quality in the composition, much like the early works from Elf Power.  By and large, however, the first half of this record can be wholly discarded. It’s a specialty collector’s piece for fans of JJT, which is understandable, but no more than that.

What’s interesting is seeing the evolution from Point A to Point B, which comes through in the Century Band 12″ recordings.  There’s a bit more of a conscious effort to compose structures, albeit in the slightly confounding manner that Toth’s early work took on.  Still, Toth’s comments seem to acknowledge his faults in the compositions, as he clearly realizes that this was a starting point for a budding musician.  You’ll find a song like “Mod Bacteria,” however, a pleasurable tune; it’s one you can actually find yourself listening to again and again, including the faint haunting vocal in the background.  “Atrium 5: The Absinthe Labyrinth” is another such track, with carefully picked guitar and Toth carefully plodding along with his vocals. These are where we hope his talents began, as clearly there’s a background for a strong future in these songs.

All in all, I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I hate this.  There’s just enough of an oddity within that really grasps the young indie rock listener in me, shaking him awake again.  Back in my early days when I was blown away by things just because they were weird and different, I was on top of the world, and that’s sort of the sentiment you get from Toth in these recordings.  He was young and ambitious; he just wanted to put it all on tape.  For what its worth, you’ll find some gems, and you’ll find some trash, but mostly you’ll find a special recording that you should be able to enjoy if you remove your blinders and get lost in the experience.

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