Albums Of 2011

We’ve already brought you our songs of the year and Texas albums of the year, so now it’s time for the much anticipated albums of the year list.  I’m sure many of you will notice some big names off the list and you will be ready to plead your case about why we are wrong.  We’ll hear ya out… Feel free to drop us a comment with your own list or just to debate with us.  Follow the jump for list.
50) The New Tigers – s/t

49) Secret Cities – Strange Hearts

48) AM & Shawn Lee – Celestial Electric

47) Rural Alberta Advantage – Departing

46) Blue Skies for Black Hearts – Embracing the Modern Age

45) Geoffrey O’ Connor – Vanity is Forever

44) Dum Dum Girls – Only in Dreams

43) Destroyer – Kaputt

42) Obits – Moody, Standard and Poor

41) The Rosebuds – Loud Planes Fly Low

40) Tim Cohen – Magic Trick

39) Bad Sports – Kings of the Weekend

38) Chelsea Wolfe – Apokalypsis

37) Chad Van Gaalen – Diaper Island

36) Male Bonding – Nothing Hurts

35) Crystal Stilts – In Love With Oblivion

34) Cold Cave – Cherish the Light Years

33) Devon Williams – Euphoria

32) Okkervil River – I Am Very Far

31) Sonny and the Sunsets – Hit After Hit

30) Smith Westerns – Dye It Blonde

29) Wax Idols – No Future

28) Grooms – Prom

27) Cut Off Your Hands – Hollow

26) The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient

25) Ducktails – Ducktails III

24) Papercuts – Fading Parade

23) Atlas Sound – Parallax

22) Mind Spiders – s/t

21) Craft Spells – Idle Labor

20) Yuck – s/t

19) The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar

18) Comet Gain – Howl of the Lonely Crowd

17) The Drums – Portamento

16) Snowmine – Laminate Pet Animal

15) King Creosote and Jon Hopkins – Diamond Mine

14) The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Belong

13) Girls Names – Dead to Me

12) Light for Fire – s/t

11) Other Lives – Tamer Animals

10) Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

9) Iceage – New Brigade

8 The Antlers – Burst Apart

7) Seapony – Go With Me

6) Pure X – Pleasure

5) Cloud Nothings – s/t

4) Real Estate – Days

3) Gold Leaves – The Ornament

2) The Twerps – s/t

1) Wye Oak – Civilian

So that’s it ladies and gents, we are officially putting an end to 2011.  What do you like and what do you not like?  Let’s hear it.

New Music from Sharon Van Etten

I know Turkey Day is drawing near, but there’s still some great music leaking out today, so I’m going to try and stay on top of it.  This new track from Sharon Van Etten has me really excited, and not just because it features members of The National, Walkmen and Wye Oak; it’s because I’ve got a bit of a crush on Sharon…and her music too! The songstress has a new album coming out titled Tramp, which will be released on Jagjaguwar on February 7th.  This song’s got a nice little cascading guitar line cutting through the rhythm guitar, and Van Etten’s voice sounds every bit as beautiful as I remember it in the live setting.  This is shaping up to be a good 2012 already.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Sharon_Van_Etten_-_Serpents.mp3]

Download: Sharon Van Etten – Serpents [MP3]

Show Pics: Wye Oak @ The Parish

I chased Wye Oak around at SxSW only to be thwarted by flu fatigue and a late cancellation at a day party, but to get to see them play at The Parish more than makes up for it. Add to that, it was my birthday. Add to that, I get to bring my camera to share pics with you.

So off to the Parish we went, the Hall in a good mood, but a little tired from the week’s shows. Erika Wennerstrom opened with a set of stripped down Heartless Bastards tunes.

Head past the jump for plenty of pics and few show notes…

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Show Preview: Wye Oak @ the Parish (10/14)

Date Friday, October 14th
Location The Parish
Doors 800p
Tickets $12 from Frontgate

With the slew of shows piling up in Austin this month, this is one that you definitely don’t want to miss out on.  Friday, Baltimore duo Wye Oak make their way into town, hoping to reignite the passion for their great record Civilian, which came out earlier this year on Merge Records. With Jenn Wasner on vocals and Andy Stack, it’s hard to imagine how the two can craft such a huge wall of sound, both fragile and ecclectic–my bet is on Jenn and her powerful vocals. Among all the shows, this is definitely the one you should put on your MUST see list. You can also catch opener Erika Wennerstrom of Heartless Bastards if you show up on time folks!

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/05-Civilian-1.mp3]

Download: Wye Oak – Civilian [MP3]

Future Islands – On the Water

Rating: ★★★½ ·

Although established in 2006, Future Islands seem to be a band that haven’t really been able to get their footing—be it in what kind of sound they are going for, or in the number of full length albums they have put out. Regardless, after a listen or two, On the Water is the album that changes things for this band; it’s a solid synth-pop album with some jams that will have you either bobbing your head to the beat or basking in the glow of their dramatically emotional musings.

Future Islands is composed of three men with synthesizers, vocals and guitars, the combination of which makes for an interesting sound combo. You have these groovy synthesizers that fuse with the passionately gruff vocals of Samuel Herring, which makes up the crux of their sound. Herring belts the words to his songs in his mesmerizing style, pushing every ounce of emotion into every syllable he sings, which drives the sonic interest behind this band and makes the sound more than just some synthesized beats.

On the first song, which is also the title track, you can hear such passion emoted in Herrings vocals. Some atmospheric noise starts things out softly, but then the drum beats and synths roll in and it feels like a beast is crawling over your ears. This image is completed with the entrance of Herring, whose vocals feel strained with raw feeling, even turning into a growl-like state at some points. I’m reminded of a cross between David Bowie and Patrick Wolf in that the throat emotion is the main focus of his style, which may feel melodramatic to some, but proves to be my favorite part of Future Islands’ sound. If you detest it after the first song, I don’t think it would be wise to attempt to pursue this band any further—it is the driving force behind the synth.

There are some standouts on this album that seem to propel it past their last release. One of these comes third and features Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak for some male/female duality in the vocals, and the result is a lovely combination of power. Another highlight comes later on “Give Us The Wind,” in which you can jam to the deep bass of the song and feel the cathartic weight of the lyrics; “We don’t want your blessings/ Give us the Wind.”

While not all songs are exactly the most explosive of numbers, there are enough high points to outweigh the mediocre ones. On the Water serves as a good synth-pop record that will surely warrant further listening.

Chelsea Wolfe – Apokalypsis

Rating: ★★★★ ·

More often then not in this day and age of music, bands will go for what I like to call ‘the single approach,’ or perfecting one of their songs so that it attracts the ears of potential listeners, and then failing to provide an album that matches the excellence of the single, or culminates with the other songs for a thematic approach. Regardless of what the rest of the music world is doing, Chelsea Wolfe seems to be dedicated to doing things her way, which means an album Ἀποκάλυψις (pronounced apokalypsis) themed around darkness.

If the album title wasn’t enough, or even the track titles, to prove that this is a deeply sinister work, then the first noises you hear should do the trick. The first ‘song’ on the album, or the twenty-five second screeching noises entitled “Primal/Carnal,” sounds exactly like the title entails; an animal coming to life, but not just any animal, more specifically going off Wolfe’s outwardly dark themes. After this introductory track, “Mer,” the first real song kicks in and instantly Wolfe’s vocals hook, oozing with haunting qualities. It is much akin to that of Jenn Wasner from Wye Oak, which is obviously not a bad thing, as the female powerhouse vocal is never something to sneeze at, especially when its sweetness is juxtaposed against grungy instrumentals. Meanwhile, in the background, you have simmering cymbals and slowly effervescing guitar parts that provide a dark ambient folk/rock/pop vibe.

As aforementioned, Ἀποκάλυψις doesn’t really follow the pattern of one song standing apart from the others. Rather, it is the opposite, in that in order to absorb the rich, heavy and blackness of Wolfe’s gothic rock, you need to listen to the whole album, all the way through. Sure, like most records, you’ll pick out your favorite song, but there is a general sense of atmosphere required on all of the songs that makes it difficult to really immerse yourself in this kind of music without some preface or transition into. In effect, this phenomenon is probably the most unique and alluring factor of Chelsea’s work, and its cohesiveness is a lovely break from the banality of albums that just sit as a collection of similar sounding songs.

I won’t lie to you and say that this is a light effort, in the slightest. Instead, it is one of the more solid pieces of music that you will find these days. However, if you are ready to sit down and just soak up all of the darkness that Chelsea Wolfe is doling out, then this should be a beautiful album for you to relish in.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/A01-advice-and-vices.mp3]

Download: Chelsea Wolfe – Advice and Vices [MP3]

FT5: Albums of the Year…so far

Let’s face it, every site is doing it, and perhaps we’re a little late on the run in, but technically, we just got to the midway point of the year, so I was holding off until the exact date–I don’t want to get ahead of myself.  So, in all honesty, this is going to be sort of a list of my 2011 albums of the year up to now, but I reserve the right to drastically change my opinion on any, if not all, of these choices. Come on, it’s just now July, so I’ve still got six months to hammer things out in a fully functional list.  Please remember, this is one man’s opinion, not the site as a whole, nor do we disagree with your opinions, unless you like that new Beyonce.

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Top Ten SXSW Artists

It has taken us just about a week to come to a reasonable consensus about who we loved the most during SXSW.  We compiled our lists based on individual preferences and tried to give you a broad range of acts, so now you can consider our SXSW coverage complete with our list of the ten best bands we saw.

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Wye Oak – Civilian

Rating: ★★★★½

It seems like Merge Records can do no wrong as of recent, with stellar releases this year from names like Destroyer, Telekinesis and Apex Manor. So it is not a big surprise that this record is remarkable, well produced and enticing. Wye Oak has indubitably grown a great deal since their last release, and continue to amaze with how fulfilling their sound is for just a two member band.

Civilian is typical in that it has its immediate standouts, but unique in that after repeated listens, those that didn’t stand out before begin to emerge from the background, becoming new favorites. The opening track, “Two Small Deaths,” is one that grabs your attention upon the first listen. A bit of indiscernible chatter opens the song, giving that feeling of the moment before a show is about to start. It puts a bit of anxious-excitement about what is going to come after the chatter falls away, and Wye Oak certainly do not disappoint. Some simple feedback eases you in, and then the elegant and buttery vocals of Jenn Wasner hit you over the head, commanding your attention.  The track ebbs and flows between the swell of folk sound from the beautiful vocals and the shoe gaze guitars.

While the start to this album is certainly calm in it’s nature, it is by no means a template for the rest of the songs. On numbers like “Plains,” there are drastic build-ups to the powerful, vocal and instrumental, crescendos. It is here, along with the rest of the album, where the rich and strong vocals of Wasner are comparable to that of Victoria Legrand from Beach House. It’s so easy to get lost in the delicate, yet hurricane force strength of the vocals, but it’s not a feeling of misdirection. Instead, it’s the wonderful feeling of having nowhere to be, and getting lost leads you to something that you never would have found otherwise.

On the title track, “Civilian,” the song builds upon itself, layering the crispness of folk and the grit of the guitar. It grows and grows, and then hell breaks loose; all tension that has been built is suddenly released in a cathartic swell of squalling feedback. Elements of brilliance such as this are found all over Civilian, both in the attention grabbers and the slow burners. The prevalence of control and detail that Andy Stack and Jenn Wasner bring to their sound allows for them to push their boundaries, all while staying calculated. Sound like this merits multiple listens, and careful listens at that, or else you might miss a savory indie rock treat in this album.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/05-Civilian-1.mp3]

Download: Wye Oak – Civilian [MP3]

New Music from Wye Oak

Having been a long time fan of Wye Oak, of course I was looking forward to this track, and any ensuing goodness they had to offer up.  But, when the song appeared on TheGum I had no idea just how good it was going to be.  Jenn’s voice sounds phenomenal here, and part of me has this tingling feeling I got when I first heard “Zebra” by Beach House last year.  If that’s any indicator, then Civilian, the new album out on March 8th from Merge is going to be one incredible animal.  Just listen to that squalling feedback near the end! It’s like steamy sex in the woods, then Sonic Youth reckless abandon. Yes, I realize that might be a bit redundant, but go with it.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/05-Civilian-1.mp3]

Download: Wye Oak – Civilian [MP3]

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