Diamond Rings – Special Affections

Rating: ★★★★☆

In a world currently dominated by millions of people with laptops creating music, one has a hard time finding the perfect blend of electronica and pop.  Luckily, the hype behind Diamond Rings has brought John O’Regan to the forefront, just in time for him to drop his debut Special Affections.  It’s clear that his sound might not be the most innovative, but one thing is for sure, it’s definitely well-executed, leaving listeners with an album to spin over and over and over again.

Beginning with “Play by Heart,” you get a slow intro, with some tribal drums filling in the space left by the electronic atmospherics.  O’Regan’s deep voice, which often shifts tones, playfully discusses his heart-on-sleeve romance with a former lover. It establishes the mood of the entire record, walking along with personal retrospective lyrics and craft blended electronic pop.  Still, “Wait and See” is where the album really begins to take off, using a little bit of guitar riffage, and heavier beats.  The change in vocal tone, with additional layered vocals, during the chorus really brings the track home, offering up one of Special Affections best moments.

“On Our Own” keeps up the pace here, giving us more driving beats and blips, along with touches of orchestration to provide the record with a little more depth.  The chorus here has a delivered hook, similar to something you might have heard on Julian Casablancas’ solo record.  Surely this song will make you want to break into slow-dance mode with your buddies, shaking your hips and kicking up your feet.  It leads right into “You and Me,” which is one of the more playful songs in this collection, but once again its a shift in the tone of the vocal that provides just enough differentiation to make Special Affections interesting.  Simple beats and spoken-word delivery can wear you down, but John O. does well to twist in turn, whether it’s with his change in voice, or his carefully painted flourishes of additional sounds.  One listen to his twenty second electronic-rap near the end of the song, with a raised voice to end it all exemplifies his willingness to take his songs beyond the average band.

Despite his best efforts, it does seem that Special Affections has the ability to wear you down, especially when the slow songs begin to evolve.  Tracks like “Pre-Owned Heart” aren’t off songs by any means, yet they do get a touch redundant, as the extra touches present elsewhere seem to have dissipated.  Don’t give up on the record though, as Diamond Rings still has more to offer you in songs like “It’s Not My Party,” a track filled with a bit of electronic haze, O’Regan’s voice, and it only picks up from there, though never quite going too far.  The restraint showed here allows you to see how gifted a songwriter he is.  And it all ends with “All Yr Songs,” the shortest track here, but it illustrates his range, giving off a bit more of a summery appeal, as opposed to the earlier slow-club bangers he fills the album with up until this point.  As the song closes to an end, you’re probably noticing a smile on your face, noticing that you had fun listening to this track, and to Special Affections.  Not a bad way to end a solid debut.


Download: Diamond Rings – All Yr Songs [MP3]

Friday Top 5: Psychopath Songs

Nothing brings out our core values like the holidays. Halloween, for example, is a day to celebrate the most important American values. Values like fake blood and childhood obesity. Come to think of it, there’s something unsettling about Halloween. Why do people dress their children up like monsters and parade them around the neighborhood to extort candy from strangers? And what about adults who willfully engage in dressing like zombies, or slutty nurses, or slutty nurse zombies? That all sounds a little. . . you know, crazy.

It’s one thing for us to invent Vampires and Werewolves. But the real monsters, the Dahmers and Mansons, that look just like us? That’s a little harder to get a handle on. I guess that’s why people write songs about psychopaths. They want to get up close and personal to get a big whiff of crazy. If you embrace lunatics, you demystify them. The ghosts just become people in bedsheets. With that in mind, here are five songs about psychos for your Halloween weekend:

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New Music from Mammal Airlines

I always try to keep an ear out for what’s going on over in New Zealand and Australia.  Secretly, those two countries are putting out some really great works, so I’m always stoked when I come across a new one that needs some love. My recent discovery comes via Mammal Airlines. They’re putting out their Life of Mammals EP, and it’s got some great tracks on it, with those jangly guitars and a bit of fuzz to rock your socks. Get hip to Oceania folks. And, if you like what you hear, you can get their music for free from their label Papaiti.


Download: Mammal Airlines – Brobama [MP3]

Show Review: Jónsi @ Verizon Theatre (10/25)

Being that our website name carries the word Austin, it’s rare that we venture outside of Austin for shows.  I mean do we really need to with this town?  Not really, so we decided to send a friend of ours out to Grand Prairie to check out the show by Sigur Ros leading man Jónsi.  Our very talented friend Elizabeth Levacy will recount the night and even show us some fancy photos from her experience.  Follow the jump for our guest review by Liz.

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Warpaint – The Fool

Rating: ★★★★☆

After seeing these ladies play at ACL I was quite impressed. Despite playing for a small crowd early Sunday morning they managed to bring their quiet girl indie sound to the outdoor setting rather well, heightening my excitement for this album. Their sound is a mixture of psychedelic guitars with female vocals that vary from hushed to super strong, over the course of the whole album, as well as even in just one song.

Warpaint starts off with “Set Your Arms Down,” which begins in a slow sort of fashion moseys along, drum beats feeling very stop and go, but glued together by the meandering vocals until the build comes and the drums begin to roll faster and the murmurs of lyrics build – in unison at some parts and mismatching in others—and just when it seems that the band is about to spiral out of control the song is reeled in and transitions to the next song. Warpaint demonstrates their ability to form a complete and total song that may take you many places, but in the end they bring you back home.

They continue this journey in “Undertow,” the pre-released single, in which it feels as though Warpaint is asking us those questions of bitterness. The lead vocalist has a certain real feeling about her voice that makes you believe what she is singing; these are not just words, but rather a series of confessions. Perhaps the subtle imperfections, or the rawness on some notes is what gives the song this vibe. Whatever it is about this song, it certainly conveys the idea that they are not just a girl band, but one that wants, and should, be taken seriously.

Almost as if nodding to their name, “Composure” starts out with an echoed group chant in the background. Then the band moves the song abruptly, the whole beat is basically stopped, to a faster pace. In this transition they add more intricate guitar work, and a new song is born instantaneously. After dabbling into this new groovier pace for the majority of the song they slowly dive back into the chant, bringing the tune full circle. The album then sways smoothly into “Baby,” in which the soft flow of ooh’s and the delicate vocals add onto the gentle guitar plucking to give the song it’s simplistic lullaby shell and the melancholy tone.

For only a nine track album, it seems as though you have been taken everywhere by this band. They start you off with thicker slow movers such as “Warpaint”, lighten things up with faster, more danceable tunes like “Bees” an then bring it home with songs that combine these qualities, which makes The Fool such an enticing album. Warpaint exhibits all the aspects of a girl group without coming across as too sugary. There is a bite to their sweetness that prevents this album from being a one note dud, but instead a precision piece. I look forward to future efforts from this group.

New Music from The Soft Moon

After releasing two 7″s, it’s time for Luis Vasquez to bring on his debut record as The Soft Moon.  Of course, there’s a lot of dark undertones, created by the ominous atmospherics carrying the faintest hint of melody in the background.  The Soft Moon album will hit the streets on November 16th via Captured Tracks, which is home to other great artists such as Blank Dogs and Wild Nothing.  If you’re looking for that post-punk sound, riddled with haze and smoke, then you’re going to really enjoy the work here by Luis. Take a listen to the newest track.


Download: The Soft Moon – Tiny Spiders [MP3]

Contest: Fun Fest Passes!

It’s that time of year again, Fun x 3 Fest is just one short week away. The lineup is great as usual, ticket prices are still fairly low, and the weather is looking like it’s going to be even better than ACL festival!  To celebrate this wonderful time of year, we here at ATH have been given the awesome opportunity to give 1 very lucky person a Fun Fest pass with +1.  So in other words, one person will win two passes to Fun Fun Fun Fest next weekend.  Now last year we seriously made this too easy on you guys and we’d like to make things a bit more fun for everyone involved this time around.  Can you say PHOTO SCAVENGER HUNT! To compete in our outtasite contest, you’ll need to follow the jump for full details.

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New Music from Pomegranates

Ohio band Pomegranates are just now releasing their new album, One of Us, on Afternoon Records.  I’ve really been enjoying this record a lot, as its got this sort of mellow post-punk vibe to it, but sort of using modern pop fixtures like speedy choruses and atmospherics to add an extra bit of depth to each of the songs. You’ll find that the single has a nice little ring to it, and everything you hear in “50s,” you’re likely to hear on the album as well, with a little extra twist of fun waiting to unfold before you.  Trust me, this is an album waiting to be enjoyed over and over.


Download: Pomegranates – 50s [MP3]

Show Preview: Colour Revolt @ Mohawk (10/29)

Date 10/29/10
Location Mohawk
Doors 9pm
Tickets $10 @ Frontgate

Despite some of the recent major changes around Colour Revolt with departures of key members and whatnot, I still enjoy the band and their tunes.  I’ll be supporting that sound by stopping in at Mohawk on Friday night for a set by the band.  If nothing else, you gotta know these guys can rock some faces in the live setting.  Your opening support will be provided by locals White White Lights.  Sounds like a good time to me!

[audio: https://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/colourrevlot_ournames.mp3]

Download: Colour Revolt – Our Names [MP3]

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