Spectrals – Sob Story

sobstory620Rating: ★★★☆☆

All signs from Spectrals were definitely leading up to this.  Bad Penny and the various EPs from Louis Jones hinted at his influences, but with Sob Story he executes everything perfectly, leaving listeners with classic pop sounds that are fitting for any time of day or year.

There’s a bit of guitar tinkering to open up Sob Story, but the warmth of Jones eventually makes its way through your speakers.  Ringing guitars and a stomping beat provide an energetic touch to Louis’ vocals, which seems to have a bit of a Southern drawl to it.  It builds the listener towards the immediate hit, “Heartbeat Behind. Chugging guitars offer a glimpse at traditional pub rock, yet the chorus pulls back with a softer side of things, rather than ramping up the speed for the expected release of tension.  This tune demonstrates the balance and care put forth in the songwriting, never going too far into one musical realm without venturing into another.

While the majority of the numbers on the latest Spectrals release are short and to the point, we do find Jones experimenting with more expansive songs.  “Sob Story” is his first go at this on the record, sprawling and slide-guitaring all the way beyond the five-minute mark. Vocally, there’s a bit of fragility, leaving Louis exposed.  He doesn’t shy away, however, weaving his words around the twang of the guitar by stretching out syllables in an endearing fashion. The 3 minute mark reveals just how special his writing has become, musically.  But, while this song exceeds expectations, the bread and butter on Sob Story comes from the more compact tunes.

Personally, I like the swagger of a song like “Blue Whatever.”  Guitars ring out in this song, while Jones executes the lyrical delivery perfectly, bringing a smoothness to the track that helps it maintain its balance; the lightest touch of backup vocals doesn’t hurt either.  And, in the best fashion, Spectrals deliver a stomping number with “Keep Your Magic” that shows just how much territory the outfit can cover, while still treading water in the pools of classic pop.  The attitude is the same with the following track, “Gentle,” although the heritage of the American West resonates again with bits of slide guitar thrown in for accent marks.

Throughout the whole of Sob Story you can see that Louis Jones has a story to tell. That story seems far away from his home in Leeds, instead opting for the landscape of American pop songwriting.  He sprinkles bits and pieces throughout, yet he holds it all together fairly well, leaving you with a Spectrals album that sounds varied, yet very much in one place; you’ll have fun letting your ears live in that space.


Vacation – Candy Waves

vacationcandywavescoverRating: ★★★☆☆

Don Giovanni Records has had a good go of things lately, especially with the work of Screaming Females on their roster.  But, new boys Vacation aim to make their own mark with Candy Waves.  It provides listeners with sharp guitar lines and catchy hooks, while managing to sound appropriately unpolished.

Feedback opens the doors to Candy Waves with “Pyro Hippies” opening moments before the furiously quick drumming assaults your ears.  Here you’ll find the guitar chords knifing their way through the song, and the vocals border on angst, yet still retain a bit of melody.  Yet moments later, the bubbly bass work on “Make a Mess” is what grabs you by the ears and pulls you within the depths of the record.  This tune has less detail oriented guitar work, but the rhythm section surely offers enough to get your toes tapping and your body jumping about.  I want to attach myself to the vocals on this tune, yet they’re just a bit too far below the mix.

For my two cents, the band excels when they offer their pop affinity in their music.  “SFA” jumps right into your meat and potatoes punk rock, though spun through a sludgy blender.  The vocals offer a glimpse at anthemic moments, while the apparent allegiance to Vacation‘s metal influence is also visible.  It opens the way for the hook-laden “Candy Waves,” which might be the record’s standout tune.  Again, I think the lyrics could break through if they had just a hint more clarity in the mastering, but you can tell that this is a tune built for fans to join in during live performances.  You don’t think the band can share pop sensibility with their metal/punk pedigree? Just start listening at 1.36.  They make it three brilliant songs in a row with “Everyone Loves the Sun,” again establishing a gritty beach party feel.  This song excels due to the fact that every instrument, including voice, seems to be pulling in an opposite direction, while still maintaining a healthy balance that unites the tune.

Concluding Candy Waves is another of the record’s standouts, “Horny Politicians.”  Yes, the killer rhythm section comes through again to give a good push on the final tune, but I think it’s the vocal that allows this number to rise above the rest.  There’s clarity throughout the entirety of the song; this allows listeners to really partake in the joy of the song.  It’s the perfect closing moment, allowing us to glimpse Vacation at their very best, and perhaps a possible look into their future.  And in the end, the record ends with a bang, but you’ll go right back to the beginning to play it all over again.  You’ll get the feeling we all had when bands like Wavves felt dangerous, and you’ll be thankful bands like this are still doing it right.



Show Preview: Superhumanoids @ Mohawk (6/29)

Date 6/29/13
Location Mohawk Inside
Doors 9:00pm
Tickets $12

How could I not mention this great show going on tonight at The Mohawk?

Superhumanoids delivered one of my favorite tracks last year. “Geri” was a mainstay on the Lots of Favorites playlist in Casa Brian.Gray. I last saw the band when they opened for Active Child. They get the inside stage tonight, local friends Orthy are opening.

Guess I’ll be splitting time between Holy Mountain and The Hawk.


Download: Superhumanoids – Geri [MP3]

Show Review: Mikal Cronin @ Mohawk (6.27)

Sure, we knew it was going to be a sweat night, with temperatures still bordering on 100 when the bands took the stage at The Mohawk, but how hot would it get? Real hot. Sweat from bands, sweat from fans and sweat from our drinks. Regardless, the rock must go on, and rock it did. A Giant Dog, Shannon and the Clams and Mikal Cronin get commendations for valor in the face of hair dryer air.

Read on for our thoughts on all the bands and see B.Gray’s pretty photos.

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Austin Spotlight: The River Has Many Voices

IMG_6258Our recent post calling out Austin’s live music scene has resulted in a major influx of emails coming our way from tons of local musicians looking for some help with exposure on our site.  To be blatantly honest, most of what we are sent isn’t worth your time, but then we find some gems like Matthew Payne and his project known as The River Has Many Voices.  Payne is an Austin native and has been writing music inspired by the Texas Hill Country for the last several years with an impressive list of recordings under his belt.  Upon first listen to the music, I hear sounds similar to Masson Jennings, Elvis Perkins, or really any other of the great up and coming singer songwriters in the game.  Below you can find a taste of this material with latest single “If You Gotta Go (Go With Me)” which I’ve found myself drawn to since the very first time I hit play.  I’m betting most of you will feel the same way.

While you’re at it, check out new album Division over on bandcamp and make a purchase if you see fit.  Stay tuned for more from Matt and co.


Download: The River Has Many Voices – If You Gotta Go (Go With Me) [MP3]

Exciting Folk from Joseph Childress

Joseph_alternateBW.130436The music on Joseph Childress‘ upcoming release was actually recorded in 2005, but he’s been quietly polishing it up while working on his live performances.  Good news for all of us is that the work is finally finished, and it will see release from Empty Cellar Records on August 20th under the name The Rebirths.  The guitar picking first stuck out to me, but when Joseph’s voice rises to a slight strain, it all seems pretty special to me.  It’s a distinctive voice, but one that I think will interest many listeners: see for yourself.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/98430922″ params=”color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=false” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

New Electro Pop From Brothertiger

BrothertigerElectro Pop music seems to be exploding on this site right now so I’ll continue the trend with this new jam from ATH favorite Brothertiger.  The song is called “In Mind” and will appear on new album Future Splendors dropping September 24th on Mush Records.  We’ll be looking forward to that one.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/98574245″ params=”color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=false” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Show Preview: Matt Pond PA @ Holy Mountain (6/29)


Date 6/29/13
Location Holy Mountain
Doors 9pm
Tickets $12 @ Frontgate

Lots of shows are going down this weekend in Austin, but my most highly anticipated show has got to be Matt Pond PA stopping into town at Holy Mountain.  Having been a fan of the band for such a long time, I’ve personally been looking forward to another chance to catch the band in the live setting for a long time.  To make things even better this lineup is loaded with North Carolinians Matrimony and local favorites Tiger Waves.  Come join the ATH crew for a solid evening of tunes.


Download: Matt Pond PA – Starting [MP3]

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