ACL Aftershow Review: Cults and Smith Westerns @ Parish (9/16)

It’s a little late for ACL reviews, but after decompressing from the week I took a moment to write a few of my thoughts. Friday night in Austin during ACL weekend is an interesting one. The energy and presence descended upon Austin by visitors and the music brings a vibe that only SXSW and FFFF can trump. After the first night of the 3-day party at Zilker, a few non-fest goers gathered to catch a glimpse of two of the up and coming acts of this year’s line-up.  See more details after the jump.  Read more

Friday Top 5: Songs About Money

It seems that all over the college sports landscape nowadays, all we hear about are conference realignments, TV deals, advertising packages, and student athlete sponsor scandals. Somewhere along the lines, the good old fashioned spirit of the game got lost in the shuffle and with that came the sad realization that these young athletes are mere pawns in a much wider international game of economics. Regardless of what side of Lee County you set your allegiance or which color lucky underwear you wear on game day, let’s all remind ourselves about what the whole ‘Hullabaloo’ is about in the first place; dirty, evil money. Like the song says, ‘it’s the root of all evil today’ and there’s plenty of evil to go around in college sports these days. Just ask the U, tOSU, Oregon, Auburn…well for the sake of you, the reader, I couldn’t possibly list all 122 of them here. So, in light of Texas A&M’s indecisive decision to take their markets elsewhere and to mark the anticipated beginning of the 2011 season, here are the top 5 most ridiculously relevant songs that feature our corrupting currency as a common theme.  Now, where’s the tailgate party? I’m about to make it rain.

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Show Review: Dntel @ Emo’s

Is it possible to live in the present moment whilst revisiting the past? For Jimmy Tamberello’s current tour, under the alias Dntel, that task has become something of an exercise in the contradiction. Only now, nearly a decade after the release of his masterpiece, Life is Full of Possibilities, is Tamberello giving it a proper tour release. By way of the tour, label Sub Pop is blowing the dust off the release with a re-mastered and vinyl reissue of the 2001 LP. The release scheduled for October 25th, marks the first time the album will be on released on vinyl, which is sure to make audiophiles and electro-fans explode with delight.  Tuesday night at Emo’s, the relatively crowded inside stage could finally hear live versions, of the now classic songs, which were long overdue.

More details and plenty of pics after the break…

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Friday Top 5: Dehydration Blues

It’s no secret to native Texans, but to all you recent immigrants to the Lone Star State may have noticed lately, it’s F-ING RELENTLESSLY HOT OUTSIDE! With Temperatures hovering above 100 and no relief in sight, it’s hard to stay pleasant. Heat waves and droughts like this one are so damned oppressive, and may make you just feel flat-out angry and depressed at the world, your fellow man, and especially those teasing bastard clouds, hanging there just laughing at us and our collective misery. F those assholes, seriously its thundering as I write this with no rain to show for it, WTF?!. As unfortunate as it is, the summertime blues are a universal feeling as we all pine for the blissful 80 degree temperatures and rain of October. With the unyielding Texas sun beating down on us like its red headed step-child, it felt only right to create a FT5 for the Dehydration Blues. Crank the A/C, grab an Arnold Palmer, and try not to move an inch. Don’t worry; our sole day or two of autumn is right around the corner.

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Son Lux – We Are Rising

Rating: ★★★★½

Son Lux (AKA Ryan Lott) is still relatively unknown despite a strong underground following and well-established name in the music theatre production circle. Even his stops through SXSW in 2008 and 2010 were less than minor blips on most blogger’s radars. However, after a solid debut in At Wars With Walls and Mazes via Anticon in 2009, Lott is front and center in the outsider music world. That stunning, yet polarizing debut consisted of randomized yet painstakingly set, modern classical arrangements and chopped hip-hop blended into a striking pattern of delightful vocal imagery.

After taking note of that record, NPR decided to up the ante and proposed a pseudo-dare. Could Lott, whose prior methods of creation consisted of long, drawn-out thought processes, complete his follow-up in 1 month (February no less)? Surely, you jest. Like most musicians, Lott scoffed at the thought of modifying his creative process so blatantly. Especially considering his new material was already taking a general form.  By listening to his gut, Lott tossed that work aside and stepped up to the plate and hit a home-run. The finished product in the NPR RPM challenge, We Are Rising is a subtle wave at the meticulousness of his prior release, but with a strong foothold in the spontaneous and improvised.

What emerged is a record that takes the listener on a ride traveling multiple directions and varying speeds. ‘Flickers’ begins the voyage by the literal and metaphoric lighting of the candle. It’s the first glimpse of the light and dark, contrasts used intermittently throughout to great effect. The pseudo-title track ‘Rising’ is a powerful modern classical piece with pounding rhythms and playful winds. This dichotomy of contrasts is viewed has become more or less a signature of the young songwriter. What has also remained is a wonderful way with words, as seen on ‘Leave the Riches’. Toying with the idea of attachment, ‘Claws’ is a turn back to the slower drive, employing a rich bass heavy soundtrack contrasting with Lott’s airy vocals, while ‘Let Go’ is a direct shout out to his debut in the same vein as ‘Stand’ in tone and structure.

When an artist fully emerges themselves in a project and produces at a rapid pace, the result are often striking, if not unrecognizable. Such is the case here. The creativity that flowed in this month long session shows a deep rooted discipline, passion, and mental fortitude, not seen today in many artists. I find that refreshing, especially from such a relatively new artist. Son Lux took the best of his creative process and composed what many will argue is the best album of the year.

Friday Top 5: Live Set Design

When attending a concert, the music can often be only a part of the overall equation. Setting is an enhancement or detriment to the overall experience. With the blissfully tranquil setting of  Sasquatch Fest around the corner, my mind began to wonder. Setting in a natural area is often the easiest way to enhance a mood. However, sometimes an artist wants to personally expand on the themes written through song in a live setting, and that’s when the set design becomes more and more elaborate. When the design just comes out as self-aggrandizing and strange, it distracts the audience from the show. Take for instance Kanye’s theoretical Ferrero Rocher Gold wrapper design or Bowie’s giant spider. There is certainly a fine line here. Nevertheless, in some instances bigger, brighter, and complex structures work to frame a show that can be talked about years after the fact. On that note, here’s the FT5 of most badass, over the top Set Designs.

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Friday Top 5: Meditative Albums

Happy Birthday to a real, badass dude: the Buddha. Without getting into a religious discussion, I feel that some albums are better at relaxing the listener and in some ways engage them at a deeper level. In these cases, the music serves as a map to guide the listener along a journey of self-discovery. In our modern, hectic lives, consumed by outside distractions and never-ending suffering around every corner, few of us can truly turn within and for just a moment, think deeply. As soon as we turn on our favorite album or mix-tape from someone special, we are transported to a meaningful place; there in that moment, enjoying it for what it is. So, in honor of the birth of one of the most influential people to ever grace the earth, here’s a list of the top 5 meditative albums to help get you in a thoughtful mood and let the world around you melt away.

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Friday Top 5: Make Up Songs

Despite what we see in jewelry commercials this time of year, life and love isn’t all hallmark moments and wonderful memories. Sometimes we make mistakes, big mistakes. Mistakes so big that simply buying your loved one aforementioned jewelry can’t help. When that happens, being true to your heart and honestly apologizing is always best. With Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching, poor (dumb) souls can take comfort in the fact that you are not alone; after all you’re only human. If your heartfelt apology is not enough to smooth these rough waters you are sailing, consider a mix tape. After all, God created mix tapes for this exact reason; to tell someone through song, what you are feeling inside. If you find yourself in this position, here are a few tracks to hopefully ease the pain and invoke the love back into your Valentine just in time for a romantic day. Commence sappiness in 3…2….1…

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Friday Top 5: 2010 Album Covers

It’s time again to turn the music down and put on your art-critic monocles and top hats. Yes, today is the day we judge 2010 releases strictly on their visual packaging aesthetics as opposed to their auditory aptitude. It’s also a way to highlight the ‘other’ artists who have created the artwork and often don’t get the credit besides a sub-par blurb in the liner notes. 2010 was filed with beautiful artwork and it has been a struggle to dwindle them down to 5, but alas, my favorites are to be found below. Just like last year, I’m looking at the entire package; composition, balance, tone, meaning and originality. Use of text is not necessary as we saw last year, but when it is used, it must compliment the piece as a whole. I don’t claim to be an expert, but when looking back through this year’s album artwork, here are the ones that caught my eye.

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Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest

Rating: ★★★★☆

Deep within the confines of the vast, mysterious internet, news of a certain album emerged. Following the leak debacle of the last release, Bradford Cox and Co. took a more ambiguous approach to releasing a record. The Atlanta based quartet known for their post-punk, shoe gaze roots and enthralling live shows have been relatively quiet since the fantastic Microcastle and pre-release fiasco. The only news we heard even related to Deerhunter was a small tour with untitled new material. This tour debuted while much more press attention was paid to Bradford Cox’s solo outfit Atlas Sound, with its 2009 release of Logos and subsequent tour. Grumblings here and there and a subversive marketing strategy soon after allowed us to put the pieces together and alas we find ourselves in the midst of another gem of a record, Halcyon Digest released via 4AD.

On the opening track ‘Earthquake’, Deerhunter takes a slow, steady approach in reintroducing themselves to the listener. At once, we find ourselves in the middle of an alien, yet unmistakably familiar soundscape. Like the spider and the fly, Cox has a way of pulling the listener in with his swan-song voice while slowly sucking the life out his prey with the rhythm. Though this process is not a violent one; it’s a beautiful dance where Deerhunter spin their web, all senses at once pulsate before it seems like it’s too much. The tapping of a foot turns to muscle memory and we can barely hear the world around us. Rise and fall, these moments erase from existence and what are left are Cox, Pundt, Fauver, Archuleta , and their stunning torturing devices only to open us up and let them in. There’s no way to resist, as our grey matter is their lunch.

On Cryptograms, the band went through a rough stretch and this era brought out a more disjointed song structure while producing some of the group’s most complex ambient elements thanks to Lockett Pundt’s silky-smooth approach. With Microcastle, Cox and Co. reformed with a new purpose and the while the ramblings of previous times are more or less gone, a stronger comprehensive album composition emerged, though the group can’t quite reach that same level at present. There are elements of both sides to the story on display here with ‘Basement Scene’ and ‘Revival’, respectively. This shows that the band is aware of their roots and is willing to not hide their past while searching for perfection. Obviously they are on the right track and even find a new lighter style as heard on ‘Desire Lines’, a definite highlight on the record.

“The devil is now gone from me” croons Bradford Cox on the near perfect track ‘Helicopter’, but I don’t believe him. It’s evil how seamlessly he can create touching and soft, yet unreasonably haunting lyrics. It’s straight up sinful how he can pair these lyrics to the music with such reason and perfection. The tone changes and compositions on this track alone are catching the eye and ears of everyone far beyond the indie community.

With Halcyon Digest, Deerhunter have found themselves as comfortable in their own sound and skin as never before and we can hear this stability in the record as a whole. The vast waves of psychedelia contrasting with the subtle nuances Cox is growing to become well known for are everywhere to be heard. Hipster communities will wine and cry about it, but they’re going to need to find a new band to love, as Deerhunter is soon to become mainstream news. This album has solidified them in the driver’s seat in the indie genre (perhaps even more) and there’s no hope of commandeering the wheel. They are on a road, destination unknown, and you might as well jump in the back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.


Download: Deerhunter – Helicopter [MP3]

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