F*cked Up, Twice Born

Everybody has an itch for a little hardcore, and no one is doing it better than F*cked Up.  From their various SXSW shows to their upcoming Matador release, F*cked Up is a band that is sure to garner interest all over the place.  We’re just another group trying to give them our support.  Take a bite out of this!

[audio:http://www.spinner.com/2008/08/29/shearwater-flows-through-the-interface/]

Download: Fucked Up – Twice Born [MP3]

Faces on Film – The Troubles

Rating: ★★★½☆

Somehow this little group from Boston, who is actually just one dude, made its way into my pile of things to listen to.  Unaware of the band, Faces on Film has now won me over, unexpectedly, with their album The Troubles.

“Friends with Both Arms,” opens up the album pleasantly, with Mike Fiore coming across your ears like a more eager Hamilton Leithauser.  The vocal quality is quite similar, at least in that hollow echo aspect; here it sounds more complete than Hamilton.

From here it goes into “I’ll Sleep to Protect You.”  Upon several listens this sounds like a lost Modest Mouse demo that we never got the chance to hear.  It has a little more beauty, which I think keeps the track focused, but it still has that primitive folk sound.

Then we take a short jump onto “Natalie’s Numbers,” which recalls the bedroom folk of Eliott Smith, as far as guitar sound goes, with the vocal tracings of Win Butler.  The chorus is fixed with nonsensical lyrics accompanied by a female vocalists, and although its unexpected at this point, it provides an interesting view to the insight of this song.

“Troubles at Last” is one of those songs that shouldn’t have been included.  Its just studio noise.

“Famous Last Words” carries on with a bit of bounce, but it still appears to maintain that Arcade Fire association, which when prepared isn’t entirely off-setting.  I suppose the majority of this allusion is due to the vocals, all which resemble early AF.  And it’s juxtaposed with a Walkmen meets Modest Mouse echo of a song in “The Winner’s Daughter.”  Although the feeling is similar to that of other songs, it seems out of sorts for some reason, and is probably one of the weaker songs on the album.

The rest of the album follows suit, wearing concert t-shirts of previously mentioned bands, only adding a Dr. Dog reference point near the end with “Medical Mind.”  But just wait until the end because “Indicator, Indicator” is really fantastic.  It is the precise closing moment for this album, letting the listener relax and rest as the album draws to a close.

Despite a lot of obvious references, some too obvious, the album has an enjoyable quality to it, one which gives it some merit.  However, it lacks a bit of pace, and I mean that in the sense of the song, not in the flow of the album.  Each song would benefit from just a bit of pace, but then again, its not my album.  At the end, it ends the way it should, leaving Faces on Film with a few merit badges for their effort and a few more for quality.

You can download the entire album on their Myspace Page.

Bloc Party – Intimacy

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Several years back, Silent Alarm blew us away. It’s angular guitars cut and diced as we all spun in awe of the newest British band to hit the states. Our minds spinning, we salivated at the chance for more Bloc Party. All I can ask for at this very moment is no more Bloc Party.

Two albums after their debut, they’ve weighed me down with their efforts to recreate that original brilliance, and I’ve got few nice things to say about these boys. In all honesty, this album has left me to encourage them to hang up their hats… call it a day boys.

The opening track doesn’t do anything to prepare the listener for the barrage of trash that is to come their way, except to offer the lyric that “this s**t is long.” Too long indeed. Sprawling guitars matched with little music creativity push my fingers to fast forward beyond this useless noise.

Once you arrive at the second track its clear that the band have taken on an entirely new direction. Intimacy‘s production lacks the exciting percussive sound that they established long ago, instead mixing in what one can only assume are digital drum samples… and do I hear horns? At this point in my listening experience I’m not sure what to say. Speechless.

However, there is some exciting guitar work on the third song, “Halo,” but it’s so muddled in the mix of the song that it almost disappoints you to hear the promise of this band’s sound being watered down by shoddy engineering. And that is thrown immediately into one of the worst songs the band has written. “Biko” not only lacks any passion, but there isn’t even a trace of real musicianship in this song. I think they might have looped the guitars. Gross.

Bloc Party, however, just continue to push on, angering me with each new track. I’m not sure who came up with the idea, but whoever covered all of these songs in walls of noise, and I don’t mean precious ambience… I mean ridiculous noise, obviously had a few too many pints. The album is lacking a certain clarity, which is where it lost me. Skeletal song structures have promise, but the level of noise deems almost every moment of promise useless.

They’ve piled on loads of electronic samples into this album, which doesn’t really do them any favors. Their strength was always in the dueling guitar work, but once they strip that away, they don’t have much to offer us anymore. All the passion they once threw our way has been lost in new directions. I only wish they knew about the power of guitars, since they fail to use them often enough on this album.

By the end of the album, I just feel like I’ve been drained of every drop of social niceties. There isn’t a decent thing to say about this album at the end of the day. Some have indicated that the latter half offers a touch of redemption, but in all honesty, the latter half is equally as aggravating as the first half. Bloc Party have discarded their musicianship for an electronically fused album, and in the process they have discarded the majority of their adoring fans.

The GZA @ Emos – 9/3

We don’t often do a lot to cover our hip-hop brethren, but I figured that I would take this moment to pay homage to one of the only rappers that I ever really paid attention to when I was  younger. For me, hip-hop was Wu Tang, and the GZA was the glue.  This Wednesday night at Emo’s he’s going to play his classic Liquid Swords in its entirety.  Those into hip-hop won’t want to miss this night.

You can pick up your own set of tickets over at Ticketweb.

Stereolab – Chemical Chords

Rating: ★★★☆☆

When listening to Stereolab, my mind always travels back to that great moment when Caroline Fordis walks into the record store in High Fidelity to interview Rob Gordon.  That brief snippet of sound highlighted their electronic influences, as well as their abilities to capitalize on fans of pop music, despite using inaudible, or non-English–if you will–, lyrics.

Years later, I still hold onto that purest of moments when I realized that their music had somehow become easily accessible to the masses.  For me, this was not a knock, but a step in the direction you felt that they were going.  Popularity on the brink, they kind of suck back a bit, coming back from time to time for their adoring fans.

On this new record, their first LP since 2006, they come back with the same formula.  Their complex structure melding electronic pop gems with simple string arrangements and cloudy vocals is still completely intact, which may or may not be such a positive thing.  I’m not the ultimate collector of Stereolab LPs, but I swear that I’ve heard all these songs a million times over. There are absolutely some special moments, like the opener, “Neon Beanbag,” with its spectacular electric organ work, not to mention its use of English.  “Silver Sands” is equally as beautiful, with its marching beats and usage of horn work.

Still, one of the issues I’ve always had with the band is that they vocals are never really clear enough to capture your mind. This time around, they use a lot more English, but the vocals are almost secondary, seemingly meant to match every single one of their harmonies.  It works, but it leaves those searching for a connection to the lyrics without much to hold onto.

By the end of the album, the music sort of blends into the back of your brain, as the formula grows to be overly repetitive.  Some of the songs even appear as if they were mere copies of the previous tracks, leaving the listener with the feeling that they’ve been listening to a collection of demos for the same song over and over.

Ups and downs.  That is the secret to this entire album.  You go up with some highlights, then return to the Earth with a sense that its all been done before.  At the end of the day, it is undeniably a Stereolab record, but that is what you were expecting in the first place.  Those of you looking for that moment of twee pop will find places to reside, while others will just pass by on a brief vacation through Chemical Chords.

New Single from Land of Talk

Saddle Creek Records has offered up a new single from Montreal band Land of Talk, off their upcoming album Some Are Lakes due out October 7th. They will be touring in support of the new album this fall, but unfortunately won’t be making a stop in the Lone Star State. Enjoy the music this fine Friday afternoon.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/somearelakes.mp3]

Download: Land of Talk – Some Are Lakes [MP3]

Power Pop Festival @ Mohawk/Beerland

All weekend long–that means tonight!–the cool cats from Transmission Entertainment will be bringing the glory of Power Pop to Austin, Texas.  Day shows will be going on over at Beerland, in case you have nothing to do; night shows will kick off at the Mohawk.  Personally, I am stoked to get to see the present-day lineup of Pointed Sticks play Friday night.  Other scheduled acts such as Ugly Beats, Boss Martians, Gentlemen Jesse and his Men and The Boys are included.  If you like your pop with a touch of power, hit up the Wild West Power Pop Festival!

Check out The Mohawk for complete list of bands. 

New Music from Benoit Pioulard

Since it is a remarkably sunny day here in Austin, I figured I bring some clouds your way with a touch of tuneage from Benoit Pioulard–not that I necessarily wish you a cloudy day.  Pioulard, which is just a moniker, is everything you want in an emotional songwriter; he yanks at your emotions, often with the instruementation alone.  Here is “Brown Bess”. Buen Proveche.

 

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/benoit-pioulard-brown-bess.mp3]

Download: Benoit Pioulard – Brown Bess [MP3]

Pop Levi – Never Never Love

Rating: ★★★½☆

It’s hard not to be a fan of really good pop music, especially with the output of independent artists bringing great pop to our ear; Pop Levi is just another such character in a long line of pop musicians leaving good bands (Ladytron) to go it their own in the pop world.

Now on his second album, I’ve come to expect great things from this character, despite his tendency to look like a side-show Shakespearean actor.  However, the output here is too similar to the debut album to substantially increase his value in the pop lexicon of the music industry.

His voice is quite unique, which makes it hard to distinguish changes in pitch from song to song, as his falsetto reverberates in the caverns of my mind. Even here, it seems like more effects are being used to help shape is voice, although more of that is owed to the various samples and instrumentation that weighs this album down.

There are some exceptional tracks present throughout this record, and the spacing is appropriate so as to keep our interest from start to finish.  “Semi-babe” slows it down just enough to mimic an Albert Hammond Jr. ballad.  It’s a different spin on his tried and true formula, immediately creating one of the more memorable moments on Never Never Love. “Mai Space” also has a similar magic to it, even though I feel as if the samples here were directly rooted in Flaming Lips Yoshimi nostalgia.

There are some missteps here too, which keeps this album from rising to the surface of a pleasant breakthrough album in 2008. Pop Levi‘s desire to imitate such greats as Prince tend to show him at his weakest moments, and frankly, his most unoriginal.  Similarly, “Calling Me Down” represents a change in direction from traditional stylings, for this artist at least.  When he slows it down this slow, he loses ground with his audience, which is fair enough considering the album should probably stop before the closing song, “Fountain Of Lies;” the greatest mistake I noticed.

Throughout the record, I hoped and prayed, that he could hold onto the strength of the opening bit of this album.  I admire his efforts to go beyond his comfort level into new areas of pop where he was yet to traverse, but in doing so, he loses what grabbed me during his debut.  What I expected to be extremely experimental in the pop vein of things, ended up retracing the steps of his past glories; when he steps off this path, he falls too far off, leaving us waiting for him back on the trail to pop glory.

Final Fantasy Goes to “The Butcher”

Legendary, sort of, if you consider the Arcade Fire to be famous, orchestral genius. Owen Pallett has decided to give us a brand new song for our listening enjoyment. “The Butcher” seems a lot more like an old Disney musical score then his previous works, but I’ll let you decide.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/final-fantasy-the-butcher.mp3]

Download: Final Fantasy – The Butcher [MP3]

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