New Tunes from Heidi Spencer

Well, this is a bit of a change up for us this week, as we’ve been running around with lots of high energy tracks, but I couldn’t resist a bit of mellowness as the week winds down. Heidi Spencer & the Rare Birds have been making a huge wave over with the NME, and you can tell that a lot of American audiences will definitely enjoy her work due to its similarity to a woman and her harp. Regardless of similarities, Spencer does seem to have a bit more of a traditional folkie in her.  You can check out her album on March 29th, titled Under Streetlight Glow. Give the tune a listen.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Alibi_20110201_155016.mp3]

Download: Heidi Spencer – Alibi [MP3]

New Music from High Tension Wires

You’ve got to be all about High Tension Wires if you’re a Texas, especially an Austinite or Dentonian! The band is comprised of some our best punk/power-pop/garage bands around, namely Marked Men and Riverboat Gamblers, so you have to know it’s going to be a good time all around.  The band’s got an album coming out on Dirtnap Records around March 15th titled Welcome New Machine.  If you base it off this first single, it’s everything that you need in a good power-pop album.  It’s got some catchy hooks, no-nonsense drumming, and even a bit of backing vocals.  It’s all positive energy, and there’s not a thing wrong with that in my book.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/backbone.mp3]

Download: High Tension Wires – Backbone [MP3]

Contest: PS I Love You Tickets & 7″ Giveaway

Man, have we got a deal for you! PS I Love You is playing a gig next Tuesday night (3/1) at the Mohawk (indoors), and we’re fortunate enough to have a pair of tickets to give you absolutely free.  But, not only are we offering you tickets to this excellent show, but we’re also going to be giving away the brand new “Leftovers” single 7″, which is a split with Diamond Rings.  Both bands have gotten loads of praise already, and it seems like their stars are only going to be rising higher and higher in 2011.  All you need to do is leave a comment telling us which band you’re most excited to see at SXSW, and we’ll pick our favorite end of day Saturday (2/26). Oh, and speaking of SXSW, PS I Love You will be back for the festival as well, so stay tuned for more news on the band’s travel itinerary, but for now plan on meeting us at the Mohawk next week.  Below is a sneak peak at a track from the new 7″.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/1-Leftovers.mp3]

Download: PS I Love You – Leftovers [MP3]

New Track from Sloan

You don’t get much better than the Canadian group Sloan.  They’ve been cranking out albums for years, giving us all a nice taste of blistering guitar pop that’s never failed to win this writer over.  Now we’ve got news that the band are releasing their tenth album, The Double Cross, on May 10th via Yep Roc here in the States. One thing you can be absolutely sure about is that the record is going to be filled with hooks and sing-a-long moments that will stick in your head for years to come.  Hopefully a single like this one will finally give more press to the much deserving band, as there are very few who’ve done it for so long, so successfully.  And, if you’re just stumbling across the band, go back and check out the 30-odd track from Never Hear the End of It, quietly released a few years back.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Sloan-Follow-The-Leader.mp3]

Download: Sloan – Follow The Leader [MP3]

Tim Cohen – Magic Trick

Rating: ★★★★ ·

For most listeners, you’re probably expecting anything coming from Tim Cohen to somewhat resemble his haunting vocal performances from his main gig, The Fresh & Onlys.  But, while that dark tinted vocal is still there, Tim’s been creating music on his own for some time, this being his second solo release in about a year (making that 3 in a year, all work included).  Magic Trick establishes itself as his most timeless release to date, making Cohen a hot commodity in the small indie rock community.

“I Am Never Going to Die” sounds precisely like something your father might have listened to if he grew up in the late 60s.  It was probably a track played by his roommate while they sat in some bong circle, promising one another that they were going to make themselves happy.  Yet you won’t have to travel back in time to enjoy this piece, nor do you necessarily have to partake in recreational drugs; Tim’s music, as well as the themes throughout Magic Trick, apply just as much now as they did then.

The haunting vision of Tim Cohen that I have in my head revolves around those vocals, teetering on the edge of despair, such as you get on a song like “The Flower.”  Still, even with his songs having this shady quality, a track like this reminds you of dark crooners such as Richard Hawley, giving you dense pop songs in a simply beautiful format.  Similarly, “Ledgerdemain” operates in the same spectrum, using a heavy vocal to discuss themes of love as seen through one man’s perspective.  The light piano touches and floating female vocal accompaniment definitely bring an extra punch to this number.

But, perhaps the most notable style present on Magic Trick are the allusions to the psychedelia of years past, only viewed through a more modern lens. It’s hard to go through listening to a track like “The Spirit’s Inside” without noticing the cascading guitars that go with the moody electronic piano.  Not only that, but it hints back at those low-budget movies during the black-and-white era where your hero has a pack of cigarettes rolled up in his sleeve.  “Season of Fires” definitely has some California vibe to it, almost as if it’s the long lost Doors demo, except a tad bit better, as Cohen’s a better poet in my mind.

One of the remarkable things about listening to Magic Trick in its entirety is that you want to put some many songs in certain generic boxes, pushing influences onto the Tim Cohen, but where he seems to have progressed greatly on this album are the darker pop tracks, like those mentioned above or the album closer, “I Looked Up.”  Such touches of songwriting demonstrate that he’s more than just a one-trick pony.  While it may seem that Cohen’s been around for quite some time, this record is the first one that really shows he’s heading in the right direction, even if we didn’t see them coming right away.  Tim Cohen might be a man who loves the past, but he’s certainly the man of the moment.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Tim-Cohen-Dont-Give-Up.mp3]

Download: Tim Cohen – Don’t Give Up [MP3]

New Track from Mueran Humanos

One of the great things about the Internet is that you can hear all sorts of crazy things from around the globe, which is the exact case with Mueran Humanos.  The band’s name roughly translates to Die Humans, so I mean, you’ve got to appreciate that sort of bold statement.  Musically, the duo, who come from Buenos Aires, use a moody electronic element to hash out their sound, giving us this first single titled “Festival of Lights.” There’s definitely a throbbing dance club element buried in this track, so if you like it, be sure to go find yourself a copy of the group’s self-titled debut from Blind Prophet Records.  And, of course, we’re always happy to translate.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/02-Festival-De-Las-Luces.mp3]

Download: Mueran Humanos – Festival De Las Luces [MP3]

The Luyas – Too Beautiful to Work

Rating: ★★★½ ·

While some people claim that Canada is just a cold place with Moose, and people that say “eh,” we all know that Canada is perfect for supplying us with excellent indie bands, such as The Luyas. With their interesting combination of noise, keyboards, and occasional horns and string work, they are sure to differentiate themselves from the other Canadians.

The first song and title track, “Too Beautiful to Work,” starts off with an infectious electric melody that is mirrored at every note with the candied vocals of Jessie Stein. Her vocals are choppy and match the mechanical sound as playfully light drums dally through the song. All the while through the sharpness of the vocals, the screech of violin resounds; even when the song breaks down before its finish, the violin elegantly juxtaposes with the feedback and gritty noise, and compliments the tight drumming. The sound stays relatively the same on the next few numbers, wavering to more chill numbers like “Worth Mentioning” and “Tiny Head.”

The next strong track comes with “Moodslayer,” as the crash of cymbals fill the space where the electronic beats were. Some classic guitar and ghostly “oohs” mark this sound different from the previous tracks, and shows the listener that The Luyas are not simply a one trick-pony of ‘experimental’ electronic sounds; there are some poppy elements to their sound by means of with some fine horns and xylophone parts that keep things light and fresh. With the voice of Stein, it doesn’t seem like this would be a very hard task for this band to accomplish, but with all the layers of noise that they create, it is easy to be bogged down by the weight of the instruments alone.

Evidence of the instruments growing slightly too heavy comes towards the end of the album. With some of the longer tracks, like “Cold Canada,” where the electronic noises stifle the song slightly, making it feel overdone and tired. Perhaps it is simply the distinct voice of Stein that allows this album to slide to boring and laborious. However, The Luyas kick out this streak of monotony with the last song “Seeing Things.” The simplicity alone of this track sets it apart from the others in that it lets the audience breathe a little bit. Soothing and delicate, it provides a lovely endnote for Too Beautiful to Work.

All in all, this sophomore effort from The Luyas wasn’t a door buster, or a flat creation. Somewhere in the middle, they made a fairly entertaining album whose standouts will surely linger in their ears of their listeners.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/01-Too-Beautiful-To-Work.mp3]

Download: The Luyas – Too Beautiful To Work [MP3]

King Creosote – Thrawn

Rating: ★★★★½

In all likelihood, you’ve probably heard very little about Kenny Anderson up until this point in time; I was definitely in the same boat.  However, the release of Thrawn, the first King Creosote album to make its way overseas should hopefully change that, at least if you’re listening closely to the album.  It’s a Scottish influenced folk affair from a man who doesn’t seem to be seeking out the fame and fortune of other bands, instead he’s quietly releasing his own music, whether we pay attention or not.

Once you play the opening track “Bootprints,” you might find yourself thinking of cleverly crafted pop music a la Sondre Lerche.  Anderson’s voice is so perfect, in both pitch and tone.  The music has a hint of cocktail lounge, giving a little hint at some sort of modern tropicalia. But, Thrawn isn’t a record that’s going to stay in one place for too long.

“You’ve No Clue Do You” recalls Van Occupanther-era Midlake, or one could throw Fleetwood Mac into that too.  However, it’s Anderson’s slight change in pitch during the chorus, going just a tad bit higher, that really makes such a track truly remarkable. Then it moves off into “King Bubble’s in Sand,” which has more of an oddball folk appeal, though not in an overly quirky sense.  It’s a short track, and it uses some non-traditional percussion to go along with slight piano dancing in the background, then it’s over in less than two minutes.  But, that’s okay, as King Creosote offers up one of the album’s greatest tracks, “Missionary.”  You’ll probably notice some similarities in the vocal performance here, and the strumming for some reason reminds me of innocent campfire scenes surrounded by fans.  There’s nothing contrived or dishonest here…just straight-ahead pop glory.

One of the unique things about Thrawn is that despite various nod to other musicians, whether intentional or not, the entire record sounds perfectly fresh.  You get a song like “Little Heart,” which sounds like a great deal of Scottish janglers, yet it’s one of those songs that rises out of such an homage, establishing itself on its own merits.  There’s some backing vocals to provide more-depth, and the pacing just fits perfectly with the overall mood of the song.  I mean, listening to this song, “what’s with the frown?”

For the little I know about King Creosote, despite my research and press bios, I wasn’t entirely prepared for such heartfelt songs like “My Favourite Girl.”  It’s a pretty simple ballad, similar to many marking the twists and turns of this album, but there’s something emotionally moving about the track.  It’s an unexplainable thing; it’s not the piano atop the gentle strumming, or the softness of Anderson’s vocals; its just got that “it” factor that we all yearn for in our everyday listening experience.  You’ll find many tracks like this throughout the whole of Thrawn, probably different than the ones that stood out to my ears.  Such is the force of this record, appearing out of nowhere to win over countless listeners, on the recommendation of one man alone. Hopefully this great work will not go unnoticed any longer; go check out the King.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/04-Missionary.mp3]

Download: King Creosote – Missionary [MP3]

New Music from Talons’

First, lets just say that this isn’t the instrumental band from the UK! Talons’ is some mellow singer-songwriter tracks from M. Tolan, who recorded the album up in Akron, Ohio.  It all comes from his album Song for Boats, which just came out.  It’s supposedly loosely based on his dreams detailing his return to the US from Spain if the world were to come to an end. You’ll definitely find it in the vein of other songwriters like Iron and Wine (back in the day), filled with this whispering voice of a man coming to grips with his own reality.  I stumbled across this record last week, and I’ve been slowly listening to it all week. Maybe it’s time you give it a try.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/04-Ferry.mp3]

Download: Talons’ – Ferry [MP3]

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