Hurricane Bells – Tonight is the Ghost

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Rating: ★★★ · ·

Many may not remember the band Longwave, the band that bubbled just beneath the breakthrough success of bands such as Kings of Leon and The Strokes.  Working hard for years, differentiating themselves from their contemporaries, they sort of disappeared.  Yet, all along, they continued to create vibrant music with creative guitar work.  Why does this matter?  Well, at the heart of Longwave is Steve Schiltz, the core songwriter for Hurricane Bells.  He’s been collecting demos and working on fleshing out the first full-length under the new moniker; here we have the story behind Tonight is the Ghost.

One of the things you’ll enjoy the most is how soft Schiltz’s vocals are throughout his recordings, with old band and new.  It’s somewhat reminiscent of Albert Hammond Jr., but you can rest assured he has got much more range than the aforementioned character.  It’s this pleasant delivery that makes Schiltz the perfect person to go into the singer/songwriter sphere of things.

Alas, the music isn’t too far off from where you usually find him. “This is a Test” reminds you immediately, for those that are familiar, with Longwave, albeit a less grand version.  You can even tell in the harmonics of the guitar as they stretch out into the atmosphere where he’s coming from, but you can’t blame a guy for relying upon what he knows best.  Such are the opening moments of Tonight is the Ghost; he doesn’t clearly step out of the shadows of his own career.

Yet as the record progresses, you can find yourself seeing the variance in the craft of writing that Schiltz must have endured when recording this album.  “Tonight I’m Going to be Like a Shooting Star” is the first moment when he doesn’t seem to completely revolve around his writing of the past.  It’s a more direct approach to writing, as simple as it gets for this chap.  And in such a fashion, you won’t find yourself surprised when that slide guitar comes around the bend in “Freezing Rain,” though this has a different effect than the country-fied version used with so many other band across the globe. And in this moment, you realize why you really like Steve’s tunes.

The great thing about both Hurricane Bells and Longwave is that you can always clearly hear the vocals.  In a world coated with lo-fi tendencies and indecipherable lyrics, it’s rare to find a singer who puts it out there so plainly for the listener.  Subject matter is personal, and yet ultimately relatable, which allows for that connection between musician and audience, something lacking in a lot of modern musical movements.

As you would expect, the album is generally successful, though not too far off from where you find Steve in his day job.  Luckily, I like Longwave a whole lot, and so any new tune from the great Steve Schiltz never hurts these ears.  For fans like me, and music fans looking for something a little more pure, and a lot less contrived, you’ll find joy in Hurricane Bells’ Tonight is the Ghost.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/04-Tonight-Im-Going-To-Be-Like-A-Shooting-1.mp3]

Download: Hurricane Bells – Tonight I’m Going To Be Like A Shooting Star [MP3]

King Khan and the BBQ Show – Invisible Girl

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Rating: ★★★ · ·

If you haven’t heard of King Khan in the last several years, you’ve probably been living in some remote region of the world, the Falkland Islands perhaps. Here we are again with another King Khan and the BBQ Show release, the more R&B influenced of Khan’s two monikers.  Invisible Girl is precisely what you would expect from the group, but the jury is still out on whether that is precisely what people are looking for from the BBQ Show.

One of the things to love about KK & the BBQ Show is just how much they can throw in a touch of soul into their stomping garage workings.  Such an endeavor could create a bit of cacophony, yet they never seem to go that route, always holding back enough to make the group seems like one of the tighteset around.  Take “I’ll Be Loving You,” a song that seems better suited for the high school proms of the late 50s.  It’s got a great vocal performance, but that beat just makes you shake something fierce.  “Spin the Bottle” is somewhat similar, mostly in the nostalgic feelings created by the incessant handclaps.

And we can’t forget the humor that makes Khan and associates such an enjoyable listen.  On “Animal Party” the narrator is hosting a party with a roomful of chickens, and yes, there are animal noises mimicked in the openingi moments of the song.  Still, the song doesn’t come off as a huge joke by any means, and once you move beyond the silliness of the lyrics and the noises, you get to the heart of a pretty solid song.

Yet there is something that doesn’t sit quite right on this album, at least for this listener.  Every song on here is easily considered a good track.  They each stand alone on their own individual merits.  But, when thrown together amongst each other, they seem to blend in together throughout the entire album.  There is a great sound here, but there is very little differentiation in the writing of the songs, so you find yourself lost in the album, trying to find your way out of the mess.  Don’t get me wrong, you can listen to this album over and over, time and time again, as I have, but at some point it blends together.

All that aside, this is just another good performance from King Khan and the BBQ Show.  Perhaps I’m expecting something entirely new and different, some sort of evolution, but that’s just my dream.  Khan has his own purpose on Invisible Girl, and while I might find that it runs together after repeated listens, it doesn’t mean it’s not better than most of what’s out there nowadays.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/King-Khan-BBQ-Show-Invisible-Girl.mp3]

Download: King Khan & BBQ Show – Invisible Girl [MP3]

Free Dirtnap Records Sampler

1253911409-internI’m forever indebted to Dirtnap Records, as I hold them responsible for bringing me the sweet rocking tunes of The Exploding Hearts.  Sure, it’s just one album from those guys, but it’s one hell of an album.  For those of you into that sort of music, you can grab the free sample from the label HERE.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/04-youre-black-and-blue.mp3]

Download: The Exploding Hearts – Youre Black and Blue [MP3]

Julian Casablancas – Phrazes for the Young

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Rating: ★★½ · ·

It’s been a long long time since the essence of cool was brought back by The Strokes.  No longer do we have to listen to stagnant rock on the radio, and the indie underground seems to have grown substantially.  We owe a great deal of that to Julian Casablancas.  His new album Phrazes for the Young creates a certain sense of nostalgia; it makes you look back to those days when it all seemed new and vibrant. 

Hands down, the first three songs on this record, “Out of the Blue,” “Left and Right in the Dark,” and “11th Dimension,” are all ridiculously good songs.  You can say that they have a more pop-centric leaning than most of the work done by Casablancas other band, but you can’t deny that the infections hooks are in abundance on these first three tracks.  If you take “11th Dimension” alone, you can see that combining the swagger of The Strokes with the electronic pop of Phoenix packs a huge punch.  This is such a killer opening to the album, that it really makes the latter half of the album fall flat on its face before our eyes.

Once you get to the last five songs, the pace is gone, and with it, the depth that seemingly existed from the outstart.  “Ludlow St.” has sort of a throwback feeling to a summer folk string, almost as if The Beatles have just entered into Julian’s lexicon, while the lyrics are reminiscent of Whitman’s Song of Myself.  It’s clever, but it is not a song that will last long in your memory.

“River of Brakelights” does sound exactly like some of the more straightforward rock songs that eclipsed the gems that were on First Impression of Earth.  Unfortunately, Julian Casablancas has a difficult time as it is differentiating the tones in vocals, and this song makes that all too apparent, which lead to the damage that devours this track. 

All this seems to head towards the trudgingly slow “Tourist,” a song that is lyrically akin to “Ludlow St.” All the punch is clearly gone at this point, and you can feel your heart sink as the album draws to a close.  It’s a shame actually, as the record began with such a promising start that you wanted the entire thing to be successful, but our luck has run out here.  Still, for those die-hard completists, you will find the voice of The Strokes living in a different place, one that at times, is as exciting as we’ve ever heard him.  Perhaps such moments make it onto the new work of either of his bands.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/Julian-Casablancas-11th-Dimension.mp3]

Download: Julian Casablancas – 11th Dimension [MP3]

Langhorne Slim @ Mohawk (11/11)

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Date Wednesday, November 11th
Location Mohawk
Doors 800p
Tickets $12 @ the door

Whilst most of us are still recovering from the FFF Fest, music must go on here in town.  Luckily, there is a pretty solid show of the laid back sort for all of us to enjoy this Wednesday, as Langhorne Slim makes his return to town.  Not only will you get Langhorne, but you get the fabulous Austin Lucas, as well as Dawes.  Seems like a chill way to spend hump day.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/04Shoulders.mp3]

Download: Austin Lucas – Shoulders [MP3]


New Tunes from Jump Clubb

jumpNo one really knows anything about the California band Jump Clubb, and in fact, they try to keep it that way.  I guess that seems a little ridiculous to me, but still, they recently released this killer Elliott Smith cover “Angeles.”  It’s not what you would expect, but it seems like an appropriate way to wrap up a Friday.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Angeles.mp3]

Download: Jump Clubb – Angeles (Eliott Smith Cover) [MP3]

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