New Music from The Sweet Ones

As a younger music fan, I just needed fast guitars, maybe some shouting and a good melody.  Nowadays, I find myself attached to all sorts of sounds (you can’t rule anything out these days), which is why I’ve been enjoying this track from The Sweet Ones.  At first, it sorts of comes off like an oddball Modest Mouse, but the more I listen to it, the use of horns doesn’t seem like excess, so I tend to align these guys with more of a Rock Plaza Central feel–just with a bit more pop.  Make no doubt about it though, it’s definitely quirky, in the most endearing way.  You’ll find this track and others on the group’s new album Big Mistakes, which is in  stores now.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/carburetor.mp3]

Download: The Sweet Ones – Carburetor [MP3]

More New Music from Wise Blood

Thanks to a big push from the Interwebs, Wise Blood has quickly grown in popularity, and after hearing his most recent single, there’s a reason for that.  Personally, that sweeping melody hiding beneath the mass of ambient noises grabbed me, but those ringing guitars that come in and out in the middle of versus, definitely furthered my appreciation.  Every time I repeat this track, there’s something else that stands out to me, which is the sign of great craftsmanship.  You can find this song, as well as others, when the These Wings EP hits stores on August 30th via Dovecote.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Wise-Blood-Nosferatu.mp3]

Download: Wise Blood – Nosferatu [MP3]

Gold Leaves – The Ornament

Rating: ★★★★½

Every once in awhile, you come across a record that fits into your life perfectly, filling the empty emotional space, revitalizing your spirit.  Just one listen to Gold Leaves is all it takes to find that The Ornament seeps into your soul, establishing itself as an album that meets all your musical needs.

“The Silver Lining” is one of those perfect pop songs, carefully constructed for the maximum benefit of listeners.  It’s a gentle number, similar to the recent work of Camera Obscura (in construction at least).  But, what makes the track stand out is Carl Olsen’s voice.  It waivers somewhere between Ward and Banhart, touching every emotional chord for those with a hankering for all things sad-bastard.  While there’s a bit of solemnity to the opener, “The Ornament” provides a bit of brightness with just the slightest change in pacing.  You’ll find that same careful arrangement with every bit of accompaniment propelling the song’s essence. It’s not a track to be taken lightly, echoing in your memory long after the song has skipped onto the next.

“Endless Dope” opens a new chapter for Gold Leaves.  While other tracks have featured lush arrangement, this track seems more sparse in those regards, though elements still remain.  But, Olsen’s vocals play the main role here, drawing you into his poetic verse, as opposed to letting you get washed away with waves of pop brilliance. Similarly, “Cruel & Kind” refuses to rely upon the maximum arrangements, carefully meandering through your mind.  Inside this track you’ll find yourself getting lost, but in a manner that only the best of music can accomplish; it’s simplicity lets you drift in and out of consciousness, always drawn back by the inherent melody built within the tune.

Even when The Ornament doesn’t draw itself out with meandering tracks, a great deal can still be accomplished.  For instance, “Hard Feelings” is one of the shortest songs on the record, but in a short span you’ll find trickling guitar lines, string pieces swirling in the background, and Olsen at the center of it all.  Eventually, it crashes spectacularly in the middle, switching things up just slightly. There’s a denseness to this number, as it seems filled to the brim, but in writing in that fashion, Gold Leaves still leaves room for the melody and the emotion to find its way to your inner ear.

If you haven’t found room in your day for this collection, then you need to put down everything immediately.  The Ornament is the kind of album that begs to be listened to, begs to be played over again and again.  After one listen, you’ll end up clearing your schedule, finding yourself lost inside the depth and emotional pull of everything Carl Olsen has managed to put together for this outing. Not a note goes wasted, and that in and of itself, is something to praise–but this record is so much more. So stop reading this now, and drift away with Gold Leaves.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Gold-Leaves-Cruel-And-Kind.mp3]

Download: Gold Leaves – Cruel/Kind [MP3]

Bad Sports – Kings of the Weekend

Rating: ★★★½☆

Whatever’s in the water in Denton, Texas, people better start to take notice, as the area continues to push out great garage-pop rockers, and Bad Sports are no different. Their second album Kings of the Weekend, this time on Dirtnap Records, is just an energetic burst of great licks, giving you exactly what you need–a solid dosage of good old fashioned rock n’ roll.

The band jumps right in with “Off Switch,” and while garage-pop might be all the rage, this track opens up with a lot more fury than most things associated with the genre, showing you that Bad Sports aren’t here to rehash, they’re here to reimagine on their own terms. From here, the band burst into a bit more territory with hints of the Ramones.

“Cant Just Be Friends” might not have the hammering pace of the Ramones, but you can feel that element of harmony bubbling in the bass, something that truly labels both bands as fans of good old pop music.  “Sweet Sweet Mandi” definitely bears the mark of the classic New York group, with the delivery mimicking Joey, and that hooky chorus that enables you to sing along.

“Teenage Girls” is one of those songs that illustrates the group pushing themselves to live outside of their obvious influences. It’s less punk-infused, going back to more of a garage style of power-pop.  Even the solo cutting in belongs somewhere in the annals of garage/rock/pop history–this is not a bad thing! it’s a similar feeling you’ll find with “You Look Funny,” which has the band using a likeness of the garage sort, just getting a bit dirtier in the final mixing. 

One of the tracks that stood out to me on Kings of the Weekend was “I’m In Love with Myself.”  I love a tune that utilizes simplicity in lyrics, but combines solid pace and a bit of a guitar solo.  You’ll find that this is the sort of song that fits perfect into the live setting, giving in to the fans need to pogo about and shout lyrics back at the group. Another Bad Sports number here that fits this mold, though in a slightly different manner, is “June Sixteenth.”  There’s something about the song’s inherent melody, the sound of the guitar and the pounding drums to wrap the song up that just hits home for an aged punk like myself.

In all honesty, Kings of the Weekend is filled to the brim with brazen pop ballads in punk fashion.  There’s not a single song you’ll want to skip, but that being said, you might also be able to say that a certain creativity is lacking.  But, when it all boils down to it, aren’t we all just here to have a little bit of fun with our music?  If that’s your bag, then this new record from Bad Sports is built exactly for you.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/bad_sports_teenage_girls.mp3]

Download: Bad Sports – Teenage Girls [MP3]

New Music (to me) from Nick Carswell & The Elective Orchestra

One of my favorite sounds, musically, is the combination of a gentle male voice juxtaposed with an appropriately matched female harmony,  so I was lucky today when I came across Nick Carswell & The Elective Orchestra, a group that employs such tricks. The band released their album The Word not too long ago, but it’s just now making it to my computer, and I’m grateful for that.  Just wait for the drums to kick in near the end of this song, rolling you towards the melodious end of the track.  Sure, it’s an unassuming little pop ditty, but sometimes those are the best.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Nick-Carswell-Elective-Orchestra-Folks-Like-Us.mp3]

Download: Nick Carswell & Elective Orchestra – Folks Like Us [MP3]

More Music from Fresh & Onlys

San Fran’s Fresh & Onlys are really starting to get on my nerves.  Whether it’s frontman Tim Cohen or the whole band, they just keep turning out tunes, and good ones at that.  I’ve probably spent close to $100 on this band this year alone (Tim Cohen included), which either means I’m a sucker, or they’re just that good; I’m going with the latter. P4K announced that they’ll be releasing another new 7″ in September, and based on this, there goes a bit more money from my wallet.  I’m guessing you feel the same about their whispy vocals and jangling psych guitars.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Fresh-Onlys-I-Would-Not-Know-the-Devil.mp3]

Download: Fresh & Only’s – I Would Not Know the Devil [MP3]

New Music from United Fruit

I’ll give you that this is a little bit abrasive, compared to the music I usually post about, but I still have a penchant for the heavier side of things.  Unlike most bands in their area, Glaswegian group United Fruit are here to give you a swift kick to the teeth.  The guitars are shredding and the vocals are reminiscent of the olden days of Trail of Dead, so you know we Austinites are going to have a liking for that.  These kids have just released their new album, Fault Lines, and aside from one track (“Three”) it’s a rocker through and through.  Perhaps it’s to your liking too?

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/United-Fruit_01_Kamikaze.mp3]

Download: United Fruit – Kamikaze [MP3]

New Music from Big Harp

We’re just a few weeks away from the release of the new album from recent Saddle Creek signing, Big Harp. Their album is titled White Hat, and it’s going to be in stores on August 30th, surely winning over a lot of new fans for the band.  I like the trickling melody of this single, and of course, the deep quality of the vocals definitely attracts me.  I’m also appreciating the dichotomy between the vocals and the underlying pop sensibility of the song’s construction.  Things looks to be a really promising debut for the husband and wife duo from Nebraska.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/02-Everybody-Pays.mp3]

Dwonload: Big Harp – Everybody Pays [MP3]

Cut Off Your Hands – Hollow

Rating: ★★★★☆

With their first album, You & I, you sort of had the feeling that New Zealand outfit Cut Off Your Hands might have been yearning for the British Isles, but with their release of Hollow, the band has completed their maturation, giving fans a full-on venture into the sounds of the Oceanic region of the world.

“You Should Do Better” begins with a rolling drum beat, and chiming guitars, before Nick Johnston’s vocals soar above it all.  Sure, people will hear remnants of the Smiths influence, but I hear Lucksmiths delivery, and the sharpness of the guitars employed by the Go-Betweens. Trust me, these are all good things.  It’s furthered with “Nausea,” the second track on the record, where the chorus has this incredible melody that totally beats out anything the band has done to date (no offense fellas).

What might stand in the way for some of the long-time fans of Cut Off Your Hands is that the energy is markably different on this outing, in comparison to past works.  Where you once found sharpness and angular cuts of the knife, the band has slowed things down, clearing the way for much warmer guitar sounds.  Don’t get confused here, as the guitars on tracks like “Hollowed Out” definitely maintain an edge and brightness, but instead of forcing riff into riff, the guitars ring loudly throughout Hollow, providing listeners with a sound that has much more durability.

Still, there are several tracks available for those looking for a quicker pace, and the group’s more traditional sound.  “Fooling No One” bounces in your ear, before the vocals swing in to provide that melodic approach the band rely upon.  This is much more of a stomper than anything up to this point on Hollow. They follow it up with “Down and Out,” which relies upon ringing guitar chords in the background to provide that energetic punch you’re begging for the band to give you.  Both tracks show the band still has what it takes to offer powerful pop gems with bits of fuel behind them.  Just because you clean things up, doesn’t mean you can’t unleash a good solid rocker, right?

When they close out this album with “Buried,” it’s the perfect summation of Hollow.  The track is drawn out slowly, though with the guitars maintaining their melodic sharpness.  Johnston slowly works his way through his vocals, caring to emphasize every emotional point in your listening experience.  Much like this song, the entire new record from Cut Off Your Hands is a bit of a slower burn, with longer songs, allowing the band to get the maximum quality out of all nine tracks.  If anything, their maturity displays the group’s songwriting capabilities, giving listeners an experience that will surely leave a lasting impression.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Cut-Off-Your-Hands-You-Should-Do-Better.mp3]

Download: Cut Off Your Hands – You Should Do Better [MP3]

New Smooth Pop from The Sunshine Factory

I came across this beautiful new track from The Sunshine Factory when I was browsing the excellent blog, When the Sun Hits.  This is the first new music we’ve heard from the group since the release of their LP, Sugar, which came out at the end of 2010. The song has this unassuming beauty, with lightly strummed guitar filling in the space left by the atmospherics of the background.  You’ll have a hard time convincing me Sally Robertson doesn’t have one of the most enchanting voices around. Give it up for this Alabama crew; they’re crafting some kind of wonderful.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/The-Sunshine-Factory-Chainsaw-Girl.mp3]

Download: The Sunshine Factory – Chainsaw Girl [MP3]

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