Mister Heavenly – Out of Love

Rating: ★★★☆☆

What do you get when you take 1 part Modest Mouse, 1 part Islands/Unicorns, and 1 part Man Man? Well, the ultimate supergroup in my opinion; you get Mister Heavenly. Out of Love is the name of their first work together, and while the edgier voice of Ryan Kattner might not seem like the best fit for Nic Islands, it’s a surprising juxtaposition, leaving listeners with an abundance of solid tracks.

When Nic begins the brief verse for “Bronx Sniper,” you wonder just how his notable pitch will fit with Kattner’s banging style.  Once Ryan joins in, you can rest assured that the two fit well together, with Nic’s tendency to exaggerate his vocals at times blending interestingly with his throatier counterpart.  If you were looking to see how the two would fit, this isn’t the best example, as “Mister Heavenly” seems to be the best statement from the group of Out of Love. Ryan begins with his organ-stomp, but then Nic throws in his smooth delivery and a nice guitar line.  When you expect Nic to burst forth on the chorus as he would with Islands, instead you find Kattner.  And back and forth they go, successfully.

Perhaps what seems to have worked best for Mister Heavenly is that the group seems to have reawakened Nic’s noisier side, as he hasn’t seemed this endearingly frantic since the late days of Unicorns.  His last few releases have seen him become really polished, cleaning up his delivery a bit.  But, he’s always had this dark side, which you really get to see resurface on songs like “Doom Wop.” There’s a coat over the vocals, yet you can still hear both singers belting out their lines distinctly.  It’s a revitalized energy that longtime fans will be happy to see. Also, Ryan does deserve praise at this point for his own vocal range, which seems to be go anywhere he wishes (see “Diddy Eyes)–to great effect.

And at the heart of the whole project for Out of Love is Joe Plummer, the group’s unsung hero.  All those familiar with both Islands and Man Man will surely be aware that the groups have vastly different styles to songwriting, so you’ve got to have a solid kit-man to hold it all down, and Plummer does a great job keeping the group together.  Each member tosses his style in and out of every song, with those dirtier piano based parts coming from Kattner, and Nic’s penchant for stellar guitar hooks, so Plummer’s ability to keep it all sounding tight is with a doubt the band’s saving grace.

There’s a gem here and there, like “Pineapple Girl,” living on the higher pitches, but one thing that might hold back praise from some is that there’s nothing outstanding.  Every song written by Mister Heavenly has the potential to be extraordinary, but it’s mostly standard fare, which is sort of a letdown. You want everything to be incredible, and instead it’s all just good.  That being said, there’s not really a throwaway track on Out of Love, so the group has that going for them.  Who knows where they’ll go from here, but as of now, this is a solid start for a much-hyped supergroup.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Pineapple-Girl.mp3]

Download: Mister Heavenly – Pineapple Girl [MP3]

New Music from Pony

Do you ever just find one of those songs that immediately takes you over?  For some reason (because it’s good), the simple trickling piano of Pony did precisely that, and has since been absorbed to the max. It’s all the work of songwriter Audrey, and she just released her album I Forgot to Turn You On.  It’s a very simplistic record, full of brief ballads and haunting melodies; sometimes it’s the simplest things that make the greatest impact on us.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/01_Lost_Sun.mp3]

Download: Pony – Lost Sun [MP3]

New Music from The Great Nostalgic

Make no mistake about it; we’re huge fans of Austin band The Great Nostalgic.  Just recently they released their second album, Hope We Live Like We Promised, but they’re not stopping there.  Currently the band is holed up, hard at work on a brand new EP.  You can clearly tell the band’s sound has changed from their first effort, sounding tighter here than they have in the past, throwing out a melding of sounds in the middle of the track to bring you effortless brilliance.  It’s about time more people start taking notice of this great act.  Heed my warning folks.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/01-Doomsday-Radio-1.mp3]

Download: The Great Nostalgic – Doomsday Radio [MP3]

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]

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