FT5: Greatest Disappointments of the 00s

0108top5coverAlright, so we just finished wrapping up the 00s, and it’s left some of us (namely me) feeling a bit nostalgic for a decade that went by way too quickly.  It left me thinking about things I ruined or things I succeeded in, but most of all, it’s left me reflecting upon the most disappointing moments in my life.  Oddly, I deflect my own animosity for my life, and turn to the world of music.  Below is the five most disappointing things for me, musically, in the decade that passed.  Some have a chance at redemption, but others, well, you blew it big time.

bengibbardstolemygirlfriend5. Ben Gibbard stole my girlfriend

Look, I know that this happened only recently, but I also have come to believe that Zooey‘s hotness has only increased exponentially in the past few years.  All that aside, it’s not just that Ben stole my girlfriend (really, he did!), but he stole the dreams of me and my many like-minded friends.  Out of nowhere, he popped up his now skinny head, and crushed the dreams of many.  Shame on you Ben Gibbard.

 
 

thewrens_meadowland4. The Wrens don’t put out another album

The Wrens put out Meadowlands, which is absoltuely one of my all time favorite albums, and that feeling of joy when I put the needle to the record will never fade away.  What did fade away was the feelings of joy I had in regard to The Wrens.  Lead man Charles did a little bit of work, most recently with Will from Okkervil River, which means dudes were getting work done.  Why didn’t I see any of it at all?  Why did they leave me just as I was falling in love? Nearly a decade with no new tunes? You fail.

 
 

wilco-yhf3. Wilco couldn’t replicate Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

You go against the odds and record one of the most brilliant masterpieces in modern pop music, one which everyone still talks about, but then you slowly decline all the way towards 2009s Wilco, the Album.  You can’t entirely blame the guys, as they lost Jay Bennett (as did we all, RIP), but they went from such great heights to such a low.  Not only this, but people somehow kept believing in them, as if they could bring back the magic.  I admit it! I was a sucker; I fell for it.  Never again Wilco!

 
 

weweredeadbeforetheshipevensank2. Modest Mouse sold out

Sure, this is the age-old debate about whether or not you deem it okay to allow your favorite secrets to better themselves and move their careers forward.  My answer? No!  Modest Mouse had the control of the indie world after Lonesome Crowded West; they could do no wrong.  Sure, a lot of people think Moon and Antartica was their best, but those people are wrong!  Modest Mouse went to the majors, lost their luster, and they lost a fan (though I know I’m not the only one).

 
 

ryanadams_cardinology1. Ryan Adams

I’ll admit that I was a little bit late jumping on the Ryan Adams train, but I jumped all the way on.  It baffles me how the guy that made Whiskeytown brilliant, then put out Heartbreaker, can rush down the hill of mediocrity so quickly.  I know he landed Mandy and all, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that I willingly sat down to listen to things like 29 or CardinologyRyan Adams was my biggest disappointment.

 
 

Look, I know you all disagree with some of these, and I get that, but I had to let you know how disappointed I was in these things; isn’t time to be reflective, at least for another week? If you had a bigger disappointment, or want to tell me why I am wrong, we’re all for it! Leave a comment.

New Music from Fyfe Dangerfield

fyfeFyfe Dangerfield is usually known for his role in Guillemots, but he’s decided to step aside from the group, just for a bit.  His album, Fly Yellow Moon, hits American stores on March 16th.  It’s a supremely British sounding track, encouraging you to stomp your feet along with Fyfe, as his somewhat throaty vocals soar atop the rest of the song.  It might just be an acquired taste, but it’s something I think most of you will enjoy.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/05-When-You-Walk-in-The-Room.mp3]

Download: Fyfe Dangerfield – When You Walk in The Room [MP3]

Vampire Weekend – Contra

vampire-weekend-contra

Rating: ★★ · · ·

Everyone began salivating when news of a new Vampire Weekend hit the streets, but as the leaks of the singles came, people began to feel a bit uneasy as we neared the release of Contra.  Sadly, the feelings of unease have not been quelled, as this record, despite wanting to be great, is nothing more than a mediocre rendition of the last.

Opening with “Horchata” seems logical, as you take one of the catchier numbers (and yes, it IS one of the catchiest) from the album, and put it up front.  It makes complete sense, but it sets up the rest of the album for a bit of a lackluster performance.  You get a lot of the same tinkering in this song too with non-traditional percussive elements–a sign that this album isn’t progressing too far.

So you find yourself sort of immersed emotionally in this album, and you hit upon “Holiday.” It replicates some of the energy that we discovered with “A-Punk,” yet not enough that one could really call it a standout track, like you could with the aformentioned “A-Punk.”  Ezra’s voice at this point does seem really solid–in case you’re looking for positives.

Then you breeze through the rest of the album, fast-forwarding til you hit the slow-mover that is “Taxi Cab.”  It’s really difficult to move beyond the banality that is this song; it’s the most bland piece of music I’ve come across in the last few months.  It sounds like they wanted to create a touch of Enlightenment piano work atop their summery pop.  But, a few repeat listens of this song will open your eyes to the strongest moments on the album, this song leading into that moment.

And you finally arrive at the one-two punch that is “Run” and “Cousins.”  Okay, so the beat on “Run” sounds too familiar to early Vampire Weekend efforts, but Ezra’s voice sounds much more influential at this point, coming off as one of his stronger vocal performances on the record. The brother song, “Cousins” is probably most reminiscent of the high-octane fun that you found in “A-Punk.”  It’s hard to get beyond the yelping, but if you can put that aside, you’ll find Contra‘s strongest moments yet.  It’s catchy, and yet not too stylistically repetitive.

But, as the album winds out, everything is lost.  You’ll find some beats that will surely propel the band to SPIN glory, but you won’t really find too many other moments in the remaining songs that you’ll want to put on over and over again.  “Diplomat’s Son” finds Ezra trying his best to sing a nice little Hawaiian ballad a la Iz, but it’s not enough to sustain listeners.  Seriously bro, stop singing, and get to rocking. That all leads to the band’s misstep on the record.

Listening to Contra repeated times is sure to wear listeners down.  The redundancy in the sonic appeal gradually fades as you go from song to song, and what once seemed interesting, just isn’t.  Listeners, despite their best intentions, will surely come to the realization that whilst they wanted the best for Vampire Weekend, their needs just weren’t fulfilled.  You’ll be left wondering why you spent your money on a record that you can easily forget the moment its over.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/01-Horchata-1.mp3]

Download: Vampire Weekend – Horchata [MP3]

FTC: The Go-Betweens

gobetweensIt’s rare that an Australian band maintains the longevity like that of The Go-Betweens. They began their careers in 1977, and were on and off until about 2006 when original member Grant McLennan passed away unexpectedly.  Fortunately for everyone out there, the band left a slew of wonderful tracks, and albums, out there for all those music fans who came to fall in love with their music.  If you’re not familiar with the band, you might want to take a peak at Bellavista Terrace, which is a compilation of sorts of the best of their early works.  You’ll find tracks for fans of The Smiths, but you also find a history that led to some beautifully crafted pop gems on later albums such as Oceans Apart.  Their popularity was brought back to my attention when a bridge in Australia was recently named after them, a high honor in my opinion.  So sit back, enjoy this track, and go browse the beautiful history of The Go-Betweens.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/06-Cattle-and-Cane.mp3]

New Tunes from Northern Portrait

nThe wonderful thing about being brand loyal, especially when it refers to record labels, is that you are usually guaranteed to like one thing, if you like the rest of the label’s output.  Such is the case with Matinee Records, the label that put out Cats on Fire (one of my 09 must haves).  Now, through their web site, I discovered another gem,  by the name of Northern Portrait.  The group is from Denmark, and they write jangle pop, some might even call it twee. Whatever it is, it’s good. You’ll like it.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/10-New-Favourite-Moment.mp3]

Download: Northern Portrait – New Favourite Moment [MP3]

New Old Tunes from The Loom

loomBrooklyn band The Loom have it all if you ask me.  They sound like a good old fashioned folk collective, a la Rock Plaza Central; they have multiple ladies in the band; they feature a lot of work with banjos.  Recently, the band raised enough money to go into the studio and record their debut album, and I’m pleased to bring the group to your attention, as I’ve been listening to the band’s 2008 EP since I first got my hands on it a year or so ago via a friend in New York.  They’ve received stellar reviews, played solid CMJ shows, and for those of you who haven’t heard them, now is your chance.  Unfortunately, this is an old track (though it’s probably new to you), but it shows nothing but promise of great things to come from the quintet.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/05.Song-for-the-Winter-Sun.mp3]

Download: The Loom – Song for the Winter Sun [MP3]

New Tunes from Love Is All

loveisallIt really hasn’t been too long since we last heard from Love Is All, the band having put out a 12″ last year with covers and some new tunes.  Now, they’ve switched up labels completely, landing on Polyvinyl for their new release.  Said album hits stores on March 23rd, and is yet another number filled title, Two Thousand and Ten Injuries.  Give this new tune a whirl.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/Love-Is-All-Kungen.mp3]

Download: Love Is All – Kungen [MP3]

The Crayon Fields – All The Pleasures of the World

thumb_crayon

Rating: ★★★★½

In a year that offered lots of mediocre albums, 2009 had so many new records that it was hard to digest them all in due time for reviews.  Yet, I always intended to touch on this album, as I’ve loved The Crayon Fields since Animal Bells came out a few years back. 

“Mirrorball” made the list of our Top 50 songs of 2009, and it still draws a lot of power, months after it first hit our ears.  Singer Geoff O’ Connor has a real breathy vocal projection (like a pop whisperer), one that will recall Colin Bluntstone of The Zombies for many listeners…it’s just one of the many touchstones for the group.

One thing that differentiates the characterstics on All the Pleasures of the World from Animal Bells is that there seems to be a little bit of darkness lingering beneath each of the songs.  On Animal Bells, you had songs like “Living So Well,” which were full of sunny beach pop and gang vocal effects, but this doesn’t fit here.  On the album’s title track, amidst singing of pleasures, O’ Connor seems sort of resigned to see the pleasures, though not necessarily take part in them.  Perhaps the extra layering of instruments has made a more dense soundscape from which the band took off this round (some of the best being from the solid bass work). Just a guess.

When one comes across songs like “Celebrate” you can see how a Clientele reference might creep up in a review, but you might also note that the similarites are existant, yet polarizing.  Where The Clientele often feels extremely cold, and their melodies have a sense of brooding danger, The Crayon Fields put a little bit of energy into their artistry.  By this I really mean one thing: The Clientele gives you foggy melodies; The Crayon Fields blow the fog away with a touch of beach-side sunshine. 

You’ll also find a lot of the guitar-work of Glaswegians Belle and Sebastian lying beneath this album.  You can almost pick up on the homage being given in songs such as “Disappear” where there is a hint of swing and sway to the general atmospheric creation.  It’s not a bad thing to highlight, as I’m a fan of the former band, which also probably shows why I’m a huge fan of the latter.  Really, is there any ground for originality nowadays?

So, here I am, a few months after the release, though you will still find it hard to get a hold of All the Pleasures of the World in the U.S.  Be that as it may, you’ll do yourself, and the dollar, justice if you go out to your local hotspot and purchase the latest from The Crayon Fields, and the last one while you’re at it.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/crayon-fields-mirror-ball-7_-version.mp3]

Download: The Crayon Fields – Mirror Ball [MP3]

2009 Top 50 Albums

bestof2009cover_albums

Creating a Top 50 Albums list is never easy.  You have to battle with what you think the world believes, and what you truly believe in your heart, to be solid jams.  We have even more trouble because we have to three writers, all who have different ideas, and we have to make those ideas fit into a neat box.  Well, we got it done, and honestly, our criteria was based on two things: how great we thought the album was, artistically speaking, and how long we listened to it without getting bored.  That’s it. It’s fool proof; you might not like it, but it’s our list, so here it is… Read more

New Tunes from Title Tracks

l_323827bb9f6144e49ed9925dd32c6643John Davis used to rock the world in Q and Not U.  Then he played some catchy tunes with Georgie James, but now he’s finding that middle ground with his new group Title Tracks.  His first album with the new group comes your way on February 9th, and fans of his later work will find precisely what they need here.  “Piles of Paper” has a lot of remnants leftover from the Georgie James days, which is never a bad thing, as I enjoyed that work too.  So get ready for It Was Easy coming your way real soon.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/04-Piles-Of-Paper.mp3]

Download: Title Tracks – Piles Of Paper [MP3]

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