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

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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

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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

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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]

12/12 – The Dutchess and the Duke @ The Mohawk

dutchessduke08This here is a story of heartbreak, a story of fallen heroes.  The Dutchess and the Duke made their way once again into Austin amongst strong praise for their recent release Sunset/Sunrise.  Our expectations were high, and we promoted the show as best we could, hoping many would see the greatness that was D&D.  Unfortunately, the night fell far short of our expectations, or mine at least.  Follow the jump for full review and photos.

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