The Extra Lens – Undercard

Rating: ★★★½☆

Now that John Darnielle has signed up The Mountain Goats to be part of the Merge Records roster, it seems only fair that he give the label a little sampling of his magic.  Instead of throwing a 7″ or a single out, he collaborated with longtime friend, Franlkin Bruno, to complete only the second full-length, Undercard,  by the duo known as The Extra Lens.  Frankly, Franklin’s participation doesn’t go too far to stretch the sound of the typical Darnielle work, but its his subtle touches here and there that give a bit more depth to the normal acoustic strumming of old JD.

If you travel the path of a normal MG release, you’ll find that “Adultry” isn’t far off from that place, except the slightest noise in the background, that of a nicely distorted guitar chopping its way through the melodic strumming of Darnielle.  It’s a shortened number, but what would come off as a short-penned song, now holds a new layer.  It’s these ever so subtle touches that alter the work throughout Undercard. “Cruiserweights” just uses the most basic piano tinkering off in the far horizon of the track, and even using that doesn’t really alter our perception of The Extra Lens as being yet another venue for Darnielle’s songs.  Basically, they’re the same old same old, only much much prettier.

You’re probably reading this, thinking that its just some boring re-hash of Mountain Goats material, but what it truly is, is just a man adding those finishing touches to his usual maseterpieces.  John Darnielle has to be one of the finer craftsmen of song, and instead of leaving those magnificent pieces raw, he’s opted to use his friend Franklin to finish everything off, add a little gloss, and give it a hint of sheen.

You know, the world really needs more songs like these, especially if they’re given the Criterion treatment by Bruno.  “Some Other Way” originates as a general unrequited love song, but an organ touch here, a far off strum in the background shifts it all, providing the song with the same sense of yearning that is created by the narrator’s words.  There’s even somewhat of a Western feel, almost as if a cowboy has lost his herd, and aches to get them back.  Such things are welcome in the great catalogue of JD.  And you’ll find odd pieces to fall in love with as well, much like “In Germany Before the War,” which employs nothing more than a whispering John, a down-trodden piano line, and perhaps a bit of accordion.  It’s a heavy emotion created, perhaps meant to accompany such a heavy-themed song.

You’ll find that Undercard, though beautiful in its entirety, really doesn’t venture too far off the beaten path of The Mountain Goats.  But, that being said, does it really hurt you to have more polished beauty from Darnielle, especially when he’s got Bruno paying keen attention to the most important details?  The answer to that question is probably no, so you should probably do what’s right, and go get your hands on the new Extra Lens record.


Download: The Extra Lens – Only Existing Footage [MP3]

New Music from Poor Bailey

The indie folk group Poor Bailey have set out on an extraordinary adventure; they’re writing 31 songs, one for each day in October.  For now the work is being titled The October Project, but we’re not sure if the group will slim things down and make it some sort of official release.  We’re bringing you the first track from the project, which has this incredible feel of old Jeff Mangum to it, maybe even a touch of J. Mascis.  Each day the band will offer up a new song for download, and they’ll continue on until they’ve completed the project.  If all the songs sound this good, then we’ll be grateful to have it all on November 1st.


Download: Poor Bailey – Angel in Disguise [MP3]

New Music from Pujol

Pujol is an up-and-coming band out of Nashville, and they’ve already received lots of praise all over the Interwebs.  Their sound uses a bit of that garage recording, which apparently is the technique of the year, at least for me.  But, they include a lot of melodies, likely to make you bounce about your room jubilantly.  They’ve just released their EP, All at the Same Time, and though its short, its got quite a punch.  Give this track a try to see if this is your bag.


Download: Pujol – Butterflyknife [MP3]

More New Music from Motorifik

We brought you the track “Secret Things” a few weeks back from the upcoming album by Motorifik, the side project from one of the chaps in Working for a Nuclear Free City.  Now we have a new jam to bring you today, which is a lot more bright, at least when the lyrics come into play.  The band’s album Secret Things comes out on November 9th, and there is definitely a nice bit of differentiations between all the tracks, making it a record to spin over and over.  Something about this new single just makes me want to dance like an inflatable man outside your local car dealership.


Download: Motorifik – Sleep Forever [MP3]

New Music from The Go Team

A few years back it seemed like The Go Team could do no wrong, but then their second album sort of fell flat on its face.  The music sounded too claustrophobic, locked in the collage work of the band.  Now the band have returned, with a clear sound, along with the traditional hooks and delivery from Ninja.  This track will be featured on the group’s new record, Rolling Blackouts, which comes our way on January 31st.  Are we really planning for 2011 already? Well, this should get us off to a good start.


Download: The Go Team – T.O.R.N.A.D.O. [MP3]

Blank Dogs – Land and Fixed

Rating: ★★★★☆

Mike Sniper has two things going for him: his label Captured Tracks and his project Blank Dogs.  Running a label that’s releasing a lot of the best music around allows Mike to keep in touch with the heartbeat of the indie community, which really benefits his own work, as you’ll see on the newest record, Land and Fixed.  This is easily the most accessible, and enjoyable, release from Blank Dogs, while still maintaining that covert aesthetic he’s always utilized.

“Goes By” starts things off, and immediately the beats are dark and moving, just as that angular guitar line starts to dance about in the background of the track.  Sniper’s vocals are still coated, though they’re easily the clearest vocals he’s used to date–there also appears to be some backing tracks used to give more depth to his voice this time around.  As the guitar walks in and out of the verse and chorus it creates a nice powerful hook, sure to shake the dance floor.  “Collides” won’t do too much different than the opening track, though the song does a bit more as far as building tension up before jettisoning off into blissful dark-wave.  If you’re a fan of the band, or a casual listener, the clarity of the vocals this time around still has to grab your attention.

“Northern Islands” is the track that exemplifies everything about Land and Fixed.  It’s got this glitch beat erratically going on in the background, and Mike’s coated vocals haunt the dark edges of the song.  But, there’s this dark jangling guitar that recalls everything innocent about pop music, which goes a long way to establish the aesthetic of this record–beautiful in the club and in your bedroom. It’s this stylistic choice that makes Blank Dogs so interesting to listen to in the current market.  They’re neither chillwave or lo-fi, but more of a progressive element of both, moved forward by a focus on classic pop hooks.  If you take a song like “All Around,” it recalls bits of old school post-punk and new wave, yet nothing sounds entirely too trapped in complete nostalgia. And a track like “Treelines” shows how easily magic can slowly unfold before you unexpectedly when listening to this record.  Every bit and piece seems carefully selected and placed, creating optimal reward for musician and listener alike.

If you were looking for one thing to knock, which we know everyone wants to find, that angular beach guitar sound does get a little bit redundant at times.  At spots, its brilliantly included in the scope of Land and Fixed, but other times it could be pushed in a different direction, perhaps a little bit more mischief in the guitar line.  Still, that’s hardly reason to dislike an album, now is it?  With the latest release from Blank Dogs you’ll see an artist who is tied into the culture of a great deal of left of the dial music nowadays, and his influence clearly goes beyond his work with Captured Tracks. It seems that as Mike Sniper has allowed time to progress, his music has grown substantially, leaving us to reap the rewards of his hard work.


Download: Blank Dogs – Northern Islands [MP3]

The Moondoggies – Tidelands

Rating: ★★★☆☆

We can easily classify Moondoggies under the realm of folk harmony rock, as that’s clearly where their new album, Tidelands, has come to rest.  But, while you’re likely to use the Northwest as a reference point, due to the band’s location, and current trends, there seems to be a bit more nostalgic Americana on this record, which definitely makes it worth your listening ears.

Unfortunately, “It’s a Shame, It’s a Pity” opens up , which possibly gives the wrong impression to listeners right off the bat.  Now, this isn’t to say that this is a bad song, in fact, quite the opposite (I dug it), but it does tend to hint at modern folk rock trends, such as Grand Archives, just with a bit more of a twang and ambition.  Still, it’s not the most revealing song on the record, and it immediately sells the band’s sound short.  Following in its footsteps, “Tidelands,” doesn’t do too much to clarify things.  It comes from the same ilk, roots-rock featuring nice harmonic vocals.  Both songs are great, but you’ll find that Moondoggies have a great deal more to offer you as you move along–still, these tracks are good, but if its not what you’re looking for, keep moving along through the album.

“Uncertain” is the perfect track to display what the group are apt to do, from here on out we hope.  It’s a subtle meandering track, with Kevin Murphy’s vocals tugging on the coattails of a whiskey drunk Neil Young.  The percussion seems sleepy, but you find much more emotion in this track, much more personal reflection. This sort of track asks you to go back and look for phrases to fit to your memory–that’s the sort of song you’re looking for nowadays.  Similarly, the closing track “A Lot of People on My Mind” pulls you deep beneath the surface of the recording, as there are elements where you can here man waiver, questioning his existence, and those other timeless motifs of music.  Soft guitar strumming barely breaks the sound barrier here, forcing you to submit to the power of Murphy’s voice.  Surely we’d all be happy to hear more tracks like this.

Still, the band definitely have work to do if they’re to move beyond mere imitators and nostalgic songwriters.  “Down the Well” comes off busy, and doesn’t have the clarity that even the most quiet tracks of Tidelands offer.  Songs like these aren’t able to escape the haunting of ghostly influences, wearing the past on the sleeves of the musicians.  It is these moments that show us that Moondoggies have a bright future, once the kinks are finally ironed out.  Previously mentioned songs such as “Tidelands” or “Uncertain” stand on their own merit, but in the mix of the album, it makes for somewhat of an unbalanced effort.  Personally, the quiet moments are when the band seems the most successful, as this appears to be where they establish their own voice as musicians.  All in all, the effort here is good, but the execution itself needs a touch of work.


Download: The Moondoggies – It’s a Shame, It’s a Pity [MP3]

New Tunes from Salteens

Today is just one of those days where I needed a nice dosage of sweet straight-ahead pop tunes.  Don’t you ever have those days? Well, I first caught wind of the Salteens because I’m weird and I followed the Yo Gabba Gabba tour, as far as bands playing, and I was fortunate enough to come across these kids.  They’ve got a new record out this week titled Grey Eyes, and its full of great guitar pop.  If you, like me, had a long weekend, then you’ll probably want to check out this band today.  Or, if you just like well done pop music, this is for you too.


Download: Salteens – If Love is Gone Where Do We Go from Here [MP3]

The Fresh & Onlys – Play It Strange

Rating: ★★★★½

Let’s face it, a lot of the stuff coming down the pipe from San Francisco is going to be labeled with some sort of psychedelic tag, but as we’re all likely to see, a great deal of the bands are starting to mature, crafting stronger songs, music that’s meant to be deemed nothing more than that, music.  The new record from The Fresh & Onlys, titled Play It Strange, still holds hints of the psych-tag, but listening closely, you’ll surely notice the great strides this band has made with this effort.

“Summer of Love” probably doesn’t do much to move the band out of the San Francisco sound, but what it does show, upon first listen, is a cleaner sounding band, though there are still haunting effects on singer Tim Cohen’s vocals.  The guitars sound much sharper, the drums have a bit more clarity, and you’ve got a winner already.  Pushing forward, “Waterfall” seems to have the faintest hint of “oohs” secretly hiding in the far background, but that’s just one extra touch to make you fall in love.  The chorus is perfected, with the slightest echo as Tim sings “fall with me into the water,” but the greatest part is that spaghetti western guitar line beneath the group’s normal jangle.  This is perhaps one of the brightest moments on Play It Strange.

If you’re looking to see the band bring on something a bit more headstrong, look no further than “All Shook Up.”  You’ll get pounding drums in your ears as soon as you press play, highlighting one of the oft overlooked factors in the band’s success, their rhythm section.  While it may not be the strongest performance by Cohen, the intermingling guitar lines fit perfectly into the fuzzy bass lines and steady beat.  It’s reminiscent of classic 50s rock n’ roll, just cowering beneath a hazy fog of darkness, sort of like the cover art. It’s funny, but if you remove some of the recording processes from The Fresh & Onlys, you’d probably find a really solid pop band lurking somewhere.  “Fascinated” brings to mind various lesser-known Brit pop groups of the early 90s, but the band bring it out through a lens of their own.  The melody is catchy as you would expect, but you have to listen closely, digging deeper into the relevant nostalgia the group offer up to your ears.

While the majority of the songs on Play It Strange fall under the 3 minute range, there are some real slow-burners, none more special than “I’m a Thief.”  Cohen has this coy vocal walk through during the verses, pleading for his lover to remain faithful to her heart, which he claims to have stolen.  But, the chorus is a bit brighter, not lyrically, but emotionally, providing a bit of swing to the song, just before they close it out in instrumental fashion. Such songs clearly illustrate that the band has gone back further than the psychedelic era, drawing from more classic rock sounds as their influence, but they’re coating it in the dingy atmosphere of dive bars and seedy hole-in-the wall establishments.  It’s clear that The Fresh & Onlys are growing, and with the prolific songwriting of Tim Cohen, Play It Strange is just a sign of greater things to come.


Download: The Fresh & Onlys – Waterfall [MP3]

Show Preview: Mimosa @ Aces Lounge (10/14)

Date Thursday, October 14th
Location Aces Lounge
Doors 1000pm
Tickets $20 HERE

This might not seem like our typical run of the mill left of the dial indie post, but we’ve been hearing great things about this recent Mimosa tour, so we had to offer up a chance for you to at least hear about it.  The man behind the sound has been compared to the likes of other electro-dub-dance-step acts such as Burial and Flying Lotus, and while they might not sound exactly the same, we know there is a huge audience in Austin for this sort of thing. Take a listen to this track below, feel the vibe, and make sure you get to Aces Lounge to catch his set.


Download: Mimosa – Pushing Little Daisies [MP3]

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