The Shaky Hands – Lunglight

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Lately it seems that the world has gone completely soft, or at least the spectrum of rock n’ roll has gone soft.  We desperately need a band that can grab us and shake the dust from our record collections.  The Shaky Hands appear to be that band, and their album Lunglight is just a taste of what they have to offer.

Opening track, “A New Parade” comes off with jangly pop affection, as pounding drums drive the song towards the end.  The vocals are a little raspy, with just a tinge of countrification a la Kings of Leon.

The band name is quite fitting, considering the sounds on this album have a sort of shakiness that can only be associated with pure, unadulterated rock.  It has this post-punk feeling to it, but fused with a country soul, and stirred with just the right amount of pop sensibility.  Although they carry such a signature sound, the album never seems to get old, always maintaining a sense of freshness in each song.

Lyrically, it seems that the album is filled with issues of struggle.  In today’s world we come across such battles between friends, lover and, ultimately, ourselves.  Understanding this, The Shaky Hands have set out to let us know that we are not alone in our daily issues; they, too, are confronting these demons.  If such battles must be fought, then we shall do it together.

And, the percussion is simply amazing here.  The drum work is all over the place, hammered out with precision that only comes to the those with the most devout practice routines.  You’ll find it difficult not to bounce your feet along to the driving rhythms here, which is at it should be with rock n’ roll.

Faults do exist on Lunglight, but they are things that can easily be overlooked.  The last three songs, for instance, extend over a minute longer than the previous songs, which has the effect of dragging the last moments of the record to the end. Also, it’s hard to completely buy into the vocals here.  Yes, they are reminiscent of other acts, as mentioned earlier, but at times you’ll find it hard to chase down the words.

In the end you will find that the band has created an album full of bright moments you can listen to time and time again.  Those who fall in line with bands like Kings of Leon (thats you RayRay) will surely find that great album you’ve been waiting for KoL to finally put out.

Cut Copy @ Emo’s – 9-29

If you’re not hungover from Austin City Limits, or you skipped the entire thing hoping to grab someting on the side, then you are in luck.  Electro-pop groud Cut Copy is coming to Austin, along with The Presets. This is one of those shows that most of us will miss, as we’ve been out all weekend at ACL, but we’ll hear from our friends that made it what a great show we missed.

Tickets are sold out online, but there are still tickets available at Waterloo Records.  Stop by and get you some.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/09-hearts-on-fire.mp3]

Download: Cut Copy – Hearts on Fire [MP3]

ACL Preview: Mason Jennings

Mason Jennings has been through his ups and downs as a songwriter, but mostly he’s been on the ups. His incredible vocals always lead those in his mass followings, such as Issac Brock of Modest Mouse, to a pleasurable listening experience. The crowds at Austin City Limits will surely be witness to his magic when he takes to the Austin Ventures stage this Saturday at 6:30. Read more after the jump.. Read more

Jenny Lewis – Acid Tongue

Rating: ★★★½ ·

The question with the latest Jenny Lewis album, Acid Tongue, really lies in the listener. Are you, as a listener and fan, willing to forgive some of the lackluster perfomances on this album in order to enjoy some of its finest pieces?

Opener “Black Sand” is the perfect song for Jenny. It’s gentle soundscape relies entirely upon her vocals, which is precisely where she excels. When she pushes her voice during the chorus, you know exactly why you love Jenny Lewis. There is something to her strength as an artist and a fox that both male and female are drawn towards.

Then we Jenny go further in the direction of country/folk, which most of us will say is where we think she belongs, or where she has been all along, but this is untrue. Sure, Rilo Kiley has gravitated towards that, and away from that; yes, her debut solo album bore that influence, but the greatest Rilo album’s were the early ones where she maintained her pop sensibility. The backing of acoustic guitars did nothing other than provide a stage for her voice.

You see, that is where the problem lies in this album. Jenny waivers back and forth between folk and classic R&B girl groups, but she never lands on that precisely pop moment where she truly shines. The title track, “Acid Tongue” does head back into the past, and even with its country undertones, you can still hear the pop star in Jenny Lewis ready to crawl out of her shell. This is the one song where it’s hard to differentiate between the Jenny we love, and the Jenny we are now witnessing. She stands firmly between both worlds.

“Fernando” is full of sexual appeal, which is where I place the blame for the faults of new era Jenny. She’s lost the innocence that made her so spectacular, instead forging ahead into sexual innuendo, associated with a bravado that is very unbecoming. But then, she jumps in with a song like “Godspeed” that makes you fall in love with her all over again. If only she could carry the power of this song throughout an entire album.

Therein lies the final conclusion. Jenny Lewis has a phenomenal voice, unlike most other female musicians these days. Her range is ridiculous, but in an effort to fully explore the vast expanse of her vocal landscape, she leaves herself stretched too thin, leaving faults in songs that could have been perfected. I’m still holding onto hope that one day she finishes it off right, either solo or with Rilo Kiley.

And don’t forget to check her out at ACL this weekend because if there is one woman that commands a stage, it’s this one.

Mogwai – The Hawk is Howling

Rating: ★★½ · ·

Finally, I found music that I can run to these days, or at least music I could imagine myself running to, if I ever were to actually run.  That being said, Mogwai always offers me something that I can run to, or at least think about running to; actually, they always make music that lets me think.  The Hawk is Howling is just such an album.

First, I have to think about what I have done to begin thinking about running, which I will most definitely not do.  Then, I have to think about why Mogwai makes me think about running.  Finally, I have to think about what it is in Mogwai albums that makes me think.

In thinking about running, I came to the conclusion that its irrelevant to the topic at hand, the new album.  Then I thought long and hard about why Mogwai makes me think about running. This is my conclusion.

The band in and of itself does not make me want to run, but it is their music that makes me do so, and more important, it is their latest releases.  You see, they used to grab you, and fill your ears with swelling noise and sounds that irked your thinking caps.  They have since retired these strong arms of the axe, and exchanged such powers for mellower affairs.

Opening tracks are never going to be considered the best on the album, but here, they don’t really break new ground, and instead, they wallow in the tried and true formula they used off their last album.  It’s not unique anymore, considering the plethora of bands nowadays that are intent upon creating mood altering music.  Let’s take songs like “Local Authority” and “Scotland’s Shame.”  Each song has some offerings for music listeners, but for the most part, they are restrained musings of a band that once let go with such force that my ears rang for days, and that was with earplugs in my ears.  It is gone; they have lost the ferociousness.

There is, but of course, a song like “Batcat” which recalls that grandiose noise they used to bring on a daily basis, but the availability of such noise on this album is minimal.  They did, however, pen the greatest song this side of M83 with “The Sun Smells Too Loud.” Ridiculous song title aside, its the perfect sprawl of Mogwai at its best.

So then I just thought.  Mogwai makes me think about running nowadays because I can ignore their albums.  They used to strike me with a feeling of grandeur, but those days have long passed.  I can enjoy them for their minimal offerings, but, like their songs, the albums gently float away.

My thinking has led me to declare that the glory days of Mogwai have long since passed. In asking them not to rest on their laurels we asked them to throw away what we loved the most.  In the end, we were given sub-par albums that are always worthy of listening to, but never worthy of playing time and time again.  We can take them for a run, but like The Hawk is Howling, their albums are used solely for special moments; lets face it, the moments just don’t seem as special as they used to seem.

ACL Preview: Hot Chip

By this point in time, we’ve all heard about Hot Chip many times before, or at least I hope they have done a fly-by on your radar. Well, this bunch of Brits are here to brighten up your ACL experience on Friday afternoon. Expect this to be a hot-spot for those in the know, and since I’ve alerted you, you are now one of those privileged people! Grab more info after the jump.

Read more

Brightblack Morning Light – Motion to Rejoin

Rating: ★ · · · ·

All things considered, Matador Records is one of the top indie labels, consistently putting out good albums, but I’m not sure I understand the love behind their latest release from Brightblack Morning Light. It’s great to branch out into new areas of the field, but is there anything really worthy of recovery here?

First off, some have called Motion to Rejoin mood music, and it is just that.  It is for those moods when you feel like driving your car straight into a black and white movie.  As you barrel down the highway, you want something barely audible in the background, something with a sense of impending doom.  Then the scene stops.  You are no where to be found–obviously, you are dead, and I think it is this album that led you there.

Absolutely nothing on this album is moving, especially the sprawling pace of these songs.  As every song carries on, listeners will try their damnedest to locate something that will draw them back into the song, but their search will be fruitless, entirely so. If this album were racing with a turtle, the turtle would most likely be the winner of the race, and not only because it is faster, but because it actually goes somewhere.  Every piece of this album just comes across the speakers as if someone tried their best to create the most mundane soundtrack pieces known to man.

And! And! There are six songs on this album that go beyond the five minute mark! Did someone seriously think there were songs on here worthy of going beyond the  one minute mark?  They did, because they are on here, but they shouldn’t have.  The album would have been just as perfect had it only included the 43 second introduction song that begins the entire piece.

When you consider the vocals, and their desperate grasp at anything with an ounce of emotion, it is clear that the album didn’t have anything when it all began.  The vocals lack a certain sense of soul, and when they approach that line, it is clear that they are grabbing for emotion with all their might; it comes across forced, much as I was forced to listen to this record several times to figure it all out.

Now, I realize that there are certain people out there that place some sort of value on this album, but it is increasingly unclear as to why they have placed any importance on it at all.  I struggle to determine whether or not one can even really consider this dense mess of undertones music in the first place.  Just because no one understands it, doesn’t make it unaccessible, therefore rendering it worthy of listening.  If you care to explain it to me, go right on ahead, but I will probably not listen to this album again, unless I’m envisioning euthanasia in my near future.

I’m sorry Brightblack Morning Light, but your Motion to Rejoin has been denied by the court.

TV on the Radio – Dear Science,

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Does the absence of a song such as “Wolf Like Me” devalue a new venture by a popular band?  TV on the Radio poses such a question to the audience of independent music with their newest effort Dear Science,.

By opening with “Halfway Home” the band walks the thinnest of lines between new direction and tried and true talent.  The pounding song, full of handclaps, pushes forward, with an atmospheric guitar swirling in the background.  Outside of the chorus, listeners will immediately notice the more subdued approach the band has embarked upon.

Oddly, the band discards the often apparent gang-vocals approach they’ve used in their previous albums, instead choosing to focus the singing duties for one singer per song, at least for the most part. Stranger still is the lack of real instruments present; the drums sound more programmed than anything they’ve done before.  Sure, you have strings and horns, adding a strikingly subtle emotion to the entirety of the album, but no real musicianship, give or take a few songs.

Yet at the core of the album is a band that is able to perfect exactly what they want.  This album comes off more as a traditional R & B album, with a revisionist standpoint.  Of course there are a few odd songs, such as “Dancing Choose,” which is full of vocals reminiscent of Billy Joel when he was telling us that “we didn’t start the fire.”  Then you juxtapose that with a song like “Family Tree,” which some might call the most beautiful song TV on the Radio has ever written, even with its Brit-Pop leanings.

Admiration is owed to the band for their desire to go in newer, albeit, stranger directions.  They haven’t rested on their popularity; they have continued to progress with their own direction in tact.  The throbbing bass lines of “Golden Age” with its funk skeletal backbone might have pushed some listeners away, but those that used the surface value of this song as a statement on the album will surely miss out on some of the more amazing moments that come out on this record.

At the end of the day, TV on the Radio have answered the question in regards to the necessity of having a driving single to push album sales. With or without a huge hit, this is an album that shows superior growth in an entirely new direction, as the band continues to open new doors for themselves.  It’s all up to them to see where they can go.  I expect those new progressive moments to be as beautiful as the Gill-Young Wedding I attended this past weekend.

French Kicks Cover Lindsey Buckingham

It’s one thing to cover the Ramones, but entirely different to cover the Shirelles and Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac, but that is just what the French Kicks are doing.  Fresh off their release of Swimming, their newest album from Vagrant Records, the band is releasing a covers EP.  Here is their cover of “Trouble” by Lindsey Buckingham.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/french-kicks-trouble.mp3]

Download: French Kicks – Trouble [MP3]

Kimya Dawson – Alphabutt

Rating: ★★ · · ·

Fresh off her new found fame from the Juno soundtrack, Kimya Dawson decided that those hordes of kids would appreciate an album directed solely at them. Alphabutt is her chance to win the kids over, again.

Of course, we all aren’t surprised at this move, considering her lyrical output up to this point has typically revolved around childishness. I wondered, of course, would she further this venture and aim directly at the child market. Well, she does, but not necessarily in a successful manner.

Those of you that fell in love with the Juno soundtrack, and fell in love with Kimya for the first time will find yourselves extremely disappointed. The songs are not as neatly crafted as her previous solo efforts. Often times, the tinkering noises in the background are far too distracting for a listener to even focus on the music itself; how those kids will get it I don’t know. One thing for sure is that she could definitely get away from using the baby noises in the background. It was cute once, but to keep using it is absurd.

There are a few songs on this album with redeeming qualities, namely “Happy Home” and “Sunbeams and Some Beams.” They are more traditional in the style that Kimya has come to give us, though they do seem a bit boring. Still, this is the closest she comes to replicating her unique sound.

My reference point for indie stars going the child route is Matt Pryor’s Terrible Twos. Sure, Matt sings about things most of us no longer adore, like ladybugs, but he still manages to maintain his talents as a songwriter within the childhood realm. The style is still Matt Pryor. In contrast, you have Kimya Dawson who seems to have walked down this road blindfolded with her dick and fart jokes still strapped to her back. It doesn’t do much for this listener, and I doubt it will do much for the childhood genre.

As Matt mentioned in our interview with him, the child music market is pretty wide open. We might see many more indie stars with kids take this route, but for me, I just hope Kimya focuses more on what she is offering us in the future. This piece didn’t turn out too well. There are some high points, but in the end, you wish she would go back to her adult-centric output. That’s where I’ll stay.

1 923 924 925 926 927 936