After being underwhelmed (and I’m the only one) by Them Crooked Vultures, I began to look ahead to the Supergroups that I would create. Sure, this is all conjecture, and some are jaded by my own personal tastes and connections. It’s an interesting topic. Who is your favorite musician, and who would you like to see them playing with? Make your own supergroup, and tell me about it. While I wait, I’ll throw out mine. And, I apologize for my lack of originality in naming bands.
Not sure how I missed this last month, but one of my favorite acts, American Princes, have tossed up some new songs on their site, which leads us to anticipate a new album coming out sometime in the near future. If it’s anything like Other People, I think we’ll all be quite pleased with the output. Here’s one of those new tunes to get you excited, but be sure to check out the other one on their site as well.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/Rock-And-Roll-.mp3]
Download: American Princes – Rock And Roll [MP3]
So I was stalking The Drums earlier today, and I came across another band that I think I could love equally as much, if not more so. They sound sort of similar, but instead of that whole surf affiliation Horse Shoes are rocking an 80s club sound. You can catch this song now off their Imperial School EP. And if you find a better picture of this band, let me know, as there’s just about as much info on this group as there are photos.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/02-hey-come-back.mp3]
Download: Horse Shoes – Hey Come Back [MP3]
This now their umteenth album, Memphis band, Lucero are up to their old tricks again. On 1372 Overton Park they go the tried and true route of giving their local abode a little representation. With this record, the band continue to push themselves beyond the country-punk roots that often get thrown at the band, forging ahead into just classic American rock.
Sure, you hear Ben Nichols’ voice, and you can tell that the man has been smoking or drinking or screaming for years, or maybe all of the above. It’s a voice with a story, which is precisely why so many fans have attached themselves to this band, not to mention Ben’s role in the Revival Tour (which I love to death). And with a voice that carries such a story with it, you expect the vocals to reach deep and tell a story themself; this is precisely what they do. Most people will probably see the lyrics across this album as a descendent of Springsteen, but those not familiar with the Boss will also see similarities with the more modern Hold Steady.
Even the songwriting recalls both the previously mentioned bands, though it probably leans towards the former more. Take “The Devil and Maggie Chascarillo,” a song that features a full on horn section, creating a huge sound you might not usually associate with a bar band who owes a debt to punk. The great thing about this album is that it’s not trying to being anything particular. It relishes in the fact that the sum of all parts is precisely what the band is offering their audience. Their is no pretentious assocation with a particular genre, nor any desire to do so. It’s just a sprawling record of classic American rock n’ roll; it’s the kind you all know you can love.
Perhaps the best songs come at the slowest moments, when Nichols can pull at your heart strings, and yank that emotion out from your innards. “Goodbye Again” probably says enough for those looking for a heartbreaker in its title alone, but even such a song probably won’t do as much for you as “Mom.” Yes, it’s a song for dudes; you just have to deal with it on this occasion because this song is great.
Whether you find straightforward rock your thing or not, you can’t deny that Lucero has the makings of a group who can go far with their particular style of music. Their fans follow them anywhere, and now that you have a chance to hear the work on 1372 Overton Park, perhaps you’ll be one of those diehard followers.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/11-Hey-Darling-Do-You-Gamble_-1.mp3]
Download: Lucero – Hey Darling Do You Gamble [MP3]
I’ll be the first to admit that after listening to At War with the Mystics a few years back, I fully expected Embryonic, the new album from The Flaming Lips to be one of the worst albums I would come across this year. Yea, I lost the faith, and like others, I was pleasantly suprised when I got my hands on the album. A few spins in, and I dug it.
For the first few moments, you can tell that the shift of the group has gone towards a less pop-centric approach to writing. Gone from the opening moments are the anthemic pop songs one would expect to hear coming from Wayne’s mouth as he walked across a crowd in a bubble. Still, the one thing that makes me reluctant to go full on into this conglomerate of sounds, which is really what the first few tracks are, is that I heard this all before. Sure, the Lips can pull it off, but it reminds me an awful lot like that Battles album from a few years back.
Then comes “Evil,” which starts out as mere noise samples, then goes into traditional song structure, and then fades back into the samples once again. Unfortunately, it’s not really a classic song approach for the band, and you won’t get a chance to really hear them pull off in that direction again until “I Can Be a Frog,” but you really don’t get too far into the song itself, due to the fact that you’re spending most of your time trying to catch the noises that correlate to Wayne’s lyrics. Even “Silver Trembling Hands” isn’t a straight-forward song, and it was the single. Take out the vocals, and you have the rest of the album in your hands. No lie.
So what makes up the majority of this album you might ask? Well, if I were The Flaming Lips, and I were constructing this album, or explaining away its secret recipe, I would do it as such: 2 Parts Flaming Lips, 1 Parts M83, 1 Parts Battles, 1 Part Liars/Deerhunter, 2 Pandering to Noise Fans, 1 Part Throwaways. You probably bake it in the studio for several years just to make it come out the way you want.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the lack of originality on this album, as far as where my ears hear the sounds coming from, is that very few people could execute an album precisely the way this group did. Their fusion of sampling, pop, psychedelia, jazz, noise, etc comes off successfully, without really exhibiting a lull in the album. If anyone could construct such a concept in their mind, and then pull if off, it had to be the guys that put together Zaireeka.
Sure, there aren’t any classic gems, like most of us really wanted to get the band to toss our way, but there is no denying that beneath the sinister construction of this noise, something beautiful will come to fruition. Will I be the one to see that beauty? Maybe so. As of now, I’m still trying to figure out who on Warner Brothers tried to explain Embryonic to the bosses on behalf of The Flaming Lips because I’m having trouble enough explaing it to myself, let alone anyone who reads this.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/03-silver-trembling-hands-1.mp3]
Download: Flaming Lips – Silver Trembling Hands [MP3]
|Date||Wednesday, Oct 14th|
|Tickets||$12 @ the Door|
It’s kind of a mellow week around the Austin music scene, so I thought I’d inform you about the first good show I saw coming our way. Japandroids are hitting the States, and they’ll be backed by The Coathangers and Mutating Meltdown. So, if you’re craving some garage rock, or just live tunes in general, head out to Emos tomorrow night.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/02-young-hearts-spark-fire.mp3]
Download: Japandroids – Young Hearts Spark Fire [MP3]
With our continued support and love for David Wingo and Ola Podrida, we bring you a new tune off his upcoming LP Belly of the Lion due November 10th. Not only do we get to support a great local Austinite, but in doing so, we get to support the great local label Western Vinyl. Here’s to that, and here’s that new tune.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/08-Roomful-of-Sparrows.mp3]
Download: Ola Podrida – Roomful of Sparrows [MP3]
When I fell across the Alabama outfit Thomas Function last year at SXSW, I absolutely loved what they brought to the live performance. Their vibrant energy and jangling guitars brought so much force that it was hard to ignore them. So when Fat Possum sent me their new album, In the Valley of Sickness, I was eager to see if their live stage presence would carry over the recorded material. Surprisingly, sort of, they do live up to my expectations, if not exceed them.
As soon as you hear the vocals, you’ll recognize them, at least if you’ve been hanging out in the Austin area for the last few years. The voice sounds exactly like The Strange Boys, with a whole lot of Southern influence, but just a touch more clarity than the Austin kids. Sure, they sound a bit off-kilter, but the energy hiding behind the vocals is enough to push the music along.
As you go track by track through this album, you can tell that these boys are all about having a little it of fun, which is great to see, as this is the least arty record to come out this year. “Day in the Shade” comes at you full force, and it almost seems as if these boys are going so fast that they are bound to run off the tracks at any moment. Still, they hold back just enough to finish the song. You also can’t deny the humor from this album, which shows once again, that Thomas Function is just out there enjoying their rock n’ roll lifestyle. On “Picking Scabs” the call of “are you going to buy a record or not” seems to show that these boys know their place in the music world, and if you help support them, you’ll keep them out on the road to rock for years to come.
For me, I can’t really go on with this review without mentioning “Belly of the Beast.” It’s like mellow power-pop with a twist from the Deep South. Backing vocals are used to perfection, and touches of organ don’t ever seem to hurt a song with jangling guitars. Similarly, “Two Pigs” is another such tune that shows the band’s abilities, even when they aren’t going full force in your face. Holding back seems to suit the group, if not only to show their diversity as songwriters. These two songs fit perfectly into the album, and by filling out the sound, it shows Thomas Function knows no bounds.
For all those kids who loved the early Kings of Leon albums, or just enjoy a touch of Southern rock in their punk, you’ll want to find your way to a record store to get your hands on In the Valley of Sickness. This group is far and above one of the more enjoyable listens for this year, and you’ll treasure all the foot-stomping moments Thomas Function gives you for the rest of your days.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/06-Belly-Of-The-Beast-1.mp3]
Download: Thomas Function – Belly Of The Beast [MP3]
Back during SXSW, I anxiously awaited Camera Obscura to take to the stage, but while waiting, I was lucky enough to be blown away by Thomas Function. These cats from Alabama have a new record coming out next week on Fat Possum Records titled In the Valley of Sickness. Since I just got the album in the mail, I wanted to throw a track everyone’s way, so you can see what I’m so excited about.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/06-Belly-Of-The-Beast-1.mp3]
Download: Thomas Function – Belly Of The Beast [MP3]
A short while ago, there was discussion that the UK group, The Clientele, would be calling it quits, and perhaps this is still true. Regardless, I was taken aback, and a little saddened. I’ve been listening to the group, and their pop soundscapes for some time, so I was happy to know that if they were calling it quits that I would least get one more album; that record being Bonfires on the Heath.
Not surprisingly, the group brought out the same old same old on their latest release, which isn’t entirely a bad thing in my book. This is one group that’s never needed to change, no matter what they put out. One should note, however, that their musical etchings are as detailed as the cover art to the current album, layer upon layer of sounds molded together to create one entity.
As I listen to “I Wonder Who We Are,” the opening track, I can’t help but notice that they share some odd similarities to my faves, Belle and Sebastian. Jangling guitars, and a knack for making mono-syllabic lyrics fit so well into the song structure, but what I think is still holding the band back this time is Alisdair Maclean’s vocals. For some reason they just don’t always seem to fit the music; there’s no correlation at times.
Still, this is the perfect fall piece of music. As each night brings a variance in weather, so too, does this album. It’s as if you’re walking with the group through each of their songs. The title track slowly meanders, as one would on a simple walk through the neighborhood on one of those cool windy nights. You see, it’s hard to tie down the precise sound of this album, or any of its songs, as you’re clearly affected by the mood they successfully create.
If you had to pick out a standout track here, for me, it would be “Jennifer and Julia.” It is the one song that I think epitomizes the years of work this group has put into their songwriting. Subtle horn backing and Maclean’s vocals all seem to fall perfectly into alignment on this album. This song is what makes you fall in love with this band, and it’s great to see that despite the years, and possible break-up, that they still have the knack for writing something as sublime as this.
Sure, there are tracks one can dismiss, like “Sketch,” which is a track that seems like simple album filler, but when you come to something like “Never Saw Them Before” you can clearly see what people enjoyed about this band from the get go. If you’re looking for one of those records that changes as often as you do, but clearly keeps you grounded, then you’ll want to check out Bonfires on the Heath, a culmination of pristine, moody pop, years in the making by The Clientele.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/05-Jennifer-And-Julia.mp3]
Download: The Clientele – Jennifer And Julia [MP3]