Austin Free Week: Friday Night Highlights

Man, this next week and a half is shaping up to be a blast for everyone in Austin, and Friday is really starting to turn things up a notch.  I’ve already caught great sets by Endless Thoughts, Politics and Parquet Courts, so I’m really looking forward to the rest of what’s in-store. If you can’t make it out this weekend, don’t forget that Free Week now goes on into next week too! Here’s my suggestions for Friday.  Read more

Fun Fun Fest Recap: BGray Edition

I usually end up putting in more miles around a festival then those other two guys. That means I usually see and more importantly hear more bands than the average festival goer.

This year, I was able to relax a bit on Friday as I was with out photo pit access. Once all that was remedied, it was full steam ahead. I had plenty of fun chasing the sound. We’ll start with a Top 5 bands and then hit on festival observations.

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Fun Fest Recap: RayRay Edition

We’ve always had one hell of a time at Fun Fest every year, and we always have some fun after the festival discussing our take on each day’s events.  This year, we’re letting each one of our writers provide their own take on the weekend with a personal recap of the goings ons so as to not compromise or impose on any one writer’s opinions.  I’ll be starting things off today with some random thoughts and favorite bands from the best festival in town.  Follow the jump for more from me.

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Show Preview: Red 7 6th Anniversary @ Red 7 (8/2)

Date Thursday, August 2nd
Location Red 7
Doors 900 pm
Tickets $10 from Frontgate

It’s the 6th year for local venue Red 7, and they’ve got an absolutely killer weekend of shows for you.  It all starts off Friday with some of our favorite acts playing their second show of the week at the club.  The Coathangers will be the headliner on the evening, with the three girls bring their onslaught to the stage.  They’ll be accompanied by Jaill, one of my personal favorites, playing songs from their recent album, Traps.  You’ll also get local boys The Golden Boys starting off the night in the right fashion.  It’s going to be a great week for Red 7, so be sure to get out and show the venue some love.

[audio:https://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Smother.mp3]

Download:The Coathangers – Smother [MP3]

Twin Shadow – Confess

Rating: ★★★★☆

Big hair, high-waist jeans and new wave pop are all things that belong to the eighties, right? Wrong. These are all things that aren’t hard to find at present, but unlike the first two on that list, George Lewis Jr. brings his take on eighties new wave to the present with a sleek soulfulness that makes for a plain sexy record in Confess.

From the album title, it’s apparent that this is going to be somewhat of an intimate work, and Lewis does not disappoint on this aspect through his prominently poetic songwriting about his trials of love, or lack thereof. On “Golden Light,” the opening track, this front man seems to be modeling his music after other pop giants of the eighties and so the focus rests on his vocals. Waves of synthesizer back him up, interchanging with other electronic elements that build the drama of the music up to the chorus, where it jumps to Lewis belting. It’s an interesting start, as it definitely introduces listeners to his style, but it doesn’t make a lot of bold steps, which all seem to fall later on the album.

Things begin to really pick up from the third track, “Five Seconds,” and from here, Confess flies by in a frenzy of dance-inducing dramatic synthesizer saturated music. “Five Seconds” bursts into action with its memorable electric guitar sound dueling with Lewis’ clear tones, which confess “I don’t believe in you/you don’t believe in me,” and while we are introduced to the idea that love hasn’t come easy for the protagonist of these songs, (“I can’t get to your heart”) we are treated to a delightful track birthed from these woes. Up next is a sinister number in “Run My Heart” which features another explosive chorus from Lewis. He starts out low, and then bellows “This isn’t love,” laden with plenty of emotion and self-assurance and once again, he’ll have you trying to keep up with him through his denunciation of a love and love in general.

But, like a true confession, this album isn’t entirely devoted to bashing love; there seems to be some conflicting feelings about the subject, which can be found on “The One.” This track offers another side in which the protagonist’s love is real and devoted to one person with “something special” about them. In addition to this new dimension, the song has a groovy bass line and faster rhythm that provides for another hit. Such is the rest of the songs; they battle back and forth with how they approach the subject of love, turning into a dramatic pop toss up, but you won’t find a number that is less than interesting.

At ten tracks in length, Confess may seem like a small record at first perception, but after your first listen, it’s apparent that this is a bigger work than it seems to be. So give it a spin and soak up some new-new wave, you may just find yourself dancing right along.

[audio:https://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/fiveseconds.mp3]

Download: Twin Shadow – Five Seconds [MP3]

Mystery Jets – Radlands

Rating: ★★★★½

The boys in Mystery Jets have come quite a long way, staring first with their angular guitar pop and moving forward into a full-fledged pop group.  But, with all their success, the band needed a move to Texas for a different perspective, leading to their most accomplished album to date.  Radlands, despite some roots in Texas, remains a uniquely MJ affiar, one that shows the group far advanced in their songwriting prowess.  For my ears, they’ve crafted a pop album that hits on almost every note, from start to finish, a feat worthy of high praise alone.

“Radlands” opens the album with just the echo of a guitar, soon joined by Blaine Harrison’s vocals.  It takes a moment before you hear the slight introduction of strummed guitar, which then bursts into a full-band affair.  As the guitar rings, you hear Blaine take control with his soaring vocals, but then the group settles back down to the vocal/guitar approach again; few people are making such well-crafted pop songs like this. And it doesn’t just stop here, with the first several tracks from Radlands easily being called knockout punches.  You’ll find a bit of a Texas jangle when you listen to “You Had Me at Hello,” which features perhaps one of my favorite choruses from the group’s career.  Personally, I dig the fragility in Harrison’s voice on songs such as “Someone Purer.”  He can belt out a chorus with great strength, but a great deal of his power comes from his ability to reign that in when it’s needed most.  If you’re looking for a traditional pop moment with verse chorus verse chorus, just give this track a listen to find yourself pure pop gold–it even has some “ooh oohs.”

One thing I’ve always appreciated about Mystery Jets is that while there’s some elements of high brow music, they still remain youthful and playful.  This album’s playfullness comes via “Greatest Hits.” It’s a song for writers, answering the age old question of the influences for the band as a whole; at one point, the group gives a nod to Neutral Milk Hotel, Belle and Sebastian, The Kinks and the Minutemen all in a twenty-second span.  There’s whimsy all over these tracks, which is one reason why I think the group writes some of the best pop tunes around–they’re songwriting is serious, but their heart still says music should be fun. Radlands also indicates the band’s willing to takes risks, especially when you look at the duet between Sophie Rose and Blaine.  It’s definitely a tune that seems influenced by the group’s recording in Texas, and like all songs on this record, it succeeds; it’s clever, and yet heartfelt. 

Sitting here writing this review, I’m trying to think of how to include every single song in this review, as I know I left off some hits like “Sister Everett.” But, it’s probably too long-winded to try and touch on all the highlights of this album, although  I easily could do so.  Radlands is one of the best simple pop albums to come my way in a long time.  There’s no spectacle, there’s no hype, it’s just great songwriting wrapped up in the perfect way.  For this reason, and a ton of others, Mystery Jets remain high upon my list of best pop groups; cheers to you lads.

[audio:https://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/03-Someone-Purer-1.mp3]

Download: Mystery Jets – Someone Purer [MP3]

FT5: Top 5 Austin Musical Fallacies

The last week or so has seen the Austin Interwebs go a little haywire, with Austinist vs. Michael Corcoran in a debate on the status of Austin as anything more than mediocre. We only talk about music, so we’re not going to worry about the discussions on traffic or eateries…we’re just looking at the music here. I grew up in this town, and I’ve been actively participating in the music scene since 92′, so I feel more than qualified to hold a discussion here.  I do want to say that I actually think both parties make some valid points, which sort of leads me to think that there’s a lot of us in Austin, music or otherwise, that realize our town could make some improvements–whether they’re all the same or not doesn’t really matter, as we should be working together to unify the scene.

The following list is compiled of things that stood out to me in both articles (linked above), or that I just sort of came to on my own terms as an active participant in the “scene.” They’re ordered into a Top 5 to stick with our occasional Friday theme, but the order is irrelevant for the most part. Please feel free to comment on these things, as I think the best thing for our city and music is to have some actual discussion about it rather than make accusations–that’s just a dick move that gets us all nowhere.

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Mellow Bit of Cool from Spanish Prisoners

Late last year, Spanish Prisoners released their album, Golds Fool, via their bandcamp page.  Even with such a quiet release, the band made huge waves on the Internet, and definitely captured our attention.  They’re back now with the second single from that record, which includes two new remixes that you can grab HERE.  It’s a soft number, but it definitely reminds me of the band’s abilities to create emotion evoking songs that you can listen to time and time again.  They’ve also started a Kickstarter Page that will allow the band to travel, bringing their craftsmanship to your ears from coast to coast.  And don’t forget they’ll be popping up at SXSW too! Here’s the original track, “Downtown Chicagoland.”

[audio:https://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/09-Downtown-Chicagoland.mp3]

Download:Spanish Prisoners – Downtown Chicagoland [MP3]

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