Clem Snide – The Meat Of Life

Rating: ★★★★☆

Clem Snide, comprised of songwriter extraordinaire Eef Barzelay and his constantly rotating cast of characters (this time surprisingly with two constants, Brendan Fitzpatrick and Ben Martin) are back with their latest release since their early 2009 release Hungry Bird, of which Barzelay described as a “loosely-conceived, post-apocalyptic fairytale”. This release is a more cohesive topic of conversation than the latter in what is no doubt their most polished and mature release to date. Hungry Bird was a collection of older tracks unearthed after being on the shelf for a few years, thus following a brief band fallout in 2008. This resulted in Barzelay touring solo and perfecting his craft. Following last year’s stop at Mohawk, the new material ensured this was to be a release I was looking forward to for some time.

Surprisingly, Clem Snide are still flying under the radar for most, which begs the question, when will they finally get the praise they deserve? Eef’s songwriting aptitude and unique nasal howl is obviously the most prominent feature throughout the album and the instrumentation is well constructed with the addition of three fellow Nashvillians Tony Crow (Piano, Organ), Roy Agee (Trombones), and Carole Rabinowitz (Cello). Clem Snide doesn’t take any massive leaps beyond Hungry Bird or End of Love for that matter; however, the band achieves a more cohesive orchestration rather than just relying on the aforementioned stellar songwriting. The addition of supplementary instrumentation is a bonus and helps add depth to otherwise vintage Barzelay vocal epiphanies and a solid rhythm from Ben Martin on the sticks.

Barzelay’s unique view on the mundane and unobserved is refreshing and invites the listener to see things from a new perspective; often seeing humor or beauty in otherwise sad or distressing situations. This forte is nothing new from Barzelay’s songwriting resume, but it is something at which he excels. The boisterous opener, ‘Wal-Mart Parking Lot’ is a good example, exclaiming that the sunset seen from there “has never been so beautiful.”

For the most part, Meat of Life is a case-study on the subtleties, unfortunate circumstances, the wonderfully surprising elements of a loving relationship and his growing frustration with relationships in general. ‘Denver’, a beautiful and disheartening ballad about a woman bearing his child and denying him attention, is heart-wrenching and proves a strong moment for Barzelay to show off his vocal chops. The addition of simple soft piano and percussion is an exemplary track leading into the raucous ‘Forgive Me, Love.’ This segues from the previous track’s misfortune into a statement of disappointment and complete repentance for even trying.

The desperation for affection is apparent with ‘Please’, stating that “when I sing it’s you I see, them other girls ain’t real to me. It’s just sometimes I hate to be alone.” ‘Anita’ finishes off the album with a strong, endearing, yet pitiful statement; a ballad with lighthearted word-play and beautiful organ/cello interludes.

Overall, this release is simple in tone and subject, but holds sentiment and perspectives unseen anywhere in the music landscape. Meat of Life is a strong release from Clem Snide and they continue to be one of our favorite live performances, as long as the crew stays together and true to form. You can catch Clem Snide once again at the Mohawk, May 25th and you can bet your ass, we’ll be there.

Announcing The ATH Day Party!

We are finally pleased to announce our very own day party during the SXSW music festival week.  We’re also happy to announce that our friends Knuckle Rumbler will be jumping on to help promote along with sponsors Bird’s Barbershop Dominican Joes Coffee, Taco Cabana, and college radio station KTSW.  Free coffee!  Free Tacos!  Beer specials coming soon.  Deets:

Date/Time: (3/18) – Doors @ 11am/music @ noon

Price: Free with RSVP @

Lineup: The Loom(Brooklyn, NY), Crayon Fields(Melbourne, AU), Let’s Wrestle(London, ENG), Lovely Feathers(Montreal, CA), Dappled Cities(Sydney, AU), Surf City(New Zealand).

It’s no doubt an international affair.  Feel free download our fancy poster below and share it with everyone you know.  Start gettin’ those RSVPs in now! Early arrival is strongly recommended as RSVPs do not guarantee entry.  More info. about our showcasing bands to come soon.  For now, try a search on the site to find yourself some MP3s and album reviews.

Click here to download the full-size show poster.

Pretty & Nice @ Mohawk (2/24)


Date 2/24/10
Location Mohawk
Doors 10pm
Tickets $8 @ Door

We’ve long been fans of Boston boys Pretty & Nice and we’re excited to see their back in town at Mohawk on Wednesday night.  The guys will be joined on the stage by up and coming band Title Tracks.  Here again is that sweet track they dropped our way in 08.


Download: Pretty & Nice – Tora Tora [MP3]

SXSW Watchlist: Grand Atlantic

We’re falling in love with the South Pacific this year.  Bands like Crayon Fields, Surf City and The Clean have made their mark on our site, and I’ve found another gem in Australia’s Grand Atlantic.  This band shoots straight for the heart of those in love with power-pop.  There’s a little bit of fuzz in their sound, which recalls Teenage Fanclub or the lesser known band, The Comas.  But, the tune I’m bringing you today reminds me a lot of Dandy Warhols.  All these little markings demonstrate just what a wide array of influences go into the band’s most recent album How We Survive. In a year where guitar bands are making their comeback, this is a group you’ll want to catch during SXSW.  It’s just simple poewr-pop, made for those about to rock. They’re playing Sounds Australia party, as well as a few other dates, so do yourself a favor and get into Grand Atlantic.


Download: Grand Atlantic – Tripwires [MP3]

Brendan Benson @ Independent (2/24)


Date 2/24/10
Location The Independent
Doors 9pm
Tickets $13 from Frontgate

Have you made plans for Wednesday yet?  It’s a tough choice you’ve got to make…  Brendan Benson playing at The Independent should definitely be a part of your decision making process.  He’ll be joined on the stage by Leatherbag and Michael Kingcaid.


Download: Brendan Benson – A Whole Lot Better [MP3]

New Tunes from The Bewitched Hands on Top of Our Heads

Occasionally you get an email with an MP3 from a band you really know nothing about.  Usually, you listen once, realize you don’t dig it, and discard.  Just the opposite happened when I first put on The Bewitched Hands on Top of Our Heads.  Their single “Hard to Cry” went by easily at first, but something about the building harmonies caught me, and I had to play it again. Made up of six folks from France, The Bewitched Hands will grab hold of you, tugging you into their world of intelligent pop music.  The band will be around all during the week of SXSW, and we’ll be sure to keep you posted on those events soon.


Download: The Bewitched Hands on Top of Our Heads – Hard to Cry [MP3]

The Strange Boys – Be Brave

Rating: ★★★½☆

It’s been a little over a year since the release of their last album, but already The Strange Boys are returning with another album.  Here we find the local Austin heroes doing their twangy R&B meets country on Be Brave.  This time, however, the boys don’t seem nearly as rambunctious, instead they’ve chosen to slow it all down, spending a lot more time with swinging numbers that might just have you wrapping your arms around your favorite pal (or lover) as you swing them to and fro.

There’s an elephant standing in the corner of the room, and it’s best to get that fella out in the open right away.  Singer Ryan Sambol doesn’t have the most pristine vocal styling, and some might even call it grating at times. But, despite the fact that he never seems too polished, there is an underlying bit of charm behind such an approach.  It seems rooted in the tradition of singers who had very little traditional training, but put every ounce of emotion into their performances.  That being said, it is not a vocal style for everyone.

The first song to really put the listener on notice has to be “A Walk on the Beach.”  At first, the song seems to stumble through the first two minutes, as Sambol does his warble croon over  a light guitar track.  But, once that two minute mark hits (1:32 actually) you get a quickened pace, almost as if a train’s coming for you.  Just as soon as you get there, you get a switch, as the boys turn into a twangy swing band.  The music isn’t really swing, but you can feel the band twisting and turning you with each guitar chord, and after all, there is a blaring horn.

One of the things about Be Brave that shows a bit of a shift in musical strategy, as alluded to earlier, is that the slow burners here have a lot more of an emotional appeal this time around.  Take “Between Us” and play it on your back porch while you’re drinking with your pals, and you’re guaranteed to have your arms around each other laughing at old tales of glory.  It just has a sort of swing that gets you into cherishing times past.

The Strange Boys clearly have discovered that they can continue along the lines of their self-created genre while still pushing their sound, and their career for that matter.  “Dare I Say” is a wonderful tune, and it’s probably one of the simplest numbers on the record.  There’s a touch of barroom piano, but mostly it’s just guitar and vocal; it remains one of the more “mainstream” tunes they’ve tossed out. It’s also the song that kicks off a steady string of slow, yet solid, songs.  From this point until the end, you’ll find mellow numbers that seem more like solo affairs than anything else.  Funnily, “All You Can Hide Inside” sounds like The Strange Boys covering Jeff Buckley, yet you’ll still find it enjoyable.

Be Brave comes to you with little press, at least in contrast to …And Girls Club, yet for those who listen closely, it’s the most complete recording The Strange Boys have managed to put together.  Aesthetically, it remains the same, but it’s their ability to find the groove from simple guitars and vocals that manages to make this album more successful than the last. Cheers boys, you’re doing us Austinites proud.


Download: The Strange Boys – Dare I Say [MP3]

SXSW Watchlist: Still Life Still

slsWe continue our highlight on a few SXSW bands this week with Canadian outfit Still Life Still.  Having formed close to 10 years ago, you would expect this band to be a lot more well known in the national blogosphere.  However, when you take into account that the guys formed up as teenagers and have had a few band names changes, it’s not surprising that they still fly a bit under the radar.  Still Life Still even fly a bit under our radar, as we sort of missed out on their admirable debut LP of 09 Girls Come Too.  The stand out track from that album “Kid” can be found below.  It sounds a bit like some old school post-emo bands with a bit more of a pop beat backing it.  Also, our SXSW watchlists from here on out will now include a brief 5-6 question interview of questions we generated for our favorite SXSW artists.  We hope this helps you to get to know these artists a little bit better.  Still Life Still band member Brendon Sarinnen answers our questions after the jump.

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