Golden Calves – Collection: Money Band + Century Band

Rating: ★★½☆☆

Those of you familiar with Wooden Wand will surely recognize the work of James Jackson Toth, but it’s possible that his early project as Golden Calves might have slipped under your radar.  Luckily for you, Woodsist has run a small reissue of of his two releases, combining them into one double LP collection.  While there’s definitely some enjoyable moments on places, many listeners will find the tinkering a bit too much at times, and seemingly self-indulgent.

I’m not going to sit here and praise Toth and his Golden Calves for some incredible creation, as a great deal of this album seems like meaningless dribble.  In fact, there’s barely a completed four songs on the first half that is comprised entirely of Money Band.  That record comes off as an elementary attempt to create something artful and completely off the beaten path.   That being said, there are some elements that clearly come through on that side, such as “Seraphim Radar Rallies.”  It’s still a bit basic and experimental, but there’s an endearing quality in the composition, much like the early works from Elf Power.  By and large, however, the first half of this record can be wholly discarded. It’s a specialty collector’s piece for fans of JJT, which is understandable, but no more than that.

What’s interesting is seeing the evolution from Point A to Point B, which comes through in the Century Band 12″ recordings.  There’s a bit more of a conscious effort to compose structures, albeit in the slightly confounding manner that Toth’s early work took on.  Still, Toth’s comments seem to acknowledge his faults in the compositions, as he clearly realizes that this was a starting point for a budding musician.  You’ll find a song like “Mod Bacteria,” however, a pleasurable tune; it’s one you can actually find yourself listening to again and again, including the faint haunting vocal in the background.  “Atrium 5: The Absinthe Labyrinth” is another such track, with carefully picked guitar and Toth carefully plodding along with his vocals. These are where we hope his talents began, as clearly there’s a background for a strong future in these songs.

All in all, I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I hate this.  There’s just enough of an oddity within that really grasps the young indie rock listener in me, shaking him awake again.  Back in my early days when I was blown away by things just because they were weird and different, I was on top of the world, and that’s sort of the sentiment you get from Toth in these recordings.  He was young and ambitious; he just wanted to put it all on tape.  For what its worth, you’ll find some gems, and you’ll find some trash, but mostly you’ll find a special recording that you should be able to enjoy if you remove your blinders and get lost in the experience.

Blitzen Trapper – American Goldwing

Rating: ★★½☆☆

It’s strange; sometimes, bands that have been around for a while often don’t change their sound, be it for fear that they will lose those who became enraptured by their original sound, or that they just don’t see themselves as anything else than what they were before. This seems to be the case with Blitzen Trapper on this album, as their only shift seems to be to a bit more of a bluesy spin on their Americana craft.

American Goldwing is one of those albums that just don’t have enough chutzpah to keep me focused and interested in for more than five songs. It starts out fairly strong, even though nothing novel, but progressively ceases to retain my interest as the songs drag on and on to its close. The first song, “Might Find It Cheap,” sums up this phenomenon in a single swoop. Yea, it’s a good song and I can get down with those fuzzy guitars and the traditionally tangy vocals, I just feel like I’ve heard it from Blitzen Trapper before. Their distinct crookedly country Americana rock sound works against them in that the sound from previous albums resonates deeper and makes it hard to listen to these tracks when I know there are astoundingly better renditions on Furr or other prior albums.

My favorite track on this record comes third, at a time where I’m looking for something to spice up this album. “Love the Way You Walk Away,” takes a new stance that I’ve been longing for this band to take. Even though it is of a country note, which I don’t often find myself enjoying, there is new territory to be covered at last. Bluesy undertones patter in the background while harmonies swoon in the foreground. If you listen carefully, you can hear deep bass drums at some points and of course there is that steel pedal guitar that pushes the song around in dominance. Late in the track, this band slows things down with a little harmonica and it’s easy to find yourself singing right alongside Eric Earley and the rest of the gang. It’s simply the song with the most redeeming and interesting qualities to be found on American Goldwing.

By all means, if you are a Blitzen Trapper addict, you’ll love this album. It has everything that you’ve already been shown, perhaps with one or two tracks that take a new direction. As for me, and I’m sure others, I’m in need of something a little bit fresher to keep me intrigued in this band’s sound. Perhaps it is coming on their next release, or perhaps I just need to revisit those old gems in the catalog of this band.

ACL Interviews: Fool’s Gold

In our continued goal to bring you as much pre-ACL coverage as possible, we bring you our second interview of the festival season from L.A. based indie-pop group Fool’s Gold.  We’ve been following these guys since their inception, and have particularly enjoyed their new album Leave No Trace. Leading up to their appearance at ACL in a couple weeks, we sat down with Fool’s Gold front man Luke Top to ask him about his band’s tunes.  Follow the jump for full interview.

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Gold Leaves – The Ornament

Rating: ★★★★½

Every once in awhile, you come across a record that fits into your life perfectly, filling the empty emotional space, revitalizing your spirit.  Just one listen to Gold Leaves is all it takes to find that The Ornament seeps into your soul, establishing itself as an album that meets all your musical needs.

“The Silver Lining” is one of those perfect pop songs, carefully constructed for the maximum benefit of listeners.  It’s a gentle number, similar to the recent work of Camera Obscura (in construction at least).  But, what makes the track stand out is Carl Olsen’s voice.  It waivers somewhere between Ward and Banhart, touching every emotional chord for those with a hankering for all things sad-bastard.  While there’s a bit of solemnity to the opener, “The Ornament” provides a bit of brightness with just the slightest change in pacing.  You’ll find that same careful arrangement with every bit of accompaniment propelling the song’s essence. It’s not a track to be taken lightly, echoing in your memory long after the song has skipped onto the next.

“Endless Dope” opens a new chapter for Gold Leaves.  While other tracks have featured lush arrangement, this track seems more sparse in those regards, though elements still remain.  But, Olsen’s vocals play the main role here, drawing you into his poetic verse, as opposed to letting you get washed away with waves of pop brilliance. Similarly, “Cruel & Kind” refuses to rely upon the maximum arrangements, carefully meandering through your mind.  Inside this track you’ll find yourself getting lost, but in a manner that only the best of music can accomplish; it’s simplicity lets you drift in and out of consciousness, always drawn back by the inherent melody built within the tune.

Even when The Ornament doesn’t draw itself out with meandering tracks, a great deal can still be accomplished.  For instance, “Hard Feelings” is one of the shortest songs on the record, but in a short span you’ll find trickling guitar lines, string pieces swirling in the background, and Olsen at the center of it all.  Eventually, it crashes spectacularly in the middle, switching things up just slightly. There’s a denseness to this number, as it seems filled to the brim, but in writing in that fashion, Gold Leaves still leaves room for the melody and the emotion to find its way to your inner ear.

If you haven’t found room in your day for this collection, then you need to put down everything immediately.  The Ornament is the kind of album that begs to be listened to, begs to be played over again and again.  After one listen, you’ll end up clearing your schedule, finding yourself lost inside the depth and emotional pull of everything Carl Olsen has managed to put together for this outing. Not a note goes wasted, and that in and of itself, is something to praise–but this record is so much more. So stop reading this now, and drift away with Gold Leaves.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Gold-Leaves-Cruel-And-Kind.mp3]

Download: Gold Leaves – Cruel/Kind [MP3]

Gold-Bears – Are You Falling in Love

Rating: ★★★½☆

With summer break looming over us all, it’s the perfect time for a twee-punk band like Gold-Bears to make their debut. As this is their first ever album released, this band is brand new to the music scene and looking to win a spot in your heart as well as your stereo. Surely you have room left for some jangly guitar and hazy percussion in there?

From the very first song, you can hear the clear alternative punk soundings of Gold-Bears. “Record Store” begins with flat sounding drums along with gentle acoustic guitar, and then some raging, yet even-toned, electric guitar streams in. Then the song picks up, and you have the carefully placed cymbal crashes along with breaks in the raging melody to that of the delightfully soft beginning. Meanwhile, the suiting vocals blend together with the instrumental aspects of the jam. After this lovely opening tune is finished, the band moves to “All Those Years.” On this one, some gang vocals continue the energy and are instantly reminiscent to bands like Ted Leo and Pharmacists. They’ve got that crash pop beat mixed together with the percussion of a more punk style band, which is noticeable on the third song.

After a pretty positive and upbeat start for Gold-Bears, they slow things down as they approach the middle of the album. The title track certainly stands apart from the rest of the songs in this body of music, as it is filled with foggy feedback and jingling tambourine that is sure to serve as an appropriate break from the quickness of the fast paced start. It’s the perfect placement of such a song that slows the listener back down for a breather, if only so they can jump back in at double time on the next number, “East Station Attendant.” This one is the direct opposite of its predecessor, fast, short and rocking.

Gold-Bears continue this impressive debut with more standouts like single “Tally,” that relies on gang vocals once more to carry the streaming beat. They close strong, yet delicate, and leave their listeners happy to have taken a chance on this band. For a first album, it is nothing short of appealing. So when you reach the end with them, and reflect on Are You Falling In Love?, you can answer with a yea, I’m pretty sure I am.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/GoldBears-SomethingToThinkAbout.mp3]

Download: Gold Bears – Something To Think About [MP3]

Ringo Deathstarr @ Emo’s (9/4)

Date 9/4/10
Location Emos
Doors 9pm
Tickets FREE!!

So those looking for a fun time on Saturday night need to be heading out to Emo’s for a totally free show by some of the best bands Austin has to offer.  The lineup includes ATH favorites Ringo Deathstarr, She Sir, White White Lights, and New Roman Times.  You can’t beat that for local talent.  This awesome event is being put on by us, Heineken, Indierect Records, and Ultra8201.  Be there!

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/She-Sir-Golden-ways-iatc.mp3]

Download: She Sir – Golden Ways [MP3]

Austin A2W: Golden Bear

goldenbearAustin band Golden Bear are a band that don’t really fit in with the rest of our Austin artist to watch bands since they’ve been around the scene for a while and aren’t exactly new to this game.  Even though they are moving into more of a veteran status around town, we do feel like these guys are still not getting the respect they deserve.  Well maybe respect from hardcore music fans (and crazy bloggers) but not from the casual listener.  To know Golden Bear, you must know that they began back in 2003, and after doing many years of local touring, released their debut self-titled LP in 2006.  Shortly afterward in 2007, the band dropped their sophomore effort To the Farthest Star on our ears.  Moving forward to 2009 has seen a few personnel changes with the band and a brand new EP Everest.  That’s the brief summary of the band anyway. Below you’ll find a couple Golden Bear tracks from their latest EP which you should totally purchase if you’ve got the cash.  Right away you’ll notice the heavy garage rock sounding guitar riffs that mix in nicely with some slick pop sounding drums.  I’d hate to write them off as just straight pop music, but their tunes are extremely easy to enjoy even for the casual music fan.  Their track “Night Lights” will also probably go down as one of our favorite local jams of the year.  We hope you enjoy.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/goldenbear-nightlights.mp3]

Download: Golden Bear – Night Lights [MP3]

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/03-Future-Blues-1.mp3]

Download: Golden Bear – Future Blues [MP3]

Chuck Ragan – Gold Country

chukRating: ★★★½☆

As the frontman of Hot Water Music, you expect Chuck Ragan to be an angst-ridden misanthrope, but you’ll find a different man writing the tunes on his second solo album, Gold Country.  Chuck has called this work some of the most mature music he has created to date, and such a statement is quite visible upon repeated listens.

As you begin listening to this album, you get the feeling that a lot of the songs are left over from the period when Chuck wrote Feast or Famine, his first solo outing. “For Goodness Sake” features his throaty vocals that bare witness to his past.  Similarly, “Glory” has that old hoedown feeling, with a quick-step guitar strumming accompanied by an equally paced violin.  But, you can notice stark differences on this go round–even by listening to these two songs.  For one, both feature female backing vocals, adding a richer texture to the compositions, which makes them seem like more complete songs, as opposed to simple acoustic tracks. “Glory” also brings in a gang vocal of “al la las” near the end of the song.   It’s these slight steps up that give brith to the maturity of which Mr. Ragan has spoken.

Some of the songs on this album also appear to wear the influence of Chuck flexing his muscle on the road with the Revival Tour, a collection of punk troubadours gone punk.  Yes, Chuck already has an experience in this realm, but there are definite moments that recall Tom Gabel of Against Me, such as “Done and Done.”   This is by no means a knock, but it demonstrates how experience can bleed into our musical development.

Listening to a song like “10 West” you begin to realize that you sort of feel a strong connection to the Chuck Ragan.  He’s talking about some sort of roadtrip that recalls various memories, but the recording manner that involves multiple moments of gang vocals makes you feel as if you are at home with Chuck Ragan.   You can feel yourself sitting in the room with him as he writes this song for you and all your memories.

And in the end of it all, this is a Chuck Ragan.  The old screamer always seems to get personal when he picks up the acoustic, and his lyrics never seem to come off interesting.  Most people might not call it the most remarkable thing ever, but you can see that he’s been making steps to progress, and most (like me) don’t even think he needs to.  He’s included touches of piano, violin, femal backing vocals and other ornate details that add to the texture of this wonderful album.  Gold Country is definitely an example of a growing Chuck Ragan.

Free Golden Bear Show @ Emo’s (7/25)

flyerEmo’s has a great local lineup planned for Saturday night and the whole thing is free!  Golden Bear is headlining this event with Low Line Caller, The Always Already, New Roman Times, and Wine & Revolution all joining in the fun.  Doors open up at 9pm and show starts at 10.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/goldenbear-nightlights.mp3]

Download: Golden Bear – Night Lights [MP3]

Fool’s Gold

foolsgoldNo not that terrible movie with Kate HudsonFool’s Gold is a brand new collective/band hailing from the big city of Los Angeles.  We call the band a collective because it started out as more of a side project of sorts and has since moved into a huge band full of artists with mixed musical influences.  You’ll find members of Foreign Born, a former We Are Scientists drummer, a member of The Fall, and tons of other talented musicians.  You can expect debut self-titled full length from the band September 29th via IAMSOUND Records.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/01-surprise-hotel-1.mp3]

Download: Fool’s Gold – Surprise Hotel [MP3]

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