Holy Wave – Five of Cups

For the past however many years, Holy Wave has been working in the Austin music scene, often times as the sort of bastard step-child of heavy-hitters the Black Angels, and sadly overlooked more often than not. Careful ears will have seen that the group have been gradually moving away from similarities, and Five of Cups is the perfect statement album, making the group a powerful beast all their own. Broke it down into track by track for you all, with some trite final thoughts at the end.

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Babe Rainbow – The Organic Band

Rating: ★★★★☆

Turn your gaze up. The naked stars are out. The boombox is cranked to 11, salty air on the fresh breeze, and cool sand squeezes between your toes. You enjoy friendly conversation at length and share some laughs. It is “Smile Time”…so much so that your jaws hurt. Find the cooler covered in wet sand and grab some cold beers. Time to wax up the Hobie longboard for tomorrow A.M.’s rally, and gather ’round a warm fire dug into the sand. After a long sunny Saturday in the surf, that sounds epic to me. Now picture this vibe in album form. That is the newest effort from Babe Rainbow, The Organic Band, wrapped in a tight wetsuit. It is Saturday Night.

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Survive – RR7349

surviveRR7349 (Relapse Records) sounds like some sort of galaxy or nebulae that has yet to be named by human scientists. While this isnt the case (Its the catalogue number) I think the general line of thought fits. The sounds, timbres and moods contained in this record are upfront, but theres subtleties at work that make it difficult to say exactly what they are. Read more

Angel Olsen – MY WOMAN

angel-olsen-my-womanRating: ★★★★★

“Maybe you know that its been too long.” Yes we do, Angel. It’s good to have you back.

At this point in her discography, I assumed that I knew what to expect from a new Angel Olsen album – confessional folk music that explores the uncomfortable dichotomy of relationships while occasionally picking up an electric guitar. In fact, I had the intention of analyzing the albums meaning and lyrical intentions when I initially dived into it, but I was constantly sidetracked by the range of emotions this album reverberates through its variety, production, and songwriting. Angel Olsen of the past, as a songwriter, seemed to deliver her message carefully and quietly. Now she’s writing unique pop and rock songs with confidence and conviction in her delivery; whether it’s a background vocal laden in effects, a climactic guitar solo, or a keyboard subtly peeking in, Angel relies more on the instruments around her and her tools in the studio than her voice to manipulate her listeners emotions. Read more

Mild High Club- Skiptracing

mildhighMild High Club delivers another mellow mixer of soft, psyche-soaked rock with their sophomore album, Skiptracing. Mac DeMarcos former tourmates pay homage to the likes of the Beach Boys and Homeshake with their lay-in-the-sun trippy reverberation. Alexander Brettin leads the charge with his laissez faire vocals that carry throughout the album, carrying their hazy sound that pairs perfectly with the dreamy dripping guitars and synth. The Circle Star Records (Stones Throws step-sister label) band delivers a solid collection with their second album, with sauntering soul/jazz songs like Tesselation and Head Out to the some impromptu instrumental jam on Whodunit?, Mild High Club gives listeners more than what they came to expect.

Hit the jump for full review.

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Omni – Deluxe

omniRating: ★★★★½

Rock n’ roll has a tendency to get stale, and the current landscape has seemed as such, by and large, until I came into this Omni album, Deluxe. Sure, there are nods here and there, but for me, the band have managed to reimagine the world of punk (pop, proto, etc) and capture it at its fascinating best.

The one-two punch of “Afterlife” and “Wednesday Wedding” set the tone for what’s an exciting listen from start to finish. Deluxeopens with a propulsive bounce, discordant guitars ringing in your ears and changing speeds via “Afterlife.” But, in “Wednesday Wedding” the group displays what’s made them wholly fascinating; this track seemingly works against itself, with stabbing chords and bobbing bass hitting in contrast to the cooled vocal punch. If you listen to the song’s chorus and aren’t in love, even though it’s brief, you’re not doing it right.

Really though, Omni have left you with what is actually a 1-2…10 punch. There’s not a bad song here, and every listener will likely find their own favorite. I mean “Wire” has this danceable stab that separates the dreamy state of the track. “Eyes on the Floor” could easily have been penned by the band’s many Aussie label mates such as Dick Diver, filled with these great guitar lines. Lately, I’ve been gravitating towards “Jungle Jenny,” which definitely seems to wear the touches of Frankie Broyles (who was once upon a time in Deerhunter). Those are just some of the standouts and benchmarks from my voice.

But, that being said, I don’t thing anyone that looks for a reason to hate something will find that within the confines of Deluxe. It excels in creativity, but is also fortunate in that there’s some brevity to the album, so you’re not worn out by anything. Each song turns and turns, leaving you flustered, yet immersed in the art the group brings to the table. Start to finish, you’re going to need to listen to this record; you’re going to want to listen to this record…and in a world of singles, that says a whole lot more than I can.

It’s available now via Trouble in Mind Records.

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Puff Pieces – Bland in DC

puffpiecesRating: ★★★½☆

Puff Pieces are anything but what their band name might lead you to believe. They’ve compiled 11 songs for their latest release, Bland in DC, with each providing listeners with a message. You needn’t look further than some of the titles like “March of the Idiots” or “Money” to see where they take aim. But, in order for the record and the message to completely endear itself to the audience, the band has to supply the musicality to make it last…and boy do they.

“Wanna No” kicks off the album in a jittery, proto-punk fashion while the vocals are drawn out across the tune, seemingly working against the heart of the track. Emphasis is given by backing vocals sporadically shouted from the distance. Staying long isn’t the band’s cup of tea on Bland in DC, as they bounce right into the next track, and so on and so forth until the end. At times, it almost feels like you’re falling off the tracks or racing towards the finish line, such as on tracks like “Wondrous Flowers;” it’s remarkable how quickly and flawlessly the rhythm section moves throughout.

Yet while the group definitely has a signature sound they’re pushing, they also open up the chords for a more traditional approach on tracks like “Pointless People,” which again takes on a furious pace that would likely have normal humans rushing to catch their breath.

I think my favorite track is “Goths and Vandals;” there seems to be a dark sense of humor that lurks in the track, if not a slight bit of sarcasm. My favorite lyric comes via “Y” where the band proclaims “the future’s like a big locked door.”

All in all, I found the record really enjoyable, but I can see detractors proclaiming that it’s too one-note. On the surface, sure, but those of you looking for energetic, yet artful, punk with a message will find a happy home with Puff Pieces.

Young Tongue – Death Rattle

youngRating: ★★★½☆

Still waters run deep. That colloquialism kept bouncing around in my head while listening to Young Tongue long overdue, much anticipated debut album. Why do I keep coming back to that phrase? Still waters run deep. Young Tongue isn’t a band that I would refer to as still in any kind of literal sense, going on short sprints with other great indie acts such as Mr. Gnome while maintaining a consistent gigging schedule in their hometown of Austin. This cliché has such resonance with me for this album because while most indie, local based artists seem to ebb and flow on a 1-3 year calendar, Young Tongue has been consistently plugging away for years and year Eight years to be exact – 5 of those in Austin. As a fan I’ve been following them just about all of those 8 years (they were one of the early pioneers of the musical flow from Asheville, NC to Austin, TX).

Musically Young Tongue leans heavily on the mid 2000s’ indie rock explosion – drawing inspiration from the likes of Interpol and Franz Ferdinand. Their sound relies heavily on the 8th note counterpoint between lead guitar lines and bass riffs. Daryl Schomberg’s intense, shifting drum patterns provide the backdrop while Stu and Liz Baker’s melodic and lyrical duets shimmer ontop. At it’s best all the parts fit into place like mechanical gears and seeing them perform live is like watching a well oiled steampunk machine. At it’s worst the gears don’t quite fit into place and the music can and machines lurches forward uncomfortably.

For a new listener of Young Tongue this album provides the truest and most exciting musical snapshot of Young Tongue. Young Tongue has long been a band plagued by the difficulty of capturing their live charisma and translating this to a record. Death Rattle unequivocally meets this challenge. Death Rattle provides more than enough fuel to continue the momentum Young Tongue has been gaining in recent years.

As a longtime fan and listener my only disappointment in this album is that feels like Young Tongue has been treading water. While the album only has one song – Matriarch – from their previous album as the Baker Family, a lot of these songs feel like a rewrite of old material and a lesson in habitual songwriting. The tunes that stuck out to me were the ones where I felt like they were reaching for new sounds, new styles. Heavy Metal Thunder – the 3rd track and the de facto single from the album – takes the best of their writing style and reaches for new terroritory. It keeps the driving rhythm of Nathan Ribner’s bass but the guitar lines and vocals refrain from getting sucked in the busy, insecure clutter that dominates other tracks like Sand Dance.  The song grows into a huge anthem, culminating in a vocal counterpoint that few bands can pull off.

For new fans, this album will be played over and over. For those of us familiar with the Young Tongue catalog, it provides us with a great touchtone but I know I will be waiting to see where the second album takes us.

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