Scottish Pop from True Gents

While my love of the last few years has clearly been my fascination with the Aussie scene, the pop music of Scotland has always been near and dear to my cliched heart. Today I’d like to introduce you to True Gents, a new act to my ears that draw from a huge swell of sounds, though most notably the pop sort that you’ll hear on this tune. The opening moments are quite nice, almost with a vibe akin to Arab Strap, though much more positive; there’s some quiet strings and children playing beneath the front of the mix, so keep your ears close to the speakers. A slight pick up comes after the two minute mark, pulling in drums and amplifying the strings just a touch. Look for the band’s new release, Blood Moon, to come your way soon.

 

How’d I Miss This: New Malcolm Middleton

malcolmIt’s been awhile, quite awhile, since I’ve heard anything from former Arab Strap member Malcolm Middleton. I kept checking back in, hoping he’d offer up something similar to the brilliant Waxing Gibbous. Well, the follow-up has been announced via Nude Records…and somehow I’m just now hearing about it! But, I’m a bit unsure of the lead single…or at least what it might lead to. While the last solo effort was stripped down and ornate, this single offers glimpses of an electro-pop bit of sadness coming our way. It’s still Middleton’s voice and distinct delivery, so I like it, but not sure it’ll endure for the entirety of an album. I guess we’ll see when Summer of ’13 hits on May 27th. Make up your own mind!

Paperfangs – Past Perfect

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Rating: ★★★½ ·

I’ve spent the better part of the last two weeks playing Past Perfect over and over again; it’s an album that travels well regardless of where you go, be it your bedroom, your car, the gym, home office, whatever.  While there are definitely bright spots, the overall execution from Paperfangs demonstrates a well-rounded effort that any music aficionado can sink their teeth into.

My first few runs through the record, I definitely gravitated towards the 1-2 punch of the openers.  “In Age” takes a second to open up, but the calm electronic playfulness that ensues reminded me of a Finnish Arab Strap.  It’s not a track that hits you over the head with production, yet somehow it manages to hit home every time I press play.  But, “Bathe In Glory” is where I lost myself; the light keyboard wash, the deep vocals and the glancing guitar in the background fit perfectly into a nice bit of nostalgia…nostalgia done right.

As my time with Past Perfect unfolded, I began to give the group more credit for their production values.  For instance, take a song like “This Power,” which could be perceived as just another bedroom pop hit.  However, there’s little touches of horns and piano that really add depth to the track, and don’t miss the sampled vocals that lurk far far in the background of the tune.  It’s easy to overlook such little touches, but I think that’s what’s really allowed me to delve into the record repeatedly for so long.  It’s like an audial puzzle, begging for you to identify the various layers and textures the group put into the recording.

Another aspect of the band that many should take note of comes through in their music as well…the visual.  It’s always been the band’s focus to include such touches in the live production of their music, but several minor sound bites allow Paperfangs to include those notes in their music too. One moment that stands out is in the closer, “His Famous Last Painting,” where the samples open the song, but also reappear throughout the track momentarily.  I think it’s important for all to be aware of such things, as it will definitely lend itself to a more complete understanding of the group’s aesthetic, not to mention clues to how one should listen to the album.

At first, Past Perfect may appear as just a simple electronically enhanced pop record, but don’t sell the effort or yourself short.  Spend a few quieted hours listening to the songs that Paperfangs have created and the odds are that you’ll be constructing your very own visual landscapes where the tunes are fitting.  The more you allow yourself to uncover and dream with the album, the more emotional benefits you’ll get, allowing you to spin the record for hours on end.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/2.-Bathe-In-Glory.mp3]

Download: Paperfangs – Bathe In Glory [MP3]

Past Perfect is available now from Soliti Music. 

Quirky Pop from Jesus H. Foxx

Sometimes you stumble upon something that musically intrigues you, and while you might not give it much attention at first, it eventually finds its way into your brain.  When I first heard this track from Jesus H. Foxx, I found the construction quite fascinating, but I moved on for the time being.  But, now that the band has released Endless Knocking, their new album, I’ve got to support the group.  They’re a Scottish act, and the vocals have a deep resonance that reminds me of a gone-but-not-forgotten Arab Strap.  Be sure you listen in here, and stay until the end, as there’s an interesting touch in wait.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/jesus-h.-foxx-So-the-Wind-Wont-Blow-it-All-Away.mp3]

Download:Jesus H. Foxx – So the Wind Won’t Blow it All Away [MP3]

The Bankees – Home

Rating: ★★★★½

Occasionally you encounter a band and a record that fits perfectly into who you are or where you are; these are the sorts of albums that you’ll always find endearing, no matter who tells you otherwise.  Home by The Bankees, just might be that album, reaching beyond my expectations and finding its way straight into the core of my being.

Admittedly, I’m not in the same place as the lyrics on “Single Life” by any means, yet I’m drawn to the songs emotional appeal.  I love the way there’s some restraint in the delivery of the verses, which is only strengthened when the chorus comes through with a bit of brightness. The cascading electric guitar solo nicely ties the song together as it continues through the track.  And then you come into “Days,” one of the standout tracks from the Home.  For me, the quality of the recording is what does it; it’s not overblown with production, allowing the craftsmanship of the group to shine through.  The lyric of “I don’t have that much to say, no one listens anyways” seems perfectly fitting to my wandering mind.  This track is perfect.

The Bankees put songs together so well that you have no idea what hit you until the track is over, so you rush to play it again.  Every time I listen to “Big Fish” this is the exact sentiment I get, hitting that repeat button.  Quietly strummed guitar, stomping drum beat and male/female vocal duo all feature on this jam, warming my spirit with each play.  Mid-track the song seems to come to a halt for just a moment, then carries off again as the cymbal is used for extra bits of emphasis.  But, making songs like this surely can’t come easy, even if they sound so incredible.  “Home” creates nostalgia personally, though it’s not just in the lyrical material, but also in its likeness to Arab Strap.  Similar to the Scots, this French band seems to strip things down to such simplistic moments that you sometimes aren’t even aware of the musical quality, despite how moving it is as it comes out of your speakers.

There’s hardly a misstep on Home, which alone makes it worthy of your listening pleasure.  More importantly, it’s hard to write about one song, or even several, as each song seems to deserve some attention.  “Under the Sun” closes things out in a softer space than where the album began, relying mostly on the guitar work and the vocals.  It’s almost a personal farewell from The Bankees, although the subject matter might not lead you that way.  That’s precisely why I’ve annoyed everyone playing this record over and over again: it’s extremely personal.  Whether you relate to the lyrics or your drawn to emotional appeal of the tracks themselves, you can’t help but feel enwrapped in the whole of it all.  In my mind, that makes for a memorable record I vow not to put down anytime soon.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/02-Days.mp3]

Download:The Bankees – Days [MP3]

Nice Instrumental Jam from Humans Don’t Be Angry

I’ve long been a fan of Malcolm Middleton, as the pages of this web site can attest, so when I heard the former Arab Strap member was starting a new project I was rather excited.  His new effort will be under the name Human Don’t Be Angry, and from what I’ve heard from the affair up to this point it is going to be a mostly instrumental affair.  It’s actually a pretty nice listen once it gets underway, similar to what other Scottish post-rockers have done.  Of course, I’ll always want to hear Malcolm, but I’ll happily take this as well.  You can get your hands on the self-titled LP next week if you dig it.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/CHEM172DD-02.mp3]

Download: Human Dont Be Angry – H.B.D.A. Theme [MP3]

New Old Music from Malcolm Middleton

Long have I adored the work of Malcolm Middleton, ever since he worked in Arab Strap.  Luckily, since it’s raining, I opted to pick up his new LP, which is basically his first album of recordings that never saw the light of day until now.  He’s been really busy lately, or so it seems on his site, so I’m happy to pick up A Quarter Past Shite.  It’s mostly Malcolm and his guitar, with a real melancholy bent on the lyrical matter.  Apparently, the sadness of the songs kept him from publishing it until now, but I’m glad he did, as it makes for a great listen on this dreary day here in Austin.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/01.-New-Blue.mp3]

Download: Malcolm Middleton – New Blue [MP3]

Malcolm Middleton – Waxing Gibbous

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Rating: ★★★½ ·

Singer Malcolm Middleton is better known as one half of Scottish band Arab Strap, but as that band has closed its final chapter, he is eager to carry on with his musical career. He’s always been working on the side creating his own tunes, but Waxing Gibbous comes at listeners with a bit more promise and consistency than his previous efforts.

You will find echoes of his past musical musings this time around, as they will surely never fade into the background of his life.  The splendid single “Carry Me” is a soft-spoken number; some might even call it downtrodden.  Middleton’s voice seems to ask for the support of his listener to support him by putting him upon their backs; he breaks his request to give the spoken-word explanation of his desire mid-song.  This approach remains one of the marked remnants of his time spent in Arab Strap.  Regardless, this song belongs on every mix tape you put together for your friends.  Also, you find usage of the electronic touch; this is yet another piece of his past.

Similarly, “Zero” begins with spoken-word before the percussive element kickstarts the rest of the song.  Once that becomes visible, the song takes off in a completely different direction, though his vocals still never seem to be far away from the spoken rather than sung forte.  But, before the song comes to a close, he slows it down to end the song with a gentle acoustic strumming carefully placed atop steady organ work.

Don’t think that he’s suddenly grown into a happier being, with many of these songs lamenting various facets of his life.  In “Ballad of Fuck All” he complains of the complacency in which his life seems to have slipped; his dreams of stardom and travels now disappearing in the rearview of his life.  And, quite frankly, its this element that seems to relate his lyrics to those of the listener; he has mundane problems we can all associate with our own lives.  This sort of connection has always been his specialty, but here he also asks, as he does frequently in the album, for someone to aid in his survival.

Unfortunately, some of the songs on the album drag on for longer than they should, with Middleton afraid to pull back on the reins entirely.  When he holds the songs in he succeeds beyond a doubt, but as other songs meander past the five minute mark it becomes a bit of a labor to listen to the entirety of each song, let alone an album full of such songs.  But, for those with patience you will find that Malcolm Middleton has crafted yet another wonderful piece of bedroom folk tunes we can all appreciate.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/10-made-up-your-mind.mp3]

Download: Malcolm Middleton – Made Up Your Mind [MP3]

New Tunes from Malcolm Middleton

malcolm Malcolm Middleton was the man behind the pen for Scotland’s Arab Strap, and now that the band have gone their own way, Malcolm is back to his old tricks.  This new single is the perfect Middleton tune, full of melancholy and wit.  His new album Waxing Gibbous comes your way on June 1st. 

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/t5s2-malcolm-middleton-carry-me.mp3]

Download: Malcolm Middleton – Carry Me [MP3]