Eels – Hombre Lobo

hombreloboRating: ★★★☆☆

According to the group’s web site, or to the words of Mark Oliver Everett, this album attempts to hint at the idea of coming to terms with realizing that despite one’s best intentions, it’s difficult to live the life of a loner, or a lone wolfman; this is where the Spanish title comes into play.  Hombre Lobo literally means wolfman, so it’s no surprise that the Eels would tackle such issues on their latest release.

Really, when you pull away the layers, the album’s lyrical content comes across pretty straightforward.  You find the narrator in said songs chasing after his muse, turning to said love time and time again, despite his/her desire flee and go elsewhere.  In “Ordinary Man,” our narrator willingly gives into his love, realizing that this is where he wants to be in the end, ordinary man or not.  Let’s face it, it’s hard to be a lone wolf sometimes.

Musically, the album, is pretty much all over the place; it’s rather scatterbrained. It jumps from the opening barn-stomper of a tune in “Prizefighter” to “That Look You Gave That Guy.”  Opening the album you have the wild man at heart, playing his soul, and banging out blues-fueled riffs for the listener.  How quickly it turns, however, as “That Look..” is a much more somber affair, with the narrator begging for that same look.  This is is one of the more solid tracks on the album, and an illustration of the dichotomy that is Eels records.

One thing that always jumps out during the listening process is the similarity to a Beck song.  Take one listen “Lilac Breeze” and you will swear that you are listening to a brand new track by the hyperactive troubadour. Even the shifts in vocals and the usage of electronics mark it as eerily similar.  It’s always been hard to escape this comparison, and with songs like this one, it surely won’t go away.

While there are some up-tempo tracks scattered here and there on the album, it is generally the slower elements that bring about the more soulful moments in Everett’s voice. Keeping in mind the subject matter, he seems so much more fragile when you listen to songs like “The Longing,” and you can almost experience the sentiment just by listening to the emotional quality of the song. Faster, guitar-laden tracks just don’t connect in the same manner, which does tend to weigh down the album in parts.  If listeners could stick to the simpler songs, then this would surely be a wondrous album to spin over and over again on the record player.  Unfortunately, the Eels include their diversity as usual, leading some listeners to turn a deaf ear to Hombre Lobo.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/09-my-timing-is-off.mp3]

Download: Eels – My Timing is Off [MP3]

FT5: Things To Buy On Record Store Day

0417top5coverThis Saturday, April 18th, is Record Store Day all across these United States. Sure, that seems like just another Saturday to most buyers, but the true record geek in all of us is already waiting in line. You see, on Record Store Day, you get to do two things: you get to support your favorite local indpendent record store and you get loads of limited edition stuff.  Me, personally, I can’t wait. I’ve already crafted a list so as to move through my favorite record store with ease in pursuit of such rarities that one can only dream.  The following is the list of the great things one can find at their local indpendent store, and we encourage you to do so, as this is the day the stores give back to us, and we give back to them.

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The ACL Bottom 5

Yeah we’re going there ACL. For all the numerous good things that happen during our little festival, there are always a few things people tend to complain about (whiners). We’re keeping this list just a bit short because I think most agree that the positives of the weekend always outweigh the negatives. Things not included on this list are complaints we have every year like: $8 Lonestars, $6 hamburgers that taste like dirt, long bathroom lines, and the like. Those are things we all hate but won’t be changing anytime soon. No, with this list, we hope the good people at C3 hear our cries and makes this festival the one everybody talks about.  So without further ado….. The Austin Town Hall Top 5 worst moments at ACL after the jump.
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The ACL Top Ten

We decided to take a different route in reviewing the events of ACL and we thought a Top 10 List would be the way to go.  This isn’t just a list of our favorite bands, rather a list of the best things, moments, memories or any other tasty randomness we could come up with that went down over the weekend.  We obviously would love to hear what else we maybe missed from our list.  This isn’t just our opinion, it’s what we heard from you good peoples that attended this year’s ACL.  List is after the jump.
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Beck – Modern Guilt

Rating: ★★★☆☆

When reviewing a Beck record I think you come across some very difficult waters. The man is revered by so many, and at the same time, it’s become increasingly difficult to put a definition on his music. You have to respect that, yet at the same time, it’s not the easiest thing to write about.

With this album, you have the uber-producer Danger Mouse aiding the production along the way. It’s kind of an odd step, and one that I was skeptical of – I’m not a DM kind of guy. That’s where we begin.

The album opens well enough with “Orphans.” You have some of the staple touches of DM, accompanied by the gentle guitar work of Beck, for which he always wins me over. He throws in some hand-claps as well, which I believe is becoming a bit of a Beck staple. It’s a good start.

“Gamma Ray” is the next track, and its the track you expected to hear on this album. It’s got a bouncing little bass line that pushes the song all the way through. Sure, you have vocals and such, but if you can’t get into this bass line, then you can’t get into this song. This is definitely a high-point on the album.

“Chemtrails” seems like an odd song to follow the previous track. It’s mellow atmospherics leave it completely juxtaposed to “Gamma Ray,” which is probably the intention. Stay with this song because it picks up in the end, with Beck or Danger Mouse, doing his best Stereolab/Air imitation.

The album’s title track comes next. Once again, this is a head bobber. You can’t help but realize that your feet are tapping, while Beck’s familiar voice dances on in the background. Honestly, I’m starting to realize that his voice is playing second fiddle on some of these more upbeat songs, which is kind of disappointing.

I didn’t get much from “Youthless.” You can blame me for poor tastes I guess. Perhaps because it comes off to me like Beck vs. Gnarls Barkley.

I love the next track, or I love the vocals on this next track, “Walls.” The beats present in the background don’t do much to enhance this song. Beck has that passion in his voice here, but it’s the kind of passion that makes you wish he would just pick up his guitar and sing it to you straight.

Then you can skip the next track. I did.

We find ourselves at “Soul of a Man.” This is a solid track, and another of the upbeat numbers you will find, even if the guitar sound does come off like every other garage rock tune you’ve heard in the past years. But, the pace is stepped back up on the album, which is probably where the focus of this album should stay, which it does. “Profanity Prayers” continues the pace, with pounding drums in your ears. One of the better songs on the album. To me this album just screams good times. This should definitely be included in the live set; it just has that feel to it.

Then we close the album with “Volcano.” A down-trodden little number where the acoustic guitar work really makes me reminisce about Sea Changes. It’s a good call to close the album here. For me, its the song that most resembles the Beck I came to know and like. Nice call here.

As I play this time and time again, I can’t help but feel a little distance from it. I don’t find Danger Mouse’s work very interesting, in fact, I think it kind of comes off like everything else he’s done recently. Perhaps he’s just tapped into the same thing one too many times. Due to that, it just doesn’t have the feel of a solid Beck album. Sure, there are some high points, like “Gamma Ray” and “Volcano,” but there are some moments that just don’t reach the listener.

I guess at the end of the day, he can do whatever he really wants to do. He’s earned that right, and as long as he keeps releasing albums with several great songs, I think he’ll still be important. I’m just waiting for him to put out that solid album, all the way through. I’ll keep waiting.

Below is “Gamma Ray” off the new album:

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/02-gamma-ray.mp3]

Download: gammaray.mp3

Beck’s Modern Guilt Details & New Song

Details about Beck’s new album Modern Guilt have been flooding the news trails on the interweb today. The album is set to be released on June 7th in the UK and June 8th stateside. The album is produced by the great Danger Mouse who seems to be turning everything he touches to gold. The recently released Black Keys album Attack & Release produced by Danger Mouse will surely be in my top ten of the year so I’m sure Beck’s newest will be killer. Beck’s also playing that little thing called ACL Festival later this summer and If you’re still waiting to get tickets to that, stop what you’re doing and buy one now. You can also stream a new song off Beck’s new album on his ilike page entitled “Chemtrail”.

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