The Dead Weather – Sea Of Cowards

Rating: ★★★ · ·

Jack White is on a mission of late. Between three bands touring extensively in recent years, a new White Stripes’ DVD, a marriage to his model wife, Karen Elson, and 2 albums in 10 months with his latest project, there’s no shortage of insatiable, swampy blues guitar riffs in his bag of tricks (or drum licks in this particular case).  Following up 2009’s Horehound is their latest Sea of Cowards. Right away the differences between the two albums are apparent, on the vocal front, there’s more Jack White’s smarmy howl, which was primarily the Kill’s lead singer Allison Mosshart’s forte; and secondly, there’s more secure percussive stylings from White, which steadies the record as a whole from start to finish. If there was a question about their last release, it was not focused on intent or motivation, but in the execution.

At first spin of the vinyl, the bass lines and kick drum rumbled my speakers. From the first few lines of ‘Blue Blood Bones’ it’s obvious that White has been practicing. He is no doubt one of the hardest working musicians in the game nowadays, but he manages not to over-extend himself. That may be in part to surrounding himself with like-minded uber-talented musicians which push towards high quality in every collaboration. With the afore mentioned Mosshart approaching rock goddess status, Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Dean Fertita and Raconteurs‘ bassist Jack Lawrence are by no means pushed into the shadows. Even though it may seem that way with White’s growing influence and Mosshart larger than life personality. In only 10 months the group seems to have hit their stride and are thriving in the new found confidence which translates to one of the best live shows in the world, though the creativity for song-writing is still lacking. As with the last, the intent is solid and the execution is much stronger, but the tunes just don’t carry as well on the turntable as well as they do on stage. For some, that’s not a bad thing; and I just happen to be one of those people. If you caught the group’s last stop through Austin at Stubb’s, you know exactly what I mean. These songs just can’t be contained in a formal studio release, though try as they might.

Sea of Cowards is much angrier than their former, allowing the band to show their angst and fierce nature, letting loose on tracks like ‘Hustle and Cuss’ and ‘I’m Mad’. ‘The Difference Between Us’ is the first track which solely highlights Alison Mosshart’s full potency as she dominates the track.  The first single, ‘Die By The Drop’ is no doubt one of the highlights of the album with Mosshart and White each taking turns howling alongside strong performances from Fertita and Lawrence. During ‘Looking At the Invisible Man’, White it seems to be making a symbolic gesture of his desire to step out of the spotlight and to let his accompaniment shine, and the realization that it is no use. He exclaims that he is the invisible man, though his presence is always felt. On the final track ‘Old Mary’, White recites last rites with a simple piano accompaniment before the band pounds out the finale in style. Something tells me this however is not the last breath of this rendition of White (and Company). In fact with White’s steadier percussive talent, I feel the best may be yet to come. This is by no means the best album of the year, but it is a worthy successor to Horehound.

ACL Top 10 Acts

ACL_top10_bannerSo we survived the weekend that was the dillo dirt sludge of ACL and we’re ready to provide a bit of reflections from our experience.  We’ll start things off with a quick recap of some of our favorite acts from the festival and who impressed us the most.  This is only our list and we based it on our time and taste so let us know if you saw something great we forgot about.  Follow the jump for our Top 10 acts of ACL.

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Mason Jennings – Blood of Man

mason

Rating: ★★★½ ·

When Mason Jennings first released In the Ever, I couldn’t have been more disappointed.  The album seemed forced and overproduced–it lacked all the personality that I felt made Mason Jennings so special.  I even vowed never to give him my money again, unless I previewed his work prior to purchase.  Well, I gave in to my longing for Mason and got my hands on Blood of Man.

Upon the first listen all the way through, I paused momentarily, trying to wrap my head around the record, almost confused.  I came to the decision that this album seemed like a collection of really good demos.  There was an evident rawness to the writing, and the recording (drums especially) that brought back a whole lot of that character that sparked the flame of fandom within me so long ago.

Sure, the first song sort of seems like Mason is channeling that Eddie Vedder character people are so into, but the rest of the album wears that warmth of his vocal inflection that makes his music seem so unique.  Everything about Blood of Man seems completely natural and not forced.  This is more Use Your Voice era Mason than it is anything else, and I’m frankly relieved to see him heading back to that hallowed ground.

That being said, there are some odd missteps here, and I don’t necessary see them as bad things, but just really unexpected moments.  For instance, “Ain’t No Friend of Mine” appears like a sort of Dead Weather stomp with a splash of Mason.  Even his vocals have a little hint of Mr. White. Still, the dude’s been putting out tunes, so you can’t blame him for trying something entirely new.  Just be happy he seems to have steered far away from the land of Jack Johnson and other like-minded hacks.

What comes as a great surprise on this album is that Mason Jennings wraps it up perfectly by including some of his best efforts, as of late, on the end of the album.  You won’t find a more fitting tune for resolving personal crisis than “Lonely Road.”  And ending the entire record with “Blood of Man” shows how the simplest tunes are still the heart and soul of this singer/songwriter.  It’s just he and a guitar, and I guess that’s the way it always seems like it should have been.

So it seems that Mason Jennings has come around full circle.  He’s back to where he began, though with a bit of growth and maturity beneath his belt.  It makes this a great addition to his entire catalogue.  I’m glad I picked up Blood of Man.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/the-field-1.mp3]

Download: Mason Jennings – The Field [MP3]

FT5: Extended Hiatuses & Welcomed Returns

0911top5coverWe all have our hobbies. Whether it be collecting records, knitting, or making graffiti stencils, we all have something that steals away our time and makes the monotony of everyday life a little more bearable. But sometimes our hobbies consume too much of our time or, God forbid, our hobbies become just as monotonous as our day job. You must take a step back and to see what you loved about that hobby in the first place.

For this Friday Top Five we will take a look at several bands that have for one reason or another taken a break. These bands have never formally broken up; they have just gone on extended hiatus.
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FT5: Hot Ladies Of Indie Rock

0612top5coverI think you all knew that ATH would go here at some point and alas today is the day that I take the leap and display our true male hormone driven selves with a top 5 about the hot ladies of indie rock.  I won’t beat around the bush here, this post has little to do with the musical talents of these ladies, and more to do with how they drive me crazy with their good looks.  I promise not to offend anyone and also promise that these women have made my list because they are empowered and musically talented women who also just so happen to be pleasing on the eyes.  I love them all and would probably just turn into a bumbling idiot if they ever actually spoke to me…  You will see a lot of familiar faces on the list and probably take issue with some big names being left off.  I love you too Feist and Neko, just not quite enough for you to break into my Top 5.  If you really wanted to mess me up, you should have gotten to me sooner!  Follow the jump for our full top 5 breakdown.
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New Tunes from Dead Weather

deadweatherIn further antcipation of their upcoming album, Horehound, ultra-hip group Dead Weather are offering you a chance to hear yet another new single off said album.  This one definitely has that rocking element, and it features vocals that seem to be predominantly Jack White.  Either way, the hard hitting track, “Treat Me Like Your Mother,”  is a sign of more good things to come.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/02-treat-me-like-your-mother-1.mp3]

Download: Dead Weather – Treat Me Like Your Mother [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 Dead Weather

dead-weather-jack-whiteSo we’re fairly certain that this track is soon to be on every blog in the country by the end of the day.  Regardless, this killer new tune comes your way from Jack White’s latest supergroup going by the name The Dead Weather.  The group features of course Jack White on vocals & drums, Raconteur Jack Lawrence on bass, Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Dean Fertita and best of all, The Kills‘ Allison Mosshart on lead vocals.  Sounds like a match made in heaven right?  Apparently the band played their first gig at Jack White’s Third Man Studios in Nashville last night and gave out a limited 7″ vinyl of new single “Hang You Up From the Heavens”.  You probably don’t live in Tennessee so we’ve got the track for you below.  The debut full length from the group, Horehound, is due out in early June.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/the-dead-weather-hang-you-from-the-heavens.mp3]

Download: The Dead Weather – Hang You From The Heavens [MP3]