Show Preview: Fleet Foxes @ Stubbs (5/10)

Date Tuesday, May 10th
Location Stubbs
Doors 700 PM
Tickets Sold Out!

There’s a reason this show is sold out, that being that Fleet Foxes are one of the hottest bands around, even though they seemingly disappeared for several years while recording Helplessness Blues. All that extra time led to the crafting of a magnificent album, filled with those warm harmonies and folk stylings, better than practically anything else out there. You won’t just find one great band, however, on this bill, because Cave Singers are a phenomenal act in their own right.  They released their third album, No Witch, and it established the band as one of our favorites here at ATH.  You might not be able to buy tickets, but you know there will be tons of folks trying to earn a buck by scalping a ticket or two.  If you got one, you’re lucky, if you’re looking, keep on, as this show aims to be nothing more than one of the most remarkable nights in Austin.


Download: Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues [MP3]

Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

Rating: ★★★★★

When Fleet Foxes released their self-titled debut back in 2008, they took the musical world by storm with their folksy, and harmony flooded jams. So when they announced that they would be releasing their sophomore album, much anticipation grew for what this cherished band would do next. Could they potentially follow up their flawless debut with something even better? Or would Helplessness Blues be forever dwarfed in a shadow of comparisons to the album that won you over to the Fleet Foxes side in the first place? Based on my rating, it should be pretty easy to tell where I stand.

This album may be a step in a different direction for this band, but it certainly is the right one. “Montezuma” begins with delicate guitar plucking and the almost too perfectly sweet vocals of Robin Pecknold, joined quickly by the harmonies of the rest of the band, bathing you in warmth. For Fleet Foxes, this is probably the perfect opening song; the simplicity paired with the introduction to a new sound for makes it rightly placed. Whereas their last album relied most heavily on the vocal aspects, it seems as though the instrumentation has become a stronger force on the same level as that as the vocals. This allows for Fleet Foxes to step into that tender climate of being far enough away from their old stuff, but nowhere near unrecognizable.

The rest of the album follows suit in a way that only this band could; you’ll be hard pressed to find a song that you don’t love. On the first half of the album, you have soft at first then earthquake strength of “Sim Sala Bim,” only to be outdone by the climactic “The Plains / Bitter Dancer.” But to me, the real superstar comes on “The Shrine / An Argument,” which has be arguably one of the best songs of the year. Last, but certainly not least, you have the explosive, jangly, single, “Grown Ocean” which serves as the icing on the cake.

So at the end of this masterpiece, it’s easy to be transfigured by the delightful and beautiful sounds that this band has produced. It’s remarkable how they were able to produce two flawless albums back to back, and if they hadn’t already marked a spot on your list of favorite bands, then this should certainly seal the deal. Look for this to make its place atop some end of the year lists.


Download: Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues [MP3]

More New Music From Fleet Foxes

Well we hear on the streets that the new Fleet Foxes album Helplessness Blues has leaked super early and indie fanboys are already going crazy.  With a distant release date of May 3rd, you’ve still got some time to check out singles like this one “The Plains/Bitter Dancer” before you pick up the album in about a month.  Will they be able to keep their buzz going on the sophomore effort?  Only time will tell.


Download: Fleet Foxes – The Plains/Bitter Dancer [MP3]

New Music from Fleet Foxes

Remember Fleet Foxes?  Yeah, it has been some time hasn’t it?  Today news broke that there has been official release date for their latest album, Helplessness Blues.  Once again, Sub Pop will be releasing the record, hitting the street on May 3rd.  Personally, I’m stoked that they worked with Phil Ek again, producing and mixing, as he’s one of my favorites behind the board.  When first listening to this track, I kind of saw a bit faster pacing, at least in regards to the strumming, but as the song begins to trickle towards the end, you can see the band go off into that whispy winter quality that made their debut so lovable.  We know everyone will be talking about this one all day.


Download: Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues [MP3]

New Tunes from Nightlands

Dave Hartley of Philadelphia is primarily a sideman for some notable bands, namely The War on Drugs, which has some affiliation with Kurt Vile.  Currently, he’s just put together a long project under the moniker Nightlands, and it’s something that I think everyone out there will enjoy.  The track we’re featuring recalls a bit of that wintry folk that’s won fans since the debut of Fleet Foxes, but it also uses multiple loops and vocals to create a bit of a soundscape, a la Animal Collective or The Books. Thrown altogether, and its just plain beautiful.  You can get the album, Forget the Mantra,  for $5 right HERE.


Download: Nightlands – God What Have I [MP3]

Local Natives – Gorilla Manor

localnatives-600x600Rating: ★★★★½

This California band just barely began making waves back in 2009 after successful shows and a rollicking time at SXSW.  All those things slowly began to build a lot of attention for the group, and finally we have come to the release of Gorilla Manor by Local Natives.  Listening to this for several months now, it’s the most complete record to come out in 2010, and will continue to garner extensive praise for the group.

When you first listen to Gorilla Manor, at least for this writer, I couldn’t shy away from thinking of Fleet Foxes, which is entirely due to the multiple-pat vocal harmonies the band uses. But the more that I let it unfold, the more that I began to see there are so many little touches across the album that it’s clear the group is doing their own thing entirely.

You come across those touches in the first song,  “Wide Eyes.” It seems as if the drummer barely hits the drums, other for the snare fills, as you can clearly hear the banging of the sticks atop the rim of the drum.  It’s something the band utilizes throughout the whole affair, giving a sort of tribal feel to their California-tinged summery pop. In fact, it distracts listeners from some tight-knit guitar work, that rarely seems to nod towards a folk sound, which is what one would think the band would imitate, if you only listened to the vocals.

“Airplanes,” the second song, begins with some piano noodling, before the vocals soar atop the steady percussive drum beat. Everything about the chorus here is perfect; each time I hear “I want you back,” I just get this chill; it’s the execution of the perfect song.  You could say the same thing for the following track, “Sun Hands,” the band’s first single off the album, but I’m sticking with “Airplanes.”  Still, people will love the usage of gang vocals at the 3 minute mark of “Sun Hands,” which provides a different dynamic before the band lashes into a little post-punk jam session.

One of the best things about Gorilla Manor, aside from the music itself, is that the majority of the songs are well-over the three minute mark.  Cleverly, Local Natives are able to sustain your interest throughout, leaving you with an album you can really go inside, immersing yourself entirely.  Each song has enough movement to keep it interesting, as the band doesn’t remain static for long, if ever.  That says a lot about the group, who can go in multiple directions in a song like “Warning Signs,” and hold onto a sense of cohesiveness within the song itself.   It really is hard to find a song not worthy of listening to multiple times.  Well done.

In the end, you can say that Local Natives have spent a great deal of time honing their craftsmanship, and Gorilla Manor is the ultimate reward for listeners and the band alike.  You’ll find that the differentiation and light changes will keep you interested all the way until the end, allowing you to finally spend time with a solid record you’ll want to listen to time and time again.


Download: Local Natives – Airplanes [MP3]

ATH Intervews: J. Tillman

jtillman_interviewWe had the incredible opportunity this week to speak with solo songwriter J. Tillman about his musical endeavors.  Mr. Tillman talks about his new solo record Year in the Kingdom and his work with indie powerhouse Fleet Foxes.  This interview should serve as a nice preview to the J. Tillman show coming up on Friday at Mohawk.  Follow the jump for full interview.

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J. Tillman – Year In The Kingdom

GuerrillaGroup_1_tillman-300x300Rating: ★★★★★

Since 2004 J. Tillman, born Joshua Tillman, has been consistently releasing quiet, understated records on various labels in the Pacific Northwest.  These records, while all solid releases, always followed the same template: hush vocals, gently picked guitars, mournful lyrics. With the release of Year in the Kingdom something has clicked with Tillman’s formula.

Maybe it has been his tenure as drummer in the Fleet Foxes these past couple of years that has lead to this beautiful and full sounding record or maybe it has just come with age.  On Year in the Kingdom we hear a road-weary Tillman lamenting on the human condition, we are met with songs of repentance and rejoice.  This is a simple record: mostly just acoustic guitars, a banjo here and there, light percussive elements, and Tillman’s voice, prominent in the mix.  Initially having the vocals so high in the mix turned me off to the release, and I retreated back to 2007’s Cancer and Delirium, which is quieter and more restrained, but the title track on Year in the Kingdom kept pulling me back, and I’m glad it did.  On repeated listens you realize that why the vocals are so high in the mix is, perhaps, because Tillman is confident in what he has to say and doesn’t wish to hide it in flowery instrumentation.

From the theme of repentance in ‘Year in the Kingdom’ to lines that would make King Solomon blush on ‘Earthly Bodies’ to the redemptive crescendo of  ‘There is No Good In Me’, we have been given one of the most fully realized records that I have heard in years.  Robin Pecknold better thank his lucky stars that he has someone of this caliber backing him, because, frankly, J. Tillman is doing just fine on his own.


Download: J Tillman – Though I Have Wronged You [MP3]

Free Lollapalooza Sampler

lollapaloozaWith Lollapalooza inching closer and closer, now is a good time to start talking about the festival and some of the bands playing.  We couldn’t think of a better way to introduce some bands to the public than with a free sampler from the fine folks at Lollapalooza.  The itunes sampler includes hit tracks from festival artists like The Raveonettes, Langhorne Slim, Deerhunter, and a few others.  Head to the Lolla site now to get your hands on it.  Until then, here’s our favorite track from the playlist, Fleet Foxes single “Mykonos”.


Download: Fleet Foxes – Mykonos [MP3]

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