ATH Premiere: Stutter Steps Are Your New Favorites

stutterstepsOkay, so maybe Stutter Steps aren’t your new favorites, not yet anyways. But, those of you who’ve carefully wrapped yourself in a world of indiepop and Australian/NewZealand guitar craftsmanship will surely find yourselves a new band to adore. This first single is as fine example of the art of songwriting as I’ve come to hear, which should come as no surprise; Ben Harrison, the man behind the band, can call himself a contributor/collaborator to the works of Dean and Britta (if you need to look that up then it won’t mean much). Still, I can hear the band’s references to Flying Nun, though I prefer to imagine Harrison crafting his own American version of the Go-Betweens. There’s incredible melodies and such a gentle warmth; you’re bound to find this the most endearing tune today. Their self-titled album will be out soon via Wild Kindness Records.

Did You Listen to The Goon Sax Yet

CH132 Sometimes AccidentallyI love Aussie label Chapter Music, but it looks like they’re about to really knock it out of the park with their new signing The Goon Sax. They just signed the teenage band, and it sounds remarkably like a wonderful blend of Violent Femmes and Go-Betweens…ultimately making for the best music combination ever.  It’s filled with an infectious bounce and a remarkably unique, yet familiar, vocal delivery.  They’ll be releasing Up to Anything early next year via the label, so stay tuned for another incredible single soon!

Eternal Summers – Correct Behavior

Rating: ★★★★ ·

It’s hard these days to find a blow-your-mind pop record that will last you longer than on or two listens without boring you. Often, I’ll fall in love with an album that falls flat upon further inspection, so when I first listened to Correct Behavior, I assumed that it would be once again another throw-away album, but Eternal Summers have a bit more in store than that.

You can’t really blame me for believing that this album was going to be like others when you listen to the first track, “Millions.” It’s got all the symptoms of a one hit wonder written all over it: endless guitar hooks, toe-tapping worthy drums and the perfectly shrieky vocals of lead singer Nicole Yun topping it all off. Sensationally sunny, the song starts things off infectiously, maintaining the youthful sound that Eternal Summers brought to the table on their debut, Silver, but also a bit fuller than that of previous recordings. Yes, the track still only lasts two and a half minutes, but it’s a bit meatier than before, although all the sunshine that you could ask for, which led me to think it was a little too good to be true.

This feeling of astonishment continues, as the band lays down hit after hit in the main bulk of the album. Third on the roster is another standout track in “You Kill,” which once again brings the power pop in its raging guitars and quick-tempo percussion. The song is one of the longest on the album and it does not disappoint. It pushes and pulls from chorus to verse, Yun’s voice being the element to lead you through both. Towards the end you have the nice garage-y breakdown that adds yet another dimension to Eternal Summer’s sound; twists like these help keep things fresh as the record continues. Another one of these unexpected turns comes on “Girls in the City,” with male vocals and a greater emphasis on the drums than the guitars, which leaves me a little reminiscent of The-Go-Betweens and bands of the like.

When all is said and done and Correct Behavior comes to a close after a brief thirty minutes, you’ll immediately be ready to give it another spin. This three-piece band does their thing and they do it well, fulfilling your desire for a fun summer release, but they also don’t make it easy to part with their sound at the close. It’s fittingly akin to the name of the band in that like this season, you don’t really want it to end and hopefully Eternal Summers have found a way to make their sunny punk-pop carry into the cooler months…which seem to be quite a ways away for us Austinites.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/03YouKill.mp3]

Download:Eternal Summers – You Kill [MP3]

Cut Off Your Hands – Hollow

Rating: ★★★★ ·

With their first album, You & I, you sort of had the feeling that New Zealand outfit Cut Off Your Hands might have been yearning for the British Isles, but with their release of Hollow, the band has completed their maturation, giving fans a full-on venture into the sounds of the Oceanic region of the world.

“You Should Do Better” begins with a rolling drum beat, and chiming guitars, before Nick Johnston’s vocals soar above it all.  Sure, people will hear remnants of the Smiths influence, but I hear Lucksmiths delivery, and the sharpness of the guitars employed by the Go-Betweens. Trust me, these are all good things.  It’s furthered with “Nausea,” the second track on the record, where the chorus has this incredible melody that totally beats out anything the band has done to date (no offense fellas).

What might stand in the way for some of the long-time fans of Cut Off Your Hands is that the energy is markably different on this outing, in comparison to past works.  Where you once found sharpness and angular cuts of the knife, the band has slowed things down, clearing the way for much warmer guitar sounds.  Don’t get confused here, as the guitars on tracks like “Hollowed Out” definitely maintain an edge and brightness, but instead of forcing riff into riff, the guitars ring loudly throughout Hollow, providing listeners with a sound that has much more durability.

Still, there are several tracks available for those looking for a quicker pace, and the group’s more traditional sound.  “Fooling No One” bounces in your ear, before the vocals swing in to provide that melodic approach the band rely upon.  This is much more of a stomper than anything up to this point on Hollow. They follow it up with “Down and Out,” which relies upon ringing guitar chords in the background to provide that energetic punch you’re begging for the band to give you.  Both tracks show the band still has what it takes to offer powerful pop gems with bits of fuel behind them.  Just because you clean things up, doesn’t mean you can’t unleash a good solid rocker, right?

When they close out this album with “Buried,” it’s the perfect summation of Hollow.  The track is drawn out slowly, though with the guitars maintaining their melodic sharpness.  Johnston slowly works his way through his vocals, caring to emphasize every emotional point in your listening experience.  Much like this song, the entire new record from Cut Off Your Hands is a bit of a slower burn, with longer songs, allowing the band to get the maximum quality out of all nine tracks.  If anything, their maturity displays the group’s songwriting capabilities, giving listeners an experience that will surely leave a lasting impression.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Cut-Off-Your-Hands-You-Should-Do-Better.mp3]

Download: Cut Off Your Hands – You Should Do Better [MP3]

Jeremy Jay – A Place Where We Could Go

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Every once in a blue moon you happen to heed the advice of a good friend, and thus was the good fortune I had with coming across this brilliant piece of work by Jeremy Jay. This album caught me by surprise, but I am so glad that I came unto it for this is exactly the sort of album I have been searching for these past few weeks.

Now, Jeremy Jay comes across to many people as some sort of Jonathan Richman, and I can see that in the way that Jay seems to speak his lyrics rather than sing them, but his voice is a bit off from Richman’s. I tend to think of Robert Forster of the Go-Betweens –then again, I can see some of those Morrissey comparisons. I guess that’s it, you can try as you might, but Jeremy Jay has a voice all his own.

I really enjoy the song craft in these songs. Apparently, this chap is a fan of 50’s music a la Buddy Holly or Richie Valens, and this is very clear in the instrumentation. A song such as “The Living Dolls” completely encompasses this vibe, taking you back to your very own personal sock-hop. He doesn’t stop here, always staying in the vein of classic pop-song structures.

The only fault, for me as a listener, is that the music is clearly wonderful, yet it is really down low in the mix. Clearly, the focus is on Jay’s voice and lyrics, but that doesn’t mean you can turn up those guitars for the sake of the listener. Well, that is personal taste I suppose.

For the duration of this album, Jeremy focuses predominantly on the topic of love, but he approaches the subject from various different angles. Each of his songs, to me, comes across as a carefully crafted love poem–but not the kind that comes across as dishonest. I particularly enjoy the fact that there is an essence of the magical or natural world in the lyrics, which wins points in my book.

There are some faults here, such as the album falls short of 30 minutes, but for a debut full-length, its hard to come across much better than this. I have a feeling that by the end of the year this will sneak its way into my top ten–in fact, I’m reserving it a spot right now!

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/02-heavenly-creatures.mp3]

Download: heavenlycreatures.mp3