Protomartyr – Under Color of Official Right

Protomartyr-album-cover-608x594Rating: ★★★★☆

It’s weird to try to put the entirety of the Protomartyr record into any category.  For all intents and purposes, there are no true comparisons to Under Color of Official Right, though there are nods here and here.  The album’s refreshing in that it doesn’t ever seem stuck in a genre, rather it’s defined solely on the fourteen songs included in the collection.

When “Maidenhead” kicks things off there are some stabbing guitar parts that reflect the little nuances within the realm of indiepop, but as soon as you hear the voice of Joe Casey, you know that you’re in a darker world, even emphatically pushed there when the cymbals crash behind the pounding rhythm.  It’s a sign that while you listen to UCoOR you’re likely to hear bits and pieces of everything you love, just spun in an entirely original manner.  You just have to go to the next stop on the record, “Ain’t So Simple.”  Casey’s vocals steady the work of the band, but the rest of the group offer this bit of pro to-punk oddity, keeping listeners on their toes.

For me, I think the presence of Joe’s vocals throughout is what really makes this album something to write home about; he seems to work against the approach of his band mates, cooly releasing vocals while they offer their own interpretations of songs.  His lyrics are never rushed, even when the band’s pushing ahead quickly, as they do on the short track, “Pagans.”  Still, somehow his approach to delivery fits for Protomartyr, especially when you take in tunes like “What the Wall Said.” This is a track that feels almost as if J. Casey is singing, as his minimal melody slides nicely into the punishing drum work and the ringing guitars.

If you’re looking to pick up a single you’ve got options though I suggest you go all the way through.  The two singles “Scum Rise” and “Come and See” both are great options, thus they were chosen as the promo tracks.  Personally, I think you’d do just as well to stop at “Violent,” which is the track I think I’ve come back to most often.  This song exemplifies the band’s sound the most to me, with Casey offering a great vocal performance while the drums heavily roll in the background and crisp guitars ring out.  I’ve also taken a liking to “Trust Me Billy,” which offers up the most pop sensible music, for my two cents.

However, your listening experience with Under Color of Official Right will revolve around careful scrutiny of each lyric and each tempo change within the album. No one song stands next to a copy of its predecessor, and each movement sounds fresh, making the whole of Protomartyr sound like a well-oiled machine intent upon creating music on their own terms.  There’s no historic embellishment and no ties to their home; it’s an album living out on its own, the way a great album should.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Scum-Rise.mp3]

Download: Protomartyr – Scum, Rise! [MP3]

Under Color of Official Right is available now from Hardly Art.

 

New Music from Guantanamo Baywatch (SXSW Act)

gbAh, yes, it’s time for the Suicide Squeeze Singles to start rolling out, and they’re starting with a bang.  Their new series begins with a split between ATH favorites Shannon and the Clams and Guantanamo Baywatch.  Last time I heard from GB, they were rocking a sweaty punk style, but this new jam seems like the perfect fit for a shared 7″ with Shannon.  It’s a country-tied garage jam with a slow pace and lyrics that will allow you optimal sing-a-long fun.  This single will hit stores on April 29th, but you can catch the band playing throughout Austin during SXSW, including the SS Party with our friends at Hardly Art on March 14th.

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More New Music From Potomartyr

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Protomartyr is a group that we’ve really jumped on board with over the last couple of months.  Their dark pop tunes have this haunting quality to them that seem to find a place in your brain and replay over and over.  Here’s another new tune for you today that I’m sure we’ll be doing just the same thing.

New album, Under Color of Official Right, is due out on April 8th via Hardly Art.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Come-See.mp3]

Download: Protomartyr – Come & See [MP3]

Gem Club – In Roses

In Roses CoverRating: ★★★☆☆

Rarely do musicians nowadays set out to make grandiose pieces of art. Some hide behind the guise that they’re breaking new ground or that they’ve been waxing nostalgic, but they often skip out on attempting at the loftier side of crafting beautiful pieces of art.  That being said, Gem Club have done just that with their sophomore release, In Roses; it’s an ornate and carefully constructed piece of majesty.

The Massachusetts act opt to open up with “Nowhere,” an instrumental piece that effectively build the mood by draping atmospheric textures atop one another.  It sets the stage perfectly for the listener’s entrance into “First Weeks,” which opens immediately with a softened piano line.  Soon, Christopher Barnes answers the call to the stage, entering with his lofty voice, accented by the careful string accompaniment the group has employed since their inception.  It’s a somber tune, fit for gazing out your window on a cold wintry day; I especially like the fuzzier moments in the recording as the song walks away towards its close.

In Roses often lives on the softer side of chamber-pop, so that might worry some who don’t have the time to sit and listen to the details of the world.  But, in songs like “Michael” there are these moments where Barnes’ voice collides with cello and woodwind accents to glorious effect.  Similarly, on “Hypericum,” there’s a percussive heartbeat haunting the background as dark tones are carefully pounded upon the piano.  These are surely artistic details that many people choose to overlook, which sadly makes music like this harder for people to create.  What’s the point when your greatest addition to the musical lexicon goes unnoticed?

Sure, it’s difficult to absorb in today’s quick paced lifestyle, but creative efforts like this one from Gem Club are ultimately what make music so rewarding.  Movements sweep into new movements within the same track, and voices unite in harmony; these things remain impactful hours after the music has stopped playing.  Just take a listen to a song like “Soft Season,” and ask yourself why there are so few artists creating these incredibly lofty pop constructionist tracks.  This is one of several songs within this album that have chased through my mind, even after several listens.

Admittedly, In Roses is not the sort of record I can come back to time and time again; it’s far too unique in that manner.  It requires special attention to its every detail and touch; it begs for the listener to devote endless hours to playing it over and over again.  Most would call it an arduous task, but if you’re willing to give yourself over to Gem Club, then they will push you towards places, emotionally speaking, that you might not visit enough; you’ll be eternally thankful to the band for giving you such a rare opportunity…and piece of art.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Gem-Club-Polly.mp3]

Download: Gem Club – Polly [MP3]

New Pop Tune from Tacocat

tacocatYou’re probably going to look twice when you look at the title of Tacocat‘s newest single, but that’s entirely the point, or so I think.  Tacocat have infectious hooks and power-pop licks to make them supremely accessible, but at the same time, they’re not taking themselves entirely too seriously. They’re out to kick out tracks that envelop the fun side of being in a rock n’ roll band, even if it means writing a tune about your period.  If this is your style of music, then you’ll need to get your hands on NVM when it’s released by Hardly Art on February 25th.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Tacocat_CrimsonWave.mp3]

Download: Tacocat – Crimson Wave [MP3]

Contest: La Luz Ticket Giveaway w/ Pure Bathing Culture (1/27)

La-LuzOur friends at Hardly Art are helping us hook you up with a great deal that seems pretty awesome.  They’re willing to give away a pair of tickets to one of the most anticipated shows in town next week: La Luz with Pure Bathing Culture.  La Luz released It’s Alive last year via Hardly Art, and the group really built a strong name for themselves before encountering a little tragedy curbed their touring.  But, now they’ve got this incredible bill, which just got better when news was announced today that Austin’s She Sir would join the bill. All you have to do is leave us a comment with your favorite new jam of 2014. We’ll close the contest Friday at midnight, then contact the winners.  Show is at Red 7, and it starts at 9 PM.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/LaLuz_CallMeInTheDay.mp3]

Download: La Luz – Call Me In The Day [MP3]

Rocking Out with Protomartyr

protomartyrWe don’t want our good friends at Hardly Art thinking we forgot about them, but they make things easy by putting out such solid jams as this one by Protomartyr. Their latest signing, Protomartyr, have this great darkness in their approach, which owes a great deal to how the vocals were recorded.  Me? I love the angular approach to the guitar playing, pushed right up against this bouncing rhythm section.  You’ll find the tune only gets better as the band jumps off energetically from time to time throughout the track.  The excellent label will release Under Color of Official Right on April 8th.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Scum-Rise.mp3]

Download: Protomartyr – Scum, Rise! [MP3]

Catchy New Music from Tacocat

tacosI first heard of Tacocat via Finest Kiss, which helps us keep an eye on the good things in Seattle (and beyond), so I was excited when the group signed with Hardly Art.  The foursome offer upbeat pop that’s easy to absorb, using infectious melodies and steady drum work to make the masses take notice. Clearly though, they’re not settled in Seattle, at least not in the Winter, which seems to be the focus of this tune, though it’s relatable to anyone that abhors the cold weather.  You can grab the band’s new LP, NVM on February 25th. FYI…Tacocat is a palindrome, so that’s cool too.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Tacocat_BridgeToHawaii.mp3]

Download: Tacocat – Bridge to Hawaii

More New Music From Gem Club

gem_club_tonjeEarlier this month we shared a great new track with you from Gem Club, and today we’re ready to send another new tune from the band your way.  This one is called “Polly” and features more of the similar orchestral type feel with haunting vocals and a mesmerizing feel that’s sure to draw you in.  This new album may not be for everybody, especially those of you with no patience, but I recommend you pick up a copy when it’s out and enjoy the beauty within.

Once again, new album Roses will be out January 24th on Hardly Art.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Gem-Club-Polly.mp3]

Download: Gem Club – Polly [MP3]

La Luz – It’s Alive

LaLuz_LP1smRating: ★★★☆☆

Seattle’s La Luz began making waves around the Internet with the release of their Damp Face EP, but they’ve kept the best hits from that release and added new tunes to round out their first full-length, It’s Alive.  The surf guitar tendencies make the group relevant in today’s musical landscape, though you can see that their classic sound would probably fit well in the days of old, which is why it’s such a joy to spend some time with this release.

“Sure as Spring” opens up with a rolling beach drum beat, which is cast quickly aside for a beat that gives a bit more of a punch to the track.  It’s the first witness of La Luz‘s surf sound, but the vocals really are what allow the group to create a special sound.  My ears hear bits of doo-wop and Motown lurking in the way the girl’s combine harmonies atop one another, though I’m aware this was definitely a fad in the era of paisley.  From the start, it becomes clear that the music being crafted is differentiated from the masses by these vocals.

While those harmonies hold a special place in my heart, the more time I spend with It’s Alive, the more I begin to appreciate the drawn out vocals that are present in songs like “What Good Am I.”  Not only is this one of the tracks that stands away from the surf sound, but the vocal performance is really endearing.  It’s got a smooth delivery, though there are hints of smokiness laying within the confines that references sultry lounge-singers.  Similarly, “Call Me in the Day,” which is one of the remainders from the Damp Face EP offers further insight into the group’s usage of vocal interplay. The lead grasps onto the softer delivery previously mentioned, while the supporting vocals offer a swagger that can only be assisted by a set of superb back-up singers.  It provides more of a soulful feel to the sound being created by these ladies, and one that continues to push the envelope of what some might say is simply surf-rock.

Still, with the prevalent vocals, don’t think I’ve overlooked the blending of psych/surf sounds throughout the record.  The album’s title track,”It’s Alive” is the perfect place to look, utilizing a darkened vocal atop the band’s surfing tendencies.  It’s the song that perhaps epitomizes the group’s sound the most, though my personal highlights might lay elsewhere.  Another nod to surf comes via the classic sounding “Sunstroke.” It encapsulates the sound perfectly, offering up a short instrumental that quickly laps at your feet much like you’d expect the waves to do as you stand upon the shore.

For a debut record, It’s Alive has a lot to offer listeners.  I’ve really been gravitating towards the vocals on my last six or seven spins of the LP, which is perhaps where the group could make some adjustments going forward.  La Luz have nailed the surf-rock sound, and combined it with classic girl-group harmonies, though one can hope for a touch more diversity.  There are hints of such moves throughout, which is more than enough to show that this is a group that’s destined to prove they’re more than a one-trick pony.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/LaLuz_CallMeInTheDay.mp3]

Download: La Luz – Call Me In The Day [MP3]

It’s Alive is available now from Hardly Art.

 

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