Festival Recap: Eaux Claires

oh clair bannerEau Claire, Wisconsin is a long ways a way from Austin, but not too far away in terms of mindset: here, we call our city the Live Music Capital of the world, and in the Eau Claire is the Music Capital of the North. Nestled in the Chippewa Valley and overlooking the the river, we were treated to three days in the woods with 22,000 of our newly formed friends celebrating music, arts, and the spirit of the river valley. At the center of it all was the man who dreamed up such a festival: Justin Vernon, who, alongside Aaron Dessner, brought all of us together in essentially his backyard to experience something greater.

Read on for our recap of the inaugural Eaux Claires Music and Arts Festival and see some pictures from the fest.

**Feature Photo Courtesy of Graham Tolbert

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Festival Preview: Eaux Claires

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 10.00.28 PMSometimes the ATH crew ventures beyond the Live Music Capital and gets to experience rad festivals. Last summer, I had the pleasure of traveling to Barcelona for Primavera Sound, and while Spain may not be on the horizon for me this summer, Wisconsin is. In a few short weeks, we’ll be hitting the grounds of the first ever Eaux Claires festival, the love child project of Justin Vernon (Bon Iver/Volcano Choir) and Aaron Dessner (The National). While we’ll give you updates live from the festival so you can live vicariously through us and figure out which acts you need to see when they make their way through our neck of the woods, you can read on for the top five things we’re looking forward to about the inaugural festival.

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Float Away With Boats

10553931_887350651292275_9154658260453201051_oI don’t know what the weather is like where this post is finding you, but I do know that it’s a grey day here in Austin, but there’s no sign of rain in the forecast, which always leaves me in a weird place as to what I want to listen to. You see, I had that dilemma until I found this track “Shallows” by Melbourne artist Boats, which is turning out to be the perfect accompaniment for this kind of day. This song has faded and echoey vocals atop layers of acoustic guitar and synthesizer, which build as the tune progresses in addition to handclaps (who doesn’t love handclaps?) and other percussive builds. Reminds me a bit of something Justin Vernon would be responsible for. If you like this track, you’re in luck, as it’s part of an EP with the same title coming out April 17th, which you can check the details of here  

Loney Dear – Hall Music

Rating: ★★★½ ·

As the story goes, Emil Svanangen returned to Sweden after his last trip to the US, holing up in the country with various orchestral and chamber groups.  One listen to his new album under the Loney Dear moniker and you’ll see the grand effect the entire venture had on his writing, leading to a record with lush arrangements and careful touches, the like we haven’t quite heard from Emil.

If you’re reading carefully, you can skip beyond album opener, “Name,” as it really is more of a carry-over from early Loney Dear work.  But, “My Heart” gives birth to a fuller sound.  Accompaniment trickles, but as the song continues forward, you can here bits of electronic bass gurgling beneath, waiting to be unleashed.  It never quite jumps out, but the presence in the background adds a greater density to the track, which is much the case for the entirety of Hall Music.

But, with all the attention to detail, would the music really alter that much in the long run?  It’s a simple answer, no.  You see, the highlight of the group has always been Emil’s voice, a very distinct delivery like that of Justin Vernon, where you realize right away you’re listening to a Loney Dear album. “Loney Blues,” for instance, definitely sounds more complete than many of the songs from Dear John.  There’s a general swell in the construction of the song, allowing the melody to sweep you away in a much more powerful manner than in past outings.  Svanangen’s voice truly carries your listen, especially when you come to tracks like “D Major,” which might just be the best song he’s written to date. A gentle guitar opens, serving as ground zero for the whole track, but the vocals have this pitch that just sits perfectly in the foreground of your speakers.  Once the backing vocals join in during the last minute of the track you can’t help but to get emotionally carried away.

Still, the effort put into the craftsmanship on Hall Music shows that Emil’s really reaching to find a larger sound, one that harkens back to his initial return to Sweden.  “Durmoll” uses horns and string accompaniment to create a song that’s both grandiose and simple, but it works.  Or take a listen to “Maria, Is That You,” which appears as more of a spoken word piece set to studio tinkering.  We should all applaud the man for refusing to put out the same record time and time again, moving ahead as his heart desires.

For most of us, we’ll take our melodies and our pop appreciation, enjoying our simple pleasures.  But, it’s clear that Loney Dear won’t willing accept the status quo in pop construction, pushing himself to create songs that go beyond the basics.  You get the feeling that while he’s several albums into his career, Hall Music marks a huge leap forward into the pantheon of great modern songwriters. Congrats Emil.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Loney-Dear-My-Heart.mp3]

Download: Loney Dear – My Heart [MP3]

Volcano Choir

volcanopress219_20Everyone’s been talking about this Volcano Choir collaboration between Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and Milwaukee band Collections of Colonies of Bees for quite some time now and a single is no available from the project.  “Island IS” will appear on the supergroups upcoming debut LP Unmap due out September 22nd via JagJaguwar.  Sounds like this will be something you’ll want to get your hands on.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/03-island-is-1.mp3]

Download: Volcano Choir – Island IS [MP3]