It’s already been mentioned all over the Internet (yesterday) that Kyle Forester worked in Crystal Stilts, but I think that’s all you need to know, as nothing on his debut single sounds anything like that band, nor should it. He’s off on his own now, at least for this effort, and pop aficionados should take note. To my ears, this sounds like a stomping Nada Surf hit…Forester even takes on some of the same vocal notes as M. Caws. Still, it’s not power pop, it’s more of barn-storming, and I love it. He’ll be releasing his self-titled debut via Flying Moonlight Records on March 20th.
When time looks back on the last twenty years of independent music, I feel sadness knowing that it’s likely that Nada Surf will only be a blip on the radar, if anything. That saddens me to a great extent, especially after they’ve announced a brand new album with the below single. It’s the perfect bit of pop songwriting, just as the group’s always done. Matthew Caws has the perfect voice for pop music; it’s so gentle and warm that it fits every melody within the confines of the song. Ugh. Those guitar tones too? I dare you to find a group writing such great songs…or one that’s done it so well for so long. You Know Who You Are will be out on March 4th via City Slang…it’s going to be a great 2016!
I dig Brass Bed. They’ve been hard at work, touring and recording, and we’re finally getting to hear a bit of their new LP with a few sampling tracks that are being laid down for a 7″. There’s a rolling stomp to the drum work, keeping a steady pace to this song, but what I love are the harmonies. To me, and lord knows I’m always right, there’s a hint of the great Nada Surf in the vocals; they’re soft, surrounded by a perfect swell of noise. If this song means anything, there’s a solid foundation that will make the next LP pretty spectacular. Look for the new 7″ on November 18th.
Really well managed harmonies in the midst of pristine pop songwriting is really what gets me going. Bands like Nada Surf and Sloan have always had a heavy rotation on my stereo, so it seems fitting that I can now add The Starfolk to that last list. I’ve encountered some really incredible songs this week, but this one’s on its way to stealing the cake. There’s a light ringing guitar that carefully floats along, whilst male, and backing female, vocals gently rest in the foreground; it doesn’t hurt that there’s this wonderful string arrangement in the middle of the track. The band’s self-titled record comes out on September 10th via Korda Records.
I’ve long praised the wonderful work of I Was a King, and for a bit I felt like I was the only one that noticed. It seems that wasn’t true at all (thank goodness) with the band getting a touch of grace on production duties; Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub and Robyn Hitchcock share duties on You Love It Here. If that’s not enough to sway you towards the excellent work of this Norwegian trio, then perhaps I can push you just a little further.
Three albums into their career and the group opens You Love It Here with perhaps one of their best songs, “Frozen Disease.” The guitar has that nostalgic ring to it, distorted yet melodic. The song itself has a down-trodden temp, but Frode’s voice has this warmth to it that somehow allows the song to avoid any sense of melancholy, even if that’s the intent of the vocals. Then they move off into their meat-and-potatoes indie pop, blending slightly angular guitar work, emphatic drumming and harmonies that would make your mother swarm. “Leave” is the sort of song that originally endeared me to the group, and it’s clear that even with great producers on hand, you can’t take away a band’s songwriting sensibilities.
You’ve only got to skip ahead a few tracks to see the progression I Was a King has made in their songwriting; it’s nice to see them holding close to certain aspects, yet still see them pushing forward. “Hanging On” isn’t filled with distorted guitars, rather it’s filled with vocal harmonies and light instrument strumming. I particularly love the change in the vocal pitch that comes in right at 1:40 on your player; this is a mood affecting shift that’s been perfected by the likes of Nada Surf. Another move that was unexpected, yet welcomed, was Anne taking the lead on “Superhero.” For the majority of the track, there’s a hint of guitar, though it’s been cleared out in the studio to let her vocal shine through, remaining the perfect focus. It’s striking, not only for the power in Frokedal’s voice, but in its ability to break up some of the album. While I love power-pop and such, a little differentiation goes a really long way.
As always though, the winner on You Love It Here seems to be the sound of the guitars. “Food Wheels” enters near the end of the album, and while there’s still that element of swirling guitar, a more rudimentary sound is what struck me most. The distortion is peeled back, and I dare say that there’s a bit of a jangle to the track. It’s similar to the earlier appearance of “Eric” on the record, though that track has more of a chugging folk guitar vibe, and a more pronounced rhythm. All in all, these tiny additional touches demonstrate both exceptional songwriting and the band’s ability to adapt/change.
Sometimes when I listen to a record like You Love It Here, I want to hold it close to my heart/ears. It’s the perfect pop record that I can play any time of year, and it will always bring a smile to my face. That’s selfish though; the whole world needs to get a chance to listen to I Was a King. If you make one decision today, I beg you to make sure that it’s to pick up this delightful record from our friends in Norway; it’s a decision that will improve your life drastically, I swear.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/1-01-Frozen-Disease.mp3]
You can put all your preconceived notions about music in Brazil to the side now. Pale Sunday are nothing like CSS or Bonde Do Role. While I appreciate the regional flavor of those acts, The Fake Stories About You and Me seems so distant; it’s an album of pristine guitar pop in the realm of bands like Lucksmiths or Nada Surf–it’s somewhere in the middle there.
It’s a short EP, but “Happy (When You Lived Here)” is perhaps going to be one of my favorite guitar tracks of the year; it’s easiest the best track from the band that I’ve heard to date. Luis’ voice sounds incredible here; it’s calm and cool, yet there’s a smoothness that coincides with the rest of the music. Everyone else’s accompaniment fits perfectly into the track, from the backing vocals to the steady propulsive drum beat. So good; I wish everyone would write tracks like this.
“About Your Life” seems a little bit more straightforward in the vein of classic pop songs. The guitars aren’t quite as clean here, and the synths provide an extra element to the background. I can’t quite put my finger on what makes this song so familiar, but I put it all down to Luis Gustavo’s voice. In contrast to the casual cool of the EP’s opener, here he sounds a bit softer, yet more distant in the mix. It might seem like I’m not enthused by the difference, but I assure you that I’m having a hard time not playing this track over and over. Screw it. I’m playing all four songs constantly.
Pale Sunday gives a bit of a bouncing drum roll on “That’s the Way,” giving the third track a bit of swagger and swing. It’s a song about getting high with a friend or loved one, feeling lost in an emotional sense. Towards the end of the song it sort of careens with guitar work that sort of bursts into a solo…perhaps providing the listener with that feeling of taking off into the far out realms of one’s mind.
When The Fake Stories About You and Me came to a close with “The Winter Song” I was taken aback at first. It’s a song focused on strummed guitar, and a different pop appeal than the previous tracks. For me, it seems a lot more thoughtful, as if the band intended to leave you with a departing note about how we should go on with our lives. I like the way there’s a musical emphasis from the rest of the group that seems to arrive just after the 2 minute mark. It’s a gorgeous track, and one that’s a fitting end to this EP. Just as it ends, you want more, which might be my only detractor here, but with songs this good, Pale Sunday isn’t going anywhere any time soon. I’m grateful for that.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Happy.mp3]
Download: Pale Sunday – Happy [MP3]
The Fake Stories About You and Me is available now from Matinee Recordings.
Third show of the week was at La Zona Rosa. Had to run solo for this one, made it easy to get through the crowd, my stage space locked down by a Lone Star bribe to a group of people in town from all over Texas to see Nada Surf together; no photo pit, but still a three song limit.
More after the jump…
It’s contest time ladies and gents! What does that mean you say? It means we’ve got a sweet prize pack for one lucky fan of veteran indie act Nada Surf. Here are the deets:
Up for grabs: 2 tickets to the Nada Surf show at La Zona Rosa this Friday, plus a CD of the band’s new album The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy.
How to enter: Leave a comment below with your favorite Nada Surf tune and we’ll pick a winner at random
Deadline: Please get all entries in by this Thursday the 28th and we’ll contact you afterwards.
Please don’t forget to leave a valid email address in the comment form so we can get in touch with you. Go!
EDIT: Bumped back up to the front page, enter people![audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/03-When-I-Was-Young-1.mp3]
Download: Nada Surf – When I Was Young MP3
The single for Cinderpop’s newest album has been floating around for quite some time, but I hadn’t really given it too much of a listen until I started spinning Manic Sparkles repeatedly on my player. It’s an album that’s chock-full of wonderful pop tunes that recall all sorts of influences, from the Lucksmiths to Sloan to Nada Surf. These are the sorts of influences that make me swoon, so I’m happy to have re-discovered the band and their classic pop sound. I feel like more people should be writing music like this, but if they’re not, I’ve always got great bands like this to enjoy.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/03-Florentine.mp3]
Download:Cinderpop – Florentine [MP3]
When a band releases their seventh album in well over a decade, you have to wonder, what’s left to prove? Those of you who’ve followed the endearing path of Nada Surf for the duration will find that The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy is indicative of a band still willing to go out and have a blast in the studio; they’re completely willing to play to their strengths and bring you pure pop goodness.
While their last two outings might have come across as a bit subdued, Nada Surf has no intentions of resting on the middling ground of pop, so they bust forth with some of their most powerful tracks in years. “Clear Eyed Clouded Mind” jumps into your ears, pummeling forward, as much as the band is wont to do. Still, it’s Mathew Caws’ performance during the chorus that completely wins your heart over, just as he’s always done. They kick right into “Waiting for Something,” which comes across like a softer, but equally as powerful, Superchunk. Those guitar lines unleash melody after melody, accentuated by Caws. Surely, long-time fans, as well as newcomers, will hear the noticeable effort the band has created in putting these tracks together.
The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy might have just the perfect balance in song order, kicking things off energetically, then pulling back just a little bit whilst maintaining a whole lot of fluidity. “Jules and Jim” has a chiming guitar intro before Caws goes off into personal reflection lyrically. Still, the slightest touches of detailing such as the faintest sound of bells and far off vocal accompaniment prove Nada Surf is still focused on providing listeners with a complete sound in each track. But for all that, this is very much a guitar-oriented record.
“Teenage Dreams” has a nice bit of guitar choppiness correlating to the stomping drums, before the song searches for steadier pastures. And then “Looking Through” bursts through with a quick paced bit of the purest pop, the likes that only Nada Surf seem to have mastered. But, as much the guitars play a starring role throughout, The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy still holds dear to the tried-and-true principals the band has always stuck with: pop goodness. “Let the Fight Do the Fighting” is a return to the solemnity and melody that always drew me to the group. It sounds more polished than a lot of the other tracks, and the accompaniment of strings only serves to emotionally impact the listener. Pop music’s not supposed to be hard; it’s supposed to be good–this definitely falls into that category.
Whether you’re a long time fan or a newbie, Nada Surf are one of the few bands that have always seemed to offer up perfect albums. They write pop songs you can sing to; they give you hooks you can sink your teeth into; and their albums will still be enjoyed years after your favorite current fad is gone. Such is the power of great songwriting, the sort that’s present for the entirety of The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/03-When-I-Was-Young-1.mp3]
Download:Nada Surf – When I Was Young [MP3]