In a blogosphere long ago, I once gave All the Pleasures of the World a 4.5/5 rating…that was back when I had the freedom to write full on album reviews. I stand by that rating, and if anything, I might just round it up to a 5/5. Lucky for the rest of the world, the Crayon Fields and their label Chapter Music are going to reissue the LP in a deluxe format, accompanied by some rarities, including a bunch of covers the band had stored away. The plus side for me is that this gives another reason to share the title track, now accompanied by a brand new video from the singer/guitarits, Geoffrey O’Connor. You can grab the reissue on February 7th!
One thing you can be assured of in life is that we’re never too far away from a release from the Black Watch; they never seem to lose steam behind the songwriting of John Andrew Fredrick, and we’re all better for it. They’ve just announced a new 7″ with a fresh B-Side that I wanted to share with you, as its filled with these perfect little pop moments you won’t wanna miss out on. In the first minute, you get an introduction to the band, of sorts; John’s voice hangs heavy and deep, working behind a driving rhythm section that’s pushing the track forward…but a good ear will hear the tonal switch right at 1:08, giving rise to the band’s pop sensibility. Down the road, there’s this heavy jam of sorts, bringing in some psychedelia albeit briefly. Then at 2:06 the vocal delivery seems almost hurried, more urgent…right before dropping into that nice pop turn we alluded to earlier. Find me a better tune, I dare ya! You can order the 7″ now from Hypnotic Bridge!
We’ve long been behind Austin act Genuine Leather, but the group has been fairly quiet since the release of Brunch in 2016. But, today they return with a brand new single and celebratory show at Cheer Up Charlies. The new song has a horror-themed video to accompany it, with just a bit of fun added in to match the song’s pop desires. Just sit back and let those crunchy guitars burst through your speakers, wait for the vocal hooks to wash over you, then rinse and repeat. The band celebrate the new single with a great line-up at Cheer Up Charlies featuring Shivery Shakes, Pollen Rx and Robby; the band will have some old school TVs up to, streaming the new video with headphone sets attached for your listening pleasure.
It’s been a couple of years since the brilliant self-titled album from Mozes and the Firstborn got non-stop rotation on my stereo, and they’ve quietly returned with the new Power Ranger EP. It’s filled with four new songs that exemplify the band’s brand of quiet/loud/quiet guitar pop. These songs still have that infectious quality, and I’ve found myself gravitating towards “Justine” as my favorite on the EP. For those Austin fans, it reminds an awful lot of local boys, Growl. Plus, at the moment, it’s free, but you should offer some dollars so they can afford to bring us more tunes.
I’ve already spent a lot of time over the last month raving about The New Tigers, so when our friends over at Soliti Music sent us two brand new songs, I got a little bit giddy. These two tracks are left over, apparently, from the recording session that created the band’s recent self-titled record. Much like the album, there’s a whole lot of noise living right in your face, but lurking behind it all is the soft pop sensibility that makes the band so dynamic. These are the kind of songs you just want to listen to over and over and over again. Here’s “Toffee,” the first of the two tracks.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/toffee.mp3]
Download: The New Tigers – Toffee [MP3]
On his website, McCombs claims that this fifth record is a venture “going deeper into the mania of a man buried alive inside his self-made catacombs,” indicating that this album is a continuation and further explanation of said metaphor. However, even without this tidbit of knowledge from the man, Wit’s End is inclination enough to denote this surge to a more intricate and deeper reaching sound for Cass McCombs.
Wit’s End begins on a nonchalant note: the slow-moving drum beats and Cass’s gentle voice just sort of slips you into to his realm of ambiguity. No moment of anticipation, or calm before the storm, rather, in an instant you’re with him on an adventure to discover, or explore the human psyche. Such is the case with “County Line,” and continues onto “The Lonely Doll,” in which an eerie lullaby tinkling meanders through the song meanwhile you are narrated through a spindly tale of the title character. At this point, McCombs comes off as a Bob Dylan esque figure in getting lost in his own mind. “Buried Alive” describes this feeling as being “in a sea of black” and you can’t help but empathize with this man; we’ve all such a feeling of lost-ness somewhere along the way and Wit’s End makes this feel natural, and even right.
As far as the actual music goes, there is not too much to rave on about. It fits with the overwhelmingly powerful lyrics, and I think that is all that really matters for this album. Yes, there is the softly eroding piano on numbers like “Saturday Song,” that slowly beats you down with every press of the keys. And yes, there is the tender horn-work on the finisher “A Knock Upon the Door,” but there isn’t a reliance on that musical crescendo of majestic beauty. Cass McCombs is unapologetically cryptic and shady because that’s just the way he is.
At first listen, it seems that Mr. McCombs may have gone too far around the bend. The soft plucking of the guitar accompanied by his whisper of a voice sounds akin to that of a jaded old man with several regrets and misfortunes. However, the more listens acquired, the easier it is to ascertain the meaning behind this mans’ madness. Or if no meaning arises to your ears, it is at least devastatingly interesting to listen to the plight of another. It will grow on you.
Honestly, I’m not sure how I’m From Barcelona works. Boasting twenty-nine members at one point in time, it seems like there must be a hierarchical system within the band, or else I don’t see how they could ever accomplish something with combining the creative genius of each member. Regardless of the inner-workings on this band, they produce catchy pop songs, despite any amount of time, or any change in membership. Forever Today is no exception.
While their last album was considered a bit of a set back for this Swedish super group, Forever Today is definitely a step back up to the fun sound that this group originally had back when they released Let Me Introduce My Friends in ’07. “Charlie Parker” begins with some classic synthesizer and those sweet and savory gang vocals that you’ve missed. From this first track, it’s evident that I’m From Barcelona has got their spunk back, and this album is going to be a restatement of that glorious energy. If the first song isn’t convincing enough for you, “Battleships,” two songs later brings some killer bass lines and the hint of handclaps, and as we know, handclaps always make for a great time. By the end of this one, you should be tapping your feet, joining together with this giant group of musicians.
One of the greatest qualities of this band is that since they have so much going on, and so many members, it feels easy to sing along and immerse yourself in the music with them, as if you are just hanging out with a bunch of friends. On “Always Spring,” another tasty pop song relies on the twinkling of some keyboard and the for-real handclaps. It’s a mixture of the energy that this band thrives on, with some serious undertones that are emphasized with the horn work pandering somewhere in the background amidst layers of other musical elements. This is perfect example of just the right amount of spirit combined with grace and elegance.
In the middle of Forever Today, it starts to feel like I’m From Barcelona are about to lapse back to their lackluster performance from the last album, but they manage to save it from that sad fate with a boost from “Come On,” which urges us to “let go” and “be free;” exactly what you would expect from this band. They finish things up with another on of those songs that mix their energy with thoughtful music with the title track, “Forever Today.”
As opposed to the all or nothing sound that we have been introduced to from this band’s first two releases, it seems that they have finally found a way to a happy medium, and it is certainly an enjoyable balance.
Coming off of an eventful SxSW, the Joy Formidable is trying to carry momentum into the year and the summer festival season by bringing their powerhouse live show to new audiences. Their latest release, The Big Roar, is one helluvan album to tour behind.
It starts with an epic 7 minute long track that builds to crescendo and serves as a warning that the trio means business. “The Magnifying Glass” starts with some odd samples, feedback and random banging. I love it, it sorts out into awesome understated verses and transitions to power choruses that I love about this band. Just to keep the averages proper, the next track is short and sweet; “The Magnifying Glass” is all of 2:19 long.
Track three is a personal favorite, “I Don’t Want To See You Like This”. Ritzy Brian has the job of providing the haunting back vocals during the loud moments that creates tenderness in noise. The following track is likely the most recognizable and popular track; it is the first of four that appear on A Balloon Called Moaning. “Austere” starts with the falsetto cries of Ritzy and transitions for a level of disorder to power chord bliss. One of their best live tunes, loved it all the way.
“A Heavy Abacus” is a “slow track”, evolving without being a jam song and a bit noisy at times with a clean finish. I am a bit curious why the Abacus is watching her. “Whirring” is the next of the Balloon tracks and again, you should recognize it immediately if you know of this band. “Buoy” has a very cool climbing and descending chord structure that draws you in and bridges the first verses beautifully. Again, a bit of a slower tempo to this new track, but not any weaker, light breaks, heavy drum track finish, *chirp*…
“Maruyama” serves as an intermission before another old-new song called “Cradle”. “I can see he says what he means, We’ll deal him sticks and stones and apologies, I wish…it was through”. “My vicious tongue cradles just one”. Love it.
“Llaw=Wall” is the departure track. Rhydian Dafydd sings lead on this one, nary a guitar for the first half until the track erupts. “Chapter 2” returns to a more punk progresson and Ritzy belting over bass lines and a strong drumming from Matt Thomas.
To close things out is the final track from the previous release and if you don’t love “The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Love”, I don’t even know you anymore.
The Big Roar is an interesting mix of the best tracks from “A Balloon Called Moaning” and new material that is more complex in some ways, a complete departure in others. Being a best of old and new, it should to be limited to a 3.5 IMHO, but the recent sets at SxSW push it to the 4 star status.
It’s pretty easy to label Noah & the Whale as sort of a bipolar band; their first release was loaded with sunny twee pop, while their sophomore effort was trenched with deeper, folksier tunes. While this is forgivable, c’est la vie, it’s still nice to bring about an even-tempered album, and that’s exactly what Noah & the Whale attempt to bring about Last Night on Earth.
It opens on “Life is Life,” which shows exactly the progression of this group on its opening line, “You used to be somebody and now you’re someone else.” The drum machine percussion and the drawl of Charlie Fink seem a little hollow at first, when the song begins. However, as the groovy little tune continues, it opens up to more of a sprawl. The overlapping of Fink’s vocals with that of the rest of the gang vocals of the band creates a stylistic motif for this band. It’s not a bad start, it’s just a bit “middle of the road.”
The motif of those gang vocals continues all the way up to “L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N,” which is the band’s best bit from this album, despite it’s tedious to type title. It’s a catchy narrative of characters that may find themselves in bad situations, but still manage to carry on. It’s a universal theme of life, and is easily identifiable with the listener, so it is not hard to find yourself spelling out the chorus with the rest of the band, agreeing with the sentiment. This song is a reminder of why you love a band like this; the empathetic and simple qualities that live in their music.
If I could tell you to listen to any three tracks from this album, it would be the previous described, “Wild Thing,” and then “Give it All Back.” On “Wild Thing,” there is a bit of transport back to the last album. The five-minute song begins with a bit of feedback and echoing synthesizer, and then slowly swells to its chorus. This slow-mover is the deepest that Noah & the Whale will delve; the sugary gang vocals are cut from this track, and replaced by a climactic and distant “ooh.” Following this is mellowness comes another pop tune with “Give it All Back,” which salvages the mood from before and entertains with another narrative.
For the most part, they achieve their goal. They put “Wild Thing” next to a simple song like “Give it All Back,” which emphasizes their need to move back to a balanced album. It’s not a bad work and there is sure to be a song or two that suits your fancy. However, this album is exactly that; a few exceptional songs coupled with a lot of mediocre ones.
Catching up on everything has been hard, but luckily GvsB has helped us get with it, offering up a spanking new track from Austin band White Denim. This track comes off the band’s upcoming record, D, slated to hit stores on May 24th. While the guitars and musical progression is definitely in the same vein of their most recent work, it’s nice to see a few decent changes, particularly in the vocals. For one, the clarity is quite enticing, giving the group a bit more accessibility when it comes to the listening experience (as opposed to the live setting which we know they kill). Pretty stoked to share this track with ya’ll.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/05-Anvil-Everything.mp3]
Download: White Denim – Anvil Everything [MP3]