The Thermals – Personal Life

Rating: ★★★½ ·

Their last time out, on Now We Can See, The Thermals began to steer away from their conversations regarding art and politics.  They introduced a bit more of their personal worlds into their songwriting.  For the most part, they stick to these new tactics on Personal Life, using the title to indicate the album’s lyrical subject matter.

“I’m Gonna Change Your Life” kicks things off with that distorted guitar and bass, including Hutch’s vocals.  While the song definitely has a bit of that soft/loud complexity, it doesn’t have quite the same fury that one associates with the group’s previous efforts. It’s not until “I Don’t Believe You” pummels you in the face that you completely recognize the old energetic band you probably adored since day one.  You’ll find monosyllabic “oohs” throughout the track as well, a long trademark of Hutch and Kathy.

As the record creeps along, you begin to realize that changing subject matter also means a change in the overall approach to writing the accompanying music.  “Never Listen to Me” has this bubbling bassline that walks you through the entire song, but once again, the urgency is absent.  This might be disheartening for some, especially those longtime fans of The Thermals, but you’ll soon realize that even these slower numbers have some special moments, such as Hutch’s cutting guitar working its way in and out of the track.  Similarly, “Power Lies” takes a back seat to the regular pace, even though the song seems to contain remnants of olden days, or at least the ability to unleash.  Still, one of the things that you’ll notice as you go through this collection is that repeated listens don’t wear you down, and the slower pacing allows for more depth somehow.  These songs aren’t hitting you over the head in a hurry, so the odds are you’ll come back, able to keep rocking out to Personal Life time and time again.

There are some odd moves too, or at least those that will come across unexpected.  “Alone, A Fool” is basically an acoustic guitar strummed with Hutch’s vocals doing the majority of the hard work. Even though it is one of the shortest tracks to grace the record, for some reason, it’s one of those songs you can revisit separate from the whole.  But, just as you thought they were going to close out gently, “Your Love is So Strong” brings back that much needed energy, due mostly to the addition of Westin Glass and his pounding drum kit.  And so you find yourself near the end of it all, unsure how the band will leave us, at least for this round.   “You Changed My Life” closes it all out, and while there’s a lack of speed, it sorts of sums up everything about the album.  There’s light touches of traditional sounds, but with a slightly different direction to the overall construction of songs.

That about encompasses all that is Personal Life.  While they’ve maintained bits and pieces of their past, they’ve been able to adapt to a new member, as well as new subject matter.  It might take die-hard fans a bit of time to get stuck into this one, but the more spins you give it, the more you’ll find that its wholly more rewarding than previous efforts. The Thermals have written an album that still contains a certain edge, but allows you to absorb a bit more melody and understanding as you go track by track.  Give it time kids, it’s got some special moments waiting for you all.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/The-Thermals-I-Dont-Believe-You.mp3]

Download: The Thermals – I Don’t Believe You [MP3]

2009 Top 50 Albums

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Creating a Top 50 Albums list is never easy.  You have to battle with what you think the world believes, and what you truly believe in your heart, to be solid jams.  We have even more trouble because we have to three writers, all who have different ideas, and we have to make those ideas fit into a neat box.  Well, we got it done, and honestly, our criteria was based on two things: how great we thought the album was, artistically speaking, and how long we listened to it without getting bored.  That’s it. It’s fool proof; you might not like it, but it’s our list, so here it is… Read more

The Thermals – Now We Can See

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Rating: ★★★★ ·

Ever since they first released More Parts Per Million The Thermals have stuck pretty close to home as far as their sound goes, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  On Now We Can See, the band’s fourth album, we finally get the benefit of listening to the culmination of years on the road and in the studio honing their skill.

Finally the band seems to have reached their apex as far as maturity goes, and it this is probably the most complete album the band has been able to put together.  Singer, Hutch, seems to have a great deal more control over his voice in comparison to years past, and the clarity with which he sings allows for the cleverly composed lyrics to shine through.  This has always been one of the band’s more overshadowed attributes, but those that have been listening all along will surely be aware of Hutch’s prowess as a wordsmith.

Much will be made about the somewhat gothic approach, as the lyrics tend to show narrators looking back upon life from the beyond; still, the focus seems to look back with a sense of nostalgic accomplishment.  The lyrics don’t seem to look back with a sense of resentment or disappointment, but rather reflect a coming to terms with the life one has led, which is probably the best way to approach such morbid subjects.

Of course, most listeners will immediately flock to to the infectious pop single of “Now We Can See” with it’s “oh way oh whoa” chorus of catchiness.  This is probably one of the better songs the band has put together, but we all know the band can churn out at least five or six solid tracks per album.  What other tunes will listeners identify with you ask?

“At the Bottom of the Sea” is surely a track that exhibits the more mature side of songwriting that the group has taken on in recent years, as the song bares no resemblance to the brashness that accompanies the rest of the album as a whole.  It’s as close to a ballad as the band has come, but it still shines with Hutch’s voice bursting through at the appropriate moments.  “Liquid In, Liquid Out” is another shocking song, settling in at just under two minutes.  This is the most simplistic power-pop the band has produced to date, and the clean quality demonstrates the ability the band has to go off into different ranges.

Fortunately for us, The Thermals seem to be at their best when they are having a blast.  Catching their live show, you will immediately pick up on the shared energy between the members in the group.  This is the first album where you can really hear the vibrance of the band come through from the studio.  You can picture the band having a blast in the studio, and we’re all better off letting them have fun and create such joyful listening experiences.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/09-liquid-in-liquid-out.mp3]

Download: The Thermals – Liquid In, Liquid Out [MP3]

FT5: Anticipated SXSW Artists Releases

0313top5cover1While we were roaming around town last week, we started thinking about some of the upcoming releases that have got us peeing our pants in anticipation this year. Then we saw some of these artists during SXSW and got even more excited for what’s to come. For today’s Top 5, we wanted to take a look at some of theses new releases and rank them in order of just how excited we are about them. Some big names who were in town (Decemberists, Dan Auerbach, etc.) have already put out some solid releases this year, so we’re hoping that these won’t let us down. Follow the jump for our full Top 5 of anticipated releases from SXSW artists.
Read more

New Tunes from The Thermals

thermIn yet another wonderful day in the music industry, we get to hear another new track from yet another anticipated album in 2009. This time, we bring you the newest single from The Thermals, who recently signed to Kill Rock Stars. Their new album, Now We Can See, is set to come your way this April. Enjoy this tune. 

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/the-thermals-now-we-can-see.mp3]

Download: The Thermals – Now We Can See [MP3]