ACL WE2 Sunday in Photos

acl-we2-3021Hi.

Austin just went through another “festival” with what appears to have been a rather successful Formula One race weekend. I am an F1 fan and the three days out at the circuit are treated as a staycation for the wife and I. Why am I telling you this? I do not know.

Back on topic, The final batch of photos from ACL are ready for your consumption. Sunday was a sleeper day. The fest was sneeky-fun and I had a great day with my photo friends. The weather was amazing again and we had some big WE2 exclusives.

First, I did not go anywhere near that crowd for Willie. It was INSANE!!! A friend went up in a cherry picker and took twenty some-odd wide angle photos and stitched them together into an impressive panorama. Instead, I watched the set via festival TV and relaxed. Ra Ra Riot, on the other hand, was an early in the day highlight of festival hits. Amasa Hines was the surprise, think blues guys doing Interpol covers. Also on the BMI stage, Atlas Genius drew the biggest crowd I have ever seen at our favorite stage at ACL. NF did an Eminem impression, just grabbed photos on the way to Pete Yorn. Local Natives ooh-ahh’ed straight into our hearts. St. Paul and The Broken Bones brought the soul review to life, though I was concerned the Saint’s jaw would unhinge and swallow one of us whole. Miike Snow filled a gap; too much fog. Young the Giant got sexy and dirty to a fanatical crowd obsessed by frontman Sameer Gadhia while the band seemingly went through the motions.

And finally the second bucket-list shoot, LCD Soundsystem gave us the end-of-the-fest dance party. Seeing their set two weekends in a row, you realize that it is scripted and I guess that is understandable given the number of synth, percussion and instrument changes required. Didn’t stop WE2’s dance party from being any less awesome…

Click through for the pretty photos.

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New Track from Not in the Face

It’s weird, Austin’s not really known for having a lot of duos.  But, one duo that has recently come to our attention has been Not in the Face.  This Austin act is scheduled to release their album, Bikini, on June 7th via Electric Factory Records.  This first single does have a little bit of a Bruce hint to it, but Jonathan Terrell’s vocals seem to have the feeling of a more hardened Pete Yorn.  Yea, it’s just good old fashioned rock n’ roll with chugging guitars, banging drums and some solid hooks. You can catch the band on June 10th in Austin at 501 Studios (formerly the ND) for their CD release.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/03-Downtown-Girl.mp3]

Download: Not in the Face – Downtown Girl [MP3]

FT5: Best.Concert.Ever

1023top5coverWhat’s the best concert you’ve ever been to? For some of us it was the experience of enjoying a concert with a group of close friends. For others, it was catching your favorite bands before they hit it big or finally being able to see your music idol up close and personal. Today’s Top 5 is a collaborative one. We’ve polled some our writers and compiled an unranked list of some of our greatest concert memories. Follow the jump for our picks, and be sure and let us know about your best concert ever when you’re done.
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Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson – Break Up

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Rating: ½ · · · ·

With Break Up Pete Yorn and Scarlett Johansson have made something unique. Is it a deconstruction of the anatomy of a relationship? No.  Is it a transcendent pop record that balances sweetness and heartbreak? No. What Scete Jornsson (will this catch on?) have made is quite possibly the whitest record ever to be put on a five inch disc (The Proclaimers can now breathe easy).

Is it possible for Pete Yorn to be any less inoffensive than what he already was? Apparently so.  This is also two more vanity projects than what Scarlett Johansson needed.  First she ruins the songs of Tom Waits, and now she, over a two day recording session (is that something to be proud of?) has put down some of the most boring vocal tracks I have ever heard.

I will give two songs their due: the opening track, ‘Relator’ is actually a catchy pop song, and it gave me hope (and earned the album half a star), but only gave way to blinding whiteness.  The closing track ‘Someday’ gets noticed because it means that this listening experience is finally over.  This album is perfect for buying a caramel macchiato, if you love Jack Johnson, or if you need something to listen to while killin’ time waiting for DMB.

So boring.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/pete_yorn__scarlett_johansson-relator.mp3]

Download: Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson – Relator [MP3]

Ben Kweller – Changing Horses

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Rating: ★★ · · ·

Ever since Ben Kweller flopped down upon the floor of stages to play his keyboard many years ago, we were all instantly hooked. His uncanny knack for creating simple pop tunes had long been known, but at such an early point in his career it was hard not to be flabbergasted by the young lad.  Now, two albums later, can he still win us all over with Changing Horses?

His first release brought us a slew of pop tunes that seemed to be centered around creative tunes written strictly on his piano, but then he brought out the rock with his release of On My Way. If anything, Ben Kweller couldn’t be pigeonholed for a staple sound, and this album is just another example of his musical maneuvering.  We find Ben channeling his inner country soul throughout the entirety of his newest release.

Sure, it’s nice to see a singer-songwriter push forward into new ground, and we all saw this coming with the release of his latest EP.  Still, the twang of the slide guitar seems to be a step to far in a different direction from Ben.  It comes off entirely forced, as if Ben wasn’t really pushing to break new ground so much as he was trying his best not to fall into old patterns.  He had tried it the ways he knew best, so why not go in an entirely Texas direction?

For one thing, the clever sensibility that he always maintained seems to be a bit far off on each of these songs. “Gypsy Rose” sounds too much as if he wanted to go down the path of the forefathers of folk music, resting on gentle guitar plucking.  You can juxtapose that with “Sawdust Man,” which may share similarities to Dr. Dog, but comes off more in the vein of a teenager trying to write the score to his latest homemade Western movie.

Now, the one thing that always remains true for Ben is his ability to keep you interested by holding onto his voice.  You’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t have a soft spot for some of his better traits, namely this spectacular voice.  The way he can manipulate his inflection mid-melody is definitely something you could use to pass the time.  However, sometimes it just doesn’t seem to fit the country-mold of the album as a whole.

You’ll find a few gems lying beneath the covers here, such as “Ballad of Wendy Baker,” which comes across like a more subdued version of some of his earlier releases.  Here he lays his voice on the line, backed by appropriate guitar strumming and simple string instrumentation.  It’s one of the shining moments.  “Things I Like to Do” is very simplistic in its lyrical content, but that is precisely where Ben has always succeeded. He’s never been one to get to deep with the discussion in his lyrics, and simple suits him just fine.  It just might not be enough for most fans.  Even “On Her Own,” which seems to channel a little Pete Yorn vocal has some fine elements worthy of repeated listening; it just seems like these moments come few and far between.

Ben Kweller has always supplied us with hit after hit, creating seamless albums you could play all the way through. Changing Horses, in the title alone, demonstrates a move in a different direction, as he can no longer ride the same one-trick pony to stardom.  Sadly, this might not be a winning horse either.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/05-ballad-of-wendy-baker.mp3]

Download:  Ben Kweller – Ballad of Wendy Baker [MP3]