Real Estate – Days

Rating: ★★★★½

With the release of their self-titled album, Real Estate practically made themselves a household name among the indie rock cognoscente.  Not that their second release, Days, is upon us, things look even brighter, with a more refined sound filled to the brim with such pristine pop moments that it’ll be hard not to give the group recognition.

Opener “Easy” instantly brings the jangling guitar lines to the surface, leaving room for sailing melodies to burst through.  But, the ensuing track, “Green Aisles,” which is a bit of a long jaunt, really emphasizes the inherent warmth in the sonic craftwork of Real Estate.  Guitar lines gently glide, as if the band’s dialing in sunshine from within their recording space.  It all seems so effortless, as if the group’s been doing this for years…and they probably have.

“It’s Real” might have won over fans immediately upon its release as the lead single, but it’s just another sign that Days was perhaps designed with the longevity of the tracks in mind.  Soaring “oohs” might be a bit over-utilized by musicians in this pop spectrum, but there’s a hardness to the steady drumming that makes it more than just your average fare.  Still, other tracks are equally as successful within this recording, clearly willing to be played through your stereo for years to come. “Out of Tune” is perhaps my personal favorite, seeming to resonate in the past of California popsters of years gone by.  Despite two solid verses, this track holds onto a bit of guitar noodling, which, having listened to it on repeat a dozen times or slow, still sounds incredible (and not like “jamming” at all).

I’m sure that someone’s going to call the band out for creating a sound that doesn’t offer enough differentiation for your modern listener, but “Wonder Years” is a track that breaks out of the mold.  For one, it seems that Alex Bleeker might have taken over the vocal duties, giving a new quality to Real Estate. The more you let this song unfold, with its “doo-doo” humming and odd background solo, the more you just fall in love with the track.  It’s be nice to see more such moments coming from the trio in the future.

All in all, it’s hard to say anything truly negative about the entirety of Days.  Yes, it doesn’t grab you by the throat forcing you to fall in love, but it does more in being an unassuming collection of some of the most endearing pop tunes we’ve heard.  That alone should be enough to encourage you to pick up this latest release from the group, but if not, then the fact that Real Estate is sure to continue to be on everyone’s radar/blog/podcast for some time will eventually force your hand; give in now; you’ll be grateful you did.

New Track from We Can’t Enjoy Ourselves

RayRay and I have both raved on We Can’t Enjoy Ourselves, and it doesn’t look like that sort of adoration is going to end here.  The group tossed us up a new track off their upcoming album, Never Listen to the Ones You Love, and it’s just as good, if not better than their previous work.  It’s got a bit of swing to it upon the opening, but as you listen to the song progress, it takes off into a blissful state, with a bit of ringing guitar to wrap up the track.  This is definitely a promising song, illustrating to us that the band’s on the path to pop righteousness, at least if we have anything to do with it!

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/01_Your_Darkest_Thoughts_Will_Shine.mp3]

Download: We Cant Enjoy Ourselves – Your Datkest Thoughts Will Shine [MP3]

Playful Pop Tune from Moon King

For some reason the rain always affects the mood, so with recent cloudy skies, I’ve been looking for something a bit peppier to pick up my mood, and yours too.  Luckily, I’ve got this great little jam from Toronto’s Moon King.  They’ve just put out a new 7″ that you can grab for free right HERE, but I’ve got one of the tracks to offer you.  On this number, you get a more organic version of what Karen O did for the Where the Wild Things Are OST. The rest of the tracks are a little bit more electronic-folk, but it’s all good fun when you give it a listen.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/01-Theme-For-Moon-King.mp3]

Download: Moon King – Theme For Moon King [MP3]

Poppy New Single from The Echo Friendly

Perhaps we get burdened by the endless stream of love songs on the Interwebs, but this new single is really winning me over.  The Echo Friendly just released this new single from their album Same Mistakes, which you can pick up on Cantora Records now, and it’s a gem of a track.  Trading vocal duties between male and female vocalists, bits of atmospheric feedback, and a nice little stomping groove to keep everything moving along .  This is a perfect tune to wrap up your Friday listening experience, so I hope you enjoy it.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/theechofriendly_boats.mp3]

Download: The Echo Friendly – Boats [MP3]

New Track from Body Language

Looking for a fun way to kick off your Monday?  You might have just stumbled to the right place, as this constructionist jam from Body Language has really been doing wonders on my spirits.  It’s got a trickling little melody, with a bit of crafty pep that sort of lurks in and out of your speakers.  This is the sort of thing that gets under your skin/soul, bringing about welcome changes in mood.  If you dig what you’re hearing you can grab this tune, and others, off the band’s upcoming LP, Social Studies, which hits the stores on October 18th.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/05-Seeds-of-Sight.mp3]

Download: Body Language – Seeds of Sight [MP3]

Shimmering Stars – Violent Hearts

Rating: ★★★½☆

As the last few years have seen, recording in a home studio has reaped great rewards for many bands, and such is the case for Shimmering Stars, who recorded in a garage studio.  While some might yearn for cleaner production, the quality of the recording is one of the attributes that makes Violent Hearts so affecting.

Opening up with “Believe” and “I’m Gonna Try” established a mood rooted in the history of classic pop from an earlier era of music. “I’m Gonna Try” might portray an outcast, or even a rebellious teen, but the melody provides listeners with an endearing warmth, only made stronger by the perceived distance provided in the production.

“East Van Girls” has almost a psychedelic quality to it, pushed through by the deepness of the guitar.  Using a vocal that seems to drift in from another room allows Shimmering Stars to maintain that quality of effortless pop one usually achieves when focusing on the craftsmanship of the melody rather than simply using the best equipment available.

While Violent Hearts might have a tendency to get lost in its own dense quality, the brightness created in spots by Rory McClure’s vocal belting always provides a reassuring that the band isn’t here just to give you a muddied spin on pop of year’s past. For instance, “Sun’s Going Down,” opens with a great floating McClure line before the band jangles their way through the song.  His vocals always seem to rise and float above the music, sort of the way you would expect Brian Wilson to explore his own garage recordings.

Your first through runs through Violent Hearts might indicate that the band is creating track after track, all blending together, but a closer focus on minor details will reveal that this is not the case, at least not entirely. “I Don’t Wanna Know” easily fits into the modern spectrum of revisionist pop, with Shimmering Stars paying more attention to banging out their notes at various points, rather than holding them back.  The album’s closer, “Walk Away” is a trickling pop number, one that doesn’t really fit into the grand spectrum of the record, and it might lead you to wish the band had mixed this number earlier into the collection.  It takes a noisy little gallop at moments, always returning to it’s own softness–more such tracks would definitely have benefited the overall sound.

Shimmering Stars definitely have their ears pressed hard in the past, but of course, production value brings them into the present.  This is also a moot point, however, as the songs on Violent Hearts easily speak for themselves, allowing breezy pop moments to take the lead, whisking you away down a sunny Interstate drive.  At the end of it all, you’ll press play once again, returning to that place in your heart where nostalgia meets the present, pushing you to smile at the joys of music listening today.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/SS_NervousBreakdown.mp3]

Download: Shimmering Stars – Nervous Breakdown [MP3]

Violent Hearts is out now on Hardly Art Records.

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