ACL WE2 in a Nutshell

Another Austin City Limits is behind us boys and girls and it’s always a good time to reflect on the music and experiences from the weekend. I considered myself very lucky to spend more time out during Weekend 2 when the weather was a bit cold and then incredible. The rain was limited and refreshing, and the colder weather brought out everyone’s best ACL hoodie. Once again, fun was had by everyone in attendance and the music was killer. Hit the jump for a couple thoughts.

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Jack White – Blunderbuss

Rating: ★★★½ ·

Jack White‘s pretty much done everything musically speaking at this point: he’s played in various bands (White Stripes, Raconteurs, etc) and he’s produced/written with music legends.  Heck, he even got to date Bridget Jones and marry a British super model, so what does he have left to prove to us?  Absolutely nothing…and that’s the point of Blunderbuss.

Old fans of Jack’s will probably enjoy the album opener “Missing Pieces;” it seems like one of the simpler songs he’s written in a long while, not to mention the fact that his distinctive voice really takes the song’s focus.  It’s also got a muddy feel with the chorus, which provides that raw energy his early White Stripes stuff carried with it. But, he then goes into “Sixtine Saltines,” a tune that I could probably do without.  It’s a definite rocker, so if that’s the Jack you’re looking for then it’s in this song; I just hate that it comes off as braggadocio rather than fragility and ingenuity.  The juxtaposition of the many faces of Jack White is something you’ll encounter time and time again on Blunderbuss.

“Love Interruption” was the first single from the album that really grabbed hold of me because of it’s stripped down structure.  Ruby Amanfu’s presence provides Jack with a familiar female counterpart, but the delivery of the two vocals is something that varies greatly from the work he’s done with other ladies. There’s something about this tune, as well as “I Guess I Should Go To Sleep” that demonstrates White’s ability to work others backing vocals easily into his songs.  What amazes me is that on Blunderbuss they all sort of seem to come off as a bit of impromptu jams, which probably isn’t too far from the truth in the end.  These are great songs that any fan will add to their favorites list.

There’s probably some songs on this album that most people will find appealing that just haven’t sunk in as of yet.  “I’m Shakin” and “Trash Tongue Talker” delve into White’s fascination with traditional blues-influenced rock n’ roll that first won over teenagers in the early years. It’s definitely clever, and his voice is more than fitting, but these songs don’t seem to be his strength–still, you can’t blame anyone for wanting to throw a rocking stomper out there.  Funnily, these two songs (my least favorite) move right into what’s my personal standout, “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy.”  This tracks is centered around a nice bit of barroom piano, and what I suspect is a bit of banjo in the background.  It stands out to me because it illustrates just how strong a voice Jack White actually has (no matter how often I forget).  It’s not even the most complex song in the world, but you better believe it’s a sweet tune all around.

With Blunderbuss you get sort of a mixed bag of Jack White.  He throws in a few rockers (not my cup of tea) to appease that side of his fans, but for the most part these are blues/country/bluegrass/barroom influenced tunes that are by and large pretty successful.  I guess there’s only a few stunning tracks on the effort, but he’s still able to accomplish a lot more in one album than most people will do in an entire career; I’ll gladly take a solo Jack over 99.9 % of the rest of the music out there. Such are the gifts of one of America’s finest songwriters.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/04-Love-Interruption.mp3]

Download:Jack White – Love Interruption [MP3]

Karen O and the Kids – Where the Wild Things Are

WTWTA

Rating: ★★★½ ·

I must admit: I am definitely biased towards anything based on or has anything to do with Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s book ‘Where the Wild Things Are’, as, I am sure, most people in my generation are. The story of Max resonated in my young and precocious heart, so when I heard of the cinematic adaptation a few years ago I was both excited and fearful. That is until the names Spike Jonez, Dave Eggers, and Karen O became attached to it.

The motion picture soundtrack for ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ while not perfect as an independent release, fits perfectly with the story of Max and the Wild Things.  It is fragile and joyful and dangerous all at the same time.  I couldn’t think of a more perfect performer to bring this story to life through sound. Karen O, of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, is herself a wild thing.  She conveys this on the single ‘All is Love’ through ecstatic yelps along side an untrained children’s choir.  This craziness carries through other tracks like ‘Capsize’ with it’s frantic hand claps and screams, and the overall joyousness of ‘Rumpus’.  But there is a softer side to these wild things.  On the somber ‘Hideaway’ and ‘Food is Still Hot’ Karen O and the Kids recall the emptiness Max felt being away from home.

Something must be said about Karen O’s backing band ‘The Kids’, because they are just as much responsible for the magic of this soundtrack as O is.  ‘The Kids’ consist of a who’s who of indie rock musicians: Brian Chase and Nick Zinner (The Yeah Yeah to Karen O’s Yeah), Bradford Cox (Deerhunter and Atlas Sound), Dean Fertita and Jack Lawrence (The Dead Weather & Raconteurs), and others, including that omnipresent children’s choir. 

This is an incredibly fun release whose magic probably won’t be fully realized until a complete viewing of the film, but if you have kids in your life you will want to keep this on hand, because it is an infectious listen.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/karen-o-_-the-kids-all-is-love.mp3]

Download: Karen O & The Kids – All is Love [MP3]

FT5: Extended Hiatuses & Welcomed Returns

0911top5coverWe all have our hobbies. Whether it be collecting records, knitting, or making graffiti stencils, we all have something that steals away our time and makes the monotony of everyday life a little more bearable. But sometimes our hobbies consume too much of our time or, God forbid, our hobbies become just as monotonous as our day job. You must take a step back and to see what you loved about that hobby in the first place.

For this Friday Top Five we will take a look at several bands that have for one reason or another taken a break. These bands have never formally broken up; they have just gone on extended hiatus.
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