Go Fawn over Margot

It’s probably easy in the guitar-pop stage of the music world we’re in to make comparisons to Real Estate, but I don’t think you’ll find a single band as on point in that style as South London’s Margot. You’ll immediately notice the way the guitars have this sharp intermingling in your ears; you’re going to feel like you’re cruising down the highway with a huge freaking grin on your face. What really sold me on the group was the softness of the vocals; they seem feathery in comparison to the guitar work, lending a dreamier quality to the sound than one would first offer up. A debut EP is on its way shortly!

SXSW Superlatives: Nathan.Lankford

AlvvaysWith SXSW this year there was lots of hubbub about fewer bands and less corporate entities flooding the streets, but despite all that, I still managed to have myself a good old time.  I’ve got some thoughts and awards to hand out, and these are strictly my experience, as we tried at ATH to split up and cover as much as we possibly could.  You can read on, if you’ve got the time, to see what I had to say.  Read more

Top 50 Albums of 2014

TOP 50 ALB 14These lists are everywhere, so you’ll be excused if you just roll your eyes and skip on. But, that being said, we always seem to be way off the mark when it comes to our Top 50 Albums of the Year.  Sure, we have some of the sure fire hits on this list like Angel Olsen and Sharon Van Etten, but don’t even read on if you’re look ing to see where Run the Jewels made it…they’re not there. Sorry not sorry.  So, if you’re into arbitrary lists by people who like to push their own agenda, then this list is for you! Read more

ATH & ACL: 5 Bands to Watch

acl2014It is time.  Though it’s hard for me to believe, it’s time for us to start gearing up for yet another ACL Festival in October.  ATH has done this thing a few times now so we feel like we’ve earned the right to offer a little bit of advice about bands to see and the proper way to go about attending.  I’m jumping off our coverage today with a list of 5 bands I think you should see over the 2 weekend event.  As a disclaimer, I typically recommend bands that many people either don’t know very well or write off for whatever reason.  So yeah go see Spoon & The Replacements for sure, but let’s not forget about the underdogs.  Let it begin after the jump.

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Real Estate – Atlas

Atlas

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Here in Austin, whenever March rolls around we usually find ourselves baring our arms and legs to the air, the weather on the toasty side for what most would consider to be the end of winter or the beginning of spring (though the recent uncharacteristic cold snap would suggest otherwise). What that means for us is that we are ready for sunny and breezy indie pop long before most other parts of the country. So if you’re still trudging through snow and ice, you may not think you’re on board for the bright and surf-y guitar riffs of a band like Real Estate quite yet—Atlas may just change your mind.

Real Estate have already arrived at their third full-length release with Atlas, despite forming as a band just four short years ago. Their first two records were widely hailed in the indie-sphere, allowing this conglomerate of talented gents, some of which have their own successful projects outside the band, to keep progressing in their sound. “Had to Hear,” begins the album, instantly evoking the mood of a perfect spring day that’s perhaps chilly in the shade, but balanced out by the sunlight. The angular guitar riffs are there from the second you press play, but you don’t really focus on them until the choral hook, akin to the sun emerging from the clouds of winter. It’s a long number, pushing five minutes, but a welcome lengthy introduction to the record. The instrumental outro yields itself to grooving along to the tame jam.

“Talking Backwards,” and following track, “April’s Song,” are a back to back combination that should have fans of this group salivating and those who have never heard this band before completely hooked; here are two songs that perfectly compliment each other with the effortlessness that Real Estate have on lock. The first of these two songs is a sure single for the group, with their premier dueling guitar riffs abundant and Martin Courtney’s semi-transparent vocals adding another layer to the guitars in its angular qualities. The soft percussion compliments the sharp hooks of the guitar, generating a dreamy soundscape for you lavish in. The end of this song builds to a climactic finish, which would suggest a drop off to the next number, but they compensate with “April’s Song,” an entirely instrumental number that will bring you down slowly from the high of the previous track. If these two tracks weren’t enough, it’s impossible to forget a slower number like “How Might I Live,” where we see a slight change of pace as well as vocals for the group, while maintaining their signature sound, though with a touch of blues.

There’s nothing to really dislike on Atlas—it’s solid through and through. My only qualm is that it doesn’t really push my already established appreciation of this group to a new level; the tracks aren’t a stretch from what this band has already done on previous albums. This however, does not diminish their worth, nor their ability to make you feel like you’re strolling amongst flowers in bloom on the perfect day, which is a feat in itself.

Ducktails – The Flower Lane

Ducktails-Flower-Lane

Rating: ★★★½ ·

The Flower Lane is the third studio album from this group, fronted by Real Estate’s Matt Mondanile. The band specializes in garage-esque, murky alternative rock music, though they take a step further into clarity with this release.

The album starts out on an unmistakably high note, with “Ivy Covered House,” which is one of those tracks that makes you yearn for that perfect sunny day so you can roll the windows down and just let the breeze ruffle your hair—it’s that glossy and smooth of a tune. This first number is just about as full of jangly guitar as possible and it is as though Matt Mondanile is evoking the style of his other band, Real Estate, which is far from a bad thing. Regardless, when the band circles around to the final repeated chorus after a short instrumental break, it’s impossible not to be onboard.

Though this is about as jangly as Ducktails go on this album, and the next few tracks put some distance between its sound and the others. Two tracks later on “Under Cover,” the band still has their swirling guitars, but have leapt into the realm of jazz, complete with saxophone interludes; it is safe to say that this isn’t a predictable Ducktails track. That being said, this album is quite a different step for the band, not only in a decrease of fuzziness via the production, as well as the different experimental directions they take.

But what is interesting about The Flower Lane is that if you skipped ahead to the latter part of the album, you’d probably be confused as to if you were still listening to the same band. Though they have already jumped a few genres earlier, there are a few tracks toward the end that don’t really seem to fit in with the rest of the tunes on this album. “Letter of Intent,” the second to last track on The Flower Lane, is really more electronic than anything Ducktails has put out up to this point in time, as it is a collaboration with Dan Lopatin on Synths, and the feminine vocal styling of Jessica Farkas of Future Shuttle. It’s a groovy number, but it really strikes hard as out of place after you’ve been listening to a primarily guitar motivated album. The track before it, at roughly two minutes long, “International Date Line,” retrospectively only feels as though preparation for the track that follows, but alas, it still doesn’t really sit right when the band returns to their ‘normal’ sound on the final track after it.

Even with this odd ending, this album is still one that has a number of good songs to entertain those who are a fan of garage rock. So if you haven’t yet, give Ducktails a spin.

Top Live Shows in Austin in 2012

Our year end coverage begins with the three chiefs over at the ATH offices reveling in what was an incredible year in Austin, musically speaking.  Tons of rad bands blew us away with their live sets, and, well, there were just tons of bands.  I think we did more show coverage this year than in previous years, but as always, the great thing about our site is diversity.  We’re also linking back to our full reviews and photos of some of these nights, so you can get more of a feel of our thoughts, not to mention, checking out Brian’s great photographic 2012. Read on for thoughts on live acts from the three main contributors.
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FFF 2012: Saturday In Pictures

Ahhh. Home, sweet home. Back on the pit to bring you nine kinds of performance shots.

Saturday’s shots include Residual Kid, The Young, Gold Fields, Brendan Benson, Daughn Gibson, The Helio Sequence, Braid, The Spits, Surfer Blood, Tanlines, Paul Banks, Real Estate, Wavves and PiL. More from around the fest, of course. Fun was had by all, just bummed that I missed shooting Refused from the pit. It was “too busy”.

Click through to feed your eyes…

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Mac Demarco – 2

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Earlier this year everyone raved about Mac Demarco after the release of Rock N’ Roll Night Club, which had Mac scatter-brained, musically speaking.  He’s back already with his first proper full-length, 2, focused and ready to take aim at your most intimate chill session.  If you need that will help you unwind, then turn on the subtle genius of Mac.

Almost immediately, I was won over.  “Cooking Up Something Good” is a catchy little guitar ditty, opening with a funky guitar line that almost seems off-key at points–in fact I’m positive he bends those strings out of tune.  Still, you wouldn’t be able to escape the relaxed atmosphere Mac Demarco offers you from the get-go.  Following that laid-back vibe is “Dreaming,” a tune that’s coated slightly in the atmospherics of Demarco’s guitar.  There’s something about his voice that draws you in, even with its lack of polish; it’s got a smooth delivery, yet it resonates as if he’s singing from your couch.

My ears can’t help but think of 2 as the perfect counterpoint to Real Estate‘s Days.  Where as that band pleasantly spun harmonies around bright guitar sounds, Mac seems content to slow things down with a similar guitar sound and a more intimate approach.  “The Stars Keep on Calling My Name” definitely has that twang in the guitar, but the slower pacing, if that’s possible, allows for the listener to sit back and absorb the melody, rather than pursue a more passionate sound.  That’s not to say that Demarco isn’t passionate about what he’s doing, or that you won’t feel an emotional draw, but rather that he seems more content to be your friendly couch-crashing troubadour. One listen to “Still Together,” the record’s closing number and you’ll completely understand my sentiment.  The tune features a quiet guitar strum and vocals that strain to reach the right pitch.  Those little imperfections demonstrate that 2 is created by an artist in his own world, but one that’s willing to let you be a participant.

There’s also some of that clever electric guitar jamming that made Mac Demarco so mesmerizing, even though he spins it in his own way.  He uses it to open “Freaking Out the Neighborhood,” and then sinks into his groove to offer more of a croon with the guitar sinking further into the background.  The added touch of backing vocals helps perfect this tune too. But, for me the most special moment comes during “My Kind of Woman,” featuring a swirling guitar that wraps around Mac’s voice, and the faint hint of a female vocal counterpart.  Here you’ll find the song a slow trudge of what one can only describe as pretty sounds–and that’s never a bad thing.

I hate comparing musicians to others, especially if it really has nothing to do with the artist at hand, but I’m going to say that Mac Demarco seems poised to make a Kurt Vile-ish run at the masses.  As a songwriter, he seems to be equal in his output, and 2 is a representation of a musician you can’t really put in one place.  We’re witnessing the unique birth of a man who’s got a true craftsman’s style to songwriting; he’s just getting started, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/03-Freaking-Out-The-Neighborhood.mp3]

Download:Mac Demarco – Freaking Out The Neighborhood [MP3]

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