New Music from Famous Problems

As of late, I’ve been really getting stuck into broad sweeping pop ballads, and this new track from Famous Problems is doing just the trick today. There’s a little guitar tinkering in the song’s latter half, but that powerful voice keeps me coming back and back again…it’s akin to some of Richard Hawley‘s work, though imagine it stripped way down. This song will appear on an excellent 7″ from WIAIWYA, which is one of the many reliable boutique labels out there…look for it on April 7th.

New Music from Richard Hawley

Richard Hawley’s been one of my favorite songwriters of the last decade, but this time around we’re about to get an entirely new Richard. On his last effort, Truelove’s Gutter, we were treated with the smoky cool crooning that Hawley brings to the table, yet this new track doesn’t really play in the same ballpark.  He’s got a full band with him, and from the tracks that I’ve heard the whole affair is going to be more rocking.  You can get your hands on this new effort, titled Standing at the Sky’s Edge, on May 7th.  It might be a twist on his usual style, but I’m interested nonetheless.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/01-Leave-Your-Body-Behind-You..mp3]

Download:Richard Hawley – Leave Your Body Behind You [MP3]

Fyfe Dangerfield – Fly Yellow Moon

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Rating: ★★★★½

For most on U.S. soil, Fyfe Dangerfield might be a name largely unknown, but you might recognize his work with his band Guillemots.  They’re a quartet of indie popsters who’ve made waves with British press, but now it’s time for Fyfe to take flight on his own.  Fly Yellow Moon is a remarkable debut affair, and one that will surely find fans on all sides of the Atlantic.  If you’ve ever been in love with British pop, then this is the record for you.

You’ll start your listening experience with “When You Walk in the Room,” and you’ll find your feet stomping.  This number wears the influence of all sorts of British pop, primarily from the late 90s.  Fyfe’s throaty vocals find their way into your heart; this has to be one of the single’s of the year.

But just as he has you stomping your feet to the pop, he spins around and goes all Richard Hawley on you.  For the next couple of tracks he’s a barroom crooner, and one that seems every bit as passionate and believable lyrically. “Barricades” might rest a bit too much along the lines of Travis, but there’s really nothing wrong with that now is there?

Just as you get comfortable sitting in a bar with your favorite pint, he mixes it up again.  The piano-laden”Faster Than the Setting Sun” has a darker quality than previous tracks, as guitars atmospherically fill out the background.  At this point, as a listener, you should remark to yourself the dynamics of Fyfe’s vocal performance on the album.  You can throw the variance of each song on the Fly Yellow Moon into the ring of praise; it’s clear that you’re witnessing one amazing songwriter.

And so the album goes into a bit of an acoustic interlude, pushing two great acoustic songs upon you.  While “Livewire” has a generally folky feel to it, “Firebird” sneaks in with a bit more of an ominous tone to it. Everyone should appreciate Dangerfield’s ability to mix it up, even when the instrumentation seems to be somewhat of the same vein. It’s hard not to say it too much, but not a single song here holds onto its predecessor, yet they all fit together extremely well.   Just wait until you go from the quiet “Don’t Be Shy” into the steady beating “Any Direction.”  If you added a little bit more bass and snare to the mix, the latter would surely be a club hit across the globe.

Stepping out from behind the safety of a band is never an easy task, but Fyfe Dangerfield seems to have done so with such grace that you’ll be astonished at how remarkable a debut this actually is.  It’s not an album bogged down by modern indie rock conjecture or hipsterdom. Fly Yellow Moon is just a refreshing collection of great pop tunes, and in being such a record, you’ll fall in love with just how refreshing it feels.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/05-When-You-Walk-in-The-Room.mp3]

Download: Fyfe Dangerfield – When You Walk in The Room [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

Richard Hawley – Truelove’s Gutter

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Rating: ★★★★½

After he released Lady’s Bridge, it seemed that the British crooner Richard Hawley could do no wrong with me.  As the release drew near for Truelove’s Gutter, I wasn’t quite sure what I expected from this new record.  Would it be similar to his previous work, or would he branch out into a new direction, much as his friend Jarvis Cocker has done?

Well, as the odd soundscape opening of “As the Dawn Breaks” began, I will say that anxiety crept into my throat.  Sure, this dabbling in sonic structuralism was indeed a new direction, but from a man who has blanketed his albums with lush orchestration, it seemed a step too far off.  Still, as the song progressed, the music almost loses its focus, bring Hawley’s throaty baritone to the forefront. Perhaps this is where the album would go?

When “Open Up Your Door” came on, you could hear the instrumentation that so often backs Richard, although it seemed to be in the distance here, that is until the slow drum work came into the picture.  It’s at this point that I found Hawley completely stepping into the role of a modern-day Leonard Cohen. You hang on every syllable, on every gentle note; and eventually, it all breaks into the dense orchestral movement you would expect.

It seems fitting to me that this record was already causing me to waiver on my decision to love this album or not.  Richard Hawley is not a taste for everyone, though surely everyone can find beauty in his voice, which sounds as guttural as anything you’re likely to find out there.  Perhaps the way the instruments traipse about, barely catching your attention until the song requires them to do so, seems striking to most. Almost unimportant. But, how can such songs evoke so much emotional toll on a listener?  It made Cohen great. It made, for some, Waits a classic.  Surely Richard Hawley will find his place, though his lyrics are that of the forlorn lover.

And so it went, to the point where I arrived at “Remorse Code,” the second longest song on Truelove’s Gutter. How does a nine minute long ballad capture you, wrap you around its finger, and throw you upon its back until the end. Listening to the subtle guitar work, I found no answer, only that I adored this song absolutely, as I adore the man singing the words.  I didn’t have to go far, one song past, to find “Soldier On.”  There’s some biblical allusions here, or at least some references to Christianity, though not in the overt sense. Hawley seemingly walks through this album, pacing himself, creating tension for the listener. It’s as if we’re merely meandering through this tune, until you reach just past the four minute mark where the song crashes into you.  It releases you in a wash of cymbals and emotions.

By backing it all into the finer moment that is “For Your Lover Give Some Time.”  I don’t particularly want to go into the detail of this song, as I’m sure, as with most Hawley tunes, each person will get out of it what they will.  It’s such a personal song, for me as a listener, that I don’t dare ruin your impression of it, or what it may offer you.

Thus the album walks into the longest song, the perfect ending to Truelove’s Gutter. The epic failure that could be this album’s bookend is not there.  Although it may be long, it encapsulates everything you wanted from the end.  Your time with Richard Hawley has come to an end, and though you want it to last forever, you needn’t fret, as you can simply relive it time and time again by pressing repeat.  I know I will.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/07-For-Your-Lover-Give-Some-Time-1.mp3]

Download: Richard Hawley – For Your Lover Give Some Time [MP3]

FT5: Songs with the Word Valentine

0213top5coverSeeing as the Hallmark Holiday is hours away, I thought I would browse through my collection and throw out my Top 5 Favorite Songs with the word “valentine” in the title. Sure, one would think that songwriters have better things to do than sing about a nonsensical holiday with little or no meaning, but then again, they are just love songs in the end, aren’t they? Some of these bands have made appearances on our lists before, and some you might not be aware of, until now that is. So here is to you and yours on this most sacred of holidays. I hope your Valentine’s Day is as good as these songs.

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