Banjo or Freakout – s/t

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

The bedroom effort of Alessio Natalizia, Banjo or Freakout has become fully realized with this debut release. With a touch of professional production, the spacey and atmospheric sounds of this group feel tangible, yet still far away in their nature. A mix of electronic and physical sounds mesh fairly well on this album, and for some of the time, the band maintains that tightrope of emptiness.

Starting out strong, the band doesn’t sound very atmospheric. On “105,” the only hollow element that is prevalent in the song would have to be Natalizia’s pale and borderline falsetto voice that intensifies the buzzing guitar. Some synthesized dulcent undertones gradually trickle into the song, and pull it away from its humble beginning into the deep void of electronic emptiness. The synth undertones meander their way to “Go Ahead,” which is one of my favorite tracks on the album. A little bit muddier than that of the first track, it really focuses on a slightly playful quality in the mumbled vocals of Mr. Natalizia. Even though it’s shift towards a more electronic style, which I’m normally inclined to disgust, it takes a step in a fulfilling direction and becomes an enticing narrative marked by effervescing synthesizer and the dull roar of fuzz.

 Despite its promise at the beginning, there are some huge setbacks to this album. While it is a good start for a band like this, it is nowhere near perfection. Like other albums similar in style, the golden qualities that are presented in the beginning fizzle out, leaving the rest of the songs to sound overlookable and boring. The atmospheric levels of noise that interest and seem so intricate during the first few tracks slip easily into the recess of the listeners mind. Too simply it becomes background music that only serves for filling space, not for bedroom listening. Tracks at the very end like “Dear Me” lose the boundary between vocals and hollow sound, so that the two mold into one. The song loses its edginess and becomes just a bunch of noise that sounds thrown together with much haste.

 Some may say that this album falls under the chillwave category, or at least the latter part. While it does offer a relaxing break from a stressful day, it doesn’t stimulate the senses, save the first few songs. Perhaps I stand alone in the desire for music that will push and pull me places, all while maintaining entertaining qualities. Banjo or Freakout just leaves my brain hanging alone in the cold void of outer space. With some work, their next release could be stellar, so long as they focus on what makes the start sound so good.

New Track from Mueran Humanos

One of the great things about the Internet is that you can hear all sorts of crazy things from around the globe, which is the exact case with Mueran Humanos.  The band’s name roughly translates to Die Humans, so I mean, you’ve got to appreciate that sort of bold statement.  Musically, the duo, who come from Buenos Aires, use a moody electronic element to hash out their sound, giving us this first single titled “Festival of Lights.” There’s definitely a throbbing dance club element buried in this track, so if you like it, be sure to go find yourself a copy of the group’s self-titled debut from Blind Prophet Records.  And, of course, we’re always happy to translate.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/02-Festival-De-Las-Luces.mp3]

Download: Mueran Humanos – Festival De Las Luces [MP3]

New Music from Cult of Youth

Earlier this week I got word from some friends about Cult of Youth, and just today Stereogum gave them the “Band to Watch” tag.  Their self-titled album hits the streets on February 22nd, and this is another one of those bands that appeals to both my nostalgic personality, as well as my newer tastes.  There is this dark bass line working, with an underlying sense of lighter melodies, but what gets me is the vocal.  Vocals on this single are brash and throaty, like some snotty little punk-rocker playing in some dense club.  It’s a great dichotomy, and one that should be equally as exciting for all you punks gone soft.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Cult-Of-Youth-New-West.mp3]

Download: Cult Of Youth – New West [MP3]

Mind Spiders – s/t

Rating: ★★★★☆

From the instant you press play on your stereo, to the moment in which its final notes resound, Mind Spiders refuse to stop. In that miniscule pregnant pause before the guttural guitar resounds through your speakers, take a breather, because you’ll need all your strength to keep up with their punk pace.

“Go!” is the album opener and does exactly what its title exclaims. It’s an almost two minute scramble of garage rock and gang vocals that pack a hell of a punch into a tiny slice of time. Before you know it, the first track is gone and the second is about to pass you by. On “Don’t Let Her Go,” it is easy to see a similar sound to that of the late and great Jay Reatard. The muddy vocals and frantic jamming guitar along with the shortness of the number all are reminiscent of Jay’s work on Watch Me Fall, namely “It Ain’t Gonna Save Me.”

However, this album is not simply a copy cat of other’s work, but rather, a culmination of tastes from a variety of genres; a little bit of 60’s pop here, some lo-fi there, and a dash of some all out punk. For instance, on “Read Your Mind,” the group starts out slow, with slightly clearer vocals and soft waves of “ooohs,” that occupy the first minute and twenty or so seconds. It’s almost as if the band wants you to relax a bit after the first three songs before they jump right back into their ferocity. The vocals become muddier as the song morphs from slow-mover into punk once more.

The next super stand out track is “No Romance,” which is sadly the shortest song on the album. It continues the quick pace, but not without grabbing your attention through a sea of compact jams. Following this is a lo-fied nod to Little Richard on “Slippin’ and Slidin.’” On this track, the overall distorted sound contributes to enticing quality; the more I listen to this song, the more I like it.

What this album has working for it in addition to its stellar beats is that Mind Spiders know their limits. While only four out of twelve of the songs last longer than three minutes apiece, it works for such a fast paced album. If every song were to last for slightly longer than it does, this album could have derailed from its hasty tracks. Instead, it was a toe tapper from start to finish.

So you as you look at the stereo in disbelief that track twelve is becoming track once again, do nothing. Allow this album to permeate the surrounding air like a gust of cold air into a stuffy room, waking you up like an icy shower —lather, rinse, repeat Mind Spiders.

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

Download: Mind Spiders – No Romance [MP3]

New Music from Mind Spiders

Out of the ashes of Marked Men comes Mark Ryan, pushing through with his own group, Mind Spiders. The band will be putting out their self-titled album on January 25th via Dirtnap Records, which basically guarantees goodness with their releases.  On this first single you get a little hint of garage grittiness filling it up, but the pacing provides a little bit more of a straight power-pop feel to it, allowing the band to capture both audiences.  Yeah, it’s a short track, but if you give it a listen, it definitely feels like there’s so much more than 1.8 minutes of rock n’ roll here. And did I mention they’re from Ft. Worth? Who woulda thunk it?

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

Download: Mind Spiders – No Romance [MP3]

New Music from The Babies

Last April I brought you all news about the Vivian Girls/Woods side-project, The Babies, and at that point in time, it was rumored to be sort of a one off, kind of just a fun release amongst friends.  But, as these things inevitably go, the group had so much fun writing together that they continued to pump out tracks, leaving us with the upcoming album, The Babies, on February 8th of next year. It’s going to be sort of a combination between bedroom pop and lo-fi grittiness, and in our minds, that sounds exactly like this new single, leading us to believe this could be one hell of a good time in 2011.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/thebabiesrunmeover.mp3]

Download: The Babies – Run Me Over [MP3]

New Tunes from Bear Mountain

Who doesn’t like a band with Bear in their name?  Well, another group has thrown their name into the ever=growing list, Bear Mountain.  While I haven’t been able to find too much information about the group’s origins, I did manage to come across their new mini album, also titled Bear Mountain.  The word was created at home, and while some of the tracks do have the influence of programming and other such home recording remedies, I really enjoyed “Green.” There’s this distant quality to the recording that gives it some sort of alternative reality aesthetic.  Try this one on for size.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/03-Green.mp3]

Download: Bear Mountain – Green [MP3]

Cinema Red and Blue – s/t

Rating: ★★★★½

Honestly, this has been one of our most anticipated records for some time, ever since word hit the streets that members of Crystal Stilts and Comet Gain would unite to create Cinema Red and Blue.  While this might just be a brief off-shoot for all those involved, it’s got the feel of a classic record that will only get better as time goes by.

One of the members that needs mention here, as he’s the primary vocalist, is David Feck.  He’s always been able to carry tracks entirely on the foundation of his voice, much as he does on “Far Out Isn’t Far Enough,” the opening track on Cinema Red and Blue. But, just as you think he’ll do it all alone, the band kicks in just shy of the 2 minute mark, jangling their way to a solid ending, while Feck’s vocals strain to grab every drop of emotion.

Then you’ll hit the trilogy of “Ballads,” all named for different interests, and its the wordplay of Feck that wins out, as it usually does.  For instance, there’s something clever about the way he puts together “we’re trying hard to sound like the Swell Maps/what a terrible name for a pop group,” during “Ballad of a Vision Pure.” It’s not just his word slinging that’s clever, but his delivery has the perfect amount of inflection and soul to win listener’s over.  There’s something about his tone too, especially in “Ballad of a Bus Stop” when its accompanied by a female counterpart.

Cinema Red and Blue isn’t entirely about David Feck, however. While you can see the homage to their bands, with flourishes of indie pop and psychedelic darkness, they also pay tribute to their favorites, such as Vic Godard, Julian Cope and the Chills. One that everyone is sure to like is the group’s cover of “Same Mistakes” by Godard.  Their version was released as the first single on the record, and its filled with a bit of electronic organ and low-tempo jangle.  It doesn’t hurt that David gets to match his vocals up either with another soft female vocal.  Listening, its odd how the band doesn’t seem to try at all with what their doing; its a casual affair of great songwriters, which inevitably wins us all over.

Something about this record just seems so precious, even though its not even a week old.  Every song, every note, really hits home as you listen.  There’s a familiarity to it that quickly attaches itself to your ears and heart.  That female follow up vocals in “Love in the Altitude” just hits home.  Or maybe the mellow mood of “Charlie Clarke” is more your style.  What’s clear is that you can find something beautiful, or you should, in every single track here.  While the members all have their respective projects going on, coming across an album as special as this definitely makes you yearn for more.  At least we’ll always have that one perfect record created for us all by Cinema Red and Blue.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/08-Same-Mistakes.mp3]

Download: Cinema Red and Blue – Same Mistakes [MP3]

Frankie Rose and the Outs – s/t

Rating: ★★★★☆

With all the great lo-fi bands floating around, something is to be said about making a space pop album that doesn’t sound like all the rest. Frankie Rose should know this the best out of anyone, as she has been a member of many successful pop bands herself:  Crystal Stilts and Vivian Girls. Other bands cast aside, Frankie proves her knowledge of this craft with this semi-solo project.

The album starts out on a gradual pace, with only bare instrumental to begin, slowly submersing you into each layer of the opening song. First heard is the quivering feedback, which holds steady until Frankie Rose comes in to soak the song in a tone of wonder and bemusement that her echoed vocals provide. Next, sleigh bells are added for an element of percussion that carries the music slowly on, as Frankie repeats the same simple words, over and over. Is this the same person who was apart of bands that brought light and jangly pop songs to the table? Apparently not, as “Hollow Life,” is a deeper and completely different sound than anything Frankie and any of her previous accompaniments have put out before. Different, but overwhelmingly good.

That being said, this solo effort is not a complete turn from Frankie’s prior works. “Little Brown Haired Girls,” shoots out of the gate with driving drum beats, crashing cymbals and girlish gang vocals; sort of a combination of elements from the first two songs. You have the softer vocals from “Hollow Life,” mixed with a more prominent guitar part that “Candy,” the song in between these two, brings. It is a sure sign that there are still excellent quality pop beats to be enjoyed on this album.

 The rest of the album mostly follows suit from these two songs. There are softer songs such as “Lullabye For Roads And Miles,” which is as expected from its title, reliant on the lack of the quick drum beat and more focused on leaving a little emptiness to carry the song instead. And there are instances of superior jams, like “Girlfriend Island.” On this number, some la la la’s add to the catchiness of the guitar and proves this to be a song that is difficult to stay still to; it is impossible for me to stop tapping along with that irresistible drum beat.

 From this point, Frankie Rose And The Outs move through the rest of the songs quickly and wrap up their first full length album gracefully. They successfully combine a new hollow sound with the well loved, classic low-fi pop that bands like Vivian Girls are known for. With the slow moving songs so effervescent and the fast paced songs reminiscent of the sunny summer days not too far gone, there isn’t a more perfect time for this album to debut; at the brink of fall.

New Music from Allo Darlin

I’m a sucker for anything with a ukulele, even Iz.  So, I can’t help but to run this sweet new single from Allo Darlin, a band from Australia, via the UK.  They’ve got a new album coming out titled. well, Allo Darlin, and it hits stores on October 5th.  If we’re going to base the record on this track, its going to be nothing short of strong songwriting, light harmonies and bit of a groove.  You’ll never have a bad time listening to ukulele based pop music, promise.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/allodarlinmyheartisadrummer.mp3]

Download: Allo Darlin – My Heart is a Drummer [MP3]

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