Vomitface Sign to Help Yourself Records

vomitfaceI’m definitely intrigued with the new singing that’s just joined up with Help Yourself Records, Vomitface. There’s something about their sound, borrowing from some of the exploration Sonic Youth used, whilst taking on this sludgy guitar tone. I think perhaps the one thing I miss from this new single is a sort of volume explosion, perhaps some erraticism, but it’s a solid tune, nonetheless. This song appears on Hooray for Me, which comes out on August 26th. It’s in the vein of almost-spastic art rock, should that be your thing.

Gun Outfit – Hard Coming Down

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Rating: ★★★★ ·

Olympia, Washington’s best kept secret might have been Gun Outfit, that is until people get wind of the incredible piece of work they’ve constructed, and just released.  Hard Coming Down is their third LP for Post Present Medium, and according to press, the first that includes bass.  I don’t care much about any of that, other than I can’t get enough of their blend of Sonic Youth meets Built to Spill meets Dinosaur Jr meets rock n’ roll.

Hard Coming Down almost opens up softly, with a relaxed female vocal from Carrie Keith, but that doesn’t stick around for too long.  Guitars begin to ring out loudly and angular-ly, while drums pound heavily in the background.  Of course, the Sonic Youth attribute does exist in the opener, with the band going from soft to hard in a flash, though Keith has more of a sweetness to her vocal as opposed to Kim Gordon.  From here the album goes into one of its many highlights with “Lau Blues,” with Dylan Sharp offering up his drawn out vocals for a change in the album’s dynamic.  Here you’ll find the same sharpness to the guitars, though they have a country-fied meandering to them, all working around Sharp’s vocal.

While it’s easy to throw these guys in a grab bag of various alt-rock favorites, they manage to make the sound entirely their own.  For instance, the opening guitar work on “I’ve Got a Gift” surely has that fast paced guitar/bass battle working, but it’s the approach that changes things up.  Rather than let the guitar create direction, it’s the vocals here (Sharp again) that dictate where the track will go.  It’s almost a country-jam, though the pace might be too quick for that allusion.  There’s also “Death Drive,” which combines some Mascis-esque vocal tones, but the drumming alone is something that allows this song to step outside of the shadows of their fore-fathers.  Personally, I dig the juxtaposed vocals on this track between Sharp and Keith.

Of course, you’re going to have to pick your favorite singer between Sharp and Keith, and today, I’m sticking with Carrie.  Her voice on the twangy “Fallen Sun Song” is one of her best, and the more I listen to it, the more I see a haunting darkness lurking beneath the soft cover.  Or you can go back to “High Price to Pay” where she sounds more life-worn.  Wherever she pops up, it’s with purpose, providing a distinctive sound that elevates the entire record.  But, I assure you Dylan’s performances aren’t too shabby either.

Up until now I had really only been familiar with Dim Light, the group’s last album, but Hard Coming Down just continues to grow spiritually within me, especially when you bust out the vinyl version.  Gun Outfit has been on the tip of everyone’s tongue, but this album secures the band’s spot as one of the brightest stars on the musical horizon.

Show Preview: Thurston Moore @ St. Davids Episcopal Church (2/11)

Date Saturday, Feb 11th
Location St. David’s Episcopal Church
Doors 730 pm
Tickets $17 from Transmission

Make no mistake about it, Saturday has a lot of great shows, but one of the places to be has to be St. David’s Episcopal Church where you can catch one of the legends of indie rock.  Things seem to be on the down low for Sonic Youth, but Thurston has a great catalog all his own, so don’t show just hoping to catch up on the oldies. The last time I caught him doing his solo act, I couldn’t take my eyes off his guitar skills; be sure to get there early, as you’ll want to get as close as you can to this demigod.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/05-What-We-Know.mp3]

Download:Sonic Youth – What We Know [MP3]

Grooms – Prom

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Two years ago, Rejoicer, came out, putting Grooms on the map, at least for a little bit.  In those two years, the group has really put in their time figuring out their style, and it’s going to pay huge dividends in 2011.  Prom is a record full of tracks tied together cohesively, yet each track is completely able to stand alone as an undeniable hit.

“Tiger Trees” opens with sampled drum beats and a repetitive guitar, sort of like an ambient opener for a Mogwai song, but moments later, cymbals crash, noise washes in, and you’re stuck in the melody bubbling beneath the track.  Here you’ll be intrigued by Grooms‘ ability to slither in and out of discordant atmospherics and melodious washes of noise.  Beauty in noise seems to be a huge theme from the get go as you enter into “Prom.”  It’s a youthful discussion lyrically, moving from the song’s title to discussion of the Smiths in one’s bedroom, but you’ll find yourself wrapped up in the line “I wanna be friends with you.”

Perhaps it’s just me, but while people can probably throw around a Sonic Youth reference here and there, due entirely to the loud quiet loud noise element, I occasionally hear later 90s indie rock heroes such as Built to Spill.  “Expression Of” has that same meandering quality that the best BoS tracks had, and vocally, you can definitely hear a little Doug Martsch channeling.  Part of the allure of Prom is that the band seemingly drop references to various bands throughout, such as the nod to Deerhunter in “Skating With a Girl,” but Grooms owns the sound; they make it entirely their own, wrapping it up in a unique blend of quieting melodies juxtaposed with distortion and feedback.

If you wanted to nit-pick here, perhaps you could call for a bit of a more polished production value, as some tracks tend to rattle perhaps too much for their own good. That being said, that’s one of the interesting qualities here, as the band clearly is marking their own territory within the realms of their forefathers. “Into the Arms,” comes late into the album, and this is perhaps the most Thurston Moore-ish song, even down to the lyrics, but the vocal delivery takes on a character of it’s own, allowing you to focus on the song’s construction, made more remarkable by the fact that the bass line seems to live just beneath the surface of the song, letting the cutting guitar chords roam free.

Sure, there’s definitely some landmark references throughout Prom, but everything has roots in something nowadays.  Grooms succeeds in their endeavors because you clearly see their dedication to crafting their own space within the confines of noisy indie rock.  It’s a place you’ll need to delve into, traveling with the band from start to finish on this most excellent journey, leaving you feeling fulfilled and rewarded for giving this record the deserved time.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/grooms_tigertrees.mp3]

Download: Grooms – Tiger Trees [MP3]

New Music from Hit the Jackpot

What? You haven’t heard of Hit the Jackpot?  Well, we’ve got you covered.  The group hail from Australia, and they’re lined up with the excellent people over at Chapter Music, home to ATH favorites The Crayon Fields.  They’re about to release a cassette with CM, but it’s going to be super-limited, so us US folks might find it hard to get our hands on it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t head over the band’s site and give it a listen.  The Holiday Tape is seven tracks, and all I’ve listened to sound pretty spectacular, in my humble opinion.  The opener, “Holiday” sounds like something you would have expected Sonic Youth to do, or you expect them to do, when they allow Kim to take the microphone, and use her gruffly warm vocals to approximate a pop song.  These are the kind of things that win our hearts over at ATH, so give it a chance to make your day.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Hit%20the%20Jackpot%20-%20Holiday.mp3]

Download: Hit the Jackpot – Holiday [MP3]

ACL Battles: Sonic Youth vs. Vampire Weekend

This week we’re bringing you our first touch of insightful ACL coverage, geared to make your festival choices a whole lot easier while your spending your time at Austin City Limits.  Year after year, festival planners struggle to get the great bands in, and when they get them, they just have to fit them in according to popularity, and availability.  It’s not as easy as we all think, so we’re taking the time out to make those hard decisions of overlapping bands easy for you.  This year, our first one comes by way of Sonic Youth vs. Vampire Weekend. Read more

Twin Tigers – Gray Waves

Rating: ★★★★½

It’s hard nowadays for a debut album to really blow people out of the water, unless you’ve had success and backing from various media outlets.  Twin Tigers have had a mild amount of press in that regard, but odds are the release of their album Gray Waves will have more people clamoring to find as much information on the group as possible.  This record moves back and forth between several musical spectrums, often times within the same song; in following this formula the group has constructed one of the most creative straight-ahead rock records in recent memory.

From the moment you click play on your stereo, you get the feeling as if you’re in for something entirely special; the discordant noise sets an ambient tone before the drums and feedback squall shatter the sonic setting on “Passive Idol.” But, just as you expect a blistering number, Twin Tigers pull back, choosing to create a more melodious moment for listeners.  Mathew Rain’s vocals seem to have some sort of echo in them, which makes him seem both haunting and dangerous.  Either way, you can’t help but to fall into this record from the get go.

“Red Fox Run” recalls some of the mid-to-late career albums of Sonic Youth, in so much as it maintains a balance between using appropriate melody and blistering noise.  Movement within the song is hard to ignore, and you can tell that thought went into every detail of the way the song unfolds.  Similarly, “Everyday” grabs you right from the get go, using a summery underlying hook that borders on bubble pop.  Still, waves of guitar noise remain in the background, and the chorus provides the perfect amount of angst that is necessary for pure rock songs.  All this before the song blasts into another direction towards the ending, only to return to the hook featured at the beginning.

Yet, Twin Tigers are not a one-trick pony they refuse to rely upon their Sonic Youth tendencies, or Rain’s howling Jesus and the Mary Chain vocals.  They’re capable of almost anything here, as “Gray Waves” suggests.  If they ended at the midpoint, this would easily be a great song of typical indie pop such as Deerhunter, but they push beyond influences, forging new ground all on their own, as witnessed by the darker vocal performance by Rain near the end.

An aside that is necessary here is the performance of Dougie Crump.  A steady drummer is a definite must if you’re going to construct mini-suites mid-song.  You’ve got to have someone who can keep everyone on track by providing the perfect rhythm; Young does this spectacularly.  On top of that, his work is magnificent in its own regard; his drum fills alone really flesh out the group’s sound as a whole. Cheers to that Richard.

All in all, Gray Waves is a remarkably refreshing debut.  Angular guitars cut and feedback throughout the entirety of the record, all the while Rain tries to utilize his vocals to keep a hint of melody to the core of Twin Tigers.  Not once can you deny the creativity and vibrance of this young band; they’re here to take their influences and build a world all their own.  And, who knows, the way they cut and paste the sonic collage here shows they just might tear that world all to pieces, but odds are you’ll still love every minute of it.

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

Download: Twin Tigers – Everyday [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

Polvo – In Prism

polvo-inprism

Rating: ★★½ · ·

 Chapel Hill, North Carolina’s Polvo began in 1990 when most of us were mere babes.  After four critically acclaimed albums, a sting of EPs released on Merge and Touch and Go, and tours across the United States and Europe with bands like Sonic Youth and Pavement, Polvo called it quits in 1997.  But, as is the recent trend, Polvo reunited in 2008 for All Tomorrows Parties and several stateside shows, this string of performances then mutated into Polvo’s first album in twelve years, In Prism.

To this reviewer, Polvo has always been one of those bands that is familiar in name, not by output; the scene workhorse that consistently releases albums without much fanfare.  I always felt a bit guilty about not really giving Polvo my attention: they wrote solid well-crafted songs and delivered them genuinely, what’s not to love?  The problem I saw Polvo having was that they there were other active bands at the time (Archers of Loaf, The Jesus Lizard, and Jawbox, to name a few) that were doing the exact same things, only better.  Polvo got relegated to the indie rock B-team with bands like Giants Chair and Gauge.  I am not trying to slight these bands. They all deserve much more credit than what they received for one reason or another.

That brings us to In Prism, which, like the rest of Polvos career, isn’t good or bad, it’s just okay.  The songs are interesting, but they all seem to follow the mid-nineties math rock playbook: riffs on top of riffs, changes on top of changes, quiet part, vague emotional lyrics, noodling solo, repeat for 5-8 minutes, TA-DAH!  The songs that having staying power are track three “Beggar’s Bowl” and the album closer “A Link in the Chain”:  “Beggar’s Bowl” deserves recognition for two reasons, besides being one of the stronger cuts on the album, 1) It’s laughable, yet endearing use of chimes, and 2) I defy you to listen to the song without singing Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust”.  “A Link in the Chain” displays the slower side of Polvo, which does well to show how truly great guitarists Ash Bowie and Dave Brylawski are at their instruments (although I could’ve done without the epic Yes-ian build-up only to be met with, essentially, an instrumental cock-block [don’t worry I won’t quit my day job]).

We live in a time where everyone longs for their favorite bands to reunite and release “just one more album” or go on “one more tour” and while In Prism is a solid album that any band should be proud of, I think it’s time to retire those thoughts of Pavement, Archers of Loaf, or Quicksand reuniting and just be happy with memories of the way things were, rather than grieving over what those bands have become (I’m looking at you Weezer).

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