Cymbals Eat Guitars – Lenses Aliens

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Hailing from New Jersey, Cymbals Eat Guitars are a four-person band with one album, Why Are They Mountains, under their belt already. Released in 2009, that album rewarded this band with comparisons to bands like Modest Mouse, and Pavement. On this new effort, they looked to work on it more collaboratively, and the effect of this is a band that sounds more controlled, and the instrumental parts feel tightly knit and well thought out on Lenses Alien.

The first song is “Rifle Eyesight (Proper Name),” which is an eight and a half minute long track, but it’s really just two songs pushed together with the help of some atmospheric guitar feedback noise in between the two. For roughly the first three minutes of this track, you have this lovely bouncy and jangly alternative rock song, complete with the harsh vocals of lead singer, Joseph D’Agostino, whose voice reminds me a bit of John Paul Pits, of Surfer Blood, due to its ability to turn ragged and grungy in an instant. You get a chance to see this switch to grungier on the second half of the first song, in which the guitars are fiercer, the cymbals crash more, and the pacing is faster. D’Agostino gets his chance to command the song with his vocals that are exasperated and rough at first. However, as the song calms down, so does the raspy nature in his voice, softening, if only for contrast as the song resurges to its final height.

After this monster of a song, it would be easy for the rest of the other tracks to pale in comparison, but each brings a lovely new element to the table. On “Shore Points,” you have a nice little surf rock jam, complete with angular guitars and enticing backing vocals from the other band members. Following immediately on “Keep Me Waiting,” there’s a killer bass line just bubbling under the surface, waiting for your ears to pick it out and move your body to it.

 While there are softer songs on here, like “Wavelengths” toward the end of the album, Lenses Alien does seem to fall a little one dimensional upon the inaugural listen. Perhaps there is too much of a good thing on this album; the heavy guitar and nasal vocals seems a little grating by the end of the ten song album. Maybe, with much repeated listening, there is more to this sophomore release, but as of now, it’s a pretty middle of the road album.

The Postelles – s/t

Rating: ★★★½☆

Hailing from New York City, The Postelles seem to have the perfect infectious sound for the summertime. With catchiness reminiscent to that of past releases of bands like The Drums and Surfer Blood, they have crafted a fairly simple, yet bubbling pop album in this freshman debut.

The album begins with “White Night,” which shows off the instant capabilities of this band to make you move your feet. Jangly guitar welcomes you in, along with some punching drums and the vocals of Daniel Balk. Fast paced and furious, The Postelles jump right into their rock and roll pop. Balk’s vocals, complete with a borderline yelp, are joined by the rest of the gang on the chorus, giving the illusion that this group belongs in an earlier era. It’s a fresh little number at two minutes and forty seconds, leaving you ready to skip back and start all over, but following is “Sleep On the Dance Floor,” which is a bass driven slower number, that still has the jamming guitar of the first song.

After these first two songs, it’s not hard to see the likability these guys bring to the table; each song seems fit for the beach, or ready to put on your summer party mix tape, but the fun doesn’t stop there. “1 2 3 Stop,” the band’s lead single, comes third on the album, and if the first two didn’t have you dancing, then this should surely be the one. On this track, you can hear the crashing cymbals above the rest of the chaos during the chorus, with Balk leading the way. His voice is edgy, allowing you to sing right along with him.

The rest of the album follows suit of these first three songs: a mixture of fast paced blazers of songs like “Can’t Stand Still” and “Sound the Alarms,” as well as those slower moving ones like “Whisper Whisper” and “She She.” It’s a fairly complete first album, with the majority of songs that you’ll be anxious to play over and over again. Some may be slightly put off in the end by the lack of depth; most songs are done in three minutes, but I find this album packed with energy and pure fun. Isn’t that what summer is all about?

The Authors – Get Haunted

Rating: ★★★★☆

A few weeks into fall, cooler temperatures are surprisingly here and you feel lost in the jumble of work or school, missing those summer days that are not so far gone. What better way to fall back into the relaxing mood of summer than to listen to music that feels like sunshine and ocean waves? With only an EP released prior to this, The Authors look to establish themselves as experts of the beach-pop, summer feeling genre. With Get Haunted, they do just this.

 “Timebomb” kicks off the album strong and fast right from the start. The guitars buzz away the background while slightly fuzzy lyrics float on top of all the other components of the song, swimming to the beat. Next comes “Never Know,” which is great in its vocals, almost a yelp, to the high pitched noise that blends in with the rest of the song, yet gives a “haunted” feeling, as does the raspy vocals at points.

But perhaps in all the jangly guitars and the hyper drum beats, Get Haunted would become banal, like some of the dog days of summer? False. “Feels Like Running,” an excellent song, starts with a hooking guitar rift that takes turns dominating with the vocals. The drums sit back in the spectrum of what the listener will notice, but they drive the whole of this song, as well as the album; simple, yet refined and precise enough to add en element of constant clarity. They then transition to slightly groovier tunes with “Battles” and “Lonely Ways.” The bass line is quite prominent in these songs, giving them the less washed out feel of previous songs and a more solid foundation, which is an enjoyable turn for this album to take as the band continues with their garage rhythms.

The Authors finish just as strong as they started with “The Night.” This brings the album full circle, from quick shadowy beats to a softer and less fuzzy end. They finally kind of slow down with the last few seconds of the song reserved to some ambient noises. Those melancholic ending notes the same as those final days before fall.

This album reminds me a lot of Surfer Blood’s album from earlier in the year. Like that album, it is a sharp and high speed chase from start to finish, but The Authors prove their distinctive sound with clearer vocals, all while staying inside the garage rock jangle that is Get Haunted; a true trip back to those blissful summer days.  


Download: The Authors – Timebomb [MP3]

FT5: Albums Of The Year (So Far)

Seems like this time of year everybody makes their own version of the best of (so far) albums list.  You think we’d sit back and let everyone else have all the fun?  Think again.  I’ll get this out of the way now and say that this is MY list.  This is in no way a comprehensive list created by all us ATH staffers.  This is ‘ol RayRay’s list full of what I’ve been spinning this year more than anything else.  Now obviously it’s difficult for a music writer to condense a list down to just five, so some very worthy albums will be left off this list.  Of course we’ll put our heads together and make a huge list at the end of the year… Follow the jump for full list.

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Surfer Blood On HearYa

I know I know, we just can’t seem to shut up about Surfer Blood can we?  That should just tell you to pick up their debut album Astrocoast before we kick you in the face!  So the now overly hyped band just recorded and posted a sweet new live session on the HearYa website.  This session is super sweet because you can download MP3s of all songs separately or in one big zip file.  Live videos of “Take it Easy” & “Swim” are also included.  Seriously, check this band out now.


Download: Surfer Blood – Take It Easy (live on HearYa) [MP3]

ATH March Music Sampler

Ladies and gentlemen, we are proud to announce for your listening pleasure the  new Austin Town Hall March music sampler.  This bad boy features 6 tracks from bands playing our showcase on Thursday the 18th, as well as 10 other bands we’re looking forward to seeing during the SXSW week.  That’s 16 in all for you kids that don’t do the math too good… You’ll see familiar ATH favorites like Surfer Blood, Besnard Lakes, and Crayon Fields alongside some of the lesser known acts like The Loom, The Crookes, and Holiday Shores.  I’ll stop blabbing and just direct you all to the new sampler page.  We’re pretty proud of this one so tell all your friends!  Also, don’t forget to get those RSVPs in for our sweet party at The Ghost Room.

FT5: SXSW Bands I Have To See

What’s that ya say?  SXSW is almost upon us?  Get the F*** out!  With our fancy little music festival we call SXSW coming up in March, I wanted to take a quick look at some of the bands I just gotta see during the upcoming week.  Now obviously I had to stick to a few strict rules here.  For starters, the band has to be one I haven’t seen before.  Two, it has to actually be possible to see the band (sorry STP & Band of Horses).  Three, the band needs to be fairly new with high praises coming from us and others.  I’d say that about does it.  These are bands on the verge of breaking it big in the national scene.  Will they have what it takes to impress me and the snobby Austin music scene with their live shows?  Only time will tell…  Follow the jump for my full list of bands I’ll be waiting in line to see during SXSW.
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Surfer Blood – Astrocoast

surfer bloodRating: ★★★★½

Over the last year, people have been suggesting that Surfer Blood might be the biggest band we hadn’t come across, leaving the band in the spot for breakthrough artist of 2010.  On Astrocoast, they live up to the hype, and in most cases, they far surpass what expectations we all had, creating one of the most colorful, yet playful, debuts we’ve come across in quite some time.

One would be hard pressed to pigeonhole this band at all, as they seemingly bounce from one spot to another throughout this 10 song debut.  For this listener, it sounds as if someone is channeling a Floridian soulmate of James Mercer of Shins fame.  There is something in the pitch in songs like “Floating Vibes” or especially in “Twin Peaks.” It’s not just the delivery of the lyrics, or the way the melody is approached, but it really feels as if the spirit of Mercer lies in there somewhere. “Twin Peaks,” by the way, is one ridiculously good song; you can listen to it on repeat, as I did, and never grow tired of it.

“Swim,” the album’s second track is such a bright moment that you can’t help but be won over by the fervent approach to bringing about swelling guitar waves and vocals that seem to echo through the room of your favorite local venue.  It’s this feeling of rawness that doesn’t seem forced, or steeped in some historical infatuation with bands of days gone by, though undoubtedly it does come from such moments.

“Take It Easy” comes like a close cousin to many of the songs of New York new wonders The Drums. Both bands have a club appeal that still seems rooted in the hallowed grounds of surf rock.  Like those New Yorkers, there is a certain vibrance to the writing itself, which moves it beyond pastiche, bringing a refreshing approach.  At this point, three songs in, the band should have completely won you over.

Near the end of the record, the boys slow it town just a hint, but the jangling of their guitars brings to mind a great deal of the work that came out of the Flying Nun label of New Zealand.  Perhaps the band is unaware of this, but that’s a sure-fire way to get straight into my heart, which allows me to look beyond the fact that the two 6 minute jams at the end, “Slow Jabroni” and “Anchorage” lag a little bit as far as pace goes.  Using time, these songs unfold into powerful pieces all their own.

All in all, this a sparkling debut from a band we know little about.  It’s full of playful tunes, whimsical lyrics, and load upon load of melodic hooks driving straight for your ears, and your heart. It’s refreshing to hear such a solid album arise beyond the hype, and fulfill on all the promise, which is precisely what Astrocoast does.  Based on this, Surfer Blood surely will be the breakout band we all heard they would be, and its deservedly so.


Download: Surfer Blood – Swim [MP3]

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