I’m not sure how much fanfare there will be in regards to Hutch Harris‘ solo LP, his first post-Thermals release, but I’m going to give him some love. The songs on Only Water are as catchy as anything Hutch kicked out with his old outfit, but the whole album is charmingly underdone, production-wise. It gives the whole thing this DIY aesthetic that reminds me a lot of Ted Leo’s Tyranny of Distance. Maybe it’s because I came of age with the Thermals, and I’m nostalgically listening in on one of its key songwriters, but I think if you listen through its entirety, you’ll find that Hutch still has that incredible gift we all appreciate. I know I sure as fuck do.
I don’t really have a whole lot to say about this song other than it’s by The Thermals and it has that sense of no B.S. rock n roll we’ve come to expect from the band over the last 10+ years. It rules. Duh.
What you might not know is that a new album is coming from the band on April 16th via Saddle Creek Records entitled Desperate Ground. Also, a free download of this tasty tune can be had on the band’s website in exchange for your email address.
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Our Fun Fest coverage is nearing an end, but we have yet to give you a top artists post in typical ATH fashion. So here ladies and gents is your ATH top 10 fun fest acts. This is a list compiled by all of our writers and collaborators who did their best to check out as many bands as we could this weekend. Keep in mind that we see as many bands as we can, but certainly can’t blanket the whole fest. Follow the jump for list.
There is a lot to go through; here is but a smattering. Day One features Cloud Nothings, people getting tattoed, The Gosling, dust, YACHT, The Thermals, The Oh Sees, more dust, Okkervill River, Four Tet, bandanas (wearing one right now) and a couple filler shots from the house.
Head past the break for a couple of stories, the pics and a link to even more pics…
As a long time fan of the Thermals, I’ll always be dedicated to anything that’s associated with the band. Luckily for me, and for you as well, Hutch never really writes a bad song. His new solo project, Forbidden Friends just released a the new Totally Low 7″ on Kill Rock Stars, and it’s been playing on my turntable all night long. It might not have the sharp edge of the Thermals, but you can hear the backbone in there. His voice is always has a special place in my heart, which is perhaps the reason why I’m so attracted to the simplicity he’s revealed with this new project. Go get your hands on the single today![audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Forbidden_Friends_-_Totally_Low.mp3]
Download: Forbidden Friends – Totally_Low [MP3]
When press first came out for Total Babes, a lot of attention was given to the fact that it featured a member of Cloud Nothings, and to a certain extent, that’s a fair association, as the similarities are definitely visible. However, Swimming Through Sunlight, the band’s debut on Old Flame Records isn’t just a re-imagining; it stand up on its own merit.
If you’re looking for a catchy lo-fi hook, you won’t have to look beyond the first song, as “Like They Always Do” features a chorus that grabs you while the noise distortion swells in the background. It’s a quick hammering, not staying around too long for fear of giving you a little bit too much sugar. But, while this shares that affinity for noisy-garage pop a la the aforementioned association, the next track, “Be So Sure” shows resemblance to another lo-fi pop band, The Thermals (it’s not just me is it?). Perhaps the vocals could be cleaned up a bit more on the recording, but it definitely has that sweetness mixed nicely with a bit of excessive noise, just like Hutch would want it.
One of the best things about listening to Swimming Through Sunlight is that you can see various touches of the modern musical landscape, but the inherent melodies and songwriting enable to group to move beyond pure mockery. “Someone to Blame” sounds an awful like Wavves at their best, even featuring a similar lyrical style, using simple words to convey a message. I suppose that various sources can knock the group for a lack of originality, but you can easily look beyond that once you get to the core of the songs. They’re not too long, giving you just a taste of their glory, then moving on, asking you to revisit at a later point.
Personally, I would like to see Total Babes revisit the studio with a bit more of a polish and sheen. For instance, there’s a brightness to the opening guitar line in “Without Your Heart,” but that clarity eventually parts for a grittier sound. This isn’t entirely a bad thing, as it serves its purpose in a great deal of the tracks featured on the record, but a certain sharpness could really propel these songs to the next level. Even in the closer, “Tip of My Tongue,” there’s this incredible element of pop, but it’s buried so far beneath the mix that it comes off sounding more like a demo than a final product. It’s the slightest difference between an incredible song and just a really good one.
All in all, Swimming Through Sunlight is full of bright spots, and its clear that the songwriting is far more than just your moderate fare, but Total Babes still have a bit of work to do in the finished product. Clear vocals here, bit of distortion removed there, and you’ve got a wonderful record full of memorable hooks, sing-a-long moments, and enough power to kick the rest of the genre in the face; looking forward to that day![audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/02-be-so-true.mp3]
Download: Total Babes – Be So True [MP3]
An evening with The Thermals is never a bad way to spend any evening, let alone a cool Saturday night, so we headed out to Red 7 to grab a few drinks while watching one of our favorite bands. We were also really excited to be able to catch Cymbals Eat Guitars, another one of the bands out there trying to bring back a bit of rock into our roll.
Their last time out, on Now We Can See, The Thermals began to steer away from their conversations regarding art and politics. They introduced a bit more of their personal worlds into their songwriting. For the most part, they stick to these new tactics on Personal Life, using the title to indicate the album’s lyrical subject matter.
“I’m Gonna Change Your Life” kicks things off with that distorted guitar and bass, including Hutch’s vocals. While the song definitely has a bit of that soft/loud complexity, it doesn’t have quite the same fury that one associates with the group’s previous efforts. It’s not until “I Don’t Believe You” pummels you in the face that you completely recognize the old energetic band you probably adored since day one. You’ll find monosyllabic “oohs” throughout the track as well, a long trademark of Hutch and Kathy.
As the record creeps along, you begin to realize that changing subject matter also means a change in the overall approach to writing the accompanying music. “Never Listen to Me” has this bubbling bassline that walks you through the entire song, but once again, the urgency is absent. This might be disheartening for some, especially those longtime fans of The Thermals, but you’ll soon realize that even these slower numbers have some special moments, such as Hutch’s cutting guitar working its way in and out of the track. Similarly, “Power Lies” takes a back seat to the regular pace, even though the song seems to contain remnants of olden days, or at least the ability to unleash. Still, one of the things that you’ll notice as you go through this collection is that repeated listens don’t wear you down, and the slower pacing allows for more depth somehow. These songs aren’t hitting you over the head in a hurry, so the odds are you’ll come back, able to keep rocking out to Personal Life time and time again.
There are some odd moves too, or at least those that will come across unexpected. “Alone, A Fool” is basically an acoustic guitar strummed with Hutch’s vocals doing the majority of the hard work. Even though it is one of the shortest tracks to grace the record, for some reason, it’s one of those songs you can revisit separate from the whole. But, just as you thought they were going to close out gently, “Your Love is So Strong” brings back that much needed energy, due mostly to the addition of Westin Glass and his pounding drum kit. And so you find yourself near the end of it all, unsure how the band will leave us, at least for this round. “You Changed My Life” closes it all out, and while there’s a lack of speed, it sorts of sums up everything about the album. There’s light touches of traditional sounds, but with a slightly different direction to the overall construction of songs.
That about encompasses all that is Personal Life. While they’ve maintained bits and pieces of their past, they’ve been able to adapt to a new member, as well as new subject matter. It might take die-hard fans a bit of time to get stuck into this one, but the more spins you give it, the more you’ll find that its wholly more rewarding than previous efforts. The Thermals have written an album that still contains a certain edge, but allows you to absorb a bit more melody and understanding as you go track by track. Give it time kids, it’s got some special moments waiting for you all.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/The-Thermals-I-Dont-Believe-You.mp3]
Download: The Thermals – I Don’t Believe You [MP3]
Now that they have a full-time drummer, it’s like The Thermals can’t be stopped. They put out a great record last year, and now news comes that their newest record, Personal Life, will hit stores September 7th via Kill Rock Stars. We won’t complain, as we love this band. The latest single is quick, catchy and not short on the fun, so hopefully you’ll find it beneficial to the doldrums of a slow Tuesday. If not, at least you have new tunes from this great band.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/The-Thermals-I-Dont-Believe-You.mp3]
Download: The Thermals – I Don’t Believe You [MP3]
When their EP, You’re So Quiet, came out awhile back, you wouldn’t have been off to declare Hollywood Gossip one of Austin’s best twee bands. They sounded sunny with trademark jangling guitars cutting back and forth across the short collection. But, a year and a half later, they’ve matured on Dear as Diamonds, albeit in their very own style. It looks like Austinites can now rejoice, as we finally have a quality band to fill the void left by the recent break-up of Voxtrot.
“Sleepwalkin” begins the album in a similar place that we last found the group, but the slight changes, such as letting the guitars ring for just a bit longer, give the song a little bit more warmth. What used to be covered in witty lyrics and crisp guitars has now evolved into a full sound, moved forward by a rambunctious closing moment featuring exuberant shouts from singer Tyler Womack. It’s these closing moments, and time changes mid-song, such as in the various spots on “Summer Haze” that point towards a band who’ve grown quite a bit.
“Turn It Up” is definitely one of the many feel good songs you’ll find on Dear as Diamonds, and this is the first time you’ll notice some changes in the vocals of Womack. In the past you might have found hints of groups like The Smiths, but on this track you can definitely hear a bit of Hutch from The Thermals; you should really dig this song. This track offers a grittier guitar as well, which is just another show of the progress the band has made. But, don’t think that their catchy jangle-pop days are completely gone. “Narcissus in a Window” uses a bubbling bass line for a backbone courtesy of Cory Ryan, and starts with that jangle we’ve come to associate with Hollywood Gossip. Mid-song, they change it up, stripping away that jangle for a heavier guitar tone. One of the many things that makes this track great, along with others here, is that instead of stopping short, as many of the tracks from their EP did, they continue to grow the song a bit, fleshing out all the details. It’s hard to skip ahead when all this goodness hides in wait.
Yet another change that is sure to win over many new fans is the element of softly strummed guitar. First, you have the short ditty “Out of My Depth,” which has Tyler questioning himself over that lightly played guitar. Short and sweet, to the point, and enjoyable all the same. Closer “All That I Want” also utilizes a similar style for the greater part of the song, illustrating the strengths of Womack’s voice. Once again, the band pushes the song into new areas they haven’t visited before, at least not on recorded material, when they hit the 3 minute mark (roughly). The rest of the group joins, and a guitar solo swings in to provide a different dynamic altogether. Ryan joins in on the fun in the end, carrying us out on a high point.
Hollywood Gossip really hit the high-water mark with Dear as Diamonds. In drawing from their pasts whilst pushing forward, they wrote a collection of songs so enjoyable that not a one of them should be skipped over. The past gave me fuzzy feelings listening to the group, but now I’m sure that I’m in love with this band. You should be too![audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/05-Narcissus-In-A-Window.mp3]
Download: Hollywood Gossip – Narcissus in a Window [MP3]