Top 12 Albums of 2019…According to Marc from the Midgetmen

Austin punks the Midgetmen are an Austin staple, and have been for quite some time. Thus, we’ve befriended Marc through the years of seeing them at shows and all that. He’s joined up in in our efforts to get some insight into year end lists the nontraditional way. Here’s a few words from Marc. Also, and it should definitely be mentioned; he’s a huge TGI Fridays supporter; I once watched him down slider after slider topped off with potato skins at a SXSW party…sponsored by TGI Fridays.

Marc: As it turns out, I happen to like beverages that come in 12 packs… and I happened to have exactly 12 albums that stood out to me this year. I actually had a lot of trouble cutting the list down from 20 –> 10, which is how I wound up at 12.

These 12 will certainly be in permanent rotation whereas the remaining 8 I wasn’t quite as sure about. (Which is not to say that remaining 8 aren’t great. Neil Young was in that 8!)
Thanks again for letting me give you a list of things that most people will ignore!

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ATX Weekend Show Preview: Who Isn’t Playing In Austin?

ATX Popfest 10Nathan and I were commenting on the plethora of shows going down this weekend, so I figured it’d be nice to lay it all out night by night for you so you know where you need to be to hear the best tunes. I’ve got all your options broken up by days and if you play your cards right, it could be a weekend filled to the brim with great local and visiting acts. See for yourself after the jump and prep with some tunes… a few more hours and it’s the weekend!

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I’ve Been Enjoying This Pelican Movement

kevI probably don’t consume music the way I used to; I don’t thumb through the liner notes as often as I once did.  So it should come as no surprise that I had no idea who Kevin McMahon was, though I own albums with his production all over them (Swans, Titus Andronicus, The Walkmen).  He’s working on his own project, Pelican Movement, and it’s an interesting bit of work; the core of the song rests on airy vocals and a strummed acoustic guitar, but he fills the empty space with atmospherics, both discordant and harmonious, creating this huge wall of sound that’s sure to capture your attention.  Look for his split 7″ with Battle Ave. today!

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Liam Betson Returns with New LP

liamLiam Betson once played guitar in Titus Andronicus, and while you can definitely see remnants of his foray in that outfit in this tune, it’s nice to see that the sound takes on a bit of new direction.  The vocals definitely harken to the TA days, at least in the way they were recorded, but the guitar takes on a different tone entirely.  The tone takes on a nice bit of twanging dream pop, with guitars cascading all over the tune.  He’ll be releasing this new batch of songs on The Cover of the Hunter, which is being released on July 22nd.  Take a listen.

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Top Albums of 2012: 100-51

It’s really hard to narrow down a list of Top Albums of 2012, especially when you have four contributors with different opinions.  We gave the reins to Nathan.Lankford and Nicole Baumann on this one, since they write the majority of the album reviews, but we all have a little representation within this.  Now, we do realize that our site has specialized tastes, so please realize that these are our OPINIONS.  You’re welcome to disagree, and, in fact, we encourage that process.  Also, we’re doing a Top 100 because so many records came out this year, it wouldn’t be fair to narrow it down.  Not to mention it might lead you to discover some hits you hadn’t heard about yet. Oh, and we don’t really like Frank Ocean or hip-hop…just a personal choice…here’s the first segment.

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Titus Andronicus – Local Business

Rating: ★★★½☆

You’ve really got to root for Titus Andronicus?  They’ve taken on their own approach to working within the indie rock community, and regardless of pitfalls of other acts, they always seem to come out on their own terms.  Local Business is their third LP, and while it’s story line may not be as grandiose as The Monitor, it impresses greatly, musically and lyrically.

For me, I almost always notice the music first, nowadays.  Perhaps that’s why the guitar line that opens “Ecce Homo” stuck out to me the most on my first listen; it’s almost got a Replacements feel to it, cutting edge, yet relaxed.  Then, of course, Patrick enters the picture delivering his stance as a man looking on from the outside, angry about the way things have played out, for himself and others.  Personally, by the fist song, I’m already fascinated by the clarity of the vocals, but what’s stuck out a great deal is the musical shift.  This album is all about a more classic rock n’ roll sound.  The guitars are turned up, as usual, but they take on less of a post-rock feel, especially if you look at the second track on Local Business, “Still Life with Hot Deuce on Silver Platter.”

That being said, I also think there’s a harder edge punk rock ethos laying beneath the songwriting.  Sure, that’s always been present, but in listening to a track like “Titus Andronicus vs The Absurd Universe” you can tell by the ferocity in the vocal delivery and the ringing guitar that this is all about creating music that’s in your face; it’s brash and lyrical, yet there’s still melody lurking. Even “Upon Viewing Oregon’s Landscape with the Flood of Detritus” has a subdued element of punk rock, although the guitar line that cuts through the number provides a more sentimental classic rock element.  Oh, and you can sing along too, rather easily…a staple of punk’ simplicity, and Patrick Stickles’s songwriting.

For me, the heart and soul of Titus Andronicus still lives in their mini-opus rock numbers.  “I Tried to Quit Smoking” is something I can relate to on a personal level, but the slow start of Patrick singing over piano and minimal drumming draws listeners in from the start, and that sentiment stays with you, that is until the band begins to sort of dial it in near the latter half with some noodling on various instruments.  It also provides a good counterpoint to “My Eating Disorder,” which appears earlier on Local Business.  This one’s almost as long, but it’s more of a bar-room brawler, giving you a bit of a shuffle whilst moving in and out of the track itself.  One listen and you’ll be anticipating the night when you get to scream “my eating disorder is inside me” at the top of your lungs.

Now, if you’re looking for the Monitor Pt. 2, you’re not going to find it here.  Honestly, that’s a good thing, considering the world raved about that album.  It shows me, as well as other fans, that the group’s still sticking to their guns, still operating on their own terms.  They don’t need to recreate themselves, and they don’t need to sound like Titus Andronicus.  They can forage new territory on their own, yet still come out with incredible songs that beg to be sung in the live setting or at the top of your lungs while you’re screaming down the highway.  Local Business is a good record. Hands down.

New Rock from Ceremony

So RayRay was complaining about how I dominated the site with “pussy rock” all Monday, so I wanted to start off your Tuesday with a re-hash banger that surfaced on Monday…that is before I return to my fall love of twee (more on that later today)  This jam comes from the powerful Ceremony, who’re doing a split with Titus Andronicus in honor of their tour.  It’s probably one of the cleanest rock tracks I’ve heard the group together, punishing your ears from start to finish.  Definitely a great live act, and their recordings just keep getting better.  You gotta head to one of the shows to grab these, but sadly no Austin date.


Download:Ceremony – Everything Burns [MP3]

SxSW Pics: Jesus and Mary Chain @ The Belmont

Still more coverage of the conference left…

Every SxSW, I like to pick a night to just camp out at a bigger venue and take in some stuff I may already know usually with the headliner that is trying to be cool. Duran Duran palyed last year’s Wednesday line up at Stubb’s that included Yuck and Rapheal Saadiq. I chose the Belmont on the Thursday night of the conference to catch The Jesus and Mary Chain with Cold Showers, Night Beats, (a band we shall ignore) and Titus Andronicus.

It was a night of noise and feedback and awesome. I made some new friends from Brazil and in the Russian Space Program, ran into old friends in the crowd and managed to meander through a freshly remodeled and tightly packed Belmont patio room to get pics from both sides of the stage (quite a feat).

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Liam the Younger – After the Graveyard

Rating: ★★★★☆

Liam the Younger is the project of Liam Betson, a man who’s spent some time playing with his friends, Titus Andronicus.  But, that’s about all he shares, or at least his music shares, with his friends, as After the Graveyard is a stripped down affair of bedroom folk tunes.  It’s just now being released by Underwater Peoples, after being stored away for the perfect day.

One of the first things you’ll notice when listening to opener “Current Joys” is that there’s definitely a minimal recording quality with the album, but I promise that won’t detract from the listening experience–not one bit. There’s a familiarity in Betson’s voice, which reminds me of Elf Power (in vocals only), but it’s his approach, which includes the recording hiss, is reminiscent of a young Conor Oberst.  If you listen to “Ode to Then,” it’s hard not to see the similarity, as his delivery definitely has that same feeling of nonchalance.  And while indifference might not be the most charming attribute for a human, you can appreciate it in the musical sense, as the songs on After the Graveyard come across as personal introspections.

For the most part, most Liam the Younger songs on this effort don’t go too far beyond the 2 minute mark, which might do a bit of a disservice to the songs themselves.  You barely have time to soak in the special quality of each number before you’re on to the next number, but tread carefully, as there are definitely some real gems. “It Is Good” is one such track, and probably one of my favorite of this entire collection.  It begins with a softly picked jangling guitar, which then moves up a bit to more of a steady strum.  The pace carries on for the rest of the song, finally fading towards the very end.  Find this song, and no matter what, you’ll be pleased Liam sat down to pen any songs at all.

All in all, a great deal of these songs come across as brief demos, as if they’re not fleshed out quite as one would expect.  It’s always great to hear someone having fun recording tracks all on their own, but one is left to wonder what would happen with a bit more time spent with each song, narrowing down the precise elements that really stand out.  Don’t get me wrong, After the Graveyard is absolutely chock-full of such elements, so much so that it’s a bit overwhelming at times, but I’d love to see Liam the Younger go back in time and re-record all these tracks with everything he’s learned. Pretty sure he’d be indie newcomer of the year.  For now, he’ll have to settle on being a musician with loads of talent, who just needs a touch more time.

Liam the Younger – Clear Skies Over Black River

Rating: ★★★½☆

Once again, Liam Betson is the man behind the recent Liam the Younger releases.  This is his second album under the moniker, finally seeing release (on the same day as the first) after being stored away, then shared with a few friends along the way.  While his association with Titus Andronicus is probably an easy point for critics to point at, there’s definitely something else going on beneath this set of songs, all of which benefit from an expanded length, in comparison to his other release, After the Graveyard.

Anyone can pick at a guitar and crop a tune nowadays, but it takes someone special to really evoke the emotions out of a listener.  Liam the Younger accomplishes this on all his tracks, just like a few others before him.  “Leaving Black River” again recalls both the playing and singing of young Conor Oberst.  You can feel the earnestness in his singing, so much so that he occasionally hits that off note, yet not quite like Oberst’s warble–it’s a little more gentle. Also, there’s hints of a humorless Adam Green on “Country Wide,” which comes across like a haphazard ditty–that is until eventually you fall in love with the track, realizing that Liam Betson might just be the new singer for you.

Adam Green sticks out the most in comparison when you look closely at the lyrical stylings on Clear Skies Over Black River. Take “Walking,” for instance, a song that’s very casual in its composition and seems to merely be recorded thoughts, albeit from different perspectives, of every day happenings.  This is the sort of thing that made Green and his Moldy Peaches so charming, just as it does with Mr. Betson.  Stripped down to guitars, you really just get to listen to the man tell his stories, and everyone loves a nostalgic storytelling moment.

But, don’t let me drown you in comparisons, as this record is so much more than all that.  For one, listen to the whisperingly soft “Beneath the Weeping Willow Tree,” and try to not tell me that this is the sort of song you’ve always been toying with in your bedroom. Or go with Liam on “Clear Skies” as he reminisces about his good day, a la Ice Cube.  These are friends that make you feel close to the artist, allow you to get drawn into his craft; for a lot of us, that’s all we’ve been looking for our whole lives.  Each track on Clear Skies Over Black River is just that, a song you can feel yourself writing, you just didn’t happen to write it, Liam the Younger did.  It’s personal; it’s a musician stark naked with nothing but his guitar; it’s something you’ll want to come back to time and time again.  That’s what great records and songwriters do, and that’s what you have here.

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