My Marfa Experience With Dirty Projectors & Wye Oak

With more show pics and a review coming later this week from their Austin show, I’m going to focus more on my overall Marfa experience culminating with the Dirty Projectors show at the Crowley Theatre.  I’ll be as brief as I can since the Marfa experience is really something best witnessed first hand and not by an amature blogger who happens to love a great show.  Follow the jump for my thoughts and some photos by contributor Mair.Heard.

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Show Preview: Dirty Projectors @ Emos (8/2)

Date Thursday, August 2nd
Location Emos
Doors 900 pm
Tickets $20 from C3

I’m sure this show probably doesn’t need much of an introduction, as it’s one of the hottest tickets around, but we thought we’d give you a friendly reminder about one of the big shows coming into town on Thursday.  If you’ve recovered from Divine Fits at Beerland, you should definitely check out Dirty Projectors, the indie art-pop act who’ve been making waves pretty much since their inception.  They come into town fresh off the recent release of Swing Lo Magellan, their latest record. And as if that wasn’t enough, you can also, and should, catch the marvelous opening duo, Wye Oak.  It’s been awhile since Civilian came out, but just hearing those songs live brings everything back to life.  We’ll definitely see you there folks!


Download: Wye Oak – Civilian [MP3]

Bowerbirds – The Clearing

Rating: ★★★★½

It’s been about three whole years since we last heard from Raleigh’s Bowerbirds; their last effort Upper Air definitely warmed all our hearts.  After one listen to The Clearing, you’ll be glad the band waited; this record’s assuredly the best thing they’ve put together with their unique blend of folk, strings and sweet melodies.

Momentarily a guitar is plucked as “Tuck the Darkness In” begins, but the band quickly adds a minimal percussive stroke to the track.  A gentle piano accompanies Philip Moore on his vocal foray, just before strings join in to sweep you away in a stupendous melody. Moore’s voice is often united with Beth Tacular too on this number; they’ve created one of the most beautifully warming songs of 2012. But, Bowerbirds aren’t just going to let their melodies swell over and over again, as you see on “In the Yard,” where Beth takes the lead singing role.  Their approach here is less grandiose, yet the union of Moore and Tacular again creates moments you’ll have a hard time getting out of your head.

The Clearing has the group really working with their sound, providing more intimate details to the negative space, crafting a sonic experience not unlike Wye Oak.  “Brave World” holds this quality, especially with the percussive element and the piano that flesh out the song itself, though clearly you can say that Moore’s vocals steal the show. Similarly, the following track, “Hush” goes about things in the same manner, allowing the song to really come to the listener, rather than forcing melody on us.  While it remains clear through moments like this that Bowerbirds have changed their musical dynamics here, such progressions really highlight the band’s writing gifts.

You’ll still find the band working with their bread and butter, however, especially with songs like “Death Wish” and “Sweet Moments.” The latter uses little more than a strummed guitar and some oddball additives to fill the space, but it remains mostly a folk-driven track.  “Death Wish” has some deep string arrangements that provide sort of a haunting emotion, which perfectly juxtaposes the soft quality of the Moore’s voice. I’m moved each time I listen to that darkened string element creep into the track.

It all comes to a fitting end on the closing track, “Now We Hurry On,” which is sort of a track that’s compiled all the elements that are present on The Clearing into one final statement by the group.  There’s tinkering piano parts, traditional folk moments, and yet quietly fades out in the end, just as a perfect record should do.  After a three year absence, the time appears to have been well-spent for Bowerbirds; they’ve advanced their sound to a degree that will surely find them reaping huge rewards.  It’s truly a listen that will reward you time and time again.


Download:Bowerbirds – Tuck the Darkness In [MP3]

Albums Of 2011

We’ve already brought you our songs of the year and Texas albums of the year, so now it’s time for the much anticipated albums of the year list.  I’m sure many of you will notice some big names off the list and you will be ready to plead your case about why we are wrong.  We’ll hear ya out… Feel free to drop us a comment with your own list or just to debate with us.  Follow the jump for list.
50) The New Tigers – s/t

49) Secret Cities – Strange Hearts

48) AM & Shawn Lee – Celestial Electric

47) Rural Alberta Advantage – Departing

46) Blue Skies for Black Hearts – Embracing the Modern Age

45) Geoffrey O’ Connor – Vanity is Forever

44) Dum Dum Girls – Only in Dreams

43) Destroyer – Kaputt

42) Obits – Moody, Standard and Poor

41) The Rosebuds – Loud Planes Fly Low

40) Tim Cohen – Magic Trick

39) Bad Sports – Kings of the Weekend

38) Chelsea Wolfe – Apokalypsis

37) Chad Van Gaalen – Diaper Island

36) Male Bonding – Nothing Hurts

35) Crystal Stilts – In Love With Oblivion

34) Cold Cave – Cherish the Light Years

33) Devon Williams – Euphoria

32) Okkervil River – I Am Very Far

31) Sonny and the Sunsets – Hit After Hit

30) Smith Westerns – Dye It Blonde

29) Wax Idols – No Future

28) Grooms – Prom

27) Cut Off Your Hands – Hollow

26) The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient

25) Ducktails – Ducktails III

24) Papercuts – Fading Parade

23) Atlas Sound – Parallax

22) Mind Spiders – s/t

21) Craft Spells – Idle Labor

20) Yuck – s/t

19) The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar

18) Comet Gain – Howl of the Lonely Crowd

17) The Drums – Portamento

16) Snowmine – Laminate Pet Animal

15) King Creosote and Jon Hopkins – Diamond Mine

14) The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Belong

13) Girls Names – Dead to Me

12) Light for Fire – s/t

11) Other Lives – Tamer Animals

10) Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

9) Iceage – New Brigade

8 The Antlers – Burst Apart

7) Seapony – Go With Me

6) Pure X – Pleasure

5) Cloud Nothings – s/t

4) Real Estate – Days

3) Gold Leaves – The Ornament

2) The Twerps – s/t

1) Wye Oak – Civilian

So that’s it ladies and gents, we are officially putting an end to 2011.  What do you like and what do you not like?  Let’s hear it.

New Music from Sharon Van Etten

I know Turkey Day is drawing near, but there’s still some great music leaking out today, so I’m going to try and stay on top of it.  This new track from Sharon Van Etten has me really excited, and not just because it features members of The National, Walkmen and Wye Oak; it’s because I’ve got a bit of a crush on Sharon…and her music too! The songstress has a new album coming out titled Tramp, which will be released on Jagjaguwar on February 7th.  This song’s got a nice little cascading guitar line cutting through the rhythm guitar, and Van Etten’s voice sounds every bit as beautiful as I remember it in the live setting.  This is shaping up to be a good 2012 already.


Download: Sharon Van Etten – Serpents [MP3]

Show Pics: Wye Oak @ The Parish

I chased Wye Oak around at SxSW only to be thwarted by flu fatigue and a late cancellation at a day party, but to get to see them play at The Parish more than makes up for it. Add to that, it was my birthday. Add to that, I get to bring my camera to share pics with you.

So off to the Parish we went, the Hall in a good mood, but a little tired from the week’s shows. Erika Wennerstrom opened with a set of stripped down Heartless Bastards tunes.

Head past the jump for plenty of pics and few show notes…

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Show Preview: Wye Oak @ the Parish (10/14)

Date Friday, October 14th
Location The Parish
Doors 800p
Tickets $12 from Frontgate

With the slew of shows piling up in Austin this month, this is one that you definitely don’t want to miss out on.  Friday, Baltimore duo Wye Oak make their way into town, hoping to reignite the passion for their great record Civilian, which came out earlier this year on Merge Records. With Jenn Wasner on vocals and Andy Stack, it’s hard to imagine how the two can craft such a huge wall of sound, both fragile and ecclectic–my bet is on Jenn and her powerful vocals. Among all the shows, this is definitely the one you should put on your MUST see list. You can also catch opener Erika Wennerstrom of Heartless Bastards if you show up on time folks!


Download: Wye Oak – Civilian [MP3]

Future Islands – On the Water

Rating: ★★★½☆

Although established in 2006, Future Islands seem to be a band that haven’t really been able to get their footing—be it in what kind of sound they are going for, or in the number of full length albums they have put out. Regardless, after a listen or two, On the Water is the album that changes things for this band; it’s a solid synth-pop album with some jams that will have you either bobbing your head to the beat or basking in the glow of their dramatically emotional musings.

Future Islands is composed of three men with synthesizers, vocals and guitars, the combination of which makes for an interesting sound combo. You have these groovy synthesizers that fuse with the passionately gruff vocals of Samuel Herring, which makes up the crux of their sound. Herring belts the words to his songs in his mesmerizing style, pushing every ounce of emotion into every syllable he sings, which drives the sonic interest behind this band and makes the sound more than just some synthesized beats.

On the first song, which is also the title track, you can hear such passion emoted in Herrings vocals. Some atmospheric noise starts things out softly, but then the drum beats and synths roll in and it feels like a beast is crawling over your ears. This image is completed with the entrance of Herring, whose vocals feel strained with raw feeling, even turning into a growl-like state at some points. I’m reminded of a cross between David Bowie and Patrick Wolf in that the throat emotion is the main focus of his style, which may feel melodramatic to some, but proves to be my favorite part of Future Islands’ sound. If you detest it after the first song, I don’t think it would be wise to attempt to pursue this band any further—it is the driving force behind the synth.

There are some standouts on this album that seem to propel it past their last release. One of these comes third and features Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak for some male/female duality in the vocals, and the result is a lovely combination of power. Another highlight comes later on “Give Us The Wind,” in which you can jam to the deep bass of the song and feel the cathartic weight of the lyrics; “We don’t want your blessings/ Give us the Wind.”

While not all songs are exactly the most explosive of numbers, there are enough high points to outweigh the mediocre ones. On the Water serves as a good synth-pop record that will surely warrant further listening.

Chelsea Wolfe – Apokalypsis

Rating: ★★★★☆

More often then not in this day and age of music, bands will go for what I like to call ‘the single approach,’ or perfecting one of their songs so that it attracts the ears of potential listeners, and then failing to provide an album that matches the excellence of the single, or culminates with the other songs for a thematic approach. Regardless of what the rest of the music world is doing, Chelsea Wolfe seems to be dedicated to doing things her way, which means an album Ἀποκάλυψις (pronounced apokalypsis) themed around darkness.

If the album title wasn’t enough, or even the track titles, to prove that this is a deeply sinister work, then the first noises you hear should do the trick. The first ‘song’ on the album, or the twenty-five second screeching noises entitled “Primal/Carnal,” sounds exactly like the title entails; an animal coming to life, but not just any animal, more specifically going off Wolfe’s outwardly dark themes. After this introductory track, “Mer,” the first real song kicks in and instantly Wolfe’s vocals hook, oozing with haunting qualities. It is much akin to that of Jenn Wasner from Wye Oak, which is obviously not a bad thing, as the female powerhouse vocal is never something to sneeze at, especially when its sweetness is juxtaposed against grungy instrumentals. Meanwhile, in the background, you have simmering cymbals and slowly effervescing guitar parts that provide a dark ambient folk/rock/pop vibe.

As aforementioned, Ἀποκάλυψις doesn’t really follow the pattern of one song standing apart from the others. Rather, it is the opposite, in that in order to absorb the rich, heavy and blackness of Wolfe’s gothic rock, you need to listen to the whole album, all the way through. Sure, like most records, you’ll pick out your favorite song, but there is a general sense of atmosphere required on all of the songs that makes it difficult to really immerse yourself in this kind of music without some preface or transition into. In effect, this phenomenon is probably the most unique and alluring factor of Chelsea’s work, and its cohesiveness is a lovely break from the banality of albums that just sit as a collection of similar sounding songs.

I won’t lie to you and say that this is a light effort, in the slightest. Instead, it is one of the more solid pieces of music that you will find these days. However, if you are ready to sit down and just soak up all of the darkness that Chelsea Wolfe is doling out, then this should be a beautiful album for you to relish in.


Download: Chelsea Wolfe – Advice and Vices [MP3]

FT5: Albums of the Year…so far

Let’s face it, every site is doing it, and perhaps we’re a little late on the run in, but technically, we just got to the midway point of the year, so I was holding off until the exact date–I don’t want to get ahead of myself.  So, in all honesty, this is going to be sort of a list of my 2011 albums of the year up to now, but I reserve the right to drastically change my opinion on any, if not all, of these choices. Come on, it’s just now July, so I’ve still got six months to hammer things out in a fully functional list.  Please remember, this is one man’s opinion, not the site as a whole, nor do we disagree with your opinions, unless you like that new Beyonce.

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