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A couple of weeks back, we went on and on - and rightfully so – about Austin-based instrumental rock heroes, Explosions in the Sky. Now, please allow us to go on and on about another Texas-based act that thrives in the realm of instrumental and post-rock. This Will Destroy You is back with Tunnel Blanket (Suicide Squeeze Records), a ferocious, brooding and moody album that really hammers you over the head in the best way possible – if you just let it.

The four-piece band that originated in San Marcos and has a couple of Dallas-based members has actually become quite the stars in the post-rock-or-whatever-you-want-to-call-it world. Drawing crowds not only around the US, but sizable throngs overseas, it’s fair to say that the new album was indeed eagerly anticipated by more than a few. Tunnel Blanket does represent a dynamic shift for the band’s overall sonic vibe. Opting to move away from the soaring, catchy and melodic climaxes that recall that one group from Austin, and into a bleaker, tension-filled terrain have created a textured variety that rewards those who allow the waves to roll towards them, then over them entirely. There aren’t any easy, quick escapes to be found on this dense, and richly manipulated album.

TWDY is kicking off their tour to support the release of Tunnel Blanket, and we were recently able to catch up with Chris King, one of the group’s founders and guitarists. Below, we discuss a few of the variables that makes the band, their sound and their new album so remarkable (my words, not King’s).

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After listening to the new record a couple of times, it’s pretty impossible to miss the difference in overall tone, compared to your previous work. There seems to be an added emphasis on building tension and creating drama.

On the last record, we had a different approach to building each song. Now, it’s more of a slow burn than an immediate send-off. We wanted to create tension in more subtle ways and not be so obvious about it.

You must get tired of being asked this, but I can’t help myself, because I’m just really curious. Do you consider yourself “Post-Rock,” or do you have a different definition for what it is that your band does?

With this new record, we did intentionally want to avoid easy genre-labeling, but we made the record that came naturally to us. That’s why I don’t get into trying to name different types of music. People are always going to try to categorize music in specific terms. I mean, people could say that we make polka music for all I really care. Those titles and categories have no standing with me at all.

John Congleton produced this record, and has produced many other instrumental bands, such as Explosions in the Sky and Dallas’ Shapes Stars Make (not to mention St. Vincent, The Walkmen and Sarah Jaffe). Why is he such a talent when it comes to this brand of music?

I have a lot of respect for john. He has a real unique sensibility for sound manipulation and engineering. There are techniques he uses that I would never think of and he finds really creative ways to utilize them. His records have a dark, angry grit to them and that’s always stood out to me.

Your band has had some really large crowds in Europe and you’re about to head back that way for some shows soon. Do you think European music fans “get” what is you do, more than American fans?

I do see that sensibility in Europe. In America, many people are really into things that are so immediate. In Europe, I feel like there’s more patience, and less concern for what’s trendy. It seems to be a more consistent market over there, and there’s a very high respect for art.

Another thing I can’t escape when listening to Tunnel Blanket is the feeling of being rewarded for my patience and letting each song unfold in its own time. Do you think that keeps people from grasping your sound?

You know, people have different approaches when listening to music, so, to each their own. For us, this record wasn’t about hooks and melodies as much as it was about moods and creating environment.

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This Will Destroy You – Black Dunes from wearepostrock on Vimeo.

 

The phrase “pure pop perfection” is likely an overused crutch in the lexicon of music criticism. Also, it’s likely typically used for fare that usually finds itself residing on the Top 40 end of the dial. With all of that out of the way, allow us to proclaim that Calhoun’s newest album, Heavy Sugar is indeed pure pop-rock perfection.

The Ft. Worth-based outfit of music veterans has long been on the cusp of notoriety that many have assumed would lead them to status larger than the regional favorites they certainly are at this time. This is a well-liked bunch of dudes. For example, we even featured “Hey, Mystery” from the new album on our inaugural podcast a couple of weeks back. But the truth is, we would’ve added pretty much the entire album onto the podcast as an example of what is so very right with music coming out of north Texas these days.

Calhoun’s label, Idol Records has been on a serious hot-streak since the beginning of the year. With well-received albums by The O’s and Here Holy Spain already out, one will be hard-pressed to pick a Texas-based record label that seems to spit out such quality with the same regularity as Idol has this year (for out-of-state labels on similar hot-streaks, give the 2011 releases of Sub Pop and Bloodshot a look).

The history of the band is an interesting one on top of all the musical goodness. Forming in 2004, former Grand Street Cryer leader Tim Locke has continued his long-standing run of simply writing great tunes. Grand Street Cryers had a nice run in the mid-1990′s and also saw its share of success before disbanding. The current incarnation of the group includes Taylor Young of The O’s (and formerly of the Polyphonic Spree), and Toby Pipes, formerly of Deep Blue Something, the band that reached pop-culture phenomenon status thanks to their massive, mainstream hit tune, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. After what was a short-lived dissolution, it seems as though Calhoun is back and ready to make a real go of it, as they are soon embarking on a European tour after the new disc sees its proper release this week.

So, yeah, the album is packed with catchy tunes, and simply put: There isn’t one song that you’re likely to tap the skip button on. It’s one of those albums that you can put on and let roll until it’s done. In fact, it’ll be the repeat button you’ll find your finger reaching for most often as proceeding through Heavy Sugar.

Head over to the band’s webiste to hear some songs (we highly recommend “Knife Fight”), and enjoy the video below, also. If you’re looking for a good show to hit this week. The guys will be playing in a couple of different parts of the state over the next week or so to celelbrate the release of Heavy Sugar, also.

 

Sorry, more SXSW video. Cant help myself, really. Too many good clips from the mecca of live music. A band I’m forming an unhealthy attraction towards, The Joy Formidable, is seen above playing in an Austin bicycle shop (totally normal, right?) and below another, more raw, live performance of from their new album, The Big Roar…Enjoy!

Some artists were born here in Texas. Others got here as quickly as they could. Austin resident Bill Callahan, who formerly recorded under the name Smog, was actually born in Maryland and even spent a few childhood years in England. Over the course of the last couple of decades though, much of Callahan’s music has been experimental, lo-fi and enigmatic. Sounds like a Texan, to me.

Callahan’s latest release, Apocalypse, has a lackadasical luster to it, which wont surprise any long-time fans. The third album that he has recorded under his own name is a gem that rewards those who patiently hang in there and give the collecitoin a real chance to impress them. Heck, at points, especially in “Riding for the Feeling,” Callahan comes of as a spaced-out crooner, letting his lush baritone voice do much of the heavy lifting over the sprase arrangements.

The Texan in Callahan really does come out, if only his own, unique way. A great example of that is the album cover. Paul Ryan’s gorgeous Apocalypse at Mule Ears Peak, Big Bend National park in West Texas gives just the right amount of mystery and whimsy to this project from an adopted Texan.

“America!” and “Universal Applicant” continue to give any listener looking for an accessible listen fits. Again, the rewards are worth it. Over distorted guitar and a shuffling beat, Callahan channels the smoking spirit of a 1960′s Beat Poet, as he darkly scats his ominous lyrics over the music.

With Apocalypse, Callahan has more than rediscovered his inner poet, not that it needed to be dusted off, mind you. In fact, Callahan’s inner poet is a  pipe-smoking, cooler-than-everyone-else-in-the-room poet.

While the playlist for Dallas-based all-music NPR station 91.7 KXT can best be describesd as bufuddling for much of the day, the videos on their website are are anything but. Between the live, in-studio interviews and performances and the “On the Road” series, where touring artists are filmed performing in unusual environs, the station’s site is a veritable treasure trove of quality videos for the music geek in all of us.

As we’ve recently noted, we really enjoy the fact that the vinyl format of music enjoyment has made its way back into the popular mainstream. Even cooler, is the fact that this resurrection has also brought back the demand for tricked-up types of vinyl offerings. Special edition 7-inch singles are all the rage, and if a band can trick things up even further by offering their vinyl in a cool color, then even better, as far as we’re concerned.

Dallas-based American Werewolf Academy seems to be as pumped about it as we are, frankly. We recently recieved a sweet little package that contained one of tehir limited edition Electric Blue-colored 7-inch vinyl singles. Lest we let the aesthetic and novelty of the record get the best of us, the music on either side of the two song single is pretty darn sweet, as well.

Side A contains “The Hop,” while Side B has “The Kid Stays in the Picture.” Both tunes recall the spirit of the 1980′s that seems to often be forgotten by people as they remember the sometimes silly extremes of music from the decade that redefined decadence in style, spending and especially, music. Recalling a less drunk, more sentimental Replacements, the guitar-driven pop of this single is infectious, and striaght-forward.

The B-side number boasts a buoyant, bright and slightly ska-tinged guitar part that gives way to a full-on garage-exploding recklessness that never forgets to be insanely melodic while kicking over the amps.

Formed in 2005, American Werewolf Academy has released 5 albums, and this special single is a forerunner to the group’s upcoming full-length album, Everything is Alright, due in June. Interestingly, the two songs featured on the 7 inch disc were recorded in Denton, using a direct-to-tape method, forgoing the aid of any sort of computer technology, giving the overall feel of this single an even more legitimately retro-vibe.

Austin Post-rockers Explosions in the Sky come out with a new album this week (the reliably fantastic Take Care, Take Care, Take Care). We thought it would be a nice opportunity to stroll down video-memory lane. Here’s a taste of their 2003 album, The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place. Enjoy the spacey, sweeping greatness!

OK, here it is! We’ve been telling you about some of our favorite new Texas-bred music for a while, now, but here we are, ready to let you hear it, all in one nice, tidy podcast!

The first Best of Texas Music Podcast (Catchy name, huh?) featires six groovy tunes by some of our favorite artists that have recently been featured here on The Squawker. No need to make it too terribly complicated. Click on the player below and get to listenting.

Below that is the line-up of this inaugural episode, along with the minute markers each tune begins at…

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Best of Texas Music Podcast – Episode 001

  • Bumbling Intro from Kelly: ……….0:01
  • Monahans - “Seabirds”: …………..1:50
  • Descender - “Armor”: ……………..5:15
  • Calhoun – “Hey Mystery”:…………..9:38 (Blog post on them coming soon!)
  • Kelly’s Needless Comments:………12:31
  • Javi Garcia & The Cold Cold Ground - “VooDoo Queen”:……….14:42
  • Bonnie Whitmore - “You Gonna Miss Me”:……….19:08
  • Here Holy Spain - ”New Bones to Break”:………….23:26
  • More Needless Comments to Close Podcast:……26:06 

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By the time the next episode rolls around, you’ll be able to download it for free from iTunes and all that good stuff. For now, just click on it above and enjoy, please.

If you’re in a band and want your tunes featured here, or you want to suggest a band for me to get onto the podcast, email me at kelly.dearmore@bestoftexas.com.

Man, recently, we are doing some serious Post-Rocking in the free world. Well, at least here in Texas, we are. Well-known veterans (Mogwai) and slightly lesser-known, slightly younger (This Will Destroy You) acts of that ilk are releasing new works, and hitting various cities in our region in the next few weeks. In many cases, the new music departs from sounds of the past, in order to differentiate themselves from a sound they claim to not be a part of.

The primary reason we’re getting all spacey and anthemic? Austin’s own instrumental rock heroes, Explosions in the Sky have a new album out, and it’s worthy of celebration.

Many other bands that specialize in a similar form of lyric-less, guitar-driven, arena-worthy anthems seem to bristle at the notion of being viewed as “post-rock,” but judging by Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, the outfit’s seventh album (if you’re including the band’s highly-praised contributions to the Friday Night Lights movie soundtrack), they’re not too worried about folks judging them for not switching things up and making a massive stylistic leap into another realm of instrumental music.

Over the course of 6 songs, spanning 46 minutes, EITS serves up anthems that do possess a few musical additions that astute observers will surely tell anyone listening represents a departure from the group’s typical sound. One thing that is pleasingly similar to their other works is how dramatic the music is. A review of the album on the site, Baebel Music.com describes the album’s layout as a “cinematic storyboard,” and I think they nailed it, when choosing such a description.

Whether it’s post-rock, instrumental rock, or just plain ol’ rock, EITS have created an identifiable sound that is all theirs, even if some detractors suggest that they aren’t terribly original and basically copying Scottish post-rockers Mogwai. We happen to think there’s room for everyone on the pool and that this work does deserve a closer listen. Once you listen closely, you will see that this is an album that doesn’t need words, or pointless comparisons either.

 

The late, great Mickey Newbury was way ahead of his time. That’s pretty much the case in just about every facet of his life, including his death in 2002 at the still-productive age of 62. Born in Houston in 1940, Newbury only left Texas when he joined the Air Force at 19, then moved to Nashville after that, when he became a songwriter who quickly grew tired of the Nashville sound and the formulaic ways that the fat-cat executives preferred everyone to record, back in those days. So, before so many others did so, Newbury got the hell out of Nashville so he could do things his own way.

In fact, many look to Newbury as the artist who truly started the outlaw movement; a sound that’s often credited to the likes of Willie Nelson, or Waylon Jennings or even Billy Joe Shaver. The fact is, all those legendary names worshipped at the feet of Newbury’s sonic style and writing capabilities. Newbury’s raw, jazz-tinged country arrangements had people such as Ralph Emery calling him the first “Hippie Cowboy”.

Speaking of hard-to-define: At one point, in the late 1960′s, there were four different Billboard charts that had a Newbury-penned tune in its Top 10 (Pop, Country, R&B and Easy Listening).

As the youngest artist ever inducted into the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, Newbury’s style of country-fusion isn’t the backyard BBQ, rebelliously rocking outlaw country, but after-dark-while-drinking-a-glass-of-something-darker country music. The jazzy shuffling of Newbury’s soulful style will most definitely remind many of Willie Nelson’s work from the 1970′s and will hopefully remind everyone of why it was completely sensible for the Red-Headed Stranger to team up with Ray Charles and the results still be 100% country.

Thanks to Drag City records, people all over will have the chance to hear why it is that Newbury was revered by the outlaws that seemed to revere nobody. Newbury’s LPs, Frisco Mabel Joy, Looks Like Rain and Heaven Help the Child are all being reissued, and will help a new generation understand how it was the Newbury was ahead of his time.