Texas®



I hope you checked out the video above already. If not, go ahead and do it now. You probably won’t even need to read anything below this once you have. It’s a great film made of footage from a CD release show featuring one of the state’s great rising talents. Jessie Frye.

The quality of female talent that has been gracing the stages of North texas in recent years continues to grow. Not that it’s even been a wasteland for the fairer sex, musically speaking. It’s just that people beyond our state’s borders are taking notice too.

Sarah Jaffe and former Dallasite Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) are easily the most notable names to be bandied about these days. But one would be missing a ton if they were to forget about Amber Farris (the powerfully doulful lead singer of Somebody’s Darling) and relative newcomer Madison King, who might be the indie-heir to Miranda Lambert’s tough, Texas country throne.

While the list could continue for a while, for now, we’ll stop with Denton’s Jessie Frye. Having just released her second EP, Fireworks Child, Frye’s sweet voice seems to suit any style, but especially the eclectic indie-pop that her and super-producer John Congleton have dreamed up for this release. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Congleton has produced the much-lauded recent works of two ladies we previously mentioned, St. Vincent and Sarah Jaffe. Either way, the EP is a pleasing listen that impresses with each track.

Male or female, it really doesn’t matter. What matters is the way in which you’ll find yourself either leaving the disc in your CD player, or how you’ll likely be smashing the repeat button time after time, once the record ends.

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.

 

As much as “country” and “folk” can be genre labels that fall short of actually describing a band, due to their vague nature, so to can “post-punk”. Sure, it gives a general idea that you’re in for a guitar-driven ride with some challenging arrangements, but let’s face it, much still needs to be said in many cases if one’s going to try and analyze the sound of a post-punk act like Built to Spill.

Inhabiting a different, less emo end of the post-punk spectrum is Dallas’ own Broadcast Sea. Their new EP, Lost Generation (which at this point is available for free on their Bandcamp page), is an angry, bruising alternative to the sometimes shimmery tones of Doug Martsch or any other post-punker out there. Resembling the hammering menace of Denton’s noise-rockers Shiny Around the Edges, the quartet, formed in 2005 and led by lead singer Sterling Cash, busted out a lean EP. it’s the kind of smaller collection (six songs) that is more a promise of greater things than it is a sign of a band with but a little to give.

It’s not surprising that this band knows how to manage noise to a pleasing effect. The group’s previous record was produced by John Congleton, a guy that has made experimental downright accessible (OK, that probably doesn’t make sense). In fact, Lost Generation has done seemingly the impossible when it comes to its appeal. This is a record that has struck a rocking balance that will send meatheads fistpumping and indie-kids gazing even harder into their Chuck Taylors.

Kelly Dearmore is a freelance writer, mean pot of chili maker and opinionated music lover. To read more about what Kelly is listening to, visit him here on The Squawker weekly or daily on his personal music blog, The Gobblers Knob

Way too often, music fans and writers confuse hazy for lazy, when it comes to describing the sonic texture of a record. An album can be sleepy without being stagnant, and indeed, a record can produce an atmospheric haze without coming across as lazy. In fact, properly pulling off such a feat requires a focus and a specific vision that is anything but loose and cavalier.

Todd Gatreau’s project, Crushed Stars, is a great example of the above equation. The Smiths-meets-Mark Kozelek vibe of his latest album, Convalescing in Braille, further establishes the sonic signature that has been honed over the course of several albums since the group’s inception in 2005. Crushed Stars have been successful in getting the word out, over the past few years. Along with appearances at the all-encompassing SXSW and CMJ festivals, many radio stations have added songs from their catalog to their playlists. Recently, their genius cover of the campy 1980′s classic, “99 Red Balloons,” made noise on airwaves outside of North Texas.

Having worked with an impressive group of producers including Stuart Sikes (White Stripes, Cat Power) and North Texas native John Congleton (Walkmen, St. Vincent, Sarah Jaffe), calling Crushed Stars a band might be a bit of a stretch, given that for this latest album, Gautreau played all of the instruments himself, with drums bing the lone exception. In this instance, it seems as the dedicated multi-tasking paid off, as the album flows evenly and effortlessly. Even with numbers like “Technicolor” and “Spark” boasting a bit more percussive pounding and quickened pace than many of the other softer tunes, the collection’s moody cohesion is never disturbed.

While we’re always a bit reluctant to quote anything from Pitchfork, we’d be lying if we said that they didn’t sum up our general feelings as it pertains to the work of Gautreau when they reported that Crushed Stars music makes “you wish it were night all day long.”

Kelly Dearmore is a freelance writer, mean pot of chili maker and opinionated music lover. To read more about what Kelly is listening to, visit him here on The Squawker weekly or daily on his personal music blog, The Gobblers Knob

For those that live in the North Eastern region of our great state, there is a solid chance that you are familiar with Denton’s Sarah Jaffe. For those of you who find yourselves living in other environs, you’re going to be hearing a lot about her real soon.

With the physical release of her Kirtland Records debut, Suburban Nature, nigh upon us (May 18th), Jaffe is poised to make an indelible mark on not only the music scene of her hometown, but that of the entire country. Positive buzz from national outlets, as well as appearances on some considerable stages have helped spread the word.

After releasing a well-recieved E.P. a couple of years back, Jaffe says, “I was playing with all the same players I play with live, so I wanted to stay true to what I do in a live setting. I knew what direction I wanted to steer and to bring more layers in this time. The E.P. was kind of a minimal, very raw introduction.”

Given the fact that Jaffe has been writing and performing for several years now, it’s no surprise to learn that she had plenty of material ready to be placed onto a full length record. “I’ve never written for a specific record. They’re mainly just songs i’ve written over the span of five years ago to even two years ago. Ironically, when the songs come together, they actually kind of tell a story.”

As with the bounty of musicians in the Dallas/Denton area, there seem to be many capable producers as well. One such person who has made quite the name for himself as both a musician and a producer, is John Congleton. “John Congleton is amazing at what he does. He’s very good at letting me get an idea out there and experimenting and letting me move about the room, and he’s also very good at directing – doing what a producer is supposed to do.” says Jaffe.

Letting Jaffe do her thing has not only aided in creating a supremely produced album, but it has also produced a very personal and transparent collection of self-penned tunes that are ripped straight from the joy and pain of her own memories. Jaffe, with perhaps a bit of blushing, admits that, “I’ve always wanted to be one of those writers that can just make up something elaborate in my own head. Unfortunately, I’m kind of a self-centered writer where I have to write from my own experience. I exaggerate some of the emotions, but fortunately or unfortunately, they’re all first hand accounts.”

Kelly Dearmore is a freelance writer, mean pot of chili maker and opinionated music lover. To read more about what Kelly is listening to, visit him here on The Squawker weekly or daily on his personal music blog, The Gobblers Knob