Monday, December 27, 2010

Austin Free Week : Superpop!'s picks

Almost every year I look forward to Austin Free Week. For me personally, it's the best birthday present for a local music fan (my birthday is Jan 6th). I'm unable to attend most of AFW because I'll be spending time out of Texas with my family for a belated Christmas and birthday gathering. Even though I cannot join my fellow local music fanatics this year, I thought I would share some of my picks and recommendations.

Do512 provides a convenient link for upcoming AFW events right here.

*Jan 1st :

at Beauty Bar

Motel Aviv

at The Mohawk :

The White White Lights

*Jan 2nd:

at The Mohawk :

Amplified Heat
The Hi-Tones
The Boxing Lesson
Black Forest Fire

at Club Deville

She Sir w/ Candi & the Strangers

*Jan 3rd

at US Art Authority

She Sir with Ringo Deathstarr

*Jan 4th :

at The Parish

Motel Aviv
New Roman Times
Final Exam

*Jan 5th :

at Emo's

Free Week
with Quiet Company (12:15a)
The Boxing Lesson (11:15p)
Smoke & Feathers (10:30p)
My Education (9:45p)
Red Leaves (9p)

Free Week
with A Giant Dog (1a)
Shapes Have Fangs (12:15a)
Elvis (11:30p)
Rayon Beach (10:45p)
Flesh Lights (10p)

*Jan 6th :

at Emo's

Ringo Deathstarr
The Carrots
The Ugly Beats
The Hi-Tones

*Jan 7th :

Club Deville : "AMP Night" -- a special 5pm-2am Free Week edition of FTMOA's First Friday Frolic
Doors at 5pm / Complimentary Big Red Retro sodas & Complimentary pies from Home Slice Pizza

6pm BK & Mr. E
7pm Eagle Eye Williamson
8pm Erin Ivey
9pm Monarchs
11pm One Hundred Flowers
12am DJ I Wanna Be Her
1am DJ uLOVEi


What Made Milwaukee Famous
The Lemurs
The Authors

The Mohawk

MoTel Aviv
The Astronaut Suit

The Pons/Wiretree/Leatherbag/DJ Czech One at ND @ 501 Studios - Jan 8, 2011

I love Free Week in Austin. Of course, the shows are free but it's also such a great opportunity to see tons of quality local bands. You can check out multiple venues without feeling guilty or broke. But I'll be out of town this time around visiting family. I'll be back at the end of Free Week for a special show at The ND at 501 Studios. This show with some of my local pop/rock favorites, The Pons, Wiretree, and Leatherbag, will also act as my birthday party. After the live band sets, DJ Czech One will be on hand for an after show dance party. But this dance party will be focusing on 60s British Invasion, 90s Britpop, and other British favorites. In other words, a Superpop!-style shindig :).
Extra and very special thanks goes to my dear friend,Thomas Siragusa, (of The Pons) for the suggestion of making this fantastic local triple bill as my birthday show.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's a Pop Girl's Life : 2010 Favorites - part 2

Even a diehard pop girl needs a little twang in her life now and then. This year it came from the latest Old 97s record, The Grand Theatre, Vol 1. If you're not familiar with Old 97s, they're a little bit country and a little bit rock n'roll. Some critics and fans would complain that the songwriting over the past few releases had too much pop ; of course, that's not a problem with me (and it's another discussion). On this record, I think the band was able to satisfy both sets of fans.

The sound of Texas in 2010 had an excellent contribution from the San Antonio band, Hacienda and their record, Big Red and Barbacoa. Big Red and Barbacoa is their 2nd release and it continues to showcase their love for big 60s sounds ranging from The Beach Boys and The Beatles but also a little bit of 60s country from Buck Owens. Hacienda are also a great example of why family (the band consists of 3 brothers and a cousin) harmonies are so sublime.

Sometimes it's nice when old musical loves come back into your life. In 2010, that would be The Posies with their latest release, Blood/Candy. I was a big fan of some of their early 90s releases (Dear 23, Frosting on the Beater) but I had not kept up with subsequent releases. With Blood/Candy, it sure was a sweet reunion with their outstanding harmonies and solid songwriting.

This year also brought another fine release from Frightened Rabbit with "The Winter of Mixed Drinks." Melancholy, anger, and despair never sounded so sweet. But all hope is not lost in their songs.

Another release I absolutely loved this year was "Big Echo" by The Morning Benders. Once I heard the  "Excuses", I was hooked -- again and again. For some folks, it was considered to be the only outstanding track on the album. No, that is certainly not the case. This is an absolutely gorgeous album filled with lush tracks such as "Stitches", "Wet Cement," "Promises" and "All Day All Light." A real keeper and you may find yourself listening to this one on repeat.

I also have a soft spot for a couple of certain male songwriters who are more well known for their bands than their solo output : Brendan Benson (My Old, Familiar Friend) and Fran Healy (Wreckorder). Their sweet, melodic tunes and vocals are my musical comfort food...and maybe just a little bit of crush, too ;).
Staying on that melancholy yet hopeful note, Crowded House came back in fine form with "Intriguer." This was their 2nd release after the band reunited in 2007. I've been a longtime, diehard fan so Neil Finn could sing the phone book to me and I would be happy. Their live shows promoting this album were an experience. This is a band that really connects with and respects its audience. With songs like "Amsterdam", "Twice If You're Lucky" and "Isolation", it shows that Neil Finn remains one of the outstanding songwriters of his generation.

For pure, unabashed fun, the releases from Free Energy (Stuck On Nothing) and The Thermals (Personal Life) struck a chord with me. Life's too short to waste more than 3 minutes on a song, alright ? ;)

Austin likes to keep things groovy and it was done in 2010 with help from The Black Angels (Phosphene Dream) and The Ugly Beats (Motor!). The Black Angels turned a little bit of light onto their signature dark drone with songs like "Telephone" and "Sunday Afternoon". The Ugly Beats have put out their finest release so far and you don't want to skip a track. With this band, "retro" is not a dirty word ; they have fun with their influences.

In my musical world, "pop" is not a bad word but it also doesn't refer to current Top 40 artists. To me, it means that melody and harmony are key elements to great songs that stick in your brain and make you want to sing along or just simply make you smile. A variety of examples from Austin this past year include releases from Hollywood Gossip (Dear as Diamonds) and Household Names (Stories, No Names) as well as more indie/electro pop from The Black and White Years (Patterns) and The Sour Notes (It's Not Gonna Be Pretty).

Monday, December 20, 2010

It's a Pop Girl's Life : 2010 Favorites - part 1

I did not buy/obtain/download enough music to put together a "best of". Although I listen to a lot of music, sometimes I'm just plain lazy. But I thought I would highlight some of my favorite discoveries of the year.

In no particular order :

I first heard of Lawrence Arabia (musical alterego of New Zealander, James Milne) early this year. One listen of the album track "Apple Pie Bed" and I was hooked. Once I heard the rest of the "Chant Darling" release, I was smitten. I'm a sucker for lush harmonies and witty, sometimes offbeat lyrics. When I learned that he and his band were opening for Crowded House on their U.S. tour, I think I nearly exploded with delight.

One of the bands who helped indulge my affection for all things 60s mod and British invasion is The Len Price 3 (no one is named Len Price in the band but there are 3 members). Take one part Who, one part Kinks, one part Beatles and stir in other musical bits and bobs, you've got The Len Price 3. I don't care that they're not reinventing the wheel. You can't resist their exuberance and unabashed love for their influences. Their 2010 release, Pictures, is 31 minutes of jangly, crunchy goodness.

Their record was released in other parts of the world before this year but fortunately U.S. fans have not been left out. Let's Wrestle released "In The Court of the Wrestling Let's" on Merge Records in 2010. These 3 young men write about everything from their daily schedule to insects as well as tanks and the late Princess Diana's hair. It's sloppy garage punk on the surface but with the heart of a well -written 3 minute pop song beating strongly behind it. Go listen to "I Won't Lie To You" and you'll understand.

It's possible that The Futureheads have one of the best album introductions for 2010 with the title track for "The Chaos" as they shout out "5 4 3 2 1.....LET'S GO !" This British quartet from Sunderland deftly combines punk energy and tight songwriting and to keep your on your toes, beautiful acapella harmonies. You can't help singing and dancing along and maybe even pumping your fist. Amazing band who truly know how to rock  -- so glad I was able to see them when they stopped in Austin back in September.

This year also featured another excellent release from Sunderland : "Measure" by Field Music. Field Music is the songwriting team of brothers, Peter and David Brewis. It's a double album/2 CD release so it takes a little patience to fully explore and enjoy their eclectic influences and styles. Their flawless brotherly harmonies tie it all together.

Monday, December 13, 2010

To EP or not to EP - that is the question...

The poor little EP - it's usually disqualified or left off from end of the year best-of/favorites lists. That's a shame considering that a lot of bands are releasing more of their songs on the EP format. Here are the EPs I've enjoyed this past year from some of my favorite local (Austin TX) bands.

Quiet Company - Songs For Staying In 

This EP has been a case of "the little EP that could". It became more than just a release to put out between full length records. This record received airplay on popular Austin radio stations (KGSR, KUT, and KROX) and it has put them on the radar as a band to watch while fans await the release of their next full length recording.

She Sir - Yens

This was released early in 2010 but as a latecomer to the band, I didn't hear it until this summer. After listening to its sparkling melodies, dual harmonies, and layered, swirling guitars, I was instantly smitten and wondered why I hadn't came across their songs earlier. "Yens" is merely a taste of what She Sir have to offer but it's a good place to start.

English Teeth - English Teeth, Two, and III

This Austin band proudly wear their Anglophile influences on their hearts and sleeves and that's what I love about them. Why should you hide your best influences ? Show them off loud and proud ! The 'Teef (as they nicknamed themselves) started off the year by releasing their debut, self titled EP including the wonderfully snotty, bratty nuggets"Catastrophe" and "Invasion". This fall, they released the aptly named "Two" EP containing 2 songs, Dear Caesar and Roadrunner. They close the year by releasing another EP, titled "III". The EPs are a certainly a fun listen but to fully experience the 'Teef, try to catch one of their live performances in Austin.

Gentlemen Rogues - self titled

This will predictably get comparisons to Green Day (the vocals are slightly reminiscent to them) but I think that Gentlemen Rogues are more "power pop" than "pop punk". Like English Teeth, they don't shy away from showing their British influences. I grabbed a copy of their EP at one of their shows earlier this month and it's been on frequent rotation. I'm certainly looking forward to hearing more from them in 2011.

The Hi-Tones EP

After being on the scene for a couple of years under a few different names and lineups, the band now known as The Hi-Tones made their debut release this summer with a self titled EP. They combine 60s British invasion with plenty of soul and R&B plus a pinch of power pop that provides the listener with an introduction to their infectious, energetic sound. You can preview their upcoming 2011 release here

The White White Lights EP

I became an instant fan of TWWL last year so I was excited to finally get my hands on their debut EP released in Feb 2010. If I'm asked to recommend a band to see in Austin, TWWL are always on my list.
Great songs, a strong female singer, solid, powerful drums, and one of the best live guitarists I've seen (plus charismatic stage presence), they simply kick ass :)

TV Torso - Status Quo Vadis

After hearing their previous 2 7" inch releases, I was eager to hear more. Forget the Spoon comparisons, Matt Oliver creates distinct, shimmering guitar pop tunes of his own and with songs like "Slouch Hat City, "Two Glass Eyes", and "Slanderers Stew", you will be sure to keep TV Torso on your musical radar (and go back and pick up those outstanding 7 in" singles on their Bandcamp page). Their live set is also definitely worth catching.

Love at 20- To Have and Have Not

In late 2009, Love at 20 debuted with their full length, Time To Begin, which was offered as a free download on Bandcamp (now available for purchase on and iTunes). They spent part of 2010 staying active on the live music scene as well as taking time to write and record their follow-up EP released in November. It's available as a free download on Bandcamp. It's catchy as hell and some of you might be a little shy to admit you like their sound. Think Muse mixed with a little bit of Weezer, Interpol, and Jimmy Eat World but with a little extra class and panache. Raise your martini glasses and rock !

The Steps - Flight Path

Classic rock meets modern rock (or take a good musical upbringing and add their own contemporary musical choices) and you've got The Steps. "Flight Path" was their follow up after their 2008 full length self titled debut.  This summer 2010 release was perfect for the season - loud, strong, singalong worthy, and carefree.

International Waters - It Felt Like

The band describes their sound as "jangly anger" which is fitting since there is some bite and sharpness behind the sweet sounding vocals and guitars. It's a limited release (only 300 copies pressed) on 10" vinyl. You can purchase it directly from the band's website. I've only heard 2 out of the 4 tracks since I don't have a turntable yet. I've enjoyed the slightly ominous, somber "Cycle of the Chain" and the brighter, sweet tones of "Olympia".

The Seas - Head of Snakes

Now I remember why I'm not the biggest fan of making lists. I always end up forgetting something I wanted to include. The band released this EP this summer shortly before frontman, Nurk Njorksen, left for adventures in S Korea. The digital only EP features slinky yet bubbly tunes like "Stars Don't Shine Just For You", the lush and dreamy "Lullahello", and the unexpected, singalong anthem, "Suicide" ("We don’t need no suicide for the two of us to get high").

The Ripe - man with no eyes

Formed while still a member of The Ugly Beats, Jake Garcia branched off and started a new project, The Ripe, with friends from other local bands. The Ripe put together a tasty combination of 60s/70s power pop, folk, and psychedelia. Sunny melodies and jangly and crunchy guitar licks serve as an introduction to their sound. Look out for their upcoming full length recorded this year in Spain.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Pons at The Ghost Room, Sat Dec 11th with STEREO IS A LIE and Red Falcon

 Despite the number of shows I've seen in Austin over the past couple of years, somehow I had never crossed paths with The Pons. About a year ago, that changed when I heard their song "Giant" played on WOXY and saw them perform at Beauty Bar. As a fan of catchy and smart pop/rock, for me it was love at first sight and listen. While I was playing catch up with enjoying their debut album, In The Belly Of A Giant, the band has spent 2010 writing and recording their sophomore follow up, The Blackest Shine, with Erik Wofford (his credits include The Black Angels, What Made Milwaukee Famous, Explosions In The Sky, Voxtrot, Brothers And Sisters, The Octopus Project) at Cacophony Recorders. The Blackest Shine is expected to be released early next year - no set release date at this time.
I know that The Pons are looking forward to showing off their new songs as well as playing favorites from their first album. Their songs reflect a range of emotions : sweet and light,  dark and moody, and shades in between. I also have a soft spot for harmonies, melodies, and hooks that stay in your head. Chances are you'll hear these songs in your head when you least expect it and once "The Blackest Shine" is released, don't be surprised if you find yourself hitting the repeat button. Yes, that's my prediction and I'm sticking to it.

For this Saturday's show at The Ghost Room, The Pons will be joined by friends from STEREO IS A LIE and Red Falcon. An all around fantastic local triple bill. $6 (21 +, sorry kids).

The Pons - 11:30
Red Falcon - 9:30

$6 for 3 bands on a Sat night is a pretty good deal but if one lucky winner and a guest would like to go for *FREE* (courtesy of whitesiren), send me an email at with "The Ghost Room" in the subject line and I will choose a winner on Friday.

Below I've posted videos from their June 26, 2010 performance at The Ghost Room : 2 new songs, Death of the Peacock and Someone Else's Voice along with their amped up cover of Wreckless Eric's, Whole Wide World. Videos were filmed by ATXLive.

Vote for this event on Do512.

Listen to the title track and rough mixes from "The Blackest Shine"

Saturday, December 4, 2010

New Favorite Band: Gentlemen Rogues

From the ashes of one of my favorite Austin bands, The Fall Collection, Gentlemen Rogues arrived on the Austin music scene in 2010. I didn't learn about them until I went to see one of my favorite UK bands, Field Music, at Emo's in late September. I ran into lead singer/guitarist, Danny Dunlap, at the venue and learned that his new band, Gentlemen Rogues, was opening for Field Music. Although I hadn't yet heard Gentlemen Rogues' songs yet, I had a feeling this would be a good fit recalling The Fall Collection's Anglophile influences (The Clash and The Jam are 2 examples). 
I wasn't sure what to expect since a couple of years had passed since The Fall Collection stopped playing. I had a bit of a flashback with the familiar sounds I love (a catchy mix of power pop, punk, and a bit of British indie rock) but Gentlemen Rogues added some extra power with a second guitarist. I think I dorked out just a little when I saw Danny was still playing a left-handed Rickenbacker guitar. I'm a sucker for that jangly yet crunchy sound - what can I say ;-) ? The infectious tunes and energetic stage presence are what I remember from the past but those are also the qualities that have won me over in the present time. Gentlemen Rogues have released a self titled 3 song EP that is currently available at their shows. You can also preview their tunes online on their MySpace page. Information and updates are also available on their Facebook page. Keep an eye out for Gentlemen Rogues in 2011 - definitely a band to watch.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I Love This Band ! : The Duke Spirit

You've been warned. My fixation on The Duke Spirit has been rekindled by the news of their upcoming "Kusama" EP release and early 2011 release of their LP, Bruiser. Enjoy.

I can't get enough of this gorgeous new tune from their upcoming "Kusama" EP. Liela Moss' voice really shines on this track and credit also due to the dual guitar attack and solid rhythm section.

A few years ago, the band recorded a bunch of covers including the 60s Love classic, A House Is Not A Motel. Their version can be found on the "Covered In Love" EP.

Earlier this year, the band contributed a song to a compilation that was released in celebration of Doc Martens 50th anniversary. The original is by the 70s/80s UK punk band, Sham 69. The Duke Spirit provide a chilled out, organ fueled version instead of the original rowdy, "Oi !"styled punk anthem.