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McRiprock’s Twenty Albums You Don’t Want to Miss I (albums one-seven)

Don’t worry, I’m not doing a Michael Jackson tribute here, as much as his shit rocked, he didn’t make the Top Twenty. This is a Top Twenty list of my (and Dud’s) favorite albums of late 2008-2009 that shouldn’t be missed—Austinites and beyond. You don’t like them? I don’t give a shit. I’m just giving you some suggestions. Why the change in format? Well, CD submissions have been slow– so send your music in, put a stamp on it, address it to us and watch your review get posted on AD, bitches. Simple, really. So to fill the time, here’s some albums that were and were not reviewed that should definitely be on your “to buy” or at least “to listen” or maybe even if you’re lucky “to go see” list.

They are all badass and in no particular order. We’ll start with the first seven on the Top Twenty list and next week post another group. Sound good? You bet.

  1. Black Joe Lewis & the HoneybearsTell Me What Your Name Is: Austin home grown Motown-funk-garage, front man Black Joe Lewis puts on a damn good show and with the Honeybears behind him, it gets even better. Recently, with their new album, they’ve taken off, with it selling like hotcakes at Waterloo. Including a horn section and James Brown-like performance this album captures the sarcasm and wit of the band while doing you a favor and playing some damn good grooves. Catch them live if you can because they are superb on stage. They drip music right into your ears that you won’t be able to shake out. Influences include James Brown, Don Covay, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Hound Dog Taylor, Howlin’ Wolf, Eazy-E, Eccentric Soul, Rocket from the Tombs. Featured on NPR’s News and KGSR, they are everywhere and nowhere on tour. Songs like “Bitch I Love You,” (not on the album, but on the EP) are classic Motown tongue in cheek, “Gunpowder” relies heavily on the organ and horn section and definitely employs a James Brown feel. The whole album sears into your soul.  Check them out at www.blackjoelewis.com. Downloadable on iTunes and also available at Waterloo (support your Austin businesses!!).

2. HowliesTrippin’ With Howlies: Out of Atlanta, this garage doo whop band is coming to Austin soon, so you should definitely catch them at Beerland with the TexReys and the Golden Boys July 8th. They are garage rock doo-wop wrapped in the Atlanta humidity and harmony that you can lick and lick and not get to the center of that makes Howlies a unique voice on the scene. Pulling in everything from an Otis Redding to the Rolling Stones and the Sex Pistols to the Trashmen vibe they create an album produced by legendary Kim Fowley that cannot be missed. True rock n’ roll with a roll back flash in the pan makes them well worth the scurry to the store or the click on iTunes to add this to your collection. Lyrically fun and musically simple in its composition it’s an album that is sure to take off. Their songs are rhythmic and sarcasm streams throughout, but there are many cherries on top that make them a band on the scene in Atlanta playing alongside favorites like the Black Lips, King Khan and the Shrines and Those Darlins’. Out here for SXSW they got some crap showcases paired with bands that didn’t reflect their style at all and played day shows that were totally unorganized, yet they pulled it off and made a name for themselves out here for those that were listening. I mean, they showcased at Billboard’s Pangea. Beerland ain’t no Pangea if you see where I’m going with this. Gems like “Angeline” and “Aluminum Baseball Bat” will suck you dry because they’re so damn catchy, but “Sea Level” charges you with a punch and “Chimera” and “Smoke” don’t let you down one bit. Their debut album, Trippin’ With Howlies was produced by legendary rock n’ roller Kim Fowley who drove the bus and made the album rough and tumble while out on the edge of the California Desert. OverUnder Records, a young NYC outfit, put their money behind these guys and sent them on long American Southeast and Midwest tour wowing audiences and making folks dance and jangle. Fowley says, “Howlies are the first Rock ‘n’ Roll band of the 21st Century. Their debut album Trippin’ With Howlies is right up there with the earliest albums of the Ramones, The Sex Pistols and The Trashmen. Howlies are fine actors, too. Imagine an unholy blending of the Three Stooges and Betty Page. Their live show is: unexpected. Conjure up musical thugs/male cheerleaders running amok in a madhouse rubber room.” Okay. No idea really what some of that means, but it’s clear that these guys put on an energetic, garage sound do-whop show that can’t be found anywhere else in Austin and their album reflects that same energy. Found on iTunes and at www.thehowlies.com.

3. Those DarlinsSelf-Titled–Garage rock meets country twang with this young female trio out of Tennessee. Sassy and fresh with their sound they are constantly touring causing stand-up-and-shout live show performances. They write their own songs, record in New York City with producer Jeff Curtin (whose credits include Vampire Weekends debut), and talk convincingly about female empowerment, music history, and egalitarian ideals of performance and business.  And, in practice, they are rockers.  In the backyard of their shared suburban house—which is littered with musical instruments and cast-off whiskey bottles, they stick wires in the spindle holes of old LPs, hang them from the magnolia tree, and shoot them with BB guns.  They’re good shots. They are full of charm and vintage country pure punk goodness. First off, there’s the matter of their tour, which took the Darlins’ to Bonnaroo, AthFest and Border Bash and, perhaps most importantly, to Mercy Lounge for their record release show with none other than The Black Lips. Speaking of the record it will be out there for the having’ starting on June 23–on vinyl, that is. (The vinyl version also comes with a CD.) Those of you who’d rather have just a CD or download will have to wait until July 7. In either case, you can pre-order the album at www.thosedarlins.com.

4. The PonsIn the Belly of a Giant–The Pons brings postmodern pop to the center throughout Austin.  Twisting and turning with an underlying darkness and a full sound that’s thoughtful and powerfully blindsides you without notice they push and pull the listener around while kidnapping your head and taking it for a lyrical joyride. Born in Austin, while searching for a band name, they arrived at the Pons by looking up information on the medulla oblongata thinking it would be a great title for a record. The Pons is the area of the brain that relays sensory information and other messages in the brain, controls arousal, regulates respiration and, in some theories, has a role in dreaming. Perfect name for a band that takes you out of control of all of those things.  Their foreword states, “Music of the most undistilled potency understands that the attempt to walk avenues of truth and light will undoubtedly also lead to alley ways of lies and darkness, demanding the exploration of our most morbid curiosities. And it is these greatest of traffickers in poetry, melody and rhythm that lead the listener to the landscape of this delicate balance – where love waits in the shadow of hatred, why peace is shaped on the wings of war, and how joy is sewn into the fabric of struggle. As lines are drawn for deeper, angrier boundaries to please gods of history and money that seem to revel in lost hope and continued division, these songs act as reminders. Where the battle victorious today tastes the palpable sting of disappointment and defeat tomorrow. And that all the living will die, taking nothing with us; instead, leaving behind beautiful messes of brilliant mistakes. Fearless pop for the postmodern world.” www.theponsmusic.com

5. Dan DyerSelf-Titled: Dan Dyer: Reigning from a small town in East Texas, he’s returned from a stint in NYC to bring his sound back to Austin, and we certainly do appreciate it. Dyer took a few years off living in St. Louis, raising a family, and writing tunes for commercials. His debut solo album was produced by Lenny Kravitz in 2004. Remember Breedlove in the 1990s? Well, if you had the opportunity to hear Breedlove, Dyer’s first band out of Austin, you’ll recognize the crooning voice behind the microphone. The man was born to sing, and oftentimes he sounds like he belongs in a gospel choir, but the moaning and groaning make you realize that the gospel that he might be singing may be better suited to something done between the sheets. His rich, soulful voice is the main attraction to the album– and when simplified to Dyer, acoustic guitar and piano he packs a punch that makes you wish there were more to come than just a few tracks. His album, however, plays Dyer as a poppier version. Regardless of a simple live show or a CD packed with heavy sounds, he still puts out an album that’s worth picking up and blasting when in the mood for a take of a bluesy-twangy R&B that’s all Austin. Highlights include “I Walk on Guilded Splinters” and “Love Chain” which packs gospel with a deep dark undertone throughout. www.dandyer.com

6. Topaz and MudphonicMusic for Dorothy: The nitty and gritty swamp rock doesn’t escape you, in fact, it haunts you on every track. Austin’s Topaz and Mudphonic certainly excel at mixing good ol’ fashion swamp rock with precise guitar solos, harmonica, saxophone and Topaz’ voice making you at least tap you foot if not flat our dance. Not only does this album insist on stomping your boots on the porch, it also makes you listen hard to the intertwining of different sounds that they throw at you effortlessly. Pick it up. It’ll rock your boots off. The last track, is hauntingly beautiful and simplistic leaving the nitty gritty way behind and employing a single guitar solo that you’ll want to press replay time and time again due to Branch’s expertise on the guitar and pairing with the sounds of crickets at night. Don’t be fooled though, lead singer, Topaz isn’t all roots and rock. Topaz, a native Texan, took up saxophone at an early age and was classically trained in jazz principles while attending the Duke Ellington School for the Arts in Washington D.C. Armed with a vast set of skills at a young age, Topaz further honed his chops on the horn with a move to New York City and landed a record deal with the Velour label in the mid 1990s. In the Big City, Also check out the band Eat a Peach (an Allman Brothers cover band) where members, Branch and Marrero are members. www.myspace.com/topaz

7. My EducationBad Vibrations: Austin’s My Education plays you beautifully. First capturing you with their soft, careful melodic rhythms that blend an array of instruments: guitar, organ, pedal steel, viola, percussion, piano, organ, accordion, drums, bass and vibraphone. The combination allows the listener to settle their head into the tracks, comfortable in a state of floating ambience, before being swept into the furious tornado of sound that leaves the listener’s head in bits and pieces and ears begging for more. Their fourth and most recent album, Bad Vibrations, begins quietly lulling the listener back and forth, holding the listener close with a lone beat and layers of guitar and viola; but within the contentment of its airy sound there’s a subtle threat of dark intensity and sadness to be unleashed. Their second and third tracks, ‘Arch’, and ‘Britches Blanket’ are most exemplary of this. Holding the listener’s hand and quietly leading them down the path of dreaminess until the song turns a corner and ramps up, scrambling the listener’s head with beauty and epic sound raining down every instrument. The other tracks on the album are a bit kinder in their quiet buildup and although still captivating, don’t take the listener on such a guttural journey. Throughout the album the sound is equally compelling. There isn’t dominance of one instrument over any other, but an emotive texturing that encapsulates the listener with pulsive beats and orchestration that are sticky. The album opens and closes relatively gently with ‘This Old House’ and ‘Bad Vibrations’ languidly giving the listener space to digest. My Education first surfaced in 1999 as a trio. The band now currently consists of a five-piece layering. www.myspace.com/myeducation

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  1. The Pons

    Thank You!

    Come see us August 29th at Stubb’s. with The Mercers, Michael Kingcaid (of What Made Milwaukee Famous) and The Deaf Ears.