Real Estate first gained notice for decidedly un-rock-and-roll subject matter. The group turned its gaze on their suburban upbringing in Ridgewood, New Jersey, filling out their 2009 self-titled debut with songs about childhood and beach days. But undercutting all this happy-go-lucky easiness is a dark core, best expressed by Martin Courtney’s plaintive voice and guitarist Matthew Mondanile’s wandering guitar riffs. 2011’s Days ratcheted up this sense of longing, as Real Estate went from being a hometown favorite into a buzzworthy touring act.
Now the group returns to Austin as a festival mainstay. They’re riding high on the strength of this year’s Atlas, a critically-acclaimed effort recorded at Wilco’s Loft studio space in Chicago. Growing up continues to be a deep concern for the band, one whose members now live across the country and are starting their own families. On “Crime,” don’t let the dreamy atmosphere fool you. “Toss and turn all night / Don’t know how to make it right / Crippling anxiety,” Courtney sings. The song shows off what Real Estate does so well: mix the sunshine in with the clouds.
Catch Real Estate at ACL Fest 2014:
*Sunday, Oct 5 – 5 p.m., RetailMeNot Stage
*Sunday, Oct 12 – 3 p.m., RetailMeNot Stage
Michael Fitzpatrick of Fitz & the Tantrums is one of the most dynamic frontmen in the music business, turning heads for his mixture of Motown soul and modern edginess. It seems fitting that Fitzpatrick started out on the other side of the glass. As a sound engineer, he learned the trade under producer Mickey Petralia, who’s eclectic resume includes Beck, Flight of the Conchords, and Rage Against The Machine. He brings that ear to his own music, too. When he was originally putting the Tantrums together, Fitzpatrick knew he needed a co-lead singer he could play off of musically. Enter Noelle Scaggs, who previously put in time as a backup for the Black Eyed Peas, Mayer Hawthorne, and Damian Marley. In the live setting, the pair are unstoppable, alternating the spotlight with ease.
Last year, Fitz & the Tantrums stopped by KUTX’s Studio 1A and told us that Austin was the final piece in the band’s rise. In 2010, the group attended SXSW for the first time, but their shows were sparsely-attended and somewhat disheartening. It wasn’t until a final performance for Dangerbird Records at Mellow Johnny’s that something clicked. A few months later, the Tantrums were signed to Dangerbird and well on their way. Now the group has a second album to its name–More Than Just A Dream–and they’re back in Austin for ACL Fest. For today’s song of the day, we’re diving back into their stellar Studio 1A set for a live take on “Out Of My League.”
Catch Fitz & the Tantrums at ACL Fest 2014:
*Sunday, Oct 5 – 4 p.m., Honda Stage
*Wednesday, Oct 8 – 7 p.m., Stubb’s (official ACL late night show)
*Sunday, Oct 12 – 4 p.m., Honda Stage
If you’re heading to the War On Drugs show at Stubb’s on Sunday night, be sure to get there early. Like the headliners, openers Califone tackles classic American music from a modern angle. Formed in 1997, the Chicago outfit likes to find the inherent darkness and weirdness that underpins blues and country music. Their songs have elements of these genres–slide guitar, harmonica, fiddle, multi-part harmonies–but they’re rearranged in interesting ways.
Last year’s Stitches, Califone’s seventh album, was something of a landmark for the group. For the first time, the music wasn’t recorded in Chicago; instead, frontman Tim Rutili teamed up with musicians in Arizona, Texas, and his adopted home state of California. The result is an album that sounds restless and bigger, and critically, it’s been called the band’s best (not bad after approaching a second decade as a group). If you’re new to Califone, “Frosted Tips” serves as a great primer because it shows off everything the band does well in a bite-sized chunk. There’s a great hook buried beneath the clattering percussion, literally and figuratively: in the old watching the new world die.
Catch Califone at Stubb’s on Sunday, September 28 at 8 p.m., opening for the War On Drugs.
Photo by Akasha Rabut
Three albums in four years is a pretty quick clip for even the most prolific of bands. Ted Joyner and Grant Widmer–co-frontmen for Generationals–have constantly been in the write-tour-write cycle since forming the group in New Orleans in 2008. But for album number four, the two decided to take a step back and consult an outside producer. They tapped Richard Swift, a wise choice considering the impact he’s had on the sounds of the Shins, Damien Jurado, Foxygen, and more the past few years. The duo took their home-recorded demos to Swift, and he largely left the off-the-cuff urgency intact. The result is Alix, another genre-melding mish-mash from the appropriately-named Generationals. Bits of hip-hop and soul surface in “Gold Silver Diamond,” and the song is carried by the band’s unique gift for sing-songy melodies that sound like they’re beamed in from some ’60s bubblegum song. It’s a weird mix of styles, but Generationals can call it their own.
Photo by Amy Harrity
Still Life is an ironic title of an album for Kevin Morby. For the past few years, he’s been anything but still, playing with bands like Woods and the Babies, and he recently relocated to L.A. from New York. He chronicled this move in his solo debut, 2013’s Harlem River, looking back wistfully on his former home.
New York still hangs over Still Life–out October 14–but Morby has let in a little California breeziness. He teamed up with Rob Barbato again, a producer known for his work with fellow Pacific Coast folkie Cass McCombs. Still Life has few bells and whistles, opting for a warm, in-the-room sound that allows Morby plenty of room to spin his magic. He’s got a little Lou Reed-like drawl in his voice, and he pays homage to the late rock pioneer on a few songs. On “All Of My Life,” Morby taps into a ’60s folk-rock vibe, asking questions that he’s not sure he’ll ever get the answer to.