TV Torso: “Clear Lake Strangler”

Over the course of a year, KUT features 260 songs of the day from a wide range of artists, each one catching our collective ear. For the next two weeks, we’ll be highlighting the best songs of the day from 2012, featuring big names, new discoveries, Studio 1A exclusives, and some tunes that might have gotten lost in the shuffle in the past twelve months.

In the middle of the 2000s, Sound Team were on their way to being the next big thing out of Austin. Signed to Capitol Records, their major-label debut Movie Monster was met with critical acclaim in 2006, but the group was dropped from Capitol after problems within the label’s hierarchy. Sound Team subsequently broke up a year later and the band members went their separate ways: Bill Baird performed under his own name and {{{Sunset}}}; Will Patterson formed Sleep Good; and Matt Oliver and Jordan Johns continued on as TV Torso.

And it’s TV Torso that could attract national attention again. It helps that Oliver and Johns are such accomplished recording engineers in their own right. After the Sound Team breakup, they turned their attention to their own Big Orange Recording Studios, which has become one of the go-to spaces for the live-music site Daytrotter. The pair also produce their own TV Torso material from within Big Orange’s walls, choosing to record everything to vintage analog gear. You can hear that kind of care in the warm sounds found on Status Quo Vadis, their 2010 debut EP.

But recording techniques don’t mean anything if you don’t have good songwriting. Thankfully, TV Torso have that in spades. The group is hard at work on a new album that should come out this year, and in the meantime, they dropped another EP called Clear Lake Strangler. Only three songs long, the EP nonetheless works better than most albums by retaining a consistent tone. The title track is especially memorable, blending big guitar hooks, an off-kilter drumbeat, and Oliver’s nasal croon into a power-pop explosion. It’s just three minutes long, but “Clear Lake Strangler” does what only the best songs can do: it makes you reach for the replay button again and again.

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