>> [PHOTO CREDIT: Alison Narro] Austin, Texas regularly surprises us with upstart indie acts. Recently it was turning out impressive shoegaze bands (the mighty Ringo Deathstarr, She, Sir), but its manic quartet Built By Snow trades in synth pop. The aesthetic is not unlike scene antecedents Belaire (whose self-titled 2005 EP continues to make us smile). But Built By Snow, which formed in early 2006, embraces a more overtly rock sound encompassing the bracing '80s pop of, oh, let's say The Tubes, as well as a thousand forgotten acts, as evidenced by the upbeat, hand-clapping anthem "All The Weird Kids Know." Built By Snow counts among its influences Devo and The Cars, but we think that assessment ignores several obvious contempories; Built By Snow's "Something In 3D" sounds a lot like New Pornographers. "A-Beta" touts sparer -- but no less punchy -- verses that the foursome leverages into dense pre-choruses/non-choruses packed with squalling guitars. Built By Snow self-release its new album Mega Jan. 20; an earlier EP, Noise, was issued in 2007. The band will be quite busy beginning tonight, when it plays the first of a half-dozen local engagements. We've posted Built By Snow's itinerary below.
Built By Snow --
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[buy Mega from Built By Snow right here]
01/02 -- Mohawk -- Austin, TX
01/06 -- Beauty Bar -- Austin, TX
01/08 -- Beauty Bar -- Austin, TX
01/18 -- KVRX radio session -- Austin, TX
01/24 -- Club DeVille -- Austin, TX
02/25 -- Emos -- Austin, TX
>> Pushing an even more synth-heavy musical agenda is the Finnish duo Burning Hearts, whose icy music largely foregoes real drums and rocking electric guitars in favor of programmed beats and analog(-sounding) keys. The act is comprised of Cats On Fire drummer and multi-instrumentalist Henry Ojala, and Le Futur Pompiste singer Jessika Rapo, who met while those two outfits toured Sweden in tandem in 2004. Burning Hearts' debut Aboa Sleeping will be released by Shelflife Feb. 10. The set is filled with gently glistening and airy compositions anchored by Rapo's rich and affecting alto, and the combination of the singing and synths will likely spur some knee-jerk comparisons to Stereolab. The likeness, however, is merely superficial, and we can't imagine anyone mistaking Burning Hearts' mid-tempo brooder "Sea Birds" with a Stereolab jam. The former's "A Peasant's Dream," well, maybe.
>> A left-over item from before the holiday: Kent, England-based It Hugs Back's full-length debut is -- somewhat improbably -- titled Inside Your Guitar. The set will be issued by the venerable enterprise 4AD, and likely not before April, although the quartet hopes to be selling the collection at gigs early from early in 2009. Inside Your Guitar will be preceded by at least one and perhaps two singles. Readers will recall we were ga-ga for the band's most recent commercial offering, the single "Work Day," which will also feature on the full-length. In late December It Hugs Back was offering a gift in the form of two tracks, NRBQ's "Christmas Wish" b/w "Sometimes The Snow," wrapped up in a .zip file. We're not crazy about the former track, but "Sometimes The Snow" is an interesting pastiche of spacey studio rumination built on reversed tracks, cymbal drone and guitar and bass snippets that went very nicely with the snow that fell on Boston the Sunday before Christmas. If you rush over here right now perhaps you can still download it.