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The Preservation, The Calm Blue Sea (Jennifer)

May 1, 2013

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Austin’s The Preservation are celebrating spring with the release of their new single, Hugs/Drugs.  It brings to mind sunny, lazy, and carefree days with its breezy harmonies, organ swirls, and twang meets jangle guitars.  This double single is an excellent follow up to their 2011 album, Two Sisters. I also highly recommend checking out their live show, which you have the chance to do this Friday at Scoot Inn. They’re part of a stellar lineup with The Couch, Burgess Meredith, and Holiday. Check out the clip of Happiness from their Good Music Club taping last year; those sweet harmonies and killer guitar hooks definitely make me happy.

Another excellent local band performing on Friday night is The Calm Blue Sea. Although they’re an Austin-based band, their gigs are infrequent. The chance to see and hear them play a headlining show at a top notch venue like The Parish is hard to pass up. The band recently posted the remaining two videos from their Aberrations And Departures series; these performances were recorded and filmed live on location in Austin with different filmmakers and no overdubs or edits. Tesoro and To Approach The Vivian Girls are two of my favorite songs from their 2012 album, Arrivals And Departures; they have a blissful yet powerful shiver up the spine quality that you can’t deny.

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SXSW 2013 Picks (Jennifer)

March 6, 2013

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Even though I’m a 16 year veteran of attending SXSW, I’m reluctant to do much in-depth research for fear that my head will cave in from information overload. The festival is certainly no longer limited to the latest buzz bands. I admit I’m looking forward to seeing bands that are festival veterans and maybe even a rock n’ roll legend or two. I also willingly break the unofficial rule for Austinities by checking out local band showcases. I know I can see them throughout the year, but why is it so wrong to support them during SXSW?

I’ve selected five Austin bands and five non-Austin acts worth checking out next week.

Don’t forget your earplugs, wear comfortable shoes, and drink plenty of water.

Hundred Visions

I had heard of Austin’s Hundred Visions a couple of years ago, but I didn’t become a fan until seeing one of their Austin Free Week performances in January. It was full of energy, passion, and fun. Their sound is an irresistible blend of late 70s power pop and early 80s British post punk. You can catch their official showcase on Friday, March at Metal And Lace. They’re also part of the lineup for SOTO’s day party, DC vs Austin, on the same day. Just in time for the festival, the band has released a video for the track Where Do I Sign?.

The Ugly Beats

A longtime Austin favorite of mine is The Ugly Beats. Their sound combines 60s British invasion, garage rock, surf, punk, and psych, and their shows turn into instant dance party. They’re a total blast and one of the best bands in town. They play their official showcase as part of the Get Hip Records lineup at the Parish Underground on March 16.

The Calm Blue Sea

Local quintet The Calm Blue Sea create a powerful sound that (pardon the oceanic reference here) washes over you – at once it can be gentle and calming but it can also take your breath away as it crashes over you. They’re part of an excellent label showcase by Austin based label Modern Outsider that includes other quality Austin bands such as Ume, The Black and White Years, My Jerusalem, and Mirror Travel (formerly Follow That Bird!).

Residual Kid

Don’t call them a kid band and don’t call them a novelty band. The members of Austin trio Residual Kid may be young, but I’ve been to shows where older bands that play after them have asked aloud onstage, “How do we follow that?” They’re loud, brash, and maybe even a bit messy. They’re not afraid to just go for it and have a lot of fun onstage while melting faces of all ages in the audience. They’re playing plenty of day shows and you can check out their official showcase on March 16 at The Palm Door.

Grape St

Grape St are about to release their debut album, A Date With You, on the local start up label Austin Town Hall Records. Their infectious garage rock stompers make for a raucous live show. They have two festival showcases – March 13 at Cedar Street Courtyard, followed by another showcase later that night on the Hotel Vegas patio.

Robyn Hitchcock

Robyn Hitchcock is a longtime SXSW veteran, but this is not an artist who repeats himself. I’m always intrigued to see him perform live. His lyrics and stage banter have a stream of consciousness quality that range from thought provoking and biting to humorous and flirtatious. I’m sure that “quirky” and “odd” have been used to describe him and his songs, but those words don’t do him justice. Just listen and dig a little deeper to appreciate the enigma that is Robyn. His official showcase is on March 14 at the Continental Club. He’s also part of the all star tribute to the late Brent Grulke at the Austin Music Awards.

Ash

I’m pretty sure I did a little happy dance when I learned that the Ireland band Ash was returning to SXSW. I have a fond memory of watching them play a day party from a far distance in 2006; the band could see the far off crowd watching and dedicated Renegade Cavalcade to us. In the past couple of years, the band has played some limited tour dates in the US, but it’s been seven years since they’ve played in Austin. In late 2012, the band marked its 20th Anniversary with the release of the Ash A-Z Series, and they’re playing additional US dates in support of that release. They have skillfully combined hard, crunchy guitars and infectious, singalong worthy pop hooks that have won over listeners and allowed them to maintain a devoted fan following. Their official showcase is at Buffalo Billiards on March 13, and they’re also playing the Irish Full Breakfast showcase.

The Zombies

You don’t have to be a scholar or hardcore fan to appreciate The Zombies, who are in their 52nd year of being a band. Two original members remain – lead singer Colin Blunstone and songwriter/keyboardist Rod Argent. As one of the most influential bands from the 60s British Invasion, you’re probably familiar with some of their classic hits, including Time Of The Season, She’s Not There and Tell Her No. I’m not familiar with their 2011 release, Breathe Out, Breathe In, but I’m sure that they won’t leave SXSW without playing their classic hits and fan favorites. Their popularity and influence on contemporary bands endures for past, present, and future fans. Their official showcase is on March 16, and they’re also a featured interview on March 15 at the Austin Convention Center.

Free Energy

Philadelphia based quintet Free Energy never fail to make me smile. It’s feel good music that’s ridiculously catchy; think classic rock meets power pop. Even the cool kids who usually keep their hands in their pockets will start clapping, dancing, and singing along. They’re supporting the release of their second album, Love Sign, and I’ve been looking forward to their return to Austin since their SXSW showcase last year. The band genuinely enjoys what they do and it shows during their live performances. They’re playing several day shows and their official showcase is on March 16.

Frightened Rabbit

I first saw Scottish quintet Frightened Rabbit at a small SXSW day party in 2008. It was a short set, but they definitely made an impression on me. The band is celebrating their return to this year’s festival with the release of their fourth album, Pedestrian Verse. Their songs have a persistent sadness, but they also convey a sense of hope and resilience which strikes a familiar chords in many of their fans and listeners.  This is not a band that stares at their shoes; their live shows are passionate, sweaty, and satisfying affairs. Their official showcase is at The Belmont on March 14. Even if you have a badge, get there early as The Flaming Lips, The Joy Formidable, Alt-J, and Surfer Blood are part of that night’s lineup.

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Jennifer’s Top 11 Austin Albums Of 2012

December 14, 2012

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When I sat down to list my favorite songs and albums from 2012, Austin bands were all over it. I’m going to take that as a sign and share the local favorites that I listened to repeatedly. There’s no special ranking or order here. It was harder than I expected to narrow it down to the Top 11. These are the bands that made an impression on me this year and give me reasons to be a music fan. I hope you’ll discover new favorites and check them out in 2013.

JC & Co – Music By

This band’s debut album kicked off my 2012 with blissful, dreamy 60s influenced pop. Led by songwriter and guitarist, Jason Chronis, this album is filled  with plenty of jangly guitar hooks and stick in your head melodies.

Belaire – Resonating Symphony

The members of JC & Co had a busy year because most of the band is also part of Belaire. Resonating Symphony was released this spring after having been worked on for three years. It was definitely worth the wait, as it’s a breezy, infectious pop delight with a range of influences that hint of bossa nova, folk, and electropop.

Dana Falconberry – Leelanau

I had heard of Dana from the Echotone music documentary, but I didn’t check out her songs until her album release show a couple of months ago. You could say I had a “what took me so long to pay attention?” moment, but needless to say, I was enchanted by the eloquent, emotive songs filled with the nature inspired sounds of her home state, Michigan. Just close your eyes, listen carefully, and you can imagine yourself transported to the woods and lakes of her childhood.

The Eastern Sea – Plague

The Eastern sea is a name that I first heard a couple of years ago, but I didn’t follow through on checking out their tunes. Thank goodness for second chances! Despite the foreboding album title, the songs on Plague also convey a sense of joy, hope, and overcoming the odds despite what might be against you. A triumphant, gorgeous record worth repeated listens.

Good Field – Good Field

I first heard their self titled debut album about seven months ago, and I’m still completely head over heels for it. The LP is full of undeniable guitar pop hooks that get into your head and never leave. I highly recommend seeing them play live so you can also witness just how great they are as musicians. A new album is in the works and more touring, so keep your eyes and ears open in 2013 for this band. I promise you that they measure up to all my fangirl gushing.

She Sir – You Could Be Tiger/Condensedindents

Their next album, Go Guitars, is slated for a 2013 release. To appease the appetite of fans, the band made two new songs available for download and/or streaming. I can’t get enough of their lush, shimmery sound that floats and swirls in a melodic haze.

The Calm Blue Sea – Arrivals And Departures

This is the year I finally enjoyed a (mostly) instrumental rock album. This is a surprising revelation for a (mostly) power pop, hook loving music fan. Maybe that’s why I love this album, it blew my own expectations away. At one moment you can close your eyes and drift away and at another moment, you can’t resist pulling out some air guitar and/or drumming. This music isn’t just for bedroom listening. Their album release show this fall was one of the shows you brag to your friends about how you were there. I also highly recommend checking out their video performance series, Aberrations And Departures, which was shot at various Austin locations ranging from a neighborhood bar, a vintage store, and a playground. Each setting seamlessly fits into the personality of the songs.

The Couch – The Couch

Early this year, I saw The Couch perform as part of The Good Music Club, and I finally became a Couch convert. They have the advantage of having two talented songwriters and lead singers (I’m such a sucker for great dual male/female vocals), and a solid, top notch rhythm section. It’s a fun, sweaty rock and roll with a melodic, pop heart beating underneath.

Bobby Jealousy- A Little Death

Their debut album is a delicious mix of rock, pop, glam, soul, and punk. The band is a great combination of solid songwriting and infectious, engaging live performances. There have been lineup changes since the album’s release, but that is not slowing the band down from starting work on the next release. I’m excited to hear more from tthem.

The Zoltars – Should I Try Once More?

This album was instantly in the running to be a year end favorite. I became a fan of their less is more, stripped back sound and songwriting. The winning factor is that they’re able to make it catchy, infectious, and worthy of repeated listens. They make the sad songs feels so good.  A 7″ EP is slated for release in January or February, and a new album is set for a summer 2013 release.

Leatherbag – Ditto Time

In 2012, they re-branded themselves briefly as No Future before calling it a day. This past spring, this trio released Ditto Time, which hinted at the band’s change in direction described as “flag wave.” I’m still not quite sure what that is but at the end of the day, the results were killer, no BS songwriting from Randy Reynolds and a badass rhythm section of Daniel Blanchard and Drew Emmons. They were a live favorite that I never tired of seeing. I’m really going to miss this band – good tunes from good people.

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The Calm Blue Sea (Video Premiere)

November 5, 2012

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One of the better albums to come out of Austin this year is The Calm Blue Sea’s Arrivals & Departures.  Released in early October via Modern Outsider, the album is an obvious step forward for the band.  It’s always been easy to compare The Calm Blue Sea to one of Austin’s other instrumental acts, Explosions In The Sky, but the band’s new effort is more cinematic than post-rock, and it’s given them a sound that’s now clearly their own.

If you ask me, that’s reason enough to jump on their bandwagon.  However, to help fully convince you to champion The Calm Blue Sea, I present to you the fourth entry in the live music film series that they’ve been shooting around Austin.  The goal is to do a video for each of the eight songs on Arrivals & Departures, and Side One Track One is premiering Pont Des Mouton.

It was recorded live on location, with no audio overdubs or edits, and that’s just awesome.  Take a look.  Enjoy.

Previous Videos

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The Couch, The Calm Blue Sea (Jennifer)

October 17, 2012

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ACL may be over, but there’s not much time to rest before the next round of great shows begins. On Thursday, October 25 The Couch are celebrating the release of their single, Oh Libby, at Beauty Ballroom. In advance of their upcoming show, the band has released a video teaser featuring the stylish dance moves of Couch drummer, Jud Johnson. Don’t ever doubt that the man who keeps the beat doesn’t know how to get his groove on. Oh Libby is a hint of great things to come with their full length album, which is expected to be released before the end of the year. It’s honest, fun, loud, and sweaty rock n’roll – what more do you need?

Half of The Couch, Kyle Robarge (bass) and Taylor Wilkins (guitar), also do double duty in The Calm Blue Sea.  In conjunction with the release of Arrivals And Departures, the band is presenting a live performance video series, Aberrations And Departures. Each video was filmed and recorded in a different Austin location, including a convenience store (The Whip In) and a dive bar (The Sahara Lounge). These clips are all live takes – no edits or overdubs. Videos for the title track and Samsara have been released and additional ones will be put out soon. The films are simply shot but still very compelling, capturing the mood of the songs, and worth repeated viewings.

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Ditch The Fest Fest 3 (Dan)

October 10, 2012

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Got your tickets for the ACL Festival this weekend? No?! Well, me either. That’s okay. You don’t need to plop down $200 (or however much 3-day passes cost) to see an incredible collection of bands this weekend. In fact, for just $5 a day you can see almost 50 bands spanning all sorts of genres – indie, country, rock, hip-hop, electronica, post-punk … you get the idea. So do yourself a favor and cancel your weekend plans, then head over to the Spiderhouse and 29th Street Ballroom for DITCH THE FEST FEST 3!

Once again the festival is being run by Lucy The Poodle. It’s an annual tradition offering an array of local and national acts without having to battle with 80,000 people or overpaying for food and beer. Last year the fest was held at five different locations but this year it’s more contained and centralized. This will make it easier to bounce between the four stages and see as many bands as you’d like. Yet another advantage over ACL.

There are many bands worth checking out, but I highly recommend seeing The Wolf, Megafauna, The Calm Blue Sea, Bobby Jealousy, Black Books, and Residual Kid. The songs below are just a sample of the range of music you can catch at Ditch the Fest. No matter your musical preferences, there will be bands for you.

:Bobby Jealousy – This Knife:
:Henry And The Invisibles – Take It 2 The Tippy:
:Knifight- Black Daggers:
:Megafauna – Scratch At The Latch:
:The Lonesome Heroes – 287:

SPIDERHOUSE + BALLROOM
$5 / ALL AGES / DOORS AT 5PM
OCTOBER 12TH + 13TH 2012

Friday 10/12

Ballroom Main Stage
6:30 Growl
7:30 Lonely Playground
8:30 Maufrais
9:30 Residual Kid
10:30 The Spastic Shakes
11:30 The Vipers
12:30 Bobby Jealousy

Ballroom Bar Stage
7:00pm COCKER SPANIELS
8:00pm Ghost Wolves
9:00pm Chase Frank (performing originals + PJ Harvey covers)
10:00pm Humanoids
11:00pm Church Shoes
12:00pm Motel Ball Band

Chapel
6:30pm MC Sweet Tea & Her Head Band
7:30pm Superlitebike
8:30pm Videoing
9:30pm TBA
10:30pm Hello Wheels
11:30pm Man Rabbit
12:30pm Henry + The Invisibles

Spiderhouse
6:00pm Shortwave Party
7:00pm Grundel in the Bronx
8:00pm Co-Pilot
9:00pm Alaskan
10:00pm Megafauna

Saturday 10/13

Ballroom Main Stage
6:30pm Burgess Meredith
7:30pm She Sir
8:30pm Grace London
9:30pm Les Rav
10:30pm Black Books
11:30pm Calm Blue Sea
12:30pm JC & Co.

Ballroom Small Stage
6:00pm Watch Out For Rockets
7:00pm The Couch
8:00pm Suspirians
9:00pm Kay Leotard
10:00pm Acorn Bcorn
11:00pm The Rich Hands
12:00pm Quin Galavis

Spiderhouse Chapel
6:30pm The Low Lows
7:30pm Auroravore
8:30pm Silver Ships
9:30pm The Cymatic

Spiderhouse Bar
8:30pm Big Bill
9:30pm Borris Okane
10:30pm KNIFIGHT
11:30pm TBA
12:30pm TBA

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Sound Samples: The Calm Blue Sea

October 2, 2012

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Sound Samples is a SOTO feature meant to provide some insight on what inspired and/or influenced an artist’s latest release. Today’s entry comes from Austin-based instrumental act The Calm Blue Sea. The band is all set to put out their new full length, Arrivals & Departures, on October 9 via Modern Outsider. This Saturday they’re having a record release show at Red 7. Get more information on The Calm Blue Sea here.

We each come at our music from such a drastically different perspective and pull songs in ways that were rarely the intention of the idea’s creator. Sometimes the results are magical and other times there are massive rifts between us when we don’t agree, but despite the difficult creative process, the band and the music we make is better for it in the end. Here’s a taste of what influenced Steve (drums), Kyle (bass), and me (guitar/keys/vocals) when we were writing Arrivals & DeparturesChris

:Ambulance Ltd. – Yoga Means Union:

This song has one of the most awesome builds from beginning to end.  It’s the thing I put on when I need a good kick in the ass – something that motivates me. The bass drives so much of what’s going on under all the guitars and really gives a sense of momentum.  I try to bring this approach to TCBS songs by using the bass as a melodic instrument from time to time – little hooks that peek out from the midst of everything else. I really love how this song keeps building more and more … a little more intense each time, and you think it can’t possibly open up any more … until it does.  And wow, what an explosion when it happens.  The rhythmic unity of the band when things get huge at the end is just incredible.  This is a song you should play loudly.  Kyle

:The Antlers – Wake:

The entire Hospice album could go down on the list for me as the biggest influence on this record. It taught me a lot of things about subtlety, simple (yet effective) piano parts, understated melodies, interesting song structures … the list goes on. But what hit me most was the weight of this record. The sadness and emotion crushes you. I love to listen to and create moody, dramatic music. Happiness feels good, but sadness feels much more real to me in music.  Chris

:Bill Frisell – Shenandoah:

For a reason I can’t remember, during a rehearsal I was trying to explain Bill Frisell interpreting folk melodies and how I liked his use of delay units and such. I couldn’t find the version from his East West record that I was thinking of, but somehow I ended up playing the Paul Robeson version off Youtube through the PA and going to the restroom, during which time I’m sure the guys laughed their asses off at me. Something we were working on brought the melody to mind, whether bringing this up affected anything I’m not certain of, but these are the kind of random contributions I pull out from time to time.  Steve

:Caspian – Loft:

I am a huge fan of this band.  From what I’ve heard, this is the first song they wrote together.  It’s a beautiful piece of melody and power all in one package.  I particularly love how the bass moves within the context of the song, sometimes melodic, other times driving and rhythmic.  The tones of all the instruments really work well together and the textures they create are so massive!  There are moments of quiet, almost reflective in nature, that lead to big confident driving passages that seem to get bigger and bigger.   That whole EP is one of my favorite records.  Kyle

:Deep Purple – Fools:

We’ve just lost Jon Lord, so this was on my mind. I’m not ashamed to admit I was listening to the Fireball and In Rock LPs a lot during the writing of this album. Somewhere in a landfill sits a copy of Rockin’ Bass Drum with hand written instructions from my first drum teacher to check out those records. I feel kind of dumb for sleeping on them for so long. I hadn’t owned a proper stereo since pre-Katrina and I put one together around the time we were doing the first sessions for this LP. For some reason most of the gear I bought was from the late 70s-early 80s and buying a bunch of Deep Purple records seemed obligatory. I also made a conscious decision to not play so minimal on this record, so checking out Ian Paice may have put me in touch with some primal rock drummer concept that I had been ignoring for a while.  Steve

:Errors – Magna Encarta:

I went on the road with these guys driving them around the US when they opened the Mogwai tour in 2011. They’d just released Magna Encarta as a single and it was in the set every night.  I love everything about the song but the vocals really stand out to me. Seeing the way that Errors, a mostly instrumental band, incorporated vocals was really inspiring and touched perfectly on the way I saw vocals working for our new material. Steev from Errors showed me the vocal processor he uses on the song and from that moment on TCBS was never the same.  Chris

:Neil Young And Crazy Horse – Winterlong:

Neil Young probably got more air time than anyone else in my house over the last year. When I got married in May of 2011, a good friend gave me a few represses and my wife and I didn’t listen to much else for weeks. Somewhere later in the year this song came on my radar. I hadn’t ever heard the Pixies cover of it, and somehow this version was from a bill that Neil and Crazy Horse shared with Miles Davis during his electric period (which is maybe the most important music to me, ever). Either way, I heard it for the first time and thought “yep. that’s perfect. absolutely perfect. can I have one musical moment in my life like that please?”  Steve

:Other Lives – Black Tables:

It was a tough choice which Other Lives song to put on this list (between Tamer Animals or Black Tables). About 80% of my writing for Arrivals & Departures was on piano (versus 0% of the self-titled) and Other Lives has influenced the way I approach the instrument more than any other. The piano melody and overall sound permeated a lot of the TCBS writing this time around.  Chris

:Pink Floyd – Dogs:

I really love Roger Waters as a bassist, not because he’s technically amazing, but because he always knows when to leave space and when to transition from rhythmic to melodic.  He really holds down the groove well, too. The instrumental arrangement does a really fantastic job of creating compelling textures that keep the song interesting. By the time it comes back in after progressing through a number of movements and a breakdown in the middle, you are dying for that harmonized guitar line – it’s the most satisfying feeling in the world to hear it wash over you!  I love how this song builds anticipation and really sets a deep, unmistakable mood.  Every time I hear the acoustic guitar starting the song, I get really excited for the musical journey I’m about to take.  Kyle

:The Twilight Sad – The Room:

One of my favorite songs by my favorite active band. Everything they do is an influence for me. This song first appeared on their Killed My Parents EP as Untitled #27. Both versions are amazing and I’ve taken bits of inspiration from each in writing for TCBS.  Chris

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Quickdraw: Cymbals Eat Guitars, Rubblebucket, Tony Castles, How To Dress Well, The Calm Blue Sea

September 10, 2012

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Today’s music was found while looking for music.  Enjoy.

:Cymbals Eat Guitars – Hawk Highway:  I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, Cymbals Eat Guitars are one of the best indie rock acts working right now.  They only churn out magic.  This track is part of a web series titled Masters Of Their Day, which follows a band and a producer as they try to record a single in 24 hours.

:Rubblebucket – Oooh Wa:  This band is really growing on me.  Kalmia Traver has a nice voice, and I especially dig how their songs feel like pop music with a purpose.  Their show with Reptar at Beauty Ballroom on September 26 can’t get here soon enough.  The Oversaturated EP is due out tomorrow.

:Tony Castles – One Tone Man:  If you like your pop music to be doused with a good amount of soul, then this slick Tony Castles track is for you.  Don’t leave it on repeat for too long.  The band will release the Sharon Stone EP on October 23, but you stream it now on their Bandcamp page.

:How To Dress Well – And It Was U:  I don’t know what it is about Tom Krell’s work as How To Dress Well, but I really like it.  Maybe I should listen to more R&B?  Seems unlikely.  Anyhow, HTDW will release Total Loss on September 18 via Acephale.

:The Calm Blue Sea – Mary Ann Nichols:  Austin’s list of great instrumental bands will always start with Explosions In The Sky, but don’t think for a second that The Calm Blue Sea aren’t prepared to give them a run for their money.  This absolutely epic track is off of Arrivals And Depatures, which is due out October 9 on Modern Outsider Records.  These guys will also be doing a Sound Samples soon, so keep watch for that.

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