The Deaf Ears
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The Deaf Ears

Band Alternative Rock


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"Texas Platters: The Deaf Ears - Live Forever"

Former Tammany Hall Machine conductor Joel Mullins picks up right where he left off, opening his new quartet's debut with an energetic, piano-pop punch that shares the title and charm of Tammany's last disc, 2007's Amateur Saw. Blueprint's the same (Beatles, Raspberries), but Wurlitzer boogie ("You Tell Tara") and 1960s Brit-pop ("Monument") make Live Forever feel like a fresh start.

3 stars
- Austin Chronicle

"The Deaf Ears - Live Forever"

Live Forever, The Deaf Ears' debut album, is proof positive that sometimes when things fall apart, things can actually come together. Case in point, when Joel Mullins’ previous band Tammany Hall Machine – a band that garnered a decent amount of Austin buzz and a slew of nice slots with some great bands – began to disintegrate, Joel decided not to force his new batch of songs into the old format. Instead, he regrouped with producer Scott Oliphant on drums and decided to form a two-piece. Sure enough, with the addition of former THM bandmates Mick Southerland and Geoff Dupree, that two-piece morphed into The Deaf Ears quartet and a whole new way to create Mullins’ vision was realized.

On Live Forever, The Deaf Ears trot out ten catchy tunes that teeter between polished pop and careened bar band rock. Recorded live without overdubs, the band forgoes the normal spit polish and digital sheen that other similar bands have attempted and instead let’s the rough edges cut just a bit. “Amateur Saw,” the album’s opener, puts this production decision on full display; the longest track on the album (clocking in at just under four and a half minutes) features Mullins’ lush organ, a stomping rhythm section, and some handclaps that, when put together, feel like the band is about to become unhinged at any moment for almost the entire track… and then it actually happens. The song starts to wind down, things get a little slower, and then all of a sudden the band stretches out in a rambling outro, that while likely well planned and rehearsed, sounds like four guys goofing around and having a great time. For better or worse (mostly for better), this pattern repeats itself throughout the course of the remaining nine tracks.

Across the album, Mullins soulful voice and keys are the focal point. Dupree’s guitar flourishes are subtle accents, never threatening to overpower the rolling rhythms pounded out by Mullins, Oliphant, and Southerland. On “All in the Family,” the band takes a slower turn over dark chords and Mullins’ mournful tale of how he “took our poison/with gin and vermouth.” With a partial croon and a subdued arrangement featuring the rest of the guys singing off in the background, the tune sounds like it was poured out of a whiskey bottle and straight into a dive bar jukebox. And while this tale of woe might be one of the highlights of the album, The Deaf Ears aren’t hocking Debbie-downer vibes here; the rollicking “You Tell Tara” begins with a boogie, ends with hooting and hollering, and cascades into the hip shaking “Make This Hole.”

Maybe the album’s title Live Forever is a look to the future. As in, The Deaf Ears will live forever and keep taking advantage Joel Mullins’ incredible knack of writing hooks. Or, maybe it’s as simple as they’ll always record live without overdubs. Whatever it means, The Deaf Ears will hopefully avoid the fate of Tammany Hall Machine while creating more of these sinewy organ driven rockers. With a little luck, The Deaf Ears’ music won’t fall on many deaf ears any time soon.
- Austin Sound

"Album Review: The Deaf Ears - Live Forever"

Why beat around the bush. The Deaf Ears have crafted one of Austin's best indie rock albums of the year.

First, let's get one thing straight: From now 'til the end of time, a large swath of musicians from around the world will claim The Beatles as their biggest influence. That's never going to change. Some of these musicians will go on to form mediocre bands that sound so derivative of their heroes that it's embarrassing (like Wolfmother with Led Zeppelin, or Jet with The Who). But others will form bands that are really fucking good.

The Deaf Ears are really really fucking good. And while their music isn't the most original to come from this city, it's still so refreshing and compelling that I haven't taken their debut album Live Forever out of my car stereo since I popped it in two weeks ago. The attention to detail, be it in the production value or the songwriting or the performance, is obvious.

Sure, The Deaf Ears' sound is largely influenced by The Beatles, but the greatest lesson they seem to have learned from their role models isn't the chords or the melodies, but the importance of a meticulous work ethic in the studio... the craft of recording an album.

Live Forever is a quick listen at 10 songs running a total 31 minutes, but that works in favor of the album, not against it. Every song sounds like a labor of love, and soars high as a result. The lyrics are clever and warm. The music is catchy and memorable; the songs are concise yet emotive. This is sincere, honest-to-goodness pop music, folks. These guys display the same kind of potential that other Austin pop-rock heroes did early in their careers, be it Spoon or Okkervil River or What Made Milwauakee Famous. The Deaf Ears are definitely recommended for fans of any those three bands.

But wait! Who the hell are The Deaf Ears anyway!? You've probably asked that by now. That's exactly what I wondered the first time I listened to this album. I hadn't seen their name in the MySpace musical universe or on local concert calendars. How could a band this good and ready for prime time have slipped under my radar?

As it turns out, The Deaf Ears are the followup project of songwriter Joel Mullins, formerly of Tammany Hall Machine. THM built a loyal and devoted fanbase over the course of five years as one of Austin's most exciting indie rock bands. They too were influenced by '60s pop-rock like The Kinks and Beatles. But the band split up in January 2008, leaving a lot of disappointed fans wondering what could've been from a band that had been nominated for awards from ME Television and had made various top-10 lists at the Austin Music Awards. Tammany Hall seemed to have everything going for it when the plug was pulled a year and a half ago.

But Mullins didn't take any time off. He kept writing music, this time with drummer and music producer Scott Oliphant of Ohm Studios in Austin. The duo wrote 15 songs, recording many of them multiple times. They brought in former THM bassist Mick Southerland and former THM guitarist Geoff Dupree to round out the lineup. They've only played a handful of shows.

Mullins doesn't seem to have trouble acknowledging his previous band on Live Forever. He titled the album's opening song "Amateur Saw", which was the name of Tammany Hall's last album. It's as if to say this is meant to be a continuation. In fact, some of these Deaf Ears songs are holdovers from the THM era. But The Deaf Ears are leaner and less cluttered than THM was. They're a totally different band. Still, Live Forever feels like the album that would've launched Tammany Hall into the national spotlight if they'd stuck it out. Instead, it turns out to be one of the best debut albums I've heard from a band. Period.

Every song on this CD is magical. But "Army of Wit" especially grabs me, with its soothing piano line and lullaby vocals that deliver lyrics that are odd yet heartbreaking: "If I don't come back, please don't you quit. There are others who need your army of wit. If I don't return, I hope you won't cry. There are others who need your alien skies. I hope you protect me somehow."

I'm excited to see where this band goes from here. They've got the album they need to make waves. Let's hope their meticulousness and perfectionism in the studio translates to their live show and touring schedule. If the live performance side of things comes together, The Deaf Ears will be a band to keep an eye on.

- 'Nites blog

"I Can't Hear You: The Deaf Ears"

The Deaf Ears just released an excellent new album, Live Forever, in the vein of some of my favorite releases from the year (= Jude/Ross + a little more pop), which is initially very exciting. Problem is, I can’t share any song here with you, because all the band has by way of sampling purposes is this album stream I can point you to. And if it wasn’t such a good listen, I’d hardly even do that. Come on people, sharing is caring! - Side One Track One

"Best Austin Albums of 2009"

The Deaf Ears' debut album, Live Forever, received Honorable Mention, Best Austin Albums of 2009, from the Austin American-Statesman - Austin American-Statesman


Live Forever (full-length CD) - 9/26/09



“Why beat around the bush. The Deaf Ears have crafted one of Austin's best indie rock albums of the year.” -- ‘Nites Austin

“Former Tammany Hall Machine conductor Joel Mullins picks up right where he left off, opening his new quartet's debut with an energetic, piano-pop punch…” -- Austin Chronicle

“Sounds like it was poured out of a whiskey bottle and straight into a dive bar jukebox. With a little luck, The Deaf Ears’ music won’t fall on many deaf ears any time soon.” -- Austin Sound

The Deaf Ears arose from the ashes of Austin’s acclaimed indie-pop quintet Tammany Hall Machine. After five years with THM, singer-songwriter-pianist Joel Mullins decided it was time to move on. Armed with a large backlog of songs, Joel recruited producer and ex-Halley drummer Scott Oliphant and ex-THM bassist Mick Southerland, and the trio entered the studio in late 2007 to begin working on a new album. In May of the following year, guitarist Geoff Dupree (Leatherbag, Tammany Hall Machine) was added to the lineup.

During a year and a half in the studio, The Deaf Ears recorded more than 15 songs, some of them multiple times, wrapping up the recording process in April 2009. In an age when most commercial recordings are edited and auto-tuned to death, The Deaf Ears have chosen to leave their tracks raw and untouched—stray handclaps, closing doors, and all. Every track was recorded to 2-inch tape, and absolutely no computer edits were made. The result is the organic sound of living musicians playing real instruments in an actual room.

The 10-song, 31-minute debut album from The Deaf Ears, entitled Live Forever, was released on September 26, 2009.