Tele Novella

Tele Novella’s “Merlynn Belle” is truly delightful

Tele Novella’s inviting and inventive new album “Merlynn Belle'' is out now on Kill Rock Stars. The band, made up of Natalie Ribbons and Jason Chronis, crafts sunny and alluring songs that whisk the listener away to a simpler time. Buoyant melodies careen down a myriad of instrumentation to give the heartfelt lyrics space to explore. 

While only clocking in at 32 minutes, “Merlynn Belle” manifests an inter-generational journey. It smoothly glides through compositional styles from the Renaissance to Americana to Sixties Folk to contemporary Indie Pop. The timeless nature of the record is partially due to the use of an 8-track cassette recorder to capture the intricate arrangements—it’s as if Fiona Apple were recorded in 1955. Incorporating the use of atypical instruments, such as the autoharp and the harmonium, also gives off an other-worldly quality one might find on a Richard Dawson album. 

This LP feels like a distinctive step forward from their 2016 debut, “House of Souls.” Ribbons, the singer/songwriter of the pair, moves from a purposeful croon to almost full yodel, telling stories of heartbreak, self-actualization and witches. The duo say they found “the music they wanted to be making all along but didn't know until it happened accidentally”, which is reflected in the natural feel of this record. 

Each of the four singles have a complementary music video that encapsulates the album’s aesthetic perfectly: modern tales through an old-fashioned lens. “Merlynn Belle” floats above vague subgenres, such as Baroque Pop or Freak Folk, into a cloud of familiar escapism. Texans sure need a wholesome distraction from the last couple of weeks, and Tele Novella have provided exactly that! 

 

- Hayden Steckel

   

Tele Novella unveils Sci Fi video for 'Heavy Balloon' + announces new album

This super fun video by Tele Novella for single "Heavy Balloon" caught our attention today. Somewhat disavowing their own name, the Austin based pop quartet looks for visual inspiration in the cheesy Sci Fi movies of the '70s. The song strikes a perfect balance between catchiness and sophistication, in a vein not too dissimilar from Camera Obscura's most memorable singles. The song will be included in their upcoming album House of Souls out 9/23.

   

Christmas + Spooky + Western Influence = Tele Novella's "Christmas Spirit"

Truth be told, Christmas ain't much of a hip holiday, what with all the religion and family and money and general mainstream weirdness associated with it, but that hasn't stopped more than a few artists outside the "regular" culture from taking capitalism's favorite holiday and doing something interesting with it. You've got yer Sufjan Stevens Christmas songs, your Gremlins, your Nightmare Before Christmas and (in the particular vein of that last entry in the field of holiday oddities), you've now got Tele Novella's spooky/jolly Snowflake 10, a 45 with two tracks of Christmas music from a top quality Austin pop group.

In particular, Side A on this festive bit of music-ery is an X-mas themed original by Tele Novella called "Christmas Spirit" that you'll know is something a bit different from the regular holiday fare when it starts out with Natalie Ribbons (with certainty one of Austin's best crooners) singing "All the meanest criminals, bank robbers, crooks and killers/Buried in the cemetery are celebrating Christmas." It's cute, creepy and's got that Tim Burton cool done through Tele Novella's spaghetti-Western ready trademark sound. If you're looking for something not lame and overdone to getcha feelin' all Christmassed up, take this short lil fun thing with ya on your holiday venturin', and also check out B-Side Marvin Gaye cover "Purple Snowflakes" and the other Snowflakes Christmas 45s on SoundCloud. Gotdamned Chrizzmas, kids. Up in yer wallet, and now all up in yer ears, but this time in a good way.

   

A Witchy Track from Tele Novella

Tele Novella was one of our nominees for The Deli Austin Emerging Austin Artist of 2014 poll (full results soon to come, so keep your eyes out), and we realized that we had made the grave oversight of never posting on this dynamic ATX band that’s a bit of a supergroup.

Tele Novella’s roster is made up of parts of the split-up bands Voxtrot and Agent Ribbons, both from Austin and each with its own substantial following, plus keyboardist Sarah La Puerta. Where Agent Ribbons was a band with a lighthearted, gently experimental indiepop sound, and Voxtrot was part of the early 2000s indie-rock-that-gets-dancy scene, Tele Novella is an entirely new sound from these musicians. It’s a moodier, retro-conscious approach to indie pop, and the lyrics tend toward odd, off-kilter storytelling and imagery. If you can imagine music that’s tailor-made for a desert scene in a Tarantino film, you’re not far off much of what Tele Novella does.

Of course, there’s much more to this band, which sometimes gets poppier than that description, but under their always-complex arrangements rides an obvious knowledge and nod to the American past, both musically and otherwise. You can tell just from listening that these are people with large record collections, or who at the least would know their way around one. Taking that level of musical knowledge and producing enjoyable music that takes it into account can be a hard trick to pull off, but Tele Novella is nothing if not thoroughly enjoyable. The instrumentation is fun and full of exciting turns, singer Natalie Ribbons’ voice is gripping and dynamic, the harmonies are tight and interesting, and the overall result is smart and undeniably listenable.

Their debut album is said to be in the works, and Tele Novella is set to play Holy Mountain with The TonTons and Wild Moccasins on February 12.

   

Preview: Psychomagic at The Know 8.26

Psychomagic’s psych rock is playful and morbid, tinged with surf, punk, and vintage tone. From their textured instrumentation, it’s obvious this quintet (Stone Laurila (guitar), Eddie Bond (keyboards), Anthony Brisson (drums, backing vocals), Scott Page (bass), and Steve Fusco (lead vocals/guitar)) find their vibe on stage. Songs are strummy, but shift to  heavy riffs over soft, fast rhythms and theatrical melodies. Its catchy, but then drifts off and almost fades out during long interludes, allowing the listener to get lost in their own narrative before changing the scenery. Their range can be the softer “Mutated Love” after fast and raging “I Dont Want To Hold Your Hand”. Fusco warbles through songs, sometime crooning about playing the fool and being a “Heartbroken Teenage Zombie Killer”. It's tongue in cheek, he declares from the start that “I’m A Freak." Playing with the pining rock of Portland's Dandelyons, and Austin's Tele Novella, it should be a colorful Tuesday evening at The Know. 

- Brandy Crowe