Seattle Subsonic - Album Reviews
REVERB, the Seattle Weekly’s music blog, has been one of the city’s biggest advocates of local artists for years. At the beginning of this month they gathered samples from 42 local artist and label releases they reviewed and put them in one place for you to get serious earful for the latest sound here in the “City of Music”. It will take the better part of your day to listen to them all but what do you really have better to do.. work?
If you want to save time, here are a few that stuck with me. There’s a link at the bottom for you to enjoy them all. -it’s worth it.
So you’re out for a drink with your scenester pals in some hip locale with classically unfamiliar tunes playing overhead. And given the nasal male vox buoyed by a surf-y, smart-Alec (Firefox made me capitalize that) bass line and a snappy, clean, well-plucked guitar, perhaps you thought the Intelligence—beloved and zany Seattle glo-fi outfit—had recently released some new tunes. Or, at the very least, had some tunes you hadn’t heard before. Well, you’d be forgiven for that mistake (though if someone offers to flog you, accept!), since their tunes are generally awesome and ringleader Lars Finberg has recently been coined a STRANGER and a GENIUS, but, well, you’d be wrong. Yes, I’m in your head and the band you heard was the GGNZLA-approved Seattle via Portland Orca Team.
If this little bit of crazy sounds like something up your alley, Kissing Cousins is an album you should look into. Orca Team is a bit more committed to melody and song structure than that other band’s bizarro world, and the “Mod”-inspired sparse quirky pop with distant, tape hiss recordings just might make you wanna bust the Twist, the Swim, the Watusi or EVEN THE MASHED POTATO GUYS. Also, you might need a beach blanket. Leif Anders slaps the bass and sings, Jessica Baldauf runs the guitar section and Dwayne Cullen holds down the snare-heavy skins. The music is real good-like, but I think they could really hit it out of the park with some more polished recordings (gasp!). Blasphemy, I know.
Get the cassette or mp3′s over at GGNZLA’s bandcamp or check out a few highlights below:
Note: the band released another limited edition cassette through High Fives and Handshakes, which included—you guessed it—a cover of the Intelligence’s “The World Is Not A Drag”. Both came out in July.
So, this little story will likely seem pretty weird to many of you. While I do relish a good local celebrity sighting, I realize an encounter with one may not make for the sexiest story. I’ll see musicians walking around town all the time (my wife claims she almost ran over Fleet Foxes frontman Robin Pecknold with her car once, which would’ve totally ALTERED HISTORY), or, once, I offered my seat in the cramped confines of the Pike St. Fish Fry to Almost Live funnywoman Nancy Guppy. I think we even shared a few laughs (LOL). Mostly though, I’m generally pretty good at leaving the person be, tapping my wife on the shoulder to let her know whose “presence” we’re in and leave it at that. Newscasters, for instance, are not worth accosting for any reason—unless it’s Steve Pool in a convertible. There are times, however, where I really, really regret not having at least said “w’sup”.
This deep regret is what I felt last weekend. Last Saturday, the wife and I took our baby daughter out to Seward Park for a little family fun run. Two and a half miles is about the length of the park’s loop and we made it in pretty good time (we’re pretty good runners, my wife and I). But we decided to go again and really give our glutes a good workout. As my wife returned to the car to fetch some water, I decide to post up near the Audubon building with the stroller. And who, pray tell, is sitting right there on the curb, all by his lonesome save for a one-speed fixie? Mr. Shabazz Palaces himself. Palaceer Lazaro. Digable Planet’s own Ish “Butterfly” Butler. I about burst.
Like I said, many of you might not see this as a big deal, but given SP’s cryptic genesis a few summers ago, the fact that this sighting was happening in such a non-music, non-hip hop locale, and my utter esteem for SP’s bizarro, spaced-out freakness, my pants came about two millimeters from splitting. So I stood there, trying not to look, all the while looking. He had with him a sweet 2-wheeled purple pony– “was it his or his daughter’s?”, I asked myself. “Does he bike a lot?” “Is this how he stays fit?” He looked, as usual, pretty fly with the neck scarf and white hightop Chucks. He had some sort of gold-plated smartphone that he was listening to up close, no doubt some new ish he’s workin’ on. A few minutes later, he quietly mouthed some raps into his phone.
As I argued internally about how, or even if, I should introduce myself (always lead with a greeting and a compliment), I decided I should at least covertly snap a photo or two with my phone to show my buddy. I did this, pretending to be pointing it at the stroller. Good lord, is this stalker material? I dunno, I hope not. I just know that his recent output is some of illest, most ingenious stuff to ever rattle my eardrums, and I was going fanboy all over the place. In my head, anyway. I kept it cool on the outside, knowing Ish would do the same. I then realized him sitting there, rappin’, was like that big blue heron sitting in Andrews Bay that same morning: majestic, idle, and probably not too interested in visitors. It was this metaphor, coupled with a cat-caught tongue, that led me to stay silent. What would I have said? Probably something stupid about how much I dig Shabazz Palaces, and how I just got the awesome gold-flecked black “velvet” CD case in the mail a few days prior. I would’ve kept it short, that’s for sure; dude seemed like he was in a p’zone.
So that’s my story. I regretted not saying anything the minute we left to continue our run, and still do one week later. But it was probably for the best. As for Black Up, I’ve spun it ten times or so and I definitely like it. I don’t think it’s quite as brilliant as Shabazz Palaces or Of Light; perhaps it’s a bit more “difficult” than the first offerings, if you can believe that. Andrew Matson of the Seattle Times called it the “album of the year”. That’s probably a bit much. Seattle Weekly music editor Chris Kornelis called the band “supremely overrated”. That, too, is a bit much. The truth is, is that it’s probably somewhere in the middle, falling differently along the spectrum for each listener. I do know that it will likely make anyone’s head spin, if given the chance to soak in it’s eerie, gothic beat-jazz and black sci-fi introspection—Clear some space out / so we can space out.
So, if by some extremely remote chance you ever read this post, Mr. Shabazz Palaces, please accept my apology for the photo and know that it’s borne strictly out of admiration. My regret lives on, because, as you know: If you talk about it / it’s a show / and if you move about it / it’s a go.
It’s been a while since my last post but my old friends in Summer Babes just released their first full length album “Open Swim” and I had to give them a plug. You’ll recognize some of the members from groups like The Lights and Man The Guns, but this album is a different direction. Very refreshing, eclectic, smartly written, solid hooks and a tangible vernacular that moves back to a almost post punk style vocals (male, female and harmonies) with indie guitar. There are brush strokes of rock, blues, indie and maybe even jazzy licks. Definitely worth listening to. If this is what their writing now I can’t wait to hear more. Nicely done. Next show is at the Blue Moon Tavern July 8th.
Man, I meant to post this ages ago, but LIFE got in the way. I hate when it does that. Oh wait, no I don’t…I love having a life, cuz then all those jerks who say “GET A LIFE!” are thoroughly rebuked when they discover that I ALREADY HAVE ONE. Joke’s on them.
Anyway, Yuni in Taxco: Seattle guitar pop band with highly-textured shades of a weirdo island life from the 50′s as vacationed by Grizzly Bear and a young, sleepy Dick Dale (kinda). Frayed, fuzzed out guitars and shimmering fills of what-have-you. I’m always reminded of the once-great, now-horrible former Mariner shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, when I say their name. “Yuni” for short, of course, or “Yuni-Bomber”. What a crash-and-burn that guy was.
All you rough n’ tough dudes probably won’t like Sanpuku, but that’s ok, there’s plenty of crap out there for you already. I’ve been listening to this album for a couple months now, and it really grooves. Download it for free and see what I mean. It might put you in a happy place.
See the band at the Columbia City Theater tonight (4/21); $7, 21+.
What would you say if I told you Christmas was a band that sounded like Karen O fronting the Intelligence? Or perhaps Grace Slick wailing with the Gits? Would you say “fuck off”? Would you say “Holy Hell!”? Would you say “don’t make me punch you”? Would you say “where’s my presents?” Whatever sort of cataclysmic reaction you would resort to probably wouldn’t have near the effect on me as the calamitous new self-titled album from these Olympia surf-thrashers. Yes, that’s right, surf-thrash is on the rise.
The Northwest underground is seething right now, and Christmas have flashed their fangs quite admirably with their recent entry into the fray. Local DIY imprint High Fives and Handshakes has the honor, and you can sample it below or over at their bandcamp. The record moves fast with a stupefying swagger, thanks to the heedless intent of all parties involved. Rhythm responsibilities fall upon Dave Halegua (bass) and Jake Jones (drums), each trying to out-quicken each other, often spilling off the rails but nonetheless staying on top of their duty to the song.
Patrick Scott-Walsh shows great versatility and range with his guitar, moving easily (but not necessarily seamlessly) between tactful surf spirits, broken guitar squalls, and funky electric rigor. The real treasure of this band, however, is vocalist Emily Beanblossom. I haven’t seen this band in person so I can’t speak to stage antics/presence, but the woman is cooking some serious voodoo with her recorded caterwaul. As I mentioned, Slick (Jefferson Airplane) and O (Fever To Tell-era) are apt analogies, with Beanblossom using the drawn out powerful warbles of the former and the banshee-esque out-of-body yips and yelps of the latter to great effect. I hear the growl and rabid intensity of the late Mia Zapata spewing forth from her lungs in directing an all-invited punk rock séance. “Namiot” sees her also taking off the mask, displaying a playful coyness that I wasn’t expecting. The sorceress has many countenances.
These four youngsters from our state’s capitol aren’t reinventing the wheel, but they are smashing the ba(by)-jesus out of it. And I suspect if your interest has thus been piqued, you’ll appreciate the rawness in their music (as opposed to the recordings), something they’ve done well to capture while still maintaining some semblance of “cohesion”. Not an easy task. Christmas are ragged, and they are coarse, and probably the best way to listen to them is up front, sweaty and drunk, with a tallboy in your hand. But for now, this ferocious output will have to do.
The title kind of says it all, but if you’ve come this far, maybe you’ll come a bit farther. Webelos is a Seattle band who recently released an LP that goes by the name Shadow Seasons. You can listen to/purchase it over at their bandcamp or any one of Seattle’s fine independent record stores. And you better, because it’s pretty excellent. The band, led by guitarist/vocalist Jim Smith and subject to many lineup changes, has been flying under the overground for the better part of 4 sun cycles now and I’d venture to say that this offering is the best I’ve ever heard them (disclosure statement: Smith is an acquaintance of mine).
The term “webelos” is apparently some sort of Boy Scout maxim (I had to Google this because I was definitely not in any sort of Scout organization, Boy or Cub) that stands for something like “We’ll Be Loyal Scouts”. By itself, it’s a fine sentiment that I can get on board with; I am a Taurus after all and I like to scout. But what, pray tell, are Webelos the band loyally scouting? Well, for one, groovy, surf-noirish 60s rhythms; for two, spooky, theremin-thick atmospheric tricks (courtesy of a keyboard, of course); and for three, playfully disaffected deadpan vocals. Their songs are tightly spun ditties—sometimes cheery, often a tilted shade of macabre—that creep into your head space like the hairy spider on that album cover up there and plant their seeds with the high-frequency quiver of the ghoulish, heavily modulated “theremin”. A song like “Jack The Ripper” is a prime example, Smith singing in the first person the savage thoughts of the mythic murderer “I hide behind your apartment door / my eyes are red / and my hands are sore”. Yikes.
In contrast, the little yelps let out in the instrumental “Fire Ant Season”, the quirky sardonic romp of “Hansel and Gretel” and the sprightly beach blanket blast of “Tsunami Season” showcase the quartet’s ability to laugh it up. Keyboardist Cassie Wulfe adds a welcome femininity with her turns on the mic. As long as anyone can remember, musicians have had success melding the happy with the hellish and Webelos have concocted their own tidy formula: jaunty surfboard jingles tempered by an underlying retro-creepiness. Has it been done before? Sure. Are Webelos doing a damn fine job of it? You betcha.
Check out some tunes below or Smith’s impressive stop motion video for “Hansel and Gretel”. Webelos will next play the Magma Festival, March 6th at the HER Studios in the CD.
NPR is currently streaming IDR (intelligent dance rock) godfathers Gang of Four’s new album, Content. I think it streams until January 25th, so act fast if you feel you MUST sample. And, in my doing just that this morning, I have to recommend it. Maybe not as “required listening” or anything, but definitely as an interesting dub-inflected stark, sharp punk record from a band who deserves much more credit in the pantheon of pioneers than they’re often given credit for. Obviously, nothing will ever come close to the awesomeness of Entertainment! (nor should it, ideally), but if you’re wondering how the band has aged, cure that curiosity. The Gang of Four signatures—Andy Gill’s gritty, glassy and oblique guitars, Jon King’s voice, deep, funky bass lines, even the beloved melodica—are all present and accounted for, but I haven’t quite digested the lyrics yet. The song titles hint at a less acerbic take on the world, but they could just be euphemisms. I JUST DON’T KNOW AT THIS POINT, GUYS, I’M SORRY. If anything, the band seems to be still using their lyrics to impart purposeful meaning, rather than just sound. There is certainly that innate intensity that the foursome has, which comes through easily with these new songs. In short, I’m diggin’ it.
I will caution your ears against one song that uses a vocoder to no avail: “It Was Never Going To Turn Out Too Good”. They probably called that one right, didn’t they? Content will be out in the US January 25th on Yep Roc records. Yay for old bands who don’t suck.
Update: Here’s an interesting quote from King on the album’s title:
Content is a cliché of our days. TV programs, music, and literature all claim to be content. But then there’s another side, about being content. Just that slight pronunciation difference makes it incredibly interesting. Contentment is the last thing we feel. We’re actually pretty anxious and troubled. But from my perspective, we do actually write lyrics about things. They’re not meant to be words that are sounds. They’re meant to have meaning.
Congratulations to the PacNW for another stellar year in music. It really outdid itself. There were quite a few bands from our region who received obscene amounts of attention this annum and even rippled the national scene with their respective records. Unfortunately, not many of them ended up on my list. Despite this cultural discrepancy, however, the bands and albums listed below represent what I believe to be the very best in Northwest music that you could’ve listened to in twenty-ten. Or not; I dunno, I’m just one dude. Feliz Navidad!
- Failed Graves – The Lights [Album Review]
- Dark Light – Lovers [Album Review] [Live Review]
- Surf Noir – Beat Connection [Album Review]
- Tapestry of Webs – Past Lives [Live Review]
- Cracked Love & Other Drugs – Unnatural Helpers [Album Review] [Live Review] [Video Review]
- The Cold Jungle – Cairo Compilation [Album Review]
- Unrecognize - Cock & Swan [Album Review]
- Males - The Intelligence [Album Preview]
- Hard Dream – Copy [Album Blurb]
- Doo Doo – OCNotes [Album Review]
Honorable mentions: s/t – Stephanie; s/t – Butts; Hearts on Hold – Tu Fawning; American Gong – Quasi; Emerald City Dummies – Partman Parthorse
Hey dudes, here’s my list of favorite albums from the past year (2010, stoners). I picked twenty this year as a small tribute to this being the first year where debate on how to pronounce said year swirled fiercely and ardently. Is it “twenty-ten”? Or is it “two thousand ten”? How to decide? Anyhoo, I ranked ‘em, but after the first 6 or 7, it’s all pretty arbitrary. The Suburbs came out on top. Can you believe that shit??
- The Suburbs – Arcade Fire [Album "Review"]
- Expo 86 – Wolf Parade [Album Review] [Live Review]
- This Is Happening – LCD Soundsystem [Album Review] [Live Review]
- Swim – Caribou [Live Review]
- Halcyon Digest – Deerhunter [Poster Experiment] [Helicopter] [Show Preview] [Live Review]
- Before Today – Ariel Pink and His Haunted Graffiti [Album Review]
- Fight Softly – The Ruby Suns [Album Review] [Live Review]
- s/t – Happy Birthday [Album Review] [Live Review]
- Causers of This – Toro Y Moi [Live Review]
- 7AM – Teengirl Fantasy [Video Review]
- The Chaos – The Futureheads
- Settings – Tanlines [Album Blurb]
- That’s How We Burn – Jaill [Video Review]
- From The Cradle To The Rave – Shit Robot
- Lux – Disappears [Live Review]
- IRM – Charlotte Gainsbourg [Album Review]
- Root For Ruin – Les Savy Fav
- Sun Bronzed Greek Gods – Dom
- Teen Dream – Beach House ["Norway"]
- Play It Strange – The Fresh & Onlys
Here are a couple other lame lists I drummed up: