Tags: Boat, Chastity Belt, Dreamsalon, Jetman Jet Team, La Luz, Math and Physics Club, Neighbors, Sean Nelson, The Purrs, Trevor Dickson, Universe People, We Are Loud Whispers, Wimps
The older I get the more I think that there should be a new music moratorium every January so that you can catch up on all of the stuff that you missed from the previous year. Yeah, I know that ain’t gonna happen. So here we are. It’s not quite mid-January, and here I am hoisting upon you dear readers one more 2013 list. I promise that this is the last one. It’s kind of a special one because it is my favorite records from my adopted hometown. If I didn’t live in Seattle some of these records would have been in my best albums of the year. Also, if I didn’t live here I probably would have missed some of these since you actually have to live in a local scene to hear the local scene. Here is the best stuff that I discovered through osmosis, going to shows, and reading local blogs and papers. Picking a favorite record from my fair city is like picking a favorite child. I love them all the same, at least that’s what I tell them.
Universe People – Go To the Sun (Little Black Cloud)
Universe People incorporate the sweetness of Dolly Mixture, the arty obtuseness of Wire, the irreverence of the Fall and humor of the Intelligence onto their debut album. This, in my book, is the perfect elixir.
stream: Universe People – Druids
Sean Nelson – Make Good Choices (Really Records)
In a year where major web sites seemed to publish Morrissey’s every move, former Harvey Danger Sean Nelson released his debut solo album that was as literate, sharp and self-deprecating as anything the Mozzer has done in the last 20 years. Throw in some cocktail jazz and some Zombies psychedelia and you have a pretty darn good album.
stream: Sean Nelson – Creative Differences
Dreamsalon – Thirteen Nights (Captcha)
Formerly known as Evening Meetings, the rechristened Dreamsalon tighten things up a little on Thirteen nights and aren’t afraid to let the hooks fly. Post-punk dourness that is part moody Echo and the Bunnymen and part piss and vinegar of the Fall through the lens of Seattle punk cognoscenti.
stream: Dreamsalon – In the Air
Trevor Dickson – Summer Legs (Swoon)
One of only two EP’s in this list of records, but well worth checking out. Trevor Dickson is in the Nightgowns, but here he takes a dash of Sinatra, some Joao Gilberto and some northwest ingenuity to come up with Summer Legs, one of the best songs I heard this year.
stream: Trevor Dickson – Summer Legs
La Luz – It’s Alive (Hardly Art)
Four girls from a city with barely a hint of sunshine and marginal wave action d make a timeless glassy sounding surf record. They sound like they’ve been doing this for ages. The guitars shoot the curl and the harmonies flash off the water like rays of sun in your ears.
stream: La Luz – Big Big Blood
Wimps – Repeat (End of Time)
The debut album from Wimps gives me the impression that they’re punk classicists. Repeat is the classic punk formula of guitar, bass and drum and a healthy sense of humor courtesy of Rachel Ratner’s knack for being able to make life’s disappointments still sound disappointing, but with in an irreverent humorous slant.
stream: Wimps – Slept in Late
Boat – Pretend To Be Brave (Magic Marker)
Sometimes when a band consistently releases great albums filled with hooky pop people start taking them for granted. Pretend To Be Brave is their fifth album of slightly fractured, eternally hopeful indiepop. BOAT continue to capture my imagination, I wish more people would allow themselves to be swept up into their brightly colored superhero world.
stream: BOAT – Interstellar Helen Keller
Purrs – The Boy With Astronaut Eyes (Fin)
The Purrs deliver again with another hallucinogenic masterpiece. Guitars swoop and dive in and out while singer and bassist Jima takes you on a ride in a derailed monorail to some seedy interstellar locale. The perfect soundtrack to navigating globular clusters.
stream: Purrs – Over and Out
Math and Physics Club – Our Hearts Beat Out Loud (Matinée)
Math and Physics Club have certainly been called twee, but on their third album they veer more towards soft rock and that is no bad thing. Kids these days have a penchant for Paul Simon and Cat Stevens records, and MAPC with their sweet and tender songs evoke those fellows while still keeping their indiepop/twee roots intact.
stream: Math & Physics Club – We Won’t Keep Secrets
Chastity Belt – No Regerts (Help Yourself)
Chastity Belt shocked the internet with their band photo that featured singer Julia Shapiro wearing a steak locked over her crotch. Based on last year’s Ponytail single, we already knew that they could be insolent and funny, but could they deliver a full album that sustained that brashness? Chastity Belt seem to not give a shit about anything except making good record,s and they’ve succeeded at that. Fuck everything else.
stream: Chastity Belt – James Dean
Jetman Jet Team – We Will Live The Space Age (Saint Marie)
Erik Blood better watch out, because Jetman Jet Team are coming up fast in his rear view mirror to try and usurp his shoegaze king of Seattle crown. Heavy MBVisms abound, but they also incorporate some of the whiteout techniques of Flying Saucer Attack and even some of that smoke and mirrors hypnotism employed often in 1970’s Germany. This is mind-expanding,tremelo bending, psychotropic miasma.
stream: Jetman Jet Team – Deep Space
Neighbors – I Love Neighbors (Self-released)
Poor Neighbors. This was scheduled to come out as a 10″ EP on Manic Pop Records, but the release date unfortunately coincided with the implosion of their record label. Left to their own devices, the band released this as bandcamp virtual record. That’s unfortunate because my record player would have gotten a real thrill playing this record which takes Pavement, REM, Camper Van Beethoven and the Wedding Present throws it into a blender and comes up with best smoothie I ever had.
stream: Neighbors – What You See In Me
We Are Loud Whispers – Suchness (Hardly Art)
Sonya Wescott who you may remember as half of Arthur and Yu made a trans-Pacific album with Ayumu Haitani who resides in Japan. While the obvious parallel is the Postal Service and the electronic blips reinforce that parallel, We Are Loud Whispers are more ear tickling and anthemic. I get the feeling that they’ve got a few Field Mice and St. Etienne records on top of owning everything that Morr records has ever released. Subtle and sublime.
stream: We Are Loud Whispers – Western Town
Tags: 100 Flowers, Boat, dB's, REM, The Clean, Wire, Woolen Men
Last night was the second time I had the pleasure of seeing Portland’s Woolen Men here in Seattle. I didn’t realize until they mentioned it, that I was two for two with them. This being only the second time they’ve made the trip up the Five to play here. The last time being at the Josephine in January of last year with Orca Team and their Australian brethren the Woolen Kits.
I remember remarking at that show how they seemed to have a stash of dB’s records and an innate ability of making killer noisy skewed pop. Those special powers have not been lost in the year and a half since I last saw them. In fact they have been enhanced, they’ve signed with Woodsist, released their ‘debut’ record, and self-released a pre-Woodsist greatest hits record.
Last night at the Comet opening for BOAT, they played a short set that left me wanting much more. Their songs can sound like early REM, Wire, the Clean and the unheralded west coast obscurity 100 Flowers (if unfamiliar seek out this year’s reissue on Superior Viaduct). Woolen Men are only a three piece, but they pack the power of four or five. All three members sing which leads me to believe they all write songs, but they’re all well versed in the same school of rock. You feel like you are in the south in the mid-80’s with Mitch Easter in a garage or in Dunedin in early 80’s with one of the Kilgour brothers by your side. Go see them if they decided to come to your town, there are few bands that pack this kind of power and prowess in one guitar, one bass and drums.
BOAT were fun as usual. I thought that Forever In Armitron was the best BOAT song, but Lately sounded pretty killer last night and they threw in a cover of Lou Reed’s Satellite of Love just for fun. Who knows when they’ll play again as their drummer is moving to New York. I doubt it will keep them down long though. D. Krane tells me that there are plans afoot to release the first two BOAT albums on vinyl and he’s working on something totally new with Charles Bert from Math and Physics Club. The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.
Tags: Boat, Magic Marker
It’s hard to believe that Seattle’s BOAT have just released their fifth album. I can remember like yesterday when Songs That You Might Not Like came out. In the early days, they wrote songs about centipedes, lobsters and donkeys and had tons of confetti and giant bagels coming out of toasters at their shows. It was fun and a little bit silly. As the years have progressed and the band has evolved they have started to mature a little. Don’t let the “M” word scare you off because Boat still know how write a hook and they haven’t lost their odd sense of humor. Album number five, Pretending To Be Brave is a slightly more subtle affair. Well, the sense of humor is subtle, the hooks are still very big and grab you by the collar.
Life themes, life changes, growing older and wiser. God, it sounds so boring, but BOAT take it all on with their sense awe and wonder. They pull you into their obtuse and seemingly weird world and let you see it all swirling around you like you are at the center of the vortex making you realize that weird and obtuse is not just you, not just them, but everyone everyday.
Sharpshooters opens the album and is a heartfelt ode to companionship and approaching lifelong partnerships with optimism of persevering with your partner. The backing vocals courtesy of Shelly Short reinforce the theme of the song and it’s nice to hear a female voice on a BOAT album. There’s also a surprise guest appearance on The Big, the Bright from Scott McCaughey of the Young Fresh Fellows which solidifies my hunch that BOAT are disciples of the seminal, unsung and unheralded Fellows. Interstellar Helen Keller may be my favorite song on the album, rivaling Forever In Armitron as my favorite BOAT song. it has more vocals from Short and some excellent guitar leads from Josh Goodman. Goodman has emerged as their secret weapon. His leads are amazing throughout the album and really put the exclamation mark on Cranes melodies.
BOAT have this ability to bring the everyday into their songs and make anthems out of them. They have been called twee, emo, and powerpop. We’re all aching to make sense of it all . Even the metal guy has a little bit of twee in him, though he probably would never admit it. BOAT are growing up and taking you with them.
You can buy BOAT’s new album Pretend to be Brave from Magic Marker.
If you are in Seattle, BOAT play the Columbia Theatre this Friday, March 29th.
stream: BOAT – Interstellar Helen Keller
stream: BOAT – Sharpshooters
Tags: Boat, Charles Leo Gebhardt IV, Craft Spells, Cute Lepers, Emuul, Gold Leaves, Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground, Seapony, Webelos, Witch Gardens
I took a year off from doing a favorite Seattle records list due to lazyitis (sorry Seattle). Here’s my top ten records from my fair city for 2011 (sorry Seattle).
1. Seapony – Go With Me (Hardly Art)
Twee is alive and well in Seattle. Seapony kind of came out of nowhere late last year. They put their debut album out on local label Hardly Art, played countless shows around town and generally put the Northwest back on the map when it comes to indiepop.
2. Charles Leo Gebhardt IV – Begin Again (GGNZLA)
Leo Gebhardt plays guitar in a few Seattle bands, but it’s his solo stuff that really shines. Begin Again was his second release for the enigmatic Seattle label GGNZLA. Begin Again is full of rollicking and playful, Kinks inspired narratives.
mp3: Chapel of Roses
3. BOAT – Dress Like Your Idols (Magic Marker)
BOAT keep delivering hook laden albums sparked with humor and conviction. Like the Young Fresh Fellows before them, these industrious fellows create unforgettable pop right under the city’s collective noses. Dress Like You Idols contains some of the band’s best songs yet.
mp3: Forever in Armitron
4. Cute Lepers – Adveture Time (1-2-3-4 Go!)
Adventure Time is Cute Lepers’ third (and best) album. It’s full of glammy punk rock similar to the Rezillos. Songs full of high fructose corn syrup, actually, no they’re probably full of maple sugar, because they’re sweet and good for you. Hell, just eat them out of the box with a spoon.
5. Emuul – The Drawing of the Line (Digitalis)
This record kind of popped up on my radar from nowhere, or maybe it condensed from a passing cloud. Emuul is the latest moniker of Kyle Iman and The Drawing of the Line is hypnotic music that will put you in a dreamlike state. Don’t let that fool you, there are pop songs under the gauze of this instrumental electronica.
6. Webelos – Shadow Seasons (self-released)
Shadow Seasons sounds like it could have come out on Teen Beat back in the early 90’s. It’s a quirky little fellow with propulsive bass driven songs. Think Unrest, Eggs and the Monochrom Set.
mp3: If You Choose To Stay
7. Craft Spells – Idle Labor (Captured Tracks)
This record was made in a bedroom in Stockton, California, but by the time it came out Justin Vallesteros had relocated Craft Spells to Seattle. Idle Labor is heavily influenced by the romantic synthpop of the 80’s. Bouncy, longing pop songs that could make you forget what year it was.
mp3: After the Moment
8. Witch Gardens – Alice, Agatha, Branch, & Christ (self-released)
If ever there was a band meant to be on K records, Witch Gardens is it. This is pure ramshackle pop fun by a band seemingly making it up as they go. I love what they’ve come up with so far which is primarily this cassette.
mp3: Softball Chick
9. Gold Leaves – The Ornament (Hardly Art)
I loved Arthur & You’s In Camera. Sadly, that band seems to be no more, but Grant Olson of the duo returned as Gold Leaves this year and it kind of picks up where Arthur & Yu left off. The Ornament is rich and velvety bringing to mind the cinematic records of Lee Hazelwood.
mp3: The Ornament
10. Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground – Introducing (Suburban Home)
Even living in Seattle, you might not have heard about the second album from Kay Kay & His Weathered Underground. Maybe it was the odd choice of a title for album number two. Whatever the case, there was little pomp around its release especially compared to the first one, and I’ve yet to see it in a record store in town. Too bad, because it’s nearly as good as their debut and goes to the same tin pan alley, psychedelia, kaleidoscopic pop well.
mp3: Oh Lord, I Hate You California
Pony Time – Pony Time (Per Se) | Shabazz Palaces – Black Up (Sub Pop) | Night Beats -Night Beats (Trouble In Mind) | Erik Blood – Music From the Film Center of Gravity (Self-Released) | Consignment – New Low (GGNZLA) | Telekinesis – 12 Desperate Straight Lines (Merge) | Green Pajamas – Green Pajama Country (Green Monkey)
Tags: Afternoon Naps, Art Museums, Basemint, Bleached, Boat, Dunes, Electricity In Our Homes, Monnone Alone, The Mantles, Trailer Trash Tracys
The 7-inch single has been around since 1949. That’s 62 years and counting! In my humble opinion the 7-inch single is still the essence, pinnacle and acme of pop perfection. Optimally, it’s one song, one side (Some try to squeeze on more). That’s no room for screwing up. You always hear that releasing a 7-inch is a money losing proposition, but that thankfully, doesn’t keep pop geeks from doing it. In honor of true blue pop geek vinyl junkies out there, here is the second installment of the annual Finest Kiss top 40 7-inch singles countdown.
21. Basemint – No Retro (K)
A huge sounding garage stomp from the depths of a damp Tacoma, Washington basemint, I mean basement. I bet the Sonics probably use to practice in the same depths.
mp3: Basemint – No Retro
22. Electricity In Our Homes – Aching, Breaking, Shaking For You (OGenesis)
Fractured and angular pop that is stripped down to the bone. Aching rattles you with its off kilter and quivering chorus like the singer has been hit in the gut and kicked in the head.
mp3: Electricity In Our Homes – Aching, Breaking, Shaking For You
23. Art Museums – S.H.O.P.P.I.N.G (dulc-i-tone)
The Art Museums broke up this year but left us with two great singles to remember them by. The song S.H.O.P.P.I.N.G has been hanging around the internet for over a year, but things always sound better when they spin at 45 RPM. This song should be on repeat while you wait in the return line, “It’s too late to change your mind, so be happy with what you find.” It would be at my store.
mp3: Art Museums – S.H.O.P.P.I.N.G
24. BOAT – (I’ll Beat My Chest Like) King Kong (Magic Marker)
BOAT write hooks as big as King Kong. ‘Nuff said! They also know that the single version of a song should be slightly different than the album version. Here, you get a slightly longer King Kong sample. It’s the little things. You know?
mp3: BOAT – (I’ll Beat My Chest Like) King Kong
25. Bleached – Searching Through the Past (Suicide Squeeze)
Bleached are sisters Jennifer and Jessica Clavin. Jennifer was in Mia Miko, but that doesn’t prepare you for the straight ahead pop that goes for jugular the way the Nerves did 40 years ago. It is very, very difficult to not get this one stuck in your head.
mp3: Bleached – Searching Through the Past
26. Monnone Alone – Pink Earings (Lost & Lonesome)
It was kind of surprising that the first Lucksmith to release a record after their breakup was bassist Mark Mannone. I figured it would Marty or Tali, but when you’re sitting on song like Pink Earings then you gotta go first. Sublimely understated pop that will make you grin.
mp3: Monnone Alone – Pink Earings
27. Afternoon Naps – Summer Gang (HHBTM)
This record get’s best sleeve of the year (The water folds out in 3D). They don’t make them like this anymore and I don’t just mean the sleeve. The Afternoon Naps may be from dreary Cleveland, but they make sunny pop that some might call twee. I just call it good.
mp3: Afternoon Naps – Summer Gang
28. The Mantles – Raspberry Thighs (SDZ)
The Mantles have yet surpassed their amazing song Lily Never Married, but Raspberry Thighs comes close. In fact it probably could be considered Lily’s kid sister of a song, and that is no slight.
mp3: The Mantles – Raspberry Thighs
29. Dunes – Tied Together (Teenage Teardrops)
Another Mika Miko related band, Dunes mine the gothic and ethereal vein of pop that Siouxsie and the Banshees are well known for. Tied Together paints wide swaths and is much, much bigger than the tiny 7-inch that it comes on.
mp3: Dunes – Tied Together
30. Trailer Trash Tracys – You Wish You Were Red (Domino)
This one is kind of a repeat as You Wish You Were Red was the B-side to the Trailer Trash Tracys’ first single Candy Girl which was #40 in the 2009 countdown. No matter, as this is an entirely re-recorded version of that song that keeps the eerie David Lynch parts but smooths out the edges to make it just right.
mp3: Trailer Trash Tracys – You Wish You Were Red
Tags: Boat, Magic Marker, Pickwick
BOAT, Pickwick, Concours D’elegance at the Tractor, Seattle | 25 March 2011
Some bands wear their influences on their sleeves, Seattle’s BOAT choose to put them on the cover of their record. Album number four, just released last week, Dress Like Your Idols contains D. Crane’s renditions of some of the band’s favorite records. Before you even hit play you know where they’re coming from, and that is a slightly odd corner of indie rock nestled up here in the upper left hand corner of the US. A place where a band like Boat can exist with a lack of light, an overabundance of diet coke and lots of pizza. That’s the fuel for the engine, what comes out are slightly idiosyncratic sometimes emotive songs that are immediately catchy and almost always containg big choruses If any band in Seattle could be called the direct descendants of the Young Fresh Fellows Boat are it. Like YFF, Boat nimbly walk the line of humor and emotion in their songs.
On record and live Boat come across as guys having a blast at what they are doing. Enthusiasm and a good time is the rule of the day. On record you can hear their enthusiasm and good nature, live you actually experience it. Friday’s show at the Tractor was their record release party, and a sold out one at that. I’ve been to a lot of Boat shows but I don’t ever remember one selling out. Late Friday afternoon when I heard that the Tractor had sold out, my first thought was: impossible. My second thought after confirming it was: Oh shit I don’t have a ticket. I headed down to the tractor hoping that there would be someone at the door who had an extra ticket. Hanging out in by the door hoping for an extra ticket was beginning to look fruitless when I spotted D. Crane of Boat. Soon thereafter some fortuitous Boat magic occurred, my friend Jonathon and I were temporaily members of a soul band and somehow transported inside the Tractor for the show.
The band had made a banner at the back of the stage that read BOAT: Poppy Slop All-Stars with a big picture of Ringo Starr in the middle of it. Starr along with Pollard, Smith, Reed, Vedder, Moore, Spenser Malkmus and Marsh are the patron saints and the band and Boat delivered a set to make them proud. The new record was on display front and center and as their writing gets better and better I wasn’t disappointed with the focus. They did step back a couple times, once for Greased Hariclip form their first album and another for I’m a Donkey for Your Love from their second. Crane dedicated the short and sweet L-O-V-E to his mom and they hit all of the highlights of the new record including Forever In Armitron, Classically Trained, King Kong and Landlocked. The last one they had to do without the Help of the Long Winters‘ John Roderick who guests on the recorded version. They did get some help from audience members inviting them up for another song.
This being their first ever sold out show, the band were kind of surprised and joke about how it must be because the Police were playing after. There were no cops but Pickwick who opened seem to have quite a following themselves with their Commitments brand of soul. Singer Galen Disston kind of looks like like a spectacled version Epstein from Welcome Back Kotter and a voice that is guaranteed to make women weak in the knees. The folk band turned soul have three singles out to date and the next time they play they probably won’t be opening.
With Dress Like Your Idols Boat continues their move towards higher fidelity that they began on Setting the Paces and the new record contains a batch of their best songs yet. You get the feeling that they are firmly in the lead (after previously setting the paces). It has elements of a concept album starting with Changing of the Guard, and continuing the theme of taking over for their old masters by the records sheer quality. They may not be eclipsing their idols in record sales, but their songs and live show are continuing on a trajectory that for me equals many of their idols.
mp3: BOAT – Forever in Armitron (order Dress Like Your Idols on vinyl or CD)
Set List: Kinda Scared of Love Affairs | Greasedip Hairclip | L-O-V-E | Forever In Armitron | Friends Since 1989 | Bite My Lips | The Name Tossers | (I’m A) Donkey for Your Love | Frank Black Says | We Want It! We Want It! | Classically Trained | Landlocked | Lately | Dress Like Your Idols | King Kong| Encore: Children of the Revolution (T. Rex)
Upcoming BOAT Tour Dates (Look out east coast and Chicago):
4/01 PILAM – PHILADELPHIA, PA
4/02 ROCK SHOP – BROOKLYN, NY
4/03 DANIEL ST. CLUB – MILFORD, CT
4/07 DOUBLE DOOR – CHICAGO, IL
4/09 MERCURY LOUNGE – NEW YORK, NY (Early show)
Tags: Boat, Magic Marker
I have Boat news and bad news. The BOAT news is the band have a new single out on Magic Marker, the bad news is that after landing in Federal Way, King Kong is in Seattle. He just busted down Denny, and has now climbed to the top the Space Needle. He’s plucked a Kenmore Air sea plane from the sky and is wreaking general havoc at the Seattle Center. Where’s Fay Wray? Why does Kong look like he’s bigger than the Space Needle? Which version of King Kong is this exactly? Obviously it’s a “B” movie version, Plan 9 from Outer Space style. I think I see a zipper under Kong’s arm.
Ok, I’ll cut the monkey talk. The new BOAT single is called (I’ll Beat My Chest Like) King Kong and is available on glorious red, black, and white 7-inch vinyl. It’s obviously their “A” list material and is a taster from their upcoming fourth album Dress Like Your Idols. You can order up the single now from Magic Marker and put a reminder in your smart phone to buy the album on March 22nd.
Tags: Boat, Close Lobsters, Jigsaw, Math and Physics Club
Seattleites have been blessed with quite a lot of good record stores, and most of them thankfully are still in business. Our luck in having so many outlets in the city to spend money on records may be tenuous at best, but as they say carpe diem. That is exactly what Chris Mac has done by starting up a new record store / mail order. The store is called Jigsaw Records, and is due to open it’s doors here in Seattle this Saturday. As I said, Seattle has more than its fair share of record stores, but up to now it did not have one that focuses on indiepop. Jigsaw promises to do just that. The store will sell records from small to tiny labels from around the globe, and it promises to be all things “indiepop, power pop, indie rock, lo-fi pop, twee, and pretty much any other kind of fun pop music that we fancy”. So, if you’re looking for a pop record from Europa, Peru, the Philippines, or Swaziland, Jigsaw is the new place to stop on your treasure hunt . Not sure if there are any indiepop bands in Swaziland, but if there are I bet you’ll be able to pick up their 7″ single at Jigsaw.
The store opens this Saturday morning at 11am, with the grand opening festivities starting 7pm that night with Math & Physics Club making their return (has it really been two years since they last played) and D. Crane from BOAT playing. The store is located in Ballard in the upstairs part of Resolution Audio and Video at 5459 Leary Ave NW, probably right next to Dissonant Plane another record store in the same space that specializes in drone, noise and death metal. So while you’re filling up on sugar coated pop, you can also get your allowance of death metal all in the same stop. Talk about convenience.
mp3: Close Lobsters – In Spite of These Times (from Foxheads Stalk This Land)
If you’re interested to read more about the state of Seattle record stores, the Stranger interviews a handful of the city’s proprietors for an article in this week’s issue. One of the questions they ask the group is would you open a record store now? The article doesn’t talk about Jigsaw, but it would have been interesting to get the perspective someone doing just that.
Tags: Boat, Charles Leo Gebhardt IV, Dutchess & the Duke, Erik Blood, Intelligence, Naomi Punk, Nightgowns, Tea Cozies, The Purrs, Visqueen
Something that has never happened in my life happened this year. I have never lived anywhere where I can honestly say that my top three favorite records of the year came out of the city in which I reside. It’s been an honor, and a delight to live in Seattle this year because I have had the opportunity to see the Intelligence, BOAT and Erik Blood more times than I can count. Usually, if you’re lucky you might get one chance to see your favorite band come through your town for a gig. I have had that opportunity time after time and have tried to take advantage as many times as possible. Every one of those shows was blast, and as good, if not better than their respective records.
There were so many good records that were put out by bands from the Pacific Northwest that it really was an embarrassment of riches. It was tough narrowing this list down to ten, and any of the the honorable mentions at the end of the list were likely on this list at some point during the year. So thanks Seattle and thanks to all these records for making this year pretty darn amazing.
1. Intelligence – Fake Surfers (In the Red)
Smart guy Lars Finberg must be a tortured soul. He can write as good a song as anybody else, but he likes to sabotage his creations with strangeness. Listening to an Intelligence record, you immediately realize all is not right, and that is exactly what makes this band and this album so great. The record is packed with weird sounds, weird songs and inside jokes. That’s probably not a good way to describe my favorite record of the year, but you’ve got to work a little to enjoy it. The Intelligence don’t make records for people who like the obvious. Fake Surfers has just enough of the obvious to draw you in, but it was the strangeness of it that kept me in. A good example of this is the song Warm Tranfers, which sounds like a drunk Dean Martin singing while tied down a couple leagues somewhere in Lake Union. Besides releasing Fake Surfers, this year we got two albums from the Intelligence. I know dyed in the wool lo-fi purists preferred the other album Crepuscule Avec Pacman, which was essentially Finberg by himself at his claustrophobic best, but I thought the wider, more spacious and thought out Fake Surfers was a huge leap forward for the band.
2. BOAT – Setting the Paces (Magic Marker)
Of BOAT’s three albums Setting the Paces is the funnest. It’s like super-sized BOAT containing the same ingredients of the first two records, but just more of it. Add in better songs and better production and you’ve got busting out of their underachiever cocoon. They’re still singing about seemingly strange things like Giant Centipedes, tractor beams, drinking diet cola and sleeping in pajamas that are too small, but the songs and production are so much improved that the record just pops out of your stereo. The choruses are so big and undeniable, I’ve found myself in the car by myself belting them out. Setting the Paces is BOAT, no longer content with the underachiever moniker, laying all out, going for it, and totally succeeding.
3. Erik Blood – The Way We Live (Self-released)
This was nearly my number one for last year, but since it was not officially released until this year I sat on it. The Way We Live definitely has staying power, it has been in constant rotation around here all year and nothing on it has gotten old. Erik Blood was in the Turn-Ons who seem to be on an indefinite hiatus. He always contributed a song or two to each Turn-Ons album, but nothing that really prepared me for this tour de force. Blood is obviously is a fan of a lot of the shoegaze bands that were all the rage in the early 90’s, but he seems to effortlessly add a touch of soul to his songs that put them on some other plane. The final song on the record does something I have never heard before, combining shoegaze with soul into to something that sounds so natural and right. It’s an amazing song and leaves me with shivers up my spine every time I hear it. When was the last time a record did that to you?
4. Charles Leo Gebhardt IV – Unfaithful (GGNZLA)
Charles Leo Gebhardt plays in the Unnatural Helpers, Idle Times and probably a few other bands I don’t know about. He also has a solo gig and Unfaithful was the first fruits of that endeavor. It’s only five songs but every one of them is so good that he makes an impression in a very short amount of time. Unfaithful is pretty straightforward minimalist, low key guitar pop, but the songs have an antique feel to them in a similar vein of Girls that will make you swear you’ve heard them somewhere before.
mp3: King of the Mountain
5. Tea Cozies – Hot Probs (So Hard)
The Tea Cozies are a Seattle band with UK pop sensibilities. The pop charms of Kenickie, Sleeper and Elastica are not lost on this lot. Hot Probs comes smoking out the gate with songs that will have you checking to see where the heck this record was made. Oh, Erik Blood is producing. Heard of him. For a name that is so cute sounding, the Tea Cozies have attitude in spades and the songs to back it up. These ladies (and one guy) rock!
mp3: Like Luca Brasi
6. Visqueen – Message to Garcia (Local 638)
Speaking of Girls that rock, Rachel Flotard is pretty much synonymous with the term. She has had her band Visqueen boxed away in bubble wrap for the last few years while she took care of her ailing father. The bubble wrap is off and Visqueen are back with an album that doesn’t take it’s foot off the accelerator. Even the songs with violin, cello and horns rock like nobody’s business. Back in the 70’s girls screamed for Robin Zander and Cheap Trick. Here in Seattle in the 00’s boys are screaming for Rachel Flotard and Visqueen, or at least they should be.
mp3: Hand Me Down
7. Nightgowns – Sing Something (Self-released)
The Nightgowns who were formerly known as the Elephants sound like they could be on Morr, the German label known for dreamy, electronic pop that you can kind of dance too. Sing Something is chock full of songs that have buzzing, humming, blipping and squelching synthesizers over top of them. More importantly it contains some excellent pop songs done in damp, grey, melodramatic, maudlin fashion. Sing Something will keep you on your toes throughout with it’s slightly sad and slightly punchy songs.
8. Purrs – Amused Confused and More Bad News (Self-released)
I like to think of the Purr’s as Seattle’s resident spaced-out cowboys. Their songs sound part gunslinger blues and part spacey guitar jams. The twin effects-laden guitar attack topped off with Jima’s cool disaffected voice make everything the Purrs do sound drop dead cool. Amused Confused and More Bad News was less immediate than their previous outings, revealing it’s charms only after repeated listens, but in the end it was just as worthy.
mp3: Fear of Flying
9. Dutchess & the Duke – Sunset/Sunrise (Hardly Art)
This record was kind of like the Purrs record for me. It wasn’t as immediate as their first album, but after repeated listens the onion started to peel. Where She’s the Dutchess took a punk attitude to 60’s folk and re-formed it into something familiar yet foreign, Sunset/Sunrise continues along that trajectory, but delves deeper, embracing it without irony. The songs are slower, but no less engaging, they just take a little longer to get to know. Many bands are mining the 60’s motherload for inspiration, or just plane ripping it off, but the Dutchess and the Duke have taken that same inspiration, run with it, and turned it into something uniquely their own.
10. Naomi Punk – S/T (Self-Released)
Mysterious band, mysterious record. Full of Oh Sees style riffs, but slowed down which gives them a slightly euphoric feel. This is truly blissed out cave stomp rock and roll. Back in the 60’s every Pacific Northwest garage band that was worth its salt did a version of Louie Louie. I would love to hear Naomi Punk’s version. It would likely be slowed way down, like listening to a 45 at 33 rpm. The vocals would be buried so low in the song that you would barely be able to make out the melody and it would sound so huge that it would make your eardrums burst.
Other Seattle/PNW records that got a lot of my attention this year:
Black Whales – Origins | Desolation Wilderness – New Universe | Eat Skull – Wild and Inside | Grand Archives – Keep In Mind Frankenstein | Green Pajamas – Poison In The Russian Room | Hotels – Where Hearts Go Broke | Intelligence – Crepuscule Avec Pacman | Karl Blau – Zebra | Ragedy Anns – ST | Say Hi – Oohs & Aahs | Scraps – ST | Sea Navy – Memory Matches | Spits – IV | Young Fresh Fellows – I Think This Is