Tags: Crystal Stilts, Echo and the Bunnymen, Sacred Bones, Slumberland, The Doors, Velvet Underground
Crystal Stilts at Barboza, Seattle | 15 October 2013
Crystal Stilts played to a dark room with blurry images projected onto a white sheet at the back of the stage last Tuesday night at Barboza. They seem like a band of recluses and would probably prefer to perform in complete darkness. Front man Brad Hargett still seems a bit awkward as the center of attention and guitarist JB Townsend still likes to lurk in the shadows, but there was just enough darkness and just enough light in their performance to make it great one.
They lunged into their set with Spirit in Front of Me the first song on their new album Nature Noir. It owes more than a little to Velvet Undergrounds‘s I’ll Be Your Mirror and All Tomorrow’s Parties. In fact, Crystal Stilts sound one Nico short of becoming the VU. I doubt Hargett would take it as a compliment, but his monotone is closer than I thought to Nico’s , so maybe all they need is banana.
The new album doesn’t have any obvious singles, but it is their most accomplished and varied record yet. It sees them deftly using strings on a few songs making it reminiscent of the Bunnymen‘s Ocean Rain in parts which is new for them. Of course they didn’t have a string section this night being so far away from home, but they didn’t really need one. The band were in a zone. With the lights off and the focus on the music, the band were shadows on the stage and they liked it that way. The set mixed favorites like Crippled Croon, Sycamore Tree, and Love is Wave in with the new slower more confident sounding songs like Star Crawl, Future Folklore and Worlds Gone Weird. This night was by far the best I have ever seen the Stilts play.
The band still come off as tenuously comfortable on stage, but this time the awkward tension was softened by the dark and intimate confines of the venue. Some bands wither with age the Crystal Stilts continue to lurch into new dark psych corners and scramble new cloudy nebulous heights both on record and in person.
Tags: Ex-Cops, Faux Discs, Fishrider, Hardly Art, Heavy Times, HoZac, Lady, Other Music, Slumberland, The Prophet Hens, Truth and Soul, Vision Fortune, Wax Idols, We Are Loud Whispers
It’s Thursday and part four of the midway round-up. Feeling overwhelmed yet? I am. I don’t know if I can make it to Friday. If you’ve been following along, I hope you’ve found at least one thing that tickled your toes enough to buy a record or at least like them on facebook. A like on facebook or a follow on twitter is like money in the bank for bands, right? Getting money for your records is so old school. These days it’s all about social networking your record so that share prices for the internet fat cats increases. So go do your part.
Vision Fortune – Mas Fiestas con el Grupo Vision Fortune (Faux Discs)
There are many reasons to love this record. First the cover is a total red herring. If you buy this expecting Spanish troubadours or Mexican narcocorrido then you’ve got a surprise in store for you. The song titles are all roman numerals and there is a side F and side V. Nothing is as it seems as the first buzz of guitars kicks off the album sounding like the beginning of Anthrax by Gang of Four. It only gets better from there as it envelops you and you don’t know if you’re listening to XX, XIII or XIX and you don’t care. This is an album meant to be listened to in its entirety of full effect with each song leading into the next, but I’ll put one below to stream anyway. You can stream the entire thing here.
steam: Vision Fortune - XXII
The Prophet Hens – Popular People Do Popular People (Fishrider)
The Chills are back after more than a ten year hiatus, but the big news out of New Zealand this year is the Prophet Hens first album. Taking the Chills torch and running away with it.
stream: Prophet Hens - Easy As The Sun
Heavy Times – Fix It Alone (Hozac)
Fix it alone sees this Chicago band reigning in their intensity just a little, but don’t let that give you the wrong idea. They’re all the better for it. This is a highly melodic and highly intense album that brings back golden age memories of Husker Du and the noisier Flying Nun band like Gordons but not afraid to snag a riff from the Chills and let it fly.
stream: Heavy Times - Tradition Of Abuse
Lady – Lady (Truth & Soul)
Lady is actually two ladies, Terri Walker and Nicole Wray who have silky smooth voices and a penchant for 60′s soul. Classic soul albums are still being made and not just by guys who were there in the classic times like Lee Fields and Charles Bradly, but youngsters like Lady.
stream: Lady – Sweet Lady
Wax Idols – Discipline & Desire (Slumberland)
Surprisingly it turns out that Wax Idols music DNA, contains strands of the Sound, Chameleons, Comsat Angels, Christian Death, and Love and Rockets. After a debut album that leaned to the cut and dried garage punk, Discipline and Desire leans decidely to the dark side of pop and is infinitely more interesting and engaging. It’s what all sophomore albums should be, a major improvement and fearlessly forging out in new directions.
stream: Wax Idols - Sound of a Void
We Are Loud Whispers – Suchness (Hardly Art)
It was kind of a bummer when I came to the realization that there would never be another Arthur and Yu album, and we all know that people are still not giving up hope for another Postal Service album. We Are Loud Whispers is not quite either one of those but since Sonya Westcott of Arthur & Yu is one half of We Are Loud Whispers it’s not a stretch in that direction. Combine the spare electronic backdrops provided by Ayumu Haitani and you have a stretched reference to the Postal Service. In any event this record is full of understated beauty that deserves some of your valuable attention.
stream: We Are Loud Whispers – This Time
Ex Cops – Ture Hallucinations (Other Music)
“New York City’s Ex Cops don’t dress in police uniforms (thankfully), and they don’t sound anything like you would expect a band calling themselves Ex Cops to sound like. Well, at least not what I imagine a band of ex cops would sound like.” Their debut album True Hallucinations is an exquisit dreampop/shoegaze record.
stream: Ex Cops - You Are a Lion, I Am a Lamb
Tags: Aarght!, Cherry Red, Daughn Gibson, Girls Names, House of Love, Jacco Gardner, Little Black Cloud, Myron & E, Ooga Boogas, Slumberland, Stones Throw, Sub Pop, Trouble In Mind, Universe People
Welcome to day two of the half year round-up. Giddy-up! Here are the next set of seven records from the first half of this year that I think deserve your attention. It’s kind of an eclectic bunch but in at least one warped world they go quite well together.
Myron & E – Broadway (Stones Throw)
It seems like it’s been ages since those first couple Myron & E singles came out. I had nearly lost hope of them ever releasing an album, but the wait was worth it. Broadway is more than worth the wait, evoking Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On which is no easy feat. The Motor city may be bankrupt, but its soul legacy keeps paying dividends. Top notch stuff.
stream: Myron & E – They Don’t Know
Daughn Gibson – Me Moan (Sub Pop)
Part of Me Moan sounds like Gibson grew up with the Stuart Copeland and Stan Ridgway song Don’t Box Me In on repeat. The other part sees Gibson reading from the same book as Dan Bejar was on Destroyer’s Kaputt. Both parts consist of lush and sweeping 80′s inspired pop from a unique voice.
Stream: Daughn Gibson - The Pisgee Nest
Universe People – Go To the Sun (Little Black Cloud)
Descending from the Intelligence family tree, this Seattle trio fronted by Australian ex-pat Jo Claxton deliver serrated pop that teases and caresses before puncturing skin. This very sharp record deserves way more attention than it has received, because it’s pretty damn brilliant and would look fine next to your Intelligence, Fall and Dolly Mixture records.
stream: Universe People – Druids
Girls Names – The New Life (Slumberland)
The new life sounds like dark era Cure (Seventeen Seconds, Faith, and Pornography) without being too obvious. It didn’t immediately grab me, but its hypnotic bass and vocals has made gradually overcome my conscious and now The New Life is my go-to record when the need often comes to zone out into the horizon which is quite often.
Stream: Girls Names – Drawing Lines
Ooga Boogas – Ooga Boogas (Aarght!)
Ooga Boogas have not left their garage roots, but the garage has been remodeled or converted rather. The record walks the line between ECSR and Total Control and sidesteps into Velvet Underground, Tubeway Army, the Fall, Modern Lovers and the Soft Boys territories.
stream: Ooga Boogas – A Night to Remember
House of Love – She Paints Words In Red (Cherry Red)
House of Love guitarist Terry Bickers acrimoniously left the band during the recording of the band’s second album. Since then he mad ammends with HOL frontman Guy Chadwich and they made a reunion record Days Run Away back in 2005. It was ok. Eight years later they’ve record a follow up that is immediate, elegant and while not quite reaching the heights of their debut it feels like they’ve recaptured the fire that blazed in their creative partnership.
stream: House of Love – Holy River
Jacco Gardner – Cabinet of Curiosities (Trouble In Mind)
Dutch wunderkind pulls out all the psychedelic stops on his debut album. Amazing harmonies done to the backing of exquisite chamber pop backing. If you ever thought that the Left Bank sounded too effeminate and that Syd Barrett was too zany Gardner strikes just right balance.
stream: Jacco Gardner – The One Eyed King
Tags: Dead Angle, Log Lady, Slumberland, Tartans, Terry Mats, Yay!
I remember my first job out of college, I worked with guy who met his wife on the internet. It kinda freaked me out, but that was years ago and now if you didn’t meet your significant other on line you might be in the minority. The new Terry Malts single is a direct commentary on today’s downward spiral of social networking. It’s as good as anything on their album, which says to me that these guys are for real. They also do a cover of the Durutti Column‘s Don’t Think You’re Funny. A punk band that plays hard to get! I think I might be in love with the Terry Malts even though I met them on line.
stream: Terry Malts – Disconnect
The single is out on Log Lady records and is a split with Dead Angle who are ex-Tartans. The Tartans put out a couple excellent singles for Yay! and one for Cloudberry. Their new incarnation, Dead Angle are less overtly twee and employ a similar buzz-saw guitar approach. When I was in Brooklyn recently for the Chickfactor shows, I was record shopping and found myself wrangling over 7-inch records with them. We nearly came to blows over a Heavenly single. Kidding, they were very polite, and we ended up doing rock paper scissor for it (though I still think they cheated). While you’re over at Log Lady, be sure to check out the Grandma’s Boyfriend and Moonbell records. You can’t go wrong with those either.
stream: Dead Angle – Why Don’t You
Tags: Beach Fossils, Captured Tracks, Crystal Stilts, Dive, Frankie Rose, Slumberland, Vivian Girls
Frankie Rose & Dive at Neumo’s, Seattle | 25 April 2012
Many of the reviews of Frankie Rose‘s second album Interstellar have been about how it was a huge leap from her lo-fi roots. Previously when I saw Frankie Rose a few years ago at SXSW just prior to her releasing her debut album Frankie Rose and the Outs, she was mostly still feedback and distortion. Live she may still have been reveling in reverb, but on record she had already begun to shed a lot of her Shit Storm-Vivian Girls-Crystal Stilts past. On Interstellar she continues on that same trajectory, employing the services of dance producer Le Chev to push her even further into new realms. Interstellar is steeped in 80′s Cure records and current day Swedish pop which itself is heavily influenced by those same Cure records.
Wednesday night at Neumo’s Frankie appeared wearing a black puffy pirate shirt that could have been borrowed from one of Prince‘s Purple Rain entourage. She brought with her a solid band who had no problem recreating the icy sounding pop from Interstellar and slightly transforming the songs from her first album into shimmering celestial bodies similar to their Interstellar brethren. She seemed much more at ease as the frontperson compared to when I saw her a few years ago, talking about inane things like the rain and threatening a Sister of Mercy cover between songs, but doing it in a very likeable way. She’s an expressive singer, you can tell that she believes in her songs and delivers them with an excitement and intensity that is engaging to watch. She had a bunch of reverb on her vocals, but I don’t think it was there to hide anything, just to make her voice sound bigger which it did quite well. Her encore of Pair of Wings may have been my favorite song of the night. Songs like Know Me and Had We Had It are the ones that grabbed my attention from listening to the record at home, but Pair of Wings which was written by her former Shit Storm band mate Wu Li Leung, transcended those 80′s Cure records and delved into Abba-esque stratospheres and left me with an entirely new perspective on her already stellar Interstellar.
Dive who are fronted by Beach Fossils guitarist, Kurt Cobain doppleganger and oversized sweater wearing Cole Smith are on tour with Frankie Rose serving as designated openers. On record so far, Dive sound very similar to Beach Fossils, but live they veer more towards instrumental guitar jams that remind me a little of Mogwai. Smith sings, but it wasn’t the focus. Live, Dive are all about the guitars. The twin attack was good for a few songs, but it seemed like every song went for the same trick which after a few songs, wasn’t so much of surprise. They’ve got something good to build on and I’ve liked their singles to date. It will be interesting to see if their album due in June on Captured Tracks can sustain the excitement generated from their initial singles.
Tags: Oxnard, Slumberland, The Sea Lions, Yay!
I always miss California this time of the year. The gray has settled in for the winter up here in Seattle and sun, sand and sea are distant memories you store in the back of your mind like Frederick the mouse to brighten those cold, grey days. The Sea Lions who come from Oxnard, California know a thing or two about the sun, sand and sea geographically speaking at least and their new album is a kaleidoscope of color to sustain you through the winter. The Sea Lions were one of the core bands along with Catwalk and Maria of the nascent Oxnard scene of a few years ago that was nicely documented by the now defunct Yay! label. The Sea Lions put out a 7-inch and a split 12-inch on Yay! and then mysteriously the label closed shop. The Sea Lions drifted a while, releasing a couple cassettes, one on Japan’s Violet and Claire and another on Ventura, California’s Obeast label until finally they were snatched up by Slumberland Records who have just released the band’s first album.
If you haven’t been following the band’s erratic and somewhat difficult to procure releases, then Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sea Lions But Were Afraid To Ask is the perfect introduction to them. The album cover photo of the band gives the feeling that they cobbled themselves together for a high school talent show and that kind of aesthetic isn’t too far off base. The songs are simple little ditties that are like DIY versions of a Wes Anderson soundtrack. It’s heartfelt, but raw which makes it all the more endearing. Singer and main Sea Lion Adrian Pillado has a dry deadpan that evokes Calvin Johnson, though his baritone isn’t as deep and he has an earnestness about him that reminds me of Kevin Seconds or Mike Palm of Agent Orange. The Sea Lions are at their best when they slough off their ramshackle tendencies and actually go for it. The best example is the song As Times Change which mixes that punk urgency and indiepop longing in just the right amounts.
The 15 songs on Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sea Lions But Were Afraid To Ask include surfy instrumentals and odes to love and laziness and wiz by almost too fast. The longest one doesn’t even break the three minute mark, so your attention deficit disorder never has a chance to kick in. It’s a record born from a quick punk rock and indiepop frolic and answers the question (if there was one), what if the Pastels or Beat Happening existed ten or twenty degrees longitude closer to the equator, or if Agent Orange subsisted on books and espresso through very long wet and gray winters a few degrees more to the north? All of that is just conjecture, your particular geographical location should have no affect on being able to dig this record.
Tags: HoZac, Slumberland, Terry Malts, Wax Idols, Wimps
Funhouse, Seattle, 10 November 2011:
One of the best punk albums to come out this year is Wax Idols‘ No Future. The Oakland, California band’s debut is influenced by late 70′s early 80′s classic punk period bands like the Buzzcocks, and the Avengers. What makes it so great is that it isn’t just punk by numbers. The record is enhanced with a gothic influence that makes it not only rock, but haunt as well. It’s got punk style anthems with call response choruses, but it also has lighter side that is plain old classic pop. Wax Idols is band in name but really the moniker for the songs of the intense, passionate and always entertaining Heather Fortune.
Live Wax Idols are a four piece band with an all girl front line of guitars and bass and a guy on drums. Fortune demonstrated disaffected confidence as she and her band delivered punk their punk anthems fast and hard with barely a breath or word between songs. Even with a second guitarist, Fortune still played all the lead parts. Only putting down her guitar for their final song when the band was joined by Terry Malts guitarist Corey Cunningham for a cover of Christian Death‘s Romeo’s Distress. This allowed her to become more animated, grabbing a bar across the top of the stage and lean out toward the audience. If there were more people packed close to the stage I bet she would have dove into them. Fortune obviously know her history. She has even taken a punk moniker in changing her last name from the given Fedewa to Fortune the way so many of the legendary punks of the past. Wax Idols are a product of the rich west coast punk history that remains largely unexplored by today’s current scene and they give good cause to keep those history books up to date.
Wax Idols are on tour with fellow Oaklanders the Terry Malts. Prior to becoming a punk trio they were the Magic Bullets. After some kind of catharsis they saw the punk light and haven’t looked back. They crashed through their highly melodic catchy Ramones like set. It was fun, but would have been more fun if there had been a pit of sweaty punks slamming. That goes for the Wax Idols set too. Hopefully if both bands keep at it they’ll start to draw enthusiastic crazy tatood punks the way the Spits and Thee Oh Sees do.
The first band of the night was Seattle’s Wimps. Wimps are pretty new (so new they don’t even have a web site), but the band is made up of veterans. Singer and guitarist Rachel Ratner also fronts the duo Butts and is a member of Partman Parthorse. Bassist Matt Nyce is in Consignment who have just released their first album on GGNZLA. I don’t know if drummer Dave Ramm has another current band but he was a former drummer for the Intelligence, which is kind of like saying he was a former guitarist in the Fall. Wimps kind of sound like Ratner’s other band Butts mainly because she sings and plays guitar in both, but Wimps aren’t as jokey. Super catchy short punk songs with crisp guitar that sounds like it is influenced by early 80′s Dischord records. Good stuff.
I didn’t stick around for all of the final band Dude York. They’re from Seattle too. Their first song was called Fuck City and it occurred to me while they were playing it that Fuck City is a much better name for a band than Dude York. They kind of reminded me of Too Much Joy with their jokey banter and revved up power pop.
Tags: Big Troubles, Domino, Real Estate, Slumberland
Real Estate were solid playing to a comfortably full Crocodile last night. I was standing on the Alex Bleecker side of the stage, which I would recommend. His bass was more audible which added a bit more substance to the songs and kept the lighter airy aspects anchored to solid ground. Real Estate are a suburban New Jersey band that write songs that go perfectly with driving on six lane arterials, waiting at red lights late at night with no one in sight and wandering through office parks. Their edge city rock wandered off into more bucolic places a few times last night. A couple songs midway through their set seemed to float by causing a yawn or two, but for the most part they kept it interesting and chill, focusing on the songs from their much stronger second album Days. After a 40 minute set that left everyone wanting more, they shyly sauntered back on stage for an encore and let Bleecker take the reigns to sing his song Wonder Years. That song momentarily took them out of the suburbs and landed them in a California canyon. It was possibly the best song of the night.
I saw Big Troubles a few weeks back open for the Pains of Being Pure At Heart and thought they were good. Last night opening for Real Estate they were downright great. Amazing what a few weeks of touring will do for a band. They confidently blasted their songs to an audience waiting for Real Estate. Co-singers/guitarists Ian Drennan and Alex Craig had it down. Perfect timing, nonchalantly delivering killer riffs and just generally doing everything right. These guys seem older and wiser than the young band that they are. From their Boo Radleys (Lazy Day) sounding Freudian Slip to getting the legendary Mitch Easter to produce their new album Romantic Comedy to choosing to cover the Go-Betweens‘ Bachelor Kisses (which they did at the request of some super-geek who tweeted at the band the day of the show asking them to play it). There were no let downs in their 35 minute set. I kept thinking: ok, the next song is going to be a let-down because they can’t have another one that sounds this good, but they kept delivering. This was one of those shows that changes how you feel about a record. Before last night I thought Romantic Comedy was a fine record. After last night, I’m in love with it.
Here are the remaining dates for Real Estate/Big Troubles tour:
11/11 San Francisco, CA Slim’s
11/12 Los Angeles, CA Echoplex
11/13 San Diego, CA Sunset Temple
11/14 Tempe, AZ Sail Inn
11/16 Austin, TX The Parish
11/17 Dallas, TX Club Dada
11/18 Memphis, TN Hi Tone Cafe
11/19 Lexington, KY Cosmic Charlie’s
11/20 Pittsburgh, PA Garfield Artworks
11/21 Philadelphia, PA Johnny Brenda’s
11/23 New York, NY Bowery Ballroom
Tags: Brave Irene, Detective Agency, Hardly Art, HHBTM, Orca Team, Sea Pony, Slumberland
Rose Melberg has been in a quite a few bands. Tiger Trap and Go Sailor were reved up C-86 fueled rock records. After that things mellowed out and have stayed that way. The Softies were gentle and sugary and here last few solo records kept the minimal sweet and soft songs coming. After going solo for the last few records, she’s got a band together again that goes by Brave Irene. They released an eight song self-titled album on Slumberland earlier this year that brings back some of the energy from her Tiger Trap and Go Sailor days with its organ soaked and harmony drenched songs. Brave Irene play a rare live show this Saturday, November 5th at the Vera Project here in Seattle. Opening the show will be the city’s very own indiepop hero’s in the making Seapony. It’s great to have a band like Seapony in Seattle. They’re active, playing out a lot and make shows like this happen with their enthusiastic support. The band have a new 7-inch coming out on Hardly Art, so I’m guessing we’ll hear some new songs along with the gems that adorned their album Go With Me.
While we’re talking shows, Orca Team are playing the tiny Rendezvous Thursday night. The former Portland band seems to have defected and now officially call Seattle home. They are still playing that 50′s dance party music from 20 leagues beneath the sea and are garaunteed to be wearing matching outfits. Opening are Detective Agency who are pretty new to Seattle. So new, they only have two songs posted over on their facebook page. Both are drenched with noise and DIY. I’ve been kind of obsessed with their song Daggers for the last couple days. I’m hoping they’ve got a bunch more stuffed in a duffle bag that are just as good.