Tags: Drag City, Jessica Pratt, Jim Sullivan, Joanna Newsome, Kevin Morby, Nick Drake, Seattle, Sunset Tavern
Jessica Pratt at the Sunset Tavern, Seattle | 20 February 2015
The first think you notice about Jessica Pratt is her voice. To some it will be an acquired taste, to others it is unique and disarming. It has a quaint otherworldliness to it. When you hear her, you assume you are hearing some long forgotten folk singer, but when she sits in front of you at the Sunset Tavern in Ballard you have to believe your senses. Her at once world weary and child like voice floated over the full room as she picked her acoustic guitar and her accompanist delicately played an electric guitar. Pratt’s music demands quiet and you could have heard a pin drop during her 40 minute set.
She usually gets compared to well known 60’s female folkies, but I hear so much Jim Sullivan in her songs that all other comparisons pale in, erm comparison. Sullivan’s UFO album was reissued a few years back by Light in the Attic and is lost gem of the early 1970’s. Pratt has a similar quality Sullivan had, before his untimely disappearance, of writing songs that sound impossibly sad while somehow containing a simple radiance in them. She played selections from both of her albums and was at ease talking to the audience between songs, almost like she would come out of character to become her 21st century self to banter and then revert to the 20th century folk singer to sing. She mentioned that she was born in Seattle and lived here until she was eight years old, but this was her first time being back since then. It is somewhat amazing to believe that Pratt was actually born somewhere and lived a life in these times, because her music leads you to believe that she has just been like this forever.
Jessica Pratt’s second album On Your Own Love Again is out on Drag City.
Headliner Kevin Morby put on a good show as well. I was a big fan of his previous band Babies that he formed with former Vivian Girl Cassie Ramone. He has since gone solo and has two albums of durable country influenced pop to date, but they fail to excite me the way that those Babies records did. Still, not bad.
Tags: Buzzcocks, Flatemates, Pocketbooks, Popguns, Razorcuts, Shelflife Records, Shop Assistants, The Fireworks, The Primitives, Wedding Present
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to waste my time. So many bands these days go two or three songs into their albums before actually delivering a decent hook. There is no such problem with the Fireworks. The London band do not dillydally. Buzzy guitars blast out as soon as you hit play. Sharp pop inspired by the Buzzcocks and the Shop Assistants jumps out and swiftly grabs you and pulls you out of the dull world and into something kaleidoscopic and exciting.
The record opens with With My Heart and Runaround, the best one-two punch of any record in recent memory. With My Heart starts with a Mary Chain cacophony and then Emma Hall launches in with her cool delivery. Runaround quickly follows with its clamoring guitars and undeniable chorus, and it doesn’t let up. You might think that they couldn’t sustain this shockingly good barrage of great songs, but they do. Hall trades vocal duties with guitarist Matthew Rimmell to keep you on your toes and his Corner of My Mind and Let You Know offer up a more autumnal sound to even out the pace of the album
The Fireworks may sound like a throwback to the late 80’s UK underground and the C-86 scene to some, but a record this good never goes out of style.
Tags: Apples In Stereo, Boat, Guided By Voices, Jigsaw Records, Left Banke, Math & Physics Club, Mirror Universe Tapes, New Pornographers, The Who, Unlikely Friends
With Boat on somewhat of a hiatus and Math and Physics Club in the middle of their standard four or so years between albums what is a guy to do in the green and mossy Pacific Northwest? Well, in the case of Boat’s Dave Crane you round up a new bunch of friends, call yourselves Unlikely Friends and cook up a new batch of killer pop pop songs. You will undoubtedly recognize the voice of Charles “Chaz” Bert from Math & Physics Club and you may know Chris Mac (the Indiepop King of Seattle) who runs the Jigsaw record label and mail order and is at least in three bands around town at any given time.
Solid Gold Cowboys will be easy to like if you are already a Boat fan because Crane’s voice and his penchant for writing hooky pop songs. The gunslinger in this game is Bert who usually keeps things pretty mellow when singing in MAPC, but really lets loose on many of these songs adding an quantifiable effervescence into them.
The album is a combination of precise pop hooks akin to Guided By Voices and the sunny sweet bubblegum psychedelia of the Apples in Stereo. Soft Reputation and Satellite Station are the best of examples of this great combination, but that doesn’t really cover it. Ride Off Into the Sunset chugs along like Love and Rockets, Gold Hills Theme nods to the dusty spaghetti western soundtrack music of Ennio Morricone and Gold Coast Marauders has the delicacy of a Left Banke song. Crane usually takes the lead vocal with Bert coming in on the chorus to put the song into the stratosphere.
Considering the backgrounds of these three (Un)likely friends it’s not surprising that they got together to make a record. The unlikely part is that the peanut butter and chocolate combination of the heart on your sleeve style of Boat juxtaposed with the sweetness of Math and Physics Club is satisfying winner.
If you are in Seattle, you won’t want to miss Unlikely Friends record release show at the Rendezvous in Belltown, Saturday, February 21 with Ruler and Oh! Pears.
Tags: Beach Boys, Left Banke, Market Square Records, Paul Messis, Talbot Adams
Mississippi’s Talbot Adams quickly follows up last year’s self-titled album with a new single on Market Square Records. Green Girl is strummed psychedelic bliss over a melodic bass line that swirls into your being like a warm summer breeze. The flip side I Love You So has a Phil Specter wall of sound that gently leans into you with its sha-la-la’s and Adams’ easy southern tenor. Pretty pop for your turntable.
Tags: Courtney Love, Diet Cig, Father/Daughter Records, Lois, Small Factory, Sourpatch, Tiger Trap
Diet Cig a duo from New Paltz, New York are roughly 20 years on and 200 miles away from where Small Factory first started. That’s enough time for a band to have kids who grow up to be in a band. Diet Cig have that same wide-eyed wonder, youthful enthusiasm and pop skills that Small Factory had in spades. The five songs on the duo’s debut EP are full hormones and adolescent angst and are often humorous as well. Pool Boyz boasts a huge chorus that would make Alex Kemp envious, and the stand out song on the EP, Harvard is a great kiss off to a certain former Ivy League boyfriend. Thank god they still make bands like this!
Diet Cig’s Over Easy is out on Father/Daughter Records.
Tags: Galaxy 500, Go-betweens, Long Ryders, Luna, Real Estate, Seattle, Tenorio Cotobade, The Clean, The Verlaines, Twerps, Zebra Hunt
After a couple singles, Zebra Hunt, the Pacific Northwest’s foremost purveyors of the Dunnedin sound have released an album. City Sighs has obviously been influenced by the classic Flying Nun sound of the early 80’s made famous by the Clean, the Verlaines and the Chills, but it also incorporates some distinctly American sounds to create a fresh variation on a well worn style.
City Sighs seems to be an album full of jangle, longing and discovery. It’s full of pop songs that are instantly likable and easy to remember. Deleware starts the record and opines for a lost friend who’s up and moved back to the first state in the Union. Singer Robert Mercer sings just enough (and leaves even more unsaid) to get you wondering why this person left. It has an air of mystery to it like a Raymond Carver story. The American influences aren’t just literary. Call It Off is a dusty rocker that has Long Ryders feel to it and Isle of Song and Always both owe a little something to Galaxy 500. The band also rightfully resurrect Half Right and Beaches of LA, two of their best songs that originally appeared on their first single that came out on the now defunct Manic Pop label.
The last song Haze Of Youth may be my favorite song on the album. Starting out as pop and then transitioning into a long jam, it out real estates Real Estate. City Sighs is being released by the tiny Tenorio Cotobade label in Madrid, Spain, so you probably won’t see this record at your local shop unless you live in Seattle, but it deserves as much exposure and recognition as like minded records (on much larger labels) by the Twerps and Real Estate.
If you’re near Seattle this weekend, don’t miss Zebra Hunt Saturday at Hilliard’s in Ballard.
Tags: Beat Happening, Bellingham, Crayon, Happy Happy Birthday to Me, Husker Du, Sebadoh, Tullycraft
If I had done a best reissues of 2014 this long overdue reissue of Crayon‘s Brick Factory would have been near the top of it. Formed in the early 90’s in the sleepy college town of Bellingham, Washington, Crayon were equally influenced by the punk inspired grunge of Seattle and the punk inspired indiepop of Olympia. Bellingham is about 80 miles north of Seattle and 150 mile north of Olympia, but Crayon sounded like they were about right in the middle of both of those city’s well known aesthetics at the time.
The two styles juxtaposed with each other in the form of Crayon’s two singers. Guitarist Brad Roberts’ songs were the raw punk ones that sounded like a wounded Husker Du or Sebadoh (Brick Factory was one of Lou Barlow’s favorites records of 1994 as told to Spin). The other half of the songs were written and sung by bassist Sean Tollefson had a more twee feel that nodded to Beat Happening.
Most people lean to either Robert’s punk scrawl or Tollefson’s embryonic twee, but the accidental genius of Crayon was that they had the guts to combine them into one band and one album. Tollefson went on to form Tullycraft along with Crayon drummer Jeff Fell. Robertson seemed to disappear from the music universe along with the CD only release of Brick Factory that went out of print shortly after its release. Now for the first time ever Happy Happy Birthday To Me have reissued the album on vinyl. It comes with a bonus download of the band’s other 7-inch singles, compilations tracks, demos and live cuts. Twenty years later it still sounds unique and great.
Brick Factory is available from HHBTM mail order.
Tags: Ausmuteants, Bent Cousin, Cavern of Anti-Matter, Charles Bradly, Cheap Riot, Close Lobsters, Courtneys, Crimson Wave, Day Ravies, Dick Diver, Dream Boys, Flesh World, Giorgio Murderer, Girl One and the Grease Guns, Gurgles, Heathers, Hierphants, Institute, Juniore, Kelley Stoltz, King Tears Mortuary, LaRose Jackson, Menace Beach, Paellas, Pang, Primetime, Primitive Parts, Primitives, Sleaford Mods, Slum of Legs, Suburban Homes, Tender Age, The Mantles, Thigh Master, Twerps, Ubertrager, When Nalda Became Punk, Wildhoney, Wimps, Woolen Men
If they keep putting them out, I’ll keep buying them and counting them down. Here’s my take on the 2014 singles scene. You don’t need eharmony to find a great single, just peruse this list.
1. Wildhoney – Sixteen Forever (Photobooth)
Baltimore band’s second single is even better than their first. Effortlessly great shoegaze. Look out for their debut LP early in 2015.
2. Charles Bradly & LaRose Jackson – Luv Jones (Daptone)
This one came out of nowhere and flew under most everyone’s radar. Charles Bradly and LaRose Jackson sound great together and the flip side has him sounding a bit like the Specials. A certified classic.
3. Primetime – Tied Down (La Vida Es Un Mus Discos)
UK group influenced by Wire and Elastica, only they don’t steal riffs. Solid debut single that indicates greatness.
4. Primitives – Spin-O-Rama (Elefant)
Classic 60’s inspired, sunny psychedelic single.The Primitives stormed back on the scene with this record.
5. Giorgio Murderer – Primitive World (Goner)
Buck Biloxi’s alter ego obsessed with Star Trek. Insanely insane.
6. Day Ravies – Hickford Whizz (Beko)
Day Ravies move beyond their shoegaze roots and move into full pop bloom.
7. Bent Cousin – Dizzy (Team Love)
Twins from Brighton mix a little bit of rap with indiepop. It shouldn’t work but of course it does since it’s right here at number seven.
8. Gurgles – You Send Me Up (Saltaire)
Gurgles take Steely Dan and Prefab Sprout and turn it up so that it bleeds out of your headphones.
9. Pang – Young Professionals (Grazer)
Bay area young professionals second single is glamorous sounding, jagged, Wire influenced brilliance.
10. Primitive Parts – Open Heads (Sexbeat)
Members of Male Bonding and Sauna Youth, Primitive Parts excel in jangly power pop that reminds me of Modern Life Is Rubbish era Blur. Strong!
11. Girl One and the Grease Guns – Bashed Beaten & Broken (Squirrel)
Alter egos of the Manhattan Love Suicides deal in old drum machines, synths and detached vocals with decided industrial slant.
12. Suburban Homes – The Suburban Home EP (Market Square)
Mysterious punks from the suburbs on written by Paul Messis and on Paul Messis’s label. Raw angry and very good.
13. Close Lobsters – Kunstwerk in Spacetime (Shelflife)
The return of the Close Lobsters was a wonderful sound to behold.
14. Courtneys – Mars Attacks (Hockey Dad)
The second single in this year’s countdown to feature a rap. Vancouver’s Courtneys follow up last years great debut with more of their good thing.
15. The Mantles – Memory (Slumberland)
The Mantles seem to be able to effortlessly write these dusty Byrdsian gems.
16. Juniore – La Fin Du Monde (Enterprise)
Suave, spaghetti-French pop that pulls in some Limiñanas along with a bit of Françoise Hardy.
17. Crimson Wave – Say (Accidental Guest)
Former Wild Honey singer goes two for two with bands and singles. Her new band Crimson Wave is off to an auspicious start with this Scrawl influenced record.
18. Flesh World – A Line In Wet Grass (Iron Lung)
Jess Scott, formerly of Brilliant Colors fronts Flesh World. A Line in the Wet Grass is a maelstrom with a pop song in the middle just struggling to escape.
19. Slum of Legs – Begin To Dissolve (Tuff Enuff)
Slum of Legs combine dissonance and melody into a delicious stew topped off with a violin chaser.
20. Hierphants – Nothing Neu (Goodbye Boozy)
Featuring members of Ausmuteants and Frowning Clouds, you might expect Hierphants to sound like a garage band with Devo leanings and you would be right. Nothing Neu, but good nonetheless.
21. King Tears Mortuary – Grease Trap (Vacant Valley)
Power pop from Sydney that recalls southern fried college rock from the 80’s. Surprised Mitch Easter didn’t have a hand in this.
22. Ubertrager – Neben Mir (Great Pop Supplement)
Amazing how much this sounds like Broadcast. Otherworldly!
23. Institute – Giddy Boys (Kartorga Works)
Debut single from Austin band sounding like their from Australia. The Austin Ausmuteants?
24. Primitive Parts – TV Wheels (Faux Discx)
Primitive Parts make their second appearance in the countdown. Quality and quantity. Lookout for their debut coming later this year on Trouble In Mind.
25. Dream Boys – Positive Arguments (White Iris)
Bluebells, Bif Bang Pow and Three O’Clock fans rejoice, Los Angeles’ Dream Boys follow up last year’s LP with more jangly goodness!
26. Wimps – Distraction (Help Yourself)
Short, sharp punk from Seattle’s slackers in chief.
27. Kelley Stoltz – Cross Your Mind (Stroll On)
Stoltz keeps cranking out classic pop whether you like it or not. The guy’s a machine. Dig the ode to Echo & the Bunnymen xylophone solo too.
28. When Nalda Became Punk – Indiepop Whatever (Shelflife)
From Spain, but riding a wave of Swedish Pop, When Nalda Became a Punk feature jangly guitars and life affirming choruses.
29. Woolen Men – Real FX (Loglady)
More tightly wound jangle from this Portland trio.
30. Cheap Riot – Part Time Vacancy (Croque Macadam)
A great debut single from punk-party mods who remind me of Television Personalities and the Buzzcocks.
The cover looks like something Jack Kirby might have drawn for the Fantastic Four back in the 60’s. Meanwhile Tim Gane continues his odes a future that never was.
32. Paellas – Cat Out (Self-released)
The formerly moody Paellas, shake the lead out and get downright dancy. New direction 100 percent approved.
33. Thigh Master – Head of the Witch (Tenth Court)
Jangly garage pop that is bound to not just to excite fans of Suzanne Somers but is likely to make fans of the Clean the Go-Betweens happy as well.
34. Twerps – Back To You (Merge)
More Australian pop you say. Yes they just keep coming. Sounding a little like the Moles in the intro, this one is the lead single from the upcoming LP.
35. Tender Age – Anything (Track & Field)
Portland’s Tender Age evoke’s Felt’s Ignite the Seven Cannons. Dark and dreamy.
36. Sleaford Mods – Loan Shark (Apocolypso)
A bit more glitchy and more experimental backing provides great backdrop for another rant.
37. Heathers – Fear (Death Party)
Single number two from this LA band delivers more hardy jangepop. The cool thing about them is how funnel their very English influences (Wedding Present) into a very American sound (Replacements).
38. Menace Beach – Tennis Court (Memphis Industries)
Dreamy female vocals over scuzzy male ones and scuzzy guitars that delivers with a nice big chorus. Just what you should expect from a great single.
39. Ausmuteants – Felix Tried to Kill Himself (Goodbye Boozy)
Prolific Aussi synth punks crash the party with this blistering guitars and head flexing vocals.
40. Dick Diver – New Name Blues (Fruits & Flowers)
New Name Blues sounds a little more experimental and less straightforward than their usual strummy goodness, adding in some saxophone to keep things interesting.