Male Gaze & Tiaras at Chop Suey

March 29, 2015 at 3:20 pm | Posted in Music, Seattle | Leave a comment
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MaleGaze

Male Gaze are a group of males made up of former members of other bands: Matt Jones and Adam Finken of Blasted Canyons, Mark Kaiser from Mayyors, and Adam Cimino from The Mall. Jones who sings, plays guitar and runs Castle Face records along with John Dwyer doesn’t have much range in his vocals, but he uses this limitation to good effect. He keeps his dark monotone in the strictly gothic range, while Kaiser’s bass and Cimino drums lay down a pummeling foundation to build up intense, apocalyptic, paranoia songs.

The Male Gaze debut album only came out this week, so maybe that explains why this show was so sparsely attended, or perhaps it was the 70 degree weather causing a bout of spring fever. Too bad for the rest of Seattle I guess, especially those in the population who like the post punk desolation akin to our very own A-Frames. The newly revamped Chop Suey was still sparkling, not yet defiled by rock n’ roll debauchery. The stage even has a red velvet curtain that closes between bands, lending to a sense of drama to each set.  The rhythm section was unreal and didn’t really need an curtain to create a sense of drama. Their lights-out playing was the highlight of the night and they made it look way too easy. Songs like Cliffs of Madness, The Shining Paths and Bridge and Tunnel Vision are dark pop masterpieces that ravaged live. Impressive, and my admiration for the band increased knowing that they can bring this sort of intensity even when playing to 20 people.

stream: Male Gaze – The Shining Path (from Gale Maze on Castle Face)

Tiaras
Tour mates the Tiaras share a guitarist in Adam Finken and feature former Ganglians Ryan Grubbs and Kyle Hoover. Their self-titled debut album came out earlier this year on Mt. St. Mtn. It’s probably not what you would expect if you remember the lo-fi stoner rock of the Ganglians. The Tiaras are all shimmering pop with a few angles in the vein of Field Music, High Llamas, and the Trashcan Sinatras. Their lush stylized pop is sometimes hard to translate into a live setting. At first I thought that they sounded much too murky, but when lead guitarist Kyle Hoover switched from his twelve string guitar to his trusted 6 string Rickenbacker everything came together and their emotive pop set won out.

stream: Tiaras – Thought I Could Know (from Tiaras on Mt. St. Mtn.)

Wild for Wildhoney

March 19, 2015 at 9:22 pm | Posted in Music, Records, Shoegaze, Vinyl | Leave a comment
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wildhoney

Shoegaze bands are a dime a dozen these days which is something I never would have predicted 20 years ago. So the genre lost the battle but apparently won the war, but sometimes the victors get a little cocky. Originally a derogitory term, bands now brandish that tag willy nilly without sometimes knowing what they’re talking about. One of the first and foremost things about the OG shoegaze was that at its heart there were always great songs. It wasn’t just noise. It was verses and big choruses. Bands actually wrote songs first and then bent their tremelo bars around them, instead of many of today’s poseurs who bend their guitars around nothing much.

There was a method of songs first reverb second. Baltimore’s Wildhoney adhere to that tried and true approach. Their debut album Sleep Through It is one of the best albums to come out in the shoegaze genre (or any other genre for that matter) in a while. This quintet of youngsters lean in direction of the more ethereal regions, looking to the Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine. The influences may be easy to spot, but they take them and make something slightly different, brighter and alluring. Fall In and Molly belong on any best of shoegaze mix. Their two previous singles (Seventeen and a re-recorded Super Stupid) make welcome curtain calls as well. They even throw in an instrumental tribute to Flying Saucer Attack. These kids know how to deliver quality noise drenched pop with a sense of history and an ear for melody. Do not miss!

The album Sleep Through It is out in the US on Forward Records and everywhere else via Deranged Records.

Oddities

March 1, 2015 at 6:16 pm | Posted in Albums, Music, Psychedlia | Leave a comment
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So you’re perusing the internet and you come across something about a band that is made up of members of Total Control, UV Race, East Link and Dick Diver. What do you do? Try not to get too excited, right? Why haven’t you heard of this band before? Have you had your coffee yet today? Do you take sugar?

Well the the first thing I would tell you is that there is nothing obvious about Russell St. Bombings. If you’re looking for the next great unheard pop record from down under then you are looking under the wrong rock. This is an intentionally difficult record. It’s something that probably started as jam between friends and then because it had a few elements that were intriguing it continued.

Hey lets go get some beer and noodle around. A studio costs too much, so lets record ourselves with our phones. What’s the flight time from Perth to Manila?  Let’s use odd tunings and make the songs run together. Have you ever recorded a guitar solo in an airplane toilet?

The Clean were known to go off on tangents like this and they called those records Oddities. Today I was scraping moss from the steps in the back when out popped a somewhat large wormlike creature. Pop songs squirm out of the cracks unexpectedly, and then they burrow back down into the dirt just as quickly.  If Syd Barret would have conducted symphonies I think this is what it may have sounded like on the even days.

Oddly I find myself listening to this a lot more than I ever would have thought. Sometimes it feels good to listen to music that isn’t obvious. It’s exciting because you don’t know where it’s going and it’s exciting because you get the feeling that the band don’t exactly know where it’s going either. Where are you going?

Russel Street Bombings is out now on SmartGuy Records

Plain As Your Eyes Can See

February 22, 2015 at 8:46 pm | Posted in Seattle, Sunset Tavern | Leave a comment
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Jessica Pratt at the Sunset Tavern, Seattle | 20 February 2015

Jessica Pratt

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.

Switched On by the Fireworks

February 19, 2015 at 10:16 pm | Posted in Albums, C-86, Music | 1 Comment
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fireworks

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.

stream: The Fireworks – Switch Me On (LP, CD and MP3 available from Shelflife)

Unlikely Friends Strike Gold

February 10, 2015 at 9:33 pm | Posted in Music, Seattle | Leave a comment
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unlikelyfriends

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.

Cassette version is available from Mirror Universe Tapes
Compact Disc version is available from Jigsaw Records

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.

New Flower Power Pop from Talbot Adams

February 10, 2015 at 9:09 pm | Posted in 7 inch, Music, Singles, Vinyl | Leave a comment
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talbot286

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.

Vinyl and download available from Market Square Records (or Goner if you’re in the US).

Diet Cig

January 30, 2015 at 10:06 pm | Posted in indiepop, Music | Leave a comment
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dietcig2

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.

So Much Water So Close To Home

January 28, 2015 at 5:27 pm | Posted in Albums, Music, Seattle, Vinyl | Leave a comment
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zebrahunt2

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.

Vinyl & Download available from Tenorio Cotobade.
Download available from Zebra Hunt’s bandcamp.

If you’re near Seattle this weekend, don’t miss Zebra Hunt Saturday at Hilliard’s in Ballard.

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Color Me Impressed

January 19, 2015 at 7:59 pm | Posted in Music, Reissues, Vinyl | 4 Comments
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Crayon
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.

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