Zebra Hunt Phasing Into the Sunset

Zebra Hunt, Unlikely Friends & Seacats at the Sunset Tavern, Seattle | 2 June 2017

Over the last five years it seems like many of my favorite Seattle bands have either broken up or left town. A few new ones have come up to replace them, but it seems like we’re in a slight lean period compared to the previous bounties we’ve experienced. Friday night at the Sunset in Ballard three Seattle bands provided some much needed rain on the parched fields of the Seattle music scene. Zebra Hunt, keepers of the Seattle pop flame, were celebrating their second album seeing the light of day courtesy of Spanish record label Tenorio Cotobade.

If you haven’t heard, Zebra Hunt are Seattle’s answer to the classic Flying Nun jangle of the 80’s and the current day jangling explosion of bands from Australia. If you’re old and dig the Clean and the Chills or young and love the Twerps and Chook Race, then Zebra Hunt will fit nicely into your wheelhouse. Having employed Jack Endino to record it, their sophomore effort improves on sound quality and sees no let up in song quality.

Focusing mostly on the new record the band played a great set for the home crowd and provided after show cupcakes decorated with their album cover. Since the last record Zebra Hunt have added a fourth member to the band to help flesh out their sound. The additional guitar and keyboard combined with their already stellar rhythm section increases the impact of the Zebra Hunt experience.

Singer and songwriter Robert Mercer writes about ordinary life but supplies an element of mystery to to his songs by being economical with the details. He is of the Raymond Carver school of writing. You get stories of house hunting, evening walks, listening to records in the kitchen and Foxhill Drive in 2005 with clues to what happened but no answers. I Wont’ Blame You house hunting backdrop sounds partly inspired by Courtney Barnett’s Depreston which was inspired by Paul Kelly’s To Her Door, which was inspired by Carver’s short stories. The lineage is impeccable.  With the release of In Phases, the band now have a larger trove of treasures to pull from for their live shows with a virtual guarantee never to disappoint.

Unlikely Friends were coerced out of their sabbatical to provide support. A BOAT and Math and Physics Club team-up, the group features the um, unlikely combination of both band’s singers, except on this night D. Crane had lost his voice . Probably due to the previous weekend’s BOAT reunion show or some rogue virus, the voiceless Crane  replaced his voice with a message he wrote on a series of notebook pages that littered the stage. The band was in triage mode with Charles Bert of MAPC taking over most of the vocals but letting the drummer Chris have some leads as well. They persevered and kept their sense of humor about them. Look for a second album and hopefully more shows from these underdogs when they’re restored to full power sometime in the not too distant future.

Opening the night were Seacats. Formerly of Kelso-Longview, but now apparently based in Seattle. The two singles I have of theirs give the impression that their a silly, happy-go-lucky sort of band, but as I walked in it was in the middle of their heavy stuff. I think it was their nuclear bomb song. Then they switched singers and pulled off a sublime psych-pop number and I was thoroughly confused. I wasn’t sure what to make of it all, but at least it was interesting!

Feature

feature Photo by Owen Richards

Wouldn’t ya know it, one of the better records of the year comes out by a band that’s already broken up. Punk trio Feature released their debut LP Banishing Ritual last month, but have already moved on.  Too bad, because, this group has attitude and style combining elements of Brilliant Colors and early Lush and the Ramones into and undeniable punk melange. The lead off track Psalms grabs your attention immediately with its Lush meets Ramones riff and harmonies. The highlight of the record is Schedules Align which starts with a killer riff and features a monotone melody made infamous by OG punks Wire. Like most great records, Feature’s debuts molds its influences into something that sounds at once familiar and new and exciting.

I wonder if anyone could convince Sauna Youth‘s Jen Calleja, Slow Coaches‘ Heather Perkins and Liv Willars to get back together and make another record? Maybe selling a couple hundred thousand of their debut long player would do it. I bought one so the rest of you 199,000 get on it and do your duty.

Vinyl available from Upset the Rhythm and download/stream from bandcamp.

Lake Serene

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Some groups sound so damn polite, like they would take you in if you showed up on their doorstep shivering in the freezing rain and give you some dry clothes, a seat by the fire and a warm drink. Lake are one such group. Some of their songs sound downright churchly. The Free Design always gave me the same impression, dealing in lush, bucolic pop paintings that could only offend if you find politeness offensive.

On their new album Forever or Never they leave the Olympia, K Records stable for the pastures of Hamburg, Germany’s Tapete records. The band are still based around the Puget Sound, now calling Whidbey Island their home. Label change aside, the band continue down their garden path into summer’s cauldron with everything in full bloom. Songs like Christian Comedians with its lush string parts takes some cues from Seeds of Love era Tears for Fears and XTC‘s Skylarking. You can almost see the pollen floating in the air. Other tracks hint at light 70’s funk akin to Hall and Oats, while many are fine with just being their unique brand of childlike wonder juxtaposed with smooth rock vibes.

Lake sound like real pros dealing in stealthy psychedelia. Everything is proper, fully enunciated and always polite. Come in out of the rain and warm up to Forever or Never.

Stream / Buy Lake – Forever or Never.

UV-TV

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Gainsville, Florida’s UV-TV obviously have great taste. Side one of their debut LP Glass bounds from Shop Assistants to Primitives and Black Tambourine. It doesn’t let up from the gas pedal once forcing its blissed-out sonic assault down your throat. Singer Rose Vastola has a saccharine sweet voice that easily breaks through the shards of noise put down by guitarist Ian Bernacett. Every song is a heart attack.

Side two stretches their pallet beyond the saccharine noise pop of side one. The songs are longer, more brooding and go for a different pop jugular. The Chameleons, Spacemen 3 and the Gun Club all pop into the frame of reference. No matter how you like getting your pop fetish tickled, I highly recommend tuning into this record!

Glass is out on Deranged Records, the same label that released Wildhoney‘s Sleep Through It.

No Cruise Required to Appreciate These Glaciers

glaciersHere’s to the folks who scour the internet for hidden beauties like this album from Melbourne, Australia’s Glaciers! Living Right is a fine piece of jangly goodness that deserves a wider audience. It came out last year on bandcamp, but has recently been released on vinyl by new Spanish label Meritorio Records.

The eleven songs on Living Right evoke the Railway Children and early records by their fellow countrymen the Church. The songs have an easy, mellow vibe that is slightly melancholy but brilliant and breezy. With only one record, these youngsters have plunked themselves right into the long lineage of shimmering jangle pop bands, many of which are long forgotten by most folks. Thankfully there are bands in far off corners of the world who still make this beautifully sublime kind of thing and others who feel it necessary to press it onto vinyl.

Buy a download or record of the Glaciers’ Living Right from Meritorio Records.

Heading Down Main Street with Talbot Adams

talbotI have been a bad blogger lately, neglecting this page even more than usual. I got the new Talbot Adams album sometime last year, played it a bunch, loved it, and then buried beneath a bunch of other records. In my attempt to organize, I was filing records this weekend and was reminded of my remiss when Community/Recession Era popped up from behind a stack of LP’s sitting on the floor. I immediately pulled out the orange disc and played it.

The album is a low key affair, consisting of Adams and his guitar (mostly acoustic with a handful of electric ones), but it has this subtle psychedelic quality to it that gives you something to keep coming back. It’s a little Doug Tuttle, Bert Jansch and Richard Davies.  Adams’s songs provide a grounded perspective to life in general and seem like an open book into his tender soul. In the hands of a lesser artist it could become a mundane trudge, but Talbot Adams is a tower of song that demands to be heard.

Community/Recession Era came out on German label Secret Identity Records, but you can pick up a copy in the US on Space Case.

Belated List of 2016 Seattle LP’s

Is it too late for a list of my favorite hometown albums from last year? Probably, so go ahead and send a letter to the editor if you are feeling list fatigue. Otherwise continue reading and I promise this is the last one till next year.

erikblood
1. Erik Blood – Lost In Slow Motion (Home Skillet)
Blood was involved in a lot of records this year, including recording two others on this list (Tacocat & Hotels). For his third album Erik Blood is still a solo act, but it’s mostly in name alone. Irene Barber provides additional guitar and singing throughout while it is book-ended by guest vocal appearances from Ismael Butler and OCnotes. He transcends any shoegaze pigeonhole he may have had and broadens his horizons to wide screen cinematic pop.

exquisites
2. The Exquisits – Home (Asian Man)
The Exquisits have a sweaty punk sound that brings to mind Van Morrisson, the Hold Steady and Buffalo Tom. I also love the way they deftly incorporate horns into their powerful pop making it even more exciting.

tacocat
3. Tacocat – Lost Time (Hardly Art)
Album number three finds Tacocat with no shortage of inspiration, Seattle, working on the weekend, X-Files and dealing with idiots on the internet. It is immediate and bright and speaks to you whether you are 14 or 40.

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4. Versing – Nude Descending (Youth Riot)
Reason number 99 for why I don’t own a record label: When I first saw Versing they played with the then unsigned So Pitted. A few months later So Pitted signed to Sub Pop and released record. Versing put their dissonant Pavement meets Swell Maps record out about a year later on the tiny Tacoma label Youth Riot.

vats
5. Vats – Green Glass Room (End of Time)
On the radio station that plays in my head, any song from this record would be played in a set that included Gang of Four, Lithics, A Frames and the Pheromoans. With its bony elbows, Green Glass Room  makes its own space in the dissonant,/angular/punk  room.

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6. Sloucher – Certainty (Swoon)
Sloucher’s Heatmiser meets Sebadoh takes you back to the 90’s heyday of Seattle rock history.

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7. Crater – Talk To Me So I Can Fall Asleep (Help Yourself)
This electronic duo due make dark and moody songs that are just light and breezy enough to dance too.

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8. Hotels – Night Showers (Self-released)
Hotels have been knocking around Seattle for years, and have released a number of albums and singles but none as good as their latest. Enhancing their atmospheric guitar based songs with luscious doses of horns and strings makes Night Showers really pop!

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9. Lisa Prank – Adult Teen (Father/Daughter)
Colorado transplant Lisa Prank writes bedroom punk rock similar to Colleen Green, like if the Ramones were in your bedroom and preferred a drum machine.

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10. Gazebos – Die Alone (Hardly Art)
Recorded by former Fastbacks guitarist Kurt Bloch and fronted by a couple Seattle indierock linchpins – T.V. Coahran who runs Gorgonzola  Records and Shannon Perry formerly of Butts and Katharine Hepburn’s Voice. This record  feels like it was made by a band of roving minstrels who found some wagons full of amplifiers. It’s loud with a slightly unhinged feel that keeps you on your toes .