Tags: Crater, Erik Bood, Gazebos, Hotels, Lisa Prank, Soucher, Tacocat, The Exquisits, Vats, Versing
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 .
Tags: Lazy Octopus, Neil Armstrong, The Intelligence, Wimps
I never thought I would hear a band that combined the spazzy pop bliss of Neil Armstrong with the primal pop eccentricities of the Intelligence. Where would I actually look for something like this? The internet of course. Sweden’s Lion’s Den could more succinctly be described as garage pop but that’s too easy. The songs on the trio’s self-titled debut LP seem to have a dry take on the mundane and acidic world (“Waking up is the bitter side of life” and “Denial is my therapy”), but they’re so darn catchy that they still make you feel like a 100 bucks.
It’s got some surfy sounding bits, some rockin’ ones, a few eccentricities and lots of adrenaline. And at ten songs in about 20 minutes it’s a perfect record for these anxiety laden and distraction filled times. Put it on and let it take you for a spin. You’ll be back in 20 minutes, in time for whatever is you didn’t really need to do.
The album is out on Lazy Ocotopus.
Tags: Apples In Stereo, Beulah, Elephant 6, Honey Bucket, Neutral Milk Hotel, Pavement, See My Friends, The Clean, Woolen Men
If you don’t live on the West Coast a band named Honey Bucket probably won’t have any bad connotations for you. For those of us not so fortunate, well let’s just say that we will just have to try not to touch anything and hold our noses as we listen. Port-a-potty influenced name aside, Portland trio Honey Bucket have just released an excellent debut record that has elements of their pals Woolen Men, the Clean and some Elephant 6 collective in its pop innards.
Recorded to a Tascam, the aesthetic of the album reminds me of the early Elephant 6 records by Beulah, The Apples In Stereo and Neutral Milk Hotel. It’s sort of geeky pop fun at its core with cheap sounding keyboards and some free jazz horns interspersed into its pure pop.
Tags: Curly Cassettes, High Llamas, HoZac, Long Ryders, Mild High Club, Rain Parade, Soft Candy, Steely Dan, Stones Throw, Suede, The Tyde, Verner Pantons
It was a three day holiday weekend here in the U.S. and that means one more day of doing whatever it is you prefer occupying your time with on a regular weekend. In my case you might be surprised to hear that it wasn’t listening to records, because frankly who has the time to sit and listen to vinyl during the waning days of summer? I was listening to music though. Being an American raised in the rural hinterlands of the Midwest my preferred method of listening to music is in the car with the windows down and the sun shining if possible. So here is my past weekend of highlights in the car. Admittedly this post would have been much better if I would have thought to snap photos at random points from the driver’s side, but that kind of thing is illegal and a might bit dangerous. So better off safe and boring from the photo perspective. It’s all I can do to remember a turn signal sometimes when a good song is turned up loud on the car stereo.
I had listened to the new Tyde record (nice Scott Walker reference on the cover!) a few times sitting at a desk doing work and it didn’t really connect except for the single The Curse In Reverse in which Tyde main guy Darren Rademaker is aided by former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler to startling good results. But as I crossed the Ballard Bridge with the sun hitting me through the windshield Nice To Know You blasted out of my windows and I immediately got it. This record is not supposed be listened to in an office or a basement. It needs sunshine, wind and at least 35 miles per hour. I was doing an errand, but I passed my turn on purpose to keep listening. Luckily the record only has seven songs on it so I didn’t waste too much petrol.
Later that night I had to run to grocery store to gather some food for the grill. It takes about two songs to get to the store which is just about perfect for a 7-inch single. Often when I’m heading to the store I’ll pick something that I’ve just put onto my phone. In this instance it was the new Hozac single from Soft Candy. The Chicago band sound like LA Paisley Underground and must be fans of the Rain Parade. The rolling psychedelia of Bixarre Luv Pyramids had me in such a daze that I almost rolled through a red light. I screeched to a halt (I was only going about 10 mph) in time to allow an elderly couple to cross Market Street. I Waited for the light to turn green and as it did the wonderful Kinks like piano of Song for Ellie Mae percolated from the speakers and carried me into the parking lot of the store. Damn I forgot my shopping list!
Late morning on our way to a trail head for a hike in the Cascades we are driving east on the I-90. It’s turning into a good day as the sun begins to burn off the clouds. Of course I’m starting to feel guilty about all of this driving. If I lived on a ranch, I’d take a horse and a Bluetooth speaker, but Seattle doesn’t have any ranches so here I am behind the wheel again listening to Portland’s Verner Pantons who continue the Paisley Underground theme of the prior evening’s trip to the grocery store only they subscribe more to the Long Ryders’ slant of psychedelia. It’s sort of dusty sounding and it makes me wonder if cowboys carry Bluetooth speakers with them on their horses these days, because I can’t think of a better way to listen to this record than on a horse somewhere around Winchester, Washington. As it is, songs like Little Boat, Melancholy Girl and Sarah Saturday get us to the hike much faster than NPR’s Weekend Edition could ever hope to.
A long weekend always has a comedown and needs a soundtrack and by this time I had been in the car way too much but it’s the last hurrah of summer and who wants to be inside? Not me. Earlier in the spring I had trimmed the apple tree in my back yard and there was a pile of wood waiting for just the right night. As I said earlier I don’t own a horse, but I do own a Bluetooth speaker and it was in my back yard as the cool nigh air was kept at bay by the snap and crack of the fire pit. What better soundtrack to fire, stars and general serenity than the new Mild High Club LP Skiptracing? This group of Los Angeles followers of Steely Dan and High Llamas know how to relax, or at least put their listeners into a state of relaxation. How good? So good I could barely bring myself to put another log on the fire as the soothing sounds of Chapel Perilous floated through the air. Luckily I have a kid or two to do the heavy labor and the repeat button close at hand.
Tags: Cold Pumas, Faux Discx, Joy Division, Sauna Youth, Soft Walls, Tense Men, The Church, The Sound, Wire
The cover for the Hanging Valley, the second album from Brighton band Cold Pumas, looks like it is inspired by Salvador Dali. If you caught a glance of it in a record store or on line you might think that it was made by a group with prog rock tendencies and a penchant for mind altering substances. That take wouldn’t be entirely wrong, but if you were hoping for flutes and butterflies you might be in for a surprise. Long narrow shadowed bathtubs pink soap and odd falling vases aside, the Hanging Valley is a study in what happens when you start with angular post punk that gets co-opted by a motorik groove and then sometimes is doused with some ethereal washes of guitars.
LP number two is a decidedly stronger record with better songs and more varied sound. The band are clicking on this record and deftly pummel you with songs like Fugue States, the Slump and Slippery Slopes and then turn around an caress on A Change of Course and The Shaping of the Dream. Like the best post-punk records the Hanging Valley has intensity about it that nearly overwhelms, but pulls back when it’s just at the brink.
Tags: Fishrinder Records, Prophet Hens, The Bats, The Chills, The Clean
The Prophet Hens‘ Popular People Do Popular People was a near perfect first record. It was immediate and inviting. You heard it once and stashed it in your favorites bin along with the Chills, the Clean and the Bats. So what do you do after releasing a brilliant first album and how do you avoid the notorious sophomore slump for record number two?
Perhaps you intentionally rethink your brilliance into something slightly different. Or perhaps you roll with changes that life throws at your band. Get a new rhythm section and give Penelope Esplin a greater roll in the vocals department, let loose a little and embrace a less delicate approach to you general sound.
It may not be as as immediate and it wasn’t for me at first, but as it percolates it begins to surpass what you thought at first was unsurpassable. The Wonderful Shapes of Back Door Keys leaves bedroom and sheds the moodiness of the first record, and embraces more driving rhythms sometimes even bleeding into motorik territory (see closer Modal). I’m not sure if it’s a better record than the debut, but it’s more confident and fun and certainly it’s no slump!
The Wonderful Shapes of Back Door Keys is out now on Fishrider Records.
Tags: Pretty Olivia Records, Summer Suns, The Byrds, The Kinks, The Palisades, The Rainyard, The Triffids
There was an air of familiarity when I glanced at the cover of the Jangle Band‘s debut album Edge of Dream. It seemed to recall the cover of the Triffids‘ Born Sandy Devotional with its birds eye view of a sandy coast. There was another after I played the record for the first time. The sonic dissonance of the Byrds combined with indiepop sensibility of the Rainyard. Was I insane, or were these connections intentional or innate?
I am happy to report that I’m not crazy. The Jangle Band (has there ever been a more appropriately named band?) have roots in Perth, same as the Triffids and are lead by Jeff Baker and Ian Freeman who count the Rainyard and Palisades as former bands. Edge of Dream is a wonderful album full of songs descended from The Bells of Rhymney by the Byrds. The Rickenbacker’s jangle throughout and it sends you somewhere eight miles high and sun bleached.
Edge of Dream is out on Pretty Olivia Records.
Tags: Broadcast, Free Design, Lake Ruth, Left Bank, Peter Thomas, Serge Gainsbourg, Stereolab, The Great Pop Supplement
If this were an outdoor blog you might be asking, where the heck is Lake Ruth? Since this is a music blog I don’t need to give you directions, hopefully you know where to find records on the internet. Hewson Chen of The New Lines, Matt Schulz of Savak, Holy Fuck, Enon along with vocalist Allison Brice from The Eighteenth Day of May opened up their resort earlier this year with a single that was like a cool drink perspiring on the arm of your Adirondack chair while you gazed at the ripples spreading out on the glassy lake.
If you are a fan of Chen’s New Lines, you will be likely be staying a while at Lake Ruth.They have expanded and updated the place with the luxurious long player Actual Entity. You get the sense that the place was built in the 60’s by a French architect who went to school in Berlin and studied Italian Renaissance. Also I think the place may have been used as the set for some long forgotten sci-fi television series, but I can’t be certain. Grab a copy and see if you can figure it out.
Tags: Adventures In Stereo, Broadcast, Doves, Jesus & Mary Chain, Jim Noir, Os Mutantes, Peter Thomas, Stone Roses, The Go! Team, Whyte Horses
Last December Did Not Chart wrote about Whyte Horses, the Manchester collective lead by Dom Thomas self-released their LP to much underground fanfare and quickly sold out of its 300 copies. It was such a tease, great album too bad they’re all gone. Fast forward to present day and sometimes patience instead of bidding on ebay pays off. The album Pop or Not has been reissued and is now in much wider circulation. How wide? I picked up a copy at my local record store here in Seattle.
Whyte Horses count as contributors to their wonderful 60’s psychedelic ecstasy Jez Williams of Doves, Jim Noir , Chris Geddes of Belle & Sebastian and Ian Parton of The Go! Team. Some songs buzz like the Mary Chain or Stone Roses while others sound like Broadcast or Adventures in Stereo or Jacques Dutronc while some songs are spacey instrumentals influenced by Os Mutantes and Peter Thomas. The group seem to have an uncanny ability to merge a wide range of influences into a cohesive sound that continues to satisfy time after time. There are too many great ones here to single out only one or two and each time I listen to the record a new favorite emerges. Definitely one of this year’s (and last) best!