Living in Seattle at present requires one to be economical, especially if you’re trying to hold it down with the influx of tech usurpers. Folks used to move here for aesthetic reasons, but now that just comes with the package. It’s taken for granted, or just a bonus. You can tell by the shift from quirky and slightly run down shop fronts and houses to sleek, new and mundane shop fronts and townhouses and the tall buildings that keep edging out further and further from downtown. For a few years, it seemed like anyone with an artistic bent was packing up and heading out of town. That left Seattle tipping into a somewhat unenviable circumstance of being like every other fucking city.
Thankfully a few have stayed around and stuck it out. If i were an optimist I might even tell you that things are looking up, at least on the band front. Zebra Hunt have been a light in the darkness these last five or so years and their beacon continues to shine on their third album Trade Desires. At eight songs, it is economical. The band packs its punches and doesn’t waste time on any feints or diversions. Zebra Hunt continue their janglepop mastery and add a handful of new classics like Two States, See Through You and Coral Scenery to their cannon. They also make a Fresh & Only’s song sound like they wrote it and stretch out on the nearly seven minute Don’t Say Anything.
Every time a new Zebra Hunt album comes out, I count myself lucky that I live here. The PNW is known for its snow capped volcanoes, soggy grey days, hoppy beer, and if Zebra Hunt has anything to say about it, jangle pop.
Taking on America with an extensive 25 date tour is ambitious for any band, but when you’re Chook Race, a little known three piece jangle pop band from Melbourne, Australia it’s downright impressive (and maybe a little insane). The band made its way into Seattle Wednesday night to play the Victory Lounge, a bar with no stage in East Lake. This is one band I thought I would never see in Seattle, but after self-releasing their first album, Chicago label Trouble in Mind signed them making their second LP widely available in the United States as well as this tour a reality.
Singer and guitarist Matthew Liveriadis has a slight monotone delivery, but drummer Carolyn Hawkins provides a beautiful juxtaposition with her backing harmonies. The trio played an energized and jangly set inspired by the Bats and Close Lobsters mixing soon to be jangle pop classics from their first LP with ones of a slightly more classic pop sound from their new second album Around the House. In their short existence the band already have a stash of A-list songs and they didn’t leave any of them out including jangly diamonds like Dentist, Time, Sometimes and Hard to Clean and Older. The band’s tight sound and laid back attitude easily won over the likely already won over folks in attendance and made us all appreciate the long trip they had made to get here.
Like minded Seattlites Zebra Hunt opened for Chook Race with a set that consisted almost entirely of new songs (Half Right was the only old one). Apparently the new album is nearly ready and based on this evidence I would agree. One song really stood out with its Feelies-like crazy rhythm, even slowing down and then rebuilding itself into something quite raucous. Zebra Hunt has still got it!
Northern Ireland doesn’t have a west coast, so I can only imagine that Sea Pinks are left to conjure sunny wide open California scenes through their music. Top Pink, Neil Brogan was originally the drummer in Girls Names but left that band to concentrate on his band Sea Pinks. For good reason, as he seems to have an endless supply of lush, jangle filled songs in his head. Sea Pinks’ music has an affinity with the US west coast due to Brogan’s smooth tenor which evokes the lugubriousness of the Beach Boys, combined with the guitars cracking with the dusty jangle of the Byrds.
Brogan’s boyish tenor could make him an honorary Beach Boy. It’s smooth and easy on the ears, lending a sense of melancholy to these otherwise upbeat songs. The new album Dream Tracks, their fourth, is not drastically different from the previous three, but in little ways you can tell that Brogan is stretching out as a songwriter and open to incorporating a more varied pallet of sounds onto his records. The inclusion of cello on songs like Dream Happening and Invisible Lines provides more depth to the sound, while Meat and Drink employs a undulating Stereolab-like bass which adds something new to the jangly Sea Pinks cannon. These additional embellishments mesh easily with Brogans top songwriting talent to produce what may be the best Sea Pinks album yet.
stream and purchase: Sea Pinks – Dreaming Tracks
You can only buy so many reissues of the Monochrome Set, Close Lobsters and Josef K, until you feel like you’ve been cheated. Actually no one has ever seen fit to reissue a Close Lobsters album. What the heck? Obscure and influential, these bands seem to generate a lot of interest from record collectors, but there are very few current bands that I could link to any of those bands. That was up until a few weeks ago when I read this @poolhoneys tweet, and now thanks to Baltimore, Maryland’s Expert Alterations I no longer have that problem.
Playful bass lines percolate to your ears while moody vocals and jangly guitars abound on their self-released cassette/bandcamp EP that deserves to be more than just a cassette/bandcamp EP.The EP is five songs. The first two tracks Venetian Blinds and A Bell display some superb Scottish influenced power jangle, while Midnight Gardens could be a distant relative of the Monochrome Set’s He’s Frank.
This trio also released a split cassette with the equally excellent Wildhoney for the this year’s Baltimore Popfest. Between these two acts alone, Baltimore has an indie pop scene to envy!
stream: Expert Alterations – A Bell (from their self-titled Cassette)
You might remember back in the mid 1980’s Pop Will Eat Itself asked What’s so fuckin’ good about candy? Nearly 30 years later Chicago’s Slushy make you forget about the Mary Chain with their own ode to Candy. Well you sort of forget. It’s jangly and sparse like that Scottish band’s acoustic ballads but has a muscle edge to it that also reminds you a little of the Ramones. Honestly how can you go wrong with a set of credentials like that. Flip the record to its B-side Pocket and they mine a more overt powerpop vein. Remember how the Ramones put leather jackets on the Beach Boys’ surf and sand and then the Mary Chain put a storm cloud of feedback on top of that? Slushy put a cherry on top.
stream: Slushy – Candy (7-inch single out on Randy Records)
Los Angeles’ Dream Boys remind me of time not long ago when the first Tyde album came out. I was surprised how a band from Los Angles were able to sound like direct descendants of Felt. Back then when record stores were the only place you could buy music there was what’s called an import section and a certain American record buyers would search that section out because that was where all the best jangly pop stuff came from.
I doubt that Dream Boys peruse the import section of their local record store. Is there a record store these days that even has an import section? In fact you could argue that they don’t need an import section for their influences. Their own back yard is overflowing with potential inspirations. The Paisley Underground scene of the 80’s and of course the ground zero of everything that is jangle the Byrds. Dream Boys have two songwriters one favoring the UK flavor, the other seems to prefer the LA flavor. So you get the best of both worlds here.
Whether you dig the sounds of the Tyde, Bif Bang Pow, Long Ryders, the Bluebells, Close Lobsters, Felt, the Three O’clock or the Byrds there is something for you on this album. It will remind you of any of the above, or it may make you search out some of those bands to find out how Dream Boys got here. No matter the direction of your approach, this exceptional album will satisfy. Guaranteed!
stream: Dream Boys – Sworn (from the self-titled album out on Art Fag)
You can stream the entire album at Art Fag’s soundcloud page and check out the video for the song Born Yesterday below.
Ventura, California’s Spires know how to create space in the midst of jangle. Their latest album Eternal Yeahs is a unique melange of Byrds mixed with some Television, some Church, Tyde and a healthy dose of Flying Nun’s patented Dunedin sound. It’s a something uniquely influenced by the dust of the Southern California desert and the pacific rim. Wide open dusty spaces juxtaposed with the undulating horizon of the Pacific ocean.
A lot of jangly bands give a feeling of claustrophobia with their sound, but The Spires brand of jangle inspires feelings of wide openness. One song is a mouthful of dust from the desert and the next has you walking off of the desert sand into the ocean break. I think it must be related living on the pacific rim and having wide open spaces at one’s doorstep.
They kind of remind of Seattle’s Purrs. A west coast band that continues to put out quality albums and stay fairly close to home. They also similarly possess unquestionable knowledge of their musical roots combined with impeccable taste with the know how to employ an expert pace and sprinkle quality throughout a long player. s. Eternal Yeahs doesn’t blow iit all in its first three. It sustains over the course of of 40 unforgettable minutes and keeps a lasting glow.
You can get a digital download or order a CD of the new album via the Spires’ bandcamp page. If you’re into vinyl, I hear their is a petroleum version of the album on the way soon.
stream: The Spires – Live At The Ghost Park