Savak

savak

Taking after Gang of Four, Joy Division, Dead Kennedys and more recently Viet Cong, Savak stir up the pot right from the get go by naming themselves for the Iranian secret police under the Shah of Iran. They probably won’t be invited to play at Oberlin College in Ohio, but I doubt they care. Featuring members of Obits, Nation of Ulysses, the Cops, Holy Fuck, Edsel, et al, these punk rock veterans know what they’re doing and will not be dissuaded or deterred.

Former Obits guitarist and Edsel front guy Sohrab Habibion and former Cops front guy, Mt Fuji records proprietor and Seattleite Michael Jaworski share vocal duties throughout. Their styles mesh well and lend themselves well to the earnest and tempestuous songs. You can hear the old DC punk influence of the Dischord sect mixed in with some good old fashioned That Petrol Emotion acerbic energy on Alive In Shadows, Drop the Pieces, Call It a Night and Early Western Traders. Traders also features some great skronky saxophone that makes it an easy highlight of the record. Elsewhere you can hear some REM influence on Reaction and Burned by a Fever which should keep listeners with fainter hearts engaged.  Best of Luck In Future Endeavors is a solid record with something on it for old punks, new punks and punks in training.

You can stream and buy the download at Savak’s bandcamp page, or buy the vinyl and CD version from the record label Comedy Minus One.

Erik Blood Lost In Slow Motion

Erik Blood at the High Dive, Seattle | 30 April 2016

Erik Blood at the High Dive, Seattle

Way back in 2008 two notable Seattle bands broke up. After four albums the Turn-Ons who were a top notch shoegaze band well ahead of the shoegaze revival released their final album Curse. The other band, the Hungry Pines released their only album that same year. It had some great guitar drenched songs and tons of potential. Erik Blood was a member of the Turn-Ons and he went on to release the under-appreciated and under-heard the Way We Live the following year. Irene Barber of Hungry Pines formed a new band XVII Eyes. Then in 2013 they both sang on Vox Mod‘s SYN-ÆSTHETIC and the following year Barber again contributed vocals to follow up The Great Oscillator. The results were astounding as you can hear on the track Flight of Fancy.

Erik Blood’s new album Lost In Slow Motion picks up where Flight of Fancy left off. It is an Erik Blood album, but Barber is so woven into the grooves of this album they could call themselves a duo. With Barber in the fold Blood has taken the shoegaze of his earlier records and added even more ethereal elements that are reminiscent of 1980’s 4AD to create his most fully realized album yet. Similar to one of those French producer geniuses like Bertrand Brugalat or Hector Zazou, Blood lets his collaborators take the spotlight. Ishmael Butler of Shabazz Palaces and OCnotes provide vocals on a track each and Barber is featured throughout.

Saturday night at the High Dive in Fremont was the record release show for Lost In Slow Motion. On the album cover Blood is dressed in a black coat, hat and mask and Barber has the top half of her face painted red and the bottom white. Taking wardrobe inspiration from V for Vendetta, Seattle’s Ohnonos and Reykjavik’s Bjork, the duo emerged onto the stage dressed identically to the album cover.  It was a stunning entrance as they were joined by OCNotes who sings the album closer and highlight Out This Way. Blood painted a Prince symbol on the projection screen at the back of the stage and then played the entire record with the exception of the Butler track. It was choreographed with a laptop as their backing band, but it didn’t take a way from the performance. Though Barber and Blood were eye catching and even their dance moves were tight, it was the music that was the most gripping. The guazy bed of strings and electronic sounds provided lush support for their guitars. The performance was more evidence of the Blood’s newfound well of ideas and felt like a natural extension of both the music and art of the brilliant Lost In Slow Motion album.

Listen to and buy the download version from Erik Blood’s Bandcamp page, or order the vinyl version from Home Skillet Records.

Very Contemporary: Field Music at the Crocodile

Field Music at the Crocodile, Seattle | 29 March 2016

FieldMusic

After six albums Sunderland, England’s Field Music finally made their Seattle debut Tuesday night at the Crocodile (though David Brewis played the Nectar Lounge back in 2008 with his School of Language). The band are often compared to XTC and Steely Dan, and could be accused of being a musician’s band. Meaning that you need to be a musician to appreciate them, and to be honest as I looked around the room that night it looked like I might be a minor and younger music nerd compared with many in the crowd. So this show was a long time coming for many Field Music fans, but well worth the wait

The Brewis brothers are supporting their latest and possibly best album yet Commontime which contains a new lightness of being that gives a new dimension to the band. They sound like they’re having more fun and of course there’s the added funk element. How much funk you ask, well Prince is a fan and the brothers have admitted to looking to both Beyoncé and Hall and Oats for inspiration. That was evident right from the start as the band blasted into the Noisy Days Are Over with its looping base. It was obvious that Field Music were here to have fun. It featured Peter on guitar and vocals and his brother David on drums. They would take turns on guitar and drums throughout the night. I kept changing my mind about which was the better drummer and which the better guitarist. Both of them seemed to in a jovial mood  with lots of banter between songs and encouraging of hecklers. At one point they were invited to karaoke after the show, but declined saying they only did Michael Jackson BAD at karaoke.

Other highlights in the set included Disappointed and It’s a Good Thing from Commontime, Let’s Write a Book from Measure, If Only The Moon Were Up from their debut, and A House Is Not a Home from Tones of Town. It was a perfect combination of old and new in front of a truly appreciative audience. One of the best shows of the year to accompany one of its best albums.

The Quietus has an insightful interview with the Brewis brothers.

The setlist from the show:

The Noisy Days Are Over
I’m Glad
Disappointed
Let’s Write A Book
Don’t You Want To Know What’s Wrong?
A House Is Not A Home
It’s A Good Thing
Who’ll Pay the Bills?
Them That Do Nothing
Effortlessly
If Only The Moon Were Up
How Many More Times?
Just Like Everyone Else
Stay Awake
(I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing
—–
Give It Lose It Take It

 

 

Verse Chorus Versing

versing

Versing blasted their way into my life early last summer at the Sunset in Ballard. Their Wire meets Pavement, meets Number One Cup meets Seam meets Swell Maps elixir is a combination often tried but rarely done well enough to actually contribute to the plot line. Right out of the gate Versing have written a new chapter to the story. Protagonists in their story include jagged guitars rumbling bass and choruses that have you hoping for a quick sequel. Nude Descending is their seven song debut EP that blazes a trail through the boredom inducing clutter of today’s new bands who just merely play music.

Download the EP at Versing’s Bandcamp or get the vinyl from Youth Riot Records.

Some Good Albums from Seattle This Year

The moss has grown another layer over the past year here in the upper left corner of the U.S. and my stack of records from this Pacific Northwest outpost has grown as well. Luckily I have a cool dry place to store them. Here are my favorite records from Seattle for 2015, center justified for your reading comfort.

zebrahunt

Zebra Hunt – City Sighs (Tenorio Cotobade)
Buy | Listen

My favorite album of the year from Seattle or anywhere. If you’ve been reading along this year you probably could have easily guessed that.

theesatisfaction
TheeSatisfaction – Earthee (Sub Pop)
Buy | Listen

Unclassifiable soul, hip hop, space age record that is part throwback, part social commentary and part bravely looking into the dark distant future.

childbirth
Childbirth – Women’s Rights (Suicide Squeeze)
Buy | Listen

The best feminist punk rock manifesto with a since of humor since forever.

unlikelyfriends
Unlikely Friends – Solid Gold Cowboys (Jigsaw)
Buy | Listen

With the rise of Unlikely Friends, fans of Boat and Math and Physics Club can’t be too sad that neither of those bands released a record this year. I wasn’t.

telekinesis
Telekinesis – Ad Infinitum (Merge)
Buy | Listen

Michael Lerner eschewed his guitars and started collecting vintage synths to create a record inspired by OMD, Postal Service and Blue Nile.

laluz
La Luz – Weirdo Shrine (Hardly Art)
Buy | Listen

Enlisting Ty Segall to record their sophomore record La Luz continue to shoot the curl with another great set of surf rock.

wimps
Wimps – Suitcase (Kill Rock Stars)
Buy | Listen

Wimps dial up another batch of killer slacker punk rock anthems (if there is such a thing). Their sophomore LP Suitcase sees them getting higher marks in all categories which, given their M.O. is probably exactly the opposite of what they were going for.

gracelove
Grace Love and the True Loves – Grace Love and the True Loves (Self-Released)
Buy | Listen

The great soul revival of 2015 even reached such remote outposts as Seattle and Grace Love and the True Loves debut album was one of the best soul records of the year from any city.

DetectiveAgency
Detective Agency – Now (Discos de Kirlian)
Buy | Listen

I’m not sure if Detective Agency would appreciate being called indiepop, but I call ’em like I see ’em and this is some very fine indiepop!

car seat headrest
Car Seat Headrest –  Teens of Style (Matador)
Buy | Listen

The career of Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest reminds me of Steven Jones of Babybird. Make a bunch of songs in your bedroom and release them and then find a band to re-record the best ones and voila, instant good record rooted in lo-fi but with some new bright corners.

ponytime

Ponytime – Rumours 2: The Rumours Are True (S-S)
Buy | Listen

Apparently Fleetwood Mac has permeated the garage rock scene of Seattle. I doubt there are any complicated love quadrangles in this band since they’re a duo. They’re more focused on just delivering a bunch of killer jams.
chastitybelt

Chastity Belt – Time To Go Home (Hardly Art)
Buy | Listen

Chastity Belt got serious on album  album number two. Their first LP No Regerts was middle school lo-brow humor compared to Time To Go Home’s more mature and measured sound that is a unique combination of drone and some of that heavier rock from the 90’s for which Seattle is well known.

Wildhoney Make the Hardcore Kids Swoon

Wildhoney at the Neptune Theatre, Seattle | 17 November 2015

wildhoney

I always wonder if a band that makes great records can deliver them live, especially today in today’s world full of bands making albums in their bedroom on their laptop. Wildhoney proved that they are the real deal opening for a couple hard core bands La Dispute and Envy at the Neptune Theatre in Seattle’s University District. The audience was predominately young hardcore fans, but the Baltimore band seemed to win them over with their infectious blend of ethereal noisepop and shoegaze.

Singer Lauren Shusterich’s voice easily danced over the tremolo laden wall of guitars. Mid-set a girl behind me yelled out to the band “You’re sooo cute!” I think they may have momentarily blushed, but then they tore into another one of their seemingly endless supply of killer songs. The night before OG shoegazers Ride had played the same stage. I didn’t go and after seeing Wildhoney I don’t think I missed anything.

Don’t miss their latest EP Your Face Sideways (recorded by Gary Olson of the Ladybug Transistor) which evokes some serious Velocity Girl vibes.

In the Art House

The Intelligence at the Frye Art Museum, Seattle | 15 November 2015

Why are rock shows always at night and in some beer soaked hall filled with annoying inebriated people? Why can’t they be on sunny Sunday afternoons in a friendly warm room with works of art hanging on the walls and children running around instead? The fine folks at the Frye Art Museum must have wondered this as well and they decided to do something about it by inviting the Intelligence to play their Museum. The Frye is one of the few museums in Seattle to allow free admittance and they extended their gratis support of the arts by putting on this free afternoon show as part of their ongoing Genius / 21 Century / Seattle exhibition. Apparently quite a few other folks are down with this idea too, because the show’s pre-registration was full and there was quite a lengthy stand-by line of people hoping to get in. I was one of them on line and luckily I think we all made it in.

If you haven’t heard, the Intelligence have a new album called Vintage Future. It’s their eighth LP and is easily their best sounding and best recorded one. The band have been increasing their sonic fidelity with each release, though they seem to maintain the same bent humor and attitude that front-man Lars Finberg exhibited since the very first Intelligence 7-inch Boyfriends and Girlfriends back in 2000. Fifteen years is a long time to try and hold your interest, but the intelligence have continued to metamorphosize into a better and better band. As they state on the new record, they refuse to pay the dues, but they also refuse to stay the same which makes a new Intelligence album something I always look forward to.

You may also know that the band no longer call Seattle home since front man Lars Finberg moved down to Los Angeles so this show was something of a homecoming for the band. In their best museum attire (Finberg was sporting some leopard print shades and smart blue blazer that gave him the air of a Hollywood mogul), the Intelligence ripped through about 15 songs that featured many highlights from the new album as well as few classics like Dating Cops, Estate Sales and Back of the Galaxy. The set started with the moody Cleaning Lady that allowed the band to warm up the room with it’s obsessive compulsive refrain of “It’s clean, but it’s not that clean to me.” Parents immediately grabbed their kids to insert earplugs into their little ears.

The new album has a sort of morbid jauntiness to it that is interspersed with aggressive forays of punk rock. Finberg continues his deliver from his deep well of sharp self-deprecating one liners and observations of the absurd (“I’m tired of people who like me”, “I want true love that I can step out on and that I can still count on while she waits with a warm plate”, “Shitty guitars, touring in cars”). Closing the set with Romans another song from the new album, the song’s sinewy guitar rif and patience was the Intelligence at full power. It’s one of those songs that could double in length and continue to please, but they kept to its abridged form. I wonder what the people who were at he Frye to take in the art on the walls thought while the cacophony of the Intelligence bounced into them from around an unseen corner? At least the the band and its audience enjoyed this afternoon dalliance in the museum.

Vintage Future is out now on In the Red Records.