Seattle Jukebox: Favorite Records from My Hometown

I have lived in Seattle for four years now and this blog is nearly three years old, but this is the first year that I have done a list of my favorite Seattle records. It’ s not like this year was any better for the Seattle music scene than any other, I just paid more attention.  The scene here constantly amazes me with its depth and breadth.  Of course, there are a few Seattle bands that get a lot of attention nationally and globally, but they are just the tip of the iceberg, and if you ask me, not even the best the city has to offer.   If I wasn’t doing this Seattle-centric list, the top five here would be showing up in my other list of favorite albums from the rest of the world.  So by design, this gives me the opportunity to tack on an additional 10 records to my year end best of list.  You may scratch your head at a few conspicuous absences from the list, but it’s truly a list of my favorite records put out by Seattle bands this year.  I’m not trying to be willfully obscure, it’s just what I liked and because of the diverse and deep scene here, this is really just a jumping off point, but if you ask me it’s a pretty great place to start!
kay kay and his weathered underground

1. Kay Kay and His Weathered UndergroundKay Kay and His Weathered Underground (Suburban Vinyl)

As debut albums go, actually as all albums go, this record is bloody amazing!  It helps to realize that it wasn’t an immaculate conception with Kirk Huffman and Kyle O’Quin  having previously been in the band Gatsby’s  American Dream.  This  record could easily have come crashing down in giant mess, from its huge ambitions.  But it not only works with its kitchen sink of influences, it surpasses anything to come out of the Pacific Northwest by a mile.   This double album, which has not lost it’s sonic impact after all these months, was released back in February in a beautiful gatefold sleeve on three different colors of vinyl and.   It sounds like nothing you’ve probably heard this year or last year or the year before that.   It’s a hodgepodge of  tin pan alley, Beatlesque pop, Zombies harmonies, and baroque strings arrangements, melded into a cohesive sound making these great songs burst forth from the grooves of this amazing record.

mp3: Birds (On a Day Like Today)

Turn-ons

2. Turn-onsCurse (self released)

The Turn-ons are kind of like the godfathers of the Seattle shoegaze scene and they cemented that status with their best and most realized album yet.  Curse is their fourth album and it was released as a free download from their web site. It has a beautiful, dramatic and majestic  feel that is so rare in records these days.  In fact it brings to mind some of the classic shoegaze albums of the early 90’s like the Pale Saints’ In Ribbons, Chapterhouse’s Whirlpool and the first three Revolver eps.    The band’s status is quite up in the air with front man Travis Devries having moved to New York.  I hope this is not the end of the Turn-ons, but if it is, Curse is the perfect way to remember this great band.

mp3: Cold Boys

hungry pines

3. Hungry Pines Golden You (Hill City)

It seemed like quite a few Seattle bands upped and quit this year, and Hungry Pines were one those unfortunate casualties.  Soon after releasing Golden You, their first album, with no warning the band posted a note on their MySpace page saying they were through.  Too bad because they had just released a great guitar record.  The twin guitar attack of Irene Barber and Chrysti Harrison had elements of classic rock but with an arty side that brought to mind British guitar bands like Salad and Echobelly.  The Hungry pines were forging ahead into very unique territory not quite classic rock, not quite Britpop.  It’s too bad this is all we’ll ever have from this very promising band.

mp3: Fancy You

dutchess and the duke

4. Dutchess and the DukeShe’s the Dutchess, He’s the Duke (Hardly Art)

New Sub Pop subsidiary Hardly Art released some great albums this year but this was my favorite.  It’s one of those records that sounds like it was made 40 years ago.  With it’s electrified folk feel,   it  doesn’t really sound like M. Ward or Richard Hawly, but it has an out of time vibe that Ward and Hawly seem to routinely conjure.  The Dutchess and the Duke  remind me of Dylan around the time he went electric or the Animals, but Jason  Jortz’s  fiery delivery is augmented with killer harmonies from Kim Morrison.  Adding to the record’s authentic vibe  is Jortz’s guitar which sounds like it was recorded in a wooden shack at some dusty crossroads.  I hope they didn’t sell their souls for this record and make a few more like it.

mp3: Reservoir Park

grand archives

5. Grand ArchivesThe Grand Archives (Sup Pop)

I remember disparaging this record earlier this year saying it had a great sound but there just weren’t any memorable songs to it.  Clearly I hadn’t spent enough time listening to it.  The restless Mat Brook left Band of Horses after their first album to start Grand Archives, and while there are similarities to Band of Horses, Grand Archives have a much more cheery outlook.  This is a bright, bright record with horns, whistling, and uplifting harmonies.  This year I somehow became a huge Bee Gees fan and this album is a perfect companion to that band’s albums from the 60’s.

mp3: Louis Riel

little penguins

6. Little PenguinsOffer You This Cape (Self-released)

Turn-ons drummer Will Hallauer gets out from behind his kit and the results are a rich, dark, velvety record that is parts Leonard Cohen, Mick Harvey and Scott Walker.  Hallauer has this deep dramatic voice that evokes those comparisons, but the band can really build a wall of noise with layered guitars and keyboard that make these songs rock.  My favorite is Get on the Phone Louise which slowly builds into huge Tennesee Williams like climax.  I mentioned earlier how the Turn-ons may be through, with the quality of this record as well as forthcomimg ones from  Travis Devries and Erik Blood, they may not be missed.

mp3: Get On the Phone, Louise

black nite crash

7. Black Nite CrashArray (Custom Made)

Named for a song off of Ride’s last album you can probably guess what Black Nite Crash sound like.  But they actually sound a lot more like Spacemen 3 than Ride, especially on the album openers Revelator and Falling Down.  It’s not all  dark, aggressive, diving guitars though, Soft Focus and I Want You mine some Jesus and Mary Chain gold that will have you thinking that  these guys must be from Scottland.  This is the band’s first full length, and it is a promising debut.  The songs are good enough to transcend many of their more obvious influences.

mp3: Soft Focus

the girls

8. The GirlsYes, No, Yes, No, Yes, No (Green Noise)

Post punk is alive and well here in the Pac NW, at least in the Girls corner of the city.  They seem to get a lot of Cars comparisons, but I think they’re closer to Gary Numan, Buzzcocks,  and Ultravox!  Singer Shannon Brown sings in  an English accent which gives credence to my UK comparisons.  Yes, No… is their second album of  adrenaline shots straight to the blood stream.  The album is like taking speed, you pop it in, you get the rush and it’s over before you know it, except there’s no painful headache aftermath, that is unless you had it turned up too loud!

mp3: Where Wolves Drink

stuporhero

9. StuporheroWeightless (Self-released)

Another album on this list that was released as a free download, it’s amazing what you can get for free these days!  There aren’t a lot of indiepop bands in Seattle, but Stuporhero are certainly one of them.  I’m certainly a fan of quality of quantity anyway, and this their third album is quality.  Stuporhero consist of Will and Gen and Chuckles the erm, mannequin.  Will and Jen trade bright sunny vocals, play kazoos, horns, as well as guitar and piano and generally create a fun vibe.  I’m not sure what Chuckles does.  These songs have such a wonderful innocence to them that they could would fit nicely on the Juno soundtrack or maybe a future Wes Anderson movie.

mp3: What Do You Want to Be?

say hi

10. Say Hi The Wishes and the Glitch (Euphobia)

One man band Eric Elbogen upped and left his Brooklyn home and reloacated to Seattle and then went on to write a NW anthem in Northwestern Girls.  On The Wishes and the Glitch, Elbogen walks a tightrope of emo, Postal Service and bedroom melancholia to make a record that sounds like he’s lived here his entire life.  It’s not really that much different from his four previous records except for the shortened name (formerly Say Hi to Your Mom).  Elbogen knows his way around a hooky, moody pop song and this album is full of them.

mp3: Northwestern Girls

Four Places at Once

Saturday night in Seattle is looking like it could be a logistical puzzle without a solution.  There are no less than four shows that I can highly recommend. I’d like to be at all of them, but physically and chronologically I don’t think it’s possible.

Option 1The Green Pajamas at Jules Mae Saloon

green pajamas

Starting down in the south end at Jules Mae Saloon in Georgetown, the Green Pajamas, one Seattle’s most unsung bands will be making a rare live appearance.  If you like your pop with a touch of psychedelia you can’t go wrong with the Green Pajamas.  These guys seem to write timeless songs in their sleep, and I am surprised that they don’t get more recognition.  They were criminally left off of Rhino’s Children of Nuggets box set.  Maybe it’s because some of their best work has never been released in the US.  Most of their late 90’s albums came out on Australian label Camera Obscura, so it’s nice to see that they seem to have struck up a good relationship with Parasol offshoot Hidden Agenda.  Hidden Agenda has put out their last few albums making them much easier to find.  There will soon be another album added to the Green Pajamas cannon.  It will be out through Hidden Agenda again and has the name Poison In The Russian Room.  So with a new album in the can, you can probably expect to hear a few new songs this night.  And fear not if you miss this show, they have another one slated for the Skylark on 29 November.

mp3: The Green Pajamas – She’s Still Bewitching Me (from Seven Fathoms Down and Falling)

MySpace: Green Pajamas

Option 2: All Girl Summer Fun Band at Vera Project

all girl summer fun band

Heading north up to the Seattle Center and the Vera Project nestled comfortably under the Space Needle, the All Girl Summer Fun Band will be up from Portland.  They’ve just released their third album Looking Into It and it’s full of changes.  First the band are down to a trio after bassist Arirak Douangpanya left to be a mom.  Change number two sees them leaving the confines of K records who released their first two albums and striking out on their own to self release this album.  The most significant change though has to do with their sound.  They seem to have veered off from the Tiger Trap road and headed down a highway paved with New Pornographers and Breeders.  It’s a meatier, slightly heavier sound, but it’s still fun!  I’m sure they’ll throw in old favorites like Canadian Boyfriend, Parallel Park, and Jason Lee into their set this night.

mp3: All Girl Summer Fun Band – This Will Never End (from Looking Into It)

MySpace: All Girl Summer Fun Band

Option 3: Black Nite Crash | Drug Purse | Erik Blood at Mars Bar

Black Nite CrashErik Blood

Now over to Eastlake and the Mars Bar for what looks to be a mini shoegaze fest.  This looks to be blast if you are fan of the genre.   Get there early to see Erik Blood.  His band is essentially the Turn-Ons minus Travis and his album The Way We Live is nothing short of amazing.  The album is still under wraps but I hear that it will be out in the very near future.  Terms like shoegaze and dreampop get thrown around a lot (especially around here), but this album is a study in how great a dreampop record can be reaching back to Wire Train and the Paisley Underground of the 1980’s and even a bit blue eyed soul with the beautiful Better Days.  Erik Blood has put together a collection of songs that easily ranks up with the best albums of the year.  I kid you not, it’s that good.  Don’t believe me? Well get yourself over to the Mars Bar and find out!
Headlining the night are Black Nite Crash who I saw just last week open for Magnetic Morning.  Black Nite Crash kind of oscillate between heavier Jesus and Mary Chain/Spacemen 3 songs and lighter and more poppy Church and Railway Children ones.  Also on the bill are Tacoma’s Drug Purse who are certainly not out of place here, with similar aesthetics only their sound being a bit more sparse that is kind of like a marriage of the Crystal Stilts to Brian Jonestown Massacre with the ceremony being performed in some dark garbage strewn alley.

mp3: Erik Blood – To Leave America (from The Way We Live)

MySpace: Erik Blood

mp3: Black Nite Crash – Revalator (from Array)

MySpacee: Black Nite Crash

Option 4: Vancougar and the Suspicions at Wild Rose

vancougar

As luck would have it, none of these shows are in the same neighborhood.  Vancouver, BC’s Vancougar will be playing at Wild Rose on Capitol Hill.  In a perfect world Vancougar would be playing on the same bill as the All Girl Summer Fun Band.  Of course nothing is perfect so you’re left with the dilemma of which girl rock to see this night.  Vancougar make it a tough choice and may make it tempting to catch their set and rush over to Vera.  Their second album Canadian Tuxedo came out this summer on the excellent Mint records and this is the last date of their US tour. Also on the bill are Seattle power poppers the Suspicions

mp3: Vancougar – Philadelphia (from Canadian Tuxedo)

MySpace: Vancougar

MySpace: The Suspicions