Alvvays On My Mind or You’ll Mosh To Anything

Alvvays at Barboza, Seattle | 2 December 2014

alvvays

Alvvays debut album which was recorded by Chad VanGaalen is a subtle dreamy affair and one of the better records to come out this year. It has elements of shoegaze, but really it’s singer Molly Rankin that makes the record so good. Her voice has a vulnerability to it, while at the same time a strength to it. It’s like she’s singing for her life, but doesn’t want to be too obvious about it.

Their show in Neumo’s basement earlier this week was sold out and the band were obviously chuffed about it. Even going as far to say in their heady delight that it was better than the Portland show the night before. Live they have a more substantial sound probably because of the twin guitar attack and Molly Rankin formidable voice that sounds stronger live and loses some of its vulnerability but still sounds great. Kids were pogoing and moshing for most of the set which seemed a bit odd because Alvvays could never be interpreted as a punk or a party band. Dudes who mosh to dreampop I assume have a poor sense of direction and walked into the wrong show. Nevertheless, they went especially went crazy for Archie, Mary Me which is the stand out song on the album, but still not noshing material.  The show sort of reminded me of seeing Belly back around when Star had come out where there were bros moshing while couples snuggled together at the edges. Like Belly, Alvvays seem to have that that crossover appeal that brings out the bros, the lovers and this aging indie kids like myself.

For their encore they included a surprising cover of Out of Reach by the Primitives. I’m not sure how many of the youngsters recognized it, but it was exciting to hear a deep cut from an overlooked band. Like the rest of the set, Alvvays added a bit of grit to their version but the innate pop of the song shown through.

Crimson Wave

crimsonwave

It seems as though Baltimore has had a minor outbreak of excellent indiepop bands. You might remember the recent singles from Wildhoney and the EP from Expert Alterations? Get ready to add another band to the contagion. Crimson Wave have just released their debut 7-inch single on Accidental Guest records. The A-side Say has a detached melancholy that rides over you the way Scrawl did on records like Velvet Hammer and Smallmouth and an infectious quality in the vein of Bleached. On the flip side Calling You the guitar playing has a pace and sense of space that also brings to mind more languorous side of Felt. For a first single, this is subtle,accomplished and compelling stuff!

stream & buy: Crimson Wave – Say 7″

Midway and Buried in Records- Part 1

This week we are featuring some of the best records of the first half of 2013. I don’t think I’ve done a mid-year roundup before, but this year is not typical. It’s on a trajectory to overwhelm any attempt at a year end list so I’m splitting it up. Some of the albums I’ve mentioned on these pages, others I’ve been keeping to myself. Everyday this week I’m going to feature seven records that deserve your or someone else’s attention. Here are the first seven.
hookworms

Hookworms – Pearl Mystic (Gringo)
What do you get when you combine the 13th floor elevators with the Spacemen 3. I’m sure many bands have tried this approach, but none have ever succeeded as wildly. At this point Hookworms are sitting on top of the best record of the year.

stream: Hookworms – Since We Have Changed

boat
BOAT – Pretend To Be Brave (Magic Marker)

When D Crane sings in the song Problem Solvers “We’re just another average America band” with such earnestness that you wonder if he’s thinking about throwing in the towel. Think about it, what if Boat were average? The masses would like them and they’d be rich. I like to think of them as standing on the top the belle curve fighting off the hordes with their indelible pop and unbridled charisma.

stream: BOAT – Problem Solvers

mantles
The Mantles – Long Enough to Leave (Slumberland)

The Mantles hark back to a to the 60’s and the Byrds. They are like the Greene and Greene of current day rock and roll. Architects of a back to basics approach that adorns with earthly tones to create a thing of beauty. When I heard that the  album was to be produced by Kelley Stoltz, I had it pegged as a winner from the start and yet somehow it still exceeded my expectations.

stream: The Mantles – Hello

bleached
Bleached – Ride Your Heart (Dead Oceans)

“After that last Best Coast album, you probably thought the SoCal girl group beach thing was played out. I did, but then along come former Mika Miko sisters Jessie and Jennifer Calvin with their new band Bleached. Just to get past your initial eye-roll they need to be pretty good. They would have be a little different and bring something new to the game, right? I think Bleached realize this and they justify their sound by infusing it with some twang and dust. Like they’ve lived the seedier side of L.A. and maybe even been to Bakersfield more than a few times.”

stream: Bleached – Looking For a Fight

lovefromlondon
Robyn Hitchcock – Love From London (Yep Roc)

“If you would have said to 20 year old me that I would someday think that a record made by a 60 year old guy was was one of the best records of the year I would have scoffed at you and said disdainfully that I don’t do old guy rock.”  I was an idiot when I was 20.

Stream: Robyn Hitchcock – Be Still

songs
Songs – Malabar (Popfrenzy)

A band named Songs is questionable, but luckily I didn’t let their poorly chosen name stop me from listening to to this fine psychedelic pop album. Parts of it remind me of Game Theory, but being Australian they probably have been influenced by the Go-Betweens and the Triffids. This is their second album and it drips confidence and probably would have been a hit back in the major label heyday garnering a US deal and tons of play on college radio in a college town near you.

stream: Songs – Boy/Girl

sleaze
The Sleaze – Tecktonik Girlz & Other Hits (Floridas Dying)
You often hear the argument that punk rock is played out, or worse dead (shudder). Usually I don’t argue, because it isn’t often that I hear a new punk band that isn’t. The Sleaze are here to tell you that ain’t the case and renew your faith in the underbelly of rock n’ roll. The Minneapolis band’s output has been sporadic since unleashing their killer debut single Smokin’ Fuckin’ Cigs back in 2008, but the Total Punk label has corralled these foul mouthed, snot nosed adolescents and gotten them to put out an 8 song 12 inch.

stream: The Sleaze – Tektonix Girls

At the Beach Under the Big Black Sun

Bleached, Ex Cops and Week of Wonders at Chop Suey, Seattle | 1 May 2013

bleached
After that last Best Coast album, you probably thought the SoCal girl group beach thing was played out. I did, but then along come former Mika Miko sisters Jessie and Jennifer Calvin with their new band Bleached. Just to get past your initial eye-roll they need to be pretty good. They would have be a little different and bring something new to the game, right? I think Bleached realize this and they justify their sound by infusing it with some twang and dust. Like they’ve lived the seedier side of L.A. and maybe even been to Bakersfield more than a few times.

They’ve got the punk and country influences along with those surf ones we know so well, and they dialed up just the right mix of punk, twang, surf and pop Wednesday night at Chop Suey. They hit the X-Bangles-Breeders highlights of their debut album Ride Your Heart and mixed in songs from their previous singles and covers of the Ramones‘ Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World and the Misfits‘ Hybrid Moments. Fun times. This band knows to rock a road house.

stream: Bleached – Next Stop (from Ride Your Heart out on Dead Oceans)

ExCops

New York City’s Ex Cops don’t dress in police uniforms (thankfully), and they don’t sound anything like you would expect a band calling themselves Ex Cops to sound like. Well, at least not what I imagine a band of ex cops would sound like. Their debut album True Hallucinations from earlier this year is a very good dreampop/shoegaze record and seemingly overlooked. The band fronted by Brian Harding and Amelie Bruun delivered ample doses of dreampop akin to the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Erik Blood and the Dandy Warhols that filled the room with waves of bliss. Harding’s and Bruun’s voices compliment each other well, in fact they blend into one another that really put the songs over the edge of goodness. Bruun also looks like she came out of the pages of Vogue so this band is easy to watch, but even when I closed my eyes they blissed me out.

Stream: Ex Cops – Ken (from True Hallucinations out on Other Music)

weekofwondersSea

Seattle’s Week of Wonders opened the show. With Orca Team on indefinite hiatus Leif Anders has started up a new band that infuses piña coladas and steel drums into the mix. This was my first time experiencing Week of Wonders in the flesh and they were a good time. Totally fun to see the band just rage full on, and reaffirming to see a trio conjure up this kind of post punk Caribbean racket. I might like them better than Orca Team.

Stream: Week of Wonders – Touch of Pearls (from the Failures EP available on their Bandcamp)

Live in Seattle Last Week: Disappears, Fresh & Onlys, Bleached, Veronica Falls, Cate Le Bon, Charles Leo Gebhardt

The glacially exciting winter touring season started to thaw out and this week and provided an early spring rush of shows that got me out of my winter show-going hibernation.  On Sunday, the Fresh & Onlys were up from San Francisco along with Chicagoians Disappears. Disappears are about to release their third and best record Pre Language. It’s their first with new drummer Steve Shelley who use to be in some other band called Sonic Youth.  Shelley is game for touring with his other band on indefinite hiatus and the Disappears are all the better for it. They played an amazing set of  intense, anxiety fueled post punk. Up until this night I was uncommitted to Disappears, their first two albums didn’t really fully materialize in my mind, but with Shelley on Drums and this new record they’re firing on all cylinders evoking the Fall, Girls Against Boys and even a little Sonic Youth.

Stream: Disappears – Replicate (from Pre Language)

After Disappears I thought that the Fresh & Onlys might have made a mistake in having them as openers. Not many bands could follow the Disappears’ powerful set and not come off sounding pale in comparison.  I shouldn’t have been concerned, because the Fresh & Onlys are a formidable live band themselves. You’d never know it by looking at them, Singer Tim Cohen looks like a mountain man that hasn’t bothered to shave or change out of his PJ’s.  They had a new drummer, Kyle Gibson is on the temporary injured reserve, who more than ably filled in. I should also mention that I think that the F&O’s musical prowess is closely linked to the height of guitarist Wymond Miles’ hair. Every time I see them his hair is taller and every time they’re better than than the last. I have a sneaking suspicion it’s some kind of biblical Samson thing he’s got going on (or he has a secret love for the Alarm). There wasn’t anything new in their set, which as kind of a surprise since we know these guys are prolific. They must have decided to keep the songs from their upcoming album due on Mexican Summer under wraps. They plucked the highlights from their slew of past records, it was especially cool to hear Peacock and Wing which is essentially their theme song with its “You should really be my fresh & only” refrain. It just reinforced my belief that any band worth its salt should have a “theme song” with its name in the chorus.
stream: Fresh & Onlys – Peacock and Wing (from their first self-titled album on Castle Face)

Skip forward to Tuesday night and the Tractor in Ballard where Veronica Falls and Bleached played along with Seapony. Seapony seem to be in between drummers and were using a drum machine again, but sounded ok nonetheless. Bleached, who have a handful of very good singles to date, but no album as of yet consist of two dudes and sisters Jessica and Jennifer Clavin, formerly of LA punkers Mika Miko. Bleached may consist of former punks from LA, but they sound like they now subscribe to more paisley shade of it with a little cow-poke thrown in for good measure.I have a feeling that they have a few Gun Club records in their collection. Their set was full of confident swagger, good songs and even a cover of the Ramones‘ Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World.

stream: Bleached – Searching Through The Past

Headliners, Veronica Falls were in town a little more than three months ago opening for Drums. I’m glad they returned, giving us another chance to hear the great songs from last year’s excellent self-titled album. While their opening slot at the Crocodile last year was good, seeing them at the more intimate Tractor was a whole lot better. Drummer Patrick Doyle seems to be designated guy to talk to the audience between songs. I kept expecting him to pull a Ric Menck and come out from behind his kit to grab the front mic to talk the way the Velvet Crush drummer use to do, but he seemed happy to lob his one-liners from the back of the stage. The rest of the band said little, but let their harmonies and playing do the talking. The sound was great, and the band played like a well oiled machine, making every song sound better than the record if that’s possible. They slipped in a few new ones including My Heart Beats which I assume is going to be an upcoming single. It was great fun, I wish I walked every show I go to feeling this good.

stream: Veronica Falls – My Heart Beats (new song)


The following night Welsh songstress Cate Le Bon played at the Crocodile with her band in support of her second album Cyrk. I wasn’t enamored with her first album, but she has made a huge leap with record number two. It evokes many of her compatriots like Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Super Fury Animals, but isn’t easily pigeonholed as a Welsh record. It’s also easy to compare her voice to that of Nico, though she is less deadpan and on stage she displays an easy sense of humor. She referred to the audience as Seattle-ogians and when her drummer corrected her with Seattleites, she insisted that we should be called Seattle-ogians.
She wore a silvery, cosmic looking cape and switched between playing guitar and keyboard. Besides her voice and fashion standing out, her guitar playing was formidable as well. She demonstrated this during both Fold the Cloth and Cyrk which brought cheers from the audience. She had three guys in her band who switched around on instruments (with the exception of the drummer who stayed put). Her keyboard player did harmony vocals and did an amazing job with an ability to hit some really high notes. The set ended with Ploughing Out Parts I & II after which she returned alone for one final song and then left the stage leaving everyone more than satisfied.

stream Cate Le Bon – Puts Me To Work (from Cyrk)

Charles Leo Gebhardt opened the night with a full band. I’ve seen him before with guitar and drummer but never with a bassist. Tonight he had Ratchel Ratner of the Wimps and Butts playing bass, TV Cohran on a full drum kit and Brian Standeford of Idle Times on second guitar. He played  songs from his two releases on GGNZLA and the full band treatment added another dimension to already quality stuff. Mid-set he broke a string and proceeded to try to tell a story, when that didn’t work out so well, the band played Idle Times’ Prison Mind and Gebhardt sang it as he fixed his string. A consummate entertainer!  Hopefully he gained a few new fans with his lively set, because his Ray Davies-esque pop deserves a larger audience.
stream: Charles Leo Gebhardt – Chapel of Roses

Singles of the Year Countdown: 30-21

The 7-inch single has been around since 1949. That’s 62 years and counting! In my humble opinion the 7-inch single is still the essence, pinnacle and acme of pop perfection. Optimally, it’s one song, one side (Some try to squeeze on more). That’s no room for screwing up. You always hear that releasing a 7-inch is a money losing proposition, but that thankfully, doesn’t keep pop geeks from doing it. In honor of true blue pop geek vinyl junkies out there, here is the second installment of the annual Finest Kiss top 40 7-inch singles countdown.


21. Basemint – No Retro (K)
A huge sounding garage stomp from the depths of a damp Tacoma, Washington basemint, I mean basement. I bet the Sonics probably use to practice in the same depths.
mp3: Basemint – No Retro


22. Electricity In Our Homes – Aching, Breaking, Shaking For You (OGenesis)
Fractured and angular pop that is stripped down to the bone. Aching rattles you with its off kilter and quivering chorus like the singer has been hit in the gut and kicked in the head.
mp3Electricity In Our Homes – Aching, Breaking, Shaking For You

23. Art Museums – S.H.O.P.P.I.N.G (dulc-i-tone)
The Art Museums broke up this year but left us with two great singles to remember them by. The song S.H.O.P.P.I.N.G has been hanging around the internet for over a year, but things always sound better when they spin at 45 RPM. This song should be on repeat while you wait in the return line, “It’s too late to change your mind, so be happy with what you find.”  It would be at my store.
mp3Art Museums – S.H.O.P.P.I.N.G

24. BOAT – (I’ll Beat My Chest Like) King Kong (Magic Marker)
BOAT write hooks as big as King Kong. ‘Nuff said! They also know that the single version of a song should be slightly different than the album version. Here, you get a slightly longer King Kong sample. It’s the little things. You know?
mp3: BOAT – (I’ll Beat My Chest Like) King Kong

25. Bleached – Searching Through the Past (Suicide Squeeze)
Bleached are sisters Jennifer and Jessica Clavin. Jennifer was in Mia Miko, but that doesn’t prepare you for the straight ahead pop that goes for jugular the way the Nerves did 40 years ago.  It is very, very difficult to not get this one stuck in your head.
mp3Bleached – Searching Through the Past

26. Monnone Alone – Pink Earings (Lost & Lonesome)
It was kind of surprising that the first Lucksmith to release a record after their breakup was bassist Mark Mannone. I figured it would Marty or Tali, but when you’re sitting on song like Pink Earings then you gotta go first. Sublimely understated pop that will make you grin.
mp3Monnone Alone – Pink Earings

27. Afternoon Naps – Summer Gang (HHBTM)
This record get’s best sleeve of the year (The water folds out in 3D). They don’t make them like this anymore and I don’t just mean the sleeve. The Afternoon Naps may be from dreary Cleveland, but they make sunny pop that some might call twee. I just call it good.
mp3:  Afternoon Naps – Summer Gang

28. The Mantles – Raspberry Thighs (SDZ)
The Mantles have yet surpassed their amazing song Lily Never Married, but Raspberry Thighs comes close. In fact it probably could be considered Lily’s kid sister of a song, and that is no slight.
mp3The Mantles – Raspberry Thighs


29. Dunes – Tied Together (Teenage Teardrops)
Another Mika Miko related band, Dunes mine the gothic and ethereal vein of pop that Siouxsie and the Banshees are well known for. Tied Together paints wide swaths and is much, much bigger than the tiny 7-inch that it comes on.
mp3Dunes – Tied Together


30. Trailer Trash Tracys – You Wish You Were Red (Domino)
This one is kind of a repeat as You Wish You Were Red was the B-side to the Trailer Trash Tracys’ first single Candy Girl which was #40 in the 2009 countdown. No matter, as this is an entirely re-recorded version of that song that keeps the eerie David Lynch parts but smooths out the edges to make it just right.
mp3Trailer Trash Tracys – You Wish You Were Red