With Boat on somewhat of a hiatus and Math and Physics Club in the middle of their standard four or so years between albums what is a guy to do in the green and mossy Pacific Northwest? Well, in the case of Boat’s Dave Crane you round up a new bunch of friends, call yourselves Unlikely Friends and cook up a new batch of killer pop pop songs. You will undoubtedly recognize the voice of Charles “Chaz” Bert from Math & Physics Club and you may know Chris Mac (the Indiepop King of Seattle) who runs the Jigsaw record label and mail order and is at least in three bands around town at any given time.
Solid Gold Cowboys will be easy to like if you are already a Boat fan because Crane’s voice and his penchant for writing hooky pop songs. The gunslinger in this game is Bert who usually keeps things pretty mellow when singing in MAPC, but really lets loose on many of these songs adding an quantifiable effervescence into them.
The album is a combination of precise pop hooks akin to Guided By Voices and the sunny sweet bubblegum psychedelia of the Apples in Stereo. Soft Reputation and Satellite Station are the best of examples of this great combination, but that doesn’t really cover it. Ride Off Into the Sunset chugs along like Love and Rockets, Gold Hills Theme nods to the dusty spaghetti western soundtrack music of Ennio Morricone and Gold Coast Marauders has the delicacy of a Left Banke song. Crane usually takes the lead vocal with Bert coming in on the chorus to put the song into the stratosphere.
Considering the backgrounds of these three (Un)likely friends it’s not surprising that they got together to make a record. The unlikely part is that the peanut butter and chocolate combination of the heart on your sleeve style of Boat juxtaposed with the sweetness of Math and Physics Club is satisfying winner.
The older I get the more I think that there should be a new music moratorium every January so that you can catch up on all of the stuff that you missed from the previous year. Yeah, I know that ain’t gonna happen. So here we are. It’s not quite mid-January, and here I am hoisting upon you dear readers one more 2013 list. I promise that this is the last one. It’s kind of a special one because it is my favorite records from my adopted hometown. If I didn’t live in Seattle some of these records would have been in my best albums of the year. Also, if I didn’t live here I probably would have missed some of these since you actually have to live in a local scene to hear the local scene. Here is the best stuff that I discovered through osmosis, going to shows, and reading local blogs and papers. Picking a favorite record from my fair city is like picking a favorite child. I love them all the same, at least that’s what I tell them.
Universe People incorporate the sweetness of Dolly Mixture, the arty obtuseness of Wire, the irreverence of the Fall and humor of the Intelligence onto their debut album. This, in my book, is the perfect elixir.
In a year where major web sites seemed to publish Morrissey’s every move, former Harvey Danger Sean Nelson released his debut solo album that was as literate, sharp and self-deprecating as anything the Mozzer has done in the last 20 years. Throw in some cocktail jazz and some Zombies psychedelia and you have a pretty darn good album.
Formerly known as Evening Meetings, the rechristened Dreamsalon tighten things up a little on Thirteen nights and aren’t afraid to let the hooks fly. Post-punk dourness that is part moody Echo and the Bunnymen and part piss and vinegar of the Fall through the lens of Seattle punk cognoscenti.
One of only two EP’s in this list of records, but well worth checking out. Trevor Dickson is in the Nightgowns, but here he takes a dash of Sinatra, some Joao Gilberto and some northwest ingenuity to come up with Summer Legs, one of the best songs I heard this year.
Four girls from a city with barely a hint of sunshine and marginal wave action d make a timeless glassy sounding surf record. They sound like they’ve been doing this for ages. The guitars shoot the curl and the harmonies flash off the water like rays of sun in your ears.
The debut album from Wimps gives me the impression that they’re punk classicists. Repeat is the classic punk formula of guitar, bass and drum and a healthy sense of humor courtesy of Rachel Ratner’s knack for being able to make life’s disappointments still sound disappointing, but with in an irreverent humorous slant.
Sometimes when a band consistently releases great albums filled with hooky pop people start taking them for granted. Pretend To Be Brave is their fifth album of slightly fractured, eternally hopeful indiepop. BOAT continue to capture my imagination, I wish more people would allow themselves to be swept up into their brightly colored superhero world.
The Purrs deliver again with another hallucinogenic masterpiece. Guitars swoop and dive in and out while singer and bassist Jima takes you on a ride in a derailed monorail to some seedy interstellar locale. The perfect soundtrack to navigating globular clusters.
stream: Purrs – Over and Out
Math and Physics Club – Our Hearts Beat Out Loud (Matinée)
Math and Physics Club have certainly been called twee, but on their third album they veer more towards soft rock and that is no bad thing. Kids these days have a penchant for Paul Simon and Cat Stevens records, and MAPC with their sweet and tender songs evoke those fellows while still keeping their indiepop/twee roots intact.
stream: Math & Physics Club – We Won’t Keep Secrets
Chastity Belt shocked the internet with their band photo that featured singer Julia Shapiro wearing a steak locked over her crotch. Based on last year’s Ponytail single, we already knew that they could be insolent and funny, but could they deliver a full album that sustained that brashness? Chastity Belt seem to not give a shit about anything except making good record,s and they’ve succeeded at that. Fuck everything else.
stream: Chastity Belt – James Dean
Jetman Jet Team – We Will Live The Space Age (Saint Marie)
Erik Blood better watch out, because Jetman Jet Team are coming up fast in his rear view mirror to try and usurp his shoegaze king of Seattle crown. Heavy MBVisms abound, but they also incorporate some of the whiteout techniques of Flying Saucer Attack and even some of that smoke and mirrors hypnotism employed often in 1970’s Germany. This is mind-expanding,tremelo bending, psychotropic miasma.
Poor Neighbors. This was scheduled to come out as a 10″ EP on Manic Pop Records, but the release date unfortunately coincided with the implosion of their record label. Left to their own devices, the band released this as bandcamp virtual record. That’s unfortunate because my record player would have gotten a real thrill playing this record which takes Pavement, REM, Camper Van Beethoven and the Wedding Present throws it into a blender and comes up with best smoothie I ever had.
stream: Neighbors – What You See In Me
We Are Loud Whispers – Suchness (Hardly Art)
Sonya Wescott who you may remember as half of Arthur and Yu made a trans-Pacific album with Ayumu Haitani who resides in Japan. While the obvious parallel is the Postal Service and the electronic blips reinforce that parallel, We Are Loud Whispers are more ear tickling and anthemic. I get the feeling that they’ve got a few Field Mice and St. Etienne records on top of owning everything that Morr records has ever released. Subtle and sublime.
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 – 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.
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.
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.
“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.”
“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.
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
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.
Last night was the second time I had the pleasure of seeing Portland’s Woolen Men here in Seattle. I didn’t realize until they mentioned it, that I was two for two with them. This being only the second time they’ve made the trip up the Five to play here. The last time being at the Josephine in January of last year with Orca Team and their Australian brethren the Woolen Kits.
I remember remarking at that show how they seemed to have a stash of dB’s records and an innate ability of making killer noisy skewed pop. Those special powers have not been lost in the year and a half since I last saw them. In fact they have been enhanced, they’ve signed with Woodsist, released their ‘debut’ record, and self-released a pre-Woodsist greatest hits record.
Last night at the Comet opening for BOAT, they played a short set that left me wanting much more. Their songs can sound like early REM, Wire, the Clean and the unheralded west coast obscurity 100 Flowers (if unfamiliar seek out this year’s reissue on Superior Viaduct). Woolen Men are only a three piece, but they pack the power of four or five. All three members sing which leads me to believe they all write songs, but they’re all well versed in the same school of rock. You feel like you are in the south in the mid-80’s with Mitch Easter in a garage or in Dunedin in early 80’s with one of the Kilgour brothers by your side. Go see them if they decided to come to your town, there are few bands that pack this kind of power and prowess in one guitar, one bass and drums.
BOAT were fun as usual. I thought that Forever In Armitron was the best BOAT song, but Lately sounded pretty killer last night and they threw in a cover of Lou Reed’s Satellite of Love just for fun. Who knows when they’ll play again as their drummer is moving to New York. I doubt it will keep them down long though. D. Krane tells me that there are plans afoot to release the first two BOAT albums on vinyl and he’s working on something totally new with Charles Bert from Math and Physics Club. The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.
It’s hard to believe that Seattle’s BOAT have just released their fifth album. I can remember like yesterday when Songs That You Might Not Like came out. In the early days, they wrote songs about centipedes, lobsters and donkeys and had tons of confetti and giant bagels coming out of toasters at their shows. It was fun and a little bit silly. As the years have progressed and the band has evolved they have started to mature a little. Don’t let the “M” word scare you off because Boat still know how write a hook and they haven’t lost their odd sense of humor. Album number five, Pretending To Be Brave is a slightly more subtle affair. Well, the sense of humor is subtle, the hooks are still very big and grab you by the collar.
Life themes, life changes, growing older and wiser. God, it sounds so boring, but BOAT take it all on with their sense awe and wonder. They pull you into their obtuse and seemingly weird world and let you see it all swirling around you like you are at the center of the vortex making you realize that weird and obtuse is not just you, not just them, but everyone everyday.
Sharpshooters opens the album and is a heartfelt ode to companionship and approaching lifelong partnerships with optimism of persevering with your partner. The backing vocals courtesy of Shelly Short reinforce the theme of the song and it’s nice to hear a female voice on a BOAT album. There’s also a surprise guest appearance on The Big, the Bright from Scott McCaughey of the Young Fresh Fellows which solidifies my hunch that BOAT are disciples of the seminal, unsung and unheralded Fellows. Interstellar Helen Keller may be my favorite song on the album, rivaling Forever In Armitron as my favorite BOAT song. it has more vocals from Short and some excellent guitar leads from Josh Goodman. Goodman has emerged as their secret weapon. His leads are amazing throughout the album and really put the exclamation mark on Cranes melodies.
BOAT have this ability to bring the everyday into their songs and make anthems out of them. They have been called twee, emo, and powerpop. We’re all aching to make sense of it all . Even the metal guy has a little bit of twee in him, though he probably would never admit it. BOAT are growing up and taking you with them.
You can buy BOAT’s new album Pretend to be Brave from Magic Marker.
If you are in Seattle, BOAT play the Columbia Theatre this Friday, March 29th.
I took a year off from doing a favorite Seattle records list due to lazyitis (sorry Seattle). Here’s my top ten records from my fair city for 2011 (sorry Seattle).
1. Seapony – Go With Me (Hardly Art)
Twee is alive and well in Seattle. Seapony kind of came out of nowhere late last year. They put their debut album out on local label Hardly Art, played countless shows around town and generally put the Northwest back on the map when it comes to indiepop. mp3: Dreaming
2. Charles Leo Gebhardt IV – Begin Again (GGNZLA)
Leo Gebhardt plays guitar in a few Seattle bands, but it’s his solo stuff that really shines. Begin Again was his second release for the enigmatic Seattle label GGNZLA. Begin Again is full of rollicking and playful, Kinks inspired narratives. mp3: Chapel of Roses
3. BOAT – Dress Like Your Idols (Magic Marker)
BOAT keep delivering hook laden albums sparked with humor and conviction. Like the Young Fresh Fellows before them, these industrious fellows create unforgettable pop right under the city’s collective noses. Dress Like You Idols contains some of the band’s best songs yet. mp3: Forever in Armitron
4. Cute Lepers – Adveture Time (1-2-3-4 Go!)
Adventure Time is Cute Lepers’ third (and best) album. It’s full of glammy punk rock similar to the Rezillos. Songs full of high fructose corn syrup, actually, no they’re probably full of maple sugar, because they’re sweet and good for you. Hell, just eat them out of the box with a spoon. mp3: Misdirected
5. Emuul – The Drawing of the Line (Digitalis)
This record kind of popped up on my radar from nowhere, or maybe it condensed from a passing cloud. Emuul is the latest moniker of Kyle Iman and The Drawing of the Line is hypnotic music that will put you in a dreamlike state. Don’t let that fool you, there are pop songs under the gauze of this instrumental electronica. mp3: Expectations
6. Webelos – Shadow Seasons (self-released)
Shadow Seasons sounds like it could have come out on Teen Beat back in the early 90’s. It’s a quirky little fellow with propulsive bass driven songs. Think Unrest, Eggs and the Monochrom Set. mp3: If You Choose To Stay
7. Craft Spells – Idle Labor (Captured Tracks)
This record was made in a bedroom in Stockton, California, but by the time it came out Justin Vallesteros had relocated Craft Spells to Seattle. Idle Labor is heavily influenced by the romantic synthpop of the 80’s. Bouncy, longing pop songs that could make you forget what year it was. mp3: After the Moment
8. Witch Gardens – Alice, Agatha, Branch, & Christ (self-released)
If ever there was a band meant to be on K records, Witch Gardens is it. This is pure ramshackle pop fun by a band seemingly making it up as they go. I love what they’ve come up with so far which is primarily this cassette. mp3: Softball Chick
9. Gold Leaves – The Ornament (Hardly Art)
I loved Arthur & You’s In Camera. Sadly, that band seems to be no more, but Grant Olson of the duo returned as Gold Leaves this year and it kind of picks up where Arthur & Yu left off. The Ornament is rich and velvety bringing to mind the cinematic records of Lee Hazelwood. mp3: The Ornament
10. Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground – Introducing (Suburban Home)
Even living in Seattle, you might not have heard about the second album from Kay Kay & His Weathered Underground. Maybe it was the odd choice of a title for album number two. Whatever the case, there was little pomp around its release especially compared to the first one, and I’ve yet to see it in a record store in town. Too bad, because it’s nearly as good as their debut and goes to the same tin pan alley, psychedelia, kaleidoscopic pop well. mp3: Oh Lord, I Hate You California
Pony Time – Pony Time (Per Se) | Shabazz Palaces – Black Up (Sub Pop) | Night Beats -Night Beats (Trouble In Mind) | Erik Blood – Music From the Film Center of Gravity (Self-Released) | Consignment – New Low (GGNZLA) | Telekinesis – 12 Desperate Straight Lines (Merge) | Green Pajamas – Green Pajama Country (Green Monkey)
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
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. mp3: Art 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. mp3: Bleached – 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. mp3: Monnone 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. mp3: The 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. mp3: Dunes – 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. mp3: Trailer Trash Tracys – You Wish You Were Red