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

Oh Seattle, So Much To Answer For (Favorite Seattle Records of 2011)

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.
mp3Forever 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.
mp3Misdirected


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.
mp3Expectations


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

Honorable Mentions:

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)

Best Seattle Records of 2009

Something that has never happened in my life happened this year. I have never lived anywhere where I can honestly say that my top three favorite records of the year came out of the city in which I reside. It’s been an honor, and a delight to live in Seattle this year because I have had the opportunity to see the Intelligence, BOAT and Erik Blood more times than I can count. Usually, if you’re lucky you might get one chance to see your favorite band come through your town for a gig. I have had that opportunity time after time and have tried to take advantage as many times as possible. Every one of those shows was blast, and as good, if not better than their respective records.

There were so many good records that were put out by bands from the Pacific Northwest that it really was an embarrassment of riches. It was tough narrowing this list down to ten, and any of the the honorable mentions at the end of the list were likely on this list at some point during the year. So thanks Seattle and thanks to all these records for making this year pretty darn amazing.

1. Intelligence – Fake Surfers (In the Red)
Smart guy Lars Finberg must be a tortured soul.  He can write as good a song as anybody else, but he likes to sabotage his creations with strangeness.  Listening to an Intelligence record, you immediately realize all is not right, and that is exactly what makes this band and this album so great.  The record is packed with weird sounds, weird songs and inside jokes. That’s probably not a good way to describe my favorite record of the year, but you’ve got to work a little to enjoy it. The Intelligence don’t make records for people who like the obvious.  Fake Surfers has just enough of the obvious to draw you in, but it was the strangeness of it that kept me in.  A good example of this is the song Warm Tranfers, which sounds like a drunk Dean Martin singing while tied down a couple leagues somewhere in Lake Union.  Besides releasing Fake Surfers, this year we got two albums from the Intelligence. I know dyed in the wool lo-fi purists preferred the other album Crepuscule Avec Pacman, which was essentially Finberg by himself at his claustrophobic best, but I thought the wider, more spacious and thought out Fake Surfers was a huge leap forward for the band.

mp3: Warm Transfers

mp3: Thank You God For Fixing The Tape Machine


2. BOAT – Setting the Paces (Magic Marker)
Of BOAT’s three albums Setting the Paces is the funnest. It’s like super-sized BOAT containing the same ingredients of the first two records, but just more of it.  Add in better songs and better production and you’ve got busting out of their underachiever cocoon. They’re still singing about seemingly strange things like Giant Centipedes, tractor beams, drinking diet cola and sleeping in pajamas that are too small, but the songs and production are so much improved that the record just pops out of your stereo. The choruses are so big and undeniable, I’ve found myself in the car by myself belting them out. Setting the Paces is BOAT, no longer content with the underachiever moniker, laying all out, going for it, and totally succeeding.

mp3: We Want It, We Want It

mp3: Name Tossers


3. Erik Blood – The Way We Live (Self-released)
This was nearly my number one for last year, but since it was not officially released until this year I sat on it. The Way We Live definitely has staying power, it has been in constant rotation around here all year and nothing on it has gotten old. Erik Blood was in the Turn-Ons who seem to be on an indefinite hiatus. He always contributed a song or two to each Turn-Ons album, but nothing that really prepared me for this tour de force. Blood is obviously is a fan of a lot of the shoegaze bands that were all the rage in the early 90’s, but he seems to effortlessly add a touch of soul to his songs that put them on some other plane.  The final song on the record does something I have never heard before, combining shoegaze with soul into to something that sounds so natural and right.  It’s an amazing song and leaves me with shivers up my spine every time I hear it.   When was the last time a record did that to you?

mp3: To Leave America

mp3: These Days


4. Charles Leo Gebhardt IV – Unfaithful (GGNZLA)
Charles Leo Gebhardt plays in the Unnatural Helpers, Idle Times and probably a few other bands I don’t know about. He also has a solo gig and Unfaithful was the first fruits of that endeavor. It’s only five songs but every one of them is so good that he makes an impression in a very short amount of time. Unfaithful is pretty straightforward minimalist, low key guitar pop, but the songs have an antique feel to them in a similar vein of Girls that will make you swear you’ve heard them somewhere before.

mp3: King of the Mountain


5. Tea Cozies – Hot Probs (So Hard)
The Tea Cozies are a Seattle band with UK pop sensibilities. The pop charms of Kenickie, Sleeper and Elastica are not lost on this lot. Hot Probs comes smoking out the gate with songs that will have you checking to see where the heck this record was made. Oh, Erik Blood is producing. Heard of him. For a name that is so cute sounding, the Tea Cozies have attitude in spades and the songs to back it up. These ladies (and one guy) rock!

mp3: Like Luca Brasi


6. Visqueen – Message to Garcia (Local 638)
Speaking of Girls that rock, Rachel Flotard is pretty much synonymous with the term. She has had her band Visqueen boxed away in bubble wrap for the last few years while she took care of her ailing father. The bubble wrap is off and Visqueen are back with an album that doesn’t take it’s foot off the accelerator. Even the songs with violin, cello and horns rock like nobody’s business. Back in the 70’s girls screamed for Robin Zander and Cheap Trick. Here in Seattle in the 00’s boys are screaming for Rachel Flotard and Visqueen, or at least they should be.

mp3: Hand Me Down


7. Nightgowns – Sing Something (Self-released)
The Nightgowns who were formerly known as the Elephants sound like they could be on Morr, the German label known for dreamy, electronic pop that you can kind of dance too. Sing Something is chock full of songs that have buzzing, humming, blipping and squelching synthesizers over top of them. More importantly it contains some excellent pop songs done in damp, grey, melodramatic, maudlin fashion. Sing Something will keep you on your toes throughout with it’s slightly sad and slightly punchy songs.

mp3: Windwalker


8. Purrs – Amused Confused and More Bad News (Self-released)
I like to think of the Purr’s as Seattle’s resident spaced-out cowboys. Their songs sound part gunslinger blues and part spacey guitar jams. The twin effects-laden guitar attack topped off with Jima’s cool disaffected voice make everything the Purrs do sound drop dead cool. Amused Confused and More Bad News was less immediate than their previous outings, revealing it’s charms only after repeated listens, but in the end it was just as worthy.

mp3: Fear of Flying


9. Dutchess & the Duke – Sunset/Sunrise (Hardly Art)
This record was kind of like the Purrs record for me. It wasn’t as immediate as their first album, but after repeated listens the onion started to peel. Where She’s the Dutchess took a punk attitude to 60’s folk and re-formed it into something familiar yet foreign, Sunset/Sunrise continues along that trajectory, but delves deeper, embracing it without irony. The songs are slower, but no less engaging, they just take a little longer to get to know. Many bands are mining the 60’s motherload for inspiration, or just plane ripping it off, but the Dutchess and the Duke have taken that same inspiration, run with it, and turned it into something uniquely their own.

mp3: Hands


10. Naomi Punk – S/T (Self-Released)
Mysterious band, mysterious record. Full of Oh Sees style riffs, but slowed down which gives them a slightly euphoric feel. This is truly blissed out cave stomp rock and roll. Back in the 60’s every Pacific Northwest garage band that was worth its salt did a version of Louie Louie. I would love to hear Naomi Punk’s version. It would likely be slowed way down, like listening to a 45 at 33 rpm. The vocals would be buried so low in the song that you would barely be able to make out the melody and it would sound so huge that it would make your eardrums burst.

mp3: Shouldna Started Trouble

Other Seattle/PNW records that got a lot of my attention this year:
Black Whales – Origins | Desolation Wilderness – New Universe | Eat Skull – Wild and Inside | Grand Archives – Keep In Mind Frankenstein | Green Pajamas – Poison In The Russian Room | Hotels – Where Hearts Go Broke | Intelligence – Crepuscule Avec Pacman | Karl Blau – Zebra | Ragedy Anns – ST | Say Hi – Oohs & Aahs | Scraps – ST | Sea Navy – Memory Matches |  Spits – IV | Young Fresh Fellows – I Think This Is

The Importance of being Idle, Unnatural and Unfaithful

The man with the mustache, glasses and songs!

Playing guitar in Seattle bands Idle Times, Unnatural Helpers and T.V. Coahran, you might think that Charles Leo Gebhardt IV (that’s a mouthful) had no time to write and record any of his own songs.  That is evidently not the case, as Mr. Gebhardt has recently released a five song ep called Unfaithful on Seattle’s GGNZLA records.  He gets help from Idle Times’ Brian Standeford and  TV Coahran himself on the record which has warm powerpop feel to it that brings to mind the Kinks, Nick Lowe, and the criminally unknown Highback Chairs.

Over at his MySpace page you can hear Gebhardt covering John Denver’s Leaving on a Jet Plain, Teenage Fanclub‘s Mad Dog 20/20 and even Idle Times’ Drivin’ You Sad as evidence of his eclectic yet impeccable tastes.  On his GGNZLA CD you can hear him sing his own songs that equal any of the covers he’s done. At only five songs, the record leaves you wanting more.  For now the repeat button will do, but lets hope Mr. Gebhardt doesn’t spend too much time with his other bands, and puts out some more records of his own.

mp3: Charles Leo Gebhardt IV – Lake Serene (from the ggnzla ep)

mp3: Charles Leo Gebhardt IV – Long and Low (from the Terrible Sounds of Bad Ideas compilation)