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.
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.
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.
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.
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 – 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 – 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.
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.
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.
Cold Beat and Childbirth at Cairo, Seattle | 9 November 2013
Everything about the neighborhood in Capitol Hill where Cairo the tiny clothing store, art space and music venue is nestled screams density. Try to park a your car near the place and you will likely be driving in circles for a while. Try to get a good spot in the back room of the of the space in the shop where bands play and you’ll either be on your tip toes trying to sneak a peak of the band or resign yourself to just hearing them play. Cold Beat packed them in like sardines to the back room at Cairo last night. Lucky for me I’m tall, so I was able to sneak peaks of the San Francisco band while doing ballet moves.
Cold Beat are led by Grass Widow bassist Hannah Lew. Lew, taking a respite from Grass Widow, is exploring the darker regions of post punk that Grass Widow seems to be veering more on the trajectory of their last album and the Milo Minute single where they covered both Wire and Portland’s Neo Boys. With Cold Beat she takes a slightly more colder synth approach, employing influences like Fad Gadget and the Normal with some current day Blank Dogs and Total Control.
The set included both Worms and Year 5772 from band’s debut EP just out now on Lew’s own Crime on the Moon label as well as bunch more similar sounding speed induced and harmony drenched rushes or adrenaline. Sitting on top of one of the amps behind Cold Beat there was a box that was labeled goth. I don’t think they let the goth out of the box, but the speedy dark harmony laced songs threatened it at every turn. stream: Cold Beat – Worms (from the Cold Beat 12″)
Seattle’s self-described super-group Childbirth capped off the evening. Childbirth are the illegitimate offspring of Chastity Belt, Tacocat and Pony Time. They’re sort of a punky joke band. Actually that’s exactly what they are. Looking like they just snuck out of Swedish Hospital, they played with hospital gowns on and had songs like I only fucked you as a joke and Breast Coast.
Could this have been the year that Seattle went pop? Sure, there have been bands here and there with pop leanings, but this was the year that Seattle finally shed it’s flannel, got out of the garage, and didn’t feel like it had to be wooly, bearded and mechanical all the time. Look out old Seattle, the kids don’t care about your hang-ups! Here are my favorite 15 records (album, ep’s and singles) from the Emerald City and environs.
It was pretty cool to see much of Seattle’s music press unanimously agree that Erik Blood’s Touch Screens was a brilliant record. He took his shoegaze leanings, added some electronics, a motorik beat or two and came up with a concept album about pornography. Too bad that recognition seemed to stop at the city limits. Dear rest of the world, you may have missed one of the finest records put out this year. The Lonesome Death of Henry Paris: stream: Touch Screens
Part soul, interstellar hip-hop, and trip-hop, the duo Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White combined to create a record that sounded like little else in Seattle and anywhere else for that matter. It didn’t get as much gushing attention as the Shabazz Palaces album did last year. It should have because it’s a better record. QueenS:
Neighbors’ deft songwriting seemed to effortlessly take their REM and Pavement influences and create a record that could rattle as well as soothe. John in Babeland came out cassette way back in February, luckily I got a download of it because as much as I’ve played it, the cassette wound up all scrunched in a tape deck by now. All United Grocery:
Dark clouds, dark allies, dark dark. Evening Meetings wouldn’t, no couldn’t take place in the light of day nor in any other place. Claustrophobia induced by low pressure and heavy dark clouds and dusk that sets in around 3pm. This time of year in Seattle it’s dark most of the time and in some weird strange way this record turns on the bright lights every time I listen to it. Shimmer Street:
Half Right is the best song to come out of Seattle this year. If I didn’t know any better I would have guessed they moved here from New Zealand and started a PNW Flying Nun shop right here in our midst. Seattle, rejoice! There is a pop band in our midst that breathes kiwi air.
Have you ever been to the beach in Washington? You can actually drive right onto it with your car because nobody’s there. It’s flat, cold and windy no matter when you go, winter, spring, summer or fall. La Luz don’t belong in this surfer’s nightmare. Their surfer’s paradise of an EP had to have been born in warmer climes, but being from Seattle, perhaps long winter day’s indoors, hanging with the ghosts of the Ventures and dreaming of an endless summer did it. Sure As Spring:
The basic sound of Orca Team record hasn’t changed much over their short career. Their bass-driven 50’s surf pop jangle consistently pleases. They’re random output of singles, cassettes and CDr’s has been scattershot. Finally the band has seemed to focus and that concentration makes Restraint feel like a proper record. Its concise songs make quick long lasting impressions.
Posse’s self-titled debut is brazen with amazing pop songs. They have the gritty boy-girl back and forth in their songs and slashing guitar solos that aren’t over the top but just right. You older folk will appreciate their affinity towards Versus. Back in the 90’s during that post Nirvana signing frenzy Posse undoubtedly would have been sitting on piles of cash and big record deal. Oh how times have changed.
Tea Cozies re-materialized after three years in the wilderness with this killer five song EP. It has an air of confidence about it and flare that will have fans of both 90’s Britpop and college rock hopefully reaching for their pocketbooks as well as old albums by the Tuscadero, Blake Babies and Sleeper. Silhouette In A Suitcase: stream: Bang Up
You thought I was kidding about the pop capitol of the world,didn’t you. I wasn’t and Chastity Belt are here to back me up. Their Pony Tail single had the audacity to tell the general NPR listening, latte drinking, Game of Thrones playing male populace of Seattle to cut off their ponytails. What a bunch of punks!
Blooper do saccharin powerpop so well that any cuts inflicted by their killer songs will bleed cherry syrup. Look out for a new 7-inch single from these Ballard popsters early in the new year on Manic Pop! Records.
Tacoma’s Nightgowns, similar to Tea Cozies have been slumbering for a few years, but this EP sees them wide awake and in good form. Slightly bombastic and theatrical, but only slightly, Bonita sounds like that bubble the Flaming Lips use, but instead of it being in a sea of confetti, they are bounding across the high desert, down the cascades and into the Sound.
The Purrs are like the elder statesmen of nothing. They’ve been around for years putting out great records to little recognition. Perennially writing killer songs that are left rotting on the vine so to speak. If anyone ever asks you, yes they do make them use to. Seattle’s Fin records have given the Purrs a new home and this beauty is a taste of their album due next year.
Funny how Seapony’s second album is better than their first and yet last year they were number one in my Seattle albums and now they’re number 14. It might be because Falling was more of the same only better or it might be because I’m capricious. They may have slightly fallen out of fashion, but this record will be considered a Sarah-esque classic in a few years. Too bad it takes obscurity for some people to really appreciate things.
Stephanie sound like they could have been on Factory records back in the early 80’s. They employed Erik Blood to record One Glove, but it sounds like they got Martin Hannett from the grave instead. Stephanie employ sparse, jaggedy steely guitars that are part Magazine and part Durutti Column and a singer that some might say is an acquired taste but they make it work quite well.
Walla Walla, Washington is known for its onions and wines, not so much for all girl punk bands. Come to think of it I don’t know of any all boy punk bands from there either. Being stuck in the southeast corner of the state subsisting on onions and wine can do funny things to a person. To prove it Chastity Belt have moved to Seattle with tall tales of dudes with ponytails, alien abductions, giant vaginas, big pick-up trucks and sleeping with the dead.
Their latest EP called Dude is three short sharp jabs of melody and hilarity. Ponytail is a raucous minute and half that totally disses a dude for his ponytail comparing him to Steven Seagal, Thomas Jefferson and a Barbie doll. Aliens is about lusting after the apparent many aliens that land in less populous places, and Cadaver is, um, well a love song that doesn’t really contain a laugh, but instead shows that they can be not funny too. Chastity Belt are parts Young Fresh Fellows, Wimps and Tacocat. Funny on the outside, but yearning on the inside .