Some Good Albums from Seattle This Year

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.

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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.

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TheeSatisfaction – Earthee (Sub Pop)
Buy | Listen

Unclassifiable soul, hip hop, space age record that is part throwback, part social commentary and part bravely looking into the dark distant future.

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Childbirth – Women’s Rights (Suicide Squeeze)
Buy | Listen

The best feminist punk rock manifesto with a since of humor since forever.

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Unlikely Friends – Solid Gold Cowboys (Jigsaw)
Buy | Listen

With the rise of Unlikely Friends, fans of Boat and Math and Physics Club can’t be too sad that neither of those bands released a record this year. I wasn’t.

telekinesis
Telekinesis – Ad Infinitum (Merge)
Buy | Listen

Michael Lerner eschewed his guitars and started collecting vintage synths to create a record inspired by OMD, Postal Service and Blue Nile.

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La Luz – Weirdo Shrine (Hardly Art)
Buy | Listen

Enlisting Ty Segall to record their sophomore record La Luz continue to shoot the curl with another great set of surf rock.

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Wimps – Suitcase (Kill Rock Stars)
Buy | Listen

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.

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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.

DetectiveAgency
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
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

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.
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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 Mossy Ten: Best Seattle Records of 2014

The one complaint I’ve gotten over the years on the Finest Kiss year end lists has been that the pictures haven’t been large enough. So this year will feature bigger images, because let’s face it, nobody reads the comment parts of year end lists. They scroll through them and then shake their heads in disbelief that I left something out. I hope I didn’t, but I probably did. Oh well, here are the ten best things I heard in the city where moss grows year round.

dreamsalon

1. Dreamsalon – Soft Stab (Sweet Rot/Dragnet)
If you are reading a year end list of records and this record is not on it, view that list as suspect. Soft Stab follows last year’s Thirteen Nights and easily surpasses it. It’s punk. It’s post-punk. It’s dark. It’s malcontent. Whatever it is it oozes confidence and style while jarring you with stabs of guitar and Craig Chambers nearly unhinged vocal delivery. This record feels like it could go off the rails at any point, but Dreamsalon have this uncanny ability to take it to the point of destruction and peer into the abyss without actually falling in to the crevasse.

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2. Posse – Soft Opening (BADH)
It was kind of surprising to see Posse’s second album get national attention, only because this town is littered with bands that get undeservedly ignored by the rest of the country. The band self-recorded it in their basement and self-released on their own label Beating a Dead Horse. Guitarists Paul Wittman Todd and Sacha Maxim share vocal duties on this compact set of nine sleepy, slightly spacey, Galaxy 500 influenced songs. Whenever something is described as DIY, I think of it as kind of shoddy and amateurish, but Posse make DIY sound lush, professional and relaxed.

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3. Tacocat – NVM (Hardly Art)
NVM is consensus number one record of the year i my house (Though, I think my son would vote for Mario Brothers Theme songs as interpreted by Mannheim Steamroller if it existed), but since I’m the one writing the blog in my household it’s number three with a bullet.  Recorded in the Seattle’s seminal Egg Studios with Conrad Uno, NVM has a wry sense of humor akin to those early Young Fresh Fellow records recorded in the same setting. Bridge To Hawaii may be the first ever seasonal affective disorder anthem and their ode to the monthly bill Crimson Wave is riotously unforgettable, add in the Ramones pop of Alien Girl and the Mexican psychedlia Psychedlic Quicceanera and you’ve only just dipped a toe in the pool of Tacocat’s neon pop world.

lucarne

4. Lucarne – Why the Good Guys Turn Bad (Self-released)
The Seattle band that barely was. Lucarne released a seven song record in the summer and then promptly broke up. Too bad, because their wistful jangle filled indiepop struck a chord with me and anyone who loved the Bus Stop Label…and now their gone just like the label that inspired them.

voxmod

5. Vox Mod – The Great Oscillator (Self-released)
Vox Mod is electronic producer Scot Porter. He doesn’t sing so The Great Oscillator contains a mix of instrumental music and guest vocalists from Seattle. Last year’s SynAesthetic album featured Erik Blood and Palaceer Lazaro of Shabazz Palaces. This time around all of the guests vocalists are female. The opening track Flight of Fancy featuring Iren Barbaric formerly of Hungery Pines and currently of 18 Eyes raises the bar high right from the get-go. Porter maintains quality with his melodic adeptness, inventive arrangements and pacing and guest vocalists.

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6. Universe People – Are Coming to the Dance (Dragnet)
The only thing that is the same in Universe People since their first album is singer guitarist Jo Claxton, her subversive sense of humor and her jagged guitar licks. Everything else has changed meaning the rhythm section now contains Kimberly Morrison of Dutchess and the Duke and Min Yee of Dreamsalon. Funny enough, I believe all three are former members of the Intelligence. But then who in Seattle isn’t? Dance easily avoids the dreaded sophomore slump and features some of the best Universe People songs to date, namely The Modern Girl and Chemistry.

childbirth

7. Childbirth – It’s a Girl! (Help Yourself)
Some people can’t take a joke. Childbirth doesn’t care, because they’re all about having fun and if you don’t get it then the joke’s on you. Julia Shapiro from Chastity Belt plays guitar and sings, Tacocat’s Bree McKenna plays bass and Pony Time’s Stacy Peck is on drums. The trio’s debut album evokes the feminism, smarts and humor of Le Tigre and Bratomobile. It may be a side project for all three, but don’t let that put you off, these women know how to rock irreverently!

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8. Neighbors – Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? (BADH)
Neighbors finally graduated from releasing albums on cassette to the vinyl big leagues and Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? smartly plucks a few highlights from their most recent tour cassette and includes them here. “Do you think moving to Seattle’s gonna get you where you want to be?” Jose Diaz sings on Muscle Girl on Muscle Beach. I don’t know if they’re where they want to be, but I like where they’re at on this record…somewhere between Pavement and the Meat Puppets .

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9. Space Daze – Follow My Light Back Home (Beautiful Strange)
Sea Pony took the year off, but the band’s songwriter and guitarist Danny Rowland didn’t. His solo album softly hit the streets back in early summer. It is understated pop in the same vein as Seapony. Some of these songs like Having a Bad Time and Line Up on the Solstice seem to be top shelf quality, so I can only assume what Rowland is saving up for the next Seapony record should knock your socks off. In the meantime this does nicely.

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10. Megabog – Gone Banana (Couple Skate)
Megabog is based around the talents of Erin Birgy. She’s obviously bananas for Kevin Ayers (Besides the title there’s a cover of Lady Rachel included here) and posses a sense of melodrama perhaps only equalled by Dan Bejar and Ariel Pink. Gone Banana is draped with saxophone and spacious guitars that give it a lovable campy quality.

 

Tee-Tahs Kicks

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Edmonton, Alberta’s Tee-Tahs are full of glammy, lo-fi goodness and a few other things. Their debut album comes as download or on cassette if you can catch them live. Their songs are basic, catchy and full of attitude, irreverance and humor. With a song called Slutfucker and another one about “kicking cans and breaking stuff, fucking guys in parking lots” Tee-Tahs seem to be kindred spirits with Seattle’s Childbirth. Both bands have loads of attitude and a knack for being frank, funny and in your face when singing about about sex from the female perspective.

Tee-Tahs take a more poppy, post-punk approach to their songs though.  You can hear the Undertones (Fun Forever could be new the Teenage Kicks), some Wire and maybe even some Devo, making these songs get under your skin quickly. And they come quickly too, nary a one longer than two minutes. You’re sure to find yourself with whiplash as surefire hits like Rat Babe, Fun Forever, Okee Dokee and Slutfucker come in swift succession.

stream and buy the album: Tee-Tahs – Buzzkill

I Am Your Density

Cold Beat and Childbirth at Cairo, Seattle | 9 November 2013

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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.

stream: Childbirth – I Only Fucked You as Joke

I missed the first band of the night Display because I was driving around looking for parking. You can read an interview that Hannah Lew did with the SF Bay Guardian about Cold Beat here.