Tags: Beating a Dead Horse, Beautiful Strange, Childbirth, Couple Skate Records, Dragnet, Dreamsalon, Hardly Art, Help Yourself Records, Lucarne, Mega Bog, Neighbors, Posse, Space Daze, Sweet Rot, Universe People, Vox Mod
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 .
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.
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.
Tags: Ariel Pink, Be Forest, Dreamsalon, Fat Creeps, Hookworms, Small Reactions, Thigh Master, Unlikely Friends, Weak Boys
The Hookworms have gone upwards at 45 degrees into double vegetation on their new album Hum. Smart move including last year’s excellent single Radio Tokyo on the album. The Leeds band keep on keeping on with their brand or crazy psych rants, only this time it’s crazier, psycier and rantier.
Seattle’s Dreamsalon recently unleashed their second album on the populous and as far as I can tell the world is all the more gloomier and paranoid for it. From the northern England by way of Seattle school post punk, their mix of the Fall, Bunnymen and Gang of Four is a concoction few have gotten right, but this band excels at.
3. Weak Boys
Sydney Australia’s Weak Boys do something that I wasn’t sure was possible. They’ve successfully combined the garage aesthetics of Eddy Current Suppression Ring, the pop smarts of Smudge and the clever lyrical bent of the Lucksmiths into their debut album Weekdays/Weekens. Not weak at all!
4. Fat Creeps
Must Be Nice the debut album from Fat Creeps came out this summer, but I didn’t finally discovered it until last month. A kid today would probably say they are similar to Bleached, No Joy and the Vivian Girls. An older fellow might compare them to Throwing muses, Breeders and Scrawl. All of those bands work as a jumping off point, but Fat Creeps take their influences and weave their own narrative.
5. Small Reactions
Atlanta’s Small Reactions write motorik pop songs without the use of computers or other futuristic machines. They use the classic guitar, bass and drums combination to create their propelling rhythmic pop. Their self-released debut album could be the brother of the Hookworms’ Hum, and deserves more attention than it’s received so far. Damn it’s a crowded world!
6. Unlikely Friends
The first fruits of Unlikely Friends the collaboration between BOAT’s D. Drane and Math & Physics Club’s Charles Bert has finally arrived and it’s a 10 pound 3 ounce bundle of joy. Can’t wait to hear the siblings!
7. Ariel Pink
I’m not sure about Ariel Pink, not because of his alleged misogynistic comments related to Madonna, but because of his kitchen sink approach. His new album is all over the place. Put You Number In My Phone is brilliant understated pop, but don’t think for a moment that the album is full more of them. There are goth numbers, industrial numbers, circus numbers, commercial jingles, you name it. I get that it’s his act, but it makes for a disconcerted record, but at least it’s not boring. If you missed the 90’s and Denim then Pom Pom is Denim on Ice for your generation.
8. Be Forest at the Josephine, Seattle
The show that nearly didn’t happen. Italian dreampoppers Be Forest were in Seattle without a show to play, but the fine folks at the Josephine accommodated them and their tour mates Tennis System on late notice. A quartet on record, Be Forest were touring as a trio. They overcame a few sound problems to play an ethereal set that featured some nice guitar playing reminiscent of the style Julian Swales of the Kitchens of Distinction used to do, making it sound like there were two or three guitarists instead of just his one.
9. Thigh Master
Hailing from Brisbane, Thigh Master must have some knowledge of a certain band from that same city because there are similarities they have that certain band that are hard to ignore. The band’s first 7″ is three songs of bouncy, jangly, and slightly garagey pop that are bound to not just to excite fans of Suzanne Somers but of the Go-Betweens as well.
Tis the season for lists. Best records, worst records, most mediocre records, best album covers, worst album covers, best reviews, best comments, best shows, you name it there is a list for it. Does anyone do a list of the best lists? Probably not, that would be kinda excruciating, not to mention redundant.
Tags: A Frames, Dragnet Records, Dreamsalon, Dutchess and the Duke, The Fall, The Intelligence, Universe People
Last year Seattle’s Universe People released the very high quality Go To the Sun. Since then Universe leader Jo Claxton has seen her entire rhythm section change. In this new space time continuum Universe People feature drummer Min Yee (Dreamsalon, and A-Frames) and bassist Kimberly Morrisson (Dutchess and the Duke). Their second album is called Universe People Are Coming To the Dance.
Above is the premier of the video for The Modern Girl. It is directed and edited by Claxton and filmed by Kelly Burton who worked with the band on their two previous clips Vampire Prison and Druids. The Modern Girl a clinic in how to do minimal sharp pop right with dissonant elements of early Fall and the Intelligence but with always an eye towards melody. Claxton writes sparse angular songs that will elbow you in the ribs with their sharp riffs, and then continue to keep you off balance with their wry humor. The video is a pin-ball epic in which Claxton attacks Yee and brawls with Morrison. Thankfully they both survive which is more than I can say for former bassist Kellie Payne who was killed in the Vampire Prison video.
Universe People’s second album Are Coming To the Dance is available now digitally on bandcamp. For you vinyl enthusiasts, there are plans for a vinyl version on Dragnet Records later this summer. You can also catch them live next month in Seattle, and Portland.
7/10 Sunset Tavern w/ Amen Dunes
7/19 Foggy Notion (Portland) w/ Appendixes
7/22 Chop Suey w/ Magik Markers
Tags: Boat, Chastity Belt, Dreamsalon, Jetman Jet Team, La Luz, Math and Physics Club, Neighbors, Sean Nelson, The Purrs, Trevor Dickson, Universe People, We Are Loud Whispers, Wimps
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 – Go To the Sun (Little Black Cloud)
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.
stream: Universe People – Druids
Sean Nelson – Make Good Choices (Really Records)
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.
stream: Sean Nelson – Creative Differences
Dreamsalon – Thirteen Nights (Captcha)
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.
stream: Dreamsalon – In the Air
Trevor Dickson – Summer Legs (Swoon)
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.
stream: Trevor Dickson – Summer Legs
La Luz – It’s Alive (Hardly Art)
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.
stream: La Luz – Big Big Blood
Wimps – Repeat (End of Time)
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.
stream: Wimps – Slept in Late
Boat – Pretend To Be Brave (Magic Marker)
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.
stream: BOAT – Interstellar Helen Keller
Purrs – The Boy With Astronaut Eyes (Fin)
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 – No Regerts (Help Yourself)
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.
stream: Jetman Jet Team – Deep Space
Neighbors – I Love Neighbors (Self-released)
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.
stream: We Are Loud Whispers – Western Town