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.

posse

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.

Tacocat_LP1

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.

universepeople

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!

neighbors

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 .

spacedaze

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.

megabog

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.

 

The Inaugural Monthly Top Ten List

You may have noticed that I’ve been struggling to keep up around here: fewer and fewer posts, overflowing in box, long beard and unclipped nails. In an effort to get back on track and clean myself up I’m going to try and start doing a top ten list for each month of things that I’ve neglected to post about in the past month. Well, I’m already behind seeing as it’s October and I’m doing a top ten for September. Before it gets any later, here are ten things from the last month that merit some recognition.

1. The Aislers Set at Neumos

Aislers Set at Neumo's, Seattle

The Aislers Set breifly reunited for the Chickfactor 20th anniversary shows back in 2012. I saw that show and it was good, but seeing them a couple weeks ago in Seattle was even better. This was a brief West coast tour celebrating the reissue of all three of their LP’s from the 90’s (Slumberland & Suicide Squeeze). Linton and company were in top form this night performing their glistening pop that never got old.

2. The Intelligence at Lo-Fi

The Intelligence at the Lo-Fi, Seattle
Sadly the Intelligence are no longer based in Seattle, so the opportunities to see them live have greatly decreased since Lars Finberg’s migration to L.A. Other things have changed as well, This is not your kid brother’s Intelligence. Although this was a release party for reissue of their first LP Boredom and Terror (In the Red), they played a bunch of new songs that featured a powerful rhythm section and meaty jam sections to them. A far cry from the bedroom tape hiss of that first record. No, they haven’t turned into Phish, but they’ve evolved into something even more formidable than before. Can’t wait to hear the new album!

3. Fresh Hop Beer

hops
It’s harvest time and up here in the pacific NW, and that means hops. Fresh hop beer is made with hops just picked off the vine and when it’s done right, it’s a fruity mouthful of flavorful beer. You have to be quick though, because it’s made in limited quantities and it goes fast. Recommended ones that I’ve tasted this year include Fremont’s Cowiche Canyon, Fort George Fresh IPA and Schooner Exact’s Amarillo Fresh Hop. Still hoping to get a taste of Bale Breaker’s Piled High!

4. Erik Blood – Cannons Vol. 1 
Erik Blood, the guy that made a shoegaze record about porn has switched gears slightly into electronics and motorik beats. His new four song EP (free to download at his bandcamp) features Mahogany’s Andrew Prinz and Shabazz Palaces’ Ishmael Butler.

5. Fat White Family – I Am Mark E Smith 
I was nonplussed over Fat White Family’s debut album last year, but this new single has got my attention. They may be claiming to be the Fall front man, but they sound like they’ve been hanging out with David J and Daniel Ash.

6. Primitives – Spin-o-Rama 7″ 
The Primitives have a perfect pop single in Spin-o-Rama. It’s Bright and sunny. It’s got hand claps. It’s under three minutes and leaves you wanting more. You hear it once and you can immediately sing it. I defy you to to find a more immediately infectious song that’s come out this year.

7. Go-Betweens Box Set – G Stands for Go-Betweens (Domino)

gobetweens
Just the other day I was pining for someone to reissue the Go-Betweens catalog on vinyl, since I never see them in the used bins. I should have been more specific in my wishing and added that they be individually released and affordable. Domino announced last week that they are planning a box set containing the first four Go-Be’s LP’s and four CD’s of rare stuff. It’s due to be released in January of 2015 and it’s only $160. Looks like I’ll still be scouring the used bins. Oh well.

8. Tacocat – Bridge To Hawaii (Hardly Art)
In between listening to and singing songs from Frozen my daughter will sing or play Tacocat’s Bridge to Hawaii. The first time this happened I did a double take and couldn’t figure out where she heard it. I like to think she heard it from me, but with kids these day’s you don’t want to ruin it for them by letting them know you like it too.

9. Butter the Children – True Crime 
When Brooklyn’s Sweet Bulbs split up after releasing one stellar self-titled LP, two bands immediately emerged from their ashes. The Butter the Children sect (Heaven’s Gate is the other sect) continue the warbly, spazzed-out guitar attack of Sweet Bulbs and feature Sweet Bulbs singer Inna but she’s more forward in the mix which I think makes for a unique and better combination. The band put up their album on bandcamp as a free download. I don’t know if this means they gave up trying to get it released by a label, broke up, or are simply a benevolent noise pop band.

10. Flowers – Do What You Want To, It’s What You Should Do (Kanine)
I wasn’t sure after the first few listens to Flowers debut album. They seemed to have toned down the noise for something more subtle. Recording with former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler the London trio won me over with their minimalist approach that evokes the sparseness of Young Marble Giants, the smart intensity of the Spinnanes and the melancholy melodies of Everything But the Girl.

Tarpeian Rock

Protomartyr, Grave Babies, Unnatural Helpers at Black Lodge, Seattle | 20 May 2014

proto4

Detroit post punks Protomartyr played the Black Lodge in Seattle Tuesday night. This was their third time in Seattle, but only the first time I had the pleasure of seeing them. After sold out singles and the band’s debut album No Passion All Technique selling out of multiple pressings on Urinal Cake records, the band have followed it up with Under Color of Official Right on Hardly Art. Where Techniques was a lo-fi punk record, the new record keeps the punk attitude and intelligence while adding in better songs and better sound.

Label mates and localites Unnatural Helpers and Grave Babies began the evening’s intensities with two quality if workman-like sets. When the time came for Protomartyr, there was no big entrance or formality for the band, they merely stopped setting up and started rocking. No pomp, no circumstance, just the goods. In Protomartyr’s case the goods are frontman Joe Casey barking over his very good band. The solid rhythm section (besides being really good, drummer  Alex Leonard was wearing a Spray Paint shirt) laid down the law which left Casey and guitarist Greg Ahee to fill in the picture with their riffs and rants.

Protomartyr write gutter anthems. They write about the underbelly of society and coming from Detroit they have first hand knowledge of the downtrodden. Detroit and Detroit rock is in their veins. They employ the abrasive qualities of the Stooges, MC5 and Tyvek (Kevin Boyer was the original Protomartyr bassist) while incorporating the likes of the Fall, Girls Against Boys and Nick Cave into their brew. Their first record was recorded on the cheap while their new one has a noticeably better budget. Live they veer toward the budget sound of the first record but that rawness keeps it vital. I like how Casey dresses in a double breasted blazer and a button up shirt but sings like he’s dressed in rags. The juxtaposition catches your attention and you wonder why this mad man is dressed up. Besides looking quite good, Casey is the kind of songwriter that will have you looking stuff up in your encyclopedia. He’s smart, he dresses up and he rocks. I also loved Ahee’s endlessly inventive guitar. Casey gets a lot of attention for his lyrichs, but Ahee’s guitar really took these songs to the next level beyond just another garage band.

Before the show I had heard from numerous people about how Protomartyr were a jaw-droppingly good live band. They did nothing to make me think otherwise. My only complaint would be that Casey’s vocals weren’t as clear as the recorded songs, but that’s what the album is for.

stream: Protomartyr – Come & See (from Under Color of Official Right on Hardly Art)

proto_setlist - Copyproto2

Tacocat Vs. Communists, College Football and Algae Blooms

Tacocat

The new Tacocat song is called Crimson Wave. It sounds like a surfing song fer sure, but I’m not sure it’s really about surfing. Dissecting the lyrics I think I might have a couple ideas to what it’s about. It could be about algae blooms caused by dinoflagellates that give the ocean a red hue and make it dangerous to eat shellfish during certain months of the year. They do mention surfing these waves, so maybe they like living on the edge surfing with dinoflagellates and algae. It could also be they are fans of the University of Alabama Crimson Tide. They do mention calling in sick to work because of the Crimson Wave. Is that code for being too bummed out about their team losing the Iron Bowl and the Sugar Bowls this year? Of course it could about that Tom Clancy nuclear submarine movie. There are communists mentioned in the song and sharks in hot pursuit. Hmmm.

Whatever this song is about, it sounds like good clean fun. I like it.

Tacocat’s second album NVM is out February 25th on Hardly Art.

stream: Tacocat – Crimson Wave

Midway and Buried in Records – Part 4

It’s Thursday and part four of the midway round-up. Feeling overwhelmed yet? I am. I don’t know if I can make it to Friday. If you’ve been following along, I hope you’ve found at least one thing that tickled your toes enough to buy a record or at least like them on facebook. A like on facebook or a follow on twitter is like money in the bank for bands, right? Getting money for your records is so old school. These days it’s all about social networking your record so that share prices for the internet fat cats increases. So go do your part.

visonfortune
Vision Fortune – Mas Fiestas con el Grupo Vision Fortune (Faux Discs)

There are many reasons to love this record. First the cover is a total red herring. If you buy this expecting Spanish troubadours or Mexican narcocorrido then you’ve got a surprise in store for you. The song titles are all roman numerals and there is a side F and side V. Nothing is as it seems as the first buzz of guitars kicks off the album sounding like the beginning of Anthrax by Gang of Four.  It only gets better from there as it envelops you and you don’t know if you’re listening to XX, XIII or XIX and you don’t care. This is an album meant to be listened to in its entirety of full effect with each song leading into the next, but I’ll put one below to stream anyway. You can stream the entire thing here.

steam: Vision Fortune – XXII

prophethens
The Prophet Hens – Popular People Do Popular People (Fishrider)

The Chills are back after more than a ten year hiatus, but the big news out of New Zealand this year is the Prophet Hens first album. Taking the Chills torch and running away with it.

stream: Prophet Hens – Easy As The Sun

heavytimes
Heavy Times – Fix It Alone (Hozac)

Fix it alone sees this Chicago band reigning in their intensity just a little, but don’t let that give you the wrong idea. They’re all the better for it. This is a highly melodic and highly intense album that brings back golden age memories of Husker Du and the noisier Flying Nun band like Gordons but not afraid to snag a riff from the Chills and let it fly.

stream: Heavy Times – Tradition Of Abuse

lady
Lady – Lady (Truth & Soul)

Lady is actually two ladies, Terri Walker and Nicole Wray who have silky smooth voices and a penchant for 60’s soul. Classic soul albums are still being made and not just by guys who were there in the classic times like Lee Fields and Charles Bradly, but youngsters like Lady.

stream: Lady – Sweet Lady

waxidols
Wax Idols – Discipline & Desire (Slumberland)

Surprisingly it turns out that Wax Idols music DNA, contains strands of the Sound, Chameleons, Comsat Angels, Christian Death, and Love and Rockets. After a debut album that leaned to the cut and dried garage punk, Discipline and Desire leans decidely to the dark side of pop and is infinitely more interesting and engaging. It’s what all sophomore albums should be, a major improvement and fearlessly forging out in new directions.

stream: Wax Idols – Sound of a Void

We-Are-Loud-Whispers
We Are Loud Whispers – Suchness (Hardly Art)

It was kind of a bummer when I came to the realization that there would never be another Arthur and Yu album, and we all know that people are still not giving up hope for another Postal Service album. We Are Loud Whispers is not quite either one of those but since Sonya Westcott of Arthur & Yu is one half of We Are Loud Whispers it’s not a stretch in that direction. Combine the spare electronic backdrops provided by Ayumu Haitani and you have a stretched reference to the Postal Service. In any event this record is full of understated beauty that deserves some of your valuable attention.

stream: We Are Loud Whispers – This Time

excops
Ex Cops – Ture Hallucinations (Other Music)

“New York City’s Ex Cops don’t dress in police uniforms (thankfully), and they don’t sound anything like you would expect a band calling themselves Ex Cops to sound like. Well, at least not what I imagine a band of ex cops would sound like.” Their debut album True Hallucinations is an exquisit dreampop/shoegaze record.

stream: Ex Cops – You Are a Lion, I Am a Lamb

Stuff To Do When It’s Dark Out (Brave Irene, Sea Pony, Orca Team, Detective Agency)


Rose Melberg has been in a quite a few bands. Tiger Trap and Go Sailor were reved up C-86 fueled rock records. After that things mellowed out and have stayed that way. The Softies were gentle and sugary and here last few solo records kept the minimal sweet and soft songs coming. After going solo for the last few records, she’s got a band together again that goes by Brave Irene. They released an eight song self-titled album on Slumberland earlier this year that brings back some of the energy from her Tiger Trap and Go Sailor days with its organ soaked and harmony drenched songs. Brave Irene play a rare live show this Saturday, November 5th at the Vera Project here in Seattle. Opening the show will be the city’s very own indiepop hero’s in the making Seapony. It’s great to have a band like Seapony in Seattle. They’re active, playing out a lot and make shows like this happen with their enthusiastic support. The band have a new 7-inch coming out on Hardly Art, so I’m guessing we’ll hear some new songs along with the gems that adorned their album Go With Me.

stream: Brave Irene – No Fun (from Brave Irene on Slumberland)

stream: Seapony – Sailing (from Sailing 7-inch on Hardly Art)

While we’re talking shows, Orca Team are playing the tiny Rendezvous Thursday night. The former Portland band seems to have defected and now officially call Seattle home.  They are still playing that 50’s dance party music from 20 leagues beneath the sea and are garaunteed to be wearing matching outfits. Opening are Detective Agency who are pretty new to Seattle. So new, they only have two songs posted over on their facebook page. Both are drenched with noise and DIY. I’ve been kind of obsessed with their song Daggers for the last couple days. I’m hoping they’ve got a bunch more stuffed in a duffle bag that are just as good.

mp3: Detective Agency – Daggers

Everybody’s Happy Nowadays

Jacuzzi Boys, TV Ghost & Love Tan at the Funhouse, Seattle | 7 October 2011

The second album from Miami, F-L-A’s Jacuzzi Boys is one of those records that demonstrates a band taking a giant leap from their previous record. Their first album No Seasons which came out Florida’s Dying back in 2009 was kind of all over the place. I mean that in a good way because the places that it was coming from were good places to originate. It just didn’t have a cohesiveness to it. It seemed like they knew what sounded good, but hadn’t yet gotten the three minute pop song thing down yet.
Sometime in between screws were tightened, chops were honed, and Buzzcocks albums were studied. Glazin’ is a record that owes much to that Manchester punk band whether it knows it or not. Singer and guitarist Gabriel Alcala even sounds like Pete Shelley, and their short sharp shards cut right to your skull’s pleasure center just like Singles Going Steady still does.

Their set last night at the Funhouse was blistering and glazin’. Right from the start people were slamming and jamming. The Funhouse is a punk rock dive bar, but more often than not people don’t seem to treat it that way. Last night they did, and it wasn’t just guys. The pit was half girls rocking out to the band. Adhering to rule number 10 in Robert Forsters‘ 10 Rules of Rock and Roll: “The three-piece band is the purest form of rock and roll expression”, the Jacuzzi Boys were tight making every song cut to the quick. Friday night they were real life proof that executed properly rule number 10 is no lie. There ain’t no studio trickery behind the curtain on Glazin’. These guys are the real deal. Alcala has a funny Ramones/Comic book guy persona where he has something weird he says after each song. Nothing hilarious, just weird-isms that make it obvious that this guys is operating at a different frequency than the rest of us. I hope the Jacuzzi Boys keep it tuned to that frequency because they are dialing in something special. Go see ’em if they’re in your town.

mp3: Jacuzzi Boys – Automatic Jail

mp3: Jacuzzi Boys – Cool Vapors

If you haven’t got their new album yet, Hardly Art has it for sale.

Lafayette, Indiana’s TV Ghost got revved up everyone into a stupor with their unhinged Cramps/Scientists/Birthday Party cave stomp. Singer Tim Gick with his Gene Vincent hairdo has this thing where he rolls his eyes back when he sings making himself look possessed by some demon or other. He also displays uncanny cat-like balance. He has the ability to concoct his lanky frame in ways that most humans would fall flat on their backs trying. I found myself transfixed with these abilities and sometimes forgot about the music wondering how he was defying gravity. Eventually gravity did get him when he careened into the drum set, but that only happened once. It obviously took a lot out of him, because after their set he crouched in a corner, exhausted trying to recover.

mp3: TV Ghost – Doppleganger (from Mass Dream)

Seattle’s Love Tan preceded TV Ghost. It had been a while since I’d seen them, but they have gotten better. I recognized a lot of the songs from their album Miscellaneous Night Feelings which came out a few years ago. The songs seemed to have had time to gel or they’ve just had more time to practice. In any case, their set left me hoping that there’s more to come from them.