Zebra Hunt Phasing Into the Sunset

Zebra Hunt, Unlikely Friends & Seacats at the Sunset Tavern, Seattle | 2 June 2017

Over the last five years it seems like many of my favorite Seattle bands have either broken up or left town. A few new ones have come up to replace them, but it seems like we’re in a slight lean period compared to the previous bounties we’ve experienced. Friday night at the Sunset in Ballard three Seattle bands provided some much needed rain on the parched fields of the Seattle music scene. Zebra Hunt, keepers of the Seattle pop flame, were celebrating their second album seeing the light of day courtesy of Spanish record label Tenorio Cotobade.

If you haven’t heard, Zebra Hunt are Seattle’s answer to the classic Flying Nun jangle of the 80’s and the current day jangling explosion of bands from Australia. If you’re old and dig the Clean and the Chills or young and love the Twerps and Chook Race, then Zebra Hunt will fit nicely into your wheelhouse. Having employed Jack Endino to record it, their sophomore effort improves on sound quality and sees no let up in song quality.

Focusing mostly on the new record the band played a great set for the home crowd and provided after show cupcakes decorated with their album cover. Since the last record Zebra Hunt have added a fourth member to the band to help flesh out their sound. The additional guitar and keyboard combined with their already stellar rhythm section increases the impact of the Zebra Hunt experience.

Singer and songwriter Robert Mercer writes about ordinary life but supplies an element of mystery to to his songs by being economical with the details. He is of the Raymond Carver school of writing. You get stories of house hunting, evening walks, listening to records in the kitchen and Foxhill Drive in 2005 with clues to what happened but no answers. I Wont’ Blame You house hunting backdrop sounds partly inspired by Courtney Barnett’s Depreston which was inspired by Paul Kelly’s To Her Door, which was inspired by Carver’s short stories. The lineage is impeccable.  With the release of In Phases, the band now have a larger trove of treasures to pull from for their live shows with a virtual guarantee never to disappoint.

Unlikely Friends were coerced out of their sabbatical to provide support. A BOAT and Math and Physics Club team-up, the group features the um, unlikely combination of both band’s singers, except on this night D. Crane had lost his voice . Probably due to the previous weekend’s BOAT reunion show or some rogue virus, the voiceless Crane  replaced his voice with a message he wrote on a series of notebook pages that littered the stage. The band was in triage mode with Charles Bert of MAPC taking over most of the vocals but letting the drummer Chris have some leads as well. They persevered and kept their sense of humor about them. Look for a second album and hopefully more shows from these underdogs when they’re restored to full power sometime in the not too distant future.

Opening the night were Seacats. Formerly of Kelso-Longview, but now apparently based in Seattle. The two singles I have of theirs give the impression that their a silly, happy-go-lucky sort of band, but as I walked in it was in the middle of their heavy stuff. I think it was their nuclear bomb song. Then they switched singers and pulled off a sublime psych-pop number and I was thoroughly confused. I wasn’t sure what to make of it all, but at least it was interesting!

Catch As Ondas

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Take some Power Corruption & Lies New Order, Imperial f.f.r.r. Unrest and some current day Orca Team and Shopping and you could have a fairly good idea where the debut album from As Ondas is coming from. Andrew Milk from Shopping lends his bass this trio and is joined by Ochi Reyes of Wachi Wachi  and Moema Meade of Joey Fourr.

The band sing in English, Portuguese and Spanish. and their slightly dancy, very minimalist and laid back sound has an effortless feel to it. The first track Iguale has New Order style guitar, but New Order never sang in Portuguese or Spanish, though they did like to hang out on Ibiza. The entire record has a playful and easy feel to it centered around tight rhythmic songs. Esta Noche is guaranteed to make you move something on your body and Vida de um Creep has an intro that sounds like the Smithereens‘ Blood and Roses and then morphs into a Funboy Three song. Looking for something cool and fun for the summer? This is it!

As Ondas is available on CD & download via Jigsaw Records in the US and on vinyl via Tuff Enuff in the UK.



Moon Types or Sweden Rides Again

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Take a little bit of Ladybug Transistor and some Pelle Carlberg and the Bee Gees and you get an idea of what Stockholm, Sweden’s Moon Types are up to on their debut single. Moon Types remind me of a time not long ago when every week featured a new band from Sweden. It’s cooled down a little since those days, I suppose all of those bands like Park Hotell, Popundret, Boolteans, Carpet People, Liechtenstein, Wannadies, Rough Bunnies and Shout Out Louds have all hung up the rock and roll spandex to settle into lives out of the indiepop spotlight.

Know the Reason features a wonderful trumpet and a jangly riff that could thaw the iciest of hearts. Nothing’s Holy and Do It All Over Again have a slight country tinge to them, but it’s Swedish country so they kick up a different sort of dust. It’s nice to see there’s a new band from Sweden pick up the indiepop torch again.

You can stream and buy Moon Types’ single from their record label Jigsaw Records.

Unlikely Friends Strike Gold

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With Boat on somewhat of a hiatus and Math and Physics Club in the middle of their standard four or so years between albums what is a guy to do in the green and mossy Pacific Northwest? Well, in the case of Boat’s Dave Crane you round up a new bunch of friends, call yourselves Unlikely Friends and cook up a new batch of killer pop pop songs. You will undoubtedly recognize the voice of Charles “Chaz” Bert from Math & Physics Club and you may know Chris Mac (the Indiepop King of Seattle) who runs the Jigsaw record label and mail order and is at least in three bands around town at any given time.

Solid Gold Cowboys will be easy to like if you are already a Boat fan because Crane’s voice and his penchant for writing hooky pop songs. The gunslinger in this game is Bert who usually keeps things pretty mellow when singing in MAPC, but really lets loose on many of these songs adding an quantifiable effervescence into them.

The album is a combination of precise pop hooks akin to Guided By Voices and the sunny sweet bubblegum psychedelia of the Apples in Stereo. Soft Reputation and Satellite Station are the best of examples of this great combination, but that doesn’t really cover it. Ride Off Into the Sunset chugs along like Love and Rockets, Gold Hills Theme nods to the dusty spaghetti western soundtrack music of Ennio Morricone and Gold Coast Marauders has the delicacy of a Left Banke song. Crane usually takes the lead vocal with Bert coming in on the chorus to put the song into the stratosphere.

Considering the backgrounds of these three (Un)likely friends it’s not surprising that they got together to make a record. The unlikely part is that the peanut butter and chocolate combination of the heart on your sleeve style of Boat juxtaposed with the sweetness of Math and Physics Club is satisfying winner.

Cassette version is available from Mirror Universe Tapes
Compact Disc version is available from Jigsaw Records

If you are in Seattle, you won’t want to miss Unlikely Friends record release show at the Rendezvous in Belltown, Saturday, February 21 with Ruler and Oh! Pears.

Diving For Pearls

Lou Reed once sang “It’s hard being a man living in a garbage pail”. Amida kick off their new EP with a brash rocker called My Life as Trashcan. Undoubtedly, living in a dumpster is be hard, but what about being the dumpster? All those dirty people violating your personal space, diving into you, taking your stuff, not to mention getting picked up by the forklift of a big truck and getting turned upside down.  It’s an attention-grabbing single, kind of dirty, kind of dangerous, and kind of weird.

Amida’s slightly off kilter pop reminds me of Franklin Burno’s Nothing Painted Blue who could bookishly rock it like nobody’s business. There’s some laid-back meandering that reminds me of Pavement and some go- it-your-own-way pop of  Washington DC’s High Back Chairs. With all those American references you might be surprised to find out Amida hail from the north of England. Manchester to be precise. They’ve recently released a new EP on Seattle’s very own Jigsaw Records. How does a Seattle label end up releasing a record from a Manchester band? Haven’t you heard? The world’s a small place, even for trashcans.

mp3: Amida – My Life As a Trashcan (EP available from Jigsaw Records)