When we last caught up with Portland, Oregon’s Mo Troper it was 2017 and his very good album Exposure and Response. He’s still writing top quality pop songs on album number three which is called Natural Beauty. Where Exposure employed the services of Richard Manning of Jellyfish fame for the horn and string arrangements, this album sees Troper handling most of them himself with now obvious quality degradation.
Natural Beauty is a solid batch of songs (Almost Full Control, Come and Get Me, and Jaz from Australia are all standouts). The obvious standout song here (and one of his best songs yet) is Your Boy. It’s two minutes of sheer pop brilliance in the vein of the La’s There She Goes. Maybe it’s the similarity the two songs share in their choruses (“There she goes” vs “There goes your boy”), or it could be the jangly guitar intro, or perhaps it’s the fleeting brevity of the song. Whatever the case, it was the reason the repeat button was created. I wouldn’t be surprised if I didn’t start hearing it used in many upcoming romantic comedy movies. Get it below before it’s discovered and killed by corporate America.
I took a year off from doing a favorite Seattle records list due to lazyitis (sorry Seattle). Here’s my top ten records from my fair city for 2011 (sorry Seattle).
1. Seapony – Go With Me (Hardly Art)
Twee is alive and well in Seattle. Seapony kind of came out of nowhere late last year. They put their debut album out on local label Hardly Art, played countless shows around town and generally put the Northwest back on the map when it comes to indiepop. mp3: Dreaming
2. Charles Leo Gebhardt IV – Begin Again (GGNZLA)
Leo Gebhardt plays guitar in a few Seattle bands, but it’s his solo stuff that really shines. Begin Again was his second release for the enigmatic Seattle label GGNZLA. Begin Again is full of rollicking and playful, Kinks inspired narratives. mp3: Chapel of Roses
3. BOAT – Dress Like Your Idols (Magic Marker)
BOAT keep delivering hook laden albums sparked with humor and conviction. Like the Young Fresh Fellows before them, these industrious fellows create unforgettable pop right under the city’s collective noses. Dress Like You Idols contains some of the band’s best songs yet. mp3: Forever in Armitron
4. Cute Lepers – Adveture Time (1-2-3-4 Go!)
Adventure Time is Cute Lepers’ third (and best) album. It’s full of glammy punk rock similar to the Rezillos. Songs full of high fructose corn syrup, actually, no they’re probably full of maple sugar, because they’re sweet and good for you. Hell, just eat them out of the box with a spoon. mp3: Misdirected
5. Emuul – The Drawing of the Line (Digitalis)
This record kind of popped up on my radar from nowhere, or maybe it condensed from a passing cloud. Emuul is the latest moniker of Kyle Iman and The Drawing of the Line is hypnotic music that will put you in a dreamlike state. Don’t let that fool you, there are pop songs under the gauze of this instrumental electronica. mp3: Expectations
6. Webelos – Shadow Seasons (self-released)
Shadow Seasons sounds like it could have come out on Teen Beat back in the early 90’s. It’s a quirky little fellow with propulsive bass driven songs. Think Unrest, Eggs and the Monochrom Set. mp3: If You Choose To Stay
7. Craft Spells – Idle Labor (Captured Tracks)
This record was made in a bedroom in Stockton, California, but by the time it came out Justin Vallesteros had relocated Craft Spells to Seattle. Idle Labor is heavily influenced by the romantic synthpop of the 80’s. Bouncy, longing pop songs that could make you forget what year it was. mp3: After the Moment
8. Witch Gardens – Alice, Agatha, Branch, & Christ (self-released)
If ever there was a band meant to be on K records, Witch Gardens is it. This is pure ramshackle pop fun by a band seemingly making it up as they go. I love what they’ve come up with so far which is primarily this cassette. mp3: Softball Chick
9. Gold Leaves – The Ornament (Hardly Art)
I loved Arthur & You’s In Camera. Sadly, that band seems to be no more, but Grant Olson of the duo returned as Gold Leaves this year and it kind of picks up where Arthur & Yu left off. The Ornament is rich and velvety bringing to mind the cinematic records of Lee Hazelwood. mp3: The Ornament
10. Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground – Introducing (Suburban Home)
Even living in Seattle, you might not have heard about the second album from Kay Kay & His Weathered Underground. Maybe it was the odd choice of a title for album number two. Whatever the case, there was little pomp around its release especially compared to the first one, and I’ve yet to see it in a record store in town. Too bad, because it’s nearly as good as their debut and goes to the same tin pan alley, psychedelia, kaleidoscopic pop well. mp3: Oh Lord, I Hate You California
Pony Time – Pony Time (Per Se) | Shabazz Palaces – Black Up (Sub Pop) | Night Beats -Night Beats (Trouble In Mind) | Erik Blood – Music From the Film Center of Gravity (Self-Released) | Consignment – New Low (GGNZLA) | Telekinesis – 12 Desperate Straight Lines (Merge) | Green Pajamas – Green Pajama Country (Green Monkey)
Here ya go, something for the weekend. It’s the March installment of the the Finest Kiss Basementcast. If this is going to become a regular thing, I guess I should get a theme song and some back ground music for the talking parts. A real microphone might be nice too, one of those big foamy ones would be perfect. Maybe I should get some advertisers too. Naah, I kind of like the furnace as my background noise, at least until I sell out.
Obits – Two Headed Coin
France Has the Bomb – Invisible Angle
Coconut Coolouts – The Spinaround
Lime spiders – Just one Solution
Vic Godard – Vertical Integration
Wake the President – Professor
Comet Gain – You Can Hide Your Love Forever
Rakes – Muller’s Ratchet
Intelligence – 16&17
A Frames – Death Train
Dead Mellotron – Dress Rehearsal
Crocodiles – Neon Jesus
Kay Kay & His Weathered Underground – Diggin
Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career
Pale Sunday – The White Tambourine
Mayfair Set – Desert Fun
Liechtenstein – Everything’s for Sale
Jane Wiedlin – Cool Places
Smittens – the Interstate
Blue Jungle – I’m a Ninja
Rose Eleanor Dougall – Another Version of a Pop Song
Crystals – Then He Kissed Me
Richard Hawley – Rockabilly Radio
Johnny Kidd and the Pirates – Shakin All Over
Pete & the Pirates – Blood Gets Thin
British Sea Power at Neumo’s, Seattle | 4 March 2008
Arriving on stage at about 11:30 last night, British Sea Power looked like they’d just come in from a grueling hike up in the Cascades. Hamilton sported an orange rain coat and huge shit-kicking hiking boots, guitarists Yan and Nobel, though not wearing lederhosen, had their pants cinched at the knees along with knee-high socks. Everyone had scarves, flags or bandannas tied around body parts, or hanging out of pockets. British Sea Power know how to accessorize! In the past it’s been the stage that had the accessories, foliage ripped from trees or bird statues, this time it was to a lesser degree themselves.
British Sea Power are one of those bands that must be seen live to truly appreciate them. You just can’t get that wild half insane gaze from Hamilton, or dizzying heights of Nobel and Yan’s guitar playing and the massive mid-song freak-outs from the recorded versions. A British Sea Power show often makes you think that the songs are on the verge of crashing down, but don’t let the insane looks from the band or Nobel climbing into the balcony fool you, these guys are a total rock and roll machine and make you realize why you go to see a band live instead of staying at home a listening to the cd. The core band has augmented their lineup for the road with the addition of a viola player and keyboard/horn player. The viola player seems like a good idea on paper, but I could hardly hear her, only when there was no guitar could I actually hear the viola(This could have been where I was standing, as Neumo’s seems to have very spotty sound).
Last night was an amazing show, easily the best British Sea Power show I’ve seen. The set list was just about perfect, heavily favoring the new Do You Like Rock Music and their debut The Decline of British Sea Power. I was pleasantly surprised to hear the instrumental The Great Skua, displaying elements of Mogwai and Cocteau Twins, easily besting the album version. For me, the band’s early singles are the high water mark. Childhood Memories and Spirit of St. Louis, Fear of Downing and Remember Me setting the bar so hight that they’ve yet to actually deliver on the promise of their early work, though album number three DYLRM? comes close. All of the above songs were present and accounted for last night, save Childhood Memories. Spirit of St. Louis was especially sweet with the band going into one of their tangent freak-outs in the middle and then bringing it all back together with Yan yelping like a mad man Louis, Louis, Louis, Louis at the end. They Closed the night with Rock in A, which essentially is a frame for them to improvise, chanting, singing into their guitar pick-ups and climbing into the balcony from the stage which Nobel did with as much as ease as his inspired guitar playing. British Sea Power records may not be immediate to many listeners, but come and see them live and you will definitely ‘get it’. Go see them if you can, because they mightily surpass their recordings on a nightly basis.
Seattle’s very own undiscovered treasure, Kay Kay and his Weathered Underground started the night off in grand style. Playing select tracks from their record amazing debut, lengthening a lot of the songs out to really highlight the dub/reggae influences to their sound. I count every time I see these guys a privilege, and tonight was no exception. The middle band of the night was the white clad Colourmusic. My guess is that one or all of these guys went to art school, because they were all dressed in identical white uniforms, hell, even their amps were white. At first I thought they were a bit goofy, as in between songs, they would have a recorded voice come on and talk about the bass part for the next song. But as their set wore on, I was smitten by their geeky, hyper grooves and the songs with two drummers, interesting to say the least.
Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground at the Triple Door, Seattle | 18 February 2008
The stage was adorned with plastic sheep and horses, man-made foliage and flowers and lots of men with mustaches. Sounding and looking like no band at the moment in Seattle, or anywhere for that matter, Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground presented their new album in it’s entirety last night at the Triple Door. Front man, Kirk Huffman decked out in his best Kevin Rowland duds, seemed genuinely surprised at the turnout for the show (it was sold out), remarking that it was the best night of his life. The band numbered 11 strong and were a pleasure to look at, reminding me of a bunch of actors still in costume just deciding to be in a rock band and go do a gig.
As has always been the case with shows at the Triple Door, the sound was excellent and the band with their two violins, trumpet, french horn, piano, accordion, and excellent harmonies came across like pros. Every song was just an pure aural pleasure, with Thomas Hunter’s guitar flourishes warming the room and the two violins adding a ton of depth to the sound. The strings juxtaposed with the tin pan alley horns, to me define the sound of these guys, giving them that baroque tin pan alley feel that at times has a classical feel, but can quickly change to om-pa like carnival feel with dexterous piano of Kyle O’Quin. But really it’s all window dressing if you don’t have the songs, and Kay Kay have the songs. If you’re a fan of 60’s Kinks, the Zombies, Harry Nilson and the Beatles, or of the excellent and underrated Jellyfish who updated the sound of those 60’s icons in the 90’s, then Kay Kay is your scene, in spades! Right now there is no cd release for their album, but you can get it as a digital download over at emusic, or you can order the heavy double vinyl edition which comes with a digital download. Your choice, but you really should make the choice to procure this record, it’s a breath of fresh air.
It’s Friday and what better way to wrap up this Queen City week extravaganza, than to talk about Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground. They may be dressed like Sgt Pepper over there on the left, but Kay Kaycould be a tin pan alley version of the Electric Light Orchestra. Or maybe they are the new Zombies? Listening to their songs, I can’t figure out if they were recorded in 1967 or 2007. Whatever the case, they know how to write some sugary pop songs with lovely strings, piano, harmonica, banjo, and pretty much every other instrument you can think or. The core members of the band number only three: singer guitarist Kirk Hoffman, keyboardist Kyle O’Quin and cellist Phil Peterson, but live they are known for fitting as many people on stage playing as many instruments as possible. Kirk and Kyle were/are also in Gatsby’s American Dream, but this now seems to be their full time band. Their Live from the Pretty Parlour CD/DVD release made the number two slot in the Three Imaginary Girlsreader’s poll this year. That release has only whetted my appetite for the their first full length record which is ready to hit the streets imminently. The self titled record will be available in three different colors of vinyl, rainbow transparent, rainbow milk and orange with red speckles as well as CD. Though I’ve yet to see any info about the cd version, could be I’ll be dusting off my turntable to enjoy this one. The band will be playing a few shows to celebrate the release, get yourself out of the house if you live in Portland, Vancouver or Seattle!