June Top 10

The Umbrellas – Write It In the Sky (Slumberland)
The young Umbrellas have really outdone themselves this time. After one single and an album, their new single Write It In the Sky reaches heights beyond anything they’ve done previously. It sounds like Sunny Sundae Smile era MBV, a dash of the noisier side of Sarah Records and some long lost paisley underground group. The guitars are buzzing, the vocals are breathless and the backing vocals are from the heavens. Singles like this will restore your faith in humanity. It did mine.

Michael Head and the Red Elastic Band – Dear Scott (Modern Sky)
Michael Head has never been one to adhere to a frantic release schedule when it comes to albums. His previous bands Pale Fountains, Shack and the Strands all had great but sporadic runs and his latest group is no different when comes to release schedule or the high quality standards he’s set with his previous groups. Dear Scott is decidedly downtrodden in nature, but beautiful in its delivery. There are well placed strings and horns that add flourishes to songs that sound well worn and comfortable and nestle themselves easily into your new set of favorite songs.

Soft Estate – The Painted Ship EP (Mammas Mysteriska Jukebox)

Soft Estate are a somewhat mysterious minimalist electronic Swedish group. There is an obvious Broadcast feel to their songs. They also remind me a little of some of the esoteric sounds that Ian Masters was involved in after he left Pale Saints. Everything here is very intriguing and on songs like Cindy you can hear their potential mastery of the moody pop song. Ones to watch, perhaps.

Flasher – Love Is Yours (Domino)
Washington, DC’s Flasher are back with album number two, but things have changed a little bit. They’re down to a duo and their songs don’t shy away from obvious infectious pop. The new LP is full of dancy pop that has saccharine elements of Ultra Vivid Scene and a bit of Unrest obtuseness with an eye to get played on the indie dance floor. Songs like I’m Better and Love Is Yours certainly deserver to get their chance to make you boogie.

Holiday Crowd – Party Favours (Shelflife)
Canada certainly has a leg up on indiepop these days. Ducks Ltd of course come to mind when you mention Toronto indie bands and the latest Holiday Crowd single jangles its way right into the conversation with its guitars that jangle and post-Smiths flamboyant melody. Holiday Crowd aren’t exactly prolific but with quality like this I’m happy to let them take their time and get it just right. Party Favours is some top shelf indiepop that shouldn’t be missed.

Boat – No Plans to Stuck the Landing (Magic Marker)
It’s so great to have BOAT back in fold after that brief hiatus in second half of the previous decade (the 2010’s to you youngsters). Their Evel Knievel themed new album is there second after regrouping for 2020’s Tread Lightly. D Crane and the fellows still have the knack for writing super catchy chest thumping songs. This one is a pandemic inspired group effort with lots of guests, many of which appeared on the group’s slopyypopstagram Instragram live video shows during the height of the pandemic. Many new BOAT classics are added to the cannon on this sprawling album. Toll Booth City and Warm Up the Choppers are quintessential BOAT, but they stretch out on Dog Days and My Haunted Friend with the help of guests like the Feelies Glen Mercer and Karl Blau.

Anteloper – Pink Dolphins (International Anthem)

Anything trumpet player Jamie Branch does is golden in my opinion. Here she teams up with a couple Tortoise alumni, Jeff Parker and Jason Nazary. I could take or leave Tortoise, with the exception of the remixes of Millions Now Living Will Never Die that appeared as Tortoise Remixed. In any event, this reinforce my original statement that Jamie Branch can do no wrong. Anteloper incorporates Branch’s envelope pushing jazz with electronics and stirs it up into a remarkable, challenging and unique musical brew.

Horsegirl – Versions of Modern Performance (Matador)

Horsegirl’s debut single Ballroom Dance last year was drop dead amazing. It sounded like they had it all figured out from the get go. The debut album is a slight disappointment if you’re measuring it against their first single. Taken by itself, Versions of Modern Performance is perfectly fine. It’s actually quite fitting that it came out on Matador. This Chicago trio of youngsters use the 90’s indie rock heyday as their touchstone and have much in common with the likes of 18th Dye, Helium, Sonic Youth and Pavement. Maybe they don’t have it all quite figured out like I initially thought, but Versions of Modern Performance is on the right track.
Sylvia Platters – Youth Without Virtue (Self Released)

I gotta hand it to our neighbors to the north, because the Canadians (see Ducks Ltd and Holiday Crowd) have cornered the market on jangly, Smiths, Bluebells, Siddeleys inspired pop. Another feather (or leaf) in the Canadian cap comes from British Columbia’s Sylvia Platters. Their newest five song EP is festooned with beautiful guitars and melodies that are inspired by the 80’s UK indie scene. Doldrums and Blue Juniper take no prisoners. I especially love how Blue Juniper effortlessly fuses in some Paisley Underground into its jangling tempest. A super fun listen.

My Life In the Sunshine – Nabil Ayers
I’ve been on a music book reading rally in the last few months. Nabil Ayers who along with Jason Ayers opened the Sonic Boom Record shop in Seattle back in 1997 is pretty well known to Seattle music folks. For those outside the Pacific NW, he also played drums in Seattle bands the Lemons, Alien Crime Syndicate and the Long Winters and is the current head of Beggars Group in the U.S. which includes the 4AD, Matador and Rough Trade labels. That’s all very interesting, but how he got there is much more interesting. His mother had a very short relationship with jazz vibraphonist Roy Ayers. It was a mutually agreed upon situation between his mom and Ayers that begat Nabil. This book is a fascinating musical journey to try and connect with his father and his father’s side of the family.

The Long Winters Off the Grid

Long Winters, the Cops and Boat at Showbox, Seattle | 5 July 2008

The Cops singer Mike Jaworski was ribbing John Roderick throughout their set, and in between songs he says, “John Roderick, I’ve got three words: Off the Grid” He did kind of look a bit mountain man like with his fully fuzzy beard, long hair, and erm…horn rimmed glasses? On second thought, he’s more part the Dude from the Big Lebowski and part tenured college professor. Roderick is kind of the tenured indie rock prof around town and something of a renaissance man, as evidenced in the column he writes for the Seattle Weekly, but music is his strong suite. He’s been around, put his time in with Harvey Danger and fronting a number of his own bands. He’s finally come into his own with the Long Winters and now he and his band are reaping the rewards. After the Long Winters‘ 2006 release Putting the Days to Bed, they seem to be on the verge of something big. The only problem is recording a new record, something they are about to do. But before going into the studio, the band have scheduled a handful of dates on the West Coast and one in New York. Saturday night’s show was a stellar Seattle line up featuring Boat and the Cops opening for them.

The night started off with Boat, and their first time ever playing the Showbox. It’s likely the biggest room they’ve ever played, and they seemed pretty chuffed to be playing. The regular four piece Boat were augmented by a fifth member this night who provided a third guitar and saxophone. The additional fifth guy really seemed to flesh out their sound. It gave them a little more polish, and I don’t think they’ve ever sounded better. They plucked songs from both albums, played all three songs from their new single Topps and even threw in a brand spankin’ new song at the end of their set that seemed like it was written especially for the night, name checking the afore mentioned man of the evening.

Second of this Seattle trilogy line up were the Cops. I wasn’t sure what to expect from these tightly wound post punkers. Their second album Free Electricity which came out last year is good. It’s Gang of Four crossed with Jawbox, loads of attitude and lots of hooks, if a bit same-y sounding at times. After seeing them I can tell you that the Cops totally bring it, and they leave nothing. From the first chord, these guys where whirling, jumping, posing and just totally rocking out for their entire set. I thought there was now way they would be able to keep up their energy for the entire set, but I was wrong. Guitarist John Randolph made me dizzy with his constant whirling and jumping, and singer Mike Jaworski punished the mic with his intense delivery. Their showmanship was made easy buy the super tight rhythm section of David Weeks and Drew Church. This band have the songs and the chops to go beyond their obvious post punk roots and to the next level, I’m looking forward to what comes next from them.
mp3: The Cops – N. 99 (from Free Electricity)

The Long Winters are Roderick’s show, this is very clear when you see them live. Roderick is the guy everyone is there to see. Numerous women around me could be heard squealing such things as he’s soo cute, and I just want to squeeze him, and I’m in love with him. That’s not to say his band are just session guys. Even though there seems to be a revolving door with band members, the Long Winters are truly a band who tour and play on the records. The band seemed to be having as good a time as the rest of the Showbox, laughing at Roderick’s banter. And why not, he is a gregarious fellow, engaging the audience between every song with bon mots a la Billy Bragg. In fact like Bragg, I would say he enjoys the between song part of shows just as much as playing the songs. He had some funny one liners like, ‘look at all these beards. What, is Ballard closed tonight?’ And he wasn’t afraid to put his hair into pony tails or break into classic rock songs from Pink Floyd and Van Halen. He had the place singing Wish You Were Here without even trying. As for the songs, I was expecting to hear some new ones, but they stuck mostly with stuff from the last two albums. There were many shouted requests, that didn’t get played, but I was happy to hear the hits from the last two albums, since it was my inaugural Long Winters show.

mp3: Long Winters – Fire Island, AK (from Putting the Days to Bed)

Three Imaginary Girls were there and have a set list, though somewhat out of order, and I have more pictures from the evening over at my flickr.