Tags: Blooper, Chastity Belt, Erik Blood, Evening Meetings, La Luz, Neighbors, Nightgowns, Orca Team, Posse, Purrs, Seapony, Stephanie, Tea Cozies, Thee Satisfaction, Zebra Hunt
Could this have been the year that Seattle went pop? Sure, there have been bands here and there with pop leanings, but this was the year that Seattle finally shed it’s flannel, got out of the garage, and didn’t feel like it had to be wooly, bearded and mechanical all the time. Look out old Seattle, the kids don’t care about your hang-ups! Here are my favorite 15 records (album, ep’s and singles) from the Emerald City and environs.
1. Erik Blood – Touch Screens (Self-relased)
It was pretty cool to see much of Seattle’s music press unanimously agree that Erik Blood’s Touch Screens was a brilliant record. He took his shoegaze leanings, added some electronics, a motorik beat or two and came up with a concept album about pornography. Too bad that recognition seemed to stop at the city limits. Dear rest of the world, you may have missed one of the finest records put out this year.
The Lonesome Death of Henry Paris:
stream: Touch Screens
2. Thee Satisfaction – awE naturalE (Sub Pop)
Part soul, interstellar hip-hop, and trip-hop, the duo Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White combined to create a record that sounded like little else in Seattle and anywhere else for that matter. It didn’t get as much gushing attention as the Shabazz Palaces album did last year. It should have because it’s a better record.
3. Neighbors – John In Babeland (Lost Sound)
Neighbors’ deft songwriting seemed to effortlessly take their REM and Pavement influences and create a record that could rattle as well as soothe. John in Babeland came out cassette way back in February, luckily I got a download of it because as much as I’ve played it, the cassette wound up all scrunched in a tape deck by now.
All United Grocery:
Stream: John In Babeland
4. Evening Meetings – Evening Meetings (Sweet Rot)
Dark clouds, dark allies, dark dark. Evening Meetings wouldn’t, no couldn’t take place in the light of day nor in any other place. Claustrophobia induced by low pressure and heavy dark clouds and dusk that sets in around 3pm. This time of year in Seattle it’s dark most of the time and in some weird strange way this record turns on the bright lights every time I listen to it.
5. Zebra Hunt – Zebra Hunt (self-released)
Half Right is the best song to come out of Seattle this year. If I didn’t know any better I would have guessed they moved here from New Zealand and started a PNW Flying Nun shop right here in our midst. Seattle, rejoice! There is a pop band in our midst that breathes kiwi air.
stream: Zebra Hunt
6. La Luz – Damp Face (Self-released)
Have you ever been to the beach in Washington? You can actually drive right onto it with your car because nobody’s there. It’s flat, cold and windy no matter when you go, winter, spring, summer or fall. La Luz don’t belong in this surfer’s nightmare. Their surfer’s paradise of an EP had to have been born in warmer climes, but being from Seattle, perhaps long winter day’s indoors, hanging with the ghosts of the Ventures and dreaming of an endless summer did it.
Sure As Spring:
stream: Damp Face
7. Orca Team – Restraint (HHBTM)
The basic sound of Orca Team record hasn’t changed much over their short career. Their bass-driven 50′s surf pop jangle consistently pleases. They’re random output of singles, cassettes and CDr’s has been scattershot. Finally the band has seemed to focus and that concentration makes Restraint feel like a proper record. Its concise songs make quick long lasting impressions.
8. Posse – Posse (Self-released)
Posse’s self-titled debut is brazen with amazing pop songs. They have the gritty boy-girl back and forth in their songs and slashing guitar solos that aren’t over the top but just right. You older folk will appreciate their affinity towards Versus. Back in the 90′s during that post Nirvana signing frenzy Posse undoubtedly would have been sitting on piles of cash and big record deal. Oh how times have changed.
9. Tea Cozies – Bang Up (Self-released)
Tea Cozies re-materialized after three years in the wilderness with this killer five song EP. It has an air of confidence about it and flare that will have fans of both 90′s Britpop and college rock hopefully reaching for their pocketbooks as well as old albums by the Tuscadero, Blake Babies and Sleeper.
Silhouette In A Suitcase:
stream: Bang Up
10. Chastity Belt – Dude (self-released)
You thought I was kidding about the pop capitol of the world,didn’t you. I wasn’t and Chastity Belt are here to back me up. Their Pony Tail single had the audacity to tell the general NPR listening, latte drinking, Game of Thrones playing male populace of Seattle to cut off their ponytails. What a bunch of punks!
11. Blooper – Go Away (Self-released)
Blooper do saccharin powerpop so well that any cuts inflicted by their killer songs will bleed cherry syrup. Look out for a new 7-inch single from these Ballard popsters early in the new year on Manic Pop! Records.
stream: Go Away
12. Nightgowns – Bonita (Swoon)
Tacoma’s Nightgowns, similar to Tea Cozies have been slumbering for a few years, but this EP sees them wide awake and in good form. Slightly bombastic and theatrical, but only slightly, Bonita sounds like that bubble the Flaming Lips use, but instead of it being in a sea of confetti, they are bounding across the high desert, down the cascades and into the Sound.
13. Purrs – Rotting On the Vine (Fin)
The Purrs are like the elder statesmen of nothing. They’ve been around for years putting out great records to little recognition. Perennially writing killer songs that are left rotting on the vine so to speak. If anyone ever asks you, yes they do make them use to. Seattle’s Fin records have given the Purrs a new home and this beauty is a taste of their album due next year.
Rotting On the Vine:
stream: Rotting On the Vine
14. Seapony – Falling (Hardly Art)
Funny how Seapony’s second album is better than their first and yet last year they were number one in my Seattle albums and now they’re number 14. It might be because Falling was more of the same only better or it might be because I’m capricious. They may have slightly fallen out of fashion, but this record will be considered a Sarah-esque classic in a few years. Too bad it takes obscurity for some people to really appreciate things.
Prove To Me:
15. Stephanie – One Glove (Self-released)
Stephanie sound like they could have been on Factory records back in the early 80′s. They employed Erik Blood to record One Glove, but it sounds like they got Martin Hannett from the grave instead. Stephanie employ sparse, jaggedy steely guitars that are part Magazine and part Durutti Column and a singer that some might say is an acquired taste but they make it work quite well.
stream: One Glove
Tags: Case Studies, Crystal Stilts, Posse, Slumberland
Crystal Stilts, Case Studies and Posse at the Crocodile, Seattle | 11 May 2011
Brooklyn’s (by way of Florida) Crystal Stilts played the Crocodile this past Wednesday night to a sparse audience. Apparently their darker take on the pop song doesn’t resonate as well with the kids as their labelmates and neighbors the Pains of Being Pure at Heart brighter stylings who sold the place out a few weeks ago. Where the Pains are bright colors and glistening pop hooks, Crystal Stilts dredge around below the ground in the dark of night. Their second album In Love With Oblivion recently released on Slumberland is a more assured effort than their debut. JB Townsend’s guitars rattle, jangle and shatter with a Bo Diddly tenacity while singer Brad Hargett keeps his vocals murky making you dig just a little for the melody.
Oblivion doesn’t make you dig too deep with its abundance of hooks as their previous effort Alight of Night did. Its glistening guitar more often than not offsets Hargett’s caliginous musings. The band have never been ones to lead sing-alongs at their shows, opting to put up a distinct boundary between them and whoever shows up to see them play, and this night was no different. Crystal Stilts where there to play, oblivious to whether there were 50 or 500 people in the room which was good and bad. Good because there were only about 50 people there. They belted out a set of big moody songs that sparkled at times like a partly cloudy day in Seattle. Sun breaks came with the Felt inspired Half a Moon, the pop of Through the Floor, and single Shake the Shackles and then darkness reigned on Prometheus At Large and Flying Into the Sun. Bad because it seemed like their set was cut short by the band’s disaffection or their general awkwardness of just being on stage. Their music sounds intimidating, but to see them play, much of the mystery and malice that their songs conjure disappears because of their lack of a charismatic stage presence. They seemed uncomfortable playing to a mostly empty room and made a short night of it, only playing nine songs plus and encore.
I should not complain too much, because what they played sounded great. Evoking the Bunnymen, Velvets, 13 Floor Elevators and Felt at once is no easy feat, but it felt like it was phoned in. If you’re only going to play nine songs then why even bother with an encore? Just play 10 and leave the stage. Do it like you mean it and leave me wanting more. A band like Crystal Stilts who seem to not give a fuck about whether you’re there or not shouldn’t conform to the tired encore. If they would have done it like they meant it they would not have come back for an encore of Love Is a Wave. They would have left me wanting more, but as it was they left me wondering why they only played 10 songs and hoping they gain some charisma before they play Seattle again.
Jesse Lortz who was the Duke in the Dutchess and the Duke has a new moniker in Case Studies. I had seen him a couple months ago at Cairo with only an acoustic guitar and thought his new songs were ho-hum, but this time getting some help from 3/5 of the Crystal Stilts the songs seemed to have more of an impact. The performance felt more like a practice with Lortz coaxing the Stilts on to “try another one”, but it seemed like they were on the right track and left me hoping the Lortz employs a band when goes to actually record some of these songs.
Kicking off the evening were Seattle’s very own entry into the 90′s retread, Posse. Versus come to mind and that in and of itself should wet your whistle. The trio sounded amazing, and seemed totally comfortable on the Crocodile’s super high stage giving a shout out to their parents who showed up to see them play. If you haven’t checked them out over at their bandcamp page, what are you waiting for?
If you live in Seattle you are probably aware that the Long Winters‘ John Roderick writes a semi-weekly column for the Seattle Weekly. This week’s column was about all of the unsung bands in Seattle playing gigs on lonely Tuesday nights with no one taking any notice. I wish I had the young stamina to make it out regularly on a Tuesday and Wednesday night for the known and the unknown. Case in point I missed Davila 666 last night because I opted for sleep. I digress. There was a link in Roderick’s column to an ongoing series where the Weekly is reviewing Tuesday night shows around town of virtually unknown bands. The one that jumped out at me was Posse. Maybe it was the hand drawn photo or maybe it was because they played a show I had wanted to see with Colleen Green and Fergus & Geronimo at the Sunset a few weeks back but missed because of it’s school night scheduling.
The whole point of that previous rambling paragraph was to to tell you about how I found out about Posse. I wonder if they’re named after the Sir Mix-A-Lot song? Are they keeping the indiepop-hip hop connection alive? Anyone remember Sissy Bar‘s version of Gin and Juice? No Matter. Posse are fully formed at six months. They’ve definitely got a 90′s thing going that hits a sweat spot in me these days. The boy-girl vocals are reminiscent of both Yo La Tengo and Versus. Sacha Maxim has such a sweet voice that makes me weak in the knees the way Fontain Toups and Bridget Cross use to do and Paul Witmann kinda sounds like Mark Mulcahy of Miracle Legion. There’s a slight jangle and country element with a hint of ramshackle to their sound that conjures up so many great bands of the past, but as you know influences are a dime a dozen. It’s the songs that count and Posse excel in that capacity too (evidence below). Yeah, Tullycraft may have called it quits, but with Math & Physics Club, Seapony, Webelos and now Posse, their is no dearth of indiepop in Seattle!