Girls Names continue their upward trajectory by releasing an eleven minute opus called Zero Triptych. The Belfast band fly over a motorik beat that kicks up camel dust from an old trip that the Church took on Myrrh back in ’85 and then blasts off into a globular cluster of some nether region. Not bad for a song inspired by three panel paintings from the middle ages. Depending on your circumstances you might remember the Church and their song Myrrh. It was an obtuse song about wine, gold, personal favors, drum kits and the birth of Christ. Zero Triptch picks up where Kilby and company trailed off with the sound of aliens landing, obliterating space and time and taking us through a wormhole that dusts you with myrrh, frankincense and gold, skips over an obelisk, a couple monoliths and then leaves them all behind.
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
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
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
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)
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.
Sometimes you meet a microphone stand that you just want to fight. Last night at Barboza, moody post punkers Weekend were scheduled to play. Their alter ego’s who don’t seem to give a fuck are who actually played. I don’t know if bassist and singer Shaun Durkan had taken the wrong elixir or was off on a bad trip, but he appeared to be in an erratic state almost from the start of his band’s set. During the first song of their set the mic stand went floppy, drooping down to his knees, Durkan seemed slightly perturbed by this, but not too upset. The guitarist came over to fix it in the middle of the song and all was good.
Not quite. Durkan then proceeded to grab the mic stand and wrestle with it. Apparently the stand was more stable than he was, because he lost his balance in the mic melee and bounded out into the audience, in the process whacking his bass against the monitor and then the floor. Song over. He picks up the pieces of the mic and his bass with the help of the band and the Barboza sound guys. He tries to tune his bass only to discover that one of the tuning nobs is bent so badly that he can’t tune it. He hurls some incoherent insults at the audience and then asks with a smirk if anyone has a bass he can borrow. Nobody is eagerly volunteering their instrument having seen the damage he’s done to his own guitar so the band proceed to play another song with the broken bass and no vocals since the mic seems to have lost round one. The bass player from the opening band Haunted Horses takes pity and bravely offers up his bass. Another song is played with the loaner bass but the mic still doesn’t work. Durkan is visibly annoyed that the mic could not withstand his attack, so he walks off the stage at the end of the song. The rest of the band look like they’re not sure what to do so they walk off the stage while the sound guys fix stuff.
Eventually Weekend come back out and play End Times and everything seems ok, but not for long. Coma Summer is next and it looks like Durkan wants to fight the mic stand again. It’s almost a like a total replay of the first round, except this time he’s fighting with someone else’s bass guitar. Not Ok. The sound guy rushes to the stage, grabs the bass from Durkan and walks off with it. Show over.
Upset that he didn’t get the chance to destroy someone else’s instrument, Durkan grabs his board of effects pedals and lifts it above his head and slams it to the stage. House lights, queue exodus. Not quite. Durkan comes back out yelling at nobody in particular and lumbers to the merch booth where he hopes to sell some t-shirts and records. Worst show I’ve seen since the Fall in 94 at the Black Cat in DC.
I missed first opener Haunted Horses, but caught Cities Aviv who is really just a guy and a laptop. He’s from Memphis and makes industrial noise come from his laptop. Sometimes it was abrasive loud, sometimes it was ambient loud. I couldn’t understand a word he was saying but it sounded cool.
Crystal Stilts at Barboza, Seattle | 15 October 2013
Crystal Stilts played to a dark room with blurry images projected onto a white sheet at the back of the stage last Tuesday night at Barboza. They seem like a band of recluses and would probably prefer to perform in complete darkness. Front man Brad Hargett still seems a bit awkward as the center of attention and guitarist JB Townsend still likes to lurk in the shadows, but there was just enough darkness and just enough light in their performance to make it great one.
They lunged into their set with Spirit in Front of Me the first song on their new album Nature Noir. It owes more than a little to Velvet Undergrounds‘s I’ll Be Your Mirror and All Tomorrow’s Parties. In fact, Crystal Stilts sound one Nico short of becoming the VU. I doubt Hargett would take it as a compliment, but his monotone is closer than I thought to Nico’s , so maybe all they need is banana.
The new album doesn’t have any obvious singles, but it is their most accomplished and varied record yet. It sees them deftly using strings on a few songs making it reminiscent of the Bunnymen‘s Ocean Rain in parts which is new for them. Of course they didn’t have a string section this night being so far away from home, but they didn’t really need one. The band were in a zone. With the lights off and the focus on the music, the band were shadows on the stage and they liked it that way. The set mixed favorites like Crippled Croon, Sycamore Tree, and Love is Wave in with the new slower more confident sounding songs like Star Crawl, Future Folklore and Worlds Gone Weird. This night was by far the best I have ever seen the Stilts play.
The band still come off as tenuously comfortable on stage, but this time the awkward tension was softened by the dark and intimate confines of the venue. Some bands wither with age the Crystal Stilts continue to lurch into new dark psych corners and scramble new cloudy nebulous heights both on record and in person.
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.
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
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
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 (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
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 – 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
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
Welcome to day two of the half year round-up. Giddy-up! Here are the next set of seven records from the first half of this year that I think deserve your attention. It’s kind of an eclectic bunch but in at least one warped world they go quite well together.
Myron & E – Broadway (Stones Throw)
It seems like it’s been ages since those first couple Myron & E singles came out. I had nearly lost hope of them ever releasing an album, but the wait was worth it. Broadway is more than worth the wait, evoking Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On which is no easy feat. The Motor city may be bankrupt, but its soul legacy keeps paying dividends. Top notch stuff.
stream: Myron & E – They Don’t Know
Daughn Gibson – Me Moan (Sub Pop)
Part of Me Moan sounds like Gibson grew up with the Stuart Copeland and Stan Ridgway song Don’t Box Me In on repeat. The other part sees Gibson reading from the same book as Dan Bejar was on Destroyer’s Kaputt. Both parts consist of lush and sweeping 80’s inspired pop from a unique voice.
Stream: Daughn Gibson – The Pisgee Nest
Universe People – Go To the Sun (Little Black Cloud)
Descending from the Intelligence family tree, this Seattle trio fronted by Australian ex-pat Jo Claxton deliver serrated pop that teases and caresses before puncturing skin. This very sharp record deserves way more attention than it has received, because it’s pretty damn brilliant and would look fine next to your Intelligence, Fall and Dolly Mixture records.
stream: Universe People – Druids
Girls Names – The New Life (Slumberland)
The new life sounds like dark era Cure (Seventeen Seconds, Faith, and Pornography) without being too obvious. It didn’t immediately grab me, but its hypnotic bass and vocals has made gradually overcome my conscious and now The New Life is my go-to record when the need often comes to zone out into the horizon which is quite often.
Stream: Girls Names – Drawing Lines
Ooga Boogas – Ooga Boogas (Aarght!)
Ooga Boogas have not left their garage roots, but the garage has been remodeled or converted rather. The record walks the line between ECSR and Total Control and sidesteps into Velvet Underground, Tubeway Army, the Fall, Modern Lovers and the Soft Boys territories.
stream: Ooga Boogas – A Night to Remember
House of Love – She Paints Words In Red (Cherry Red)
House of Love guitarist Terry Bickers acrimoniously left the band during the recording of the band’s second album. Since then he mad ammends with HOL frontman Guy Chadwich and they made a reunion record Days Run Away back in 2005. It was ok. Eight years later they’ve record a follow up that is immediate, elegant and while not quite reaching the heights of their debut it feels like they’ve recaptured the fire that blazed in their creative partnership.
stream: House of Love – Holy River
Jacco Gardner – Cabinet of Curiosities (Trouble In Mind)
Dutch wunderkind pulls out all the psychedelic stops on his debut album. Amazing harmonies done to the backing of exquisite chamber pop backing. If you ever thought that the Left Bank sounded too effeminate and that Syd Barrett was too zany Gardner strikes just right balance.
stream: Jacco Gardner – The One Eyed King
This week we are featuring some of the best records of the first half of 2013. I don’t think I’ve done a mid-year roundup before, but this year is not typical. It’s on a trajectory to overwhelm any attempt at a year end list so I’m splitting it up. Some of the albums I’ve mentioned on these pages, others I’ve been keeping to myself. Everyday this week I’m going to feature seven records that deserve your or someone else’s attention. Here are the first seven.
Hookworms – Pearl Mystic (Gringo)
What do you get when you combine the 13th floor elevators with the Spacemen 3. I’m sure many bands have tried this approach, but none have ever succeeded as wildly. At this point Hookworms are sitting on top of the best record of the year.
stream: Hookworms – Since We Have Changed
BOAT – Pretend To Be Brave (Magic Marker)
When D Crane sings in the song Problem Solvers “We’re just another average America band” with such earnestness that you wonder if he’s thinking about throwing in the towel. Think about it, what if Boat were average? The masses would like them and they’d be rich. I like to think of them as standing on the top the belle curve fighting off the hordes with their indelible pop and unbridled charisma.
stream: BOAT – Problem Solvers
The Mantles – Long Enough to Leave (Slumberland)
The Mantles hark back to a to the 60’s and the Byrds. They are like the Greene and Greene of current day rock and roll. Architects of a back to basics approach that adorns with earthly tones to create a thing of beauty. When I heard that the album was to be produced by Kelley Stoltz, I had it pegged as a winner from the start and yet somehow it still exceeded my expectations.
stream: The Mantles – Hello
Bleached – Ride Your Heart (Dead Oceans)
“After that last Best Coast album, you probably thought the SoCal girl group beach thing was played out. I did, but then along come former Mika Miko sisters Jessie and Jennifer Calvin with their new band Bleached. Just to get past your initial eye-roll they need to be pretty good. They would have be a little different and bring something new to the game, right? I think Bleached realize this and they justify their sound by infusing it with some twang and dust. Like they’ve lived the seedier side of L.A. and maybe even been to Bakersfield more than a few times.”
stream: Bleached – Looking For a Fight
Robyn Hitchcock – Love From London (Yep Roc)
“If you would have said to 20 year old me that I would someday think that a record made by a 60 year old guy was was one of the best records of the year I would have scoffed at you and said disdainfully that I don’t do old guy rock.” I was an idiot when I was 20.
Stream: Robyn Hitchcock – Be Still
Songs – Malabar (Popfrenzy)
A band named Songs is questionable, but luckily I didn’t let their poorly chosen name stop me from listening to to this fine psychedelic pop album. Parts of it remind me of Game Theory, but being Australian they probably have been influenced by the Go-Betweens and the Triffids. This is their second album and it drips confidence and probably would have been a hit back in the major label heyday garnering a US deal and tons of play on college radio in a college town near you.
stream: Songs – Boy/Girl
The Sleaze – Tecktonik Girlz & Other Hits (Floridas Dying)
You often hear the argument that punk rock is played out, or worse dead (shudder). Usually I don’t argue, because it isn’t often that I hear a new punk band that isn’t. The Sleaze are here to tell you that ain’t the case and renew your faith in the underbelly of rock n’ roll. The Minneapolis band’s output has been sporadic since unleashing their killer debut single Smokin’ Fuckin’ Cigs back in 2008, but the Total Punk label has corralled these foul mouthed, snot nosed adolescents and gotten them to put out an 8 song 12 inch.
stream: The Sleaze – Tektonix Girls