Rolling Coastal Blacking Out or Something Like That

April 2, 2017 at 6:30 pm | Posted in Australia, Music, Seattle, Shows | 4 Comments
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One thing about Melbourne, Australia’s Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever is that I can never seem to get their name right. It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, you know. How many bands have four word names these days? People are lucky enough to be able to remember two word band names. It seems that their US label Sub Pop realizes this, shortening the band’s name for their US debut to Rolling Blackouts C.F. I don’t know if this is better though. It isn’t a whole lot easier to remember, and it gives the impression that there is already a band named Coastal Blackouts and these Blackouts are from some country with the initials C.F.

Another thing about Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever is that they jangle. You hear the likely suspects (Bats, Clean, & Feelies) in their sound, but their jangle comes from a more classic rock corner of the universe. Their sound can best be described by the Close Lobsters‘ cover of Neil Young‘s Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black). They sound like they’ve done their time on the bar circuit, and taken their lumps winning over hard drinking, blue collar fellows in dungarees.

One more thing about Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, they’re show this past Tuesday at Barboza here in Seattle was a lot of fun. The five piece band featured three guitarists and singers, but their secret weapon, which all great bands will attest to, was their rhythm section. Every song was anchored by some great bass riffs which was really apparent live. That firm mooring allowed the guitarists to really go into their hyper-manic-riff mode trading licks and often vocal spots. This band seems to be very well oiled machine.

One final thing about Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, they do a mighty fine cover of the Orange Juice classic Blueboy!

Seattle’s designated openers for all Australian jangly type bands, Zebra Hunt did just that. On this night I found out:

    • In Australia, zebra is pronounced with a short ‘e’.
    • Zebra Hunt’s second LP is coming out May 19.
    • The band now seems to be a permanent four piece.
    • They have got a brand new set of songs that rivals the ones the made me fan in the first place.
    • They just keep getting better!
    • They might actually be Australian judging from their ace cover of the Go-Betweens‘ Was There Anything I Could Do?

No Hand Sanitizer Required In This Honey Bucket

September 16, 2016 at 8:43 pm | Posted in Albums, Music, Portland | Leave a comment
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If you don’t live on the West Coast a band named Honey Bucket probably won’t have any bad connotations for you. For those of us not so fortunate, well let’s just say that we will just have to try not to touch anything and hold our noses as we listen. Port-a-potty influenced name aside, Portland trio Honey Bucket have just released an excellent debut record that has elements of their pals Woolen Men, the Clean and some Elephant 6 collective in its pop innards.

Recorded to a Tascam, the aesthetic of the album reminds me of the early Elephant 6 records by Beulah, The Apples In Stereo and Neutral Milk Hotel. It’s sort of geeky pop fun at its core with cheap sounding keyboards and some free jazz horns interspersed into its pure pop.

The vinyl version of Honey Bucket’s Magical World is out on See My Friends Records. Downloads are at Bandcamp.

Prophet Hens Come In Through The Back Door

August 17, 2016 at 8:31 pm | Posted in Albums, Music, New Zealand | Leave a comment
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The Prophet Hens‘ Popular People Do Popular People was a near perfect first record. It was immediate and inviting. You heard it once and stashed it in your favorites bin along with the Chills, the Clean and the Bats. So what do you do after releasing a brilliant first album and how do you avoid the notorious sophomore slump for record number two?

Perhaps you intentionally rethink your brilliance into something slightly different. Or perhaps you roll with changes that life throws at your band. Get a new rhythm section and give Penelope Esplin a greater roll in the vocals department, let loose a little and embrace a less delicate approach to you general sound.

It may not be as as immediate and it wasn’t for me at first, but as it percolates it begins to surpass what you thought at first was unsurpassable. The Wonderful Shapes of Back Door Keys leaves bedroom and sheds the moodiness of the first record, and embraces more driving rhythms sometimes even bleeding into motorik territory (see closer Modal). I’m not sure if it’s a better record than the debut, but it’s more confident and fun and certainly it’s no slump!

The Wonderful Shapes of Back Door Keys is out now on Fishrider Records.

If You Build It They Will Come

September 4, 2015 at 11:40 am | Posted in Albums, Music, Portland | Leave a comment
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Woolen Men

You might remember San Francisco band Pow!‘s album Hi-Tech Boom from two years ago. It was a punk filled diatribe against zombie tech workers taking over their city.  In the two years since, the zombie tech worker cancer has moved up the coast to Portland (and Seattle). The nouveau riche are clogging up the city’s’ arteries, causing the cost of everything to go up, encouraging developers to come into neighborhoods and level older cheaper housing to build shiny new, and more expensive housing. Neighborhoods that once were quirky, weird and cool become bland and boring. Where once there was a record store now stands a bank. where there was a fun dive bar or DIY space now stand condominiums and high end furniture stores with on the ground floor.

Like their bay area brethern Portland’s Woolen Men aren’t going take it sitting down. Their new album Temporary Monument is about the experience of their city changing into something that they no longer recognize and don’t much like. On the album’s opening song Clean Dreams they’re choked by the dust of high-rise pits being dug, crowded out and feeling alienated in a city they see changing for the bad before their eyes. The feeling of alienation in their hometown continues on songs Alien City, Life in Hell, Hard Revision and the title track.

Musically, Woolen Men continue on the same trajectory of jangly and jagged guitar riffs inspired by the Clean, the Minutemen, dB’s and Wire. All three members write, sing and play guitar which lends a diversity to the album. Mostly the songs veer toward high energy rage, but they can dial it back and sound pretty like on Walking Out and After the Flood which is so introspective and sad it sounds like it could have been REM‘s Automatic for the People.

If this were just a record railing against the mallification of urban cores it might grate at your nerves over a full album, but Woolen Men take you through the full seven step grieving process with a deftness and ingenuity that could if directed in the right way could create an insulated pocket of creative utopia.

Woolen Men’s Temporary Monument is out now on Woodsist.

Jangly Good Times with Twerps at the Sunset

April 8, 2015 at 9:10 pm | Posted in Music, Seattle, Sunset Tavern | 2 Comments
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I remember seeing the Lucksmiths eight or nine years ago at the Sunset in Ballard and getting into a conversation with someone at the show about how strange it was for a band to travel half way around the world just to play this tiny bygone place in Ballard where the bar was right in front of the stage. A lot has changed in Ballard since then, including the Sunset. It has recently been remodeled so that there is a front room called Betty’s Room that is open to non-ticket holders and then there is a separate back room where you need to pay a cover to get in to see the bands. It’s very similar to places like Piano’s and the Mercury Lounge in Manhattan. They may moved the bar away from the stage, but they left the giant support beam that cuts across the stage make a substantial obstacle for tall bass players who like to jump around. I guess you could say it adds some character to the place. All things considered the remodel is a major improvement.

Now it feels like a destination for bands traveling half way around the world, like the Twerps from Melbourne, Australia. Three years ago when they were in Seattle, they played at Chop Suey to a score of people. This time it was sold out. The Twerps at their core are Marty Frawley and Julia McFarlane, both sing and play guitar. Helping them out this tour is the rhythm section from the Stevens who also share a record label, Chapter Music in Australia. The Twerps new album Range Anxiety features much better production than their debut and quite a few fairly obvious nods to the Go-Betweens. Live the band seemed loose and in good spirits despite a late night drive to make it to Seattle in time for a session at KEXP earlier that day. Marty has a cheeky sense of humor, at one point in the set declaring his preference for Portland over Seattle. He seemed to relish playing to a full room. A couple highlights from the set for me included Jules’s Raft from the Underlay EP. This song doesn’t really sound like a Twerps song, but was pretty great nonetheless sounding part Bats and part Lovelife era Lush. Another highlight was Simple Feelings which really took an Feelies vibe with its swirling guitar and manic beat. The set was packed full of gems like like Dreamin’, Work It Out, I Don’t Mind and Back to You. With  two albums and a handful of EP’s the band had bounty of riches to choose from and they chose wisely, making it a jangly good time for everyone.

Range Anxiety by Twerps is out now on Merge Records.

Zebra Hunt who opened for the Twerps at Chop Suey three years ago also opened Saturday evening. I can’t think of a better match of bands for a bill. If you haven’t checked out Zebra Hunt’s album yet and dig the Twerps, I can guarantee that you will love it.

Oddities

March 1, 2015 at 6:16 pm | Posted in Albums, Music, Psychedlia | Leave a comment
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So you’re perusing the internet and you come across something about a band that is made up of members of Total Control, UV Race, East Link and Dick Diver. What do you do? Try not to get too excited, right? Why haven’t you heard of this band before? Have you had your coffee yet today? Do you take sugar?

Well the the first thing I would tell you is that there is nothing obvious about Russell St. Bombings. If you’re looking for the next great unheard pop record from down under then you are looking under the wrong rock. This is an intentionally difficult record. It’s something that probably started as jam between friends and then because it had a few elements that were intriguing it continued.

Hey lets go get some beer and noodle around. A studio costs too much, so lets record ourselves with our phones. What’s the flight time from Perth to Manila?  Let’s use odd tunings and make the songs run together. Have you ever recorded a guitar solo in an airplane toilet?

The Clean were known to go off on tangents like this and they called those records Oddities. Today I was scraping moss from the steps in the back when out popped a somewhat large wormlike creature. Pop songs squirm out of the cracks unexpectedly, and then they burrow back down into the dirt just as quickly.  If Syd Barret would have conducted symphonies I think this is what it may have sounded like on the even days.

Oddly I find myself listening to this a lot more than I ever would have thought. Sometimes it feels good to listen to music that isn’t obvious. It’s exciting because you don’t know where it’s going and it’s exciting because you get the feeling that the band don’t exactly know where it’s going either. Where are you going?

Russel Street Bombings is out now on SmartGuy Records

So Much Water So Close To Home

January 28, 2015 at 5:27 pm | Posted in Albums, Music, Seattle, Vinyl | Leave a comment
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After a couple singles, Zebra Hunt, the Pacific Northwest’s foremost purveyors of the Dunnedin sound have released an album. City Sighs has obviously been influenced by the classic Flying Nun sound of the early 80’s made famous by the Clean, the Verlaines and the Chills, but it also incorporates some distinctly American sounds to create a fresh variation on a well worn style.

City Sighs seems to be an album full of jangle, longing and discovery. It’s full of pop songs that are instantly likable and easy to remember. Deleware starts the record and opines for a lost friend who’s up and moved back to the first state in the Union. Singer Robert Mercer sings just enough (and leaves even more unsaid) to get you wondering why this person left. It has an air of mystery to it like a Raymond Carver story. The American influences aren’t just literary. Call It Off is a dusty rocker that has Long Ryders feel to it and Isle of Song and Always both owe a little something to Galaxy 500. The band also rightfully resurrect Half Right and Beaches of LA, two of their best songs that originally appeared on their first single that came out on the now defunct Manic Pop label.

The last song Haze Of Youth may be my favorite song on the album. Starting out as pop and then transitioning into a long jam, it out real estates Real Estate. City Sighs is being released by the tiny Tenorio Cotobade label in Madrid, Spain, so you probably won’t see this record at your local shop unless you live in Seattle, but it deserves as much exposure and recognition as like minded records (on much larger labels) by the Twerps and Real Estate.

Vinyl & Download available from Tenorio Cotobade.
Download available from Zebra Hunt’s bandcamp.

If you’re near Seattle this weekend, don’t miss Zebra Hunt Saturday at Hilliard’s in Ballard.

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The Spires’ Wide Open Jangle

September 13, 2013 at 9:57 pm | Posted in Desert, Jangle, Music, Ocean | 1 Comment
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Ventura, California’s Spires know how to create space in the midst of jangle. Their latest album Eternal Yeahs is a unique melange of Byrds mixed with some Television, some Church, Tyde and a healthy dose of Flying Nun’s patented Dunedin sound. It’s a something uniquely influenced by the dust of the Southern California desert and the pacific rim. Wide open dusty spaces juxtaposed with the undulating horizon of the Pacific ocean.

A lot of jangly bands give a feeling of claustrophobia with their sound, but The Spires brand of jangle inspires feelings of wide openness. One song is a mouthful of dust from the desert and the next has you walking off of the desert sand into the ocean break. I think it must be related living on the pacific rim and having wide open spaces at one’s doorstep.

They kind of remind of Seattle’s Purrs. A west coast band that continues to put out quality albums and stay fairly close to home. They also similarly possess unquestionable knowledge of their musical roots combined with impeccable taste with the know how to employ an expert pace and sprinkle quality throughout a long player. s. Eternal Yeahs doesn’t blow iit all in its first three. It sustains over the course of of 40 unforgettable minutes and keeps a lasting glow.

You can get a digital download or order a CD of the new album via the Spires’ bandcamp page. If you’re into vinyl, I hear their is a petroleum version of the album on the way soon.

stream: The Spires – Live At The Ghost Park

Plumage of the Ginnels

August 8, 2013 at 8:50 pm | Posted in Ireland, Jangle-pop, Music, Spain, Vinyl | 1 Comment
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Mark Chester may be one of the most prolific fellows you’ve never heard of. He’s released three albums in past three years under his solo moniker the Dublin, Ireland based Ginnels (Ginnels, according to my Merriam-Webster is a narrow passage way between two buildings). His last album was the sprawling 20 song Crowns which Chester said was inspired by records like 69 Love Songs, Sandinista and Bee Thousand. The problem was that all of the releases were digital only with the exception of one which was also released as a cassette. If you release a record into the ether does anyone hear it?  Sure, a few people do but is it taken seriously? Can you truly love a digital download?

Chester no  longer has to worry about questions like those because the Spanish label Tenorio Cotobade has just released Plumes on vinyl. Plumes collects songs from all three of Ginnels albums and slaps them onto a big piece of plastic so you can consummate your love these songs which have much in common with the likes of the Apples in Stereo, Salako, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Bats, and the Clean. Chester seems to be a bottomless well of them too. It’s like Like some mad scientist injected him with a serum that produces highly melodic, introspective, jangly compositions. Chester though adds a touch of weariness to this formula that makes them hold more weight than your standard caffeinated New Zealand loving indie band of today.

stream: The Ginnels – Plumes (Plumes is out now on Tenorio Cotobade)

Repricussing from Woolen Men

July 7, 2013 at 10:01 pm | Posted in Comet Tavern, Music, Seattle | Leave a comment
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WoolenMen
Last night was the second time I had the pleasure of seeing Portland’s Woolen Men here in Seattle. I didn’t realize until they mentioned it, that I was two for two with them. This being only the second time they’ve made the trip up the Five to play here. The last time being at the Josephine in January of last year with Orca Team and their Australian brethren the Woolen Kits.

I remember remarking at that show how they seemed to have a stash of dB’s records and an innate ability of making killer noisy skewed pop. Those special powers have not been lost in the year and a half since I last saw them. In fact they have been enhanced, they’ve signed with Woodsist,  released their ‘debut’ record, and self-released a pre-Woodsist greatest hits record.

Last night at the Comet opening for BOAT, they played a short set that left me wanting much more. Their songs can sound like early REM, Wire, the Clean and the unheralded west coast obscurity 100 Flowers (if unfamiliar seek out this year’s reissue on Superior Viaduct). Woolen Men are only a three piece, but they pack the power of four or five. All three members sing which leads me to believe they all write songs, but they’re all well versed in the same school of rock. You feel like you are in the south in the mid-80’s with Mitch Easter in a garage or in Dunedin in early 80’s with one of the Kilgour brothers by your side. Go see them if they decided to come to your town, there are few bands that pack this kind of power and prowess in one guitar, one bass and drums.

stream: Woolen Men – Head On the Ground (from their self-titled album on Woodsist)

BOAT were fun as usual. I thought that Forever In Armitron was the best BOAT song, but Lately sounded pretty killer last night and they threw in a cover of Lou Reed’s Satellite of Love just for fun. Who knows when they’ll play again as their drummer is moving to New York. I doubt it will keep them down long though. D. Krane tells me that there are plans afoot to release the first two BOAT albums on vinyl and he’s working on something totally new with Charles Bert from Math and Physics Club. The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.

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