Life is a Lion’s Den

lions-den

I never thought I would hear a band that combined the spazzy pop bliss of Neil Armstrong with the primal pop eccentricities of the Intelligence. Where would I actually look for something like this? The internet of course. Sweden’s Lion’s Den could more succinctly be described as garage pop but that’s too easy. The  songs on the trio’s self-titled debut LP seem to have a dry take on the mundane and acidic world (“Waking up is the bitter side of life” and “Denial is my therapy”), but they’re so darn catchy that they still make you feel like a 100 bucks.

It’s got some surfy sounding bits, some rockin’ ones,  a few eccentricities and  lots of adrenaline.  And at ten songs in about 20 minutes it’s  a perfect record for these anxiety laden and distraction filled times. Put it on and let it take you for a spin. You’ll be back in 20 minutes, in time for whatever is you didn’t really need to do.

The album is out on Lazy Ocotopus.

Best of Something

I hope you looking for a few more records to buy before the wave of 2016 releases hits I didn’t count them and they’re in no particular order but each album won in its own unique category. I don’t have any small statuettes to hand out, but I gave each of my favorite albums an award.

placestohide
Places To Hide – Strange Lyfe (Irrelevant)
Best Posthumous Album: This Atlanta band broke up before releasing their second album. Great punk and post punk anthems in the vein of X, Versus and Seam.

intelligence
The Intelligence – Vintage Future (In the Red)
Best Album by an Ex-Seattle Band: I say this about every Intelligence album, but it was their best record yet.

kingcyst
King Cyst – King of New York (Underwater Peoples)
Best Canterbury Scene Influenced Album: The Brooklyn group’s second album had me checking the release date on this whimsical beauty.

protomartyr
Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect (Hardly Art)
Best Post-Punk Rust Belt Album: The third LP by this Detroit band continues the upward trajectory initialized by last year’s Under Color of Official Right.

wildhoney
Wildhoney – Sleep Through It (Topshelf)
Best Shoegaze Album: Shoegaze has officially become a genre of music, but so few bands in the genre understand that you still need to write great songs to accompany the tremelo bar and effects pedals. That’s not a problem for Wildhoney.

chills
The Chills – Silver Bullets (Fire)
Best Comeback Album: After years of personal struggles, Martin Phillips finally reinitialized the Chills and created masterpiece that sounds like he hadn’t been out of the game over 20 years.

helen
Helen – The Original Faces (Kranky)
Best Album That Sounds Like It Was Mastered from a Cassette: Liz Harris aka Grouper goes down the Black Tambourine / Vivian Girls rabbit hole and emerges from a mountain top.

shopping
Shopping – Why Choose (FatCat)
Best ESG-Gang of Four Inspired Album: The London band’s second album is not vastly different from their debut except that the songs are bigger, better more tightly wound.

FPOP189_LP_OUTER_v6_TTO
Mammoth Penguins – Hide and Seek (Fortuna Pop!)
Best Album by Large Flightless Birds: Standard Fare’s Emma Kupa switched from bass to guitar in her new band and comes up with a more rawkus but no less poignant record.

coldbeat
Cold Beat – Into the Air (Crime On the Moon)
Best Polar Ice Cap Melting Album: Former Grass Widow bassist Hannah Lew immerses her band into an 1980’s inspired synth pop sound that on the surface sounds cold, but has a warmth and playfullness on its underbelly that could be blamed for contributing to global warming.

courtneybarnett
Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop)
Best Stream of Conscious Album: I was surprised at how polarizing this record was, it seemed like you either loved it or hated it. I was a fan of how Courtney Barnett innately was able to make her stream of conscious lyrics make sense over some incredible hooks.

dieverboten
Die Verboten – Die Verboten 2007 (Deewee)
Best Album from 2007: Recorded eight years ago, the Belgian Krautrock influenced collective finally got around to releasing their debut this year. As you might have guessed it sounds timeless.

downtownboys
Downtown Boys – Full Communism (Don Giovanni)
Best Timely Punk Album: It seemed like this Providence, Rhode Island band hit on all the top issues in America (Police Killings, Black Lives, and the 1% to name a few) on Full Communism. Add in a twin saxophone bed of chaos and you have the best pure punk record I’ve heard in a long time.

finnmark
Finnmark! – Things Always Change (Beko)
Best Indiepop Album by English People Masquerading as Scandinavians: Part Cats on Fire and part Lucksmiths this erudite record caught my indiepop fancy.

girlsnames
Girls Names – Arms Around a Vision (Tough Love)
Best Album by a Former Slumberland and Captured Tracks Band: Girls Names slightly reinvent themselves on their third LP. It’s darker, colder bleaker and better than anything they’ve ever done.

hooton-tennis-club
Hooton Tennis Club – Highest Point In Cliff Town (Heavenly)
Best Album of Shambolic Anthems: Hooton Tennis Club sound like they’ve got a Pavement attitude and the pop licks of Teenage Fanclub. Formidable attributes that they employ to precise effect.

eternalsummers
Eternal Summers – Gold and Stone (Kanine)
Best Comeback Album by a Band the Never Went Away: Roanoke, Virginia’s Eternal Summers never went away, in fact they’ve been consistently putting out records. Gold and Stone sees them taking a great leap in consistency and quality to make their best album since their debut.

grubs
Grubs – It Must Be Grubs (Tuff Enuff)
Best Album by a Joanna Gruesome Spin-off: Grubs also get an award for the shortest album of the year. These 11 songs fly by in about 20 minutes but leave a lasting impression thanks to singer Roxy Brennan sweet voice.

hierophants
Hierophants – Parallax Error (Goner)
Best Devo Inspired Album: Australia’s Hierophants debut channels Chuck Berry, Beach Boys but mostly Devo to jarring effect. Disconcerting, discombobulated and disgreat.

robertforster
Robert Forster – Songs to Play (Tapete)
Best Album that References Twitter: When artists incorporate references to the internet I usually cringe, but Robert Forster does it in smile inducing way on Let Me Imagine You. It was good to have one of the masters back.

NicHessler
Nick Hessler – Soft Connections (Captured Tracks)
Best Album by a Yay! Records Alumni: Formerly playing under the Catwalk moniker Nick Hessler decided to ‘solo’ on his debut LP. Soft Connections is a brilliant slice of Aztec Camera inspired pop.

bestfriends
Best Friends – Hot. Reckless. Totally Insane. (FatCat)
Best Garage Rock Inspired by Orange Juice: Best Friends’ debut isn’t groundbreaking, earth shattering or revolutionary. It’s just plain fun.

nicolewillis
Nicole Willis & the Soul Investigators – Happiness In Every Style (Timmion)
Best Helsinki Soul Album: Brooklyn born Willis and her Finish Soul Investigators made one of my favorite soul revival records of the year.

DayRavies
Day Ravies – Liminal Zones (Sonic Masala)
Best Album by a Fake Kinks Revival Band: On their second LP, Sydny’s Day Ravies shed any hint of shoegaze and go for a raw psychedelic sound and prove that they’re good at that too.

expalt
Expert Alterations – You Can’t Always Be Right (Kanine)
Best Jangle Pop Album: You can’t always be right, but at least you can sound good even if you favor sonically dissonant pop. If this is album is wrong, I don’t want to be right

outfit
Outfit – Slowness (Memphis Industries)
Best Mark Hollis Revival Album: The sophomore album from Liverpool’s Outfit was entrancing. It contained no obvious hits, but it was a record that easily commanded my interest listen after listen.

knifepleats
Knife Pleats – Hat Bark Beach (Lost Sound)
Best West Coast 90’s Indiepop Album: Rose Melberg finally decides to revisit her Tiger Trap and Go Sailor roots with her new band and proceeds to satisfy the soul.
fireworks
The Fireworks – Switch Me On (Shelflife)
Best Buzzy Noise Pop Album: An intensely energetic debut based on a Jesus & Mary Chain, Shop Assistants and the Razorcuts. This one was right in my wheelhouse!

saunayouth
Sauna Youth – Distractions (Upset the Rhythm)
Best Album by a band With an Alter Ego: No their not Sonic Youth’s alter ego, Sauna Youth moonlight as Monotony. Distractions was tour de force of frantic noisy anthems influenced by the Fall and Wire.

primitiveparts
Primitive Parts – Primitive Parts (Trouble In Mind)
Best Blur Album This Year: Male Bounding and Sauna Youth members team up for a straightforward maelstrom of sharp guitar focused punkish pop.

valet
Valet – Nature (Kranky)
Best Cocteau Twins Impersonation: This Portland group start anew on Nature and thanks to Honey Owens ethereal voice aim for the stars.

traams
Traams – Modern Dancing (FatCat)
Best Krauty-Shouty Album: I really liked Traams’ debut album, but Traams fine tuned their sound into controlled chaos to take Modern Dancing to the next level.

kitchensfloor
Kitchen’s Floor – Battle of Brisbane (Bruit Direct)
Best Dissonant Brutalist Album: Battle of Brisbane has topical similarities with Woolen Men’s Temporary Monument, but Matt Kennedy’s Kitchen’s Floor sounds angrier and ready for a fight.

Terrible Truths 2015 LP cover PRINT READY
Terrible Truths – Terrible Truths (Bedroom Suck)
Best Intensely Laid-back Album: This album had some similarities with the Shopping LP, but Terrible Truths somehow accomplish the trick of sounding tightly wound and laid back at once.

woolenmen
Woolen Men – Temporary Monument (Woodsist)
Best Monument to the Have Nots: Portland’s Woolen Men combine elements of Wire, the Wipers and  REM to create a passionate document berating the new rich and lingering recession.

saunandstarr
Saun & Starr – Look Closer (Daptone)
Best Surprise Album by Back-up Singers: Starr Duncan Lowe and Saundra Williams  were backup singers for Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. I think they will have their own permanent gig after this stellar debut.

jessicapratt
Jessica Pratt – On Your Own Love Again (Drag City)
Best Album to Listen to Under a Pink Moon: If you didn’t know better, you would assume that this album is 50 years old and was produced by Joe Boyd. Out of time and otherworldly.

twerps
Twerps – Range Anxiety (Merge)
Best Australian Album to Sound like It’s from New Zealand: No sophomore slump problems from this Melbourne band, in fact they appear to be a bottomless well of pop goodness.

vietcong
Viet Cong – Viet Cong (JagJaguwar)
Best Ballsy album by a band with no Balls: This Canadian band take their sound from many brave sounding bans like Gang of Four, the Comsat Angels and the Chameleons. Too bad they’re waffling under pressure to change their name.

frankieandwitchfingers
Frankie & the Witch Fingers – Frankie & the Witch Fingers (Permanent)
Best Garage Rock Album: This album made me appreciate the saturated garage rock genre again.

theeohsees
Thee Oh Sees – Mutilator Defeated At Last (Castle Face)
Best John Dwyer Album of the Year: The most varied and consistent album yet from this perennial favorite.

sheeragony
Sheer Agony – Masterpiece (Couple Skate)
Smartest Canadian Rock Album With an Old Guy on the Cover: How smart?  How about combining mod era Lilys with the skewed pop of the Shins to come up with an endlessly interesting and engaging LP. This Montreal group seem to already have mastered everything on their debut.

willieweird
Willie Weird – The Scuzzy Inputs Of Willie Weird (Stroll On)
Best Album to Go Off the Deep End: Kelley Stolz’s alter ego comes up with a fractured pop gem

joannagruesome
Joanna Gruesome – Peanut Butter (Slumberland)
Best Album to Supply a Vegetarian Source of Protein: The second album of jarring pop from this Cardiff group really sticks to your ribs.

tamvantage
Tam Vantage – Life in High Definition (Lost and Lonesome)
Best Album by a Pop Single: The debut solo album from former Pop Singles front man is a complex and accomplished record.

shifters3
The Shifters – The Shifters (Comfort 35)
Best Hex Enduction Album: This was the first time I can ever remember not buying the new Fall album. I smartly spent my money on the Shifters’ cassette instead.

In the Art House

The Intelligence at the Frye Art Museum, Seattle | 15 November 2015

Why are rock shows always at night and in some beer soaked hall filled with annoying inebriated people? Why can’t they be on sunny Sunday afternoons in a friendly warm room with works of art hanging on the walls and children running around instead? The fine folks at the Frye Art Museum must have wondered this as well and they decided to do something about it by inviting the Intelligence to play their Museum. The Frye is one of the few museums in Seattle to allow free admittance and they extended their gratis support of the arts by putting on this free afternoon show as part of their ongoing Genius / 21 Century / Seattle exhibition. Apparently quite a few other folks are down with this idea too, because the show’s pre-registration was full and there was quite a lengthy stand-by line of people hoping to get in. I was one of them on line and luckily I think we all made it in.

If you haven’t heard, the Intelligence have a new album called Vintage Future. It’s their eighth LP and is easily their best sounding and best recorded one. The band have been increasing their sonic fidelity with each release, though they seem to maintain the same bent humor and attitude that front-man Lars Finberg exhibited since the very first Intelligence 7-inch Boyfriends and Girlfriends back in 2000. Fifteen years is a long time to try and hold your interest, but the intelligence have continued to metamorphosize into a better and better band. As they state on the new record, they refuse to pay the dues, but they also refuse to stay the same which makes a new Intelligence album something I always look forward to.

You may also know that the band no longer call Seattle home since front man Lars Finberg moved down to Los Angeles so this show was something of a homecoming for the band. In their best museum attire (Finberg was sporting some leopard print shades and smart blue blazer that gave him the air of a Hollywood mogul), the Intelligence ripped through about 15 songs that featured many highlights from the new album as well as few classics like Dating Cops, Estate Sales and Back of the Galaxy. The set started with the moody Cleaning Lady that allowed the band to warm up the room with it’s obsessive compulsive refrain of “It’s clean, but it’s not that clean to me.” Parents immediately grabbed their kids to insert earplugs into their little ears.

The new album has a sort of morbid jauntiness to it that is interspersed with aggressive forays of punk rock. Finberg continues his deliver from his deep well of sharp self-deprecating one liners and observations of the absurd (“I’m tired of people who like me”, “I want true love that I can step out on and that I can still count on while she waits with a warm plate”, “Shitty guitars, touring in cars”). Closing the set with Romans another song from the new album, the song’s sinewy guitar rif and patience was the Intelligence at full power. It’s one of those songs that could double in length and continue to please, but they kept to its abridged form. I wonder what the people who were at he Frye to take in the art on the walls thought while the cacophony of the Intelligence bounced into them from around an unseen corner? At least the the band and its audience enjoyed this afternoon dalliance in the museum.

Vintage Future is out now on In the Red Records.

The Inaugural Monthly Top Ten List

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

Aislers Set at Neumo's, Seattle

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

The Intelligence at the Lo-Fi, Seattle
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

hops
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)

gobetweens
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.

Universe People In a Pin Ball Brawl

[youtube http://youtu.be/vEiuqWIB-QM]

Last year Seattle’s Universe People released the very high quality Go To the Sun. Since then Universe leader Jo Claxton has seen her entire rhythm section change. In this new space time continuum Universe People feature drummer Min Yee (Dreamsalon, and A-Frames) and bassist Kimberly Morrisson (Dutchess and the Duke). Their second album is called Universe People Are Coming To the Dance.

Above is the premier of the video for The Modern Girl. It is directed and edited by Claxton and filmed by Kelly Burton who worked with the band on their two previous clips Vampire Prison and Druids. The Modern Girl a clinic in how to do minimal sharp pop right with dissonant elements of early Fall and the Intelligence but with always an eye towards melody. Claxton writes sparse angular songs that will elbow you in the ribs with their sharp riffs, and then continue to keep you off balance with their wry humor. The video is a pin-ball epic in which Claxton attacks Yee and brawls with Morrison. Thankfully they both survive which is more than I can say for former bassist Kellie Payne who was killed in the Vampire Prison video.

Universe People’s second album Are Coming To the Dance is available now digitally on bandcamp.  For you vinyl enthusiasts,  there are plans for a vinyl version on Dragnet Records later this summer. You can also catch them live next month in Seattle, and Portland.

7/10 ­ Sunset Tavern w/ Amen Dunes
7/19 ­ Foggy Notion (Portland) w/ Appendixes
7/22 ­ Chop Suey w/ Magik Markers

To Thine Own Self Be Weird

cheveu

I like weird and I like good and Cheveu fits that description. The French band has just released it’s fourth album titled Bum and it just might be their best and weirdest record yet. How could they surpass their cover of Vanilla Ice‘s Ice Ice Baby in terms or strangeness you ask? Ok, maybe Bum isn’t their overtly strangest album. Actually they dial down one kind of weird and dial up another kind. Before they came off as arty punks willing to graffiti over anything, on Bum they are more into a prog rock otherworldly weirdness. They take elements from bands like Hawkwind, Wall of Voodoo, the Intelligence, Brainiac and Devo and come up with something all their own.

You can stream/buy/download the record from Born Bad Records’ bandcamp page.
stream: Cheveu – Juan In a Million

Out of Evening Meetings and into the Dreamsalon

DreamSalon3

When we last checked in on Seattle’s Dreamsalon, they were calling themselves Evening Meetings. After Erin Sullivan left, the remaining three Min Yee, Craig Chambers and Matthew Ford rechristened their pop noise machine Dreamsalon.

It’s a different name but Dreamsalon’s new album Thirteen Nights is essentially the band’s second album as it is forged in the same post-punk furnace as the Evening Meetings album. Thirteen Nights is tight and intense. The songs are sparse, built around a solid rhythm of Ford’s drumming and Yee’s bass. Chambers fills out the songs by raining sparks sparks down with both his guitar and roughhewn voice.

It’s fairly obvious listening to Dreamsalon that they were influenced by the Fall and the Fall of course are still around and making records, but they don’t make them like this anymore.

You can stream and buy the digital version of Thirteen Nights at Dreamsalon’s bandcamp page. A vinyl release is planned soon on Captcha Records.