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.
A while ago I noticed that the Funhouse Concert Calendar stated: The Lights Say “See you later… probably much later.” I figured that could either mean they were going off on a long tour or they were calling it quits. Unfortunately the later turned out to be the case when I got the email from the band that said while they were not officially breaking up the band, they were going an indefinite hiatus. Their album Failed Graves from last year was number 20 in my year end countdown and what I wrote seems apropos for enticing you to head down to the Funhouse one last time to see them live:
The Lights have been trolling around the seedy side Seattle for quite a while. Ten years on and Failed Graves is only the band’s third album but my favorite so far. There were more than a couple times this year when I was standing either in the Funhouse or the Sunset watching them storm through a set thinking that they were the best live band going in Seattle right now. Craig Chambers in a suit looking like a huckster that plays a mean guitar, Jeff Albertson fiercely clutching his well worn bass while PJ Rogalski wailed on the drums.
The Lights can truly conjure cathartic energy at will with their songs and they will be missed. If you are in Seattle you should turn up at the Funhouse this Friday, 25 February to partake in their going away party. Their demise seems to have been precipitated by drummer PJ Rogalski moving to Montana. Albertson will still be around with his new band Summer Babes and Chambers has both Love Tan and Le Sang Song to him busy, but Friday night for one last time it’s all about the Lights. They’re planning an extra long set and are still taking requests over at their Facbook page. So hit them up for your favorite song and then be there on Friday to hear it.
Looking at the lists from the indie cognoscenti this year my eyes tend to get heavy and it becomes hard to stay awake. I’m beginning to see why my grandfather wasn’t able to stay awake when he watched the Dukes of Hazzard with me when I was a kid. I’m not quite to that point yet, as I was able to keep myself lucid long enough to compile my top 25 albums of the year. Have at it.
1. Eddy Current Suppression Ring – Rush To Relax (Goner)
Some long-time fans have quipped that Rush To Relax isn’t as good as its predecessor Primary Colors, but for me this was the year of Eddy Current Suppression Ring. Finding Rush to Relax in the used bin for 99 cents was the start. Next Anxiety whacked me on the head with its brute force, then their longer jams like Turning Out and Second Guessing bowled me over, and if that wasn’t enough they beguiled with the heartfelt politeness of I Can Be a Jerk and Gentleman. Finally their status was cemented by their live show at Vera Project. In a dry house following two hardcore punk bands, the band put on a clinic on how to rock out with their solid rhythm section, slicing guitars and unique gloved front man. Nobody came close to Eddy Current Suppression Ring this year.
2. Intelligence – Males (In The Red)
Well, the Intelligence came kinda close. Lars and company pumped up the fidelity on record number six and came out all the better for it. For the first time ever this was a full band and the claustrophobic weirdness that permeates all previous Intelligence records was stretched, torn and punctured to create new sounds. Fidelity aside, this batch of songs with the likes of Tuned to Puke, Like Like Like…, The Beetles and Estate Sales may be the strongest yet.
3. Edwyn Collins – Losing Sleep (Heavenly)
After suffering a stroke, Edwyn Collins may not have his guitar playing skills back yet, but his songwriting and singing skills are have returned fully intact. Losing Sleep sees Collins enlisting the help of friends like Johnny Marr, The Cribs, Franz Ferdinand, Roddy Frame, Drums to name a few. At first it was kind of a surprise to hear Collins duet with so many of his guests, but the album’s sound is so cohesive it doesn’t distract because you can tell that Ryan Jarmin, Alex Kapranos, Romeo Stodart and Jonathon Pierce are such Collins fans.
4. Les Cox Sportifs – Scheiss Mit Reis (Sea)
Les Cox Sportifs caught my imagination, and no it wasn’t their name that did it. Their sparsly played rhythmic songs and odd lyrics put them defiantly in the weird corner and that’s a corner I gravitate to. Their combining of Bo Diddly, the Fall, Modern Lovers, Yummy Fur and Country Dick Montana was a soup that I kept lapping up all year long.
5. Kellies – Kellies (Rastrillo/Crang)
The self-titled third album from this Argentinian all girl band was part post punk, part art school, and should have come with a warning label because every song contains a deadly hook. Why have you not heard of these ladies you may ask. That’s a damn good question, and if you’ve been around these parts much, you probably have.
6. Eternal Summers – Silver (Kanine)
Roanoak, Virginia’s Eternal Summers are the simple combination of guitar and drums, but are most certainly more than the sum of their parts and a good reason for that is Nicole Yun’s big confident voice. First single Pogo was big and catchy and the immediacy of Disciplinarian and the moodiness and beauty of songs like Salty and Bully In Disguise keep you firmly planted.
7. Race Horses – Goodbye Falkenburg (FantasticPlastic)
Formerly known as Radio Luxembourg, Race Horses broke out of the gate this year with their first album Goodbye Faulkenberg. Being from Wales you might guess they have a psychedelic leaning the same as Super Furry Animals and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and you would be right but they carve out their own niche of strange beguiling pop too. Actually it’s more like a wide swath that ranges from Love, Dexy’s, Can, Mahler, Gilber & Sullivan, Scott Walker and Os Mutantes to name a few of the records they list on the inner sleeve as influences on this album.
8. Kelley Stoltz – To Dreamers (Sub Pop)
Seems like every year Kelley Stoltz puts out a record it ends up as one of my favorites. I write something about how he conjours the past with songs that evoke the likes of the Kinks, Harry Nilson and Fred Neil. With To Dreamers Stoltz does it again with seeming ease, but he incorporates more lush orchestration this time, does a little krautrock, and includes a cover of Big Boy Pete’s 1965 lost classic Baby I Got News for You even doing some sleuthing to pull in Pete Miller to play on it. I keep expecting the well to run dry for Stoltz, but it looks like he’s in no danger of that.
9. Sourpatch – Crushin’ (Happy Happy Birthday To Me)
San Jose’s Sourpatch probably at some point have made a pilgrimage to Sacramento to pay tribute to Tiger Trap and Rocketship. After doing so they came back home and made this record. Their ability to conjure that sound from that time might be called nostalgic by some but these kids are way too young to hold any nostalgia for the 90’s. Crushin’ is just some kids from San Jose making beautiful twee racket.
10. Weekend – Sports (Slumberland)
Sports begins with an unassuming jangle. Soon an eerie howl is heard in the distance and then it becomes more prominent. At about a minute and a half in, the jangle turns into a buzz-saw and the howl to piercing growl. Weekend don’t lift their collective boot from your neck over the next 45 minutes. Sports pummels but like someone that doesn’t know what’s good for them I keep coming back for more.
11. Wounded Lion – Wounded Lion (In the Red)
Wounded Lion are probably a little too weird to ever go mainstream, that’s why they’re on this list. Jokes aside, Wounded Lion killer modern day Modern Lovers fueled rock brings it. No filler here: The one-two punch of Hungry? and Creatures In the Cave is hard to resist. Degobah System must have been unjustly cut from Star Wars Episode IV and Pony People (having been on a now out of print S-S seven inch) Those are only a few reasons I love this record.
12. Young Sinclairs – Chimeys (Chimney Sweep)
The Young Sinclairs are the vehicle of Sam Lunsford who over the last four years has self-released loads of cd-r’s and tapes. Last year Kindercore put out an LP that cherry picked the best tracks from those releases giving them a little larger audience. Finally the band endeavored to release and album on the Chimney Sweep label on vinyl this year. Chimey’s is psychedelia done so well it will make you think of so many bands like them that have gone before. It will also have you searching through your closet for those paisley shirts you hope you never threw out.
13. Frankie Rose & the Outs – Frankie Rose And The Outs (Slumberland)
I must say that after seeing Frankie Rose and the Outs at SXSW this year I wasn’t really looking forward to her album. Everything was drenched in reverb to the point of barely being able to make out the songs. There is no such problem with this album. It is a sublime record that eschews the ramshackle garage sound of her former band and goes for a more classic sound and totally succeeds.
14. Boston Spaceships – Our Cubehouse Still Rocks (GBVI)
Funny how my interest in Robert Pollard ebbs and flows. There was a high point in the 90’s and then it dipped in 00’s. Now that we’re in the 10’s Pollard is back in my good graces and Our Cubehouse Still Rocks is a prime example as to why. While everyone was running around talking about the Guided By Voices reunion, this album was released and criminally ignored. It rivals and surpasses the last five GBV albums.
15. Cinema Red & Blue – Cinema Red & Blue (What’s Your Rupture)
I hesitate to call this a supergroup, but it’s a pretty damn good one. David Feck of Comet Gain, comes over to New York and gets some Crystal Stilts, Ladybug Transistors and one Amy Linton to help out on this album. Apparently it was recorded in a week, but it has warmth and familiarity like these old friends have been playing together for years.
16. Allow Darlin’ – Allo Darlin’ (Fortuna Pop)
Allo Darlin’ sealed the deal with their rousing show at the Jewelbox Theatre in Seattle this fall. Their slightly twee, slightly country ukulele driven songs have a sweet niavty to them that makes you want them to take them under your wing and give them a good home. My copy has found one on my stereo and it’s even muscled out a few lesser records from the cd player.
17. Standard Fare – Noyelle Beat (Melodic/Bar None)
This and Allo Darlin were like sister records for me this year. I couldn’t think about one without the other popping into my head. Standard Fare packed a little more muscle, but it was coming from the same place. Well maybe not the exact same place when you consider their song 15 is about falling for a teenager. Not your typical indiepop.
18. Art Museums – Rough Frame (Woodsist)
This record was a pleasant surprise, evoking the Television Personalities and early Creation records. It’s short at only nine songs, but it left a lasting impression on me. The songs are done in low key, lo-fi way. The steely guitars and programmed drums provide a synthetic psychedelic feel. The vocals strain to reach the high notes, but the songs are warm, fuzzy and earnest which makes these part-time punks’ debut hard not to like.
19. Fresh & Onlys – Play It Strange (In the Red)
The Fresh & Onlys are still way too prolific for their own good. I feel like we’ve seen them grow up before our eyes. Where some bands hold back releasing songs, choosing to keep a stash in case of writer’s block, the Fresh & Onlys lay it all on the line putting everything out for better of for worse. After two diluted albums last year, the band chose to only release one album this year and are the better for it. Every song is autumnal intoxication and their secret weapon guitarist Wymond Miles astounds throughout with his leads.
20. The Lights – Failed Graves (Wantage)
The Lights have been trolling around the seedy side Seattle for quite a while. Ten years on and Failed Graves is only the band’s third album but my favorite so far. There were more than a couple times this year when I was standing either in the Funhouse or the Sunset watching them storm through a set thinking that they were the best live band going in Seattle right now. Craig Chambers in a suit looking like a huckster that plays a mean guitar, Jeff Albertson firecly clutching his well worn bass while PJ Rogalski wailed on the drums. The intensity on Failed Graves nearly replicates their live show. Dissonant guitars, pummeling rhythm section come at you through the speakers and the needle threatens to fly from the record.
21. Gigi – Maintenant (Tomlab)
After this album I am convinced that Nick Krgovich of No Kids is a pop maestro. How else could he write and orchestrate an album like this. The songs have a 60’s Phil Spector feel crossed with Cole Porter, putting him in a league with Stephen Merrit’s Sixths albums. There are too many highlights to list here, but the Rose Melberg sung Alone At the Pier, Karl Blau doing The Old Graveyard and Zac Pennington’s Dreams of Romance are already classics in my house.
22. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest (4AD)
4AD does not carry the cache that it once did, but Earthquake the first song on Halcyon Digest totally evokes that label’s heyday, sounding like Dif Juz, Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil all at once. Bradford Cox is up to his old shoegaze tricks on Halcyon digest, but it’s Locket Pundt’s songs that lifted this album to the top of the stack this time. Desire Lines and Fountain Stairs offer hazy bursts of sunshine to Cox’s Halcyon gauze.
23. The Limiñanas – The Limiñanas (Trouble In Mind)
Je Ne Puis Pas Trés Drogué. Well I am after this record. The Limiñanas is full of hallucinogens, twelve doses to be precise. I hope their record label doesn’t get arrested for sending these things via the US Postal Service. It could be a real scandal. I can see the headlines now: American Label implicated in French drug trafficking. Giant hits of acid found in the form of 33 rpm records. I ordered 10 copies.
24. Super Wild Horses – Fifteen (Hozac)
At first glance you might say Australia’s Super Wild Horses take their cue from the riot grrrl movement of the early 90’s, but their sound and style goes a little further harking back to that movement’s predecessors like the Breeders and Scrawl. The grrrl duo switch off between minimal drums and minimal guitar to deliver short sharp shocks trading off vocals and harmonizing on songs that transcend their primal beginnings. Not sure how much Mikey Young of Eddy Current Suppression Ring who twiddled the knobs on this record had to do with the magic that Fifteen conjures, but if I were a betting man I would say not very much.
25. Ty Segall – Melted (Goner)
Like the Fresh & Onlys, Ty Segall came of age in 2010, albeit at a much younger age. Melted is where Segall got off the garage bus and tripped onto the magic buss. Don’t get me wrong, he still rocks out, but it’s in full technicolor instead of the previous black and white. Songs like Bees are meaty beaty big and bouncy and Sad Fuzz rains down on you like he’s finally gotten to the point of being able to incorporate those top shelf influences into his songs. Listening to Melted you can see that Segall freed his mind and the possibilities are endless.
Honorable Mentions: Magic Bullets – Magic Bullets (Mon Amie) / Lawrence Arabia – Chant Darling (Bella Union) / Wild Nothing – Gemini (Captured Tracks) / Rose Elinor Dougall – Whithout Why (Scarlett) / Idle Times – Idle Times (Hozac) / Radio Dept. – Clinging To a Scheme (Labrador) / Seinking Ships – Museum Quality Capture (S-curve) / Dum Dum Girls – I Will Be (Sub Pop) / Splinters – Kick (Double Negative) / Math and Physics Club – I Shouldn’t Look As Good As I Do (Matinee) / Katerine – Phillippe Katerine (Barclay) / The Fall – Your Future Our Clutter (Domino) / White Wires – WWII (Dirtnap) / Dead Ghosts – Dead Ghosts (Florida’s Dying) / Harlem – Hippies (Matador) / Vic Godard – & Subway Sect – We Come As Aliens (Overground)
The Lights have been a band for more than 10 years, but are just getting around to releasing their third album, Failed Graves. In this day and age when a lot of bands take on the publish or perish mentality, the Lights work at their own pace. It’s been four years since their previous record Diamonds and Dirt, but the band have been anything but sedentary. Besides opening for the Obits last year on their west coast tour the band have kept busy with other endeavors. Guitarist and singer Craig Chambers has released records with Matthew Ford of the Factums as Love Tan and solo as Le Sang Song. Bassist and singer Jeff Albertson has his other group, the hip hop duo Lamborghiniz where he teams up with the Coconut Coolouts Pete Zaparty.
Taking an if it ain’t broke don’t fix it approach to the new record, they recorded it (like their previous two) with Erik Blood last year. It could be their best, though it’s a little early too say that definitively. The anti-war rocker Famous Gunshots seems like the centerpiece of the album. Chambers’ lyrics provide stark imagery of dead men and bits of little girls in trees, to Alberson’s and Rogalski’s military march. Gingerella, which Chambers included on his Le Sang Song record, also reappears, but takes on a much more intense and provocative personality, and there are more wire-y abrasive rockers in Craig Jr and Nervous Breakdown (Black Flag cover) keeping the pace of the album brisk. The Lights don’t slow down too much, but the Alberstson sung Puerto Escondito does let them take a bit of a breather. It’s got a gunslinger feel to it, starting Spaghetti western, Morricone sounding guitar and then goes into a big chorus that feels like you’ve been crawling across the desert without water for days.
The coolest thing about the Lights is how they are able to take their UK post punk influences, travel up to the mountains to some isolated shack and boil them down in a still and come up with something that sounds like wild mountain men doing angular punk rock. Listening to the Lights reminds me of stuff like Gang of Four, Johnny Horton, Neil Young, New Model Army and Eleventh Dream Day, but they don’t really sound like any of those. The Lights have done something that many before them often fail to do, distill their influences into something acerbically unique.
This Friday night (26 February) at the Funhouse is the official unveiling of Failed Graves with Erik Blood and Partman Parthorse opening. It’s sure to be a great gig.
Another one from Seattle: Le Sang Song is the low key solo vehicle of Craig Chambers who is also in the Lights (new album from them due out latter this month) and Love Tan. Apparently the record has been in the can for a couple years gathering dust. Min Yee of the A-Frames and AFCGT decided it was too good to not get released so he resurrected Dragnet Records to put out the record.
Recorded on Eric Blood’s old 8-track, the album is sparse and claustrophobic at the same time. The songs have a folk influence to them, but the big echoing drums, and space in the recordings give the songs a tense feel. Chambers is economical with his guitar, to great effect. He seems to conjure a good groove in every song, not one you can really dance to necessarily, more of a hypnotic groove. I think my two favorite songs on the album are the first and the last ones. Gingerella starts the record off with a catchy riff that is then overlayed with a slithery lead part that quickly disappears when Chambers starts singing from what sounds like deep below the earth’s surface through some long hollow tube. Aloha, the final song begins with a bass riff that sounds like it was lifted from Curtis Mayfield‘s Superfly, adds in some weird keyboards and guitar and then proceeds to groove over four blissed out minutes with Chambers singing over that skeletal structure about remembering swimsuits on sunny days. The song and the record itself is not one designed to get you through the bleakness of winter, as much as one that feels your pain.
Obits | Lights | Unnatural Helpers at Neumo’s | 16 May 2009
Neumo’s felt like a greenhouse Saturday night, partly from the 75 degree day we had and partly from the blistering sets from all three bands which kept the temperature quite tropical throughout the night. I arrived mid-way through Unnatural Helpers‘ sweaty opening set. The band just singed to Sub Pop spin-off label Hardly Art but have released an album and single on Seattle label Dirty Knobby. The band do post punk/hard core that reminds me of bands like Holy Rollers and Candy Machine from back in the 90’s DC/Baltimore scene. Guitarists Leo Gebhardt and Brian Standeford do time in Idle Times and bassist Kimberly Morrison has another gig in the Dutchess and the Duke, leaving drummer/singer Dean Whitmore the defacto head helper.
The Lights were very good, so good, I wondered as they steamed through Victims of the Pleasure of the Sense of Hearing from their first album if the Obits could match the intensity of these Seattle angular noise-nicks. The Lights played mostly all new songs, with a few old favorites thrown in to string us along. The old songs weren’t really necessary to keep me interested, but everyone, myself included certainly appreciated hearing the afore mentioned Victims, probably their most straightforward pop song. I shouldn’t have really doubted the Obits’ ability to rock. Their pedigree for rocking is unmistakable considering Rick Froberg’s former face blistering bands Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes. I mentioned how it was hot, well at least hot for Seattle. During the Lights’ set there was a woman at the front with a hand fan that she waved the entire set. The Lights played faster, she danced and waved the fan faster. I don’t think it was doing much good, and she was probably making herself hotter as fast as she was waving it. I lost track of her during the Obits set, but I’m guessing she may have passed out sometime during their ripping, heat inducing set. The Obits started off a bit wobbly with the first two songs not really hitting on all cylinders, but they owned the room by third song. Oddly it was the only one in which former Edsel front-man Sohrab Habibion sings lead. Something seemed to click with the band at this point, whether it as them just taking a couple songs to get warmed up, or if it was the first song in which Froberg and Habibion combine not only guitar but voices as well for the chorus. From then on the band were on it with lightening hot Pine On, the tense eeriness of Light Sweet Crude, and the just plane fun Back and Forth. Now that the album has been out for a few months I had a better familiarity with the songs that I was missing last summer at SP20 and earlier this year down in the ID. My familiarity also made the way Froberg’s and Habibion’s intertwined guitar riffs play off each other become much more apparent. Their styles are different, Froeberg delivers his surf-punk licks juxtaposed with Habibion’s post-punk, but they combine to create a tense wallop. The other half of the band are no slouches either, bassist Greg Simpson drummer Scott Gursky laid down some pretty amazing riffs as well, the best being the intro to Two-headed Coin which starts with Simpson’s bouncing bass line over Gursky’s shaker’s and drums. The way these guys play together you can tell that they’re totally digging and exploring their sound, It seems like a simple straightforward formula, but the Obits add an experienced complexity to it that is easy to miss because they make it look so easy. It’s almost as if they rock without even trying.
Here are the rest of the Obits’ west coast dates with the Lights:
May 19 – Blue Lamp, Sacramento CA w/ The Lights
May 20 – Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco CA w/ The Lights
May 21 – Cellar Door (CA), Visalia CA w/ The Lights
May 22 – Spaceland, Los Angeles CA w/ The Lights
May 23 – Casbah, San Diego CA w/ The Lights
The Lights + Red Sea Sharks at Wildrose, Seattle | 14 March 2009
This past rainy, cold Saturday night, I had the chance to catch two relatively unsung local bands at the Wildrose on Capitol Hill. The Lights, (not the Toronto band, the Seattle one!) haven’t been doing many gigs lately, and this seemed like an obvious opportunity as they were playing with Red Sea Sharks. I had previously blown off seeing the Red Sea Sharks a few months ago. It was late on a weeknight and they were the last band on four band bill at the Comet. I’ve done a lot worse I like to think, but after seeing their opening set for the Lights Saturday night at the Wildrose, I’m wishing I would have lost a little sleep to see these guys. Red Sea Sharks have got it. It more precisely defined, is ramshackle vocals that are reminiscent of Pete Doherty with a bit of Joe Strummer thrown in and guitar leads that are edgy and angular like those from some of the best post punk bands. Think Keith Levene of PIL or John McGeoch of Magazine or even Scottish outcasts the Fire Engines in places. I’m always taken a little by surprise when a Seattle band looks to the UK for its influences, since it doesn’t happen very often. These guys just ripped through their set with attitude and chops of seasoned veterans, not like a band with a few gigs under their belts, and nothing recorded except for the songs streaming on their MySpace. These guys definitely need to put something down on record!
At some point during Red Sea Sharks’ set, someone from Wildrose yelled to the band, thanks for not drinking on stage. This was kind of funny since the Wildrose doesn’t technically have a stage. The ‘stage’ is really just the front corner of the bar. Seattle’s puritanical law of not allowing bands to drink while ‘on stage’ was honored this night. The Lights followed the letter of the silly law by pounding shots as they filed into the performance area of the bar. They played a short set (around half an hour) to a small but very enthusiastic crowd. The band’s fervent following is likely due to their ability to apply lessons learned from the Fall, Wire, Gang of Four and Jawbox to a brand of rock that you can really only describe as uniquely the Lights. It’s herky-jerky white noise with a bit of funk, and it had everybody moving to it. The vocals are mostly done by guitarist Craig Chambers with his weird drawl that give the songs an extra bit of strangeness. Their set was all too brief, but there will be another chance to catch them when they open for the Obits on a west coast tour in May. I’m hard pressed to think of a better band to open for the Obits. It’s been a few years since 2006’s Diamonds and Dirt, so let’s hope that this reemergence is some indication of a new album in the near future. The Seattle date with the Obits is 16 May at Neumo’s.