Remember when Ride lost the plot after Going Blank Again and tried to morph their sound into some neo-psychedlic 60s blend of the Byrds, Velvet Underground and Buffalo Springfield but ended up sounding like the Black Crowes? Tuesday night at Chop Suey the UK’s Ultimate Painting demonstrated the tangent that Ride should have taken. Their set brimmed with paisley tinged psychedelia that trod the fine line of subtle melodic turns, buzzy droning and all out jams.
The group’s self-titled album came out last year on Chicago’s Trouble in Mind. The record has a subdued sound to that features major nods to the Velvet Underground’s prettier side, but live they crank up the danger levels into White Light / White Heat territory. Talking Central Park Blues was a great example of this, with Jack Cooper taking the lead on this New York narrative that is their sister Ray making it sound a lot more energized than the recorded version. Cooper also plays in Mazes. In Ultimate Painting he shares guitar and vocal duties with James Hoar from Veronica Falls and Proper Ornaments. It seems like a true collaboration, with both contributing to the songs. Cooper may take a lead vocal, while Hoar takes the lead guitar part, and both contributing harmonies to the other’s vocals.
They also included a couple new songs from an album that they said would be coming out in August. One of them showcased the influence of the Grateful Dead (Casey Jones) that I hadn’t noticed before, but is fairly obvious given the group’s twitter icon. The set closed with with Ten Street which they turned into an extended jam. The rhythm section provided a great stage for Cooper and Hoar to get a little crazy playing off of one another, going into a few rabbit holes of guitar goodness. It lasted for about 10 minutes but it could have gone on for 20 and no one would have complained. Live Ultimate Painting seem to have an innate sense of when to head off on a tangent extending their solid album into something better and much more interesting.
Seattle’s Universe People opened the show playing songs from their two albums as well as new one. They were solid as usual. They’re jerky angular songs keep you on your toes. The Modern Girl, Chemistry, Druids and Vampire Prison were all present in their set and demonstrated how great this band is.
The one complaint I’ve gotten over the years on the Finest Kiss year end lists has been that the pictures haven’t been large enough. So this year will feature bigger images, because let’s face it, nobody reads the comment parts of year end lists. They scroll through them and then shake their heads in disbelief that I left something out. I hope I didn’t, but I probably did. Oh well, here are the ten best things I heard in the city where moss grows year round.
1. Dreamsalon – Soft Stab (Sweet Rot/Dragnet)
If you are reading a year end list of records and this record is not on it, view that list as suspect. Soft Stab follows last year’s Thirteen Nights and easily surpasses it. It’s punk. It’s post-punk. It’s dark. It’s malcontent. Whatever it is it oozes confidence and style while jarring you with stabs of guitar and Craig Chambers nearly unhinged vocal delivery. This record feels like it could go off the rails at any point, but Dreamsalon have this uncanny ability to take it to the point of destruction and peer into the abyss without actually falling in to the crevasse.
2. Posse – Soft Opening (BADH)
It was kind of surprising to see Posse’s second album get national attention, only because this town is littered with bands that get undeservedly ignored by the rest of the country. The band self-recorded it in their basement and self-released on their own label Beating a Dead Horse. Guitarists Paul Wittman Todd and Sacha Maxim share vocal duties on this compact set of nine sleepy, slightly spacey, Galaxy 500 influenced songs. Whenever something is described as DIY, I think of it as kind of shoddy and amateurish, but Posse make DIY sound lush, professional and relaxed.
3. Tacocat – NVM (Hardly Art)
NVM is consensus number one record of the year i my house (Though, I think my son would vote for Mario Brothers Theme songs as interpreted by Mannheim Steamroller if it existed), but since I’m the one writing the blog in my household it’s number three with a bullet. Recorded in the Seattle’s seminal Egg Studios with Conrad Uno, NVM has a wry sense of humor akin to those early Young Fresh Fellow records recorded in the same setting. Bridge To Hawaii may be the first ever seasonal affective disorder anthem and their ode to the monthly bill Crimson Wave is riotously unforgettable, add in the Ramones pop of Alien Girl and the Mexican psychedlia Psychedlic Quicceanera and you’ve only just dipped a toe in the pool of Tacocat’s neon pop world.
4. Lucarne – Why the Good Guys Turn Bad (Self-released)
The Seattle band that barely was. Lucarne released a seven song record in the summer and then promptly broke up. Too bad, because their wistful jangle filled indiepop struck a chord with me and anyone who loved the Bus Stop Label…and now their gone just like the label that inspired them.
5. Vox Mod – The Great Oscillator (Self-released)
Vox Mod is electronic producer Scot Porter. He doesn’t sing so The Great Oscillator contains a mix of instrumental music and guest vocalists from Seattle. Last year’s SynAesthetic album featured Erik Blood and Palaceer Lazaro of Shabazz Palaces. This time around all of the guests vocalists are female. The opening track Flight of Fancy featuring Iren Barbaric formerly of Hungery Pines and currently of 18 Eyes raises the bar high right from the get-go. Porter maintains quality with his melodic adeptness, inventive arrangements and pacing and guest vocalists.
6. Universe People – Are Coming to the Dance (Dragnet)
The only thing that is the same in Universe People since their first album is singer guitarist Jo Claxton, her subversive sense of humor and her jagged guitar licks. Everything else has changed meaning the rhythm section now contains Kimberly Morrison of Dutchess and the Duke and Min Yee of Dreamsalon. Funny enough, I believe all three are former members of the Intelligence. But then who in Seattle isn’t? Dance easily avoids the dreaded sophomore slump and features some of the best Universe People songs to date, namely The Modern Girl and Chemistry.
7. Childbirth – It’s a Girl! (Help Yourself)
Some people can’t take a joke. Childbirth doesn’t care, because they’re all about having fun and if you don’t get it then the joke’s on you. Julia Shapiro from Chastity Belt plays guitar and sings, Tacocat’s Bree McKenna plays bass and Pony Time’s Stacy Peck is on drums. The trio’s debut album evokes the feminism, smarts and humor of Le Tigre and Bratomobile. It may be a side project for all three, but don’t let that put you off, these women know how to rock irreverently!
8. Neighbors – Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? (BADH)
Neighbors finally graduated from releasing albums on cassette to the vinyl big leagues and Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? smartly plucks a few highlights from their most recent tour cassette and includes them here. “Do you think moving to Seattle’s gonna get you where you want to be?” Jose Diaz sings on Muscle Girl on Muscle Beach. I don’t know if they’re where they want to be, but I like where they’re at on this record…somewhere between Pavement and the Meat Puppets .
9. Space Daze – Follow My Light Back Home (Beautiful Strange)
Sea Pony took the year off, but the band’s songwriter and guitarist Danny Rowland didn’t. His solo album softly hit the streets back in early summer. It is understated pop in the same vein as Seapony. Some of these songs like Having a Bad Time and Line Up on the Solstice seem to be top shelf quality, so I can only assume what Rowland is saving up for the next Seapony record should knock your socks off. In the meantime this does nicely.
10. Megabog – Gone Banana (Couple Skate)
Megabog is based around the talents of Erin Birgy. She’s obviously bananas for Kevin Ayers (Besides the title there’s a cover of Lady Rachel included here) and posses a sense of melodrama perhaps only equalled by Dan Bejar and Ariel Pink. Gone Banana is draped with saxophone and spacious guitars that give it a lovable campy quality.
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.
The older I get the more I think that there should be a new music moratorium every January so that you can catch up on all of the stuff that you missed from the previous year. Yeah, I know that ain’t gonna happen. So here we are. It’s not quite mid-January, and here I am hoisting upon you dear readers one more 2013 list. I promise that this is the last one. It’s kind of a special one because it is my favorite records from my adopted hometown. If I didn’t live in Seattle some of these records would have been in my best albums of the year. Also, if I didn’t live here I probably would have missed some of these since you actually have to live in a local scene to hear the local scene. Here is the best stuff that I discovered through osmosis, going to shows, and reading local blogs and papers. Picking a favorite record from my fair city is like picking a favorite child. I love them all the same, at least that’s what I tell them.
Universe People incorporate the sweetness of Dolly Mixture, the arty obtuseness of Wire, the irreverence of the Fall and humor of the Intelligence onto their debut album. This, in my book, is the perfect elixir.
In a year where major web sites seemed to publish Morrissey’s every move, former Harvey Danger Sean Nelson released his debut solo album that was as literate, sharp and self-deprecating as anything the Mozzer has done in the last 20 years. Throw in some cocktail jazz and some Zombies psychedelia and you have a pretty darn good album.
Formerly known as Evening Meetings, the rechristened Dreamsalon tighten things up a little on Thirteen nights and aren’t afraid to let the hooks fly. Post-punk dourness that is part moody Echo and the Bunnymen and part piss and vinegar of the Fall through the lens of Seattle punk cognoscenti.
One of only two EP’s in this list of records, but well worth checking out. Trevor Dickson is in the Nightgowns, but here he takes a dash of Sinatra, some Joao Gilberto and some northwest ingenuity to come up with Summer Legs, one of the best songs I heard this year.
Four girls from a city with barely a hint of sunshine and marginal wave action d make a timeless glassy sounding surf record. They sound like they’ve been doing this for ages. The guitars shoot the curl and the harmonies flash off the water like rays of sun in your ears.
The debut album from Wimps gives me the impression that they’re punk classicists. Repeat is the classic punk formula of guitar, bass and drum and a healthy sense of humor courtesy of Rachel Ratner’s knack for being able to make life’s disappointments still sound disappointing, but with in an irreverent humorous slant.
Sometimes when a band consistently releases great albums filled with hooky pop people start taking them for granted. Pretend To Be Brave is their fifth album of slightly fractured, eternally hopeful indiepop. BOAT continue to capture my imagination, I wish more people would allow themselves to be swept up into their brightly colored superhero world.
The Purrs deliver again with another hallucinogenic masterpiece. Guitars swoop and dive in and out while singer and bassist Jima takes you on a ride in a derailed monorail to some seedy interstellar locale. The perfect soundtrack to navigating globular clusters.
stream: Purrs – Over and Out
Math and Physics Club – Our Hearts Beat Out Loud (Matinée)
Math and Physics Club have certainly been called twee, but on their third album they veer more towards soft rock and that is no bad thing. Kids these days have a penchant for Paul Simon and Cat Stevens records, and MAPC with their sweet and tender songs evoke those fellows while still keeping their indiepop/twee roots intact.
stream: Math & Physics Club – We Won’t Keep Secrets
Chastity Belt shocked the internet with their band photo that featured singer Julia Shapiro wearing a steak locked over her crotch. Based on last year’s Ponytail single, we already knew that they could be insolent and funny, but could they deliver a full album that sustained that brashness? Chastity Belt seem to not give a shit about anything except making good record,s and they’ve succeeded at that. Fuck everything else.
stream: Chastity Belt – James Dean
Jetman Jet Team – We Will Live The Space Age (Saint Marie)
Erik Blood better watch out, because Jetman Jet Team are coming up fast in his rear view mirror to try and usurp his shoegaze king of Seattle crown. Heavy MBVisms abound, but they also incorporate some of the whiteout techniques of Flying Saucer Attack and even some of that smoke and mirrors hypnotism employed often in 1970’s Germany. This is mind-expanding,tremelo bending, psychotropic miasma.
Poor Neighbors. This was scheduled to come out as a 10″ EP on Manic Pop Records, but the release date unfortunately coincided with the implosion of their record label. Left to their own devices, the band released this as bandcamp virtual record. That’s unfortunate because my record player would have gotten a real thrill playing this record which takes Pavement, REM, Camper Van Beethoven and the Wedding Present throws it into a blender and comes up with best smoothie I ever had.
stream: Neighbors – What You See In Me
We Are Loud Whispers – Suchness (Hardly Art)
Sonya Wescott who you may remember as half of Arthur and Yu made a trans-Pacific album with Ayumu Haitani who resides in Japan. While the obvious parallel is the Postal Service and the electronic blips reinforce that parallel, We Are Loud Whispers are more ear tickling and anthemic. I get the feeling that they’ve got a few Field Mice and St. Etienne records on top of owning everything that Morr records has ever released. Subtle and sublime.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This Saturday at the Rendezvous in the Emerald City, Earth Seattle’s Universe People will be playing their record release show. This blog had a few close encounters with them last year and has been under the spell of their debut album Go To the Sun for quite some time, so it’s exciting that is getting the vinyl treatment courtesy of Little Black Cloud Records. The trio fronted by Australian ex-pat Jo Claxton deliver serrated pop that teases and caresses before puncturing skin. They also have a biting sense of humor which is demonstrated in both of the videos (below) they have made for the album. One involves vampires and the other Druids. Pop inspired by blood, the dark of night and the Iron Age!!
If you are not near Seattle on Saturday night, you can procure a copy Go To the Sun from Little Black Cloud.
The punk orders a beer. The slacker, this being Washington, lights up a spliff. Wimps order a pizza, get on the bar, do a big shoe dance and then on their way out knock over the row of Harley’s outside. All is fine and nobody gets their lights punched out because even though they call themselves Wimps their kinda tough in a not so tough kind of way. They’ve also got some street cred having hung out with the Intelligence, Partman Parthorse and Meth Teeth to name just a few who have their backs.
Brand spanking new Seattle record label End of Time also has their backs. The label has just released Wimps debut long player Repeat. It’s full of short sharp shocks and two letters short of Repeater. Wimps songs adhere to the three chords and a cloud of dust rule. They’re raw, immediate, self-deprecating and fun. And who doesn’t need humorous odes to naps, intoxication, bad jobs, and the general banality of life to crank up when you need to forget about your sucky life?