December 27, 2011

A Tip of the Hat – Our 2011 MVPs

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sots5th15

 

Pickwick ::: photo by Christopher Nelson

 

We had another incredible year here at Sound on the Sound and it was in large part thanks to the following MVPs and, of course, you guys reading this. These were the artists, albums, labels, festivals and well, your dancing, that inspired and impressed us most and these are the people that remind us every day why we wouldn’t trade our local music scene for anywhere else in the world.

MVP Local Live Act: Pickwick

When a friend sent me an mp3 of “When Rosa Speaks” last summer saying he’d found my new favorite band, I wondered what on earth he was thinking. When Josh and Ty said they were going to film a new video series and start with Pickwick, I told them it was their time they were wasting. When Josh asked to book Pickwick for our 30th birthday show, I agreed begrudgingly. And when Pickwick took the tiny stage at The Blue Moon that January night, limbs and instruments and energy over-flowing, I proceeded to kick myself for the rest of 2012 for being so daft. That friend, Josh, Ty, they had been so right, and I had been so, so wrong. And to make up for that error I saw every remaining local Pickwick show of 2011, including the night I had surgery. I never once wished I was anywhere else seeing any other band. Because Jay Cox was right last August, he had found my new favorite local band and as evidenced by sold-out show after sold-out show, one of your favorite new bands too.

Pickwick simply puts on a hell of a show. They defy expectation with their sound, their Star Wars-centered banter, by getting Ballard Ave (and beyond) to dance, and the pipes on Galen Disston. Dark doo-wop and call-and-response songs about death and destruction both physical and spiritual, often inspired by musical heroes of the band (Sam Cooke, Michael Jackson, Richard Swift) — Pickwick writes smart songs and put on performances that manage to appeal to my two month old niece, my nearly 70 year old parents, Seattle’s alt-weeklies and the managers from all over the country who clamored to sign them this summer. On the strength of these shows, hooks for miles, and the broadness of that appeal, Pickwick has gone from opening shows to 30 people to being asked to summer festivals and headlining a sold-out 1,000 person Neptune Theater, in just a year. In 2012, with their first major tours on the horizon and their debut full length to be released (likely on whatever label is lucky enough to be chosen by the band), I foresee the same pattern playing out all over the country … only skipping that whole playing to 30 people in towns they’ve never visited and it happening much, much faster. (abbey)

 

Charles Bradley ::: photo by Josh Lovseth

 

 

MVP National Live Act: Charles Bradley

It’s hard to explain the true affects of a live Charles Bradley performance, much less three in the span of a magnificently hot September week, other than to say I will come back to these different nights of performances as some of the most personally valuable musical moments I’ve ever experienced. Unearthed by Daptone Records and matched with a time-tested soul outfit in an age of copy-and-paste pop, Bradley is a rare breed of performer with a life of loss, “heartaches and pain” behind him to provide a valuable perspective that’s coming from a place of pure love and will for a better world, no bullshit. “Why is it so Hard” chronicles his life story culminating in the tragic death of his brother whom he was living with at the time, and at this point it’s hard not to tear up as Bradley himself seems to do at turns while performing. With glistening eyes he’ll turn around, doff his sparkled stage coat and stun the audience during “Golden Rule” or another upbeat number with a series knee-drops, mic-swings, the occasional worm, and of course some scream-inducing hip-thrusting for the ladies. James Brown would be proud of the hip-thrusts but also the performance as whole I think. Various luminaries have come out of performances claiming this is as close to Otis Redding as we’re likely to see and I’m hard pressed to argue. Though I’m not sure Otis ever danced quite that well. (josh)

 

Wild Flag ::: photo by Josh Lovseth

 

 

MVP Performer (Female): Wild Flag

You have seen a band perform the same songs three nights in a row, what do you want to:

a) never see that band again b) see that band sometime next year c) see that band every night for the foreseeable future.

If you’ve answered c, lucky you, you’ve just enjoyed three nights with Wild Flag.

After three nights with Wild Flag this November, my only wish was for more. Why hadn’t I gone on the entire tour? Why wasn’t this the beginning of the tour, not the end? Wild Flag, despite releasing their debut record this year, are road-warrior veterans with a first class indie and punk pedigree: Sleater-Kinney, The Minders and Helium and with their forces combined, this foursome is unstoppable on stage. Wild Flag are masters of their instruments and craft, not “for girls” (even if this category is gender based), but for anyone. Janet Weiss’ drumming recalls the greats, Carrie Brownstein is an iconic rock vocalist with a knack for writing songs that sound familiar and forward-thinking at the same time, Rebecca Cole’s piano adds a spooky psychedelic edge that elevates the band and Mary Timony is Wild Flag’s not-so-secret weapon, she straight up (yet somehow subtly) shreds with riffs that will be stuck in your brain for months. It was she who I couldn’t keep my eyes off of night after night.

The real joy of watching Wild Flag though is not just the band’s technical chops, but how much fun they seem to be having. The kind of chemistry the band shares on stage isn’t something you can practice. It’s either there or it’s not, and watching Wild Flag you feel like you’re watching four talented friends have the time of their life. And you can’t help but want to join in.

Extra Bonus Points: their cover of Television’s “See No Evil” was my favorite cover of the year.

Emeritus: Kelli Schaefer

 

Allen Stone ::: photo by Josh Lovseth

 

 

MVP Performer (Male): Allen Stone

Allen Stone’s flagrantly funk visage calls Seattle home, and though 2011 is the year he became a cover-boy and prime-time name, he’s been making small moves nationally for years now. Splitting his time between New York, LA and Seattle Stone built up a quality collection of tracks recorded with some soul heavyweights and waited for over a year to release his self-titled second record until the timing was right. Early in the year with the addition of an ace touring band representing as much young personality as Stone himself does the 25-year old Chewelah-bred pastor’s son was able to tour, capitalize, and make it all come together so that when Bumbershoot, City Arts Fest, and then Conan came calling he was prepared. Stone’s thick glasses and northwest-sheik aren’t exactly uniform attire for a classic soul sound, exemplifying that neither is his approach, but the bottom-line is he and his band have no trouble getting entire rooms dancing and the finer sex screaming. In a recent conversation Stone remarked about the new found attention, “It’s crazy. Less than a year ago I was playing the High Dive.” Having to add a second show because your first ever time headlining a 1000 cap room sold out a month of time says it all. Kinda like what happened to our previous winner of this MVP Macklemore did just about this time last year (eventually adding a total of three Showbox shows). (josh)

Emeritus: Macklemore

Read the rest of our MVPs including festival, debut album, 6th man & every writer’s personal MVP of 2011 (more…)

December 27, 2011

The Doe Bay Sessions: The Head and The Heart (Bonus Session)

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What a difference a year makes.

We’d heard “No One to Let You Down” before, last August, as the sun set over the San Juan’s the band sang a brand new song for their first Doe Bay Session. They’d just played the small festival’s smallest stage, the yoga studio and they were still the talk of the Fest. Fast forward to August 2011, where The Head and The Heart were headlining Doe Bay, a set that capped off a year of touring and festivals that scaled more on the HUGE size. Joined by friends Kyle Zantos (on banjo) and Damien Jurado (on harmonies) the band reprised their no longer new song for their second Doe Bay Session.

Sitting there it was impossible not to marvel at how much can change in a year, but also how much things stay the same. After almost all 12 months on the road, the harmonies were tighter, the nerves no longer there, we weren’t watching a new band full of potential, but practiced professionals. What we were still watching was friends who love making music together, singing songs you can’t help but add your own voice to the chorus. And still, a band full of potential.

The Head and The Heart flies out for their first Australian tour today before beginning work on their next record this spring.

December 27, 2011

Our Favorite Local Records of 2011: #4 – Cataldo Prison Boxing

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cataldo

We’re counting down our 10 favorite records released in the Pacific Northwest in 2011, follow along!

#4 CataldoPrison Boxing (Red Pepper Records)

“Let’s begin, at the end, of bad year, with bad things at my back. The tragic truth I’ve been slow in learning, is there are certain breaths you simply can’t retract.” – Deep Cuts

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a hopeless romantic, with an emphasis on “hopeless.” Hardly untrod ground as far as music goes I know, yet the the lyrical imagery and presentation of Cataldo’s latest self-released record Prison Boxing seems to do so convincingly and with intriguing results. Those first words of “Deep Cuts” feel like the ominous opening lines to a novel, setting the stage with expectations for troublesome consequences. Following shortly after the refrain ”the songs I spend on her never stop repeating“ perfectly preludes a record documenting a life of struggles in love. Along with “Deep Cuts,” “Don’t Lose that Feeling,” “Reach out And Touch Someone’s Hand” and “Prison Boxing” are all multi-dimensional portrayals dressed up as some of this year’s catchiest pop songs, personal and detailed enough to conjure up vivid pictures of complex relationships and the forces that might define them.

With acoustic guitar and a philosophical streak, lead vocalist and lyricist Eric Anderson could be that intimate companion to help you pull yourself up off the couch. A friend to over-analyze your bullshit with and put it in sober perspective, he’s someone with just the right story or thing to say to help you get over yourself and courtesy of his cohorts just the right orchestral chorus to bring up your mood. The soaring horns of “Rock of Calvary” join “Fog on the Glass” and “Don’t Lose that Feeling” as the standouts in this regard. The quiet moments carry no judgement, only staring truth in the eye and the resolve to move on with grace. “Moving on” is a thematic thread that’s woven from the fist note of the record to the last, and its realization is at constant odds with the connections we won’t or can’t ever leave behind. That “Prison Boxing” was chosen as the records name and thus representative track is no coincidence I think.

Any trouble alluded to earlier that our hero is moving on from probably stems from being too honest, too attached, and too open with his feelings. Sure that might be romantic, but as this record tells the tale, it does him no favors either. It makes encounters with your past awkward as hell and brushes with heartbreak a regular fact of living. When “searching for the heart of a thing” he accepts in ‘Deep Cuts’, “so it goes.” Midway through the tracklist “My Heart is Calling” takes a vacation from Anderson’s usually loquacious TMI and goes emotionally overboard delivering a vintage sounding stalker pop track that’s paired in dark possessiveness with the song directly after it “The Things You Need to Know.” Among a album largely populated by clear-eyed remainders these songs represent exactly the opposite. In professing love so desperately this interlude represents an unusual low for the our emerging antihero.

That the record is then book-ended by the largely upbeat “Fog on the Glass,” “Don’t Lose That Feeling,” and “Reach out and Touch Someone’s Hand,” feels a realization of that sought after grace. In getting over that “[feeling] when your looking back it would make you sick to get past the past” as ‘Fog on the Glass’ so concisely frames the tension, were coming to terms with that which he can’t divorce ourselves from. This record culminating with statements of personal redemption wasn’t assured based on those opening indications from “Deep Cuts.” That our protagonist remained a hopeless romantic assured that redemption would be inevitable.

“There’s no doubt, it’s time to make some new plans, so reach out, and touch someone’s hand” -The final lines to “Reach Out and Touch Someone’s Hand”

December 27, 2011

Our Favorite Photos of 2011: Fitz and the Tantrums

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fiercefitz

Fitz and the Tantrums ::: photo by Josh Lovseth

Damn if that is not sassiest photo we have ever snapped.

Fitz and the Tantrums are bringing their sass and their danceable soul to the Showbox on January 20th and next week we’ll be giving away a pair of tickets to a lucky reader. Stay tuned and dust off your dancing shoes.