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April 1, 2013

Sub Pop at 25


“Once upon a time, Seattle opened it’s legs and fucked the world, YES! Loud powerfuzz and muff shagging hair action!” – Bruce Pavitt on the back cover of Fuck Me I’m Rich, a compilation collecting the first five Sub Pop singles

Twenty-five years ago today Jonathan Poneman and Bruce Pavitt moved into the top floor of the Terminal Sales Building, and Sub Pop Records became official. The watershed singles of “Touch Me I’m Sick” from Mudhoney and then Nirvana’s debut “Love Buzz/Big Cheese” would emanate from those walls in the following months and the world would never be the same. From the modest space where they were required to use the bathroom as the stock room and hoof it up an extra floor since the elevator didn’t go all to the top, they launched a campaign of “World Domination,” and in no small measure succeeded, albiet nearly going bankrupt in the process multiple times and alienating many of the bands they sought to bring to the masses.

Sub Pop Records is still going strong in 2013 having actually grown into the “large multinational entertainment conglomerate” that the upstart rabble-rousers who could barely keep it together for so many years originally touted themselves as. In the interest of healthy business the label’s history as the house of grunge has in the last few years been eclipsed by it’s recruiting of band’s of all stripes, though it’s kept its original LOSER brand and a strong ear out for those bands challenging convention. No longer precisely an indie, the now international powerhouse still remains grounded in the Northwest and has been laying claim to some of Seattle’s finest in recent years including Fleet Foxes, Shabazz Palaces, the Head and the Heart, and most recently Rose Windows.

This summer Sub Pop takes over Georgetown in celebration of their “Silver Jubilee” on Saturday July 13th. For Record Store Day on April 20th Sub Pop is releasing the Sub Pop 1000 Compilation, inspired by Sub Pop’s original vinyl offering the Sub Pop 100 compilation.

Follow me below the fold for a few of the best of those early Sub Pop singles: (more…)

March 26, 2013

La Luz – “Call Me in the Day” [video]


Damnit. Call it a first world blogger problem. A first world problem. Or not really a problem at all. But sometimes you just miss a great band. Sometimes you miss them, even when their sweet songs get sent right to you. Sometimes you listen to them, think “that’s mighty fine” and then something happens, life goes on, you misplace them, only to be reminded just how kick ass the band is six months later after everyone else already knows it.

Does that mean they’re not worth talking about? Fuck no.

Such was the fate for La Luz, who’ve garnered lots of local love and some national affection from Pitchfork, and deservedly so. Featuring singer and guitarist Shana Cleavland (of former SOTS favorite Curious Mystery), La Luz sing dazed day-dream doo-wop and gauzy garage tunes. They sound lusciously stoned, with harmonies and bass lines straight out of the ’60s, just as likely to be a rediscovered retro 7” as a new local band.

Yesterday the band released a video for “Call Me in the Day,” a spooky surf song for the Salish Sea. With echoes of the Northwest’s own Ventures and San Francisco’s garage rock revival, La Luz are a band we’re bummed to have missed before, but can’t wait to hear more of. Lucky for us (and all of you) Burger Records is re-releasing their debut EP Damp Face on cassette and there is a 7” release coming from an offshoot of Mississippi Record next month and a full-length in the works. You better believe we’ll be paying close attention now.



La Luz are playing with The Thermals and Wimps at Neumos on April 25th.

March 26, 2013

Talking With Josh Ritter: “There Wasn’t Catharsis, There Was Self-Preservation”


Photo: Tyler Kalberg

A little bit of advice to everyone who is about to interview or even interact with someone whose work has had a profound impact on you:

Do not drink three cups of coffee and skip lunch.

Don’t do it, friends. You will shake, and it will seem just like your tenth grade production of Godspell when you had to sing that one solo part on “Day by Day” and your friend helpfully points out that your knees were quavering like anthropomorphic maracas.

But if you’re lucky you will be talking to someone as nice as Josh Ritter, who does not point out your vibrating hands, and instead lets you settle into the tiny room in the labyrinthine Neptune backstage before having a terrific conversation about his new heartbreaker-and-fixer of an album, The Beast In Its Tracks.

Ritter has been open about the context of this record – it was born out of his divorce. It is an album written in the midst of the clattering uproar that consumes all of us who try to make sense of our collapsing, well-laid plans. It crackles and hums with raw, brutal emotion blooming into moments of mercy and elation. It slides down and soars up the slick surface of healing with its tiny toeholds. It is an album of splintering agony and vast kindness, and stands out as my favorite album of his to date.

The Beast in its Tracks scales down the epic narratives and expansive production qualities of Ritter’s prior endeavors, but his preternatural gift for storytelling wasn’t lost when he traded the forest for the trees. When we sat down that afternoon we covered all manner of topics, including the late and very much missed Jason Molina, the tattoo I have on my arm based on his lyrics, and the experience of having his newborn daughter, Beatrix, on tour with him.

Forgive me for keeping those tangents out of the transcript, but Ritter’s words about this record were too good to not share in continuity. Ritter sat with his elbows on his knees, thinking frequently with his eyes closed, smiling easily and often, and he spoke with fluent openness about his take on autobiographical songwriting, the life art takes apart from its creator, the importance of sharing experiences, and writing to save his own life.

Photo: Tyler Kalberg

I know this album has been talked about as your most autobiographical songwriting, and it’s definitely personal. I was wondering if that is because we as listeners have context, or if it is only the content? Has this been the most personal album for you?

I don’t think there’s any way for you to not be autobiographical in some ways in everything that you do. When we write, we are all telling a story from ourselves. In that way, I think with every record I’ve made, what I’m trying to do is be honest without telling the truth. You have to tell a story, you have to write about things that are interesting to you, which are things that drive you for a reason, and those reasons are the things in your life.

I do believe that everything is in one way autobiographical. An album is a collection of preoccupations from a very specific time. So I could go back and think about different records like that. Golden Age of Radio was a preoccupation with traveling and starting to be on the road, Hello Starling was a very philosophical mission statement about why I wanted to do music, and what I believed music was about for me. The Animal Years was about my anger and confusion about where we were going as a country, and so on and so forth. Those things are all autobiographical. This one happened to be autobiographical to regular human relationships, which I think is a little easier to approach than some things that are actually just as personal to me.

In this album there aren’t as many dense literary references. In past albums, a listener could pick through the lyrics in an exegetical way and figure out what you were reading or listening to. This album sounds like someone who is writing more than reading.

I think I had the wind knocked out of my sails, I mean; there was an energy to writing. There’s always an energy to writing. Usually I wait to start a record until I get the feeling like, “I can do this, I can do this really well. I want to do this better.” I usually have an ambition and a drive that fuels my writing.

With this record, it wasn’t like that at all. It was very much about having the wind knocked out of my sails. There was nothing left to drive it, except the realization that there are so few times in your life when you know yourself really clearly, and when you see yourself really clearly, and you see yourself in unadulterated form. When joy is joy, and hate is hate. When that happens, I thought that if I didn’t write about it, I’d be missing out on the biggest opportunity I had to write about something so clear. Something that is right in front of me, like still life in the moment. And if I don’t do that, then I’m missing out. And for that reason there wasn’t time to make it bigger, or more energy to make them larger, since it was such a horrible time. It was just about capturing that one time as honestly as I could.

So was writing this album a cathartic time?

It wasn’t really cathartic. I would say that catharsis is when you’re exorcising something, or cutting something away. And this was not that. These were, for at least half this record, songs I wrote at night to keep from doing other things. They were much more like, tie-yourself-to-the-radiator, or lash-yourself-to-the-mast. There wasn’t catharsis, there was self-preservation.

Something that you had to do.

Something that I would do instead of all the other things I shouldn’t do. Dangerous, unproductive things. Some of those songs were to save my own life. Which is different than a song like “Joy to You Baby”…though that song came from all of those. It came from being able to make it through. It wasn’t hard to write those songs, because they were right there, right there to describe. It was about choosing which part of myself I wanted to write, which part of myself I would want to hold on to 30 or 40 years down the line.

I think break ups and break up records can be very unattractive, and not very useful. I don’t want to hear somebody talking about their relationships in some sort of clichéd, boring way. Everyone has their ex-girlfriend stories, and I didn’t want to put people through that. I wanted to see who I was, and when I was really angry and had revenge fantasies, I wanted to make sure I had that in there but I didn’t want that to be the only thing.

That thought seems to be clear on songs like “New Lover”, when there is a definite dig toward the end. The song is primarily very positive, and then right at the finish there is a complete negative shift, but one that everyone can relate to. It seems like those kinds of songs resonate honestly beyond the initial pain, when anger can come across as just plain mean. It also gives people who are afraid to say those kinds of things the permission to say them honestly, but not hatefully.

You know, we’re all allowed to say those kinds of things. We all go through these moments in one way or another. I was hurt really badly, but it doesn’t make me look any better to act like an asshole. If I’m going to be an asshole, I can admit to it. But I can also admit to things that are better, and to things that were good.

It’s everybody’s prerogative to talk about it however they want. My agenda with a break up record is not to hurt a specific person, but to describe a condition in a way that hopefully, if I describe it well enough, they won’t think about it as “my” break up record. It’s a bunch of different stages in the end of a relationship and the beginning of a new one, and I feel that’s more universal than me sending out a Smart Bomb.

So you were aiming to write for a collective condition, and not just for the relationship that made you a part of that condition?

I wouldn’t allow myself to be writing autobiographically in this way if not… because when you stand up in front of a microphone long enough you start to believe that everything you say is more important than anyone else, and this is a moment I felt very much that I definitely did not want my experience to take precedent over what it feels like to have your heart broken. That’s the most important thing. Details are cool, and they can be thrown in, Famous Blue Raincoat being a great example of that. He throws in all these details, and at the end he even signs his name, but in the end it’s a song about everybody, a song about drifting away- I love it, it’s a very generous song that Leonard Cohen does.

You know, I do agree this is a shift in songwriting for you. Especially with the singular kind of experience that inspired it into being written. But I don’t think it involves a lack of continuity. A lot of feedback seems to be that this is a profound change for you in style and substance. But in your catalogue you talk about these messy human entanglements with as much honesty and clarity, for instance my favorite line in “Kathleen”

Every heart is a package

Tangled up in knots someone else tied

I think that sentiment, and others that are similar, carried through to this album. I think these concepts are a thread, and I wonder if you see that as well, or if you too see this album as a radical shift, an entirely new direction?

You know, I don’t think so. In fact, I think making records is like carrying a little bit of fire from one campfire to the next. The stuff that grows up around each one may be different, but there has to be some of the very first record in everything. I think that’s all I’m usually looking for in terms of continuity; that something carries on. I mean, I believe in progression. Not necessarily that it gets better, but that it continues to move. But I was really interested to find that people thought that this was such a different record, because I didn’t think so.

I honestly didn’t think that people would pay much attention to this record. I was very prepared for that. It had none of the big songs, none of the epic things I’ve wanted to do recently, none of the big production, some of the songs are only two minutes long. I didn’t think most people would think it was that worthwhile, so it’s really amazing.

I felt like this is something that happened to me, like I’m clearing the decks. To not put something out would feel so dishonest, so I’m going to do it. I see it as a continuation of the other records, but it’s been so surprising to have people react to it in this way. It’s funny- you work so hard, put yourself into so much, trying and trying, and then the things that feel in some ways like the smallest and least preconceived…it’s been awesome, the reaction to this record, a total surprise.


I returned to the Neptune later that evening for the show, and stood at the back of the floor. I was lamenting my choice to park near the talkative bar for fear of missing the mellower numbers, when Ritter and his band ended a song and paused. Ritter leaned into his mic and asked very kindly for the stage lights to be turned off.

Rather than use the amps to sing over the chatter, or even ask folks to quiet down, Ritter stood at the edge of the stage, unplugged his guitar, and started to sing. He chose “In the Dark”, a tender and quiet song from The Animal Years. Without a microphone to lend its help he sang, his voice just breaking the surface over the drone of conversation.

He never directed us to sing along. But we started to. People next to me, and people behind me, and by the time he reached the tenth line the bar was singing too, flooding the freshly hollow air. It was both soft and mighty as our voices swelled to meet his, and from the smallest glow of the house lights, Ritter’s face was ecstatic.

I thought back to him talking about how he didn’t want to share only his story, he wanted to invite everybody into the human story. There we were, so many individual humans all mottled with our own secret stories, watching one of us who had stepped away from the microphone to lend his voice with the same weight as ours. To share our stories with his own. And so we sang:

Every heart is much the same

We tell ourselves down here

The same chambers fed by veins

The same maze of love and fear

We thought you were a saint

But the halo was an eye

It’s hard to see how there could be so much dark inside the light

Don’t you leave us in the dark

Josh Ritter’s new album, The Beast in its Tracks, can be purchased at your local record store, on his website, or at any of his upcoming shows. He invites you to go say hi to his merch guy, Brian.

Photo: Tyler Kalberg


March 21, 2013

Baltic Cousins – The Broken Horn


Baltic Cousins ::: The Broken Horn

After seeing Baltic Cousins an estimated 14,722 times in-person over the last calendar year, it was nice to get ahold of the recordings of their new stuff. While I can’t decide if I prefer The Broken Horn to some of Baltic Cousins older material (still rocking the heck out of that demo), I can string together some poorly expressed thoughts and give you the opportunity to decide for yourself. Imagine a world in which music writers are the conduit to your own positive/negative critical thinking? What media are you going blame for all your societal ills moving forward?

The Broken Horn isn’t a drastic departure from Baltic Cousins “old stuff.” In fact, “Indianapolis” is making its first “official” appearance since the band’s first demo. The band released their first single for this album a number of months ago (“Never Hold Your Breath,”). It serves as a pretty solid indicator of what awaits the listener on the rest of the album. To me, the funniest thing about the aforementioned track, is one of the lyrics describes how I approached my listening to this record. To close out the song, singer/guitarist Bradley James Lockhart exclaims, “I moved up, I moved on! You got stuck in a song!”

I know he didn’t mean to accuse me of wrong, but the allegations rang true.

In essence, I was stuck in a song. I was glued to Baltic Cousins old songs and not allowing myself to examine these compositions as a separate entity from the band’s past. How many of us are guilty of doing the same thing, but with humans….raise your hands?

The Broken Horn‘s opening track “Bear Traps” has verses that feature no steady ground. It might be the tom  fills or the wavering vocals but the track has a surprisingly sea-faring feel despite its hazardous, woodsy allusion. Once the chorus kicks in, all intentions are brought to light. You finally feel like your stuck in the Northwest, waiting for a non-existant Spring to come. While people in different parts of the country continue to post pictures of cherry-blossoms blooming on Instagram. Baltic Cousins are telling you that you’re not bitter, this cardigan malaise you’re feeling keeps you grounded. Stay level-headed and comfortable in your misery, Seattlite.

First and foremost, I love the title “He Has Smoked Bugs Before.” My reasoning is because you know there’s a good story behind a song title like that. Possible party tricks or drunken campfire behavior aside, this is a prime example of the Baltic Cousins I love. Spirited, loud, somewhat fast and celebratory for the fuck of it. “He Has Smoked Bugs Before” also has one of those moments that, “really make the song” and it happens towards the end of the track. All of the music stops and Lockhart utters the phrase, “Who’s fucking watching us?” before all of the instruments come crashing back in. I am often asking myself the same question (in the third person of course). 

The next two tracks remain mostly stationary but they have polarizing affect on the way I receive them. “Hurricane Able” is my favorite song on this album. Nika Lee’s violin multitasks efficiently by controlling the song and dressing the vocals.

I have a minor complaint to make before I go forward.

Throughout the album thus far, there have been occasions where the violin is very apparent and the listener struggles to hear Rabia Magnusson’s piano. Turn the girl’s keys up! To my own ears, this is first track where I clearly hear both instruments, intermingling in a harmonic fashion. Is this the sole reason why this is my favorite track on this album? No. However, it did not handicap its chances at endearment.

“Hurricane Able” exhibits many of the traits I tend to find attractive in a rock song. It’s short, it’s memorable and the vocals are anthemic at one point or another. I like it just the way it is, I wouldn’t change a thing. Actually, that’s a lie. I wouldn’t mind hearing the beginning guitar intro with the violin accompaniment at the very end of the song as well. I think those few seconds are really pretty and wouldn’t mind hearing it again.

On the other hand, I am not really a fan of “Mark Twain (Was There & He Was Crying).” It’s not a bad song. In fact, for some of you this might be the highlight of the record. For me, this song fails to move me for two reasons. First, it comes across like a promise never fulfilled. When I listen to it, I think something else greater is about to happen but it never does.

This is problematic because it creates a deja vu of the most unsavory variety.

During my teenage years, I got a similar feeling listening to the Fugazi album, “Steady Diet of Nothing.” This is far and away the worst Fugazi album. I’d also nominate this record as one of the worst albums ever put forth by Dischord Records. With the exception of one song, I waited that entire fucking album for something to happen…and it never did. It was audio Groundhog Day. “Never again!” I promised myself…

Secondly, the opening lyrics about symbolized romanticism morph into lines that are elegiacally blue collar. Why is this a problem? Because it reminds of that Americana/Folk explosion we experienced here in Seattle a few years ago. If you know my history with this website, you know how little I thought of that often imitated, localized artistic movement. Oddly enough it spread to record label boardrooms all over the globe. Now I can’t go to the gym without hearing Mumford and Sons over the fucking PA. When will a brother be able to watch a cellphone commercial on television without having to be subjected to the fucking Lumineers!?!

I don’t want to hear anymore songs about white guys with beards talking about being judged by the work they do with their hands. This might have something to do with coming from a household where my mother was the “handy person.” My father would stand around obviously perplexed by whatever my mother was fixing. I was over it in 2009. Give me another couple of years and maybe I’ll come back around. I realize that I am violating the very thread and fabric of American Folklore…but I don’t give a shit. It’s also quite possible that the work Lockhart was referring to wasn’t manual labor at all. If that is the case, I apologize for what your musical antecedents have ruined for you.

Are there any lessons to be learned from listening to “Junk Beach Parts One and Two”? Do I have any volunteers? No? Gentle readers, are you aware of the “Cormac McCarthy Theory of Disturbed Inspiration”? It is stated as follows: If you read a Cormac McCarthy novel at some point in your adult life, your chances of writing a good song based on the events you have read increases by an incredible 37.7% (If you suck at music, then it doesn’t matter what books you read….you suck at music.)  Baltic Cousins were aware of this esoteric theorem and used it to their advantage. They crafted a noteworthy composition and wisely broke it down into two distinct songs.

“Dead Artists” will remind you of the Decemberists immediately. I like the Decemberists so this isn’t a bad thing.  An accordion, a mandolin, a violin, a guitar playing chords that wouldn’t be out of place on Picaresque or The King is Dead. However, it’s not the music that you should be paying attention to here, it’s the realness of the lyrics. You could even argue that this might be one of the “realest” songs Baltic Cousins have ever written. This song is confrontational, honest, angry and urgent. I did not recognize its majesty until the 7th or 8th listen. It’s really a great track. One of my favorite things about listening to music is how a connection isn’t always immediate but it is everlasting. This song is an example of that.

To summarize:

* “Hurricane Able” will probably end up as one of my favorite songs of the year.

* If you’re a white guy with a beard and an acoustic guitar and you want to tell me about working with your hands, go fuck yourself.

* Never, ever remind me of Fugazi’s Steady Diet of Nothing

 * Don’t try too hard to connect with a song, let a song connect with you.

* Don’t get stuck in a song either.

* This is a strong musical effort worth owning and a band worth witnessing.


Baltic Cousins are having their Seattle album release show on Friday, March 22nd at the Tractor with Ravenna Woods and Lost Lander. Then the following night they’ll be rocking the Shakedown in Bellingham with Livingston Seagull and Rhombu$.

March 21, 2013

On Repeat: River Giant



Sometimes when a record kicks you in the gut, you lose your words as if it were an actual kick. Such was the case with River Giant’s debut album, which has left me struggling for breath and words since I first saw the band live a couple months ago. I’d been passed along the record when it was first released in April of last year and it didn’t make much of an impact, but seeing them live I was gobsmacked.

If I was going to say it simply (which of course, I’m not) I’d just tell you that River Giant is my favorite local discovery in months, if not years. The Everett born and bred trio sound as if they were raised on ‘70s harmonies and early SubPop records, fed only a steady diet of The Eagles and Mudhoney. In a city saturated with dude-harmonies, the only people who come close to matching River Giant are fellow-Everett-kids, The Moondoggies. And the bands have more in common than their hometown. Lead singer Kyle Jacobson’s guitar tone and playing is similarly tuned and expressive as lead ‘Doggie Kevin Murphy’s, adding an unexpected bite to the band’s honey harmonies. But where Murphy offers a whiskey howl, Jacobson soars on a slurred falsetto.

This is my kind of band. Kids who listened and loved their parents records, while searching for their own sound, something that spoke to their generation’s bleak frustration rather than their parents blossoming idealism. And somehow River Giant have married the opposing and complimentary parts to make a sound completely their own. I’m not sure it should work as well as it does: menacingly emotive rock’n’roll, leering and lurching, tumultuous and touching … but damn if I haven’t listened to the record a hundred times already. These are songs I wake up singing. That I want to hear over and over again. That when I’ve tried to sit down and write about, I get so caught up in, I forget to type.

And they are even better live.

You can see for yourself this Saturday when River Giant headlines Chop Suey or this July, when they’ll be performing at the inaugural Timber! Fest in Carnation, WA.

Before you see them, you can take a listen for yourself. If you’re not going to listen all the way through I recommend starting with track three “I Permute this Marriage,” or track two “Pink Flamingos”, or track five “Western” or track six “Feel Like,” or jesus, just listen to the whole record.

March 20, 2013

Letterbox: On The Road With Pickwick (part one)


All Photos by Letterbox

Editor’s note: The ladies of Letterbox, Ellie Arciaga and Eleanor Lonardo, are on the road with Pickwick this spring chronicling the band’s first national tour and giving fans an intimate glimpse behind the scenes of a travelling band. This summer they’ll be publishing a book of photos from their adventure, but first they’ve agreed to share some shots with Sound on the Sound and all of us who wish we could be in the van with them. This first leg of the tour covers their trek prior to arriving in Austin for SXSW….

Being on the road with the Pickwick dudes has been an incredible ride. We’ve seen them sell out the Independent in San Francisco, and pack out The Echo in LA. We watched them win over first time crowds in Phoenix at the Crescent Ballroom, and the Low Spirits in Albuquerque. And, all this to say, these shows were just a warm-up to their rigorous SXSW run this year. We can’t wait to share those images with you!

See more behind the scenes photos of Pickwick from the ladies of Letterbox… (more…)

March 20, 2013

Sound on the Sound: Then & Now


“Seattle Music” (date unknown) ::: courtesy of an Edmonds thrift store bin

For as long as Sound on the Sound has been around, seven years this August, we have described ourselves as some variation of your daily source for features, news and exclusive content about Seattle music. “Daily” has lead the charge in our description, but something has changed in the last year or so at SOTS, the least of which is: we don’t post daily.

In fact, most things have changed around SOTS in the last year. Part of it is, yes, we got a little burnt out, because six years is a long time to write something every day. Anything. Even the things you love the most. And part of it is, there was less of a need (or none at all) to post the same news that at least ten other locally focused blogs race to post every day. Covering the same thing as everyone else and serving as a copy & paste clearing house for locally relevant press releases was never our desire or intention for the site. Though from time to time, we’ve done that to try to keep our promise of daily coverage for you. But we understand now, that that’s as much a waste of your time as it is ours.

So, who are we now in 2013? Since our ideas and lives and tastes and city are changing?

Here’s what’s not the same:

We’re not 20-somethings any more. We’ve created lives… there are SOTS babies. (Okay, there’s only one, but he is adorable.) We’re planning weddings and getting married. We’re going back to school and trying to get jobs that do more than pay for bills and booze. We’ve left Seattle and started lives in other cities. We’ve got responsibilities that we can’t limp into, ears ringing, every other morning. We’re not at shows every night anymore and sometimes not even every week. We’re not trying to be the source for everyone about everything. We know that taste is subjective, that this is ours and yours is different. We think there are other local blogs you can read and many of them might have line-ups up before us. We don’t care about who’s first.

Here’s what is the same:

We’re still moved by local music and musicians. We still think one of the most vibrant and exciting music communities in the world exists right here in our damp corner of the country. We think there are bands and voices and genres to be discovered, some who are making music today and some who have made it in the past. We think you can be proud of the bands that have succeeded from Seattle; we are. We think they, and plenty of bands you haven’t heard of yet, are worth spending your hard earned cash on–that’s still how we spend our money. We think you can engage in conversation about local music without getting involved in the latest Twitter brawl. We think its okay to not live tweet a festival line-up. In fact, we think its okay to miss Block Party or Sasquatch or Doe Bay … or whatever the “big concert of the week” is. We still want to talk about what we love most, whether we talk about it twice or twenty times. Or whether we talk about it once, and never mention it again.

Above all, even if it is not every day, we still think local music and bands are worth talking about. We think some of them are the “next big thing” and some of them will never play a bigger stage than the Blue Moon on a Thursday night. We think as long as we love them, they are equally worth writing about … and that if we don’t, no matter what the buzz is or if everyone else is talking about them, that they’re not.

What Sound on the Sound is about is sharing stories from and about Seattle. About what the songs and the singers mean to us in the context of life in this city as we live it.

We hope that despite how we change and how we stay the same, you’ll check back regularly to see if we’ve discovered something we love. We hope you listen and love it or loathe it. We hope you share with us and others what you can’t get enough of, because we hope you still think Seattle has stories and songs to share.

March 19, 2013

Premiere: Solvents – Ghetto Moon



Six years ago a hand-bound book and CD showed up in our mailbox postmarked Port Townsend, WA. The return address penned in shaky Sharpie:  Solvents.

The submission was unique not only for the hand-illustrated ghost story that came with it, but the songs themselves. We wrote about bands playing arena rock and sweaty punk at the Blue Moon and basements back then, but Jarrod Bramson must’ve known something about us that we didn’t yet, Solvents were the first local folk band we wrote about. And come the end of 2007, that bare bones folk album was nestled among our loud local favorite releases. I said then,  ”it’s albums like these that last for me… I’ll be listening to Manresa Castle years down the road.”

And I’m glad to say its not just Manresa Castle I’m listening to years later (though I do), but new songs from Solvents too. Since our introduction in 2007 the band’s sound has fluxuated, expanding and contracting in members and amplification, but for their latest release, Ghetto Moon, they have returned to the core duo of Emily Madden and Jarrod Bramson that so enamored us. At the crux of our crush is the intimacy of the music Madden and Bramson make together. Now married and the parents of twin girls, Ghetto Moon is a partnership at play and on display, Madden’s mood-making fiddle and sweet harmonies echo Bramson’s wordy whispers and straight-forward-strumming.

At his best on Ghetto Moon, Bramson sounds positively Moz-esque. “Are You Going to Wait for Love to Leave”, would not be out of place beside songs about girlfriends in comas or charming men. The chorus is a plaintive plea, but one you can’t help but bop your head along to: “I can’t imagine the days that you’ve wasted away. / But are you gonna wait for love to leave? / You’re tired of life and living on your knees. / And I don’t know why you don’t want to try, try. / Said, are you going to wait for love to leave?”  

Ghetto Moon is filled from start to finish with with satisfyingly sad, simple songs that ache in every note, like a fading bruise. And like Manresa Castle and Forgive Yr. Blood, and every other Solvents record we’ve been lucky enough to have listened to, these are songs that last, that cling to your memory like moss.

Ghetto Moon is out today, but you can listen to the album in its entirety right here first.

February 28, 2013

Hey Marseilles Made An Album (And A Wes Anderson Worthy Promo For It)



We shared this promo video for Hey Marseilles new record on our Facebook — but its just too well done (and adorable) to not share with those of you not on Facebook or who don’t “like” us there.

The Wes Anderson inspired promo features Hey Marseilles preparing for the release of their second full length Lines We Trace, out next Tuesday, and the rigors of touring behind it. The promo perfectly matches the bands preppy pop and orchestral twee and succeeds in making me excited to hear and see what’s next from a band who’ve sustained a successful local career on a single record for the past five years. Though, if you want  to get a listen to what Lines We Trace will actually sound like, you’ll have to watch another promo, featuring a brief sneak peek of the band’s literate lyricism.

Hey Marseilles begins a nationwide tour this Friday with a sold out show at the Showbox, our friends in Portland can see them Saturday at the Aladdin Theater and San Francisco can see them on the 5th at The Chapel.

February 28, 2013

Timber! A New Summer Festival From Artist Home



A new outdoor music festival is coming to the Northwest this July 26th & 27th courtesy of Artist Home, the folks behind a few of our favorite summer traditions: Doe Bay Fest, Slack Fest and the Golden Garden Bonfire series. Timber! will be held in Carnation, Washington at Tolt -MacDonald Park, nestled alongside the Snoqualmie and Tolt Rivers. The 574-acre park will be home to starlit and campfire lit stages and when not watching music, festival goers can float the river, hike the trails, gaze at the stars or snuggle up in tents or yurts.

Sound on the Sound is excited to be a sponsor of Timber! and to see what our friends at Artist Home have in store for their latest vision combining the best of Northwest music and nature. Line-up and ticket information will be announced on March 12th and we’ll share all the details right here.