January 20, 2008

SOTS’s 2007 MVP’s or The Velvet Space Helmet Goes To…

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The “Velvet Space Helmet” is Sound on the Sound’s version of our year end MVP’s. Sorry it’s coming in 2008, that is totally my (abbey’s) fault. Hope you enjoy it still, even in its tardiness.  

Most Valuable Live Act: Hopscotch Boys

Blowdog of Hopscotch Boys

Every Hopscotch Boys show I go to somehow manages to be the craziest concert I’ve ever seen. I keep thinking I’ve witnessed it all, that they’ve topped themselves, that it couldn’t possibly get any stranger… and then it does, infinitely so. In my first year of Hopscotch performances I’ve seen lead-singer Blowdog head-lock and straddle a rowdy fan, get whipped with his own belt, nearly poison himself with a glow-stick, alter his ahem… nether region, forever change my idea of Santa, and nearly get stabbed by a skin head – all in the midst of some kick ass rock shows. Despite the antics, Hopscotch Boys aren’t just a freak show. Their album Sad and Lonely Eyes plays harder than most bands dare dream of achieving live. The epic intensity so present at every Hopscotch show is audible every second of the record. A whiskey soaked hallucination, right there in your headphones. -abbey

Most Valuable Performer (female): The Trucks

The Trucks

What is a person supposed to think about a group of big mouthed and uninhibited women who sing about vibrators, “Perv’s in the Bushes,” and domestic violence all in one set? What’s a person to do when confronted with a front singer missing her front tooth, the most bad ass girl drummer in these parts, and a dance party on stage? The only thing to think is “this is all in good fun” and the only thing to do is dance right along, and the Trucks make that possible and welcome for anyone, young or old, no matter how uptight. With the wider re-release of their first record in the early part of the year, these ladies toured the country twice in 2007 including a four day stop at SXSW, playing somewhere in Austin each of the four days. A Trucks show is truly an interactive experience that is not to be missed. – josh

Most Valuable Performer (male): Sonic Smith

Sonic Smith

Every time Sonic Smith steps on stage, be it as lead guitar and vocals for Thee Emergency, as the courageous leader of Lavender Lunchbox and The Psychedelic Lightbulb, as a saxophone soloist at an Iceage Cobra concert, or as an impromtu back-up vocalist at any number of local shows – he steals the show. And considering Sonic only gets on stage with the best Seattle has to offer musically, that statement is ever more impressive. Sonic oozes rock’n'roll, with a strut that would make Mick Jagger jealous and some guitar moves that challenge the greats. And as the long list at the beginning implies, Sonic is a prolific musician. In 2007 he wrote and orchestrated one phenomenal song after another for the forthcoming Thee Emergency and Lavender Lunchbox releases. We’re pleased to say we’ll be hearing a lot of Sonic Smith in 2008, and we’ll be loving every second of it. – abbey

Most Valuable Opening Act/Scene Stealer of the Year: Little Ones opening for Kaiser Chiefs

Bands who have garnered enough of an audience to headline at the Showbox (at the Market) are some of the best in the business. Often they are afforded the opportunity to let lesser known acts gain exposure as openers on their tours should they feel confident enough fill the auditoriums themselves. On a cold and rainy night in August, the UK’s Kaiser Chiefs rolled through with the Little Ones and the Walkmen in tow. The Kaiser Chiefs are m-fing huge around the world so I was expecting a packed house and an energetic night. I told my buddy we should get there for the first band, and from the first song, the people around us were asking who this band was. We were asked no less than five times and overheard a number of conversations exclaiming how great this band was (who are they again?). LA’s The Little Ones stole the show that night with the exceptional exuberance of a band who was going for broke, and people noticed. That night in August, this little pop outfit outshown the international supernova that is Kaiser Chiefs, and for that, they deserve the Velvet Space Helmet. – josh

Most Valuable Venue: The Blue Moon Tavern

The Blue Moon

Of all the categories, this was the easiest to decide upon – which will likely shock some readers. Sound on the Sound whole-heartedly believes that The Blue Moon is the most valuable music venue in Seattle. And yes, we felt that way even when The Crocodile Cafe was around (god rest it’s soul). JJ consistently books the best local line-ups in Seattle and has a real knack for putting together bills that build the energy in the room to the point of implosion. The Moon got it’s liquor license in 2007 and have been pouring some stiff drinks ever since. And, on top of all that, it’s fucking FREE – no ticketmaster “convenience charge,” no fumbling for change at the door - just the best local live music in Seattle. - abbey  

The Shackeltons 

Abbey’s Personal MVPs of 2007: The Shackeltons

As dedicated as I am to my locals, no band really shared or made my 2007 like The Shackeltons did. Their song, “Your Movement” was my first favorite song of the new year, despite a full year of shows after it, no performance topped my introduction to the band in early March, and I popped up in their video for “The Breaks.” Their DIY release “Night Songs,” recorded in a church in rural Pennsylvania, is one of the most astonishing albums I’ve ever heard and one of my most listened to albums of 2007. Despite hundreds of listens, I often get butterflies in my chest listening to the album. The Shackeltons’ songs are at once frantic and filled with chaos, yet still achingly beautiful. Lead singer and song writer Mark Redding is laid bare in his lyrics and with his performance, and within that vulnerability lays incredible power. The Shackeltons debut release cd from local label, Loveless Records is out on January 29th, 2008… and I guarantee you, it’s going to be huge. ’08 is looking to be The Shackeltons year. And mark my word, there’s is a name you’ll be seeing over and over again on next years end of year lists and there’s no band in America today who deserves it more.

The WHore Moans 

Josh’s Personal MVPs of 2007: The Whore Moans Some bands just have it. That intangible aura of cool. It’s that sort of effortless attitude of fun where they somehow still end up drenched in sweat by the end of the set. They’re loud. Really loud. They scream. And they rollick around as though they live for that moment stage. They’re most assuredly one of hardest working bands in Seattle, seemingly playing every week somewhere around town, and every time I see them play they put out 100%. These gents are pure rock and roll and some of the best the local scene has to offer.

Most Valuable Music Blog: Daytrotter Daytrotter is what Pitchfork wishes it could be. High minded criticism, that somehow does not come across as total douche-baggery. This blog reveals artists to the music community in a way that no one else does, bringing in their favorite artists weekly to record intimate sessions and then offering the impeccable recordings for free downloads. Extra Bonus? Instead of using photography like everyone else, Daytrotter uses an insanely talented cadre of artists who draw portraits of every band that is recorded, interviewed, or reviewed. The site is invaluable because they don’t just offer commentary, they participate. In conclusion, Daytrotter is every music bloggers wet dream.  – abbey

January 4, 2008

Northwest Music News this week

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Seattle’s newest music venue: King Cobra. Set to open sometime in January in the old Sugar nightclub space next to the Comet, they promise all kinds of music offerings for their 475 person capacity venue. See the complete details at Lineout. With the demise of the Croc, 10th and Pike is the place to be.

Three Imaginary Girls Best of the Northwest 2007 poll results are in. They’ve got a couple lists to compare: the Editors Picks and the Readers Poll. I see many people (smartly) agree with me about the Cave Singers and Menomena being top ten albums this year. They also bring us the Easy Street Records Best of 2007 list, picked by the record store employees themselves.

Grand Archives release a few new songs and new album details. A new pair of cheerier songs are up on their myspace. Their new album is self-titled and will be released on Sub Pop on February 19. Complete details at pfork. Their playing at the Triple Door on February 20. Buy tickets here.

You can now go to Laser Radiohead at Seattle Center. Rock.

December 31, 2007

Our Favorite Photos of 2007: Day Thirty-One

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Here it is, our favorite photo of 2007… a Cobra Finale at Georgetown Music Festival. This is one of those shots you wait all year for and I’m so glad I managed to capture it. The photo is the epitome of all that I loved about the original Iceage Cobra line-up; the action, the crushing rock, and how in sync with each other the guys were on stage. Though Cobra is a trio, they were so tight it seemed they played as a single massive instrument and sang with the same voice. It is a voice that I will miss terribly in 2008.

iceage cobra finale Iceage Cobra Finale

December 30, 2007

KEXP Made A List

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One of my favorite days all year is when KEXP counts down the top 90.3 releases of the past year, I have discovered a number of my most beloved bands listening to previous years. The list, voted on by KEXP listeners, is a good litmus test to see what your average independent music connoisseur enjoyed in 2007. Here’s where a few of my favorite bands came in on the list:

# 79 – Elvis Perkins in Dearland – Ash Wednesday #55 – Elliott Smith – New Moon #49 – The Arctic Monkeys – Your Favorite Worst Nightmare #40 – Shane Tutmarc & The Traveling Mercies – I’m Gonna Live The Life I Sing About in My Songs #35 – The Blakes – The Blakes #32 – Cave Singers – Invitation Songs #26 – Jens Lenkman – Night Falls Over Kortedala #25 – Menomena – Friend and Foe #23 – Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha #12 – Beirut – The Flying Cup Club

The Top Ten Albums of The Year according to KEXP?

10. Wilco – Sky Blue Sky 9. Feist – The Reminder 8. The Shins – Wincing The Night Away 7. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga 6. M.I.A. – Kala 5. LCD Sound System – Sound of Silver 4. Band of Horses – Cease to Begin 3. The National – Boxer 2. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible 1. Radiohead – In Rainbows

I was disappointed at the lack of local albums on the list. It seemed like there were more Brooklyn bands than Seattle bands featured this year. Where were The Whore Moans? Siberian? Blue Scholars? Das Llamas? The Lonely H? Cancer Rising? They all had stellar releases this year. 

December 27, 2007

Light in the Attic has lists…

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… and they asked me to submit one, so I happily did. Also featured are random lists from the Blakes drummer Bob Husak, Sonic Boom co-owner and Long Winters drummer Nabil Ayers, the Cave Singers Derek Fudesco, and many other random music writers, musicians, and music industry people.

Light in the Attic Year End Extravaganza

See my locally focused list below the fold.

(more…)

December 27, 2007

Abbey’s Favorite Concerts of 2007

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This is by far the most daunting list of the year. I’ve decided to divide it between local and national shows/line-ups. If I hadn’t, you probably wouldn’t recognize a single band if you weren’t from Seattle… which says something tremendous about the state of live music in Seattle today. For the sake of every local band that is not Hopscotch Boys or Thee Emergency, I’ve tried my hardest to limit myself to a single show per band to represent on this list. (oh well, that didn’t work at all…) Though this list isn’t specifically enumerated, the order is meant to signify a hierarchy among my favorite shows. Alright, here goes nothing:

The Best Local Shows of 2007

The Lashes at Bumbershoot – 9/1/07

Trimmed Lashes

Thee Emergency, Iceage Cobra, The Hands, A Gun That Shoots Knives at The Sunset – 2/17/07 

 Guitar Gun

Hopscotch Boys, Junkface, and The Resets at The Blue Moon – 5/12/07

Junkface

The Whore Hands at Healthy Times Fun Club – 12/7/07

 The WHore Hands

A Gun That Shoots Knives and We Wrote the Book on Connectors at The Blue Moon – 5/19/07

agtsk

Saturday at Georgetown Music Festival – 6/2/07

The Hands

A Benefit for The Blue Moon – Night One and Two – 9/28 & 9/29/07 

Hopscotch Boys

Lavneder Lunchbox

Iceage Cobra and The Lonely H at The Nectar – 6/21/07

The Lonely H

The Resets, Vindaloo, Ms. Led at The Blue Moon – 9/7/07 

Ms. Led

J. Tillman, Shane Tutmarc and The Traveling Mercies, Whalebones at The High Dive – 12/1/07

Whalebones

The Best National Shows of 2007:

The Shackeltons for John in The Morning’s Birthday – 3/10/07

The Shackeltons 

Elvis Perkins at The Tractor – 3/30/07

Elvis Perkins in Dearland

The Figurines, Dappled Cities at The Crocodile – 10/12/07

 The Figurines

Andrew Bird at Western Washington University - 5/6/07

Andrew Bird 

The Antiques at The Nectar – 2/27/07

The Antiques 

December 25, 2007

Abbey’s Best Albums of 2007 – National Releases

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(Disclaimers): I don’t own the Panda Bear, M.I.A, or LCD Soundsystem records, so I guarantee you those are not my top three albums of 2007. Hopefully that means this list  will read a little different than most ”Best Albums of 2007″ currently on the inter-webs. Also, for the sake of new content and all the fabulous albums released this year, I decided not to include Elvis Perkins in Dearland’s Ash Wednesday in the Best Albums of 2007. While the album was officially released this year, I fell in love with it in 2006 and it topped last years annual lists. This list covers albums recorded and released outside of Seattle, my local list of Best Albums will be coming to you soon. I can never just decide on 10 albums, so this list, like the world’s loudest amp… goes all the way to eleven!

Abbey’s Best Albums of 2007 – National Releases

11. Fionn Regan – The End of History Amidst all the rock, I am a shameless sucker for a great folk album. Fionn Regan’s The End of History  suited me perfectly this year, as it is at once plucky and melancholy. I may have heard this album more than any other this year, because it was deemed day-job friendly. This album was my pleasant background noise for much of the year and my momentary lyrical escape from the daily grind. 

10. Klaxons – Myths of the Near Future Even the saddest of sad bastards needs a great dance album to keep them company, and this quirky album is mine. I feel like this should be a guilty pleasure, but it’s not… it’s just damn good. (Even if my favorite song somehow uses and rhymes “Lady Diana and Mother Theresa” in a chorus.) The Klaxons translates amazingly well live too, the boys are filling the bigger venues of the UK and Europe, while playing venues like Chop Suey and The Crocodile (r.i.p) stateside. If you have the chance to see them live, do. And when you see them, for gods sake Seattle, dance!

9. The White Stripes – Icky Thump Part of me just wants to say, it’s Jack White doing what he does best – writing White Stripes songs; and leave it at that. But that’s not giving Icky Thump the credit that it’s due. There are some great straight up old White Stripes songs on the album like “300 M.P.H. Outpour Blues,” but I also love the songs that seem to be taking the band in a new direction. “Conquest” is epic and theatrical, and I’m certain it will end up in some Quentin Tarantino film down the road. While “Little Cream Soda” has Jack White channeling a bluesy maniacal ee cummings.

8. The Arcade Fire – Neon Bible It’s not Funeral, but it is a damn fine album. Win Butler’s voice is sounding better than ever, he seems to have somehow packed even more pained emotion into his vocals on the album. While Funeral was an album of personal tragedy, Neon Bible focuses it’s lens on the greater tragedies we are all facing. The images painted in this album are as frightening as they are completely apt. (Antichrist Television Blues) is easily the best Bruce Springsteen tune that the Boss never wrote. When we saw The Arcade Fire this year, Win dedicated the song to Jerry Falwell, and it was bitter perfection.

7. Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha  Andrew Bird astonishes me. So clever (“something apropos, i don’t know…”), singing songs about cell division as a metaphor for lust and love, composing upbeat songs and then slaying you with heartbreaking lyrics. As you’ve seen his song Heretics was hands down my favorite of the year, largely for doing the later so well. A hundred listens and I still discover some new layer I’d never noticed, he is the master of complex pop-songs. (which is not as oxymoronic as it might seem.) Add it all up, plus he is a freakishly talented whistler, and you have one of the most unique artists making music today.

6. Bowerbirds - Hymn for a Dark Horse When I first discovered Bowerbirds (thank you john darnielle), I listened to nothing else for weeks. This entailed streaming 6 songs from the bands website, continuously – as the album had yet to be released. I love an album that establishes it’s own sound and language and Hymn for a Dark Horse, does so richly. With lush three part harmonies and a lyrical ease, Bowerbirds released one of the most simply pleasing albums of 2007.

5. Figurines – When the Deer Wore Blue In a year where Brian Wilson-esque pop was lauded (Panda Bear, anyone?) it was Denmark’s Figurines who made my favorite psychedelic pop album of 2007.  When The Deer Wore Blue is filled with one catchy song after the next, with stand-outs including “Good Old Friends” and “The Air We Breathe” – a Beach Boys pop and Arcade Fire choir epic and my #2 song of 2007. The Figurines are also the only band who has made my back to back best of year lists  (their 2006 release Skeleton clocked in at #8 last year),  here’s to hoping 2008 brings a three-peat from my favorite Danes.

4. Menomena – Friend and Foe Menomena sounds like no one else making music today. Or for that matter, anyone else I’ve ever heard. It is the rarest of pleasures to find a band that defies easy explanation or comparison, but Menomena’s been happily stumping me all year. To me, Friend and Foe, listens like an off-kilter rock opera. Despite being a trio, Menomena’s songs are lavishly orchestrated with a symphonic cacophony of  unexpected sounds and plenty of melodrama in the lyrics.    

3. Radiohead – In Rainbows Very few things in life are worth a four year wait… In Rainbows is one of those rarest things. I am still having an internal debate as to whether In Rainbows is the best Radiohead album ever. Songs like “Reckoner” and “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” make a pretty compelling argument. I love that In Rainbows seems to take a little bit from each of the bands previous albums and expand upon what worked best, as well as exploring new sounds. I’m hoping Radiohead finds their way out West, if they do it’s certain you’ll see that show at the top of next years lists.

2. Beirut – The Flying Club Cup Very few albums have ever enchanted me the way that Beirut’s Flying Clup Cup does. I imagine I’ll be just as taken with this record twenty years from now as I am today. I have compared it to just about my favorite record of all time, Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over the Sea. (A pleasure which no other album has ever had.) Flying Club Cup  has a cohesive sound and mood that I love to get lost in, just as Aeroplane does. I can’t wait to hear what Zach Condon conjures up next.

1. The National – The Boxer Yes, my favorite national release is from The National. Funny how things work out this way. This is by far my most listened to album of the year and my most beloved. The National have crafted their own sound and language over the course of their career and it’s so wonderful to see them reach critical acclaim with an album that stays completely true to it. Matt Beringer’s voice sounds better to me than just about anyone else in music today.

December 21, 2007

Our Favorite Photos of 2007: Day Twenty-One

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If only rock’n'roll in Seattle always looked and felt this joyful! 

John Roderick of the Long Winters John Roderick of The Long Winters

December 20, 2007

Our Favorite Photos of 2007 – Day Twenty

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This photo is from one of my favorite nights of live music, ever. February 17th at Sunset Tavern was just about my perfect local line-up: A Gun That Shoots Knives, The Hands, Iceage Cobra, and Thee Emergency. This photo has a couple of titles –  ”Jordan West knows the power of rock’n'roll” and/or ”Jordan summons the Cobrasaurus.” The photo fits the mood and astonishment of this show perfectly, rock’n'roll has rarely seemed so powerful or bonding. 

Jordan West

Iceage Cobra with Sonic Smith on Sax

December 20, 2007

Josh’s Top Songs of 2007

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Here are my favorite songs of 2007. Just by coincidence, the last five of the first ten songs are by local bands.

1. “Fake Empire” – The National from Boxer

2. “Golden Skans” – Klaxons from Myths of the Near Future

3. “The Opposite of Hallelujah” – Jens Lekman from Night Falls Over Kortedala

4. “Heretics” – Andrew Bird from Armchair Apocrypha

5. “Reckoner” – Radiohead from In Rainbows

6. “Don’t You Know” – Whalebones from the Morning Man EP

7. “Attack of the Cobrasaurus” – Thee Emergency from the Live at Chuck Norris EP

8. “X-Ray Eyes” – Whore Moans from Watch Out For This Thing

9. “Paper Birds” – Siberian from Hey Celestial! EP and With Me

10. “For Rebecca” – Solvents from Manresa Castle

Ten other very worthy mentions include: “Wet And Rusting” – Menomena from Friend And Foe

“I’m Gonna Live the Life I Sing About In My Song” – Shane Tutmarc and the Traveling Mercies from I’m gonna Live the Life I Sing About In My Song

“Seeds of Night” – The Cave Singers from Invitation Songs

“Talkin’ Nascar” – Bhi Bhiman from The Cookbook

“Is There A Ghost” – Band of Horses from Cease to Begin

“Nantes” – Beirut from The Flying Club Cup

“You’re A Wolf” – Sea Wolf from Leaves in the River

“Bur Oak” – Bowerbirds from Hymns for a Dark Horse

“Intervention” – The Arcade Fire from Neon Bible

“The Air We Breathe” – Figurines from When the Deer Wore Blue

My Favorite Covers of 2007

Numerous cover albums came out this year but far and above the rest was the I’m Not There Soundtrack, which included many current artists covering exclusively Bob Dylan songs from many different albums. My three picks I especially thought did justice to the songs and stand with the original.

“Ballad of a Thin Man” – Stephen Malkmus and the Million Dollar Bashers from the I’m Not There Soundtrack

“You Ain’t Goin Nowhere” – Glen Hansard and Marketa Iglova from the I’m Not There Soundtrack

“Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” – Cat Power from the I’m Not There Soundtrack