December 14, 2011

Abbey’s Favorite (Almost Entirely Local) Songs of 2011

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Kelli Schaefer ::: photo by Dylan Priest

 

 

Having fallen deep down a used-vinyl sized hole this year, I managed to completely miss most of the national blog buzz bands and mp3s making the press release copy&paste rounds of 2011, those things that so often fill end of the year lists. But considering the immense output from our little corner of the country, I don’t feel I suffered or starved for new songs to keep me company. These are the forty songs from 2011 that were my soundtrack and that I played on repeat. I’m not bold enough to say they are the best songs of 2011, but they are my favorites.

While this list is not enumerated, my very favorite song of the year, Kelli Schaefer’s heart-aching-to-the-point-of-breaking “Gone in Love,” is at the top with some other absolute favorites. “Gone in Love” is a song that has not lost its emotional wallop despite hundreds of listens and many live performances over the last 12 months. And every time I see Kelli sing it, I can’t stop my chin from quivering. “Gone in Love” isn’t just one of my favorite songs of 2011, it is one of my favorite songs.

That’s hardly true for every song on this list. Every year has its one-hit wonder and I have no shame in saying I played the hell out of 2011′s. Whether its a song that stays with you for decades or a song you only blast until the end of the year, I hope you might discover a new favorite of your own by taking a listen to some of mine.

 

 

“Gone in Love” – Kelli Schaefer “Before the Night is Gone” – Zoe Muth and Her Lost High Rollers “Montezuma” – Fleet Foxes “Letters” – Lemolo “I’m Not Leaving” – Big Sur

“I Found You” – Alabama Shakes “I’m Losing Myself” – Robin Pecknold / Edward Droste | download “Father’s Clothes” – Grand Hallway “Leaves, Trees, Forest” > “Rows of Houses” – Dan Mangan “Boys” – Bryan John Appleby

“The Round” (From the Basement) – Pickwick “Park” – Radiation City “Twins” – Gem Club | download “Mute” – Joshua Morrison “My Silver Hand” – Case Studies | download

The rest of my favorite (almost completely local) songs of 2011 (more…)

December 5, 2011

Our Favorite Photos of 2011:Bryan John Appleby

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Bryan John Appleby at the Rendezvous ::: photo by Abbey Simmons

By the time City Arts Fest rolled around this October, Bryan John Appleby had greatly outgrown the venue of his booking, The Rendezvous. When I arrived in hopes of seeing Appleby and his band, I opened the door to the tiny theater only to be met by a wall of backs, craning necks and centimeters separating show-goers. There wasn’t an inch to wedge myself in and as I closed the door and stepped backwards, the staff told me I could climb into the projection booth to snap a shot or two of Bryan. Looking at the steeply leaned wooden ladder, I regretted the choice to wear a dress, but climbed to the crows nest anyway. Anything for the shot, right? Startling the soundguy, I found myself in an even smaller red-lit room, as if it were a Russian nesting doll of the room below it, with three small square windows looking down on the packed room. I snapped this never-before-shared shot, using one of the windows as a frame of Bryan and band, before doing my best to gingerly descend the ladder.

Bryan John Appleby headlines the mid-afternoon portion of the Seattle Folk Festival next Saturday, December 10th at Columbia City Theater. He’ll be joined at the Fest by fellow Sound on the Sound favorites Kevin Murphy of the Moondoggies, Sons of Warren Oates, Goldfinch, Youth Rescue Mission and more.

November 29, 2011

Postcards from the Road: Bryan John Appleby

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We misplaced this neatly-penned note from Bryan John Appleby, but rediscovered it like one of his cherished thrifted belongings. And just in time for Appleby to head back to Arizona, one of his favorite stops on his last tour as you’ll see. (Click on the postcards to enlarge them for easier reading)

Bryan John Appleby Tour Dates:

Dec 10 – Seattle Folk Festival, Columbia City Theater Jan 12 – Neumos Jan 13 – Doug Fir Lounge (Portland, OR) Jan 15 – Moe’s Alley (Santa Cruz, CA) Jan 17 – Slo Brew (San Luis Obispo, CA) Jan 18 – Bootleg Theater (Los Angeles, CA) Jan 20 – Mia’s Lounge (Flagstaff, AZ) Feb 17 – Neptune Theatre opening for Damien Jurado and Gold Leaves

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November 22, 2011

Damien Jurado – “Nothing is the News” and Maraqopa

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Closer to 20 years of making music than 10 years, Damien Jurado’s guitar tone is a signature one. But the first few seconds of that recognizable strum is about the only familiar element to the first single and opening track to his 10th LP Maraqopa, his second collaboration with producer Richard Swift. The song brings into focus the increasingly idiosyncratic creativity of a songwriter who’s found his stride with an accomplice wielding the chops to faithfully develop and commit that vision to record.

Following the release of our #1 NW Record of 2010, the Swift-produced Saint Bartlett, and with the help of Vetiver guitarist Daniel Hindman to lay down the “Santana” on “Nothing is the News,” the notion of Jurado as a lonely singer-songwriter is steadily being replaced by that of Jurado as a sonic alchemist, extracting beauty from a bubbling cauldron of only-he-knows-what. In this place conceived in a dream called Maraqopa, Jurado is compounding our conceptions of “psych,” and returning the word’s use to describing that cognitive state where your imagination can determine your reality. Located on side A at track one, “Nothing is the News” probably isn’t what anyone expected out of Jurado and Maraqopa. And that is most definitely the point.

“Nothing is the News” by Damien Jurado by DOJAGSC

Maraqopa, arrives February 21st on Secretly Canadian.

Seattle will get a sneak peek at the record on February 17th when he celebrates its release at The Neptune Theater with Gold Leaves, Bryan John Appleby and perhaps a few other special guests. Tickets have just gone on sale.

October 20, 2011

Recommendations: City Arts Fest on Friday

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Built to Spill ::: photo by Abbey Simmons

There are so many great options for Friday Night courtesy of City Arts, you’re bound to see a solid show basically no matter where you end up. Keep in mind that individual tickets are sold out for Ryan Adams, Shabazz Palaces and Pickwick, so you’ll need to have a wristband to be able to attend those shows.

Here’s our recommendations for Friday night.

Built to Spill at The Moore

Ancient Melodies of the Future. Has an album title ever so poetically expressed the sound of a band? I’m not sure one has. Built to Spill writes music with something for almost every rocker: stoners, indie-shoegazers, classic rock shedders, garage-dwellers. They’ve managed to take influences and make a sound completely their own and edging through its own evolution. You hear those melodies of the past, though their influences are hardly ancient, but Built to Spill always manages to live and sound more in the realm of the future. Their City Arts performance is their only stateside performance of 2011 and they are one of the most consistently excellent live bands making music today. I’ve seen them at least 10 times and have never wished I chose another show or set. (Abbey)

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Ryan Adams at Benaroya

I’m a voracious consumer of Seattle’s veritable buffet of local talent. With City Arts presenting its wares so beautifully, it feels almost sacrilege to go to a national act this weekend. There are few artists that could even tempt me away from Friday’s shows like Bryan John Appleby or Pickwick. One of those artists, however, is Ryan Adams. Steeped in heartbreak and dysfunction for most of his rambunctious career, Ryan Adams has proved himself to be a prolific songwriter, releasing records almost on top of one another, and ones that sound completely different one to the next. Shaking the image of a country’s new darling after his release of Heartbreaker in 2000, Adams has made a career of being unexpected, at turns inaccessible, and enormously talented. Adams writes songs that can range from abstract (“Two” is about painkillers, didn’t you know?), to jarringly honest (all of Love is Hell), to downright weird (“Halloweenhead”), and has brought along a raving fan base with each turn. After 2010′s record, a sci-fi metal departure called Orion, Adams has released Ashes and Fire, a return to his dirty guitar days. The supporting tour for Ashes and Fire has been hushed and private, with no photographers allowed, and very few recordings. I was able to listen to a recording of his show in Denver, and it was jarring in its beauty. New arrangements of songs from his whole, varied, emotive catalogue, and a gentler Adams than the stories of his belligerent stage antics portray. It could be argued that Adams has lost his edge with the change from his whiskey swilling, bottle throwing era, but he’s a man that bears up change radically and unselfconsciously, and we would be fools to miss out on what he’s offering now. (Kathleen)

Shabazz Palaces ::: photo by Josh Lovseth

Shabazz Palaces, Metal Chocolates at The Triple Door

“I’m free to be a slave to all these things I can’t escape…” – Shabazz Palaces on “Free Press and Curl”

Universal sentiment from a group that doesn’t write music for everyone. Hip-hop for those who live on a dystopian planet. ATLiens was supposed to extra-terrestial, and for its time I guess it was. However, if aliens do exist (shutup, the truth is out there), I promise you that Black Up would be only album they’d be listening to. The Greys, sitting around their coffee shops in a different galaxy, complaining about how they can’t bitch about the weather because they live in outer space. It’s a tough life being miscast in movies such as Independence Day and the ones that star Sigourney Weaver. Shabazz Palaces are on this earth to make music and serve as ambassadors to beings from different planets. I see you in the crowd, thinking that you comprehend the music that Shabazz Palaces are giving you. Gentle readers, they are communicating on a different realm…literally. Now give me that homemade mix drink that you smuggled in here. Metal Chocolates. I used to read this group’s name and think about the band Seaweed. Don’t ask me why. Then I heard it on KEXP one day and was like “Oh, this is hip-hop. How much are these yams?” Seriously, that’s exactly what I said because I was at a fruit stand and they were playing KEXP on their speakers. Fruit stands are cool like that. Support your local vendors. “Candy Store Controller” reminds me of these crazy dreams I used to have as a kid. I’m not going to go into them but let’s just say they involved Ginger Baker (the drummer from Cream) Latrobe, Pa. and the use of inhalants. I’d love to see Hallmark use this song for the during the next Valentine’s Day. Nothing says “I love you” like finger snaps, bon-bons and mescaline. What was that honey? Oh, that’s just my stereo. I close my eyes and I start hearing things…. (Phil)

Read the rest of our Friday recommendations (more…)

October 12, 2011

The Doe Bay Sessions: Bryan John Appleby

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Bryan John Appleby ::: photo by Josh Lovseth

 

 

It may seem counter-intuitive with the gigantic leaps some local bands have made since Doe Bay 2010, but I would say that no one has grown more or transitioned better than Bryan John Appleby. Yes, The Head and The Heart have gone from opening at Columbia City Theater to opening at Key Arena. Yes, Pickwick has gone from playing to 30 people to playing to over a thousand at the Mural. These are amazing milestones and signs of growth and success, but the changes Appleby has made over the last year have taken him from a bashful solo performer, so unsure of his songs that he had to be all but forced by friends to sing and release them, to the confident leader of a multi-faceted, multi-talented band. While other bands have become bigger over the course of the last year, Appleby has just become.

Nowhere has this transformation been more obvious than at Doe Bay, where Appleby fully embraced the openness and opportunity to expand and explore. It was Appleby and crew who spent a late night jamming as Pearl and Thomas from Champagne Champagne free-styled over them. It was Appleby who first jumped on stage to sing along with friends in Campfire OK, Kelli Schaefer, Pickwick and The Head and The Heart. And it was Appleby who decided to add an extra element to his already beautifully composed songs for our Doe Bay Session, asking Sam Anderson from Hey Marseilles, Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground, Cataldo (and many others) to join on cello.

Watching Appleby lead and perform without a shred of self-consciousness, seeing on stage and while sitting on this mossy log, an artist in control of his craft and a musician having the time of his life, was watching a different man than I’d first seen a year prior. Doe Bay was Appleby’s coming out party, an exclamation that he’s not just an up-and-comer, but one of the Northwest’s most gifted and promising performers. Everywhere you looked, someone was wearing a Bryan John Appleby t-shirt, someone had the Fire On the Vine vinyl tucked under their arm and someone was standing in line to buy more. Appleby bears the mantle that Jurado and Bazan have carried for decades and as you’ll see below, he bears it beautifully.

 

 

Bryan John Appleby plays City Arts Fest on Friday October 21st at The Rendezvous with other Sound on the Sound favorites Sons of Warren Oates, Smokey Brights and Joseph Giant.

October 3, 2011

Second Day in Seattle

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mobile polaroid of Bryan John Appleby House Show ::: courtesy of Hayley Young

I had just unpacked my room in a maelstrom of clothes and knick knacks and new IKEA purchases and where is my passport? And, “no no, I’ll buy the toilet paper first,” and I hadn’t really had time to you know…do anything outside my brand new house. When my roommate, Diane, leaned against the doorjamb as I was trying to play Tetris with my (one time only) nicely folded clothes, and suggested I get out for a night and go to a house show, I lifted my eyes to the world and thought, Oh right, I’m in Seattle now. And I went.

When I visited Seattle in January I caught Bryan John Appleby playing with Damien Jurado and The Head and the Heart at the Porterhouse in West Seattle. To get to that show I had decided to take a cab from the train station. Unfortunately, at the time I didn’t know exactly how far west this “West Seattle” was. Man, if those tunes weren’t good, I probably wouldn’t have moved at all after that.

Luckily, (though I suspect it isn’t luck at all) Appleby’s classically stanza’d, expansive singer/songwriter fare stood out from the sensitive, sweater wearing blur that associated with that genre. I had made it a priority to see him as soon as possible, except only after figuring out where my jackets could feasibly fit in my closet. Diane told me this house show would not only feature Appleby, but was also being held at his house. So, quelling the fifth grader inside of me yelling What if they’re MEAN TO ME?? I left the unpacking for the morning and, just a little late, entered my first Seattle house show.

Now, be gentle with my memory. I had committed to not taking my phone out every five seconds as a nice digital barrier between me and the brave new world I had forced myself into, so all my judgements are through a haze of blinding social anxiety. But what better time to actually listen to music? I think it should be more common than it is to attend shows alone. The music is a respite, the only conversation you have, instead of your drunk friend rambling in your ear during the set.

I perched on a chair much too conspicuously high for my liking, and watched as a room of friends sat on every available surface and splayed like a quilt of almost exclusively plaid on the hardwood floor. Candles were lit, which made me think they had to have bought them just for the show. A house full of boys buying candles and lighting them “just because”? Come on. This is America.

I did miss a couple of the first perfomers. The first person I saw was a very recent Seattle transplant named Matt Kinder. He started by announcing he hadn’t gotten to share his songs yet. His soft voice held its Southern honey drip through his careful songs, and the room was quiet, reverent, as though the notes were made of glass. His music felt naked, but innocent. All warm, sad melodies modestly telling stories everyone knows. He left with a gentlemanly nod to rousing applause.

And then, a study in contrast, the next guy introduced himself. I can’t recall his name, but boy howdy, do I remember him. [editor's note: the performer was Johnny Panlener] If Matt’s notes were glass, and his presence one of tentative optimism toward Seattle and the dreams he had moved with him across the country, then Johnny played guitar like the world was going down in flames, and talked about the dismal attendance at his shows over the years with a stark bruised voice, speaking to his career like a romantic tryst got awry. Rather than pure negativity, though, it felt like a little bit of healing, a confession, however jaded and hesitant.

I really couldn’t decide which one I liked better. Both honest, both affected by the hard position of being an artist, having something to say, giving up some amount of safety for it, and wondering if anyone wants to hear it, or if anyone wants to hear it five dollars worth. Both guys were great musicians, with songs that held the room. It was a heart on the sleeve type of line up, and with those, you never know how that heart has been handled before, especially since musicians often offer their hearts for public consumption, and most of the public isn’t too conscientious of where they put out their cigarettes. But, despite opposing general attitudes, both those guys thanked Bryan with effusive gratitude for giving them the chance to play.

Then it was Bryan’s turn. Just as I had hoped, his songs were delivered with unwavering prettiness, all raw and glowing, a polished performance with no veneer. (Sidenote: Did you notice that Appleby’s EP, Shoes for Men and Beasts, has almost no percussion, but has just flawless rhythm? Exceptional. It translates live, too.)

The night was lit by candles. I was on the periphery of a home full of friends all crowded close and familiar around a single wooden chair. It was almost too warm, these fuzzy feelings and hearty claps and Rainier-fueled cheers for every performance like Bob Dylan had just regained his functional musical talent and had played Highway 61 Revisited front to back like it was 1966. It felt alien, but not disingenuous. It felt like summer camp, or youth group experiences, but… did everyone just believe in rock and roll? Does Don McLean know about this??

I also knew that I was outside of it. I felt outside of it, but at the same time, I could feel both Matt’s and Guitar Apocalypse’s points of view coming back to me. Seattle is known for music. In towns like this people can chase big dreams right alongside friends and roommates doing the exact same thing. In an industry where there’s almost no money for the people and bands that are categorically successful, it takes a special kind of glorious madness to really go for it. I was curious about the people doing it. And here was a cross section.

This was a community that clearly held its arms open and its breath when something beautiful entered. And outside this house was a whole Seattle music culture that would have facets; darker ones, and flickering warm ones, and probably plaid ones. I wondered which ones I would see. I wondered who in that room I would meet later, if anyone. I wondered if anyone noticed me, visibly sweating with the effort to not look at my phone.

I really wondered how the hell Bryan John Appleby got that sense of rhythm. In my typical, “I’m a writer, I make everything a metaphor” stereotype, I reflected on how I could find my own “rhythm” in Seattle in the same seemingly effortless way. If I could have my drippy, starting-a-new-life melody over some confident social bass notes. But of course, to take the romance out of it, a couple of weeks ago my friend told me Bryan has that rhythm because he was a drummer first. Goodbye metaphor. Still, though, take note singer/songwriters. Take note.

September 22, 2011

Cathedrals One featuring Bryan John Appleby, Mark Pickerel, Grant Olsen of Gold Leaves & More

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There are two reasons I go to church: weddings and funerals. But thanks to the folks from The Fremont Abbey, it looks like I’m going to have to add a third reason: concerts. With incredible acoustics. By some of my very favorite artists.

On October 1st the folks behind The Round are taking their inspiring approach to supporting the arts out of Fremont to St. Mark’s on Capitol Hill for the first of a series aptly named “Cathedrals.” Described as a “contemplative concert series” aimed to bring “indie singer/songwriters in amazing large spaces,” the first edition of Cathedrals will feature performances from some of Seattle’s most buzzed about performers: Bryan John Appleby, Mark Pickerel, Grant Olsen of Gold Leaves, Mychal and Melodie of Campfire OK, Noah Gundersen and more. Guests are encouraged to bring blankets, pillows and their quiet voice to the all-ages performance. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. And as our friends over at Fuel or Friends in Colorado can confirm, Bryan John Appleby sounds mighty pretty singing his songs in a church:

As the name “Cathedrals. One.” implies, The Abbey has more of these contemplative concerts planned. Mark your calendar for Cathedrals. Two. they’ll host My Brightest Diamond at St. Marks on November 5th. You can already buy your tickets.

August 29, 2011

The Doe Bay Sessions 2011

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Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside Doe Bay Session ::: photo by Josh Lovseth

It was 5pm on Saturday when we made our way down the trail to the point, the sunlight darting through tree branches, with Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside and a handful of their friends from Portland in tow to film their Doe Bay Session. We stopped at an uninhabited camp site, where the sounds of Campfire OK pouring their hearts out on the mainstage were muffled. As we began the rather painstaking process of setting up mics and getting the band situated for the best shot, a young family of three walked down the trail to their campsite, right next door to where we were shooting.

The little boy, Donovan, at all of five or six years old, got that wide-eyed look and smile that recalls Christmases past. When the present you wished for all year has suddenly appeared under the tree and you simply can’t believe your luck. Donovan, and his parents Adam & Eve, had returned to their campsite to break down their tent and head home. They’d come to see Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside, Donovan’s favorite band. and that was it. With Sallie’s mainstage set done, it was time for them to head on their way … but there we all were. Just a few feet away from their campsite, Donovan’s favorite band, playing a private show just for him on the trails of Doe Bay. He sat enrapt, elbows on his knee in the middle of the trail, watching intently, drinking in every moment quietly but with a huge smile.

It is our hope that these Sessions extend the magic of Doe Bay for all of you, the way the filming of the Sallie Ford Session did for Donovan and his family. Starting Tuesday September 6th, we’ll be sharing a Doe Bay Session every week for the next three months. We hope that they make the Festival last just a little longer, that you hear your favorite song once again or you’re introduced to a new one.

Huge thanks to the 12 bands who took time out of the relaxing and partying of Doe Bay to shoot with us: Bryan John Appleby, The Builders and The Butchers, Campfire OK, Champagne Champagne, Damien Jurado, Frank Fairfield, The Head and The Heart, John Vanderslice, Kelli Schaefer, Pickwick, Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside and Sera Cahoone. And thanks, of course, to our awesome crew: Tyler Kalberg, Chris Proff and Claire Yuckert, to the staff at Doe Bay Resort and Retreat and to the Festival organizers, Artist Home, for making this project possible.

We can’t wait to share 2011′s The Doe Bay Sessions with you very soon.

 

Pickwick Doe Bay Session ::: photo by Josh Lovseth

 

Bryan John Appleby + Band Doe Bay Session ::: photo by Josh Lovseth

 

Campfire OK Doe Bay Session ::: photo by Abbey Simmons

 

Champagne Champagne Doe Bay Session::: photo by Josh Lovseth

 

John Vanderslice Doe Bay Session ::: photo by Josh Lovseth

 

Damien Jurado Doe Bay Session ::: photo by Abbey Simmons

August 2, 2011

My Most Played: July 2011

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Dolorean ::: photo by Abbey Simmons

Dolorean – The Unfazed (yes, again) Gardens & Villas/t Bryan John Appleby – Fire on the Vine Dillard & Clark – Through The Morning, Through The Night Richard Swift – “Broken Finger BluesStrong Killingss/t Shenandoah Davis – The Company We Keep Case StudiesThe World is Just a Shape to Fill the Night Radiation CityThe Hands That Take You Wild OnesYou’re A Winner EP PDX Pop Now! 2011 Comp Charles Bradley – “Stay Away” (Nirvana cover) Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter – Marble Son Fly Moon Royalty – s/t Lemolo – “Letters” Pickwick – “Window Sill”