The spare “What Could You Do” is not on a record yet. Last New Years post-champagne Portlander Al James (AKA Dolorean) conceived and recorded the song in a single sitting. Last night the until now unreleased and under wraps “What Could You Do” got the nod by the Grey’s Anatomy as music meant for a dramatic moment, and the single hit iTunes. Though it’s not clear Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack has the pop culture cache it once wielded, according to zap2it with regard to last week’s premiere week ratings “Grey’s Anatomy solidified its claim as the #1 drama on TV.” That’s many millions upon millions of viewers tuning in. So regardless of whether it’s jumped the shark or not, Grey’s is still one of the biggest gigs to get for a great song, and the inspired “What Could You Do” is definitely that.
Pickwick at the Neptune Theater ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
For last night’s very sold out Little Big Show benefiting ArtsCorps, Pickwick was no doubt the main attraction. But in the bigger picture this week has been about the release of Damien Jurado’s 10th LP titled Maraqopa. All this week the Seattle Times Andrew Matson has been premiering four bands who committed a Jurado cover to tape in honor of the occasion and his past efforts, a song a day. And of the four chosen, Pickwick of course went after the deepest cut. With the Mayor in the crowd and the “Godfather” himself watching from sidestage, for the encore’s first two minutes Pickwick ominously covered “I am the Greatest of all Liars” live for the first time, and then let loose on “The Ostrich.” Now that’s what I call an encore.
For tonight’s nearly sold out record release show also at the Neptune Theater, Jurado will be premiering his new band, and in the spirit of Maraqopa, we’re likely to hear a similarly more developed take on songs old and new. Probably more new though as Jurado has now shed the shackles of the singer-songwriter and strives for something much, much more ambitious. Whatever he’s doing he continues to sound utterly original while doing it. Be smart and show up early tonight to snag one of the remaining tickets and catch openers Bryan John Appleby and Gold Leaves.
Remember when we said we’d share our list of 25 other unmissable records the first week of January? Whoops. Thing is, the first month of this new year, we were still listening to and falling in (and out) of love with records from 2011. Discovering albums we should’ve shared months ago and finding out what sounded good in summer, didn’t survive snowmageddon. We added and whittled and debated and listened and when it comes down to these 24 albums, all released in 2011 by bands from the Pacific Northwest, we loved.
Here’s what you won’t find on here: records we wrote about in 2010 (The Head and The Heart, Beat Connection, Joseph Giant, Baltic Cousins), just okay releases from bands we’ve loved before, collections of 7’’s made into best of EPs, EPs in general and plenty of records that you loved with your whole heart and we just, didn’t. But, after hundreds and hundreds of hours of listening and seeing these bands live, slightly fewer spent talking about the albums amongst ourselves, we’re confident these are 24 records you’d be remiss to miss from 2011.
Here’s what you will find on here: bands from Seattle, Portland, Vancouver and Boise. Psychedelic symphonies. Menacing metal. Four-Eyed Soul. Modern R&B. Party Punk. Folk confessionals. Hip shaking hip hop. These albums are self-released, funded by fans and put out by labels big and small. They are debuts and albums that defied sophomore slumps and career defining work. Albums that have been loudly lauded and others who’ve been mostly ignored. Its a sample of what makes being a music lover in the Pacific Northwest right now so exciting, there’s a little something for everyone and we hope you find something you love too.
AgesandAges – All Right You Restless (Knitting Factory)
Agesandages fills up a room. With no fewer than seven people adding harmony to the airtight, country-funk rock that spins off Alright You Restless, the debut record enthralled me with the desperate joy that permeates its entirety. Playing with the bog of loneliness and defeat, and inviting the world into that dark fold to find comfort in each other, it’s music that offers salve in stomps and hope in runaway choruses. (Kathleen)
“I’m sick and tired of soul music looking so clean and proper! Cause my soul… my soul… my soul is just a little big greasy!” This is how Allen Stone introduces himself to the crowd from the stage. Obviously steeped in tradition but not married to its dictates, Stone’s four-eyed soul is unrepentant in both its influences and its willingness to disregard them entirely. Repping the Northwest he’s more than likely on stage in a flannel or Sonics jersey instead of any Detroit mandated button-up uniform like most of his current peers. This un-buttoned attitude extends to the dynamic mixture of straight R&B ballads and kinetic pop and funk on display in this record. If nothing else, just like the live show, Allen Stone represents Stone being unapologetically himself. (Excerpted from Josh’s full October review.)
Case Studies – The World Is Just a Void to Fill the Space (Sacred Bones Records)
It’s plausible to say that every music fan in Seattle cried a tiny tear when Jessie Lortz and Kimberly Morrison decided to end their tenure as The Dutchess and The Duke a few years back. Yet, if any and all knew that Lortz would take the new found freedom and put an album as poetic and gorgeous as Case Studies’ The World Is Just a Void to Fill the Space, I wonder, how sad would we all of been?
I discovered Case Studies during a two week period where I was living out of a hotel room in Dubuque, Iowa. My girlfriend was in the midst of a two-week intensive dog-training course and I’d signed out to drive out there and then “focus on my writing” for two weeks in a thrifty Day’s Inn a few blocks from the Mississippi River. To say the least, the smell of old cigarettes and scratchy linens inspired nothing in me and I found myself grabbing my keys and drifting through the Midwest in a chrome-green Honda Element. The Midwest is a strange, lonely place for a city dweller, and with no destination in mind I’d pick a spot on the map an aimlessly cruise towards it. It was on one of these roads with the green blur of farmlands speeding by in the background, the thin snake of the Mississippi my only landmark, that I not only discovered Case Studies but fell wildly in love with it.
It starts with “You Folded Up My Blanket Like We Were Already Lovers,” a deceptively upbeat story about love in a car, on the stairs, in a garden. The road will numb you, and my musical selections weren’t cracking the shell, but “You Folded Up My Blanket…” with it’s beautifully simple lyrics slipped in and I played it on repeat, memorizing every word like a smitten teenager. From there “My Silver Hand” squeezed in to the gap, Lortz’s deep, whiskey-soaked voice rising above the simple violin and guitar, the words full of heartbreak and the need for redemption just peppering my emotional core. Somewhere between Dubuque and Hazel Green, Wisconsin, I fell wholeheartedly in love with the album as a whole. I pulled over the car and sat and stared out in to an endless stretch of green and felt lonely and a bit sad and completely won over by everything Lortz was crooning, every simple beat that stretched out from the door behind me. (Noah)
I’ve never quite been able to put my finger on why or how, but every moment on No Witch seems suffused with joy. Maybe it’s the way Derek Fudesco’s guitar notes dance like afternoon sunlight on the living room wall, or maybe it’s the honest, folksy feel of the foot-stomping energy. Whatever the case, No Witch has become my go-to cheerup album, my foolproof impetus for dancing around the kitchen with gleeful abandon. It’s not that there’s no darkness – “My mind wakes me up every night sir, see devils in my backyard,” Quirk sings on “Black Leaf,” but the bleak and the bright are bundled up together in little boxes of hope. Weather moves in dark patterns, but as Quirk espouses in “All Land Crabs and Divinity Ghosts,” “It’s too big of a world to give up now.” (Brittney)
When Macklemore said “My city’s filthy,” this wasn’t quite what he meant, but as its cover art indicates, True Romance listeners are in for a low-down dirty ride. This album is a tribute to sybarite pleasures of all kinds, from the warm burn of whiskey in your stomach to the red memory of teeth marks on skin, from the hip-thrust of the drums to the thrust of, well, other things. Conveniently, it’s also the perfect soundtrack for the unbridled enjoyment of these recreations. (Brittney)
I recently turned thirty. Not long after, I found myself looking back on the 20s version of me and thinking, “What an ass.” 28-year-old Mangan (who, incidentally, is incredibly polite and charming) seems to be going through a similar process a couple of years early, and has done us all the favor of turning it into a delightful album. With endearing honesty and trademark wit, Mangan crafts carefully textured odes and confessionals that reward with every listen. (Brittney)
See the rest of our 24 unmissable records from 2011 after the jump (more…)
1. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
2. Zoe Muth and The Lost High Rollers – Starlight Hotel
3. Charles Bradley – No Time for Dreaming
4. Dolorean – The Unfazed
5. Bryan John Appleby – Fire on the Vine
6. Gardens & Villa – s/t
7. Other Lives – Tamer Animals
8. Radiation City – The Hands That Take You
9. Alabama Shakes – s/t EP
10 (tie). Quiet Life – Big Green
10 (tie). Gem Club – Breakers
My Favorite Musical Moments of 2011
1. Mavis Staples Singing “The Weight,” “You Are Not Alone” and “Freedom Highway” back-to-back-to-back at Bumbershoot
Mavis Staples at Bumbershoot ::: photo by Abbey Simmons
2. Kelli Schaefer and Her Mom Singing “Gone in Love” at Cathedrals II
Kelli Schaefer and Mom ::: photo by Abbey Simmons
3. Being Front Row for Charles Bradley at the Aladdin Theater During MFNW
Charles Bradley ::: iphone photo by Abbey Simmons
4. Pickwick Performing (and performing with Pickwick) at our 5th Anniversary Show
5. Slack Fest (all of it)
Whalebones at Slack Fest ::: photo by Josh Lovseth
My Favorite Videos of 2011:
My Favorite Thing I Forgot to Include on the Appropriate Best of List: New Carissa’s Wierd
These new Carissa’s Wierd and the subsequent 7” out on Hardly Art this year, definitely should have been on both my favorite songs and favorite EPs / 7” / cassette of the year list, but absolutely slipped my mind. This is not acceptable.
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.
Since being laid off from my day job last year, my life has been almost strictly new chapters. Unemployment. Food Stamps. Booking shows at Columbia City Theater. Doing PR for Columbia City Theater. Trying to find a way to make money off Sound on the Sound while remaining true to our ideals and intentions (still haven’t figured that one out yet). Writing band bios and in the past doing PR for Youth Rescue Mission, Slack Fest and the High Dive. Cobbling together a living doing what I love and trying not to be consumed by what came next, when rent would be paid and trying to feel confident in the fact that with this uncertain time, something better would come to me. Something I would love and could do, not just for a paycheck, but for a living.
And I think I might have found it.
Today I’m pleased to share that I’m joining Lightness Management as a management associate. Lightness is Sarah Jurado and the clients she represents: Damien Jurado, Dolorean and Viva Voce. Sarah will be teaching me everything she knows about managing and tour-mom’ing bands and I’ll be learning if I like this side of the music industry, all the while supporting musicians whose careers I already feel personally invested in. Lightness was formed “with the idea that one can remain an enthusiastic music fan while working within the industry.” And if I’m going to be “within the industry,” that’s the only way I want to do it.
Because of the conflict of interest in writing about clients, I won’t be covering Damien, Dolorean or Viva Voce here on Sound on the Sound, except to maybe tell you I’m listening to them a lot in monthly round ups, because I don’t imagine that changing. Other writers on the site, if inspired by these artists output, will continue to cover them. I tell you these things because I think you come to Sound on the Sound because you trust us as fellow enthusiastic fans and because you know what you’re getting here is what we love and nothing else.
I couldn’t be more excited to be working with Sarah and Lightness. When I first started writing Sound on the Sound I said it was “living a little part of the big dream.” I never knew what that big dream was. I’m still not sure I do, but I feel like I’m living more and more of it every day and I see Lightness being a huge part of that.
One of the things I love most about a sad song is: they sound good all year long.
In Seattle, summer anthems feel appropriate about 3 months of the year (if we’re lucky) and the rest of the year, those upbeat, dance tracks that I loved in August seem to taunt me. Not so with the sad song. Whether it’s 80 degrees and sunny or 40 and in a perpetual cloud, a sad song feels to me like a favorite wool sweater: comforting in its weightiness, a trusted companion in its minor chords.
This Saturday at Columbia City Theater, it’s all bands that feel like that favorite sweater, that all make you want to weep in your whiskey. And that might be a bummer of a way to spend a summer weekend night, if it weren’t that they also all happen to be some of the Pacific Northwest’s most gifted song-writers. Lucky for you, and that whiskey that has no interest in being watered down, they are. Dolorean is responsible for one of my favorite local records of 2011 and restoring my face in Americana as a genre, Pearly Gate Music (the talented Zach Tillman) released one of our favorite albums of 2010 and everything we’ve heard from headliner Ghosts I’ve Met (Sam Watts), we’ve loved.
If you’re a lover of sad songs, even in the summertime, leave a comment below and enter to win a pair of tickets to the show this Saturday. We’ll choose a lucky winner at the end of the work day Thursday, so you still have time to make weekend plans, and we’ll see you in the front row Saturday. We’ll bring the tissues, just in case.
A couple weeks ago at a sparsely populated Tractor, I saw one of my favorite line-ups of the year: Joseph Giant, Quiet Life and Dolorean. Most of you missed it, but all three artists are playing local shows soon and I wanted to make sure you didn’t miss their next.
Dolorean: August 19th at Mississippi Studios in Portland and here in Seattle on August 27th with Pearly Gate Music and Ghosts I’ve Met at Columbia City Theater.
Quiet Life: Playing Pickathon next weekend and a slew of Portland dates including August 21st for a free show at Doug Fir and a MFNW show on September 10th at Bunk Bar with The Moondoggies and on September 11th with Dolorean at Romtoms.
Joseph Giant: September 1st with Gold Leaves and Kevin Murphy at The Crocodile. Reverb Fest October 8th and City Arts Fest October 21st with The Sons of Warren Oates, Smokey Brights and Bryan John Appleby.