January 3, 2008

Best Norwest Releases of 2007

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For the purposes of this list the Northwest includes Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. I’d like to include Vancouver B.C. but I just don’t know enough to really say too much about it. Notable bands who hail from the northwest and released an album this year include but are not limited to the 25 chosen for this list. Should I have aggregiously missed an album that deserves attention, leave a comment.

25. Dept of Energy - Held By Waits

24. A Gun That Shoots Knives – Miracle

23. Das Llamas - World War

22. Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank

21. Aqueduct – Or Give Me Death

20. Solvents – Manresa Castle

19. Rocky Votolato – The Brag & Cuss

18. The Shaky Hands – The Shaky Hands

17. Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter – Like, Love, Lust

16. The Lonely H – Hair

15. Laura Viers - Saltbreakers

14. Feral Children – Eternity Emergency EP

13. Ms Led - Shake Yourself Awake

12. The Blakes - The Blakes

11. Ghost Stories - Quixoticism

10. David Bazan - Fewer Moving Parts EP

9. Shane Tutmarc and the Traveling Mercies - I’m gonna Live the Life I Sing About in My Song

8. Whalebones – Morning Man EP

7. Siberian – With Me

6. Ice Age Cobra - Brilliant Ideas from Amazing People

5. Tiny Vipers - Hands Across the Void

4. The Whore Moans – Watch Out for this Thing

3. The Shins – Wincing the Night Away

2. Cave Singers - Invitation Songs

1. Menomena – Friend and Foe

Give a listen. Buy an album.

Abbey will have her list of the best local Seattle releases shortly as well.

December 20, 2007

Abbey’s Best Songs of 2007

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Unlike last years tie, this years best song was a clear choice for me. I’ve been charmed and astonished by “Heretics” on each and every listen, despite doing so hundreds of times.

1. Andrew Bird – Heretics     * mp3: Andrew Bird – Heretics (courtesy of KEXP)

2. The Figurines - The Air We Breathe      * mp3: The Figurines – The Air We Breathe

3. The Shackeltons – The Breaks     * mp3: The Shackeltons – The Breaks

4. The Whore Moans - X-Ray Eyes        * mp3: The Whore Moans – X-Ray Eyes

5. Siberian – Paper Birds     * mp3: Siberian – Paper Birds (courtesy of KEXP)

6. Palmer, AK – Same Rain/Noelly       * mp3:  Palmer, AK – Same Rain/Noelly

7. Thee Emergency - Attack of the Cobrasaurus

8. Menomena – The Pelican  

9. Bhi Bhiman - Talkin’ NASCAR Blues 

10. Iceage Cobra - House of 19 Flames (unreleased)       * mp3: Iceage Cobra – House of 19 Flames

11.  Whalebones – Don’t You Know

12. Beirut – Nantes

13. The Lonely H – The Meal

14.  A Gun That Shoots Knives - This Canary/This Coalmine       * mp3: A Gun That Shoots Knives – This Canary/This Coalmine

15. Okkervil River – Our Life is Not a Movie, Or Maybe        * mp3: Okkervil River – Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe (courtesy of KEXP)

16. Ghost Stories - Catacombs       * mp3: Ghost Stories – Catacombs

17. The National - Fake Empire

18. The Arcade Fire – Intervention

19. Vampire Weekend- Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa

20. The Go - You Go Bangin’ On           * mp3: The Go- You Go Baginin’ On (courtesy of KEXP)

(more…)

December 15, 2007

In a Year of Succesful Side-Projects, it’s a Few Seattle Bands I’m Smitten With

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I claimed that 2006 was the year of the EP, and I’m thinking my broad generalization of 2007 will be “the year of the succesful side-project.” 2007 featured critically acclaimed albums from side project/bands - “The Good, The Bad, The Queen,” “Handsome Furs,” “Sunset Rubdown,” and ”Stars.” Unsurprisingly, since I prefer my music local, my favorite current side projects are from right here in Seattle. “Palmer, AK“, a band led by Eric Howk, guitarist of The Lashes and ”Shy in Sunshine“, a side project of Sneezy Waters Jr – guitarist of Hopscotch Boys.

When Palmer AK’s singer-songwriter Eric Howk was a member of Dolour, he asked band-leader Shane Tutmarc if he could write a Dolour song. When Shane obliged, Eric asked what type of song he should write. “Write a song about longing,” answered Shane. While I’m not certain Eric ever did write that Dolour song, his incarnation as Palmer AK, has the songs about longing down pat. It seems each of Eric’s songs is lovelier than the last; the best of Palmer AK combines a 60′s pop sensibility and audible heartache.

mp3: Palmer, AK – “Same Rain/Noelly” Palmer, AK – Noelly

mp3: Palmer, AK – “Revelry” Palmer, AK – Revelry 

The most pleasantly surprising side project of 2007, was Shy in Sunshine a vessel of Sneezy Waters Jr. of Hopscotch Boys. Shy in Sunshine features Sneezy singing songs where the lyrics matter, rather than screaming along with the insane spectacle that is the Hopscotch Boys. Featuring brooding strings and a few truly heart wrenching tunes, Shy in Sunshine is the most promising side project you may never see on stage, as there are no plans to play the material live at this time. When the album is available for release in 2008, pick it up and add it to your sad bastard rotation, it has some perfect songs for grey Seattle days.

mp3: Shy in Sunshine – “Day of Sunshine” Shy in Sunshine – Day of Sunshine

mp3: Shy in Sunshine – “Recognition” Shy in Sunshine – Recognition

Needless to say Palmer AK and Shy in Sunshine aren’t the only great side projects happening in Seattle right now. “Lavender Lunchbox and The Psychedelic Lightbulb,” a side project of Matt/Sonic Smith of Thee Emergency, joined on stage by six more of my favorite Seattle musicians – is making some of the sweetest rock’n'roll out there today. Just wait for 2008, when they’re releasing their new album and playing a bunch of local shows, it’s going to be epic. Last but certainly not least, Ron Lewis of the Fruit Bats’ and Jonathan Rotham of The Long Winter’s side project, “Ghost Stories,” released one of my favorite songs of 2007 – the dreamy ballad “Catacombs.”

I’ve seen lots of familiar faces on stage under lots of different band names this year, and I hope the trend continues next year. It’s thrilling to see all the facets of my favorite musicians. The talent of the folks who surround us, truly astonishes me and it’s a pleasure to listen in on it all.

May 16, 2007

A concert to Save Our Ears

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This Saturday, the Old Redmond Firehouse Teen Center will feature a concert with Damien Jurado, Ghost Stories, Tiny Vipers and a special guest. While that stellar lineup itself is worth taking notice of here is what this concert is all about:

The event is aimed at letting youth know that they way they listen  today impacts their future, and gives them tips and tools to protect  themselves from Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). Concert venues are  the only occupational facility where noise is not regulated, so we  are also offering tools to help musicians protect their hearing as  well through raffles of UM1 musician in ear monitors and musician ear  plugs. For the concert goer we will also have a raffle of iPods with  custom molded headphones.

The cost is $6 at the door, and admission includes free earplugs and  a raffle ticket.

I personally need to pay more attention to this myself. After the Hopscotch Boys set, everyone said their ears were ringing, but mine weren’t, and to me that can only be a bad thing. While I don’t feel like my hearing is any worse than it’s been in the past, there are shows I come back from where my ears literally hurt. Being in the front row has it’s downsides. There are earplugs built for concert-going, but I haven’t found the one that doesn’t muffle things too much.

On a humorous and ironic note, while you will get free earplugs, this is a show where there is no danger of having your ears blown out. Unless Ghost Stories has gone all Sabbath on us that is….

May 1, 2007

do good thing + rock out with great bands = Noise for The Needy

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Noise for the Needy recently annoucned a  line up for their annual benefit concerts. The shows will be June 6th – 10th at a number of venues throughout Seattle to support Rise n Shine a non-profit that provides advocacy and education for teens and children affected by HIV/AIDS. What a tremendous idea to harness to power of music to create community and cash for a noble (and a needy) cause!

We’re stoked to see some of our favorite local bands in the line-ups, here’s just a sample:

The Handsome Family, The Maldives, Rosyvelt – June 6 @ Tractor Tavern

The Cops, Optimus Rhyme, Tall Birds, TV Coahran – June 7 @  Comet Tavern

Key Note Speaker, Shim, Shorthand for Epic, Cancer Rising – June 7 @ Sunset Tavern

Thee Emergency, The Whore Moans, Kissing Potion, and The Lights – June 8 @ Comet Tavern

Head Like a Kite, Dept. of Energy, The Sun The Sea – June 8 @ Sunset Tavern

Pleasure Boaters, Whiskey Tango, Triumph of Lethargy – June 9 @ The Funhouse  

Okkervill River, Sera Cahone, Ghost Stoires - June 10 @ Crocodile  

For a full line up and more acts to be announced, go to the Noise for the Needy MySpace.

January 28, 2007

Intimate In-Store with Ghost Stories

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Ghost Stories

A Sonic Boom In-Store performance with Ghost Stories

On a whim I decided to go down to Sonic Boom on Saturday. I also needed to pickup a copy of the Shins album and their myspace said they were having an in-store for this band Ghost Stories who I had looked up a while back and had not really found anything on, so I moved on and thought about other bands instead.

Little did I know that Ghost Stories was a side project of Ron Lewis of the Fruit Bats that also includes Jonathan Rothman of the Long Winters. Apparently they just released a full length called Quixoticism through Sonic Boom Records on January 23. Jonathan says they have been doing this for about 2 years now. Normally the band has a few more people, but for the in-store setting it was just Jonathan and Ron.

Jonathan of Ghost Stories

Only about 30 or 40 people were in the store for the performance which wasn’t mic-ed at all. The small store space managed to be just the right size for the simple guitars and voice harmonies. Jonathan is going on a long tour with the Long Winters in a few days so Ghost Stories is going to have to go on for a few months without him.

Ron of Ghost Stories

Ron on the other hand will be soldiering on. He has plenty of time for Ghost Stories as his Fruit Bats bandmate Eric Johnson is a touring member of the Shins right now. Word has it that they may begin working on a new Fruit Bats album when Johnson returns in April. Ron decided to end the in-store set with a solo George Michael cover that he somehow couldn’t remember all of the words for and needed a little help from the audience for.

I will give the album the full review treatment later this month but I will leave you with a song they played at this in-store and one of my favorites off of their new album. It’s called “Catacombs”.

Listen (mp3): Catacombs – Ghost Stories from Quixoticsim

Ghost Stories will be having a record release show at Chop Suey on February 19 with Rob Crow of Pinback.

Related

Myspace – Ghost Stories

Official Site – Ghost Stories at Sonic Boom Recordings

January 17, 2007

Various News Items

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I check on The National’s myspace page to find that they have an album due out in May. Sick!

I didn’t put it up on the calendar (stupidly) but Central Services and Ghost Stories will be at the Vera Project house in South Lake Union tommorow. I may have to miss Grey’s Anatomy for that one (DVR - Yes!).

In a whole bunch of random “American Idol” News which I am only talking about because this has been a newsworthy week for “American Idol” and it is Seattle related:

- Last week’s “American Idol” premiere had the second highest ratings ever! Ridiculous. Paul with that many people watching you better stay sober. I wonder how many were watching in the hope that she wasn’t? - Tonight’s epidsode will cover the audition process in Seattle. You know, the one that Simon remarked had a bunch of “crazies.” David over at the Slog will be live-slogging it. - Kartherine McPhee will be guesting on the now outed LonelyGirl15. I wonder how that will work. - Also in case you missed the Golden Globes, former “American Idol” contestant, Jennifer Hudson won for best supporting actress in “Dreamgirls.”

Update:

Seattlest recounts a run-in with Pearl Jam member Matt Cameron at the local coffee shop. They also beat us to the punch on the newest SXSW bands that have yet to be officially announced. The non-local band I most want to see from that list: Voxtrot. Still working out the details but hopefully I will be able to fork down the cash for SXSW. It’s my priority right now.