April 1, 2012

My Favorite Songs and Records of 2011

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So originally I was going to post this around the beginning of the new year. Then extreme laziness mind-numbing force known as “life” took over and I couldn’t quite finish the task at hand. I had a arbitrary Valentine’s Day date set but I quickly decided that there was no reason to post this list in the middle of February. One morning at the end of February while I was doing dishes I decided I would wait until April Fools Day to post this blog entry. Why? Because I have a poor sense of humor and thought that these bands/musical acts should once again know of my appreciation. Bands, Musicians, Human beings that happen to do musical things, I just want you to know, I have a thing for you…..and I can’t let go. Some records I don’t discuss at length because they were already were talked about here on Sound on the Sound.

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Grenades/Mercy Ties Split 12″ on Echolalic Records – These delicately crafted songs remind me of autumn leaves slowly turning from a pleasant mixture of auburn, gold and chestnut to a darkened brown indicating their impending death.

Just kidding. For a majority of the year, this was my thoroughbred racing horse. When it wasn’t racing past the competition, it was mounting them to show absolute dominance.

I loved this record so much that I ended up doing the copywriting for it on Robotic Empire’s website. Grenades is currently in the process of mastering their new record should be releasing new material by the end of the year. Mercy Ties re-recorded some of the songs that appear on this split and recorded a few new songs as well. The newer tracks can be found here. You should be stoked on both. Let it be known, from the deepest crevice in the darkest depths of the ocean, to the mountain tops of some very tall mountain that none of you are athletic or determined enough to climb, THIS WAS PRETTY MUCH MY FAVORITE RELEASE OF THE YEAR 2011.

Standout Tracks: “Get Wise” and “Chrononaut” by Grenades || “Harla” and “Stretched Like A Drum” by Mercy Ties

“Owen Heart” by Earth Control…or is it “Earth Control” by Owen Hart…? (Whatever. It Rules.) I had to say “pretty much” in terms of “record of the year” because this record “totally slays.” I thought this came out in 2010 but apparently it came in January of 2011. I’m not going to lie. I slept on “Owen Hart” for two years because…they were called Owen Hart. For all of you old school WWE WWF wrestling enthusiasts, Owen Hart (the character, god rest his soul) was by far the weakest link of the “famous” Hart wrestling family. He was about ten percent of the wrestler his older brother (BRET “THE HITMAN” HART — deserving of all caps) was. Owen Hart wasn’t even as cool as his weird brother in-law Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart or his other brother in-law “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith. So when you’re an awesome hardcore band named after a third rate wrestler (You might even say fourth rate, he was tag team partners with Koko B. Ware for crying out loud!) that often plays shitty bills at El Corazon…how am I supposed to figure out how devastating you are? Anyway. Whatever you want to call this record, it is the most satisfying piece of “metal” that I came across this past year. It’s like Pig Destroyer grindcore combined with Pantera-esque breakdowns and Crestfallen’s, (Ask my old neighbor from Virginia Will from the Comet about his old band, so good.) “We’re going to thrash and not give a fuck about whatever” attitude. If you are into things that are dark, fast and heavy — then you must start and end your days with this record.

Standout Tracks: “44 Black,” “Poor White Straight Guy,” “The Vertigo of Murray Morgan” and one of my favorite songs of the year, “Fuck Morrisey. Fuck The Smiths. Fuck The Cure.”

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BOAT – Dress Like Your Idols

I’m guilty of not talking about BOAT nearly enough and I feel other writer’s are guilty of the same inexcusable act. For the first quarter of 2011, this record was in contention for my favorite record of the year. People, there are some pop gems on this record. “(I’ll Beat My Chest Like) King Kong” is not only a great first single, it’s a great single period. “Landlocked” is the strongest song on the record and reminds me of Nerf Herder in its nerdy frankness. However, my favorite song on Dress Like Idols is “(do the) Double Take.” The narrative pretty much summed up my life for a decent amount of 2011. Being fucking miserable in a bar Sitting quietly at the end of a bar, smiling at a girl as she walks by…and there’s where it ends. Do you know why? Because I didn’t have a job. Men who don’t have jobs should be taken out behind a bar and shot aren’t allowed to date. It’s actually considered a social felony in most states. BOAT plays their first show of 2012 at the Sunset on April 13th, with the Bismark and Police Teeth.

Police Teeth – Awesomer Than The Devil

I kept on telling my friends (the ones that didn’t like Police Teeth) that this was a dope record. They didn’t listen to me. They kept on insisting, “We don’t like pop punk.” I told them to shove it. I don’t like pop punk either. Eventually they actually listened to the record and saw things my way. Some great tunes on this record, notably “Rock & Roll Is A Pyramid Scheme (Parts 1 & 2)” and “Public Defender.” You know what? While you’re at it, you can also add “Send More Cops” to that list.

Strong KillingsS/T

Best local punk record of 2011.

Youth Rescue MissionS/T

Carissa’s Wierd was my proverbial novocain for the soul in 2010. Youth Rescue Mission won this pretty handily in 2011. With songs like “Floorplan” and “Great White,” it’s easy to understand why. I spent a lot of time staring off into space with watery eyes, then pressing the “repeat” button because I’m really into emotional masochism.

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Sleeper Agent – “All Wave and No Goodbye”

I don’t really like this band or the the album Celebrasion, because the album is pretty fucking boring in all honesty but this is a good song. I’ll be interested to hear what the follow-up to this 2011 release sounds like. This band is currently on tour with Fun, they’ll probably make quite a few new fans.

Alpinist - Minus. Mensch

This album actually came out in 2009 but it dominated my Ipods so much that I had to include it in this list. German hardcore that isn’t messing around. I suggest you get familiar.

Shabazz Palaces - Black Up

Duh. Wale ft. Rick Ross and Jadakiss – “600 Benz”

I think the new Wale album Ambition is garbage. Maybe I had set my expectations too high considering some of the slight work he had put in months prior to releasing that record. This song is some FI-YAH (pronounced “fire”) though.

Cat From Hue – “Never Again”

Cat from Hue actually re-released this song on their newer self-titled EP but I think the version found on Forgetters is infinitely more impressive. This is another one of those soul-searching tunes that I can play again and again without ever tiring of it. Be careful, you listen to this song too much and you’ll be stuck in reminiscing mode for the remainder of your day. This song makes you want to call someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time and tell them that they’ve forsaken your friendship tell them that you miss them. Great song.

Constant LoversTrue Romance

Admittedly, every time I listen to this record I wonder how the hell that poor chap on the album cover got his finger stuck in a stick of butter.

Helm’s AleeWeatherhead

Duh.

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Nurses – Dracula

You know that guy or gal that shows up late to a party and then completely takes it upon entry? Dracula is kind of the musical equivalent of that.

CastevetMounds of Ash

This album actually came out in 2010 but I didn’t hear it until 2011 (so in my book it qualifies for this list). Do you like heavy and menacing with the occasional twisted time signature? Castevet are your band then. I’ve definitely misaligned my spinal column rocking out to this.  So much for fixing my scoliosis….

Matsuri - Endship

If it weren’t for that legendary self-titled Strong Killings vinyl, this would be my favorite LP purchased in 2011. The word “thoughtful” doesn’t do the packaging justice. It’s like holding a 12″ miracle of wax in your hands. This band reminds me of the reasons why I got into music to begin with as an adolescent looking for something to belong to. This is raw, pure energy that I want you to have.

OCnotes - Medicine

Duh. OCnotes is “the truth,” as kids say these days. He also does some pretty interesting stuff with “The Wiz” as well.

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Kelli SchaeferGhost of the Beast

When I was originally compiling this list, I asked myself the following question:

Who on this planet sounds like Kelli Schaefer?

I still haven’t found the answer.

Jay-Z & Kanye West – “Niggas In Paris”

I wasn’t even feeling this song until I saw that Youtube clip of the guy on the NYC Subway. Suddenly everything fell into place and I now go bananas every time I hear this song. All I can think about is, “Fuck. Fight. Win.” Literally. That’s all I want to do when the track hits my stereo, in that exact order.

Absolute, No Bullshit, I’m Not Kidding…Favorite Song(s) of the Year:

BOAT –  ”(do the) Double Take”

This song reminds me of my inability to communicate effectively women and sunshine, kind of like the 2010 winner “Sunshine/Pretty Girls” by The Unnatural Helpers. What can I say? I’m a sucker for sunshine, women and very brief songs. I have no attention span.

Owen Hart Earth Control – “Fuck Morrisey. Fuck The Smiths. Fuck The Cure.”

Honestly, this might be the most perfect song ever written. Clocking in at a fierce 80 seconds, it combines the best two elements of my all-time favorite bands (I have like twenty “all-time favorite bands”) Pantera and Pig Destroyer. The results? A goddamn electric masterpiece.

February 17, 2012

Free Show Tonight at The Kraken

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Cascabel photo courtesy of their Facebook page.

Um, so many heavy hitters are playing this town tonight. Damien Jurado at the Neptune Theater, the madness that I already described earlier that is taking place at Neumos, Fatal Lucciano’s record release party at Chop Suey and the worst, best band ever…Thunderbird Motel at the White Rabbit.

However, all these events get Singapore caned (in the knee caps, no less) by the heavy thrash that is taking place at The Kraken (formerly known as The Galway Arms)….FOR FREE.

Smooth Sailing, Grenades and Cascabel will be “rocking you all night long” (Casey Kasem voice) courtesy of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Smooth Sailing put on one of the most impressive and precise live shows in the Northwest. Why I don’t talk about them all the time, I’m really not sure. Smooth Sailing (much like Grenades) are also guilty of releasing one of my favorite records from last year. I hang my head in shame that my “Best of 2011 List” has not seen the light of day, it will be published shortly so that bands might be able to pick a sentence (good luck!) and add it to their press kit.

As far as Grenades are concerned,  I really want to hear that new record, right now. I’m drooling all over myself like a vegetable. Somebody do something about this. Tonight it would behoove you to tease me and the rest of your dedicated followers with some new material.

Cascabel are brand new to me. A friend of mine was telling me how awesome they were last night. I woke up this morning, decided to give them a spin and insert string of pleasant expletives here.

I like it a lot.

The best part is that you can go download their The Left Behinds EP for free (this is the start of a beautiful relationship) if you click here.

The show starts at 9pm. Yes, it is free. Let me say that again…free….awesome….show.

December 27, 2011

A Tip of the Hat – Our 2011 MVPs

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Pickwick ::: photo by Christopher Nelson

 

We had another incredible year here at Sound on the Sound and it was in large part thanks to the following MVPs and, of course, you guys reading this. These were the artists, albums, labels, festivals and well, your dancing, that inspired and impressed us most and these are the people that remind us every day why we wouldn’t trade our local music scene for anywhere else in the world.

MVP Local Live Act: Pickwick

When a friend sent me an mp3 of “When Rosa Speaks” last summer saying he’d found my new favorite band, I wondered what on earth he was thinking. When Josh and Ty said they were going to film a new video series and start with Pickwick, I told them it was their time they were wasting. When Josh asked to book Pickwick for our 30th birthday show, I agreed begrudgingly. And when Pickwick took the tiny stage at The Blue Moon that January night, limbs and instruments and energy over-flowing, I proceeded to kick myself for the rest of 2012 for being so daft. That friend, Josh, Ty, they had been so right, and I had been so, so wrong. And to make up for that error I saw every remaining local Pickwick show of 2011, including the night I had surgery. I never once wished I was anywhere else seeing any other band. Because Jay Cox was right last August, he had found my new favorite local band and as evidenced by sold-out show after sold-out show, one of your favorite new bands too.

Pickwick simply puts on a hell of a show. They defy expectation with their sound, their Star Wars-centered banter, by getting Ballard Ave (and beyond) to dance, and the pipes on Galen Disston. Dark doo-wop and call-and-response songs about death and destruction both physical and spiritual, often inspired by musical heroes of the band (Sam Cooke, Michael Jackson, Richard Swift) — Pickwick writes smart songs and put on performances that manage to appeal to my two month old niece, my nearly 70 year old parents, Seattle’s alt-weeklies and the managers from all over the country who clamored to sign them this summer. On the strength of these shows, hooks for miles, and the broadness of that appeal, Pickwick has gone from opening shows to 30 people to being asked to summer festivals and headlining a sold-out 1,000 person Neptune Theater, in just a year. In 2012, with their first major tours on the horizon and their debut full length to be released (likely on whatever label is lucky enough to be chosen by the band), I foresee the same pattern playing out all over the country … only skipping that whole playing to 30 people in towns they’ve never visited and it happening much, much faster. (abbey)

 

Charles Bradley ::: photo by Josh Lovseth

 

 

MVP National Live Act: Charles Bradley

It’s hard to explain the true affects of a live Charles Bradley performance, much less three in the span of a magnificently hot September week, other than to say I will come back to these different nights of performances as some of the most personally valuable musical moments I’ve ever experienced. Unearthed by Daptone Records and matched with a time-tested soul outfit in an age of copy-and-paste pop, Bradley is a rare breed of performer with a life of loss, “heartaches and pain” behind him to provide a valuable perspective that’s coming from a place of pure love and will for a better world, no bullshit. “Why is it so Hard” chronicles his life story culminating in the tragic death of his brother whom he was living with at the time, and at this point it’s hard not to tear up as Bradley himself seems to do at turns while performing. With glistening eyes he’ll turn around, doff his sparkled stage coat and stun the audience during “Golden Rule” or another upbeat number with a series knee-drops, mic-swings, the occasional worm, and of course some scream-inducing hip-thrusting for the ladies. James Brown would be proud of the hip-thrusts but also the performance as whole I think. Various luminaries have come out of performances claiming this is as close to Otis Redding as we’re likely to see and I’m hard pressed to argue. Though I’m not sure Otis ever danced quite that well. (josh)

 

Wild Flag ::: photo by Josh Lovseth

 

 

MVP Performer (Female): Wild Flag

You have seen a band perform the same songs three nights in a row, what do you want to:

a) never see that band again b) see that band sometime next year c) see that band every night for the foreseeable future.

If you’ve answered c, lucky you, you’ve just enjoyed three nights with Wild Flag.

After three nights with Wild Flag this November, my only wish was for more. Why hadn’t I gone on the entire tour? Why wasn’t this the beginning of the tour, not the end? Wild Flag, despite releasing their debut record this year, are road-warrior veterans with a first class indie and punk pedigree: Sleater-Kinney, The Minders and Helium and with their forces combined, this foursome is unstoppable on stage. Wild Flag are masters of their instruments and craft, not “for girls” (even if this category is gender based), but for anyone. Janet Weiss’ drumming recalls the greats, Carrie Brownstein is an iconic rock vocalist with a knack for writing songs that sound familiar and forward-thinking at the same time, Rebecca Cole’s piano adds a spooky psychedelic edge that elevates the band and Mary Timony is Wild Flag’s not-so-secret weapon, she straight up (yet somehow subtly) shreds with riffs that will be stuck in your brain for months. It was she who I couldn’t keep my eyes off of night after night.

The real joy of watching Wild Flag though is not just the band’s technical chops, but how much fun they seem to be having. The kind of chemistry the band shares on stage isn’t something you can practice. It’s either there or it’s not, and watching Wild Flag you feel like you’re watching four talented friends have the time of their life. And you can’t help but want to join in.

Extra Bonus Points: their cover of Television’s “See No Evil” was my favorite cover of the year.

Emeritus: Kelli Schaefer

 

Allen Stone ::: photo by Josh Lovseth

 

 

MVP Performer (Male): Allen Stone

Allen Stone’s flagrantly funk visage calls Seattle home, and though 2011 is the year he became a cover-boy and prime-time name, he’s been making small moves nationally for years now. Splitting his time between New York, LA and Seattle Stone built up a quality collection of tracks recorded with some soul heavyweights and waited for over a year to release his self-titled second record until the timing was right. Early in the year with the addition of an ace touring band representing as much young personality as Stone himself does the 25-year old Chewelah-bred pastor’s son was able to tour, capitalize, and make it all come together so that when Bumbershoot, City Arts Fest, and then Conan came calling he was prepared. Stone’s thick glasses and northwest-sheik aren’t exactly uniform attire for a classic soul sound, exemplifying that neither is his approach, but the bottom-line is he and his band have no trouble getting entire rooms dancing and the finer sex screaming. In a recent conversation Stone remarked about the new found attention, “It’s crazy. Less than a year ago I was playing the High Dive.” Having to add a second show because your first ever time headlining a 1000 cap room sold out a month of time says it all. Kinda like what happened to our previous winner of this MVP Macklemore did just about this time last year (eventually adding a total of three Showbox shows). (josh)

Emeritus: Macklemore

Read the rest of our MVPs including festival, debut album, 6th man & every writer’s personal MVP of 2011 (more…)

December 16, 2011

Our Favorite Local EPs, 45s & Cassettes of 2011

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2011 wasn’t just a great year for local full-lengths, awesome releases abounded in all formats: EPs, 7”s and yes, even cassettes. In fact, Phil’s favorite local release of all of 2011 was Mercy Ties and Grenades split 12”.

Here are 15 of our favorite local EPs, 7”s and cassettes of the past year and our favorite nationally released EP with links to listen or look at each of them:

Mercy Ties / Grenades 12”

Wheedle’s Groove: Seattle’s Finest In Funk & Soul 1965–1979 Limited Edition 45s Box Set

PickwickMyths

Night BeatsH-Bomb

Joshua MorrisonBuilder

Richard SwiftWalt Wolfman

Richard Swift “Whitman” by DOJAGSC

10 More of our Favorite Local EPs, 7”s, Cassettes & Our Favorite National EP of 2011 (more…)

October 15, 2011

Weekend Mailbag

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::: Monogamy Party photo courtesy of Good to Die Records

Well, I think it’s about time I finally do something with this thing.

*Removes Sound on the Sound mailbag that is the size of a baby walrus from the corner of my room. When I open it up, the bag is teeming with cobwebs and an array of spooky looking arachnids crawl out from the opening. Perhaps it’s time to invest in a house-cleaning team or….I can stop being lazy*

The peanut gallery has questions. I have answers that are not related to the questions that you ask. Have you ever gone to a palm reading expecting to get your prostrate examined? Now is your chance. Let’s get it on:

Dear Phil(ip),

I recently got this new job that keeps me at the office for 70-80 hours a week. As a dedicated Sound on the Sound reader I am quite aware of your occupational struggles. A work week that is roughly twice the amount of toil that a normal, puritan ethic related work week entails is something you know nothing about. With that being said, this job (not it’s hefty pay, mind you) is driving a deep wedge between me and my wife of eight years. I always thought kids would send our marriage into a tailspin of boredom, but this job is doing the bidding of my six-year-old twin girls. What can I do (besides answering sketchy swinger party ads on Craigslist) to spice up my love life? My parents have been married for almost thirty years, my marriage must outlast theirs!

Sincerely, Running on Empty in Edmonds

Dear Running,

Nobody is suggesting that you pass your wife around like a Christmas ham (or that you be broken like a turkey wishbone). What you need is a harsh reminder of why you and your wife fell in love in the first place. A spiritual retreat? What and take time off of work!?!?! No way. I’d suggest Tulalip Casino (it’s the number one place for fun) but you don’t strike me as a gambler (ie. your reluctance to answer sketchy Craigslist ads). What you need is a Monogamy Party.

Not quite heavy but fucking weird kinky enough to ignite fervent passions that will only escalate behind bedroom doors. Just make sure your twin girls are asleep before you turn on Pus City (Official release date – November 15th on Good to Die Records). You could choose the track “Fucking Out Your Brains” but might I remind you, she’s your wife! Show the lady a little respect. Lull her into your arms with the title track, I promise those thumping bass lines were put there for a reason.

Read the rest of Phil’s Weekend Mailbag and Watch a New Video from Ume (more…)

June 23, 2011

Feel Me?

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and this is why i speak to you in parables by White Orange

In honor of Tupac Shakur’s 40th birthday (actually took place last Thursday) and one of my favorite hip-hop ad-libs (my favorite being Young Jeezy’s “YEAHHHHHHHH!”) of all-time, I am here to share some of the things I have been “feeling” over the past six months. Some of these things are related to the current calendar year, some of them aren’t. Youth Rescue Mission “S/T” – One of my early front-runners for local album of the year, I have spent an incredible amount of time with this record. The music is great but it’s the fiercely personal stories behind the songs on the album that resonate with me personally. Tales and dynamics so close to the heart that I don’t feel comfortable sharing them with you. To paraphrase the press release, this is a family of individual songwriters that have combined their shared experiences and the end result are ten poignant, revealing songs. If I owned this on vinyl, the grooves on tracks “Floorplan” and “Great White” would be so worn from overplay that I would have to resort to cassette digital download for their audio alleviation. Might I also add that “Dark Star” is the most metal, un-metal song that has ever existed in Seattle. OK, that might be a reach. Nevertheless, I have learned how to play it, and as a result turned it into a beast that only Kim Thayil and members of His Hero Is Gone would recognize. Righteous. Catch them tonight at the Comet with the Foghorns + others.

Femi Kuti at Neumos – It’s not often you get the chance to dance, have a one-sided conversation about social injustice and get sex advice all during the course of the same event (there’s a political fundraiser joke in there somewhere), but that happened when Femi Kuti ended his North American Africa to Africa tour in Seattle. Like a charismatic, manic composer he orchestrated Positive Force through a two-hour set that made sure newly converted fans (like myself) will be counting down the days until he returns in Seattle. This set is in the top five of the “best sets of 2011″ so far.

Good Rock n’ Roll Comes in Three’s (Three good albums, all totally different in content. I’ll have reviews of all three posted shortly) -

and this is why i speak to you in parables by White Orange – From the opening phase shifter (possibly flanger?) drenched riff of “Where,” you are a wayfarer, trapped inside a brobdingnagian 1982 ghetto blaster that is peculiarly placed in the middle of a sandy oasis.  This sequence would be fantastic if you were the protagonist in a Beck video directed by Spike Jonze. Instead your end is near because you have no access to food or water. The only item that you have at your disposal is the Queens From the Stone Age/Kyuss split EP on cassette tape. As you hold the tape in your hand, fond memories flood your mind, feel good hits of the summer transposed over an idealistic youth. Suddenly you realize the obvious and the smile your memories have crafted is removed from your face. What good is a tape if you’re trapped inside a boom box? Where is the cruel god that has done this to you… Weatherhead by Helm’s Alee - Why not be oneself? That is the whole secret of a successful appearance. If one is a greyhound, why try to look like a Pekingese?” – Edith Sitwell

This release feels like a band fully entrapped in the throes of self-realization. Night Terror, for all its sullen triumphs, (and god bless you, there were a great many) lacked something that I currently cannot find the proper words to describe (hopefully by the beginning of next week, this is not the case). Perhaps it was because you knew that no matter how effervescent a song might have started, a tempest was coming to make short work of its vulnerable beginnings. In the case of Weatherhead, what is ethereal remains that way, choosing to stay beautiful despite what you might expect. “Music Box” and “Anemone of the Wound” could not have existed on Helm’s Alee aptly-named previous album. I think fans of this band will be pleasantly surprised upon first listen (don’t you worry, Helm’s Alee still rock). Put to rest any potential fears by clicking on the soundcloud link.

S/T by Strong Killings -  The morning buzz off my grumpy neighbors lawnmower, a woodpecker that only visits my house on the sabbath in order to serve as a terrifying alarm clock for my baby sister, the beckoning call of the ice cream man, watching fireflies coexist with bats, often meeting their end in the process — these are a few things that remind me of summer. Now added to the list of dog day admonishments is the self-titled album by Strong Killings. I know, we really haven’t hit summer quite yet, but in my mind it’s been summer for months and I’ve been nodding my head to this album for weeks now. If Once If summer does make an appearance, mark my words, you’ll agree with me.  “Minimum Wage” and “Licked, Nicked” are bonafide anthems that won’t leave my ipod unless someone puts a gun to my head. Even then, depending on what’s going on in my life, I still might refuse. Gentle readers, the wait is almost over. I can’t wait for you to have this…

Other songs that remind me of summer. Some good, some not so good. “Fantasy” by Mariah Carey (f. Ol’ Dirty Bastard) “Natural One” by Folk Implosion “Comin’ Home” by Hum “Street Dreams” by Nas “Slow RIde” by Foghat “Frankenstein” by Edgar Winter Band “Overnight Scenario” by Rare Essence

Actually, I lied. All those songs are awesome. medicine by OCnotes – The strongest argument for our government to implement universal health care. Performing at the Electric Tea Garden tomorrow (Friday) night. Mercy Ties/Grenades Split 12″ on Echolalic Records -So good. I’m actually tired of telling you how good this is. Ride The Fader by Chavez - A classic. I listen to this album all the time. One of the best albums of the 90′s that nobody talks about. I can’t remember how I heard about Chavez (I think a Jawbox interview? Or maybe it was John Angelo also produced  Triple Fast Action’s Cattlemen Don’t — another criminally underrated group) but I am very fortunate that I did. Not many bands can claim that they have their own sound, yet Chavez can boast about this achievement and I wouldn’t go against their words. Just about all the songs on this record are good. The opening riff to “Lions” will make you wake up in a cold sweat. “All I want to do is open my barrage,” sings a sweet yet irratated Matt Sweeney on “You Must Be Stopped.” Ever been in a hurry to get somewhere but know your efforts are futile? That is what the song sounds like. “Ever Overpsyched” is the best Beatles song that the Fab Four never wrote.

June 10, 2011

Friday Mailbag

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The Builders and the Butchers ::: photo by Josh Lovseth

Dear Phil,

I’m a terrible singer. My mother once booed me at my 2nd grade talent show because nobody else in the audience had the guts to do it. My unique vocals have been compared to a fox that is getting run over by a lawn rider mower (with a Hemi — no less!). I love to sing and I’m tired of people telling me to shut my mouth. Don’t people realize that this is Earth? There are so many people on this planet, there has to be someone with worst vocals than me. If that’s not the case, there has to be a niche for someone with unique vocals…what about the Cave Singers and Clap Your Hands And Say Yeah?

- Contemplating Buying a Talkbox on Ebay (Auburn, Wa.)

Dear Contemplating,

As someone that may or may not sing in a crappy local band, I know what you mean. People think just because I’m black I’m supposed to sound like John Legend or Marvin Gaye. I open my mouth to sing and it sounds like one of the guys from Yaphet Kotto doing a bad impression of Guy Picciotto. Every time I play a show I hope the microphone gives way so nobody can hear me. There is hope for people like us, if you play music that is good enough, people will overlook your vocals and enjoy what you have to offer. Are you familiar with The Builders and The Butchers? They are playing a Noise for the Needy benefit show tonight at the Tractor with “math folk” (new genre! mind explosion!) rockstars Ravenna Woods. Ryan Sollee has a better voice than you (sorry, I’m still on the lookout for someone as bad as you are). He should offer you inspiration to achieve greater things and a temporary refuge from your own shortcomings. This is going to be one hell of a show. The last time I saw Ravenna Woods at the Tractor they brought the house down.

Dear Phil,

I’m not of age and I hate everything. I hate Sound on the Sound because you’re a bunch of sellouts that only talk about “Americana” and “Folk.” I hate you because your writing has nothing to do with the music you’re covering. I hate your photographers because they take pictures. I hate my parents because they brought me into this world. I need to get out of here. Consider this hate mail. Sellout.

- Get Bent (Bellevue, Wa.)

Dear Bent,

Your grievances are noted. It seems to me that the label “gentle reader” does not apply to a young ruffian like yourself. There was once a time when I was just like you, smoking cigarettes at the bus stop to be cool, sneaking into R-rated movies, stealing hundreds of CD’s from Best Buy and Sam Goody, leaving my porn stash in my sister’s swim bag, completely forgetting that she was on a year-round all-star swim team. I’ve been there, kid. I relied on Fu Manchu (The Action Is Go) and Jack Endino’s (probably long forgotten by him) e-mailing list to get me through adolescence. What you need is a license to bear arms are raw forms of self-expression. Local bands that I happen to think you’d like and the places you can catch them. Please note that not all these bands sound as “angry” as your letter to me. I am concerned for the safety of others.

Mercy Ties -This is probably my favorite local band right now. Do you like Ed Gein circa It’s A Shame…? Mercy Ties are in a similar vein only much more creative. There’s a vulnerability in their songs that remind me of the legendary Saetia. This is the point of the conversation where I patronize you by saying you’re too young to know how to deal with emotions. I want you to go to their show at the Old Redmond Firehouse tonight, it’s an American Red Cross benefit show for Japanese tsunami victims. Don’t fret, it’s all-ages. I want you to rock out really hard and then buy their 12″ split with Grenades (another band you’d like, who are also playing with Mercy Ties tonight). Spillway - There is an intense discussion taking place in the scientific community about what exactly “Spillway” is. Are they indie rock? Do they sound like the big city version of Modest Mouse (what is this)? Are Doug Barber’s screams that of a tortured genius, eager to bury his past or an unassuming madman, bent on the destruction of Seattle? You are a misguided young soul that can’t get into bars. The next time you have a chance to see Spillway will be at a party at an undisclosed location. Use your internet smarts to find out the top-secret, very hush-hush, location. Don’t forget your chaps. I’m assuming that you’re planning on riding two horses at the same time.

Bat CountryYou are a teenager, therefore Judging by your letter, two things are true: 1) You are a soap opera unto yourself. 2) If it sounds “dark,” it’s in your wheelhouse. Let Bat Country be the soundtrack to your angry bedroom brooding. They could never be described as “evil” like Mercy Ties or Grenades but the darkness is there my aging friend. This is the sound of the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression, families failing to make gains, dying in their place in every sense of the word. Bleakness achieved, but is it enough for your wild heart? Bat Country is the sound of miner’s drinking themselves to death because their pans remained absent of gold. We’re not on Skype but I can see that the misfortune of others brings a slight grin to your face. I can only think of Bat Country in storyline form because they have too many hooks to considered “Country,” and are too theatrical to be considered “Americana.” Genre-defying. Very classical, macabre and beautiful. I would never encourage buying a fake I.D. and sneaking into the Conor Byrne on a Saturday night. But if you do…

Dear Phil,

Some friends and I were talking the other day about musical trends. Currently there seems to be a lot of the “multi-instrumentalist” thing going on. What do you think of that and what do you think the next trend is going to be?

- Inquisitive Thick Black-Rimmed Glasses That Are Worn Strictly Because Of A Stigmatism And Not For Fashion I Swear To God (Seattle, Wa.)

Dear Inquisitive,

The multi-instrumentalist thing is something that has taken me some time to get used to. Call me old fashioned but I am of the “band nazi” generation. You have one person who is a controlling force in the band. That person brings a majority of their ideas to the other band members as a blueprint for a majority of their songs. With each new song written, the primary songwriter grows in power and prestige. Eventually “the conductor” oversteps their role, comes to the conclusion that they can play all the band roles by their lonesome and transforms into the “band nazi.” Everyone is fired. A solo project ensues. That’s it. Call it “The Axl Rose Process” or whatever tickles your fancy. Having a multi-instrumentalist in your band is almost like a concession of power. You’re coming to the realization that other people may be almost as gifted as you are. In fact, they may even share your same musical goals and enhance your compositions?!? Who would’ve thought so adventurously back in 1997? People that would burn at the stake or be tied to large stones so they could drown, that’s who.

With that being said, the next musical trend is — and write this down — people not playing music. In the year 2012 people will stop playing music altogether. Every live musical experience will feature pre-recorded music with performance art instead of musicians. After the presentation is over, the “musicians” will sit at a round table drinking cheap beer and talking amongst themselves about the importance of their own art. As an audience member your job is to watch as they are flooded in self-centered trivialities. Do not save them. You will remain standing in steadfast admiration throughout, refusing to hand them an olive branch for rescue. Mark my words, this is the future.

Until next time, keep those letters coming.

May 19, 2011

Mercy Ties/Grenades Split 12″ Release Show At Black Lodge

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Well, that’s it. I am telling my hunting party to circle the wagons. I’m closing up shop for the rest of May. I will ignore what I hope to be a long, beautiful Seattle summer. When fall ends and November ushers in another half year of grey, will it matter? Future emails that are music related will go directly into my virtual trash can. All other musicians are now branded as solicitors. I won’t stand for it.

What release (local or otherwise) could possibly be better than this one in the year 2011? None. I mean, I hope every album ever released is this good or better, but what are the chances that will happen? I let out a brief cackle, my eyes scroll backwards in their sockets from ecstasy while Mercy Ties’ “Harla” plays in the background. No chance. Grenades have done an honorable thing and streamed their side of the 12″ on their bandcamp page. You can watch them perform some of these songs on their website. My two favorite tracks are “Chrononaut” (think some of the more straight forward punk tracks on Converge’s Jane Doe) and “Handbook for the Recently Diseased” (a tasty, more straight-forward Breather Resist-like treat). If my memory serves me correctly, there are videos for both of those awesome songs on their website. Thank you Grenades. Mercy Ties are going to become a new obsession of mine, I guarantee it. Where legendary bands Jerome’s Dream and Neil Perry limited themselves in their clear-cut approach, Mercy Ties don’t let their influences or unconventional songwriting style handicap them. I mean that as a compliment of the highest order. You have no idea what’s going to happen next in their songs. This makes for some very exciting musical theater. From “Caves” to “Harla,” every song feels different from the last, yet the music maintains continuity and the tracks flow together nicely. Compositions that are seen as outliers are not welcome here. The show is at 9pm tomorrow (Friday) night at the Black Lodge. Tickets are $3! You’re not imagining that, that’s less than $1 per band. This will leave you with enough pocket change to buy the split 12″ courtesy of Echolalic Records. Buy it even if you don’t own a record player or your needle is broken (guilty as charged). Lozen and Sandrider are not to be ignored so get there early.

April 13, 2011

Yellingham Festival 2011

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Do you remember that scene in Death to Smoochy when Edward Norton is dressed up as the purple rhinoceros known as “Smoochy” and he is playing campfire songs to a group of children? During this scene, along with many other scenes in the movie, Norton is riding on a teeter totter that is dangerously close to the brink of insanity. He tells the kids in order to release their feelings they must howl at the moon. The children are not as clairvoyant as you would think, not a single one tells Mr. Norton that they are shooting on a sound-stage. What happens next is the most riveting, primal experience in the history of American film. This is the scene that inspired what is now known as Yellingham Festival.

I’m kidding but I wish I wasn’t. Yellingham Festival is a musical event that takes place in Bellingham, Wa. of all places. Strange, I thought they pulled that name out of a hat. There are 40 bands, split into a 11 different shows over the span of 72-hours. You have your riot-starters of the pacific northwest rock scene (Helm’s Alee, Grenades) alongside your “What do you call rock and roll that has a violin?” (Baltic Cousins, The Solvents) Paired with your “What do you call that, punk?” bands (What What Now, Monogamy Party). There are also other familiar acts like Shelby Earl and Karl Blau, if name recognition is something that you get off on. I think there are two really cool things about this festival:

1) There are a ton of bands that I’ve heard about but never actually seen. Surely, I’m not the only person in Western Washington that feels this way.  Cat From Hue, Mountainss, Footwork and Wildildlife are just a few names that I’ve seen on posters or heard on the lips of strangers but have never witnessed for myself. Maybe you’ve seen those bands but haven’t seen one of the other three dozen bands that are rocking this weekend. Now is the best time to do so. Is there anything better than a good house show? The correct answer is no.

2) Yes, this entire festival takes place in houses all over the Bellingham area. I implore you to use your manners at all times. Don’t be a dick. Don’t trash someone’s house because you are caught in a moment of rock and roll passion. I don’t speak for those who are opening their houses for this event, but if someone fucked up my house after I was kind enough to let them in…guess who is grabbing a large kitchen knife and giving you a child-like three count to get-the-fuck-out? That would be me, your generous now incensed host. The hosts of this event are not making any money so don’t pretend to use that as a motivator to act unruly. The suggested donation is $5 per show. No booze. No drugs (smoke pot in your own damn car, hippie). All-ages.  Shows will be taking place on April 15th, 16th and 17th.

April 7, 2011

Grudge Rock! Grenades vs. He Whose Ox Is Gored

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Two bands. Two sets. One prize. In the words of Johnathan Davis Are you ready?

For those who do not know but better ask somebody, Grudge Rock is done in the mold of the legendary television game show “Family Feud”. No need to fret, Mr. Richard Dawson and his polyester suits will not be making an appearance. Louis Anderson, Steve Harvey and Ray Combs will not be asking your relatives to step up to the podium. Ladies and gentlemen, this is rock and roll, therefore this game show must be  executed accordingly. Every first Thursday of the month,  Jake Stratton (former vocalist for legendary band Blood Hag) brings two bands together to fight to the death answer questions and play music for the warm bodies in attendance. The semantics of delightful mayhem:

The questioning of bands will be split into halves. Each half consists of approximately 5 questions for your giggling pleasure. At the end of the first half, whoever is winning gets to decide whether or not they want to play immediately or wait until the end of the show. If you’re vaguely familiar with American Football (the sport, not the band) then you understand this is eerily similar to a “coin toss”. Sports combined with music not named MTV’s Rock and Jock? Mind explosion. Whoever has the most points at the end of the game wins…just like sports! The winner gets all of the door money. The loser ges various goodies from local businesses so they don’t go home broken and suicidal. This is insane. Let’s get to our contestants! Grenades are one of my favorite local bands of the moment. Click on their band name and watch their hands move really fast courtesy of Joonior Studios. Nine out of ten dudes that wear all black, all the time say this band slays. Those dudes in funeral attire don’t know much about fashion, but they know their vicious rock and roll. Grenades are a healthy combination of Breather Resist (if they were not so weird) and the finer elements of late 90′s hardcore. What do I mean by the last remark? Think of the more intelligent bands on Equal Vision and other labels during that time period. Although they don’t really sound all that alike, I am also reminded of  The Minor Times when I hear Grenades. I feel tempted to compare them to a certain hardcore band who called Seattle home during the 1990′s. This “mystery” band was also on Hydrahead Records and played the best B-52′s cover the world has ever heard. I don’t have the heart say that band’s name, let alone compare them to anyone. It’s too painful. Grenades are a pleasant distraction for a love that is stuck somewhere around turn of the millennium. We’ll man the ramparts.

He Whose Ox Is Gored is a band that quite a few of my friends like but I haven’t seen yet. With a name like that you know they aren’t in the business of playing twee-pop or gospel music. They have a certain “we’re taking the walls down with us” thing going on that draws comparisons to Isis. You know what I’m talking about, a brief drum fill or a flam on the snare to let the listener know that someone is about to play an F-chord in drop-D and I’m going to hit my huge crash cymbals at the same time. This band also gets compared to Torche (ie: “Cloven Hoof)” but I don’t like Torche so I won’t go there. If I were still a kindergarten teacher talking to my kids, I would tell them that He Whose Ox Is Gored is a band with “pretty neat sounds” that might inspire some creative play dates amongst friends. I’d also tell them not to listen to this kind of music too loudly on headphones because of their sensitive hearing. Unfortunately if any five-year-old played this kind of music on a stereo they would either be committed or thought of as some sort of savant. That’s a lot to deal with when you don’t even pack your own lunch for school. Parents just don’t understand.

Doors are at 9pm. The show starts at 10pm. I can’t tell you how much it costs because I can’t read it on the poster. I need new contacts.