Now that we’ve reached the top of our favorite local records countdown, we wanted to have links to all the reviews in one convenient place.
While yes, all these albums were released by either Portland or Seattle bands, we hope you don’t get stuck on “local” as the important part of the descriptor. Because no one outside of the Pacific Northwest released records we loved more than Fleet Foxes, Shabazz Palaces or Zoe Muth and The Lost High Rollers. So please, focus instead on “favorite.”
It was such a rich year for albums from the Pacific Northwest we couldn’t possibly only share ten records we loved, nor could we enumerate what our 31st or our 23rd favorite records. So next week we’ll be sharing 25 more local records released in 2011 you shouldn’t miss, in much more manageable alphabetical order.
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.
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)
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)
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.
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)
Read the rest of our MVPs including festival, debut album, 6th man & every writer’s personal MVP of 2011 (more…)
Over the next two weeks we’ll be counting down our 10 favorite records released in the Pacific Northwest in 2011. Follow along!
#8. Wild Flag – Wild Flag (Merge)
Composed of two-thirds of Sleater-Kinney and members of Helium, Quasi, and The Minders, Wild Flag has certainly got, as they say, chops. It’s not surprising that the Portland band’s debut was greeted with a media frenzy and waves of audience adulation. It is possibly surprising that these veterans of the coarse, political nineties have produced in their eponymous full-length a strong candidate for the feel-good album of the year.
I mean, mostly, the way it physically makes you feel. From the opening rhythms of “Romance” – which begins, appropriately, “Hey, can you feel it?” – the energy is undeniable and inescapable. Janet Weiss’ muscular drums are the music’s bobbing head; Carrie Brownstein’s vocals a fist pump, a pelvic thrust; Mary Timony’s sinuous voice its swaying hips. As the beat pushes you solidly into your body, psychedelic guitar warps coax you out of your mind. Dancing is not an option; it becomes a physical need.
Meanwhile, hedonistic, carpe-diem lyrics are constantly writing the checks that your ass is busy cashing. “Don’t try to fight it, ’cause you won’t / Let go, it’s not wrong,” instructs the trippy garage-rock closer “Black Tiles.” “For all we know we’re just here / For the length of the song.” “Short Version” advises, “If you want to thrill us / Stop staring with your little frown / When the feeling comes / You gotta throw your weary body down.”
The drums roll on, sometimes faster than arms should be able to move. The hypnotic psych-riffs loop. Even in its quietest times, Wild Flag is an upbeat romp; in the biggest moments it winds up into a full-on bacchanal. Wild Flag traverses the borderlands of dance music and rock ‘n’ roll, gathering the essence of both: the gut connection, the ruthless punch to the lower chakras. The glorious abandonment of your psychological constraints and the surrender to your physical urges. Throw off the sandbags and fucking MOVE.
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.
It was astonishingly ubiquitous (okay, overplayed), but every time I hear this I’m still astonished at how good it is. Adele’s voice finds its perfect showcase, hitting pleading high notes and low, dirty growls. “You’re gonna wish you / Never had met me,” the backup singers chirp ominously, as the kick drum pounds a threat. And through it all “Rolling In The Deep” remains ridiculously catchy, inspiring daily earworms and a million ill-advised sing-alongs (most of which were mine).
In this love letter to a a carefree moment in time, Webb extols the virtues of living just the way I’d like to: “free of fear and full of love.”
Camp Radio, “The Girl Who Stole My Motorbike”
This fuzzy powerpop charmer is so catchy that it gets stuck in my head every time I so much as see a motorcycle parked on the roadside.
Handsome Furs, “Serve The People”
Though inspired by the oppressive governments of east Asia, this song hits literally and figuratively closer to home since the recent wave of police brutality in response to the Occupy movement. “You kick ‘em in the head and you kick ‘em when they’re down / You don’t serve the people.”
Hawk and Steel, “Telephone Calls”
This beautifully mournful Americana piece swells to a tortured climax with heavy guitars and the rising lament of vocalist Peter Gardner before fading to a last sad whisper: “The telephone’s ringing down the hall / I wonder who you’re with tonight.” “Telephone Calls” finds the pathos at the heart of the traditional country song and presents it without devolving into caricature the way so much modern country does. This is the simple, prosaic sadness of the stranger next to you at the bar, expressed in five minutes of sonic poetry.
It’s a special thing to see anyone fully in their element. To see someone owning a moment in its totality, and in doing so, present the clearest expression of their own aspirations. Though Wild Flag held onto playing a Ramones cover until the encore at Neumos, the frenetic spirit of the seminal punk band was pulsing through the modern foursome’s entire set. Carrie Brownstein’s leering vocals contrasted catchy-as-fuck harmony hooks and guitar parts that vacillated between locked-in theme development and a bit of goofing off. Yeah, it’s just pop music for punks, but it was rare and satisfying sight to see a band of four where each personality stood out and still coalesced in the way Wild Flag in front of a very sold out Neumos on Friday.
If the band’s pedigree weighed on the room, Wild Flag wasn’t wearing that pressure on their shoulders. Brownstein hammed it up and generally brought levity to an otherwise expectant situation. Striking poses and sharing amused smiles with fellow guitarist and lead vocalist Mary Timony, that levity extended to the rest of the band. Janet Weiss reminds of what a true rock drummer brings to the table, a steady strength that everyone else can rely on always. So when you’ve mastered your instrument and vocal parts as these four have over the past year, what’s left but have fun with it? Comfortable as they were, the stage might as well have been their own practice space.
In openers Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives, Wild Flag might have found the only other four-part harmony I can think of where each member consistently represents their own distinct personality and still comes together as something more than the expected sum of their parts. Multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Seth Schaper often steals the spotlight with his wildman guitar work or vocal solos, and bassist/vocalist Kris Doty can tingle a spine or two herself with her vocal accompaniment. As Grow attempts to distinguish himself from any easy definition, he is in constant motion, both on stage and as a songwriter. Not someone to be predictable or easily pinned down, one never quite knows what to expect from a night out with Grow and Co., but Friday represented one of the most accessible presentations I’ve seen from the group.
Drew loves to throw the word “Gospel” out there, and though it’s certainly a part of his roots, he’s steadily sought to blaze a new trail for the Pastors’ Wives so as to upend any expectations. Three weeks of tour had shed much of the band’s extraneous flare and experimentation and they were instead letting the sinewy innards of songs work together and the guts transcend a simple melody or chord structure. This is rock and roll to be sure, but with something deeper motivating it than simple entertainment. This notion was brought home when midset for his only words from stage he acknowledged a new song called “Groundwire” was inspired in part by Seattle’s unexpectedly supportive response to an auto-accident that happened deep in last winter’s snow. Following the accident it wasn’t certain how Grow would recover. We asked ourselves how would an artist with not only personal creative momentum but building career momentum sustain such a show stopping injury? Would 2011 be a lost year for Grow? Friday showed none of our fears were warranted. Though the van crash resulted in an abrupt and temporary stop to Grow’s physical movement, it did nothing to stop his personal momentum.
Drew Grow and the Pastors Wives ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
Wild Flag’s Mary Timony ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
Wild Flag’s Carrie Brownstein ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
With their debut record out today on Merge Records, Wild Flag just might be your new favorite band from Portland, or your new favorite band from Washington DC. They are charmingly punk, the fist they punch you with will have chipped red manicured nails. They are Portland whimsy and DC toughness combined in hook-heavy, chugging tunes you can’t help but sing and bop along to. Midway through a song, you notice you’re dancing with your elbows and a huge grin on your face. Their new video for the single track “Romance” shows off Wild Flag’s sneering adorableness, as does their band bio which reads “apt adjectives for describing the band’s music: wild. Also: flaggy.” When your songs are this catchy and your members have the kind of chops Brownstein, Weiss and bandmates Mary Timony and Rebecca Cole, you don’t have to take yourself too seriously. Your tunes speak for themselves.
Wild Flag is about to kick off a national tour this fall to celebrate their debut record and Sound on the Sound favorites, Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives will be joining them for part of it. See if Wild Flag and the Pastors’ Wives are coming to your town and if they are, don’t miss ‘em. Seattle, that means schedule November 11th for Wild Flag. Portland, the band will be playing two nights at the Doug Fir for homecoming shows on November 9th and 10th. Seattle, again, maybe we should road trip?
I’ve never heard DCMF described as anything but an amazing experience, a weekend of performances, creativity, and collaboration in a place whose very name conjures visions of adventure. This year Dawson City has drawn in the talents of performers as diverse as Vancouver’s indie folk-rock geniuses Yukon Blonde and dance punks Shout Out Out Out Out, each of whom drive the crowd to musical ecstasy in their own way. Also included on the lineup are Amelia Curran, Rich Aucoin, and Shotgun Jimmie.
Naturally, Canada’s answer to SXSW has a more populist spin. NXNE is hosted in the country’s largest population center, and in addition to showcases and panels hosts free outdoor concerts by major artists right downtown.This year’s roster features everyone from Devo to the Dodos, including SotS favorites Shad, Land of Talk, Braids, P.S. I Love You, The Pack AD, and Dirty Beaches.
Wristbands are on sale now. Early bird pricing (through April 25) gets you a standard pass for $50 or priority access for $150.
A festival lover’s festival, Osheaga draws in the big names and this summer has added a third day to accommodate more of them. Headliners include Eminem, Elvis Costello, The Flaming Lips, Death Cab for Cutie, and Broken Social Scene. Unlike most big festivals, though, Osheaga takes place minutes from an urban setting, offering chances for hotel accommodation, extra-festival tourism, and late-night poutine in the city the dish calls home.
Three-day passes range from $217.50 – $369.50 and are available now.
Few festivals have more indie cred than one founded in part by former Eric’s Trip member and current solo songwriter Julie Doiron. Conceived in 2006 by Doiron and some friends as “a more feasible way to get all our friends together than a wedding,” the now-beloved Sappyfest will run for the sixth time this year. Though no lineup has been announced yet, there are reasons to feel optimistic: last year’s performers included Diamond Rings, P.S. I Love You, Cousins, Daniel, Fred & Julie, Hollerado, and Holy Fuck.
If you want to take the gamble, early bird passes are available now for $60.
Calgary’s Sled Island has booked a near-infinite lists of bands, including Dandy Warhols, Minus The Bear, Of Montreal, The Sword, Cursive, Thee Oh Sees, Justin Townes Earle, Wild Flag, Dum Dum Girls, Jeff The Brotherhood, and Starfucker. Do you like music? Then you will find something you like here.
Festival wristbands are on sale now for $179, or $349 for VIP access.
Prefer to visit Winnipeg when the temperatures are measured in positive numbers? You’re probably smarter than I. Spend a few days enjoying the weather just outside of town and taking in sets by Blind Pilot, Dan Mangan, Chuck Prophet, Jeff Tweedy, Imaginary Cities, and Tegan and Sara.
Tickets are on sale now; 5-day festival + camping passes are $229.
As most folk festivals aren’t just about folk, Winnipeg Jazz is not just about jazz. The festival’s Club Series hosts a varied line-up of independent artists like Blonde Redhead, Shad, and Quintron & Miss Pussycat, and the (free!) opening weekend offers Les Jupes, Royal Canoe, The Lytics, and The Appleseed Cast on an outdoor downtown stage.
Tickets are sold separately for Club Series and larger Theatre Series concerts, but one $75 pass allows access to all Club Series shows all week.
This festival has only announced a few names, but they’re doozies: Stars, Great Lake Swimmers, Plants and Animals, The Wooden Sky, and Jenn Grant.
$60 Early Bird weekend passes available May 20th.
May 20, Edmonton, Alberta
May 21, Calgary, Alberta
May 22, Vancouver, BC
Cultivated by music website Weird Canada, this traveling one-day festival features 19 underground Canadian bands (this [http://weirdcanada.com/2009/07/safe-language/] is not those [http://www.myspace.com/feralchildrenseattle] Feral Children) on two stages. SotS crush-band Dirty Beaches and paganesque fog-folk mystery man Wyrd Visions are on the bill along with Makeout Videotape, Red Mass, GOBBLE GOBBLE, The Famines, and a “Secret Surprise Guest” to be announced May 10.
We love Record Store Day. Our credit scores, do not. The annual celebration of independent record stores has become a day record lovers all across America save up for (or ignore the reality of their bank accounts completely) to stand in line to thumb through special 7”s and to see in-store performances from bands big and small. Record Store Day is both Black Friday and Christmas for record lovers. Like the true addicts we are, we’ll be making our rounds: Sonic Boom, Easy Street, Porchlight, Jive Time, Wall of Sound and Silver Platters all have scheduled stops.
Here’s a locally focused guide to releases, deals and in-stores tomorrow.
Local Record Store Day In-Stores
12pm ‒ Easy Street (Queen Anne) ‒ Peter Buck (signing)
1pm ‒ Sonic Boom (Capitol Hill) ‒ The Moondoggies (acoustic)
2pm ‒ Easy Street (Queen Anne) ‒ Duff McKagen’s Loaded
2pm – Sliver Platters (Queen Anne) ‒ Massy Ferguson
3pm ‒ Sonic Boom (Ballard) ‒ The Head and the Heart
3pm ‒ Sliver Platters (Queen Anne) ‒ Zoe Muth
3pm ‒ Easy Street (West Seattle) ‒ Grieves and Budo (signing)
4pm ‒ Silver Platters (Queen Anne) ‒ The Tea Cozies
5pm ‒ Sonic Boom (Capitol Hill) ‒ Telekinesis
7pm ‒ Easy Street (Queen Anne) ‒ The Head and the Heart
Notable Local Record Store Day Releases
Built To Spill – Ripple 7”
Damien Jurado – Live at Landlocked – 12”
Death Cab For Cutie – DCFC In Living Stereo 7”
Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues/Grown Ocean 12″
The Head and The Heart – s/t debut on Sub Pop (cd and vinyl)
Kill Rock Stars Compilations – 12”
Light in the Attic – Portable Shrines Magic Sound Theater Vol 1 – Double 12”
Nirvana – Hormoaning 12″
Pearl Jam – Immortality/Rearviewmirror 7”
Wild Flag – Debut 7”
Easy Street: Ticket Giveaways, swag and a photo show by Robertsen Ashman of local musicians including HATH at the West Seattle location.
Everyday Music: 20% of all used merchandise, 10% off all new merch
Jive Time: 20% off all records, CDs & DVDs, free hand-screened RSD Posters with purchases over $25
Silver Platters: 15% off regular prices
Sonic Boom: 10% off with two nonperishable items
“This one is for anyone who ever tried to do something in the world.” –Drew Grow
After crashing on couches and air-mattresses, we load up in the van after coffee and head to Portland around 9am. That night, Kelli will open another sold out Wild flag show at Doug Fir. Spirits are high, as a result of last night’s amazing show in Seattle. Kelli and the band are working hard to establish themselves in the music world, gaining one fan at a time. During our short afternoon in Portland, Kelli spends her lone hour off with a photographer who is a big fan of her work. Her commitment to interacting with her fans means she’ll even make time for someone she’s only spoken to on the phone so he can take press photos for his portfolio. While Kelli is at the shoot, the rest of us kick it around the house she shares with the Pastors’ Wives, relaxing before what is sure to be another long night followed by a very early morning. Some of the band even had to put in a hours at their day job today, as I’m witnessing finding time for tour and steady work is a tricky balance.
We arrive early at Doug Fir to unload and get set up. Tonight is another chance to impress a room full of people who are unfamiliar with Kelli’s music. After sound check, we all hang out in the green room with Wild Flag. Everyone is giving each other little pep talks about the show tonight. This is Kelli’s second time playing at Doug Fir but this will be a whole different experience. Tonight an even bigger crowd makes its way into the room as Kelli starts to play. As I stand there, I overhear people asking the name of the band. “Kelli Schaefer friend, you can find her albums in the back”. As usual there are a few moments of audience chatter, but once again during “Better Idea” the crowd shuts up and listens.The rest of the set is all cheers and awe from the crowd. Another audience is caught off guard by Kelli’s music and a voice that commands even the chattiest crowd’s attention.
Despite the early morning departure that awaits us, we all stay for the Wild Flat set. Those girls bring the rock and their epic set is worth the lack of sleep. We stay for the Wild Flag set which is an epic rock experience. We head home high on evening, ignoring the fact at least a 10 hour drive to Sacramento will come very soon.