Tonight in Seattle:  

Best of

These are a few of our favorite things: best all-around photos and moments of 2011 {pt. I}

{Telekinesis / by Victoria VanBruinisse}

There were so many great times in 2011 that we've had to divide them up into little compartments just to review them all: there are the photos that captured everything in the perfect just-so kind of way, forever burning the days and nights into the backs of our minds and our notebooks, and the moments where the light was less than perfect but we were swept off our feet nonetheless. Even though we're likely forgetting some key {literal and metaphorical} snapshots from both categories, we've taken a crack at listing our favorites spanning back to January of this year.

{The Young Evils / by Victoria VanBruinisse}

Favorite photo-and-moment #10: Michael Lee {of The Young Evils} :: Just the other month -- was it November? -- we found ourselves at the Rendezvous in Belltown for a most-excellent set from our friends The Young Evils, who put on a performance so good that it left us practically beside ourselves at the thought of new music coming from their camp sometime in 2012. While they shook and swayed the stage, we managed to snap our tenth-most-favorite shot of the year in between applause and hollers of bass player Michael Lee, who was looking particularly dapper that evening all dolled-up in a suit and tie. His whole vibe had a very alt.indiepop.McCartney-esque slice to it, and we're so glad we managed to capture it in a photo! {more photos from the show} {The Young Evils}

{Pike Place Market / by Victoria VanBruinisse}

{Pike Place Market / by Victoria VanBruinisse}

Favorite moment(s)-and-photo(s) #10: the Market in the summertime :: Right around the time of the Eddie Vedder / Glen Hansard shows this year -- July, to be exact -- we found ourselves with a bit of free time and some friends visiting from out of town {namely one of our imaginary Austin liasons, Amanda}, which made for an excellent excuse to get our tourist on down at Pike Place Market. Even though the sun this summer was moderate and fleeting, we were able to soak up some of it on the sidewalks and benches on some of the most picturesque spots in town, by far making it one of our favorite little slices to remember 2011 by! {more photos from the Market}

{Heligoats / by Victoria VanBruinisse}

Favorite photo #9: Heligoats :: Ah! Heligoats may just be our favorite knew-about-but-didn't-know-about-until-this-year act, which we happily discovered during his sets over the weekend of the Imaginary Holiday Spectacular. Seen above performing at Columbia City Theater earlier this month, Heligoats {in this incarnation as Chris Otepka, solo} stole our hearts and our kneesock-clad tapping toes all at once with his wordy, smart storylines and earnest, upbeat sound -- and to have this photo to remember it by makes it all the better! {more photos of the Imaginary Holiday Spectacular} {Heligoats official}

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These are a few of our favorite things: best festival photos and moments of 2011 {pt. II}

{This is part two of our one-two punch showcasing the best in festival moments and photos from 2011. Start from the beginning here, where you can see picks #10 - #6!}

{Wye Oak at Sasquatch! / by Victoria VanBruinisse}

Favorite photo #5: Wye Oak :: Standing in the pit at Sasquatch! at the small stage is always a treat -- you're right up next to the performers, and unless someone's career has exploded between the time they got booked and the time the festival rolls around, there's not too many people mobbing the area surrounding the stage. Such was the case for Wye Oak, and while they were already a good, established band then with a solid crowd turnout, we were able to get up-close-and-personal for their set to capture this mid-song moment. If you haven't seen one of their many appearances -- Sasquatch! 2011, the shows with the National at the Neptune last month, or from the "HOLY SHIT" file: that time they played with Shearwater at the Triple Door in 2010 -- get out to see them on mid-sized stages while you can. {more photos from Wye Oak's set at Sasquatch!} {Wye Oak official}

{Del / by Victoria VanBruinisse}

{Del / by Victoria VanBruinisse}

Favorite moment #5: Del :: So, technically, this happened *during* Austin City Limits and not *at* Austin City Limits proper, but we couldn't compile a best-of without mentioning Del.

One morning, while loading up on espresso and bagels while uploading photos pre-fest on a hundred-degree day in Austin, we met Del. And as it turns out, Del is just an artist in a corner at a cafe, akin to those writing furiously in a notebook -- only he doesn't blog it, "show" it, exist anywhere on the internet, or have openings in art galleries. This is just what he does, and after getting permission to take his photo and chatting with him for a bit, we learned that this inky artpile is Del's form of art-therapy journal-y processing. While it wasn't a We Are Augustines set or a moment in front of the stage with Elbow, it was nonetheless a highlight of our ACL trip and well-worth preserving here in our 2011 storyline!

{Sharon van Etten / by Victoria VanBruinisse}

{Sharon van Etten at Sasquatch! / by Victoria VanBruinisse}

Favorite photo(s)-and-moment #4: Sharon van Etten

{Aloe Blacc / by Victoria VanBruinisse}

{Aloe Blacc / by Victoria VanBruinisse}

Favorite moment-and-photo(s) #4: Aloe Blacc

What an amazing, amazing pair of sets these two put on at Sasquatch! this year. Sharon van Etten's sparse, gut-wrenching performance rang out all the way into the darkest corners of our hearts where the best reverb lies, and Aloe Blacc held up to every expectation we had going into the set. The fact that they both looked good doing what they both obviously love {and are so, so well-suited} to do just made capturing it in photo-form all that much easier. {more Sasquatch! 2011 photos} {more about Aloe Blacc} {SVE official}

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These are a few of our favorite things: best festival photos and moments of 2011 {pt. I}

{Zola Jesus / by Victoria VanBruinisse}

2011 was {is still!} a great year, not only for releases but also for live shows, festivals, and those grit-of-the-stage-under-your-fingertips kinds of moments that we have all come to love and live by: nights like The Head and the Heart blowing the roof off of Porterhouse in West Seattle, a few sweet Lovesick Empire sets, John Darnielle's solo show at UW, and some incredibly intimate events like David Bazan's performance at Barsuk Records and some killer in-studios at KEXP. And with that said, here's the start of {one of} our 2011 countdown, featuring our top moments and photos of the 2011 festival circuit:

{Andrew McKeag / by Victoria VanBruinisse}

Favorite photo #10: Andrew McKeag :: Whether he's taking a big stage with his regular band {The Presidents of the United States of America}, holding court as a Honky, or anything in-between, this man simply does his thing with an understated level of skill that most musicians can only hope to attain (and manages to look pretty damn good doing it, too). Pictured above as part of the Kasey Anderson and the Honkies set at this year's installment of Bumbershoot, Andrew made us pretty happy to have gotten to the 'fest in time for the early bands that day with this dead-on look into the lens. {more KA&tH shots from the 'shoot} {POTUSA official} {KA&tH}

WATERS at CMJ / by Victoria VanBruinisse}

Favorite moment #10: WATERS :: Maybe it was just that moment -- being New York City for a few days and suddenly realizing that the city has basically charmed your pants right off, and being totally okay with it -- in conjunction with some incredible live sets day after day after day,  but we really, really did very much dig the WATERS set that went on as part of KEXP's broadcast from the Ace Hotel for this year's CMJ. It was all those things you hope for from an indie rock band: big guitars, a cohesive sound, and an overwhelming sense of want-more! once the music stops playing, all wrapped up in a surprise as we hadn't seen or heard them enough previously to know what to expect -- get a taste of their glorious noise over at Stereogum, where a post this year offered a free download that's still up for the taking. {more photos of WATERS at CMJ 2011} {WATERS}

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Latest comment by: Yvonne: "I love Lemolo too - what a gorgeous picture of Meagan - wow! "

Recap: Visqueen's fare-thee-well performance at the Neptune

{Visqueen / by Victoria VanBruinisse}

This past Saturday, we said goodbye to our dear, dear Visqueen. The duo of Rachel Flotard and Ben Hooker (with a rotating team of equally disarming and talented friends on bass and rhythm guitar throughout the years) charmed a sold out crowd one last time. The evening couldn't have been any more sweet, or touching, or amazing. It's the night that we will all be talking about for years to come, about the last time Visqueen rocked our socks off: the final Rachel in-between song banter that made us laugh so hard we cried, and a final song that was so stunning, I weep buckets at just the mention of it. 

Rachel was able to cajole Broadcast Oblivion into reforming for this special night.  I'll admit, it's been a while since I've listened to my copy of Transmita Olvido to sing along to "False Starts for Blackened Hearts" (on repeat), but it was magical to enter the showroom as they were working up a sweat. Capping off their set with a drum off between Ben Hooker and Coady Willis (who you might have recognized as a Murder City Devil), they really set the tone for the rest of the night: the next few hours were going to be full of surprises, and the fun of a good ol' fashioned party among friends. Visqueen entered the stage to “I Had the Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing, hugging and laughing and taking the edge off of the finality of it all, and cementing the fact that when it comes down to it, we're all still going to be BFFs -- nomatterwhat.

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A mixtape of Imaginary Liz's Best of 2011 {so far)

Imaginary Liz's Best of 2011 pt 1

Rather than thinking of it as 2011 being halfway over, I prefer to see it as we're all halfway to my birthday {December 24th if it's not on your calendar already}. To celebrate, and take stock of this year's releases thus far, I've put together a mix of my favorite songs of 2011 {so far}.

This year has brought some predictably great albums from friends such as Mountain Goats, Okkervil River, BOAT, Matt & Kim, Telekinesis, Bright Eyes. I feel like I've been waiting for a fresh batch of songs from Brown Recluse for years. I love every note they play and having a two hearty releases in one year {Panoptic Mirror Maze and Evening Tapestry} makes me overjoyed.

Other bands, like When I Was 12 and Dangerous Ponies, I am thankful for crossing paths with for the first time this year.

And then there are the folks that have left me wanting more more more (I'm looking at you Oregon Bike Trails and Forbidden Friends)! Huge thanks to You Aint No Picasso for bringing Oregon Bike Trails to my attention. OBT fellow, singer/songwriter Zach Yudin, from Santa Monica, Ca., is quite the mysterious dude - only having a cassette tape release earlier this year (hand painted, limited to 50!) and a couple other MP3s swirling around the web.

Forbidden Friends, a side project by Thermals frontman Hutch Harris (with Michael Lerner of Telekinesis on drums and fellow Thermals Kathy Foster and Westin Glass backing him up), is still in the 7" only phase, and needless to say I'm counting down to a full album of FF stuff.

In short, I can't recommend the below songs and full releases enough. To help convince you of their brilliance, I made a virtual mix cd!

The tracklisting of my {hopefully very convincing} mix cd is:

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Latest comment by: imaginary liz: "Yeah, me too. I'm hoping to get mine posted sometime next week? Hopefully it will get back up to 80 degrees by then? ;)"

Tennis Pro — Shimokita Is Dead

Usually when a band gets down to business time it isn't always fun: it can be a release of pent up disappointments and missed chances. But Tennis Pro do a complete 180 degree breakdance spin and, instead, throw a party of a record. And their world domination just means fun for everyone at that party. The opening lines of tight gut-funk opener "Dance Hit Number 1" (this isn't a track on a UK greatest wavo-disco 12" from the 80s compilation??), upon which is preached, "Are you downtrodden my brother? Afflicted, my son? Well, pick yourself up, you're not done."

From there, drummer Sean Lowry, vocalist and guitarist David Drury, and multi-talented bassist Philip Peterson (oh yeah, vocals, strings, backrubs, brass, breaking glass, keyboards, champion snogger, knows a guy, who knows a guy, works a room, keeps swinging, et al) just fully determined to break out of the miasmatic indie rock ghetto of focused failure and small club woes. The big fat bold blue sound of Shimokita Is Dead? puts all the clocks to bed and demands the guests have at least one more, to paraphrase the sweet warning of " Saratomi Bicycle" -- those beloved fellow partiers being Dita Vox (Thee Emergency!), Cristina Bautista, guitarist Matt Black, Jessica Abbey, and Blake Jeffcoat. Their crisp, welcomed talents add to the jumped-up franticness what all those weed dealers dealers did for The Clash on Sandinista! Except in one third the size and only dubbed out at the end of a couple surfy, bonfire-glowing burn-down tracks (and you got to have those by 3 am).

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Latest comment by: Chris Estey: "

Thanks for encouraging me to really get into it, Amie! I literally couldn't stop spinning it for days on end. So many aural pleasures pour out with repeated playing. Much appreciation!

"

Photoessay: The Head and the Heart win us over... again.

{The Head and the Heart / by Victoria VanBruinisse}

Friday night was one of those nights we forgot we were working -- of course, Friday night being the sold-out show at the Showbox with The Head and the Heart, Lemolo, and The Devil Whale. In between the big-guitar feel-good riffs of the The Devil Whale, Lemolo's mesmerizing sparse brand of genius, and THatH's forty-five-minutes-to-the-minute (plus a three-song encore) professionally polished set, we managed to snap off a few shots -- you know, when we weren't dancing, swooning, tweeting, or singing along to every word coming off the stage.

We're happy to report that THatH's songs have evolved beautifully, and having been present at last summer's Sonic Boom and Comet shows, we can safely say that not one ounce of that thing they do was watered down by the size of the stage or the vibe of the room. Naysayers be, um, nayed! Instead, here's a big fat bravo, lady and gents. You've certainly earned it.

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Latest comment by: Yvonne: "Lemolo is now my favorite band. Thank you for posting these great pictures from Friday night. Especially the picture of Meagan with her hair a flying - stunning!"

Live Recordings You Cannot Live Without

Portishead Roseland NYC LiveIt seems that a lot of people I speak with are not fans of live albums. Contrarily, I have always been a collector of both official and bootleg live releases by groups that I follow.

In many instances, bands sound so much better live, especially when considering dated production periods such as the mid to late 1980s. When great songs are marred by stale production, similar era live recordings often sound so much more natural and powerful than their often rigid studio counterparts. In other examples, artists work out different arrangements or simply have more time to develop a track when it is performed over a period on the road. Of course, many live releases are not definitive, but following are a few that I consider to be as good, if not better than the original album renditions.

Portishead:Sour Times” (from Roseland NYC Live, 1998): This murky, intense version of “Sour Times” was occasionally performed in this arrangement during the tour for their eponymous album (1997) and is included on the CD (but not the DVD) of Roseland NYC Live. This amazing and rather different rendition was actually recorded in San Francisco in April of 1998. I will take this over the standard version any day.

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Latest comment by: Imaginary Steve: "

The one that immediately comes to mind is a Danish television performance of "Dazed & Confused" from Led Zeppelin's self-titled three disc DVD. The explosive levels of distortion are largely unintentional but that (along with the the ...

Come see my live interview w/Steve Ignorant of legendary punk band Crass tomorrow night {4/26} at The Comet

You should come to my (absolutely free, though 21+) live interview with Steve Ignorant tomorrow night (April 26) at The Comet starting at 6 pm - because Crass, the band he sang vocals for, sound better and truer and more meaningful than ever in these uber-apocalyptic times. Have a listen to their greatest non-hits collection Best Before 1984, and you will hear the voices and noises of women and men beating back the darkness as hard as they could. Whether that despair be political repression, male domination, religious hypocrisy, Crass sounded like the Sex Pistols and The Clash on overdrive, in song revolutions so real you could taste the tear gas and pints that fueled them.

As keenly described in his honest and humorous autobiography The Rest Is Propaganda (scribed with Steve Pottinger), which Ignorant will be signing copies of for sale at The Comet, he was a fun-loving teenager when he began hanging out at the Dial House, a hang-out for artists helmed by Crass co-founder Penny Rimbaud. Ignorant was kicked off the dole for a bad attitude, and didn't have much hope given him growing up in a poor, violent part of England. When he saw the near-30 year old book designer and vegetarian Rimbaud living life exactly the way he wanted to, he came along, in his own fashion. Wine-soaked nights ranting about the UK going right wing, along with seeing Rotten in the Pistols on TV and Simonon of The Clash commanding mod coolness live, put these two men into a spoken word/drums duo for rants like "Do They Owe Us a Living?" and "Reality Asylum."

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Wire

at Neumos

Wire Live at Neumos - Photo by: Amy Bernard

Most Wire fans agree that their first three albums are excellent recordings that still sound as vibrant and challenging today as they were upon their initial release approximately thirty years ago.

Pink Flag, Chairs Missing and 154 are all timeless classics in their own right and each successive LP was vastly different from the previous one, making them that much more impressive. Interestingly, Wire fans tend to have wildly fluctuating opinions about their subsequent output. Personally, I quite like the 1980s albums too, but have not exposed myself nor been exposed to any of their records after that period. Last Wednesday evening (April 13), Wire took the stage at Neumos and offered a retrospective of their entire career, which provided the audience with a sampling of each decade’s evolution through music.

Photo by: Amy Bernard

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