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Imaginary Liz's Best of 2013 Countdown: Tullycraft

Tullycraft - Lost in Light Rotation It's no secret I have an inside scoop on what goes on in the Tullycraft camp, so I've actually have heard this whole album. A hundred times. Because I just can't stop listening to it.

I was a fan long before I infiltrated their compound, so it's been extra hard to keep from quoting lines and exclaiming about how much I love it. But now that cover art is finalized and a release date has been set, I CAN!

The new album, Lost in Light Rotation, will strike a chord with newbies and longtime loves alike. This time around, Tullycraft has given us an album that is more concise and concentrated with relentless indie-pop guitar and vocal twists that will make you spin on the dancefloor until you drop. 

The result is a set of songs that have the hutzpah of "Our Days in Kansas," the demureness of "DIY Queen," a touch of the electro-craft of "We know You're Cute You Told Us," lo-fi rockeries of "Josie," and that doesn't even include a descriptor for the recently released single, "Lost in Light Rotation" {on 7" vinyl on Magic Marker (US) / Fortuna Pop (Europe)} which you can highly rotate on soundcloud.  There's a video for this single making the rounds (and posted below) and there's an added bonus: the 7" includes an exclusive b-side - a cover of Yazoo’s "Bad Connection."

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Latest comment by: Steve Robinson: "So jealous that you have such an in to the band. I bought the limited cassette, but can't seem to find the vinyl for sale on Magic Marker's website. Fingers crossed Tullycraft will play a show soon (when I'm not out of town)!"

Imaginary Liz's Best of 2013 Countdown: Math & Physics Club

For the last few months the boys of MaPC have been teasing us with photos on their Facebook page of them recording at K Records' Dub Narcotic Studio in Olympia. Just last week, February 11, 2013 to be exact, they posted a photo with the caption "Finished mixing the new album today - woohoo!"  To me that sounds like new MaPC songs are just a couple moons away! 

But, these things sometimes take time so I'm not sure when the record will be done or exactly how many songs will be on it (is the above photo a complete tracklisting?) or what it's going to sound like, but with MaPC, you know it's going to be twee-licious

I was able to pull a couple details from the group about the new record.  It's going to be titled Our Hearts Beat Out Loud and the cover art will be designed by Tae Won Yu, the amazing designer most lovably known for your favorite Built To Spill cover art and super sweet illustrations that you can put in your Buy Olympia shopping cart.

Sidenote: I bet I'm going to love the songs "It Must Be Summer Somewhere" and "Our Own Ending."  Any gut feelings on which songs you'll love the most based on the song title?

In the meantime, we can all meet at the Tractor Tavern on February 24 when Math & Physics Club open up for Ocean Blue.  We can grill them for details then!

Until that time, we can just stare at the above tracklisting and listen to my favorite song from their second album on repeat, "We're So DIY":

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Hey Marseilles — Lines We Trace

Lines We Trace opens up suddenly, with all kinds of ache laced through the echoes of a well-worn Andrew Bird album, cut beautifully with strains of Matt Bishop's unmistakable vocals. It's a powerful track ("Tides"), the line I would trade ten thousand days / for one more hour with you immediately vaulting the listener into a pile of Polaroids, to sift through the sweet nostalgia of every relationship they ever had that didn't quite work out. As sudden as the physical start of this album is the realization that Hey Marseilles has matured, with a new depth to their composition, yet with that familiar I'm-telling-this-story-right-to-your-soul songwriting that we've come to know and love.

For those who have gotten by these last few years on live shows, the occasional single release, and 2008's To Travels and Trunks; Lines We Trace is the equivalent of a new apartment in a town you love: you know the roads around it like the back of your hand, but you've never seen the sunlight through the windowpanes quite like this. Everything that's wonderful and familiar about Hey Marseilles is present -- a profound earnestness, those unmistakable chord progressions, the orchestral swells and pitches -- but delivered with new perspective, more wisdom, and perhaps the sight of a first laugh line in the bathroom mirror.

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Latest comment by: Kim: "I cannot wait to hear this entire album. "

Imaginary Watch This: A Breakthrough in Field Studies' "Waves on the Ocean"

My talented friend Jon Wooster keeps breaking my heart (but in all the good ways) with his new musical adventures, and one of the adventures I'm loving the most is A Breakthrough in Field Studies, who released this video for "Waves on the Ocean" and a full-length LP last year ... (I am just fucking lame and haven't remembered to post it until now).

Anyway! Yeah. ABiFS is rocking my knee-socks off with this power poppy tune, and I definitely need to get my butt out to see them live soon! Have you guys seen 'em? I think they're fantastic. 

{See A Breakthrough in Field Studies play at The Tractor Tavern on Tues, Jan 22 w/Daughters of the Dead Sea, The Steveadore, and Mannequin BBQ for only $6!! Doors @8pm. 21+} 

Looking back at the best of 2012

As is the case for years past, best of 2012 lists for this Imaginary Girl are rarely about standard operating procedure -- ranking the best X number of albums in specific order, with exacting reason, is just not my jam. Taking the time at the end of the year to look back at how it all went down is more of an overarching retrospective for me: it's about the shows, the photos, the moments, and the tracks that made up how it all looked and felt, and how I'll remember it for years to come. Sort of like an A/V mixtape that I'll put on the shelf with this year's label on it.

With that said, here's what stood out for me for the past eleven-plus months, with 'best' being a relative term, of course:

{Nada Surf at the Tractor / by Victoria VanBruinisse}
Nada Surf at The Tractor by Victoria VanBruinisse

Best show: tie, Nada Surf at the Tractor and the first night of Jeff Mangum at the Moore

Even if either night of the Jeff Mangum show at the Moore back in April medium-sucked, it would probably go down in the year's best-ofs anyway -- simply because of the fact that it's Jeff Motherfucking Mangum and Holy Shit, Dude Did A Tour That We Never Thought We'd See. But as anyone who went knows, neither night even came close to medium-suck: I did prefer night one to night two, but both performances were staggeringly impressive and downright incredible to witness. Plenty of bands put on plenty of good shows in 2012, but when I reflect on things I loved about this year, that first night absolutely takes the cake -- it managed to transcend from Super Incredible Performance to bordering on Show-Related Out-Of-Body Experience.

So how could something like a Jeff Mangum show tie with a Nada Surf performance, you ask? I know. I've been asking myself the same thing and it just... does. Nada Surf graced us with a few performances this year, and it's likely that most folks went to the show at the Neptune in March -- but a few hundred of us were lucky enough to get tickets for the February show at the Tractor, where the band destroyed a sold-out room with one of the tightest four-piece performances I can recall in semi-recent history. For me, it ranked up there with some of my favorite Wrens shows, and knowing my allegiance to the Wrens as you do, you know that's a pretty big statement for me to make. Perhaps it was the recent obsession I'd had with listening to "When I Was Young" and the impeccable timing of the show being a few weeks into said obsession, or maybe it was just something in the air that night -- but whatever it was, the combination of all of it left a wonderful sting of a mark.

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Single Spotlight: The Purrs' "Rotting On The Vine" b/w "You, The Medicine and Me"

Seattle's melodic and menacing The Purrs have a new 45 single out, their first for esteemed new local label Fin Records. It arrived on this past December 4, 2012 into record stores, the mailboxes of bedsit-basement vinyl hoarders, and dingy drug fronts all over Seattle (what, you think that store on 1st just sells "hats"? Just kidding about that).

It's a limited edition, hand-numbered on clear-colored vinyl with a sweet inner sleeve, the new songs a tantalizing if speed-bitter taste of an upcoming full length. None of the packaging would matter of course, if the Purrs weren't still delivering the bad-for-you goods, and on these two tracks they do. Jima (bass and vocals), Jason Milne (guitar/backing vocals), Liz Herrin (guitar/backing vocals), and Craig Keller (drums) are like a garage band invited to play the Sweet Sixteen party of the daughter of Dennis Hopper's character in Blue Velvet; he thinks of 'em as a rock band for the kids, but any straights will be a little disturbed by the beat menace. They'll dance but make sure no one chloroforms them from behind and drags them off for black market slavery.

The A side, "Rotting On The Vine," swirls and thrashes about a young lady whose world is becoming infected with worsening paranoia, in the midst of impulsive consumption -- classic '60s anti-capitalist material, but not uncompassionate. Jason sings about identifying with the protagonist, who though kept in gated protection can feel their status in the world slip away ("don't try to fight it / just relax"). I hang on the juxtaposition of scattered half-remembered scenes tossed into a druggy binge of lead guitar and go-go boot bass. A good old 19th nervous breakdown bomp, with enough mystery ("and so's your sister") to entice multiple further playings. 

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Latest comment by: Christian Fulghum: "Thank you for the beautifully written review about a fabulous record! "

Fall rotation: The Pharmacy, The Coup, Dum Dum Girls, Doug Stanhope, King Tuff

Autumn is a favorite, TIG-cherished time of year, but that isn't necessarily good for new music for me: I am a sentimental bastard and tend to pull out worn-down LPs by my long-time sources of melancholic joy, rather than creeping the current release racks for song-buzz. Besides that, this year Sean Rowe's summer-released The Salesman and the Shark wouldn't stop pounding on my door and nibbling on my toes whenever I hit the 'wake up!' button on my iPod. (Don't want to short-cut it too much, but if you love the croaky love-monk rummy-rheumy ruminations of L. Cohen, V. Morrison, and T. Waits, get into his second Anti- album ASAP.) There was at least one full-length that should have been in that hot-months sweep though, which I end this seasonal assessment off with, in case anyone missed it. 

The Pharmacy (Old Flame Records), Stoned & Alone - 7.8

Scottie Yodher is his own Vashon Island-raised maestro-dude, but in just a few short years he's cheerily channeled all those isolated and passionate feelings of being a musician in the Pacific NW into superb pop rock bursts of glistening garage roque. Brendhan Bowers comes along to help flesh out these awkward little creatures of longing, like the Badfingering "Baby Be," the misery strum-lunge of "Josephine," and the keys-twirling "Dig Your Grave." Somehow I couldn't totally warm up too much to the seven inch they released under that title earlier this year, but this is fully blossomed and rosy-cheeked, no matter how times Yodher was kept awake all night pouring it all out. Stoned & Alone sounds ready to surround the surreal humor of scenes in a Monkees-style Saturday morning TV show for moptops who ride second hand Vespas (or have lovers who do). 

The Coup (Anti-), Sorry To Bother You - 8.5

Possibly my favorite new album of the year, in a scrap with the Rowe, which is fascinating because both are on Anti- (kicking ass there, kids). Why do I love The Coup so much? Boots has a flow that is neither concerned with pleasing the suburban punters or the inner city poseurs; it's both snake oil revolutionary and working class caustic, somehow trustable by not sounding like anything you've hard on the radio in the past twenty years. (That is a good thing, trust me.) Like a lot of punk rock, Riley has lived and learned the system against the hot-heads in power or powerless, but has devoured enough empowerment not to be melodramatic about his own bruises or boring about what damage he can cause. He knows theory but sounds like he's read more at PM Press than a mere anarchist pamphlet, or chased an MFA doing weird things with her elbows and hands as she choppily unpacks abuse she's read about. Unlike a lot of new wave, it's weird and quirky and funky and a post-punk geezer like me knows most of the samples (Art of Noise! Alice Cooper! I could do this all night). This is about something, but isn't oblique in sharing it, unlike other adult rap that doesn't want its older brother scowling for mysterious freak outs like "We've Got A Lot To Teach You, Cassius Green" (what the fuck is that all about?). It's all technically called hip-hop, but it actually moves a story along more than that it IS hip-hop (who cares?), give me your money, blah blah. The Coup is party music for heads, both smart ones and freaks; a full album of the kind of synth-driven power pop Prince made ("I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man") that doesn't leave out the possibility of a guillotine for social change. The Coup is the MC5 of hip-hop, which scares the Man now as it did then.

Dum Dum Girls, End of Daze EP (Sub Pop) - 8.7

I already thought the world of Dee Dee and her chilly, sonorous blasts of well-read black licorice-flavored punk-into-power pop bomp, Menthol-smoke blown Girl Group romantic desolation, and late night Dusty In Memphis appreciation soul-ache. But working with Sun Rose Wagner of The Raveonettes as well as longtime mentor Richard Gottehrer ("whose track record includes the Brill Building, CBGB, and Sire Records," and if those ring pop culture bells, we share the same church). These five pretty slices up the arm of the listener send shivers down the spine, casting failed love affairs into a Dante's Inferno of crushed empathy and bone-broken medicated bliss. "And I hate the trees, and I hate the flowers, and I hate the buildings and the way they tower over me," she sings, soaking in the sadness of the city and turning it into a celestial cathedral about as beautiful as Chrissie Hynde ever harmonized (no shit). The upcoming full-length is going to be ferocious/gorgeous, I have every expectation from this sumptuous five song communion.

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Tea Cozies — Bang Up

Here is some fantastic news to brighten any grey Seattle Fall day -- our favorite garage-surf rockers the Tea Cozies are releasing a new EP on October 30! I don’t think I have stopped randomly breaking into “sha lalalala”-style choruses since their last album Hot Probs dropped. Their latest effort, titled Bang Up, is a five-song feel-good funhouse that’s filled with three-chord riffs and dreamy pop vocals.

Bang Up was recorded over the summer and features the Tea Cozies’ distinct brand of 60’s girl group harmonies blended with effervescent surf pop rhythms. Briefly venturing into the darker reaches on “Cosmic Osmo,” you get a taste of their more rough edge capabilities and quirkier sound. But it doesn’t last long: they quickly take you back to dreamland in the closing track “Silhouette in a Suitcase,” which catapaulted me straight to the days of Veruca Salt and Blur.

The highlight is “Muchos Dracula,” a wonderfully retro-spooky monster ode reminiscent of The Munsters theme song and Creature From the Black Lagoon Not to mention, it’s bloody perfect for Halloween! All in all, the Tea Cozies didn’t stray far from the familiar, but instead work on perfecting what they already know. And that’s okay by me because heck, it had me skipping down the street.

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Menomena — Moms

For their fifth full-length album, Moms, Portland’s Menomena underwent a significant lineup change: front man and multi-instrumentalist Brent Knopf left the group in January of 2011 to focus on his own project, Ramona Falls. Thankfully, the remaining members of the band -- bassist and saxophonist Justin Harris and drummer Danny Seim -- are not short on talent in their own right. Friends since high school, the pair simply kept the band together as a two-piece, and the result is an album that proves to be Menomena’s most lyrically intense and earnest work yet, and also one of their best.

While the sound of the band occasionally argued and feuded as a three-piece, now that they are down to two, the decision making process has been refined and by all accounts, it appears as though the recording of Moms was very collaborative and productive. The songwriting and singing duties for the ten tracks are now split evenly between the two members; with Harris and Seim taking the lead singing role on five tracks each, even alternating back and forth from track to track.

The most striking development on Moms is the straightforward (and at times downright dark) lyrical moments on the album, which is often seemingly directed at their upbringing and family dynamic. Seim’s mother died when he was young, and Harris was raised by his mother after his Vietnam-veteran father walked out on the family when he was still a teenager. A strong example is this line from the Harris sung “Pique”, where he sings: Now I’m a failure / cursed with male genitalia / a parasitic fuck / with no clue as to what men do / impossible to love. On “Heavy Is As Heavy Does” Harris touches on a multitude of topics including family (Heavy are the branches / hanging from my fucked up family tree), religion (I’m not one for religion / but I can’t seem to shake this imagery) and relationships (Among six billion people / I want the ones who never wanted me).

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Heavy rotation: best of a yummy Summer

{Sean Rowe / by Victoria VanBruinisse.}

It's late summer and I have been listening to many refreshing albums, as the world heats up more than ever. And now, it's time for the Fall releases to come in, a smattering of which are below among a multi-artist round-up of what has been soundtracking my daily toil, night terrors, and lovely bits of trauma:

Nouela, Chants (The Control Group) - 8.0

Nouela was born to Norwegian and Korean parents, and learned to play everything (guitar, flute, clarinet, saxophone, bass) and has played in Mon Frere (her main first band), most recently released People Eating People (a musical roar of spiritual journaling), and has toured with Fall of Troy, Schoolyard Heroes, Say Hi, and Cursive. She is super-musical. She is mostly vox/keys now, bumping on the 88s as she Billie-Holidays all over the ex-lovers and habits she kicks to quit. PEP was a bit more diverse and jaunty; this is her complete cohesion and emotional maturation, occasionally just as ranty ("Fight") but often more explorative and sober. This is her most adult release, but it's still clever and thrilling and shows how Seattle artists can hanker down in their Ballard home-srudios and create private blisses that can be as bold in the heart as any "Jungleland." Is Nouela our Springsteen? She's born to run, but she ain't no rich Jersey bum. Let this tidal wave of creamy voice, sweet emotion, and exacto-slicing ideas slit and swarm around you till you pool toward shore.

Niki & The Dove, Instinct (Sub Pop) - 8.0

"What it takes to burn / what it means to breathe fire." Some mean that. "I'm ready to learn." Stevie Nicks is nightclubbing? Is she warm leatheretting now? (See/hear track #3, "In Our Eyes.") But, yeah. No. This is the least ironic alt-dance album you might hear all year. It bounces with weed seeds and mixed glitter thrown everywhere in its condo-clean art school dormroom, and when it coyly embraces you, it isn't sideways-safe and you're not the close-enemy, you're a prized pal. An expired-prescription generous collection of singles (including the first, "DJ, Ease My Mind," and the best, "Somebody") from this Swedish duo, which reads like a project designed to play all of Purple Rain live, but sounds like Kate Bush if she remembered to stay interesting. Instinct will not arouse arch politically correct polemics about race and kitsch. It's just a lot of fucking ABBA-infused fun.

Sean Rowe, The Salesman and the Shark (ANTI-) - 8.7

Last year Sean Rowe was lifted onto the same label as Neko Case, Tom Waits, and Nick Cave, with Magic, which had such sonorous, highly-detailed dark night of the soul suicide machine sonnets as "Jonathan" and the end of the world in a bourbon break up "Time To Think." Still, there was plenty of filler Rowe had sketched out to keep the barflys happy at all the open mics he practiced at through the Rots (Aughts for those of us on relief). But I loved it and was eager to hear the follow up, which has turned out to be twice as loaded with baritone-breathed, soul-swaddling song-soldiering than before. "I would not lose to junkies on the street," he sings on "Flying," a song that Cohen has been trying to write for ten years, "I built a highway out of dust and I was flying." Opening "Bring Back The Night" has all the heart-stoned Sunday afternoon urban resignation of Waits' own "Tom Traubert's Blues," but with less gritty distraction. "The Lonely Maze" has the best vocal melody ever stolen from a dearly barely remembered Classical tune I have no idea that it is, then doo-wops over to the blades of grass squinting up out of dirt and sand on the dusky boardwalk. "Downwind" is the absolute hit here, and if this was MY boy I would have insisted its laying low from the law, joining the carnival to stay out of the stink Beatnik bomp was sequenced first on this "platter" (does ANTI- make vinyl?!). Next up would be the chugging, churning Noir folk-funk of "Joe's Cult," which might be playing on KEXP right now. And: strings, pretty girls singing, trains, trains, trains. This is probably my favorite album of the year. A truly beautiful voice, wizened through experience and practice, lyrics well worth returning to again and again, and enough soul to smother an orphan. Hot cha.

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