Tonight in Seattle:  

AstroPOP! for August 2003

Imaginary rock and roll astrology CD reviews for August 2003

Leo {July 23-August 22}
Ah, summer! The long, hot days, the glare of the sun, the constant sweating. It's ok to admit it, Leo, you hate summer. You want to crawl into a hole dark and deep enough to beat the heat until we set the clocks back in the fall. Now I won't argue with you if you want to avoid the daylight (after all, I am an astrologer whose very job depends on waiting for nightfall when the stars come out) but at least take some artificial light with you: listening to Sounds of Summer - The Very Best of the Beach Boys (Capitol) is like spending a day at the beach without the greasy smear of sunblock and the grit of sand in your shorts. Like the hot season itself, a Beach Boys greatest hits reissue has become an annual ritual that you just can't escape. This year's model comes with some new stereo mixes including "California Girls," "Dance, Dance, Dance," and "Shut Down." The spooky "Heroes and Villains" is still the creepiest song ever recorded by the Beach Boys—and that includes their Charles Manson cover! "Heroes" helps balance out the wide-eyed naivety of longtime favorites like "Surfer Girl," "Help Me, Rhonda" and "Little Deuce Coupe." True, I suppose it's possible that 80 minutes of good-time sugary harmony might send you screaming from your hibernation cave, but look on the bright side, Leo—at least you'll be getting some fresh air!

Virgo {August 23-September 22}
You haven't gotten this far on your own, Virgo. This month you need to acknowledge those who have given you guidance along the way: your fourth grade art teacher, your first boss at your lawn-mowing service job, your grandmother. Like yourself, Sacramento/New York-based !!! knows where they come from. Without ever getting jokey, the eight-piece band pays homage to a record store's worth of forebears with an exuberant mix of funk/dance/punk, giving musical props to the Gap Band, James Chance, Gang of Four, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kool and the Gang, New Order, and, ok, even Kenny Loggins with their new 2-song ep single Me and Giuliani Down by the School Yard (A True Story) (Touch and Go). Both nine-minute songs squiggle and shimmy across the floor with such ease it makes you wonder why it's taken punks this long to want to dance (jumping up and down in one place notwithstanding). It just goes to show that it's never to late to tell someone that they've changed your life. Can you feel it intensify? Good, now go on and give grandma a call...

Libra {September 23-October 22}
Good luck is in the stars for you this month, Libra. You just got to believe, to paraphrase... I don't know, Lenny Kravitz—or Ravenna. It's obvious that Ravenna believe in something—cynics are never this passionate. Their debut cd Interruption (Broucek) spills over with emotional surges and lyrical appeals to "savor these times" and "try a different kind of breathing." The strong band is led by multi-pedaled guitarist Noel Paul, who clearly loves Radiohead so much that when he hears the National Anthem at baseball games I'll bet he says "th-they're playing the wrong song!" Vocalist Shelby Earl sings with crystalline, enunciated beauty, like Tori Amos without the anger. The songs rise, fall and rise again with a majestic sweep that belies the lo-fi basement recording. Libra, hang your good luck on Ravenna, because their star is only going to rise.

Scorpio
{October 23 - November 21}
Your stubborn streak this month has its downside, Scorpio. Sure, when your mouth runs on autopilot you tend to speak more freely, but what about the feelings of others? And apologies are a bitch, aren't they? It's time to take it down a notch. Gently. First, get calm with the very mellow Britta "Jem" Phillips/Dean Wareham collaboration L'Avventura (Jetset). It definitely sounds like more than just 50% of Luna: languid, half-spoken melodies, "Pale Blue Eyes"-inspired guitar, impeccable rhythm. The kicker here is that half the record is covers: from Madonna ("I Deserve It") to the Silver Jews ("Random Rules") to a surprisingly tender take on the Doors' "Indian Summer." Luna's signature sound unifies what could have been disjointed mess; Wareham and Phillips sensitively handle the disparate range of material. Soak up that sensitivity, Scorpio. You've got some fences to mend, and you're going to need it. And if Wareham & Phillips can come clean with a Doors cover, then you certainly can manage an "I'm sorry."

Sagittarius {November 22-December 21}
So lately you just feel different, Sagittarius? Look up. See those stars up there? See how they form a little heart-shaped pattern? That means that love is, quite literally, in the air for you this month.  Romance is about to blossom in all its fascinating, creepy glory—not unlike the way the new Eisley ep Laughing City (Record Collection) makes me both shiver and shine at the same time. Not since Bjork ran through that weird forest of bears and bunnies has the natural world been portrayed with such a compelling mixture of wonder, simplicity and terror: "On the mossy turf we'll dance 'til our feet shatter / our toes will splinter." Girls sprout wings, lightbulbs in pockets light up the woods, butter clouds drip into mouths. The Eisley sisters sing these lyrics with a starry-eyed other-worldliness that should serve as a caveat for you, Sag: love makes you feel many things, but most of all it makes you feel different.

Capricorn {December 22-January 19}
You don't just live your life, Capricorn. You "live" your "life." Yes, your entire month is in quotes—a densely-woven dookie chain of irony, self-awareness, and attitude. The best way to let everybody know about your new meta-lifestyle is to grab an old skool boom box and blast So Stylistic (Tommy Boy), the debut cd from Brooklyn's Fannypack, everywhere you go. A delicious mixture of Deee-Lite, Lil Kim and JJ Fad, Fannypack hides two old male DJ's behind three underage rapper girls. Cat, Belinda and Jessibel bring plenty of sass and surprising rhyming skills, and their voices-in-unison giggle with so much wink-winkin' that you'd swear the flutter of their heavily-shadowed eyelids never stops. Fannypack teases mega-stardom like it was the nerdy kid in the locker room. Sure it may be staged and calculated, but meta-lifers like yourself sleep through sincerity the way Jessibel sleeps through English class. C'mon Capricorn, let's get famous! Endquote.

Aquarius {January 20-February 18}
People can't always get a bead on you, Aquarius, and it frustrates you. This month you've got to make a choice: either enjoy your intrinsic inscrutableness, or speak up and tell us how you really feel. When you turn off your phone and stay shut in your room, are you truly depressed? Or are you "pulling a Mogwai?" Since their inception in 96, the Scottish five-piece has been writing songs that get labeled 'depressing' but really aren't depressing at all. Their title of their latest release, Happy Songs For Happy People (Matador), will probably get called 'ironic' a lot more than 'spot-on,' but to me the songs' churning guitars and dreamy melodies are cinematic and uplifting. Snappier than Sigur Ros, more traditionally tuneful than Massive Attack, Mogwai will be our clue—if we hear lead-off track "Hunted By A Freak" from your locked bedroom door, we'll know that you're feeling, well, happy.

Pisces {February 19-March 20}
You love the summer, Pisces, so much so that anyone can see the positive changes in you. The good weather makes the best parts about you get even better. You and the Oly, Wa quartet All Girl Summer Fun Band (K). Bolder and brighter than their 2002 debut, AGSFB's just-released 2 pogoes with abandon, cranks the amps, and displays more chutzpah and ambition than the last ten K Records releases combined. Sure, the band still shambles in places, but I'll wager that the eventual "3" will take out the Donnas by this time next summer. As it is, "Dear Mr. & Mrs. Troublemaker" is super-catchy and features the best use of a typewriter-as-percussion I've heard in a long time. As for you, Pisces, make sure you're storing up some of this good energy so that when the cold comes you won't be left out in it. Keep the All Girl Summer Fun Band close at hand, and you'll always have a great pop song and a sunny day in your heart.

Aries {March 21-April 19}
Aries, you're a team player, a social animal, part of the crowd. But sometimes you like to stand out on your own. Denver Dalley co-fronted Desaparecidos with Conor Oberst, but he didn't want to wait out yet another leg of the Bright Eyes tour before getting started on a new Desaparecidos cd. So Dalley formed Statistics and wrote and played everything himself (except some drums). For a one-man-show, Statistics' self-titled ep is a bit murky as a statement of purpose. The lead-off track "Another Day" adds keyboard loops to the Desa-style circular-riff guitar and repeats the existentialist's favorite lament "I wish I wasn't me." The rest of the ep plays out like a fast-paced, half-remembered dream that doesn't make a whole lot of sense—radio static and quiet guitar arpeggio interludes surround the loud standout track "Hours Seem Like Days," a nostalgic look back when art (including music and films) was created by hand, not computers. I'm not sure what Dalley has against, I don't know, "Finding Nemo" or Depeche Mode, especially considering his own ep contains liberal use of programmed samples, but I'm trying to take him at his word. Like yourself, Aries, Dalley likes to set himself apart from everybody else. Unlike yourself, maybe he needs to be part of a group in order to truly stand out.

Taurus {April 20-May 20}
Whether it's a dazzling sunset or the hottie at your favorite espresso stand, it's easy for you to get blinded by beauty, Taurus. It's enough to make your eyes sting and water sometimes, isn't it? Seattle four-piece the Glasses get blinded repeatedly on their debut ep, Sunbreaks—by wished-for girls who never arrive, by the anger in a lover's quarrel, or by the "orange eye in the sky" itself. With a jangly guitar sound that evokes early Built to Spill fronted by Quasi's Sam Coombes, the Glasses make pop music with a refreshing sweetness and confidence. In "Last Stand in the Final Scene," the Glasses assert that "you can't push the pushover this time," and it's clear that the band will stand up for itself. Hardly the shoegazing type, the Glasses aren't afraid to look up, stare straight ahead, and play their songs to the sun. And Taurus, if it makes your eyes tear up a bit, you can always blame it on the bright light.

Gemini {May 21-June 21}
Jealousy. You're above that sort of thing. Yah, your friends are moving into houses while you're still scraping by to pay your apartment rent, and they're driving back to the burbs (like Maple Leaf and West Seattle) while you're riding the bus home from work. How do you keep the bile at bay while the 8 lurches across Denny Way? Listen to Fist Fights, Hot Love the debut cd from Seattle's supercharged garage/punk quartet, the Earaches. Gifted purveyors of short-blast hi-energy rock, the Earaches profess their love for the Stooges, the MC5, the Oblivians, and Dead Moon (among others) in their blister-hot songs. From lead-off salvo "Bust Out!" to the last-call closer "Just Wanna Rock 'n' Roll,"  the cd grabs and throttles you like a drunk brawler in the Monkeypub. Every three-chord, lo-fi band knows that the industry is sick with the 'garage band craze' right now, but the Earaches are smart enough to realize that they don't need to get on superhero movie soundtracks in order to testify. Album highlight "I Used to be a Loser" sums up the Earaches' don't-give-a-fawk stance: "now I just relax and enjoy the ride." Long after the Vines and the Hives are forgotten and the White Stripes are shilling cell phones, the Earaches will still be bashing out the hits, content enough just to be making music. Oh, and you probably won't ever be able to afford to buy a house either, Gemini. So, just relax and enjoy the ride.

Cancer {June 22-July 22} You need a fashion makeover this month, Cancer—a clever one that you can pull off by mixing and matching stuff that's already in your closet. While you're playing dress-up, listen to "District Sleeps Alone Tonight" (Sub Pop), the latest ep single from the Postal Service, for mash-up-style epiphanies. With a melody that recalls Liz Phair's "Canary" and a bass line borrowed from the Human League, the album version of "District" almost seems too comforting and familiar to truly conjure the detached loneliness that the song's lyrics describe. Enter the remix. DJ Downfall melds a corkscrew Manchester-style bass line and a crazy sped-up hi-hat to give his version a jarring, intense new heartbeat. Meanwhile, ace DJ John Tejada down-twists "Such Great Heights" to a slo-mo drawl and layers some distorted synth washes for maximum cough syrup effect. A hushed, spacious cover of the Flaming Lips' "Suddenly Everything Has Changed" rounds out the ep—in the same way your 80's Winger pin works perfectly with your Fred Perry running jacket. You look great, Cancer, let's go out!

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