! = recommended
* = all-ages
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I recommend all these tunes because apparently I can't stop playing 'em: here's a quick alphabetical assessments of what's been hummin' in my iPod on Metro the past few weeks!
The Blank Tapes, "Coast To Coast" from the album Vacation
A little Zombies-meets-Badfinger surf hippie flower power pop from this (not surprising) SoCal band. The Blank Tapes is Matt Adams, an eight-track addict who piles on the tasty garage riffs atop lyrics about throwing the gear in the van and leaving baby behind, and not necessarily paranoid conspiracy theory podcasts. (Although there is a line about "Waking up the ghosts ....") Breathy a-has, peeling oranges, the radio is playing, as Matt and his pals hit your town. Sample lyric: "Malibu/touching you." Currently touring everywhere from Huntington Beach to Santa Cruz. I imagine they always will be, happily.
Cali Giraffes, "All My Life" b/w "Lazy Days" single
Evan Dando had something to do with the origins of this band, which I find confusing and yet somehow understandable (still a damned shame about Ray). But the deep adoration comes for Fastbacks' legendary bass goddess Kim Warnick's vocals on the A-side here, a jumping, joyful, but gentle lyrical variation on the meaning of Blondie's "One Way Or Another." And co-creator Mikey Davis takes the mic on the just-as-great pining and slacker days-celebrating B-side "lazy Days." Both are chockful of chiming, grinding hedonistic thrills, in the sunshine, by the fire, wherever life-loving major chord happiness can be found. A perfect match!
Daughn Gibson, "The Sound Of Law" from the album Me Moan
This sounds like a dust-kicking American Gothic soundtrack to a big 70s car racing movie, with celebrity-stars like Burt Reynolds but also some sinister dude like Jack Nicholson in an inimal subplot sabotaging the prize, or maybe in-between in some oil-saturated slice of life like Two Lane Blacktop. Anyways, next track on the Sub Pop elpee is "Phantom Rider" which is just as good, and the whole thing is certainly worth owning. Rumor has it this Pennsylvania truck driver's sound is a new thing, and it certainly drawls well and peels out of the parking lot slow. Neat neat neat nocrturnal automobile-soul rock. I give it two bong-loads and a box of Pine Tree air fresheners.
Future Bible Heroes, "Living, Loving, Partygoing" from the album Partygoing
Like a much more friendly (and queer and cool-weird and not at all violent) take on Spring Breakers, all tinsely keys and Top 40 melodies, floating from scenes like "John Waters' soiree" and "Mink Stoles' birthday," deejaying, taking "god knows what and danced till dawn," getting into clown's shoes and waking up with two friends in the same bed after sleeping for half a week. This is probably the happiest thing Stephen Merritt ever wrote, and it's gloriously transgressive while being awesomely frisky. Really gorgeous and fun and would be blasting out of every passing car stereo if a true tastemaker like John Waters himself ran the country.
Monday has come and gone, and we're still having sweet, only slightly-sticky memories of this year's annual Capitol Hill Block Party. This year's was definitely the least hot or humid, making it pleasurable for those of us who aren't too into the sun (no offense to the lovers of the big yellow lava-lump in the sky). Saturday heated up as the musical apex of the fest rose, with Brooklyn's The Psychic Paramount awesome possum-saucing new fans on the Main Stage (and then again at a semi-secret show at unofficial CHBP venue The Comet on Sunday, with a whole bunch of fellow psyche freaks a-jambling).
Special little shows erupting here and there through the fenced-in Broadway neighborhood that surrounds The Stranger offices was a topic of much chatter as we walked between Neumos, the Vera Stage, et. al., to catch the already delightful scheduled line up Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Duff McKagan of Guns N'Roses immortality played a little bass for Walking Papers, a new thang he had swinging in the always-chuffed-and-stuffed bunker of the Cha Cha. There were a lot of other hidden thrills, but this is possibly my favorite Capitol Hill Block Party ever simply because there was so much sweetness going on officially, you couldn't not hear a great band just a few feet away from wherever you stood / swayed / jitterbugged / passed out in a tipple pool. I saw maybe one or two bands that didn't light my fire, but they were up-and-comers and may burn brightly later on when I catch 'em another time.
Now let's get to what was seen and supremely dug, by the EMP's photographer and Tea Cozies' Brady Harvey and myself, since Friday afternoon, July 20:
Father John Misty (Friday, 4 p.m., Main) craftily created a record worthy of an L.A. Wolf King earlier this year, but it was no warmed-over homage to SoCal succubi and champagne made by long-haired millionaires filling up your daddy's and mama's orange crated elpee collections. Josh Tillman perfected a musically appealing (and at times satirically astonishing) journey to the end of the weird scenes in one man's gold-dust mind. There was no reason to think this one-time drummer for the Fleet Foxes wouldn't blow everyone away by loosely, confidently, and joyfully singing the songs from this new persona's one platter oeuvre, but his personableness and professional surpassed expectations. I have never experienced such a warm, welcoming, wowing start to a festival. We were all into the music and J. was into us, his lanky frame curling its upper limbs into the air, pointing at the gods, tearing at the moon's face paint, calling out to friends like Joel Cuplin and Eric Fisher (of Constant Lovers), his band aces all the way. Hey, I could have left the festival then and been pleased as deadly nightshade. But the trip was just starting to ball.
Deadkill (Friday, 4:15 p.m., Neumos) somehow juggles being ferally fearsome with sometimes being really funny (lyrically), reminding me slightly of the late 90s rosetta stone of performance art punk, Raft of Dead Monkeys. But the humor is more reserved, and that is probably the only thing one can describe as reserved about the band, as they make sounds that smell like a Detroit muscle car factory spitting out speed flames. Lead singer Bryan Krieger has tattoos as if he's ready for some mixed Martial arts and a body to match it, and his boys don't slag watching his back in total panther-rock attack. Ecstatic. Great rawk, no holding back. OK, I'll stop "pa-rapping" now.
Crystal Stilts (Friday, 5:15 p.m., Neumos) was good, and made me appreciate them more by seeing them live. No, I am not a fan, but a casual admirer at least. (Put down your shoegaze; don't hit me with their I'm-so-high heels.) There is something about the Stilts' sound that is mesmerizing, but also an aspect that seems like it could be beefed up somehow. Live, it's a wonderful flow -- it moves me more seeing them grind their organs, lurched over stacked keyboards and singing like they're peeved poets at the bottom of an ennui well. Old man flashback: they kind of remind me of Polyrock from back in the very early 80s, being both fuzzily dissonant but also new wave streamlined, and not too concerned with direct listenership connection.
Doomtree (Friday, 5:15 p.m., Main), on the other hand, which I walked out to from CS, roared and bounced and spun soul music and gave crazy good advice about living and exploded like a firecracker party on a hot asphalt island. You could not help but be pulled in by their thick-groove, big-hearted, Minneapolis funk and flow. Nothing ambivalent about this hip-hop, it's rooted in a head scene but it's sheer body rocking beauty. Dessa's deeply adored for a reason, and I found more than one to feel the whole way about Doomtree this day. How'd I arrive at this jam so late? People were loving this, really loving it.
Just a few more days of the Seattle International Film Festival and a ton of sizzling hot music shows to see now that June is here, but you should start "booking" (ha) some time for some very TIG-worthy readings and parties about books coming up. As a nervous and gluttonous reader of quality stuff, I heartily endorse all of the programs listed below, and hope that you can attend them.
It's no secret among literary types that graphic novelist James Sturm has written and drawn some of the best books in that field. From Hundreds of Feet Below Daylight to The Golem's Mighty Swing, Sturm's approach to American history is refined, restrained, but revelatory, chronicling for example, the dangers of capitalism steered by evangelism (and vice versa), and the glories of a fictional all-Jewish baseball league in the early part of the 20th century. Sturm's artful but deceptively simple and sketchy illustrations characterize the journalistic restraint and elegance of his work.
But did you know that he helped co-found The Stranger, Seattle's long-running confident and controversial alt-weekly, back in 1991? He and publisher Tim Keck were at giant of printed satire the Onion and moved out to Seattle together to found it, and for many years Sturm's profound design and illustration skills defined The Stranger's cunning approach to graphic style. It's Sturms's stark, timeless art that captivated so many Pacific NW readers from the tabloid's inception, and now the author returns to Seattle at the Fantagraphics Store in Georgetown on Saturday, April 17, to unveil his new book, Market Day.
Upset. The word of the our 2008 Best Northwest Releases of 2008 Readers' Poll is upset.
With the Fleet Foxes winning readers and critical polls alike, who would've thought they wouldn't get top honors in our humble little Northwest poll? But they didn't -- they placed a distant second to New Faces, another debut record from some very talented, very young Northwest fellas.
We had other surprises as well, with unsigned newcomers such as Hey Marseilles, the Kindness Kind, and Kaylee Cole cracking the top ten, beating out Northwest heavyweights such as Death Cab for Cutie. We did not expect that. And we love it when you surprise us, dear readers.
We imaginaries like to champion the up-and-comers from the Northwest, and our results indicate that you do as well. We think you all also have fabulous taste, as always. Thanks to everyone who participated in our poll. We couldn't be more proud or thrilled to present the top 50 winners on your behalf...
TIG staffers are a lot like you -- coming up with our list of faves for the year is a fun and gripping process. After comparing/contrasting/debating our individual favorites, we figured the sum of our imaginary parts would make for an interesting list.
While ChrisB and Keenan, among other things, brought in the power-pop elements, Chris Estey stood by the smartie subtle elements of this year's Northwest offerings. Imaginary liz, as usual, loved the lo-fi and indie-pop songs, while imaginary dana spent much of the year obessed with Throw the the Statue and of course, the Fleet Foxes. And nearly all of us agreed that the Saturday Knights album was a force to be reckoned with. Here's our our staff votes tallied up...
2007 has been another stellar year for local music, with some Northwest artists breaking out and having significant national releases, and other local upstarts charming us with great records. We know that you, like us, had a hard time determing who to place on your end of the year mixtape -- let alone which album should be should be crowned the #1 Northwest release of 2007.
And what did all that tabulation and debate equate to? The Three Imaginary Girls Best Northwest Releases of 2007 lists! The results of our TIG Readers' Poll had some expected winners, as well as some surprises. We invite you to check it all out, and to also check out our TIG top editorial picks, as well as the lists for each of our individual writers.
We gathered our imaginary staff to determine our collective Northwest favorites for 2007. It was hard work. Imaginary battles were fought, alliances formed, and finally, winners emerged.
You should have seen the way that imaginary Liz can arm wrestle, and how Erik Gonzalez can duke it out for his favorite bands. It was fierce and fun, and we think our final list was well worth the effort.