True to their name, the 45s deliver a scrappy, devil-may-care country sound with a beat even city folk can dance to. Around since 1997, the five-piece band rallies behind the theatrical rockabilly style of frontman Billy Joe Huels, who leads them in a high-spirited gallop through honky-tonk, blues, and rock without breaking a sweat. Their 2002 album recorded at KEXP won them plenty of new local fans, but their star is still rising—and somewhere Johnny Cash, Elvis, and Ray Condo are tipping their cowboy hats. NEAL SCHINDLER
"Isn't it strange how we estrange ourselves from our neighbors?" asks MC Geologic over DJ/producer Sabzi's snare taps, plucked guitars, and opening-credits horns on "Blue School," the second track on the duo's excellent self-titled album, released this past February. Of course, music this immediately accessible and lovingly rendered estranges no one except chronic hip-hop haters, and apparently not enough of them voted in the poll to prevent the Blue Scholars from taking the album trophy. (Runners-up, in order: Left Hand Smoke, Nonsense Parade; Dolour's New Old Friends; United State of Electronica; Byrdie, In Flight.) MICHAELANGELO MATOS
The blues are a sturdy form—12 bars, three chords, and one person's truth. Alice Stuart has been transmitting her singular version of that truth—with plenty of rock, folk, and country thrown in for good measure—longer than damn near anyone in Seattle, beginning her career in 1961, with some time off for family reasons in between. The 60-year-old Stuart is a teacher and a writer, as well. M.M.
Aussie hype outfit Jet recently genuflected at the altar of AC/DC with "Cold Hard Bitch" . . . and were cackled all the way back to their four-car garages. Seattle's own multiethnic, partially dreadlocked, all-lethal lady collective Hell's Belles have been confidently strangling the potential novelty out of covering the high-voltage lines since 2000, and it's no laughing matter. The Belles' T-shirts suggest that they'd simply play the hits for food; given that Angus "Frodo" Young himself gave the girls props in Blender last year, they must be talkin' filet mignon. ANDREW BONAZELLI
UNITED STATE OF ELECTRONICA
Sure the name is silly. So is everything else about U.S.E., except when it's totally righteous, and therein lies the key to this septet's delirious goodness—usually it's both. They write pop songs and slather them in twinkling keyboards, a stomping house beat, and lotsa Vocoder. "Daft Punk covering T. Rex," Weekly music writer Nate Patrin noted when he first heard "La Discoteca," the stomping closing track on the band's recently released, self-titled, wondrous debut (on B-Side). That's accurate; so was Weekly contributor Ned Raggett when he pointed out that every song on the CD sounded like the end of Xanadu. M.M.
She seems like your typical Washington kid. Skinny and prone to wearing Ramones tees, Carlile grew up in teeny-tiny Ravensdale and co-founded a garage band (appropriately named Shed) with her brother, Jay, in high school. But the author of piercing lyrics like "I watch you grow away from me in photographs/And memories like spies/The salt betrays my eyes again" (from the breakup ballad "Turpentine," off 2002's Open Doors) has opened for India.Arie and played Bumbershoot last year. Carlile's bandmates—twins Phil and Tim Hanseroth, on bass and lead guitar, respectively—give an ample boost to her introspection. N.S.
But of course. Riz Rollins has so frequently been named "Best DJ" in SW's Best of Seattle issues that a repeat was inevitable. Another reason is Riz's easy versatility—see him at one of his three regular gigs and chances are you won't hear the same set twice, or even the same tracks. Wednesdays and Fridays he holds down the Re-bar—the former is D.A.I.S.Y. Age, where Riz spins '90s hip-hop and R&B, the latter Phatso Fridays, which favors deep house—and on Saturdays he plays R Place. What's always constant are his skills and the pure joy in music he transmits with every selection. M.M.
Writing well is hard work, much less having the vocal skills to put those words over. And that's not even bringing in producing an interesting backing track or noteworthy live twin-turntable skills. So little wonder Vitamin D won his category, because he does it all with equally impressive flair. Having spent several years backing up MC Wordsayer in Source of Labor, who are folding this year, it's D's turn to step into the spotlight, and his co-production of Fourth Dimensional Rocketships Going Up, the just-out solo bow of Blackalicious MC Gift of Gab, with fellow Seatown DJ Jake One, as well as the excellent 12-inch "No Good" on Rhymesayers Entertainment show him handling it with finesse. M.M.
They claim they're not even a band. They have been known to appear at two different venues simultaneously. They say they're just kind of a pickup, rehearsal-free collective, not trying to accomplish anything or get anywhere. But the crowd will have none of it. Thursday nights at the Scarlet Tree have become a funk must, even leading some fans to prefer these trip-hop soul providers (shocking!) to the more fawned-over outfit (Maktub) whose members sometimes slum here (Reggie Watts, Thaddeus Turner, Davis Martin). No surprise to us; being spontaneous is always the best way to increase the feeling. MARK D. FEFER
THESE ARMS ARE SNAKES
2003 was a banner year for our city's hefty circle of hardcore bands. Dealing in library logic, back-alley mathematics, and too-tough-to-cry lyrics, These Arms Are Snakes' debut EP, This Is Meant to Hurt You (Jade Tree), insisted, in August of that year, that shoegazing is as valid as screamo-ing—if not more. Featuring former members of Kill Sadie and Botch, These Arms Are Snakes' smartcore alludes to a genreless coup consisting of conceptual guitar clashing and apocalyptic love affairs. Apparently, you're eager for them to bring it on. LAURA CASSIDY
They've got their science-fair blue- ribbon formula, and they're not gonna tinker with it: two alternately weary, raspy, and Tootsie Pop–sweet female voices plus a Guitar World's worth of undeniable pop-metal hooks equals Visqueen. Guitarist Rachel Flotard and bassist Kim Warnick have been around the rock block (notably in Hafacat and the Fastbacks, respectively), and the mission this time is simple: tug all the snobby, upturned snouts that they can grab onto the roller coaster and press play. A.B.
March 2003. Rock critics universally soil themselves over Burn Piano Island, Burn (present company included), making it possible for supermodel guest jocks on VH1 to utilize the term "screamo" without mandatory ultraviolent reprobation. The Blood Brothers are still barely old enough to legally engage in the very adult subject matter they wrench into their corpulent, black-noise poetry. Bet they're already bright enough to steer starboard of the skinny tie-dal wave and deliver a follow-up that's oblique, thought- provoking, riotous, and, hopefully, waaaaay danceable. A.B.
Nu SolTribe are making music with a vengeance; actively pursuing shows all over the community, ready to dazzle fans with their unstoppable rhythm and the desire to stuff everyone involved full of, well, soul. This diverse band, with members hailing from all corners of the nation, pushes a message of peace and love that is especially important at present. The ballots don't lie, and neither does the art created during every Nu SolTribe jam session. HEATHER LOGUE
You say you want to dance? Vocalist Njoli Brown, trombonist Chris Stover, saxophonist Stuart MacDonald, vocalist/percussionist Tom Armstrong, drummer Chris Stromquist, trumpeter Jay Roulston, bassist Justin Cayou, and keyboard player Stefan Nelson have some music they'd like to show you. Or rather musics—Quasi Nada's sound is an amalgam of Brazilian, African, Cuban, and American styles that shifts effortlessly from samba to hip-hop, jazz to meringue. All of it is on display on the band's newly issued debut album, Interrupt This Broadcast, recorded in both Seattle and Brazil. M.M.