Reviews: Every Local Release of the Month

From Afraid of Figs and Blue Marvel to Dude York and the Foghorns.

LOCAL RELEASES

I Ate a Vegan, Afraid of Figs (out now, self-released, afraidoffigs.com): Jokey band that go for a Barenaked Ladies–kinda thing, taking shots at the obvious targets: Facebook, vegans, fakes. They do, however, have a saxophonist, so that's cool. DAVE LAKE

The Sebring, Aunt Jamamas Big Band Vigilantes (out now, self-released, ajbbv.com): Bass-and-drum grooves, electric piano, and squalls of guitar noise all contribute to the spaced-out mood of this 37-minute EP, which straddles free jazz, trip-hop, and ambient music. It's heady stuff, and definitely not easy listening. ANDREW GOSPE

Blue Marvel, Blue Marvel (out now, self-released, facebook.com/bluemarvelproject): Showcasing teen angst channeled through aggressive metal experimentation, Blue Marvel's members are young enough to count the Kirkland Police Department as an influence. A demo with good intentions made by a band still figuring out their sound. MA'CHELL DUMA LAVASSAR

Cobras, Cobras (10/4, self-released, cobras1.bandcamp.com): This Viper Creek Club side project's anonymous early promo and self-assigned "slowwave/r&b" tag follows Weeknd's lead but ends up like an adult- contempo version of Owl City's bloodless laptop emo-pop. ERIC GRANDY

"China, My China" 7", The Diving Bell (out now, Fin Records, finrecords.com): The A-side of this seven-inch strikes the right balance between folk-inspired songwriting (singer Andy Davenhall sounds more than a little like Bill Callahan) and power-pop guitars. The B-side sounds like a Pink Floyd cover band. Which one's more enjoyable is a matter of taste. AG

New Great Lakes, Downpilot (10/11, Tapete Records, downpilot.com): Paul Hiraga banished himself to Vashon Island to record his fourth album. The result is an isolated, more-intimate Downpilot, and a record filled with 10 acoustic Americana songs that brim with sadness. DL

*Satanic Vs. EP, Dude York (out now, self-released, facebook.com/dudeyorkamerica) The four-song Satanic Vs. continues along the same rowdy and rambling path on which Dude York—the local trio of Peter Richards, Andrew Hall, and Alex Cassidy—first set forth on their full-length, Gangs of Dude York. "David," the EP's joyful opener and best track, bursts forward with a deliciously squealing guitar line; "Isabel" keeps things rushing along via an insistently fast tempo, Richards' hoarse vocals, and some sweet but naughty lyrics; "Bryan" sounds like the sonic equivalent of a pummeling hangover headache; and the shambling "Kerry" only barely dares to slow things down and bring the EP to a close. The entirety of Satanic Vs. clocks in at a headlong 9 minutes, 6 seconds, but you might still feel the need for a breather after it's all over. ERIN K. THOMPSON

"Beach Cruisers and Lemonade," Fice (out now, self-released, ficemusic.com): Tacoma's Fice and DJ Semaj ride a groovy summertime vibe all the way to the bank on this one. With classy production and honest verses, these two artists are on the up-and-up. TODD HAMM

*Anthologies Vol. 1, Fictitious (out now, self-released, fictitiousmusic.com): Spitting lyrics based in poetry and stories, the Fictitious collective are a Seattle force to be reckoned with—emotionally raw and tediously perfect in rhyme and beat, there's no doubt the group will rise higher and higher. JOE WILLIAMS

Heavy Boots & Underwoods, Ben Fisher (out now, self-released, benfisher.bandcamp.com): Just when Ben Fisher seems to be showing his cards, he whips out another unexpected and riveting melody—and a tad more cello. This LP is lush with bluegrass folk and lots of heart. JW

"Back to You" remix, Fly Moon Royalty feat. Spac3man (out now, Sportn' Life Records, sportnlife.net): FMR usually finds its sweet spot on songs like the original version of "Back to You," where the feel is more neo-soul than hip-hop, but fellow Sportn' Life artist Spac3man is able to fit a quality, albeit short, verse into the mix and make the song work. TH

*To the Stars on the Wings of a Pig, The Foghorns (out now, Beefy Beef Records, facebook.com/thefoghorns): The Foghorns' absurdly titled LP opens with an ominous thud on the piano, a desperate strum on the guitar, and the repeated moaning of "Please, don't you leave me now." The drums, faintly rustling and stirring in the background, are intended to be felt more than heard. Halfway through opener "Please Don't Leave," an accordion enters the gentle country melee. For 45 minutes, Pig scarcely rises above a simmer. Songs run together, and there are only faint textural and tempo distinctions among the album's 10 tracks. The Foghorns aren't reaching for new ground, but are comfortable being themselves, well within the plucky intersection of saloon-ready twang and urban folk. This should be blasé, repetitive, and numbingly obnoxious. But it's not. Its effortless, cool demeanor blunts any hint of redundancy. Pig is one of the most satisfyingly listenable local albums of the year; easy to access and hard to put down. It's soothing and comforting in the right ways, without being excessive or cheap. Its subtleties—hints of organ and accordion—are smooth but smart. Easy listening doesn't have to mean easily forgotten. CHRIS KORNELIS

Fun Forest, The Fuzz (Out now, Dubious Records, myspace.com/thefuzz): If the Aquabats had grown up listening to Crazy Town, this tongue-in-cheek, clap-along dirty pop with two helpings of punk would almost make sense. Instead, Fun Forest exists to fill a niche in dive bars nationwide. JW

"So FLAgrant," Hi-Life Soundsystem (out now, Members Only, membersonly206.com): This time HLSS set out to make a danceable West Coast party anthem, and G-funked their way to success with "So FLAgrant." An added bonus is that this joint has lyrical substance, which may be a rare element from many left-side party jams, but should be expected from any track graced by Town-favorite Khingz. TH

Flatland, Katie Kate (10/20, Out for Stardom, katiekatemusic.blogspot.com): Flatland finds Katie Kate lost between the beautifully simplistic "Houses" and the trash-glam of "Thickstacks." Kate toys with rap on most of the tracks, but it's when she pushes herself to sing over the made-from-scratch instrumentals that she's able to shine. TH

Live at KEXP Volume 7 (out now, kexp.org): This eclectic mix of artists live in studio on everyone's favorite radio station has a little something for everyone and plenty of local goodness, My Goodness in fact, to go around. James Blake, The Head and the Heart, and Mad Rad give particularly strong performances that ably capture the spine tingles that go along with experiencing art in an intimate setting. MDL

Koozbane, Koozbane (out now, self-released, myspace.com/koozbane1): This is a punk album, all right. Koozbane is loud, fast, and (most important) economical: The five-piece blazes through 10 tracks in just under 25 minutes, with female vocalist Reannimator Rossi's irascible sneer leading the charge. AG

*World War Free, Kore Ionz (out now, self-released, koreionz.com): Hawaii-born singer/songwriter Daniel Pak belts out soulful, thumpin' reggae that sounds like it was birthed right in the heart of New Orleans, with enough jazz heart to lead a Jamaican revolution of peace and love. JW

*Sealab, La (out now, self-released, la206.bandcamp.com): Producer Jester provides an apt canvas here, but it's La's breezy, premium-grade raps that make this 12-track album pop. La's sharpness on the mike has slowly won him favor locally, and with any luck it should help him move beyond briskly. Take notice. TH

Lark vs. Owl, Lark vs. Owl (out now, self-released, myspace.com/larkvsowl): This duo creates minimalist indie rock with decidedly lo-fi production values that are more "I need to turn my computer speakers halfway up just to hear the music" than they are fuzzy and endearing. AG

Hurricane LaRue, JaWaan LaRue (out now, Conscious Mind Records, consciousmindrecords.com): LaRue spends a good amount of time here unloading personal baggage, including the searing, Seattle-critical "Home Away From Home." The result is a decent enough album that should help him turn a corner in his career. TH

Greater Seattle, Longboat (out now, self-released, cdbaby.com/cd/longboat): Part Weird Al, part noodly geek-rock, Longboat's satirical Greater Seattle dedicates each track to a different Seattle neighborhood or suburb. Composer Igor Keller relegates Fremont to "gateway to Ballard" status, and as for moving to Bellevue, "There are some things no sane man should do." Well played, sir. CK

King of the Northwest mixtape, Luck-One (out now, self-released, reverbnation.com/luckone): A gifted MC and proficient songwriter when he can find the right production. There are a few hit tracks on KOTNW, but one hopes a more focused project is on the way. TH

Faithful, M. Women (10/15, Couple Skate Records, mwomen.bandcamp.com): M. Women's debut LP recalls the early days of Sonic Youth in all the right ways—understated vocals, truculent guitars, some turbulent percussion, and an underlying hint of chaos—ideal for Seattle's gloomy/angsty winter months. EKT

The New Generation (embracing the new age), OC Notes (out now, self-released, ocnotes.bandcamp.com): Multi-instrumentalist/studio whiz OC Notes shapes primarily acoustic-guitar tracks into quietly complex pieces in the most left-field entry in his catalog to date. TH

Give Me Two Dollars, Eric Ostrowski (out now, self-released, ericostrowski.bandcamp.com): Tagged as "experimental improvised noise," Ostrowski eschews lyrics, melody, and any point of entry for the listener. While the titles are inspired ("Vuvuzelas Spread Misery and Disease," "Buddhist Economics"), the songs sound like dogs fucking cats, but not as interesting. Then again, that seems to be Ostrowski's goal. LITSA DREMOUSIS

Three-Part Odyssey, Richard Pellegrin Quintet (out now, OA2, oarecords.com): On his debut release, Pellegrin reveals serious chops at the piano with a direct, compelling style, a stable of Seattle's top session cats, and a roll of edgy compositions crafted and performed with vitality. GWENDOLYN ELLIOTT

*For the Glory, Nacho Picasso (out now, self-released, nachopicasso.com): Nacho's grisly rhymes together with production duo Blue Sky Black Death's sci-fi-gangster sound could be called "death rap." Yet both musically and lyrically, FTG is highly listenable, highlighting a pairing that should be revisited in the future. TH

The Grim Energy, Princess (out now, self-released, princessismetal.com): This Seattle four-piece melds post-hardcore, noise-rock, metal, and grunge into an impressively abrasive, take-no-prisoners debut EP. What the music lacks in depth, it makes up for in bone-crushing heaviness. AG

Gosh Darn!, Sad Face (out now, self-released, wearesadface.com): Tim Mendonsa's dreamy vocals mingle with dark, brooding shoegaze, waves of reverb, and crunchy guitars. An absorbing, penetrating pop sound. GE

Destroy Yourself, The Shining Skulls (out now, self-released, theshiningskulls.com): This four-piece's full-length debut demonstrates they're nothing if not kinetic. The results here vary wildly, at times richly melodic and recalling Jeremy Enigk's best solo work, at others rapidly vanishing into the ether. LD

*"Don't Lead With Your Heart" b/w "Ideas of March," Stag (out now, Fin Records, themightystag.com): This local supergroup, featuring longtime vets like Lincoln Barr and Ben London, mine Petty and the Posies on this too-short seven-inch single. Who says straight-ahead rock and roll has no home in Seattle!? CK

"High in the Air," State of the Artist ft. Sol (out now, Members Only, membersonly206.com): This track drags on a bit long, but that's made up for by a slick beat (produced by Ski Team) and an extra-nice hook. TH

*STRFKR/Champagne Champagne Split 7", (10/11, Polyvinyl, polyvinylrecords.com): DO YOU LIKE EITHER OF THESE BANDS? DO YOU LIKE BEATS? MUSIC FROM THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST? FEELING COOL? FUN? If none of this thrills you, there's just no pleasing you. GE

EXPERIENCE BREATHTAKING SELF-DISCOVERY!, Substandard (out now, self-released, facebook.com/substandard): Substandard describes itself as a metal band, but this album, stuffed with thudding guitars and howling, Layne Staley–like vocals, might be better tagged as post-grunge. The music doesn't exactly sound au courant, but it certainly is rough and rousing. EKT

Soul Metal, Super Geek League (out now, self-released, supergeekleague.com): On their third release, local screamcore and self-touted "sci-fi punk circus" group SGL offer an imagining of what unholy sound might arise if Ronnie James Dio, Tenacious D, and Sevendust all put on clown costumes and formed a supergroup. GE

Some Unrecorded Beam, Us on Roofs (out now, self-released, usonroofs.bandcamp.com): The follow-up to the Gig Harbor band's Robe of Feathers, this EP is full of the melodic, guitar-driven indie rock that Seattle churns out like nowhere else, but with enough sophistication and experimentation (check out the odd-metered "Empyrean Ocean") to keep things interesting. AG

The Spray, USF (10/25, Circle Into Square, circleintosquare.com/artist/usf): USF's second full-length exactly matches the eerie, transcendental tone of the Jonathan Lethem short story it takes its title from. The spacey, washed-out sounds beckon you closer rather than forcing themselves in your face. EKT

Heparin and Saline, Vacant Fever (out now, self-released, vacantfever.bandcamp.com): Nothing but good can be said about Vacant Fever. Grinding, fuzzy guitar work? Hells yeah! Naughty, tight, minimalist percussion? Hells to the yeah, again! These kids are right on the verge of something that will take them from good to f'n insane. MDL

*They've Got My Number Down at the Post Office remaster, Art Vandelay (out now, Black Lab Productions, blacklaboratory.com): Ricky Pharoe's steady tenor holds his disjointed thoughts together just long enough to make appropriate Mack Formway's heady feedback-and-spaceship production. A solid Costanza reference, a solid album. TH

Ernie Chambers v. God, Virgin Islands (out now, The Control Group, virginislandsband.com) It's easy to dismiss these punk rockers' debut full-length—named for a Nebraska state senator's lawsuit against God—as merely old-school- leaning punk rock, but who said that's a bad thing? These no-frills songs aren't complicated, but they brim with passion and conviction. AG

"Every Night, I'm Killing" 7", Whiting Tennis (out now, Fin Records, myspace.com/whitingtennismusic): A pair of meandering, melancholy folk tunes, the first of which features gentle strumming and plinking piano, recalling a slowed-down, grittier Nick Drake. It's pleasant and pretty, but Tennis' somber vocals keep the music off-kilter and perplexing. AG

Slow Charade, Yuni in Taxco (out now, self-released, yuniintaxco.com): Slow Charade is Yuni's second full-length of 2011 (and they intend to release a third before the year is out). Drawing from African melodies, exotica, and surf rock, the album frolics from pleasant reverie to bad trip and back in a single song. JMG

LOCAL LABELS' OUT-OF-TOWN BANDS

Not Myself Anymore, Jessa Anderson (out now, BEC, jessaanderson.com): Smooth and sweet, Not Myself Anymore is an uplifting and gratifying melting pot of contemporary Christian songs that embrace sprinklings of Taylor Swift–esque country and bubbly piano pop. JW

Let the Poison Out, The Beets (10/24, Hardly Art, hardlyart.com/thebeets): The New York trio's Hardly Art debut is a sprightly collection of rambling pop tunes with agreeably loose and easy melodies; the songs are tagged with wacky but sensible titles like "You Don't Want Kids to Be Dead" and "Eat No Dick." EKT

"Lone Runner" b/w "Stye Eye," Dirty Beaches (10/18, Suicide Squeeze, suicidesqueezerecords.tumblr.com): This aptly named group makes scuzzy, muffled zombie-shuffle garage rock with zero fidelity and even less melody; it's the aural equivalent of ashtray sand in between your toes—or up in your underlining. EG

"Anywhere Anyone" remixes, Dntel (10/24, Sub Pop, subpop.com/artists/dntel): Dntel's slow-motion synth haze from 2000 gets two of-the-moment updates, from Berlin deep-techno outfit Sandwell District and UK dubstep/bass music progenitor Pearson Sound. EG

*Life Is Full of Possibilities (Deluxe Edition), Dntel (10/24, Sub Pop, subpop.com/artists/dntel): The album that dreamed up the possibility of the Postal Service, remastered and rereleased with a bonus disc of remixes and outtakes. Sweetly detailed laptop pop, even when Gibbard-less. EG

III, Family Force 5 (10/18, Tooth & Nail, familyforce5.com): This Atlanta crunk-rock five-piece meshes white boy hip-hop and an extra helping of Southern hospitality to create an ode to rock-inspired bass drops, heavy guitar, and blinged-out hollers appropriate for the clubs. Lil Jon–approved. JW

How to Get to Heaven From Jacksonville, FL, Gospel Music (10/25, Kill Rock Stars, killrockstars.com): Owen Holmes is trying so hard to channel the Magnetic Fields feeling that HTGTHFJF sounds like a damn love letter to Stephin Merritt. If you don't mind the undeniable imitation (the two bands have also shared singer Shirley Simms), the songs are just as quirky and fun. GE

Original Recordings, Kool and Together (10/4, Light in the Attic, lightintheattic.net): Local reissue label Light in the Attic has a remarkably high batting average when it comes to rescuing lost gems and polishing them for a fresh life. But Kool and Together's Original Recordings is one of their few nonessential issues. The demos on this collection of Family Stone–era funk wouldn't have been missed if they'd never resurfaced. And the tracks are too often meandering at the whimsy of an overeager hype man. Some things were left behind for a reason. CK

This Is Christmas, Kutless (10/4, BEC, kutless.com): As a whole, this album falls short of breaking any Christmas-rock barriers. However, the self-titled track puts an original-ish spin on radio-ready holiday tunes with a passionate, swaddling chorus and climactic ending. JW

*The Drummer, Niki and The Dove (10/18, Sub Pop Records, nikiandthedove.com): The Swedes just do pop music better than anyone—in the case of Niki and The Dove, it's glittering electro-pop fronted by Malin Dahlström's icy-sharp vocals and backed by some fierce beats. This EP solidifies the duo's position as Sub Pop's freshest, most exciting new signee. EKT

Creatures of an Hour, Still Corners (10/1, Sub Pop, myspace.com/stillcorners): Still Corners' 8-bit circus melodies sound like they belong in a haunted house. Vocalist Rachel Goswell is haunting, with a voice that floats and dances in a whisper. JW

 
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