Reviews: It's November 2011, and Seattle Sounds Like . . .

Our take on every local release of the month.

LOCAL RELEASES

Boxcar, An Invitation to Love (out now, self-released, aninvitationtolove.com): This grunge-inspired, riff-heavy alt-rock trio is named for the show-within-a-show soap opera on David Lynch's Twin Peaks. And all but one of the five songs on the EP share their name with a Peaks character: "Bob," "Leo," "Laura," "Ronette." But where's Diane? DAVE LAKE (Upcoming show: Sat., Nov. 12, The Josephine)

Attack With Care, Attack With Care (out now, self-released, attackwithcare.com): This decidedly '90s-sounding alt-rock trio has released a well-produced debut that features some muscular riffs, nice harmonies, and even bass slapping. It's proficient radio-rock, even if the hooks are a bit lacking in places. DL (Fri., Nov. 18, Mars Bar)

Never Out of Time, Camille Bloom & The Recovery (11/8, self-released, camillebloom.com): A common crutch for a underdeveloped melody is for a songwriter to overcompensate with wordiness. Camille Bloom, a pop singer with a choral delivery, could stand to spend less time writing lyrics and more writing songs. chris kornelis (Sat., Nov. 12, Columbia City Theater)

"Coogars," Sonny Bonoho (out now, self-released, bonoho.com): This track is a funny little jam about screwing your buddy's mom, and the instrumental is some extra-smooth funk-hop, but the plot loses its novelty after the first minute or so. Silly, but not a bad execution of a classic "motherfucking" trope. TODD HAMM

*HIGHLY RECOMMENDED Dark Past, Brite Futures (out now, Turnout, britefuturesforever.com): The band formerly known as Natalie Portman's Shaved Head is aging nicely, offering 10 dancy synth-pop party jams which won't change your life but might make it sunnier. It's not all fun, though. "Black Wedding" tackles the band's departure from Warner Bros. Records. "You're wasting my time," Claire England sings, "All on your dime." DL

Die on Sunday, By Proxy (out now, Car Crash Set, myspace.com/wearebyproxy): By Proxy's music is somehow both warm and chill. These bicoastal kids make smart, glossy electro-pop with strong female vocals and quality production. Each of this EP's tracks are easy on the ears, and would be right at home on KEXP. MA'CHELL DUMA LAVASSAR

Saphire, Cedaa (11/15, Car Crash Set, carcrashset.com): Four sharp remixes by Bellingham bass-pusher Cedaa, ranging from the snare stutter and vocal updrafts of "Hello Kitty (Ill Cosby Remix)" to the burial filters of "Palomino (HxdB Remix)" to two takes on the title track, one footwork-frantic and the other chopped and screwed syrupy. ERIC GRANDY

* Gold, Ill Cosby (11/15, Car Crash Set, carcrashset.com): The founder of this "future bass specialists" label demonstrates the diversity of his low end—from the jazzy, sweat-dripping swing of "Swisha" to the contemplative piano and vocal warps of the title track to the Timbaland bonus beats of "Trap Riddim (Offshore Remix)." EG

Green Pajama Country!, the Green Pajamas (out now, Green Monkey Records, thegreen pajamas.net): Formed in 1984, the Green PJs have been around since Reagan was president and the Macintosh was new. On their 26th release, the band heads west, tackling 16 original country numbers that somehow leave their unique psychedelic spin intact. JULIA MULLEN GORDON (Fri., Nov. 18, Darrell's Tavern, Shoreline)

"Elegy" 7-inch, Hey Marseilles (11/15, Onto Entertainment, heymarseilles.com): That pretty cello lick you hear in the middle of "Elegy" (at least they acknowledge it) is a quotation of (or hommage to, if you prefer) Gabriel Fauré's 1883 Élégie. No one who doesn't want listeners to think immediately of the Amélie soundtrack should be writing waltzes with accordion accompaniment. Gavin Borchert (Sat., Nov. 12, Neptune)

*"Lynch the Swan" b/w "Dub the Swan," Hive Dwellers/Selector Dub Narcotic (11/15, K Records, krecs.com): K boss Calvin Johnson's latest finds him setting youth and beauty to hang over a mellow bass-and-drum groove. His long-standing studio-based dub alias hollows the song out for the reverse. EG

Goodbye, Paraguay!, Hondo II (out now, Hot Stack Records, reverbnation.com/ hondoii): With producer Graig Markel (Band of Horses, Nada Surf, Brent Amaker) at the helm, the newly reformed former Memphis Radio Kings have reined in a tighter sound with these five up-tempo pop-rock anthems full of resonant guitar and light-handed synth. GWENDOLYN ELLIOTT

"No More Tears (for Me)," The Jesus Rehab (11/3, self-released, thejesusrehab.com): This single is genuine, 1999 End Music, an earnest, irony-free Weezer homage. It's mosh-pit light, and The Jesus Rehab's owning every ounce of it. ck (Thurs., Nov. 3, High Dive)

"Welcome Home," Justis (out now, self-released, reverbnation.com/justismusic): The Lamont Dozier ("Shine") flip by producer Marcus D is clever, but considering the sample's already received heavy rotation via producers Lee Stone (for Pharoahe Monch's exquisite "Mayor") and 6 July (on Ghostface Killah's "Saturday Nite"), it lacks imagination. Justis' verses are equally derivative: His voice and cadence are nice, but his subject matter is tired and his "make noise" call-and-response is horribly played out. TH

* Liberation of the Monster, Khingz (out now, Wandering Worx, wanderingworx.com): Khingz delivers some of his best verses here, with Vancouver, B.C.'s Rel!g!on laying down some clean, grade-A production for his part. A surprisingly good, emotion-driven full-length that shouldn't go underappreciated. TH

"Alright," Kin to Stars (out now, self-released, kintostars.bandcamp.com): Solo musicians Scott Andrew and Jerin Falkner team up as Kin to Stars to release an earnest but bland acoustic pop song that sounds ready for radio—and a Jason Mraz cover version. AG

Sacrifice, Koko and the Sweetmeats (out now, self-released, kokoandthesweetmeats.band camp.com): Koko and the Sweetmeats' newest release is a "double EP"—six songs on the A side, the bare-bones versions of the same songs on the B side. Finished or not, all the tracks take on a scruffy, unruly attitude with a bit of mischievous quirk (the record's standout track is called "Love Song to Make Us Millions"). ERIN K. THOMPSON

Six-Song Set, Lights From Space (out now, self-released, lightsfromspace.com): The name of this—you guessed it—six-song EP is more than fitting for its collection of workmanlike rock songs that are competent if nondescript. AG (Fri., Nov. 11, Two Bit)

Luna Vivarium, Mealfrog (out now, self-released, mealfrog.com): Based on Mealfrog frontman Jason Riemath's vocals, you wouldn't be remiss to think that Eddie Vedder had moved on from the ukulele to front this roots-rock six-piece. The resulting album, however, is full of freewheeling jams that owe more to Phish than Pearl Jam. AG (Sat., Nov. 5, Nectar)

Pus City, Monogamy Party (11/15, Good to Die, goodtodierecords.com): A Fugazi–meets–These Arms Are Snakes tryst: bass-heavy, post-hardcore rock with an erratic, punk driven edge. GE (Sat., Nov. 12, Black Lodge)

Murder! Dance! Kill!, Noddy (out now, self-released, getnoddy.com): An electro-pop quartet driven by humid, soulful singing, but perhaps still finding their voice, somewhere between Hey Willpower's queered R&B and the cold, plinking synth arpeggios and drum-machine pump of Junior Boys. EG (Thurs., Nov. 10, Nectar)

Warsaw, Kris Orlowski (11/22, self-released, krisorlowski.com): Orlowski's ambition is apparent—the arrangements on this four-song EP are fully developed and move beyond well beyond the folksinger idiom. Even if it isn't particularly novel, it's an engaging and pleasant listen. AG (Wed., Nov. 23, Tractor)

Better in Color, the Pica Beats (out now, Calm Yourself With Corduroy Music, thepicabeats.com): If you liked the Pica Beats' previous albums, be warned: Their third trades sitar for synths and wordiness for brevity. Still influenced by Belle & Sebastian, it's more Dear Catastrophe Waitress than If You're Feeling Sinister. JMG

* Myths, Pickwick (out now, self-released, pickwick.bandcamp.com): The rapidly rising Northern (Seattle) soul band has collected three previously vinyl-only 45s for an EP that neatly explains their trajectory. Trad soul crooning with just a touch of Duckie dancing in the record store. EG (Sat., Dec. 3, Sunset)

"Semigloss" 7-inch, Pipsewah (out now, self-released, pipsisewah.bandcamp.com): A side project of the sprawling Maldives clan, Pipsisewah plays a more amped-up, though equally traditionalist, brand of rock, beholden to '70s freedom rock rather than folk or country roots. EG (Fri., Nov. 4, Comet)

*****

* Pony Time, Pony Time (out now, Per Se Records, perserecords.com): Lighting Bolt aside, guitar-and-drums duos get all the love—but there's a lot of potential in the strictly rhythm-section combo of bass and drums, and Seattle garage-punk duo Ponytime delivers on it with sass. As might be expected, their songs positively swagger with rhythm, with frontman Luke Beetham's bass rubbing against and nestling into the pockets of Stacy Peck's aggressive yet dance-friendly drumming. (You don't name yourself after Chubby Checker's boogety-shoop if you're not gonna make people dance). But they also pull off some damnably catchy melodies via Beetham's pinched, sneer-accented singing and sharp, angling leads played high up on the bass. Lyrically, the two stake out a familiar local scene—the cruising "Ex-Girlfriend Beach" sounds suspiciously Denny-Blaine, while the riffing catcall of "Tacocat Scraps" marks some inter-scene allegiances. This stuff won't singlehandedly cure Seattle's supposed endemic wimpiness, but it's a thrust in the right direction. ERIC GRANDY

*****

* "Sailing" 7-inch, Seapony (11/22, Hardly Art, hardlyart.com/seapony): The two sides of this single showcase two sides of Seapony—"Sailing" is soft, pretty, and wondrously fragile; "I Saw You" ratchets things up—it's still nice and gentle, but has just a bit more spunk and breeze. EKT (Sat., Nov. 5, Vera Project)

* Water Mirror, Secret Colors (11/4, Group Tightener, grouptightener.tumblr.com): This LP is a compilation of some of local producer/instrumentalist Matt Lawson's best songs released over the years as Secret Colors, now newly remastered and available on a vinyl 12-inch. Together, the ambient songs cohere to take on the qualities suggested by the record's title—loose and liquid with a beautifully shimmering sheen. EKT (Fri., Nov. 4, Cairo)

So Polite, Shoot the Hostage (out now, Six Hands Records, shootthehostage.com): You can't escape the '90s revival, be it flannel, self-indulgent band documentaries, or, in the case of Shoot the Hostage, SoCal garage punk. These kids are by no means reinventing the wheel, but what they lack in originality they make up for in technical skills, and I suspect they are a band best experienced live. MDL

Parhelion, Shrouded in Veils (out now, self-released, shroudedinveils.com): This instrumental Seattle three-piece employs a brand of math rock similar to that of Maserati and Godspeed You! Black Emperor on its Parhelion EP, piecing together gorgeous crescendos of harmonic trills with darker, ominous bass and rapid fingerwork. JW (Fri., Nov. 11, El Corazon)

* "Low 5," Slow Dance (out now, self-released, slowdancemusic.bandcamp.com): While their accompanying video mashups are totally '80s, SD's amped-up 4/4 bounce borrows at least as much from '70s disco in both sound and spirit. Murder Dice's party raps and Rudy's electro-grooves are officially taking fun to an exciting new level. TH (Fri., Nov. 25, Nectar)

Slopes, State of the Artist (out now, Members Only, stateoftheartist.bandcamp.com): The trio found their groove with these 12 provocative after-party slow-jams. The production (handled by L.A. outfit Ski Team) is especially refined, and the SOTA gang overlays their innuendo-laden rhymes with laid-back results. TH

"Ta Ta Dana," Tomten (11/5, self-released, facebook.com/tomten): Tomten's newest single employs heavily reverbed guitars and the band's trademark electric organ to create a stately song of cold, winter, and melancholy; the brief B-side, "Thwarting the Young," takes a complete 180 with a frisky, jaunty pop melody. EKT

Good Medicine, 20 Riverside (out now, self-released, 20riverside.bandcamp.com): Contrary to popular belief, rap-rock doesn't have to be an epithet. The verses that this Everett-based six-piece lays down aren't memorable, but their rock-solid, jazz- and funk-influenced instrumentals certainly are. ANDREW GOSPE

* Utøya, Western Haunts (11/30, self-released, westernhaunts.bandcamp.com): Inspired by the tragic events in Japan and Norway earlier this year, this three-song EP features a blend of folk and dream pop that is engaging, fully developed, and frequently gorgeous. AG

LOCAL LABELS' OUT-OF-TOWN BANDS

Reveries, Arctic Flowers (out now, Inimical Records, myspace.com/arcticflowerspdx): Female- fronted punk rock from Portland that blends '80s post-punk influences with British anarcho stuff with potent results. Low-fi but high impact. DL

Stay, Restored, Beyond Measure, Jeremy Camp (10/18, BEC, jeremycamp.com): Jeremy Camp's 36-track, three-disc re-release could benefit from a slight trimming of fat: the first two discs. Camp has evolved beautifully from 2002, and Beyond Measure truly showcases his vocal abilities and experimentation, as opposed to the grainier, Creed-like stylings of Stay. JW

Ten Years, Emery (10/18, Tooth & Nail, emery music.com): A greatest-hits album seems odd after only seven years as a signed band, but regardless, Ten Years features the very best of an indie band that has sold more than 450,000 records. JW

Full Toilet 7", Full Toilet (11/22, Sub Pop, subpop.com/fulltoilet): A primordial soup combining Jello Biafra's irreverent ramblings with Minutemen's succinct song length, these 13 sludgy, grimy, screamingly hardcore tracks are 100 percent blunt, noisy punk angst. GE

Christmas, Jadon Lavik (11/1, BEC, jadonlavik.com): Christmas albums are generally a dime a dozen, but it only takes 10 seconds to hear what's different about Lavik: the slight plucking of his acoustic guitar and a crisp, soaring voice. Think Brett Dennen meets Jason Mraz . . . singing Christmas favorites. JW

* Satan Is Real, The Louvin Brothers (11/8, Light in the Attic, lightintheattic.net): The Louvin Brothers were self-aware enough to see how their personal lives fell short of their convictions. And more than five decades after this country record's release in November 1959, it's spooky how modern this harmony-rich batch of declarations sounds. CK

* "Circle" b/w "I've Been Thinking," J Mascis (11/22, Sub Pop, jmascis.com): The Dinosaur Jr. shredder dials down for a mournful acoustic number about giving up and taking solace in solitude; the B-side is a brighter, slightly twangy ramble. EG

Christmas, Hawk Nelson (11/1, Tooth & Nail, hawknelson.com): Christmas does well to retain the original melodies of such Christmas classics as "Joy to the World" and "Silent Night," while still harnessing an upbeat, poppy rock feel. "The Holly and the Ivy" alone is worth the listen. JW

*****

* Nightlife Phantogram (11/1, Barsuk, phantogram.net) Phantogram's Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter are partners only in art, not romance, but their new "mini-LP" plays out like a passionately raging clash between two lovers. "Turning Into Stone" and "A Dark Tunnel" both reflect the intimidating dark gloss that typically attends Phantogram's Carter-sung tracks: "I've got new ways of turning into stone," he sings on the former; "I'll shoot down every person that I wanna love . . . I'll bite the head off every little mourning dove," he threatens on the latter.

The opposing force to his stony pessimism is Barthel, whose songs are lighter and quicker, like skittering heartbeats (with the exception of the title track, which, contrary to its name, is not a club jam but a slow-seeping burner over which Barthel sighs, "Love was the only thing I ever needed").

The record's opener, "16 Years," is a gorgeously windswept track, propelled upward by a palpitating, jumping drumbeat—"Is this love that I'm feeling again?" Barthel wonders. But the best example of Barthel's contrasting shining light to Carter's dark shadows is the single "Don't Move"—with its choppy claps, brassy horn samples, and sprightly vocals, it's brighter than anything heard on Phantogram's 2009 full-length, Eyelid Movies. Barthel asserts her calming presence again, singing "All you know how to do is shake, shake/Keep your body still/Keep your body still" (ironic in that the song is so infectious as to render those instructions impossible). Gloom, despair, desire, comfort—the emotional range packed into this story told over six songs is extraordinary. ERIN K. THOMPSON

*****

Tales of Crime Parts 1 & 2, The Pine Hill Haints (11/15, K Records, myspace.com/pine hillhaints): This Alabama Americana group likes washboards, accordions, and snare drums, and the A-side is a traditional folk tune comprising four chords and a simple melody. The B-side is a feedback-laden spoken-word thing that's more Butthole Surfers than bluegrass. DL

* Patterns, Run Kid Run (11/15, Tooth & Nail, runkidrun.net): Run Kid Run's third T&N effort is a boisterous, indie pop-rock slam-dunk of sing-along choruses, witty verses, and layers of finely tuned harmonies. The standout is lead track "Farewell Old Self," which features looped backing vocals and a mini-orchestra. JW

"The Pearl" 7-inch, the Sandwitches (11/8, Hardly Art, hardlyart.com/thesandwitches): The San Francisco all-female trio presents two delectable garage-pop songs, composed of strumming guitars and sweetly high-pitched vocals. The B-side, "Benny's Memory Palace," is actually the more charming of the two. EKT

The Anthem of Angels, Seventh Day Slumber (11/15, BEC, seventhdayslumber.com): Distorted power chords mixed with the deep, almost grunge-like vocals of Joseph Rojas make The Anthem of Angels an easy listen, if not slightly addicting. Equally melodic and passionate, the album stands strong next to anything by label mates Anberlin. JW

Play Your Old Stuff, Underoath (out now, Solid State, underoath777.com): Underoath paved the way for keyboard-driven metalcore, but much can change in a few years. This compilation contains their first three records split over three discs. The first disc? Yeah, that's a different, raspier singer. And the drummer? He's a beast . . . but he's not in the band anymore, either. JW

* "The Making of Thriller" b/w "The Making of Star Wars," White Rainbow/ Selector Dub Narcotic (11/15, K Records, krecs.com): On the A-side, Portland weirdo White Rainbow stretches Calvin Johnson's iconic, croaking come-ons across a hijacked R&B beat/background vocal spiked with clattering hand percussion; the dub version nicely ups the bass and subs a melodica for the vox. EG

 
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