Reviews: It's January 2012 and Seattle Sounds Like...

Our take on every local release of the month.

LOCAL RELEASES

The Acoustic Reign Project, Arc (out now, Sol Disk, soldisk.com): Do you like free jazz? If so, you'll probably dig Arc, notable both for the inclusion of former Heart guitarist Roger Fisher in its lineup and for lending credibility to the notion that Seattle has a viable jazz scene. If you're not familiar with the genre, smoke some opium, replace your regular lightbulbs with red ones, and start drinking chartreuse. It will liven things up considerably. MIKE SEELY

Blak Mic, "Hearts & Soul" (out now, self-released, blakmic.bandcamp.com): Beats and rhymes from Tacoma's Blak Mic and his friends that roll off the playlist with a soulful ease. A fun free-time release that's worth at least a quick spin. TODD HAMM

* Havi Blaze, "I'm a Murderer" (out now, self-released, haviblazemusic.com): Somber storytelling from Tacoma over a lonely piano and bass rhythm. He treads on tired subject matter here, but his line is twisted, and neither his singing nor his rap flow have ever sounded so smooth. TH

Chris Mess, Chris Mess (out now, self-released, reverbnation.com/chrismess): Despite the name, this isn't holiday music for dysfunctional families but rather guitar-driven, glammy power pop from a quartet of Seattle scene veterans. It's a bit predictable at times, but makes up for it by not taking itself too seriously. MA'CHELL DUMA LAVASSAR (Fri., Jan. 20, 2 Bit Saloon)

Kaylee Cole, Into the Woods (out now, self-released, kayleecole.bandcamp.com): Cole has undergone a transformation of late. These older songs, staples of her live performances of the past few years, showcase only piano and her resonant, smoky voice. A full-length expected in 2012 will display the goth side of her newer work. JULIA MULLEN GORDON (Sat., Jan. 14, Columbia City Theater)

Thaddeus David, "By Any Means" (out now, Members Only, membersonly206. bandcamp.com): The beat is dark and echoey, and Grayskul's Onry Ozzborn drops some twisted imagery to match, but Thad's verses aren't as strong as they've been in the past, and Parker's chorus is too faux–Dirty South. TH

* Demon Hunter, The World Is a Thorn (Deluxe Edition) (out now, Solid State, demonhunter.net): Gorgeous, unrelenting, and excellently crafted, this re-release boasts a new string mix of "Driving Nails" and a few acoustic hits, including "Down in a Hole." JOE WILLIAMS

Dub Lounge International, 2011 Live Compilation (out now, self-released, dubloungeintl.com): Funky and fun, DLI's live album boasts recordings from KEXP, Winston's Beach Club in San Diego, and Long Beach. The smooth grooves are a bass-heavy grab bag of experimental roots music with a warm, soulful message ingrained in each song. JW

Dyme Def, Yuk the World (out now, Yuk Records, dymedef.com): A large collection of solid DD material that charts the progress the group has made as artists and, perhaps, people. TH

GravelRoad, Psychedelta (1/26, Knick Knack Records, knickknackrecords.com): GravelRoad manages to put its own stamp on psychedelic blues, a clichéd genre defined by recitation. On this promising LP, the band insists the genre's not worn out. CHRIS KORNELIS (Thurs., Jan. 26, Tractor Tavern)

Groove for Thought, Inspired, (out now, self-released, grooveforthought.com): Featuring soulful, swinging a cappella harmonies, Inspired is a funky, bopping record that pays homage to pop classics like "How Sweet It Is." The Seattle group, which appeared on NBC's The Sing-Off, is incredibly cohesive and fun, and their voices explode on each track. JW (Sat., Jan. 7, Theatre at Meydenbauer, Bellevue)

Hi-Life Soundsystem, Langston Hugh Hefner: Love, Weed & Other Vices (out now, Members Only, membersonly206.bandcamp.com): Mixing their patented self-aware party-rap with some cooled-out later-night scenarios, this interlude-heavy follow-up to their self-titled debut can stand up to a front-to-back listen while you indulge your vices. TH

* The Hoot Hoots, Appetite for Distraction (out now, self-released, thehoothoots.com): The Hoot Hoots pick up where the Shins and the Unicorns left off with tight pop arrangements, expressive, lush harmonies, and sound effects across the board: spacey blips, synth landscapes, cartoony-sounding refrains in the key of Futurama's Zoidberg. Wrapped up in lyrics about ghosts and Pac-Man, the Hoots damn near define goof-pop. GWENDOLYN ELLIOTT (Sat., Jan. 7, High Dive)

How to Operate Your Brain, self-titled (out now, self-released, howtooperateyourbrain.bandcamp.com): As band names go? Terrible. Thankfully, the songs on this debut EP are better—a tiny bit early-2000s emo throwback, but otherwise clean and tight guitar rock replete with interesting riffage and a lot of obvious heart. ERIN K.THOMPSON (Wed., Jan. 11, Funhouse)

iji, Yerself (out now, self-released, ijiiji.bandcamp.com): Yerself finds a compatible context for Zach Burba, iji's alternately bewitching and affectedly cutesy frontman. Burba has a near-sexless voice fit for a prepubescent, but Yerself coaxes stunning warmth from track after track of mid-tempo, hand-woven funk. M.T. RICHARDS

Into the Storm, Captains (out now, self-released, intothestorm.bandcamp.com): The recording (especially on the drum tracks) could be more even, and screamer Oliver Reeves could stand to go easy on the vocal-cord shredding, but the music beneath it all is a delightful punch in the face. TH (Wed., Jan. 4, Comet Tavern)

JVigil, self-titled (1/10, self-released, j-vigil.com): JVigil's voice bears a passing resemblance to Usher's, and his debut album has some outwardly slick-sounding production, but those two facts can't mask the songs' uninspired dullness. R&B for amateurs. EKT (Thurs., Jan. 12, Sole Repair)

The Luna Moth, Speak Destination (1/5, self-released, thelunamoth.com): Clocking in at just under 35 minutes, this three-song EP is best suited to be angry elevator music. The nonstop crescendos get lost in a sea of constantly-beating-you-over-the-head trance music that barely breaks yawn-worthy. JW (Thurs., Jan. 5, Chop Suey)

Manooghi Hi, Silence (out now, Mowlawner Records, manooghihi.com): This Seattle rock-and-world-fusion collective's second album is most successful when it blends riffing electric guitars and Indian-inspired chants, led by Bombay native Mehnaz Hoosein's piercing vocals—such as on the opening track, "My Friends," and particularly on the band's dizzying cover of "Kashmir." EKT (Fri., Jan. 20, Crocodile)

Massiah, "Homage" (out now, self-released, massiah.bandcamp.com): The second single from Massiah's upcoming Welcome to Shadowville mixtape is packed with overly literal rhetoric that might have cut deeper had it come out before MCs like Immortal Technique blew the lid off the niche. He sounds like a genuine guy with a lot to say, though, so we'll check back in. TH

* The Maxines, Drugstore (1/24, K Records, krecs.com): Four songs of super-fuzzed-out garage rock from this Olympia duo, Matt Murillo and Kelly Norman. For just two people, they make a helluva lot of racket, taking turns singing lead vocals and playing fierce and pounding simple riffs. Think equal parts Bikini Kill, the Melvins, and White Stripes. DAVE LAKE (Sun., Jan. 8, Rendezvous)

* OC Notes, Emerald City Sequence (out now, self-released, emeraldcitysequence.blogspot.com): The Seattle studio wizard returns with a conceptual audio-visual treat: He puts his own twist on the 1978 Afro-celebratory Wizard of Oz remake The Wiz. Notes can do no wrong. TH (Tues., Jan. 10, Neumos)

Out Like Pluto, Take Over (1/10, The James Polk Shuffle Music, outlikepluto.com): A fun pop-punk effort fronted by female vocalist Kari Tarr, though the smidgen of anger and attitude on songs like "Rocco" and "Bridge" plays a lot like Taylor Swift would if she wore Converse and listened to Simple Plan. JW (Fri., Jan. 13, King Cat Theater)

* Gregory Paul, The Fremont Abbey Sessions (out now, self-released, gregpaul.com): The hiss of analog tape and the cavernous natural reverb of Fremont Abbey adds a layer of pathos to Gregory Paul and Holly Merrill's transcendent harmonies, lending an old-school air to Paul's already classic songwriting. JMG

* qp, Go Dum (1/17, Car Crash Set, carcrashset.com): qp's bass track is both more engagingly hollowed-out and more rhythmically hyperactive than the hyphy to which it nods. Remixes from Car Crash don Ill Cosby to Seattle expat Jerry Abstract. ERIC GRANDY

Quickie, "Phoenix Jones" (out now, self-released, quickietheband.com): Quickie's homage to our local man in tights is beyond-polished pop-punk, so commercial that it gives you the feeling that at any moment they may bust out some tips to improve your credit score. MDL (Sat., Jan. 14, Comet Tavern)

Red Jacket Mine, "Poplar Bluff" (out now, self-released, redjacketmine.bandcamp.com): This Seattle rock-and-soul trio's genial new single boasts easy, mellow instrumentation, a compelling chorus, and—the sharpest arrow in the band's quiver—frontman Lincoln Barr's sweet, smooth, and unassuming vocals. EKT

Soul the Interrogator, "Remainder" (out now, self-released, soundcloud.com/soultheinterrogator): Hesitant brag-rap with boring cadences. Skip. TH

Spurm, Spurm 3 (1/14, ggnzla Records, spurm.me): The GGNZLA house band goes out with one last blast of horn-y, strangulated punk spunk (and one Who cover) before label boss TV Coahran and crew split for other projects. Comes as a 5 x 7 flexi-disc postcard. EG

* Sweet Secrets, Color Force (out now, self-released, sweetsecretsband.com): This Seattle six-piece merges the best of their previous two EPs into a debut full-length that gently straddles the line between the sweeping guitar rock of the early '90s (The The, U2) and the lush indie rock of the '00s (Interpol, The National, the Strokes). Roger Lloyd's fluid vocals next to Corey Knafelz's steady percussion inspire comparisons to a range of influences, but the band wholly owns these 12 tracks, blending dreamy song structures, killer guitar hooks, and luscious harmonies into gorgeous pop resonance. GE (Fri., Jan. 13, Skylark Cafe and Club)

Gabriel Teodros, Colored People's Time Machine (1/19, Fresh Chopped Beats/MADK, gabrielteodros.blogspot.com): Like those of onetime bandmate Khingz, each song Teodros writes is an earnest statement that approaches current world issues with a love-first attitude. Though he doesn't balance his good-natured demeanor with cutting lyricism as well as his friend does, his is a positive voice that deserves to be heard. TH (Thurs., Jan. 19, Chop Suey)

Urban Seeds, Grow (out now, self-released, urbanseeds.net): Easygoing, sample-free R&B that alternates between smoothed-out MC rhymes and soulful, reggae-influenced vocals. Not edgy or groundbreaking, but full of solid musicianship. MDL (Fri., Jan. 6, El Corazon)

* Various artists, Coastal Sightings (out now, Cairo Records, templeofcairo.com): Paradoxically, music and art space Cairo is small enough to hold maybe 50 people at a crowded show, but big enough to land on the front page of The Seattle Times. It's the current Velvet Underground of Seattle's DIY scene: a Kool-Aid drunk by only double digits' worth of people—all of whom, however, were inspired to start bands. Cairo Records' annual Expo Festival–accompanying compilation, this year dubbed Coastal Sightings, scans the breadth of that small but fertile scene—from analog electronics and ambient noise (acts like John Oven, Teflon Don, U, White Rainbow, and Secret Colors) to abrasive no-wave punk (Footwork, M.Women, Stickers, Flexions, Stephanie), plus outliers like King Dude's doom folk and Idle Times' garage-rock classicism. It also includes one wonderfully odd, weightless collab between twee poppers Witch Gardens and chillwavers USF—a cross-genre pairing that brings out the best in both and a fine example of the sort of creative dialogue for which Cairo provides space. EG

* Wings and Wounds, self-titled (out now, Fated Empire, fatedempire.com): Emo rap is alive and well in the Northwest—but more Rhymesayers' hoodie-pulled-down brooding than Drake-era whining, with Graves 33 providing dark backdrops for Sarx and guests' gruff rhymes. EG

* Kendl Winter, The Mechanics of Hovering Flight (1/24, K Records, krecs.com): Banjo-wielding multi-instrumentalist Kendl Winter's second release on K is rich and earthy, with the same sort of region-specific details that tied 2010's Apple Core to Puget Sound (there it was banana slugs, here chanterelles and Douglas firs), though it moves beyond that album's strained yodeling for a rootsy, raspy register and light accents of psychedelic banjo for a rightly centered bluegrass sound that's as indie as it is Appalachian. GE

Wizdom & Epidemmik, Unearthed (out now, self-released, wizdom80.bandcamp.com): Wiz has trouble straying from his monotonous sports/shoes/growing up in Seattle inkwell here, but Epidemmik's soul-sampled beats work well over the album's 10 tracks. TH

LOCAL LABELS' OUT-OF-TOWN BANDS

August Burns Red, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" (out now, Solid State, augustburnsred.com): More along the lines of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra on crack, ABR's version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" captures the traditional melody while giving it a metal flavor complete with finger-splitting guitar solos, slow-mo breakdowns, and even a slow, pretty part. JW (Sat., Feb. 11, El Corazon)

* Becoming the Archetype, "O Holy Night" (out now, Solid State, facebook.com/becomingthearchetypemusic): Ominous and chilling, this single begins with children softly singing over piano. The real magic begins when the electric guitar hits at 1:17, leading into a majestic solo . . . before crashing into an oxymoronic Christmas breakdown of pig squeals and screams. JW

Blessed by a Broken Heart, Feel the Power (1/24, Tooth & Nail, blessed.mu): A fun mixture of glam rock and power metal, Feel the Power incorporates speedy, crying guitar solos that burst right out of the '80s. A teaspoon of screaming rounds out the record, hitting its groove best with "Shut Up and Rock." JW

David Hahn, Apocalypse Cow (out now, Fin Records, davidhahnonline.com): The title track is a industrial mashup of the Bush administration's drumbeat to war, porn, and W.'s comments about not waiting for the mushroom cloud. It's backed with "Chernobyl," which is equally menacing but not as orgasmic. CK

 
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