Reviews: It's June 2012, and Seattle Sounds Like...

Our take on every local release.

LOCAL RELEASES

Azure Shift, "I Can" (out now, self-released, azureshift.weebly.com): These guys like Alice in Chains. A LOT! CHRIS KORNELIS

Ball of Wax, Volume 28 (out now, self-released, ballofwax.org): Levi Fuller's BoW compilations are always stellar, but he may find it hard to top himself after this edition—booty-shakin' tracks of the electro variety (including new projects from Josh Morrison and Robb Benson) that flow together like your favorite summer playlist. MA'CHELL DUMA LAVASSAR

BattleCry Melody, Vanquish (out now, self-released, battlecrymelody.com): If the Bloodhound Gang were virgins, they'd sound like BattleCry Melody. Not that these funky white-boy rappers should be taken home to your mother. Quite the contrary. However, somehow, this acoustic guitar–fused hip-hop is oddly satisfying and genuine. JOE WILLIAMS

Beat Connection, The Palace Garden (6/19, Tender Age, beatconnection.tumblr.com): Solidifying Beat Connection's shift from hazy, hypnagogic house duo to an electro-pop four-piece in the vein of Cut Copy or Delorean is a smart move, maybe, but The Palace Garden is still more promising than fulfilling. ERIC GRANDY

Jherek Bischoff, Composed (out now, Brassland, jherekbischoff.bandcamp.com): With its buttery layers of unpredictable melodies, listeners to Bischoff's first solo EP will swoon. Initially composing his songs on ukulele, Bischoff then recorded one instrument at a time, spawning his visionary and inventive orchestral harmonies. KATHERINE MCKEON

*Blooper, Go Away (out now, self-released, blooper.bandcamp.com): You'd never guess this EP was recorded during January's weeklong snowpocalypse; its jangly, fuzzed-out garage-pop tunes are irresistibly catchy and primed for the coming summer months. ANDREW GOSPE

*Boy Fruit, Demonology (out now, Debacle Records, debaclerecords.com): Murky, clattering instrumental hip-hop that aims to reference both Dilla and Black Dice—and which damn near succeeds at such lofty goals with its weird grooves, glitchy rhythms, and free-roaming float. EG

Noel Brass, Jr., Future Noir Soundtracks (out now, Tropical Metropolis, noelbrassjr.bandcamp.com): The Afrocop bandleader puts forth some hazy atmospheres here, with warbling synthesizers, lingering piano notes, and slathered-on mood in lieu of giddy-up. Best experienced as a soundtrack, although the plot is left to your imagination. TODD HAMM

*Brandi Carlile, Bear Creek (out now, Columbia Records, brandicarlile.com): After making two well-received records with the biggest producers in the business, Rick Rubin and T Bone Burnett, Carlile turned to a knob-twiddler with decidedly fewer bona fides: herself. The result is the best album of the Ravensdale-born artist's career. Carlile's voice is more self-assured, and the songwriting (highlights include "A Promise to Keep" and the Dixie Chicks–esque "Hard Way Home") is as compelling as ever, straddling the strong side of the adult/country divide. CK

Case+Ctrl, Case+Ctrl (out now, self-released, caseandctrl.bandcamp.com): This debut mixes Chris Cornell's yarl, Radiohead's ambient sound, and Billy Corgan's guitar tone for a post-rock layer cake perfect for fans of heavy '90s rock. JULIA MULLEN GORDON

*Chastity Belt, Fuck Chastity Belt (out now, self-released, chastity-belt.bandcamp.com): The four songs on this debut EP (produced by fellow garage denizens Dude York, of whom the all-girl Chastity Belt could easily be the female counterpart) pair the stripped-down punk-funk aesthetic of C.O.C.O. with the direct, at times risqué, lyrical charms of Be Your Own Pet. JMG

*Clam Hamr, Womb Service (out now, self-released, reverbnation.com/clamhamr): This Seattle rock trio's debut boasts one of the best titles, and perhaps the best ultrasound cut-and-paste artwork, you'll ever see. Though the punk gets poppy at times, they ride the waves like punks (the good kind) rather than popsters, and have a killer time doing it. TH

C-Leb and the Kettleblack, The Kettle (out now, self-released, c-lebsounds.com): These gentlemen take a very Austin approach to C&W, melding the rougher elements of twang (occasionally with modern electronics) to make music perfect for tossing back a whiskey shot floating in Rainier. MDL

Crybaby comp (6/16, self-released, crybabystudios.com): Capitol Hill practice space/recording studio Crybaby knocks on its tenants' doors to assemble this comp; highlights include scuzz punks Stickers and Haunted Horses, melancholic acts Sad Faces and Sam Miller, and the Royal Eyes' Smiths-descended "17 Hours." EG

Danny the Street, Prom Is King (out now, self-released, dannythestreet.bandcamp.com): Featuring former members of Man Plus, this new project from songwriter Jared Mills (Noddy) deals in darker, more straightforward rock textures. On occasion, like the last minute or so of "Since October," the music comes regrettably close to sounding like Nickelback. AG

Davidson Hart Kingsbery, 2 Horses (6/26, Fin Records, finrecords.com): Songs of heartache ("Eyes of Green") and heavy drinking ("NyQuil and Wine") are tailored for Kingsbery's raspy croon. A reverb-washed, roots-rock guitar keeps things good and country. GWENDOLYN ELLIOTT

D.evolution.Aires, Cestui Que Vie (6/19, self-released, devolutionaires.com): It's hard to pin a style on this Seattle trio's second album, but maybe that's the point. An eclectic group of influences emerge, from groovy, fuzzy rock ("Ladder Clan") to Hendrix as interpreted by the Minutemen ("Your Sacrifice") to psychedelic blues ("Devil"). The playing is solid, but there's no through line. DL

Ben Fisher, Roanoke EP (out now, benfisher.bandcamp.com): In this five-song follow-up to last year's debut, Heavy Boots & Underwoods, singer/songwriter/busker Fisher leans on the folk canon of the '60s with another set of carefully finger-picked, plaintive ballads. GE

Fly Moon Royalty, Dimensions (out now, Sportn' Life, flymoonroyalty.bandcamp.com): At their best, FMR is a hip soul duo that conjures images of sunny days and summer dresses. Unfortunately, aside from top-notch jam "The Birthday Song," this five-song EP slips on its uneven moods, and Action Jackson's rhymes can't keep up with his high level of production. TH

Fox and the Law, "Feel So Blue" (out now, self-released, foxandthelaw.com): The first single from the garage-rockers' forthcoming Scarlet Fever isn't particularly novel, but it carves out a happy medium between the sludgy blues and up-tempo punk of the band's earlier work while sticking fast to their garage-rock ethos. AG

*Fox and the Law, "Something Bad" (out now, self-released, foxandthelaw.com): On the other hand, the second single, based around a Black Keys–worthy descending blues riff and some snarling vocals from frontman Guy Keltner, might be the best song of the band's still-brief career. AG

* FRESH ESPRESSO/Bossalona

(out now, Out for Stardom, facebook.com/freshespresso)

This rap duo began 2012 on a sudden, unexplained hiatus, dropping out of a headlining New Year's Eve show while MC/producer/keyboardist P-Smoov decamped to his native Michigan for a breather. On Bossalona opener "Green Windows," they return with fellow MC Rik Rude "in search of a rebirth" and Smoov "reincarnated with my pupils dilated," and whatever problems sidelined them some months ago feel wholly conquered here. Smoov and Rude's raps are as tight and attitude-packed as ever, and Smoov's productions are his best yet, ditching the clubby electro of previous cuts in favor of a more traditional but also more effective rap sound, marked by triumphant horns, smartly flipped samples, and some credibly rattling beats. For anyone who wrote these guys off as mere party-rap jokers, Bossalona is Fresh Espresso running things with serious focus. Whatever they've been doing this year, it's worked. EG

Gavin Guss, "Riga in the Fall" b/w "Place in France" (out now, Fin Records, finrecords.com): A longtime local purveyor of precious indie pop, Guss has a voice so pretty and melodic he actually pulls off a cover of the naughty "Place in France" (yes, the song from your childhood in which the ladies wear no pants). Strangely appealing songs one could liken to Elliott Smith on overdrive. MDL

*The Hive Dwellers, Hewn From the Wilderness (6/12, K Records, krecs.com): Calvin Johnson's latest with the Hive Dwellers is some of the funnest, friendliest, and most spirited ramshackle indie pop he's done since Beat Happening—high praise around these parts. EG

Irukandji: Physics of Fusion, Awakening (out now, self-released, irukandjimusic.com): "Fusion" is an appropriate word to describe this eight-piece band's reggae- and funk-infused hip-hop, which features impressive vocals and rhymes from dual vocalists Sola and Phoenix. AG

Dylan Jakobsen, Tell Everything (6/16, self-released, myspace.com/dylanjakobsen): Even if soft, acoustic-driven pop-rock isn't your thing, don't be so quick to write off Dylan Jakobsen. Yes, the lyrics are about finding love, losing love, and unrequited love, but there's something honest and inspiring in his approach. JW

Keyboard Kid, Digital Blunts (out now, Mezzanine Records, keyboardkid206.bandcamp.com): This limited-edition cassette, released at the Lil B show in April (and on Bandcamp), is a collection of typically cloudy, 8-bit-inflected beats from the Seattle-based producer. EG

Killer Canary, I Am My Own Molecule (out now, Hollow Giant Records, killercanary.net): This full-length debut is easily digestible pop-punk with some generically catchy vocal hooks from the band's most unusual element, drummer and lead singer Zak Andree. AG

Kladruby Gold, To the Terminal (out now, self-released, kladrubygold.com): This band is depressed and a tad confused. The singer is practically begging for guidance on To the Terminal—part "I have a cousin in Texas" and part funk-soul-folk-rock—while the rest of the band prays nobody notices. JW

Lazer Kitty, Ruins (6/8, self-released, facebook.com/lazerkitty): Instrumental jams are a tough racket, but "improvisational space-rock trio" Lazer Kitty do a fair job here, equally concerned with meandering orbits and propulsive liftoffs—background music, maybe, but pleasant enough at that. EG

*Lemolo, The Kaleidoscope (7/3, self-released, lemolomusic.com): With this highly anticipated full-length debut, this dream-pop duo has established itself among the town's most promising up-and-comers. As good as these melodies are, it's obvious these ladies are just getting warmed up. CK

*Logic Probe, Full Glitz (6/11, Pleasure Boat Records, soundcloud.com/pleasureboatrecords): This local duo has been making dark, downbeat electronic tracks since 1998—long before even your Gramma had Ableton—and the IDM-inflected Full Glitz feels like the result of years well spent in the lab. EG

*Ali Marcus, Americana Hotel (6/22, Turtle Rock Records, facebook.com/ali.marcus): Local songbird Marcus has that sweet, pure vocal style practically invented for alternative country. Her strongest asset, however, is her storytelling ability, which draws from topics from personal family history to the currently political for an enjoyable, albeit light, folksy Americana experience. MDL

mars upial, Data Puss (out now, self-released, mars-upial.bandcamp.com): This anonymous producer's four-song EP falls into the nebulous realm of IDM, featuring glitchy beats and thick smears of synthesizer and sounding like a less-nuanced version of Four Tet. AG

Joy Mills, Trick of the Eye, (out now, self-released, joymills.com): Trick of the Eye rings with an unhurried cadence, rich in lyrical imagery and twangy pedal steel. Mills' earthy tones softly attune bassist Tom Parker's subtle harmonies to her own. GE

* MT. ST. HELENS VIETNAM BAND/Prehistory

(out now, Dead Oceans, soundcloud.com/mshvb)

Those who remember the glory days of 2008–09 will undoubtedly be excited for the return of Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band, albeit in a slightly subdued form. The songs on this EP are mellower than their energetic-bordering-on-frenetic 2009 debut and more in the dark, moody vein of 2010's "misunderstood" (read: critically maligned) Where the Messengers Meet. But that's not a bad thing. "Warm Bodies," the EP's single, is a somber acoustic ballad that explores the pain of human existence, while opener "Best Bet" displays the spark and swagger that made their first album so compelling. Singer Benjamin Verdoes' versatile performance, at times ragged, at times sensitive and sad, completes the hypnotic overall effect. While the band's music and vision is consistent across all three releases, the tide of critical opinion has been less kind. In 2008, reviewers loved their elaborate arrangements and complex, multipart song structures; in 2010, they were tired of them. Whether their songs will wear better critically in 2012 remains to be seen, but if you're a fan of their previous releases, you'll find something to love on Prehistory. JMG

The Nightcaps, Crowd Control (6/15, self-released, thenightcappers.bandcamp.com/album/crowd-control): Not to be confused with the '90s Seattle lounge act, this rap duo's sophomore album features slick, sample-heavy production from a full staff of promising locals. The chanted choruses and MC Eddy Obitek's over- animated delivery take away from many of the songs, but fellow MC 3rdegree provides some witty lines and rights the ship a bit. TH

Nouela, Chants (6/12, The Control Group, facebook.com/nouelamusic): Formerly frontwoman of Seattle pop- rock band People Eating People, Nouela Johnston's new album includes dark and moody tracks that highlight her heavily impassioned vocals and lyrics ("You ain't no nice guy," she keens repeatedly on "Joke Part II") and her eloquent, classically trained piano playing. ERIN K. THOMPSON

The Numbs, "Freaks Easy" (out now, Couple Skate Records, soundcloud.com/couple-skate-records): Formerly half of Seattle noise duo U, Jeff Johnson's solo debut as the Numbs plays like a heat-warped reggae record—sinister tropicalia that recalls Black Dice and Excepter. EG

*Party Box, Space Fighter, We Heard the Future (out now, self-released, partybox.bandcamp.com): Gritty, raw, and poppy, Party Box is a slow-motion version of Kings of Leon eight years ago. From "Amelia" to "Pineapple Footsteps," this is a local release not to miss. JW

The Pharmacy, Josephine (out now, Seayou Records, seayou.bandcamp.com): A poppy, pretty sweet little EP from a band the freakin' New Yorker called out as basically a scam to hang out in a van, party, and get girls coast to coast. So, uh, well done, guys. EG

J. Pinder, Careless (out now, Fin Records, soundcloud.com/jpindermusic): Long a star in the making, and here running with premium-line producers like Jake One, Kuddie Fresh, Illmind, and Vitamin D, Seattle MC Pinder shows off his ability to lay down thoughtful verses and radio-ready hooks. There are down moments (like the awful "Some Kinda Star"), but overall, Pinder comes on strong in his formal debut. TH

Poor Moon, "Holiday" (out now, Sub Pop, subpop.com): This teaser for the Fleet Foxes offshoot's full-length debut is a lo-fi, Henry Mancini–esque nod to '60s lounge that would be more appropriate for an episode of Mad Men than that horrible Decemberists song the show used a few seasons ago. Seriously, what were they thinking!?!?!? CK

*Raz, "They'll Speak" (out now, self-released, reverbnation.com/razpy): Raz, aka Razpy, spills some powerful thought over a ruminating string backdrop that works beautifully. TH

Recess Monkey, In Tents (6/19, Monkey Mama, recessmonkeytown.com): If you're a musically hip 7-year-old, you're no longer stuck between a rock and a hard place. In Tents provides silly age-appropriate lyrics with more-than-tolerable melodies. Parents can forgo the earplugs; kids can still sing along. KM

Red Jacket Mine "Bellar & Bawl" b/w "Grow Your Own" (out now, Fin Records, redjacketmine.net): Another shot of Big Star revivalism from some of the city's finest apostles of '70s pop. CK

Clemm Rishad, "The Beginning" (out now, Sky Movement, soundcloud.com/clemmrishad): "The Beginning" is about reveling in accomplishment and at the same time understanding there's a long road ahead. Tacoma's Rishad fills in these raps with his usual calm over a pleasing soul-sampled beat. TH

Sam Russell, The Water Balloon (out now, self-released, thebluemoonbible.com): Songwriter/guitarist Russell partners with backing band the Harborrats for an album whose genre-hopping—blues, '60s rock, power pop, and adult-contemporary balladry, to name several—is proficient but disjointed. AG

Scriptures, self-titled (out now, Trans-linguistic Other, records.translinguisticother.com/scriptures): Scriptures feels like a 40-year trek through the desert (in a good way): parched, wandering instrumental rock, with guitar slides that sound like hawks diving. EG

Serial Hawk, Buried in the Gray (out now, self-released, serialhawk.com): Slow and heavy chromatic riffs blend the stoner rock of Kyuss with the Northwest sludge of bands like Tad and the Melvins. The EP's closer, "Watch It Burn," is so sludgy and slowed-down it may be unheadbangable. DAVE LAKE

Tommy Simmons, Someway, Somehow (out now, self-released, reverbnation.com/TommySimmons): Tracks that range from cocktail soul so mellow it would make Robin Thicke blush to John Mayer–esque secretary rock. Is this edgy or revolutionary? Nope. But it is radio-friendly and packaged to make major commercial waves. MDL

Slashed Tires, Assure (out now, Off Tempo, offtempo.bandcamp.com): Guitarist/producer Kenneth Piekarski's solo project is a mixed bag of dub-influenced electronica and barely listenable noise-rock sludge, with the best songs (dance track "Mull It Over") sticking out noticeably from the melody-less majority. AG

Steezie Nasa, "Art of War" ft. Nacho Picasso (out now, Cloud Nice, cloudnice.com): Not the best of verses from two of Cloud Nice's B.A.Y.B. MCs, but they prove effective at setting the atmosphere all dark and filling it with gloomy imagery to match. TH

*Stephanie, Trill Bundles Vol. 1 & 2 (out now, self-released, soundcloud.com/poorstephanie): This collection of "new/old/weird jams, deep thoughtz & demos" re-imagines Stephanie's moody post-punk as thizzed-out dub and awesomely shitty cloud-rap instrumentals. Sick stuff. EG

*Tomten, Wednesday's Children (6/19, FlatField Records, flatfieldrecords.com): Last year's Sound Off! winners fulfill their early promise with their first full-length, 10 elegantly composed songs with robust guitars, rich organs, stately melodies, and worldly titles ("Bertolt Brecht," "Springtime in Tangier"). Frontman Brian Noyeswatkins has an interesting, expressive voice, but the album's best track is the balmy "So So So," the only song on which bassist Lena Simon sings lead. More of her, please. EKT

The Vonvettas, Monster (out now, self-released, reverbnation.com/thevonvettas): If it were possible for this band to carry around a portable stage at all times, it'd be a massive hit. Monster is exciting, robust, and pleasantly layered, but screams to be played in front of a crowd. JW

*Yuni in Taxco, Prizes (6/23, Havaii Records, yuni.bandcamp.com): On their third album, the prolific quintet continues their voyage into a self-made jungle of jangly surf guitars, Kraut-y keyboard riffs, and dueling vocal lines. It's a safari you'll wish never ended. JMG

LOCAl LABELS' OUT-OF-TOWN BANDS

Beachwood Sparks, The Tarnished Gold (6/26, Sub Pop, thecalmingseas.com): The standout track on this Los Angeles Americana band's third full-length is the shimmering "Earl Jean"; the rest of the album recalls Simon & Garfunkel's tranquil harmonies, but with considerably fewer memorable melodies. EKT

Children 18:3, On the Run (6/19, Tooth & Nail, children183.com): Falling somewhere in the region of Rise Against and the Ataris, On the Run is an energizing record of palm-muted guitar and poppy, upbeat drums. The standout, "Moment to Moment," will have no problem becoming your new guilty pleasure. JW

Fergus & Geronimo, "Roman Tick" (out now, Hardly Art, hardlyart.com): Soft-core, tongue-in-cheek pop-punk pastiche from a pair of dudes capable of much better (see 2011's "Baby Don't You Cry"). Hopefully their forthcoming LP, Funky Was the State of Affairs, is. CK

*Iron & Wine, "One More Try" (6/26, Suicide Squeeze, suicidesqueeze.net): Sam Beam's unlikely and exquisite cover of George Michael's 1988 #1 hit, reworked with celestial organ, clarinet, and strikingly effusive vocals, is a reaffirmation of Michael's underrated genius as a songwriter. EKT

Jaill, Traps (6/12, Sub Pop, subpop.com): This Milwaukee trio's second Sub Pop LP is full of sunny, slightly psyched garage pop, favoring clean electric guitars and acoustic strum and led by Vincent Kircher's warbly but tuneful singing. EG

*Magic Trick, Ruler of the Night (6/12, Hardly Art, hardlyart.com): Originally the bedroom recordings of Fresh & Onlys dude Tim Cohen, his glum guitar-and-piano ballads have evolved into subtly expansive things here, fleshed out with smart percussion, flutes (via the Oh Sees' John Dwyer?!), and faintly echoing choruses (featuring the Aislers Set's Alicia Vanden Heuvel!). EG

The Overseer, We Search, We Dig (6/19, Solid State, facebook.com/theoverseerband): The Overseer displays an impressive amount of depth and talent here, mixing tempos, chord progressions, and all-out emotion for a heavy and refreshing dose of hardcore. Check out "Dreamer" for full impact. JW

Write This Down, Lost Weekend (6/5, Tooth & Nail, myspace.com/writethisdown): Most certainly a grower, not a shower. Underwhelming at first, tracks like "See Ya Never" and "Red 7" are actually quite vocally impressive, with a refreshing mixture of harmonized screaming and singing leading the punches. JW

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