Album Reviews: It’s July 2012, and Seattle Sounds Like...

Our take on every local release.

LOCAL RELEASES

James Apollo, Little War, Little Less (out now, Marterry, jamesapollo.com): Brooklyn-to-Seattle transplant Apollo enlisted local folk hero Damien Jurado to produce his latest record, and the influence is apparent in the album's restrained, dusky baroque pop. ANDREW GOSPE (Fri., July 27, Fremont Abbey)

Autumn Electric, Make Me a Tree (out now, self-released, autumnelectric.bandcamp.com): Folksy indie rock with a pop sweet tooth, featuring male and female vocal leads, an occasional surge of electric guitar, and solidly crafted songs. MA'CHELL DUMA LAVASSAR

David Bavas, Make It Rhyme (out now, Proud Mountain, davidbavas.com): Acoustic Americana that's at its best when the mandolin and pedal steel have kicked in. Bavas' songs are solid but his voice is the weak link, and on the sparser arrangements, his singing has trouble carrying the melodies. DAVE LAKE

Daily Benson, Casa Verde (out now, Team Family Records, dailybenson.com): Talent runs deep in the Benson family, as the teenage daughter of singer/songwriter Robb Benson (Dear John Letters) has her old man's gift for song. Her debut features her soulful and sultry voice—think Fiona Apple or Feist, with darkly introspective songs to match. DL

*Big Wheel Stunt Show, Wonderful LIFE (7/20, self-released, thebigwheelstuntshow.com): Hitting on a type of vintage blues-rock that's practically dead by modern standards, everything from the gritty, raw recording to the twangy, booming electric guitar—especially on "Bud'Der"—screams Zeppelin. JOE WILLIAMS (Fri., July 20, Sunset Tavern)

*Black Science, An Echo Through the Eyes of Forever (out now, DMI, blacksciencemusic.bandcamp.com): Seventies-flavored psych-rock with more pop sensibility than your average nostalgic Seattle quartet. Studio tricks and Jane's Addiction/Stereophonics vocal stylings make this album a definite win. TODD HAMM

*The Blakes, Art of Losses (7/24, PledgeMusic, theblakesband.com): The third LP from this Seattle trio was produced by the band in the mountains of Maine, yielding a dozen literate, dreamy indie-pop songs, perfect for lazing away a day in the Seattle sun. The Blakes have an affinity for all kinds of rock and roll, and don't mind wearing their influences on their collective sleeve. You can almost run down the stuff they love by going through the album track by track, making out distinct nods to The Jam ("Black Carnation"), '80s Stones ("Sea Fishing"), New Wave ("Dark Is the Night") and the Strokes ("Paralysis"). But the album never feels wholly derivative, thanks to the band's own aesthetic, which blends all the above into a series of cheery melodies, blankets of reverb, and waves of nostalgia. DL

*Blue Light Curtain, Clouds in Our Hair (out now, self-released, bluelightcurtain.com): Much of this shoegaze group's album (especially the first few tracks) sounds like it could have been recorded in London circa 1990. But the band pushes its sound into more modern territory as the album progresses, and the result rises well above pastiche. AG (Sat., July 21, JewelBox/Rendezvous)

Bright White Lightning, Bad Teeth (out now, Data Airlines, brightwhitelightning.com): Taking a tip—and blips and bleeps—from reconfigured video-game consoles, electro, and pop, this new band forges a chip-rock sound somewhere between the raunchy Euro dance sounds of Ed Banger Records and the spacy jams of the Ninja Tune label. GWENDOLYN ELLIOTT

Brothers From Another, Taco Tuesday (out now, self-released, brothersfromanother.bandcamp.com): Besides repping Seattle as well as anyone (with a song called "Molly Moon" and guest contributions from both Blue Scholars), this youthful hip-hop duo's latest is polished and poised beyond its years. AG (Sun., July 29, Crocodile)

Cloud Person, Anchors in the Sun (out now, Druscilla Cloud Records, cloudperson.bandcamp.com): On their first EP, this eclectic folk band mixes Native American flute and tambourine with keyboards and accordion. Whimsical with a slightly psychedelic feel, Cloud Person sings mostly of romance gone wrong. ALLISON THOMASSEAU (Sun., July 15, Comet Tavern)

*Dark Time Sunshine, ANX (7/24, Fake Four, darktimesunshine.com): Onry Ozzborn and Chicago producer Alex Zavala combine their talents to produce a dense sophomore record with plenty of electronic, spacy flourishes but also a whole lot of accessibility. AG (Sat., July 21, Crocodile)

Dead Man, Filthy Blues (out now, self-released, deadmanseattle.bandcamp.com): This band plays the kind of bluesy garage rock favored by several other guitar/drum duos in this town, namely The Grizzled Mighty and My Goodness, which would make for a great triple bill (with, hopefully, cheap PBR specials). Seattle bookers, are you listening? DL (Fri., July 6, Skylark)

Dull Knife, Dull Knife (out now, Debacle Records, debaclerecords.bandcamp.com): Two 15-minute-plus tracks of dark ambient noise: digital tooth-grinding and buzz saws, white-noise wind howl, and spooky, chain-rattling ambience—all strangely relaxing. ERIC GRANDY

Fall of 1920, Collide (out now, self-released, facebook.com/fallof1920): These 55 minutes of slow crunch show promise, but would be sharper in half the space, and with a good dose of hustle, focus, and Adderall. (Sat., July 14, High Dive) CHRIS KORNELIS

Fated Empire, "Bannermen" (out now, Fated Empire, fatedempire.bandcamp.com): Released as a promo single for the official launch of new local indie label Fated Empire, this track contains a verse from all four FE players (Graves 33, Sarx, Name the Uncanny, Vice Vs.) over a battlefield-ready tuba loop. Graves' verse is decent but choppy, and Sarx emerges as the most confident lyricist of the bunch. TH (Fri., July 27, High Dive)

*Golden Gardens, "Transparent Things" (out now, self-released, soundcloud.com/wearegoldengardens): Vocalist Aubrey Rachel Violet Bramble fits her airy vocal notes into the nooks and crannies of the watercolor synth streaks and wavering guitar chords that multi-instrumentalist Gregg Alexander Joseph Neville has beautifully layered. Fitting for either a windows-down summer drive or a rainy-day stroll. TH (Mon., July 16, Crocodile)

*Rachel Harrington, Makin' Our House a Honkytonk (out now, Skinnydennis Records, rachelharrington.net): Seattle has no shortage of lady country crooners: Ballard Avenue is littered with half-assed Emmylou wannabes, but Rachel Harrington ain't one of 'em. Hailed by Q magazine as having a voice that "makes Neko Case sound like Olivia Newton-John," Harrington is both fresh and referential, with a songwriting style very reminiscent of the premier honky-tonk honeys of yesterday, namely Loretta and Dolly. Her stellar track "Wedding Ring Vacation" will certainly rank as one of the year's best among the "swingin' doors" set. MDL

Carson Henley, 100 Hours (out now, self-released, soundcloud.com/hey-listentothis-music): Self-labeled as "funkadelic rock," Henley's second album is reminiscent of 1960s R&B and soul but stays modern with piano accents and jazzy guitar riffs. You'll want to get up and groove. AT (Sat., July 7, Columbia City Theater)

Hills of Elysium, This Lost Generation (out now, self-released, hillsofelysium.com): Wearing tons of eyeliner and dressing like Marilyn Manson's stepchildren makes it easy to dismiss how smart and political you really are. But if you give Hills of Elysium a listen, you'll find there's no ignoring lead singer September Garland, whose potent, screaming vocals will either make you want to headbang your heart out or shoot yourself in it—and are perfect for the molten, gothic new metal they make. MDL

The Intelligence, Everybody's Got It Easy but Me (out now, In the Red Records, intheredrecords.com): Lars Finberg and crew pump out nervy, poppy garage rock with such industrious regularity that it would almost feel like a mechanical exercise if it weren't so lively. EG (Thurs., July 19, Crocodile)

*Joy Wants Eternity, The Fog Is Rising (out now, self-released, joywantseternity.com): The third album from this Seattle post-rock band is ambient and gorgeous, as walls of guitar give way to syncopated grooves and gently picked guitar lines. As with many bands of this genre, the songs are vocal-free, but this is abstract art with no room for representational lyrics to muddy it up. DL (Fri., July 6, Sunset Tavern)

Klyntel, "Love Is Here to Stay" (out now, self-released, klyntel.com): '90s R&B in the tradition of Blackstreet and Motel Jordan that would have fit snugly onto the Space Jams soundtrack. CK (Sun., July 29, Alki Arts Festival)

Landlord's Daughter, The Passengers (out now, self-released, facebook.com/lldaughter): Emo almost to the point of being overwrought, this folksy dad-rock fusion is earnest in both delivery and musical ambitions. The Passengers takes itself very seriously; with a bit of self-editing and a little humor, it could be made more enjoyable. MDL

Lost Dogma, The Ghost You Left Behind (7/20, Knick Knack Records, lostdogma.com): At its core, Lost Dogma's sophomore release is a country-flavored rock record rich with three-part harmonies and tuneful choruses, but the band wanders across a broader rock spectrum, keeping things interesting as they show the influence of Bob Seger ("Sunny Divide"), The Band ("Yellow Brick Road"), and the Grateful Dead ("Never Fight the Devil"). DL (Fri., July 20, Tractor Tavern)

Lozen, Para Vida (7/20, Silent Queef Records, lozenpower.bandcamp.com): Named for a female Apache warrior, this Tacoma female duo plays angular, arty metal, sometimes en español. It's not all raging, though. The best moments happen when the ladies lay back a bit to harmonize and get all Breeders-like, like on "Le Dragon." DL

Magnetic Circus, Elementary Particles (out now, self-released, magneticcircus.bandcamp.com): Well-executed electro-psychedelia meets elements of metal, gothy mope-rock and sci-fi nerddom for interesting tracks with names like "Release the Kraken" and "Deep Space Meat." MDL (Thurs., July 19, Blue Moon Tavern)

Vicci Martinez, Vicci (out now, Universal Republic, viccimartinez.com): The Tacoma songstress' first album since coming to national attention as a finalist on NBC's The Voice contains predictably poppier tracks that don't do justice to her natural raw soulfulness, but Martinez's powerhouse vocals still manage to shine through. "Come Along," her duet with Cee Lo Green, is a fun listen. ERIN K. THOMPSON (Wed., July 4, Gas Works Park)

Ken McAllister, Ken McAllister (out now, self-released, kenrmcallister.tumblr.com): Rooted in folk and inner reflection, this album is basically a slow-moving, 40-minute ballad of soft guitar-plucking. But what it lacks in variation is easily made up for by its raw recording and performance. JW

*OCnotes, Moldavite (out now, self-released, ocnotes.bandcamp.com): This 33-song epic from one of the great Seattle talents features neck-snapping beats, intricately layered drums, mind-warping studio effects, and expertly spliced snippets of sound. A nonstop barrage of rhythm and rolling samples, Moldavite is Notes at his self-contained best, and it doesn't get any better than that. TH (Tues., July 17, Barboza)

Orca Team, Restraint (out now, self-released, facebook.com/orcateam): This record stays true to its name—there's nothing heavy or overblown about the easy, bouncy surf-pop melodies, a clean aesthetic that works nicely with frontman Leif Anders' smoothly lacquered vocals. EKT (Thurs., Aug. 2, Funhouse)

*Posse, Some Dongs (out now, self-released, posseposse.bandcamp.com): Each of the three members of this local garage-rock band individually covered a Bill Callahan song; each cover sounds so pleasant and lovingly executed, it's impossible to pick a favorite. EKT (Fri., July 13, Tractor Tavern)

*Prestige, Restrain From It All (7/16, self-released, prestigenw.com): Operating at two speeds, "freight train" and "face melt," Restrain From It All is an incredibly fierce and potent album for fans of nonstop, uncompromising metal. "1134," the standout track, features stop-and-go instrumentation and ruthless breakdowns. JW (Mon., July 16, El Corazon)

Producer Snafu, Songs of Sorrow (out now, Automation Records, automationrecords.bandcamp.com): Sixteen relatively homogeneous tracks of classical piano and breakbeats, a combination that works nearly as often as it sounds completely incongruous. AG

Riypnt, "Blast Off" (out now, self-released, ripynt.bandcamp.com): A bonus track from the Everett MC's The Hurt Locker Deluxe edition, "Blast Off" features a pulse-revving MTK beat, but shows again that while Ripynt is a decent lyricist, his songs sag when they dwell on clichéd rap subject matter ("I'ma blast off!", etc.). TH

Seapony, "What You Wanted" (out now, Hardly Art, hardlyart.com/Seapony): The first single from the sweet pop trio's forthcoming second LP thrums and buzzes with a happy energy before it starts wandering into monotone territory. EKT (Thurs., July 19, Olympic Sculpture Park)

*Secret Colors, Higher Views (out now, Bridgetown Records, bridgetownrecords.info): Five songs; 35 minutes of meandering, layered guitar and synth reveries; long loops fading over each other; notes dripping off in loose clustered patterns more than in concrete melodies. EG

Sic Ill, Techdemic (out now, self-released, sicill.bandcamp.com): The poor mixing, overly simple keyboard beats, and goofy rhyme style combine for a forgettable EP by this Tacoma rapper/beatmaker. TH

Aaron J. Shay, None the Worse for Wear (out now, self-released, aaronjshay.net): On opening track "The Things We'll Never Do," the ukelele-toting singer/songwriter spits out a lovelorn tune with the same bitter snarl as the Mountain Goats' John Darnielle, but Shay's pipes soften the impression with sweet backup harmonies and his jaunty uke. GE (Thurs., July 12, Fremont Abbey)

Song Sparrow Research, Song Sparrow Research (7/26, self-released, songsparrowresearch.com): Loose, dreamy pop and lush, sweeping melodies mark this local five-piece's debut release, recalling the delicate arrangements of Beirut and Travis and, sometimes, the driving indie anthems of the Strokes. GE (Thurs., July 26, Columbia City Theater)

Swearengens, Devil Gets Her Way (out now, self-released, swearengens.com): Honky-tonkin' twang, gritty guitar work, and two-stepping tunes keep Seattle's rich alt-country tradition alive, in the mold of Davidson Hart Kingsbery and Ryan Purcell. GE (Sat., July 14, Slim's Last Chance)

The Tempers, Together We Are the Love Vortex (7/6, self-released, thetempers.net/music): The Tempers, three siblings, play pleasantly hooky dance-rock with a clear New Wave influence. But none of that really matters, because Corina Bakker's overemotive, campy vocals overshadow everything else on this EP, for better or (more often) worse. AG (Fri., July 6, Comet Tavern)

The Torn ACLs, Real Risks (7/21, self-released, thetornacls.bandcamp.com): The ACLs expand from the relatively bland indie pop of January's Make a Break, Make a Move on this EP, which features tighter songwriting and more sonic variety. None of it is particularly risky, but it's a promising step forward. AG (Thurs., July 5, Tractor Tavern)

26000 Volts, Anger Issues (7/20, self-released, myspace.com/26000volts): If punk is dead, nobody told these guys. Combining the best of angry sing-talking, bar chords, and pounding snare, Anger Issues rockets through 22 tracks with enough grit and cojones to power a small car. JW (Fri., July 20, Funhouse)

Unnatural Helpers, "Hate Your Teachers" (out now, Hardly Art, hardlyart.com): You know how in Superman II the council banishes General Zod, Non, and Ursa, sentencing them to spend eternity floating around the universe trapped in that clear, shiny pane of glass? That's a lot like what an Unnatural Helpers record feels like: It's raw, brutal, and vicious, but contained in sharply produced tracks that have a sheen but aren't too slick. "Hate Your Teachers," the first single from the Seattle band's September LP, Land Grab, is UH mastermind Dean Whitmore's rowdiest, angriest cut yet. If an intergalactic atomic shock shatters his translucent prison, the president had better be ready to bow down. CK (Sat., Sept. 1, Bumbershoot)

Variable, Medic (out now, self-released, variable-mass.bandcamp.com): It would be unfair to call this producer's four-song EP abstract (and considering how prominently the drums sit in the mix, it would also be untrue), but these instrumental electronic compositions do tend to prioritize texture and beats over melody. AG

Various artists, Head East (out now, Old Redmond Fire House, redmond.gov/medialab): The Old Fire House Teen Center in Redmond has a long history of nurturing up-and-coming Eastside acts, from Modest Mouse (from Issaquah) to the Blood Brothers (Kirkland/Redmond). If no longer the destination for touring bands that it was during Seattle's odious Teen Dance Ordinance days, it remains a vital incubator for suburb-bred talent destined for Seattle and the wider world. This comp, recorded in the OFH's media lab, ranges from sax jazz and slap-bass funk/rock to the usual indie and several entries of acoustic folk. Borough's slow-building post-rock instrumental "Mayan Tomb" is a highlight, as is Zephyrs' scrappy and catchy indie-rock tune "Cairo Kids," an ode to the Seattle arts space that does for Capitol Hill kids what the OFH historically has for the 425—proving that the faintly longing symbiosis of suburb and city still applies. EG

Within Providence, Within Providence (out now, self-released, withinprovidence.bandcamp.com): Gregg Neville's solo project sounds like the gothic cousin of Duran Duran. His debut EP puts out a pop-synth sound with a dark edge. SARAH ELSON

The Young Evils, Foreign Spells (7/10, out now, theyoungevils.com): The follow-up to the pop outfit's 2010 Enchanted Chapel and their first release since expanding from a duo to a quintet, this EP boasts a sharper, darker sound, more vocal variety than the unison voices they'd become known for, and a touch of edgier attitude, most evident on "Devil's Barricade." EKT (Fri., July 13, Barboza)

LOCAL LABELS' OUT-OF-TOWN BANDS

Capital Lights, Rhythm 'n' Moves (7/17, Tooth & Nail, myspace.com/capitallights): Rewinding the airwaves to 2006, Capital Lights play a nostalgic brand of pop-rock that's reminiscent of Hellogoodbye meets We the Kings. Sometimes electronic, always upbeat, the foursome even features a brief country twang on the title track. JW

*Chain and the Gang, In Cool Blood (out now, K Records, krecs.com/artists/chain-and-the-gang): Ian Svenonius and the Gang's latest collection of howling garage and mod soul, with appealingly roughed-up guitars, sweet female backing vocals, and low-falutin' smart-ass lyrics. Their best stuff since their 2009 debut. EG

*Debo Band, Debo Band (7/10, Sub Pop, deboband.com): The Ethiopian diaspora picks up some klezmer-punk kids via Boston's Jamaica Plain, makes beautiful grooves together—richly rooted but full of contemporary energy. EG (Mon., Sept. 3, Bumbershoot)

*Deep Time, Deep Time (7/10, Hardly Art, hardlyart.com/deeptime): This Austin boy/girl duo plays organ and drums, but that's too small to describe their cool-headed yet fractured pop sound, led by Jennifer Moore's rich, seriously enthralling vocal jumps. EG (Sat., July 14, Cairo)

Husky, Forever So (7/10, Sub Pop, huskysongs.com): A Sub Pop–signed Australian quartet making soft, classicist folk rock in the style of Crosby, Stills, Nash and ZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Aren't we done with this stuff yet? EG (Fri., July 20, Crocodile)

States, Room to Run (out now, Tooth & Nail, statesmusic.com): As fresh as Sum 41 and as memorable as Ja Rule, the re-release of Room to Run is crawling and repetitive. Peel away the Paramore-esque vocals and distorted guitar, and you're left with nothing more than semi-catchy, mildly danceable choruses. JW

*Various artists, Country Funk (7/24, Light in the Attic, lightintheattic.net): In the world of musical genre hybrids, "country funk" seems almost an oxymoron, but leave it to those geniuses of the eclectic, our own LITA Records, to compile the best songs this unusual roots-music meld has to offer. Dale Hawkins, Gray Fox, and Mac Davis are just some of the names you'll find on this truly feel-good collection that features lots of twangy Telecaster goodness and booty-shakin' bass lines. MDL

Various artists, Head East (out now, Old Redmond Fire House, redmond.gov/medialab): The Old Fire House Teen Center in Redmond has a long history of nurturing up-and-coming Eastside acts, from Modest Mouse (from Issaquah) to the Blood Brothers (Kirkland/Redmond). If no longer the destination for touring bands that it was during Seattle's odious Teen Dance Ordinance days, it remains a vital incubator for suburb-bred talent destined for Seattle and the wider world. This comp, recorded in the OFH's media lab, ranges from sax jazz and slap-bass funk/rock to the usual indie and several entries of acoustic folk. Borough's slow-building post-rock instrumental "Mayan Tomb" is a highlight, as is Zephyrs' scrappy and catchy indie-rock tune "Cairo Kids," an ode to the Seattle arts space that does for Capitol Hill kids what the OFH historically has for the 425—proving that the faintly longing symbiosis of suburb and city still applies. EG

Wolves at the Gate, Captors (out now, Solid State, wolvesatthegate.com): With throat-bursting screams and powerful, throbbing instrumentation, Wolves at the Gate flexes its best hardcore muscles on Captors. It's clear producer Andreas Magnusson (Oh, Sleeper) had a heavy hand in the final sound, as the record grinds between unyielding and beautiful. JW

 
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