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

Our take on every new local release.

LOCAL RELEASES

AAIIEE, See You in Seattle (out now, self-released, facebook.com/aaiieetheband): Making a garage-rock concept album about the 1962 World's Fair is a lot like painting the Space Needle a garish shade of orange: a bad idea in theory, a worse one in practice. ANDREW GOSPE

The Bears Upstairs, The Bears Upstairs (out now, self-released, thebearsupstairs.com): Sometimes there's nothing better than a jumping frog named Stan or a whimsical ballad about a "Caterpillar in a Cocoon." Safe for the family, this EP is fun, jolly, and great for children. JOE WILLIAMS

Jordan Biggs, Brooklyn (out now, self-released, reverbnation.com/jordanbiggs): Singer/songwriter Biggs pens safe adult-contemporary tunes that, combined with a flaccid backing band, could be Matchbox 20 B-sides circa '96. AG (Sat., Aug. 4, Neumos)

Black Nite Crash, Drawn Out Days (out now, Neon Sigh, blacknitecrash.com): Equal parts '90s alt-rock and contemporary indie rock (is there even a difference anymore?) a la The Big Pink. These guys pull it off with charm. Chris Kornelis (Fri., Aug. 11, Sunset Tavern)

***ERIK BLOOD, Touch Screens (8/7, self-released, erikblood.com)

You may not hear a more perfect-sounding album come out of Seattle all year. Producer and recording engineer of choice for local lights ranging from outre hip-hop savants Shabazz Palaces to rootsy rockers the Moondoggies, Erik Blood has long had the Seattle music scene pulling for him to make something like his own masterpiece—Touch Screens finally feels like he's done it. It's an incredibly lush album, loaded—but never overloaded or unbalanced—with space-bound synthesizers, thick and propulsive rhythm sections, and not just walls of guitars but also curtains, carpets, and mod lounge furniture of the stuff. Blood's sweet singing and sharp songwriting are equal to such luxuriant treatment, whether he's airing out his old power-pop chops on the glossy, sighing "Share Your Love," drifting out on the floating album closer "Sapphire Light Climax," or, most exciting of all, digging into the deep-hypnotic, motorik-muscled grooves of "Amputee" or "Today's Lover." An outstanding album. ERIC GRANDY

Bloodshot Barrels, Bloodshot Barrels (out now, self-released, bloodshotbarrels.com): With songs like opener "Acid Tongue Generator" and lyrics (on "Death Head") like "Licking into thinking/And the licking leads to thinking twice," these tunes are thrashed-up, death-soaked gold. With lightning-powered time changes and John Powers' made-for-metal vocals, the musicality rocks hard in a Rob Zombie/Pantera kind of way. GWENDOLYN ELLIOTT (Sat., Aug. 25, Studio Seven)

Blue Star Creeper, Climbing Down From the Moon (out now, Hammer and Anvil, facebook.com/BlueStarCreeper): This band's first full-length album feels more mellow than explosive, but lead guitarist Kelly Blanchard busts out some pretty epic guitar solos. Songs about the mysteries of the universe ("Clues") fit the group's psychedelic-rock sound, while an electric cello adds an element of folk. SARAH ELSON (Sun., Aug. 5, The Upstairs)

Crown Hill, Crown Hill (out now, self-released, facebook.com/crownhillband): This folk-rock album has a urban feel, with electric guitars and country rhythms. Pop-inspired vocals and catchy melodies make it enjoyable yet slightly forgettable easy listening. ALLISON THOMASSEAU (Thurs., Aug. 16, Columbia City Theater)

Dave Matthews Band, "Mercy" (out now, RCA, davematthewsband.com): The Wallingford songwriter spikes the first single from his forthcoming album, Away From the World, with witless platitudes sure to inspire Facebook natives for four minutes and 35 seconds. CK (Aug. 31–Sept. 2, The Gorge)

Fast Arrow, Alibi (out now, self-released, fastarrow.bandcamp.com): Having met in an audio-engineering class, this synth-pop duo's production abilities are abundantly clear. The songwriting, however, lacks the hooks to keep up. AG (Fri., Aug. 10, The Josephine)

The Flavr Blue, Pisces (out now, self-released, theflavrblue.com): Lace Cadence, Parker Joe (of State of the Artist), and Hollis (of Canary Sing) drop their inhibitions and dive into down-tempo vocal trance like pros rather than like the crossover hip-hop/R&B artists they are. Even when the lyrical content is overly light (as on "F x F"), the music is inescapably pleasant, and virtually the whole album has a get-carried-away-to-a-sunny-place quality. TODD HAMM (Sat., Aug. 4, Barboza)

Foreign Friends, Measurements (out now, self-released, foreignfriends.bandcamp.com): This electronic group never quite comes into its own sound on its debut EP, but it knows how to dynamically synthesize its electro-pop influences, from New Order to M83. AG (Thurs., Aug. 23, Comet Tavern)

*Fort Union, Fort Union (out now, self-released, fortunion.bandcamp.com): Self-dubbed "a refreshing departure from Seattle's 'guy with a guitar' music scene," this three-piece actually lives up to its own hype with hybrid pop-ambient-acoustic tunes that range from "No More Executions," an infectious pop anthem that's part Shins, part Stealers Wheel, to "Solstice Day Parade," which hits like a Fences track on acid. GE

Good Co, Electro Swing for the Masses (8/3, self-released, soundcloud.com/goodcomusic): Good Co pairs classic swing sounds, such as saxophones and trumpets, with electronic beats pulsing in the background. It misses the mark and comes off as inconsistent instead of unique. AT

Green Pajamas, Death by Misadventure (out now, Green Monkey Records, thegreenpajamas.net): This LP is the psychedelic pop band's 30th release, a remarkable feat, and its brightest spots are the lusher arrangements which feature strings and horns. The album's closer, "Carrie," brings to mind the band's mid-'80s minor hit "Kim the Waitress," which was covered by both Material Issue and Sister Psychic. DAVE LAKE

Guns of Barisal, Westinghoused (out now, self-released, gunsofbarisal.bandcamp.com): The whirlwind of electric guitars and percolating drums on this instrumental metal trio's first LP is similar to that of Swarming Hordes, another local metal band that forgoes lyrics and focuses on thrashing instrumentals instead. With quick time changes and wailing guitars, this group rocks hard enough to start a mosh pit at any show. SE

The Harmonica Pocket, Apple Apple (8/14, Goldfish in Your Cocktail Music, harmonicapocket.com): These indie-acoustic children's songs have an international feel, mixing in harmonicas, reggae beats, and Spanish-inspired melodies. Adult ears will enjoy the happy-go-lucky vibe—if you can get over lyrics about counting apples and a superhero named Diaperman. AT (Thurs., Aug. 16, Queen Anne Farmers Market)

*Hounds of the Wild Hunt, El Mago (out now, self-released, houndsofthewildhunt.com): The dudes from the Whore Moans changed their name to issue this stylistically diverse debut filled with soul, surf, punk rock, and more, held together by the expressive vocals of singer/guitarist Jonathan Henningson. The album's beer-soaked, Westerbergian jam "Ragged All Week" is the haggard anthem of 2012. DL (Fri., Aug. 3, Columbia City Theater)

Indijinis, The Kill Zone 102.6 (out now, self-released, facebook.com/indijinis): Serviceable gangsta hip-hop that includes one of the strangest boasts you'll hear all year: "Indijinis is sick/Like The Chronicles of Riddick." Anytime you can compare yourself to a middling 2004 sci-fi film starring Vin Diesel, you have to. AG

JAR, Humans (out now, self-released, facebook.com/jarofrain): Packing equal parts angst, heart, and technical prowess, Humans is a stunning release by a three-piece collectively younger than Ozzy Osbourne. No, it's not perfect, but it's a huge step forward for these up-and-comers. JW

Key Nyata, Two Phonkey (out now, self-released, freshselects.bandcamp.com) Garfield High's Key Nyata continues his goth-rap lyricism here over vintage-sounding West Coast (and mainly self-produced) beats. The screwed-down pitching drags cross the line of overuse, but if you're able to look past that, this is a highly listenable, mainly forward-leaning offering. TH

*Kid Smpl, Escape Pod (8/7, Hush Hush, kidsmpl.com): Four tracks and one remix of floating, aqueous synth ambience, deep muffled beats, and echoing vocal textures, all more than a little reminiscent of Burial's radical reconfigurations of dubstep and R&B. EG

Tim "Too Slim" Langford, Broken Halo (out now, Underworld Records, tooslim.org): Sunday-morning blues from a singer/guitarist who sounds a whole lot like Lyle Lovett. CK (Wed., Sept. 19, Triple Door Musicquarium)

Locomotives, Moving Machines (out now, self-released, facebook.com/locomotivesmusic): It's rare when a band as young as this (barely three months old) puts so much raw talent and heart into its debut release. Moving Machine is a spectacular grab bag of earnest, psychedelic folk. JW

Long Distance Poison, Signals to a Habitable Zone (out now, Fin Records, finrecords.com): Two 20-minute tracks of hypnotic analog oscillations, drones, melodies, and effects, designed to be beamed into space in search of intelligent life as part of the 50th anniversary of the Seattle World's Fair (seriously). EG

*Cahalen Morrison & Eli West, Our Lady of the Tall Trees (9/4, self-released, cahalenandeli.com): This fine bluegrass duo shrewdly avoids succumbing to the annoying brand of old-tyme minstrelsy that currently plagues many a Northwest folk act. The album sounds like Cat Stevens backed by Union Station. It'll make you want to kick off your shoes, roll up your jeans, and dance in a creek. MIKE SEELY (Wed., Aug. 29, Triple Door)

Zoe Muth, Old Gold (out now, Signature Sounds, zoemuth.com): Unlike Muth's first two full-length releases—rich with up-tempo honky-tonk sounds and her smooth, lilting croon—this six-track mini-album, mostly covers, is far mellower, shelving the singer's sprightly country style for a folksier take on artists like John Prine, Anna McGarrigle, and Dock Boggs. GE

Nu Era, "Marvelous" (out now, self-released, nueramusic.bandcamp.com): The Andrew Savoie–crafted beat is hard-edged and could perhaps be useful in the right hands, but the vocal stylings early in the song, and the lyrics in general, come off too much like an M.O.P. impersonation. TH

People Bomb, East Korea (out now, Fin Records, facebook.com/peoplebomb): This group of teenagers from Kirkland is pretty great for a high-school band, particularly their taste in music; their two-song release references both Devo and the Dead Kennedys. They haven't gotten there yet, but these kids are going places. DL

Paul Lynde Fan Club, Killer Lilies (out now, self released, cdbaby.com/cd/plfc2): Menacing, half-asleep-and-don't-wake-me-up vocals; slip-and-slide guitars; static and found sound; words which astutely pick apart, say, the frays of Independence Day. They haven't focused intently on one target yet, but expect an explosion as soon as they do. andrew hamlin

***THE PHYSICS, Tomorrow People (8/25, self-released, thephysicsmusic.com)

From the onset, the Physics were a level-headed rap trio that was intensely concerned with arranging and polishing their material to a professional standard. Two stellar EPs and three LPs in, they've only strengthened their resolve. Tomorrow People has a sprinkling of guests—Jake One, OCnotes, Jarv Dee, Grynch, Mario, and Crystal Sweet, all of whom factor in perfectly—but the clearest voices are their own: Justo's richly bass-lined beats; the highly referential neighborhood raps of brothers Thig and Monk. There aren't down moments—though a song like "Last Dollar" kind of blends in with the scenery, it only proves that the scenery is beautiful and easy listening; while Thig's solitary tale of love lost on the Bean One-produced "The Goodbye" is a departure in tone, it works. TP doesn't pack a whole lot of radio-style singles, but it doesn't get much better for the guys than tracks like "Drink With You" and "So Funky." When the Physics are on, they're on fire. TODD HAMM (Sat., Aug. 25, Neumos)

Poor Moon, Poor Moon (8/28, Sub Pop, subpop.com): A more nuanced effort than this Fleet Foxes offshoot's debut EP. But it's also scattered. This is a talented bunch still searching for the best application of its pluses. CK (Mon., Aug. 27, Easy Street, Queen Anne)

*Prism Tats, "Death or Fame" (out now, self-released, prismtats.bandcamp.com): The clangorous first offering from ex–Koko and the Sweetmeats frontman Garett van der Spek's new project is deliciously minimal, composed of—and needing nothing more than—a series of metallic guitar riffs and van der Spek's keening, highly memorable vocals. ERIN K. THOMPSON

Liz Rognes, Topographies (out now, Deep Sea Productions, lizrognes.com): This Spokane songstress' lilting, articulate soprano and impressive range are just as captivating on her second full-length album. Jazz influences spice up the earnest ballads and old-time instrumentation that keep it indie-folk. SE (Tues., Aug. 14, High Dive)

Sailor Mouth, Fair Winds (out now, self-released, sailormouthoff.bandcamp.com): The sounds of Sabbath, early Soundgarden, and the Melvins loom large on this Seattle band's debut, though singer Kale Tegman's vocals are less expressive than that of those bands' frontmen; he opts instead for a grungy growl that occasionally sounds sort of Danzig-ish. DL

*Screens, "Maia" (out now, self-released, oceantone.com/screens): The second single released by this new, tough-to-categorize West Seattle band eases into a trippy bossa-nova suit but doesn't get carried away in the euphoric possibilities. Instead, it retains a shadowy element (due mainly to Allison Tulloss' deadpan semi-whisper) to preserve an interesting contrast. TH (Wed., Aug. 8, Nectar)

*Screens, "Netherlandia" (out now, self-released, oceantone.com/screens): Intelligently written and layered to perfection, this relaxed future-pop number is melodically pleasing yet delightfully experimental. TH (Wed., Aug. 8, Nectar)

*Spaceneedles, Olive Towers (out now, self-released, spaceneedlesband.com): This Seattle four-piece arrives with five howling, grooving rock songs in the raw, punk-bellowing tradition of Spencer Moody et al., and/but with some epic scope and serious (broken) heart. EG

*Stephanie, "Cell 44" (out now, Couple Skate, facebook.com/Stephanie): The first single from the swirl-rockers' forthcoming Erik Blood– produced One Glove LP churns with skittering drums, discordant guitars, and sudden tempo changes, but the discernible, danceable hooks break through the noise via keyboard melody and Wil Adams' operatic vocals. EKT (Sat., Oct. 20, Barboza)

*Joshua Stephens & the Girls from Ipanema, The World Was Made for Men (out now, self-released, girlsfrom ipanema.bandcamp.com): Upbeat acoustic-guitar melodies and ukelele accents work well with lyrics that claim that love conquers all, even if it hurts sometimes. Their lo-fi sound is rough around the edges and complemented by the singer's gravelly vocals. AT

Suburban Vermin, Danger and Destiny (8/10, self-released, suburbanvermin.com): Six songs of no-frills punk rock with dueling male/female vocals that don't fall squarely into either Ramones-core or old-school skate-punk territory, but somewhere in between. Bonus points for singer/guitarist Amanda Gamino's voice sounding a lot like that of Kim Shattuck of the Muffs. DL

Sweet Water, "Hey Living"/"Get High Clover" (out now, Fin Records, finrecords.com): Sweet Water has put out plenty of fine music during its 20-plus years on the Seattle scene, bridging the gap between grunge and glam. Their latest seven-inch, however, is palpably awful butt-rock. MS (Fri. Aug. 17, The Crocodile)

Thurston and Staga, "Rock the Spot More" (out now, self-released, soundcloud.com/matt-ross-6): Former Bedroom Stompers bandmates, producer Thurston Rockmore and MC Staga Roach come back with a track that drags on a bit long but serves as a nice playground for Roach's flamboyant style and naturally musical delivery. TH

*USF, Universal (8/7, self-released, facebook.com/usftheband): The title track is 10 minutes of pure, blissed-out sample-tone worship over a fluttering house beat; the whole EP is the sweetest, most accomplished electronic chill-out the local duo have made yet. EG

*Various artists, What's Up Seattle mixtape (out now, What's Up Seattle, soundcloud.com/whatsupseattle): True to its name, a solid and diverse primer on what's happening in our city's fertile underground—from Dude York's fuzzed- up power pop to Haunted Horses' punk drones to Rose Windows' '70s vintage soft psych-rock, with a lot of loud indie and punk rock (and a little chillwave and witchhouse) happening in between. EG

Virgin, Virgin (out now, self-released, virgin.bandcamp.com): The slight touch of irony that accompanies naming a '70s-style cock-rock band "Virgin" is far cleverer than any of the monotonous bar-rock tunes featured here. AG (Thurs., Aug. 30, Chop Suey)

The Walkabouts, "Soul Thief" (out now, Fin Records, thewalkabouts.com): Over torrents of pulsating guitar and organ, singer Chris Eckman crafts a menacing ode to escapism, sounding just as grizzled as a frontman should after leading his band for nearly 30 years. AG

Western Haunts, Ambassador (out now, self-released, westernhaunts.bandcamp.com): Noisier and more claustrophobic than 2011's expansive Utøya EP, Ambassador finds Western Haunts turning up the reverb and slapping on more layers of synth and slide guitar. It's less immediate than its predecessor, but no less interesting. AG

Western Medicine, In Transit (out now, self-released, western-medicine.com): Any record using a custom fortune-teller (those foldy-paper thingies from fifth grade) as cover art better deliver the goods, and WM's brand of psychedelic garage rock hits the mark with tracks like "Belly of the Beast," a spot-on vision of the Sonics fronted by Josh Homme. GE (Thurs., Aug. 9, Sunset Tavern)

*Wolf Hotel, Good Bye (out now, Members Only, not available online): Packaged inside a 32-page hardback book bound, written, and illustrated by MC Barfly himself, this is hardly your ordinary EP. The former Saturday Knights lyricist's dark poetry is a sharp contrast to much of his former work, but fits right into project producer Graves' beats—alternately gloomy and contemplative, and always hard-hitting. TH

* Zephyrs, Order of the Arrow (out now, Debacle Records, zephyrs.bandcamp.com): This youthful Eastside duo delivers ardent guitar-rock tunes that play like short, heady huffs of air. Some songs make it to three or four minutes, but the zestiest, like the chanty "Oath and Law," blast in and out in just a minute or so. EKT

LOCAL LABELS' OUT-OF-TOWN BANDS

Abandoned Pools, Sublime Currency (8/28, Tooth & Nail, abandonedpools.com): Though "Unrehearsed" gives the vibe of an '80s-inspired synth album with an abundance of smiles and electronic drums, "Billion" kicks in like a psychophrenic nod to Trent Reznor and the Social Network soundtrack. JW

Anchor & Braille, The Quiet Life (out now, Tooth & Nail, anchorbraille.com): The only thing this album is missing is a car to take it somewhere. Over layers of serene harmony and a steady beat, "Find Me" is the soundtrack for grabbing a friend and cruising around anywhere. JW

Fergus & Geronimo, Funky Was the State of Affairs (8/7, Hardly Art, hardlyart.com): Lo-fi garage rockers overplay their tongue-in-cheek shtick on this unlistenable mess—a shame considering the promise of its predecessor. CK

The Helio Sequence, "October" (out now, Sub Pop, subpop.com/artists/the_helio_sequence): Same solid drumming and fluttering, crystal-clear guitar tones you can always expect from this Portland duo, but the reverb-rich vocals for some reason hit a more emotionally resonant note than in much of their merely pleasant stuff. A good sign for forthcoming album Negotiations? EG

The Museum, My Only Rescue (8/28, BEC, themuseummusic.com): Ben Richter has one of those voices that make you immediately Google everything he's ever done. Stalking aside, The Museum offers a fresh take on the guitar-driven pop stylings of the late '90s. JW

*Niki & The Dove, Instinct (8/7, Sub Pop, nikiandthedove.com): A refreshing standout on the Sub Pop lineup, this Swedish duo, vocalist Malin Dahlström and keyboardist Gustaf Karlöf, create icy-sharp synth-pop with a sexy, edgy sheen. Standouts include the cathartic, beat-heavy "Somebody" and the strikingly plaintive "DJ Ease My Mind." EKT

Nü Sensae, Sundowning (8/7, Suicide Squeeze, facebook.com/nusensae): A Vancouver, B.C., punk trio that digs deep into Hole, Led Zeppelin, and their peers to produce a growling grrrl-rock sound with shards of punk and metal in the mix. EG E

music@seattleweekly.com

 
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