Reviews: It’s September 2011 and Seattle Sounds Like . . .

Every local release reviewed.


Quality of Living, Brothers From Another (9/1, Members Only, MCs Goonstar and Breez offer a surprising 11-track album full of floating, feel-good beats and rapidly improving, character-rich rhymes that acknowledge their young standing within the scene, but show enough songwriting skill to do beats from Justo (The Physics) and Sabzi (Blue Scholars) justice. TODD HAMM

Destroy Your Self, the Shining Skulls (9/1, self-released, “Alt-rock” is an insult. Destroy Your Self is extraterrestrial and vastly sweet-sounding, with tracks “Carnivore” and “The Static in Between” teetering between rigorously mellow and painstakingly dreamlike, before the entire effort is thrust forward with powerful rock crescendos. JOE WILLIAMS

* American Goldwing, Blitzen Trapper (9/6, Sub Pop, While 2010’s Destroyer of the Void found the Portland band focusing on sparse acoustic numbers, American Goldwing returns to the band’s schizophrenic form. Dripping with the golden sheen of vintage country and Southern rock, this is pure open-road music. GREG FRANKLIN

Gold Parts EP, Cristina Bautista (9/6, Local 638, The Visqueen bassist stays close to her roots on the track “Long Divisions,” a hard-driving, defiant punch of power pop. She’s not taking any sass. JULIA MULLEN GORDON

Rocky Votolato/matt pond PA split 7″ EP (9/6, Polyvinyl, Votolato’s “Om Ma” is a delicate vehicle for his haunting vocals; matt pond PA’s “Petit Oiseaux” doubles the guitar and waxes existential, making each side appear the reverse image of the other. GWENDOLYN ELLIOTT

* Earth Division EP, Mogwai (9/13, Sub Pop, Earth Division comprises four songs that didn’t make the cut on Mogwai’s last full-length, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will; that fact shouldn’t speak for their quality—all four elegiac cuts, bolstered by a full string section, are gorgeously prismatic. ERIN K. THOMPSON

* Glowing Mouth, Milagres (9/13, Kill Rock Stars, Milagres’ KRS debut boosts them to the rank of Beach House and Grizzly Bear in terms of fine, diaphanous pop music—the songs, flowing with skyward melodies and piping organs, are utterly, memorably lovely. EKT

Haste the Day vs. Haste the Day, Haste the Day (9/13, Solid State, Haste the Day sacrifices its airy screams and schizophrenic drumbeats for a live experience that should be seen rather than heard. Ten years of material is butchered with pitchy vocals and a double dose of crowd interaction that will do nothing but hurt ticket sales. JW

Mountaintops, Mates of State (9/13, Barsuk, On their seventh album, married duo Mates of State still are writing the kind of immediately hooky, well-balanced indie rock that sounds like it was scored for children’s birthday parties or minivan commercials. GF

* “Tucson” b/w “Meredith & Iris,” Carissa’s Wierd (9/13, Hardly Art, “You’ve been gone so long,” goes the first whisper these reunited slowcore darlings have put to tape in seven years, “you can never go home again.” Not entirely true, but you bring the years home with you—in this case meaning slightly surer singing and, on the B-side, some of their post-CW projects’ faint, reclining twang. ERIC GRANDY

Violent Hearts, Shimmering Stars (9/13, Hardly Art, These songs are brief, elevating bursts of reverbing guitars and vocal harmonies; the result sounds like a mix of the Beach Boys’ ringing pop choruses and a choir of Gregorian-chanting monks. EKT

The Years EP, Memoryhouse (9/13, Sub Pop, www.memoryhouse): A rerecorded, remixed, and remastered version of the band’s 2010 self-released EP, available for the first time on CD and LP. This expanded version includes two new songs, bringing the total to five, all of which are mesmerizing, dream-like ambient pop landscapes featuring the sultry vocals of Denise Nouvion. DAVE LAKE

Prison Boxing, Cataldo (9/20, self-released, A distillation of the clichés of Seattle music 2011’s greatest hits, full of catchy melodies that employ innocuous vocals, gentle strings, and a couple of horns. Easily enjoyable, yet forgettable. CHRIS KORNELIS

Visits, Tammar (9/20, Suicide Squeeze, The first full-length from the Bloomington, Ind., quintet is a seven-song cycle of psychedelic guitars, reverbed vocals, and driving rhythms. They wear their post-punk inspirations proudly, but it’s hard to hear much of anything else amid all that droning. DL

Elba, Elba (9/22, self-released, Elba’s third record sounds bright, lush, and mature in all the right places, but still has the raw hunger of that band playing in the basement at those college house parties you wish you remembered more of. GF

* AlgoRhythms, Stres (9/24, self-released, The slinking, lo-fi expertise of DJ Shadow and the eerie sci-fi-soundtrack music of Portishead (minus lyrics) haunt the debut of local instrumental hip-hop producer Stres, leaving a tantalizing look into what will hopefully be a long, twisted catalogue. TH

Breakers, Gem Club (9/27, Hardly Art, These are songs of rainy days: just a reverb-drenched piano and a lonely cello to underscore the male/female vocals of the group’s two members. Call it the ideal soundtrack to a breakup montage in a Miranda July film. DL

Children of Fire, Oh, Sleeper (9/27, Solid State, Children of Fire rips and roars with fervent breakdowns and beautiful, melodic vocals, layering spastic instrumentation and time signatures with grinding, robust screams. Ruthless, meticulous, and stunningly emotional, Oh, Sleeper has set a bar few will reach in their career. JW

* Nevermind reissue, Nirvana (9/27, DGC, The subtitle of The Strangest Tribe, Stephen Tow’s new book about a certain cultural movement of the late ’80s and early ’90s, is “How a Group of Seattle Rock Bands Invented Grunge.” These kids from Aberdeen made a splash, too. CK

Only in Dreams, Dum Dum Girls (9/27, Sub Pop, The fuzzy vocals and scrappy beats of 2010’s I Will Be are cashed in here for strong yet conventional wails backed with carefully placed instruments. It’s an upright bass away from sounding like a Neko Case record, which, when you’re not going for the alt-country thing, is awfully shallow. CK

Stumble Culture, D.evolution.Aires (self-released, Rollicking, gut-busting rock and roll fronted by Justin Roeser’s ample vocals; their melodies are occasionally directionless, but their high-octane energy is appealing. EKT



Allen Stone, Allen Stone (self-released, Sure, having Raphael Saadiq’s rhythm section and Tower of Power as your backing band, and being able to sing like an angel on steroids, is all well and good, but doesn’t mean much if the product is boring. Aside from the last two powerhouse songs on the disk, Stone seems to have gotten tangled up in possibility. TH

“Babyrain,” Brite Futures (Turnout, One lethally juvenile moniker later, Brite Futures lyrics are still terribly inane (or “playful”), but they’re dressed up here with the band’s brightest, bounciest electro-pop production yet; it’s hooky, bass-rich dance-floor fluff—like Cut Copy lite, or a manifesto-less YACHT. Baby steps. EG

* Ballard Ave. EP, Blooper (self-released, This overlooked EP is a brief, distorted bit of fuzzy pop, in line with the garage rock that’s been percolating in town lately. The four Blooper originals—including the standout, “Courtney”— are followed by an anthemic cover of Teenage Fanclub’s “Song to the Cynic.” CK

Bees in Your Bed Bad, Sigourney Reverb (Green Monkey Records, With one of the better celeb-derived band names, the Ballard band gets weird on a debut that’s a little glam, a little garage, and a little great. JMG

The Company We Keep, Shenandoah Davis (self-released, Imagine resting in a prim and proper sitting room at the turn of the century as Shenandoah Davis warbles sweetly, backed by cello and piano. Minus the occasional prochronistic keyboard, her parlor music transports you to another time. JMG

Covers EP, Pickwick/Concours d’Elegance (self-released, Bands cross-promoting each other with an irreverent five-song EP covering each other’s songs = wicked fun, right? With Covers, two originals mingle with two covers, one remix, and a whole lotta ’80s dance-pop revelry. GE

Covers and Remixes EP, Head Like a Kite (self-released, Black Sabbath, Blue Öyster Cult, the Rolling Stones, and Van Halen are remixed, covered, and mashed up into a four-song EP by electro-dance-pop wizard Dave Einmo, available free on the band’s website. GE

“Do You Have Time,” THEESatisfaction (Sub Pop, A hazy smoker’s anthem with enough syncopated drum-machine slap to make Stas and Cat’s voices pop on the recording, and keep the most stoned of us moving. TH

Dreamers/Lovers B-Sides, Explone (self-released, Textured, guitar-heavy pop-rock that’s a little bit Jimmy Eat World, a little bit Cheap Trick. Three songs total, two of which are leftovers from the band’s 2010 LP plus a cover from The Devil Whale. DL

* Endless Now, Male Bonding (Sub Pop, This London fuzz-pop trio cleans up and looks sharp on their sophomore LP—vocals up front, guitars relatively big and polished, rhythms full and boisterous as ever. They even stretch the nonstop immediacy of their short, sweet hooks to an unprecedented six and a half minutes on the updrifting “Bones.” EG

*Family, Noah Gundersen (self-released, noahgundersen, Gundersen offers seven bare-bones and beautiful folk ballads, like a dreadlocked Ryan Adams circa his Whiskeytown days. He even sings about San Antone. True to the album’s title, Gundersen’s sister Abbey plays violin and sings harmonies. DL

Fences/Mansions split 7″ EP (Burning House Records, Fences’ “Market Place” sounds like most of his catalog: sparse, slow, self-lamenting. Mansions’ flip-side “On My Way” has its share of emo (“I could sleep for days/And dream it all away”), but its driving rhythm and full instrumentation add lift to the track. GE

Fire on the Vine, Bryan John Appleby (self-released, A wide-ranging opus, Fire on the Vine‘s songs rarely clock in under four minutes. Appleby is fond of spinning tales, but there’s a fine line between meaningful storytelling and florid imagery. Which side he’s on is at times a matter of personal taste. JMG

The Future EP, History for Sale (self-released, History for Sale takes the rough-around-the-edges feel of mid-’90s alternative rock and blends it with an unexpected helping of garage-funk, creating a hip, easy-listening experience that’s part predictable, part overwhelmingly original. JW

ggnzla SODA six-pack, various artists/flavors (ggnzla Records, If you can get your hands on the black-market hooch that ggnzla suit t.v. Coahran mixes together, you won’t just get a buzz, you’ll get a sampler of some of renegade underground sounds his DIY label represents (from So Pitted to Flexions). Find Coahran at a show and pay cash. CK

Give Me 2 Dollars, Eric Ostrowski (self-released, Imagine what would happen if a 4-year-old boy got hold of Garage Band and set every sample to play simultaneously at 300 bpm, but also had enough wit to name his songs “Overthrowing Homo Economicus” and “Vuvuzelas Spread Misery and Disease.” JW

Glazin’, Jacuzzi Boys (Hardly Art, This is a hearty batch of lo-fi, melodic pop from Sunshine State punks. But with no standout tracks and marginal nuance, the results are underwhelming and forgettably boilerplate. CK

“Hello Ohio,” Kin to Stars (self-released, The first single of brand-new local duo Jerin Falkner and Scott Andrew. The song’s sparse piano chords and delicately plucked guitar topped with the duo’s boy-girl-boy-girl vocals should be catnip to fans of the Swell Season et al. CK

Hyperventilation, Nazca Lines (Stressed Sumo, On the surface, there’s nothing particularly subtle about Nazca Lines’ brand of post-punk. Every lyric is raggedly barked and every riff explosively delivered, but there’s a surplus of cerebral and political notions in motion behind the scenes. GF

* The Iron Curtain, Avatar Young Blaze (self-released, Young Blaze’s sickly smooth delivery and sinister lyrics are captured at their most badass over slick production from a host of rising beatsmiths. Seattle is slowly starting to wake up to Av’s rawness on the mike, just in time to hear his best release to date. TH

Is There Room for Me?, Julia Massey & The 5 Finger Discount (self-released, Pleasant enough adult-alternative trio with Massey’s voice, which brings to mind Joni Mitchell’s, at the center, and with songs that have a stoney, jam-band vibe. DL

Jermaine EP, Sonny Bonoho (self-released, Seattle’s goofiest backup singer returns with five tracks of future-funk, complete with silly phone interludes and Devin the Dude–esque rap-singing, that like all Bonoho releases are well worth a few party spins. TH

Lenses Alien, Cymbals Eat Guitars (Barsuk, CEG is the latest angular addition—alongside the Globes and Maps & Atlases—to a label that rose to supremacy with easily digestible rock. Like their labelmates, their progressive indie is inventive and auspicious, yet underdeveloped. CK

* Love Is a Business, The Physics (self-released, The sophomore full-length from Seattle’s boys of summer is a polished, top-shelf Seattle product in the form of slyly soul-sampled instrumentals and down-to-earth raps that are among the best in the city. TH

* Massachusetts 2010, Mathieu Santos (Barsuk, Trippy and poppy in the same glass, Santos, not unlike Panda Bear and Jim Noir, has a knack for drawing listeners in to his world with highly catchy melodies that morph into extended, minimalist vamps without being self-indulgent, rewarding the invested listener. CK

Medicine Show, Shim (self-released, Medicine Show draws on the Stones, Thin Lizzy, and jukebox standards like “Sweet Child o’ Mine.” It might be impossible for classic-rock revivalists to be entirely serious, but the sound is almost refreshing given Seattle’s folk tsunami. JMG

The Mistress, Yellow Ostrich (Barsuk, An album of ramshackle arrangements built behind looped walls of Alex Schaaf’s soulful and sorrowful voice, Yellow Ostrich’s debut has all the right warm, muted corners of a spontaneous bedroom-pop gem. GF

Monoculture, Sainthood Reps (Tooth & Nail, Muffled sing-talking, repetitive plucked notes, and off-kilter tempos round out a record that builds aimlessly to a nonexistent climax. Songs like “Animal Glue” wither and wander in a style reminiscent of Armor for Sleep if they were a Seether cover band. JW

The Music Maker, Lijie (self-released, One of the rare local records that has no feel for indie, not a hint of folk, and no sign of the garage. Lijie, a classically trained pianist, puts her substantial vocal chops to work here, but could stand for a smear of the grit and grime that marks her contemporaries. CK

The Ornament, Gold Leaves (Hardly Art, Arthur & Yu’s gentle, bearded singer/songwriter Grant Olsen returns with a more fully folky solo effort, full of faded Laurel Canyon vibes, its classic pop production roomy with reverb—but with songs whose luster is too thin to leave any great impression. EG

“Our Hope,” Ole Tinder (self-released, The first single from these up-and-comers’ forthcoming EP is a promising, if timid, effort that favors the latter half of the alt-country genre. A couple shots of liquid confidence could do wonders here. CK

* “Pleasures” b/w “Deathwish,” Grave Babies (Hardly Art, Deceptively poppy garage rock smothered in red-lining reverb and distortion fuzz. The upbeat yet slow-moaning A-side surfs on a scything guitar hook; the flip is a zombified three-note dirge. Everything’s ultra-shitty and blown-out. Hi-fi snobs, move along. EG

*“Pop” Music, The Balloons (self-released, Garage is arguably the most fun genre. The recent Arizona transplants embrace the spirit of the swingin’ ’60s on this EP. Don’t miss the unbearably catchy “Sleepy Selene.” JMG

Rocktiers Sans Frontiers, Eastern Grip (self-released, Guitar-driven, flushed-out garage rock with melodic indie-pop aspirations, Rocktiers is the fun, full-length debut from these local yokels, which showcases a sturdy rhythm section and warbly, memorable vocals. MA’CHELL DUMA LAVASSAR

* Small Town Talk, Kevin Long (self-released, Overcoming addiction is a struggle. Spokane native–turned–Seattle resident Kevin Long shines on his debut, treating both cities’ gossip, overdoses, and relationships with a measured eye. Shimmering instrumentation (played entirely by his twin brothers) is the icing on the cake. JMG

Songs About Books, various (Ball of Wax, Funded by a city grant, five indie-folk acts write songs about a book assigned to them. Highlights include Joshua Morrison’s sleepy three about Helen DeWitt’s The Last Samurai. Limited to 500 CDs. DL

Steadfast EP, Whitney Mongé (self-released, Pike Place Market busker Whitney Mongé funded her first release of original material via Kickstarter (busking 2.0?), five soulful folk-rock songs led by her powerful, raspy voice. DL

“Sundae” b/w “Déjà Vu” 7″, X-Ray Eyeballs (Hardly Art, If Joey Ramone and Debbie Harry had fucked in their CBGB heyday, they would have birthed this 7″. The lyrics aren’t necessarily discernible, but they’re sung with conviction and, probably, a hangover. Catchy as hell. LITSA DREMOUSIS

Whalebones, Whalebones (self-released, The long-coming full-length debut from one of the city’s most promising bands includes a fair number of high points—see “I Don’t Wanna Live in the City No More”—but, at large, doesn’t deliver a product as compelling as their live show. CK

What I’ve Been Doing, Mic Phenom (self-released, A few good punch-line verses don’t necessarily save a backlog of unreleased tracks with mainly forgettable production. The good news is that the battle-rap veteran has his first release out of the way, and can hopefully move on to bigger and better things. TH

Whiskey Gun, White Trash WhipLash (self-released, Beer-drinking, boogie-woogie cow punk a la Supersuckers, with songs about fast cars and faster women. Also includes souped-up versions of “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” and “Whole Lotta Rosie.” DL

The World Is Just a Shape to Fill the Night, Case Studies (Sacred Bones, With The Dutchess & the Duke, Jesse Lortz put a happy face on his acoustic melancholy. Here, there’s plenty of melancholy (and mumbling), but no sparkly misdirection. CK

You Are Here, The Good Hurt (self-released, With lyrics that try a bit too hard and melodies that nearly gel, this album isn’t college rock so much as collegiate. But this four-piece holds much promise; it’ll be great to hear what they create after graduation day. LD

Mathieu Santos.

Mathieu Santos.