Music Reviews: August 2008

Partie Traumatic (Columbia)
If all debut full-lengths followed this formula, the (music) world would be such a better place. The “formula” here is, well, anything but formulaic, as the much-buzzed about Black Kids simply create infectious gems one after another. It’s interesting at every turn, and never dull. It avoids those first-album pitfalls, and excels with variety and spontaneity. It is, in a word, fantastic.

“South Downtown” (unsigned)
Seattle’s soon-to-be-talk-of-the-town Kyle Bradford crafts sparsely instrumented pieces of musical heaven. This track (no album just yet, but hopefully soon) is a tribute to an urban metropolis that’s markedly sorrowful, yet manages a glimmer of hope in Bradford’s earnest vocals. The lyrics are brilliantly and tightly crafted glimpses of his life and the lives of those surrounding him. The tracks on his MySpace are all completely great, but it was this line that won us over completely on “South Downtown”: “I’ve been wishing the summers away for so long that the years seem much shorter than they actually are.” Needless to say, keep an eye out.

The Gutter Twins
Saturnalia, Sup Pop
“Hey you got your Dulli in my Lanegan.” “Well Pal, it’s not exactly like I appreciate your Lanegan all over my Dulli.” Truly an honest mistake that speaks volumes about the best laid plans of junkies and drama queens going awry. This faux-super-indy-group-mishmash of competing styles involving Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees) and Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs) might look good viewed through prism of a fantasy baseball league, but trust me, this is not as benevolent as jamming a chocolate bar in to a jar of peanut butter.

Lair of the Minotaur
War Metal Battle Master, Southernlord
Here’s a solid rule of thumb that’s always worked well for me. Pair any lyrical phrasing with the word “baneful” and you’ve got yourself a nice cocktail of wickedness. Couple baneful to “…Monarch of the stream of pain” and you’ve got an undrinkable and incendiary cocktail filled with an Armageddon of bestial legions. The Lair brings forth bursts of clean and well-refined Carcass-sounding Metal. Not to be confused with a hodge-podge of capricious Metal sub-genres, but just plain old baneful Metal.

Mono in VCF (Stylo)
For their first LP, Tacoma’s Mono in VCF have successfully channeled the spirit of the kind of vaguely psychedelic sixties orch-pop originally produced by such studio wizards as Curt Boettcher, David Axelrod and Jack Nitzsche. Most specifically, their sound is at times a virtual tribute to legendary British Columbian husband-and-wife combo The Poppy Family. That group’s leader and songwriter, Terry Jacks (best known for recording the hit English language version of “Seasons in the Sun” as a solo artist), actually turns in vocals on a couple of tracks here, including perhaps the catchiest of the lot, “Masha.” Vocalist Kim Miller displays uncommon talent throughout the record and even proves herself an equal to the great Susan Jacks on the band’s spot-on cover of the Poppy Family’s supremely depressing “There’s No Blood In Bone.”

Evil Urges (Red)
If anything, on Evil Urges MMJ seem a little too anxious to further distance themselves from the alt-country tag that’s been dogging them since their debut. They tend to overreach on strange, self-conscious tangents such as the Prince-like pop funk workout “Highly Suspicious.” When they play to their strengths, as on the harmony-laden indie-pop of “I’m Amazed,” or on “Thank You Too,” where they drag out their signature Neil Young aping, they sound as good or better than they’ve ever been.

we sold our blood for money (Aviation)
Before pickin’ up and movin’ to Brooklyn, Neal Burton was a member of Seattle’s most promising crop of young singer/songwriters. Perhaps better known on the eastern side of the state as lead singer of moderately boring Patient Patient (who played a final moderately boring set in Spokane last summer with some other unnamed moderately boring bands—save Old Time Relijun), as a solo act, Burton is no longer boring, and anything but. His solo work is somber, downplayed, and pretty fascinating. He writes with the world experience of a poet far beyond his years, and his words bring together vivid storylines both of note, and simply impossible to pull oneself away from. With any luck, Burton will manage something in NYC that he could not in Seattle, but at any rate, hopefully there are many, many more songs to come. Check out Burton’s post-EP track “For My Own” on one of his many MySpaces… chills city.

Shame Spiral (Don’t Stop Believin’)
Urinary tract infections and Toxic Shock Syndrome might not be typical fare for punk rock, but when TacocaT gets its hands on the subject matter, it starts to feel like perfect for anthemic shout-outs. Who can deny those choruses? Toxic! Shock Syndrome! UTI UTI! C’maaaan. It gets better too: wearing leotards to curtail sexual come-ons, requesting beauty tips from muffin-top owners, calling out too-cool vegan bike riders, and, my personal favorite, celebrating the brilliance of one Kevin Costner. With the feverish pitch of punk of yore, and a fresh approach to lyrical magic, TacocaT wins out in just so many frickin’ ways.

Totally Michael (iheartcomix)
Inappropriate and questionable content aside (and I’m pretty much only talking about “Casual Satisfaction,” and I’m pretty much only calling it out because I have to convince you to give TM a fair shake), Totally Michael is… allow me to gush… omg, like, totally AWESOME! Unfortunately, the MAN had to cancel his Northwest tour for financial reasons, but next time around, we’ll lure him to Spokane. You’ll love it. In the meantime, check out Michael’s self-titled disc out on LA’s iheartcomix (the same label that gave the world Matt & Kim). The self-made DIY legend cranks out his signature schtuff on this release, which, if you know anything about TM, is anything but typical and always a goooood time.

Sounds from the Seattle Underground
The cool-dudes behind Seattle website have pieced together a soundtrack for the current cool-dude Seattle music scene. Where Aviation Records’ 2021 comp last year was a party for the burgeoning Fleet Foxes-friendly crowd, Sounds can serve more to the… Iceage Cobra-friendly crowd. That means you, Spokane! I think… Just kidding. It’s totally rad when locals work together to put out something that’s cool and supportive and positive. And, since inception, has been a benchmark for cool, and supportive and (sometimes) positive coverage of the Seattle music scene. It’s no surprise fresh-faced talents like Katherine Hepburn’s Voice garner attention here alongside longtime regional favorites like the Lonely Forest. Nada’s got their finger on the pulse, after all.

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