Music Reviews: December 2006

Paper Television (K)

You know the frustration you feel when you KNOW a piece of music sounds EXACTLY like something else you’ve heard but you have NO idea what it is? Enter the Blow’s latest disc. This voice sounds so familiar, these beats, reminiscent. I have suspicions that I have heard something similar, though maybe it just reminds me of something I’ve dreamt about, because I’m also convinced that the Blow is a safe/frickin’ sweet bet regardless.

Love is Not Enough (King of Hearts)

Portland has so much great music happening right now-The Thermals on the national end, the local side rounded out by the greatness of The Shotgun, Adam Gnade, Wet Confetti, Dave Allen’s various offerings, and on, on, on, on. There is so much happening there, so much to focus on, that we really don’t need to dwell on the have-nots. So, close yr eyes, plug yr nose and disregard this one, as it’s offering nothing of the mindbending energy of which Portland is capable.

Talk to Your Kids About Gangs (Skin Graft)

By past resumes alone, Holy Smokes could easily be a band that one need pay attention to. With a collective of experiences including Pinback, Hella and The Advantage (supergroup, anyone?), the band began in 2003 as a project to write the soundtrack to founding member Zach Hill’s book (released on Seattle stamp Suicide Squeeze that year). But forget it all. Mixing elements of shoegaze, experimental, psych and pop, Holy Smokes, and this, their amazingly, perfectly titled disc, are something of note all on their own. Fans of any of the aforementioned bands and styles should most certainly check it.

Emergency at the Everday (Secretariat)

Any band brave enough to travel out on the road with a band called Green Milk from the Planet Orange has to win some points. The Mall is that band. I’m favoring punk tunes lately-deal with it! The Mall mixes in the keys and tambourines in generous proportions, making the punk pill easier to swallow, and the wails a bit lighter to the ears. Check it out, along with its “My neighbor, Mika.”

C.Y.S.L.A.B.F. (KRS)

I passed on writing about Mika Miko’s latest disc last month because it didn’t grab me when it strolled through the stereo. BUT! Minds change, and that mine did after seeing this LA-based band open for the Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower a couple weeks ago in their native land. Mika Miko is a band of young lasses who have energy to spare, smiles a-plenty, and a sound that’s both unique and a welcomingly familiar-the early Le Tigre card is well played. Can the disc live up to the live show? I don’t know now, I gave it to a friend.

Dark Light Daybreak (Saddle Creek)

When Now It’s Overhead forgets to be superficial and snooze-inducing, they can really manage something. Read: By song 6 I was grabbed, but it took that long. That’s not good. Saddle Creek’s Omaha empire has so much to offer, so much good taste. Pull an aforementioned “Portland” and try to forget Overhead, favoring instead the greatness of their peers, as there’s plenty to choose from. Bright Eyes? The Faint? Broken Spindles? TWO GALLANTS??? We could go on all day!

Do This! (Monktale)

This is the latest offering by the Seattle jazz sextet Reptet. You need to buy this cd for one of three reasons. A: You enjoy music that embodies the creativity of the Art Ensemble of Chicago and swings like a classic Charles Mingus session. B: You say you like jazz but are afraid of anything that might step out of the mainstream, well Reptet can introduce you to some of creative sounds you have been missing while keeping one foot well within “the tradition”. C: It has a decidedly hip Jim Flora cover. Whatever the reason, just Get It!, you won’t be sorry.

Tales of the Troubador (Silver Treason Records)

If you were alive and going to punk shows in the early ’80s you may remember art-punk enigmas M’na M’na. Former Spokanite and current Seattle resident Kevin Cameron was the lead singer of M’na and Silver Treason is his baby. It’s an uneven collection owing mostly to the fact it was written over a couple decades but there are some neo-folk/rock gems here including beautiful song about divorce froma kid’s view.

Revenge of the Killer Slits (S.A.F.)

After 17 years, the Slits return with a new EP, and a new slew of tour dates. Dmonstrations and Mika Miko share bill on select dates, which makes it a trio of terrificness. Back to the Slits. The new tunes are solid, heavily punked out, coming from a set of gals (how do we refer to ladies when they are this tough?) that know a thing or two about what they’re up to-the band opened for the Clash back in ’77, after all. The cover art also just happens to look like the artwork from Hedwig, so that’s an extra score.

The Centre Will Hold (Holocene)

Girls appear to be the theme this month, and a welcome addition to the roster is Swan Island, a group of five from Portland, OR. Vocalist Brisa Gonzalez channels Debbie Harry, while the rest of the group creates ’80s-flavored punk tunes that are being compared to the likes of former PNW “it” Sleater-Kinney. There’s a lot of power in this band, and the disc does well to preview what it will be that takes the band that one step further, their personality. They appear baby-faced in their promo photos, though it’d be hard to say just how fresh and young the band is-it’s also hard to see past the fact that one of the members of this “all-female” crew is clearly named Bob. Hmmm.

Umber Sleeping (Space Rocker)

Let’s throw out convention. Let’s lay our cards of influence on the table. Let’s write songs inspired by Three’s Company. What? Tacoma’s Umber Sleeping has released its most recent full-length, which includes three songs inspired by three distinct episodes of the Suzanne Somers’ cringefest. Luckily, the music outdoes its predecessor. The first couple songs will take a few additional listens, but songs three and four, “Downhill Chaser” (inspired by the episode of the same name) and “Arcade Days” (inspired by the late ’70s and early ’80s), are so good it’ll make ya scream for more.

Vaxination (self-released) LOCAL
Already fast tracked for local superstardom, Vax Lavala’s debut disc comes on the heels of their mind-blowing BOBfest appearance last summer-a break from the screaming, wailing doofs was sooo very welcome-and a slew of dates that followed that catapulted them to the tip of every Spokane scenester’s tongue. Vaxination houses genre-mixing and line-blurring a-plenty (which appears a Spokane mainstay at this point), all with the underlying charm of a band of fellas who are excited, energized, and ready to continue their uphill climb in the scene (even if my copy had a few-literal-blips and stops along the way, xo). Keep up the good work, I say!

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