THE HANDS
The Hands

(Selector Sound)

Against the swagger of classic acts like the Stones (vocals, woah woah!), Seattle export The Hands masterfully fuse modern influences, ranging from the last five years of the best dance/pop, to the punked-out flavor of fellow locals the Whore Moans. A winning combination, they easily edge out much of the competition and emerge with a ferocious, and unbelievably exciting album. One of the best of their genre, and one of the best of the current Seattle crop.

LA CHA-CHA
Viva!

(LOCAL, self-released)

After a promising debut with 2005’s Sounds from the Suburbs, Spokane mainstay La Cha-Cha hits their stride with their sophomore disc. Strengthened and completely solid, the Cha perfectly defines themselves early on with tracks like “Into the Blood” and “Put it Down,” where subtlety, builds, breaks and frontman Larren Wolford’s sometimes lulling, sometimes biting vocals appear in all the right doses. With bands like La Cha-Cha in town, the music scene remains not only intact, but clearly thriving.

PATIENT PATIENT
Select tracks from The Less That We Are

(self-released)

The flavor of the month for February is apparently bands that have bettered themselves immeasurably from disc one to disc two (and, well, I guess, incidentally also don’t have labels either). Like La Cha-Cha before them and SHIM after (keep reading), Seattle’s Patient Patient has slowly become the force that many have predicted them to be. If you, like me, have always felt them a wee bit mediocre, watch out for cupid’s arrow (not to mention the seamless switch to a three-piece, and Neal Burton’s absolutely mesmerizing vocal accomplishments). 2005’s Professionals and Convicts doesn’t hold a candle to the new and improved Patient Patient, and they now are undeniably something to hear.

SAY HI
“Northwestern Girls” from The Wishes and the Glitch

(Euphobia)

This song is PERFECT (and I say that even with the visual of the awful face frontman Eric Elbogen makes when he sings “It must be in the air HEREEEE”-those who saw the band on their recent tour with the Velvet Teen will relate/know/sympathize).

SCREAM CLUB
Life of a Heartbreaker

(Crunks Not Dead)

Careful with this one, while the Olympia duo is sure to spin your head around (a few times) with their fun, funny, and sometimes crass hip hop blend, you’ll need to watch out when you start humming the tunes on the street or on the job. This reviewer’s had track 5 (the Peaches collab “Fine as F***”) stuck in their head for more than a few days, and rhyming in time with the chorus that runs through your head could cause some interesting social situations. Scream Club has created, and defined, their genre in recent years by offering up originality, political agenda and amazing live shows at every turn. And just what is the genre, you ask? To quote the ladies (Cindy Wonderful and Sarah Adorable, that is), none other than “Queer Electro Sex Hop Hip Pop Punk Rock Glam Rap.” Duh.

SHIM
Feel Like a King

(self-released)

Lucky them, lucky us. SHIM has finally gotten SHIM. On their sophomore album, Seattle’s best rock band outdoes themselves by accomplishing what seemed impossible: shrinking their live show down into a handy sized jewelcase box. This is it, kiddos. This is SHIM as they are meant to sound, as they are meant to be played, as they should be represented. Fierce, unapologetic, and full of the spunk they emanate from the stage, this disc is a standout.

SKELETONS WITH FLESH ON THEM
The fish don’t Mind

(self-released)

There is a lot going on with this little EP, and also… not much. Tough to say. Here’s why: it’s hard to tell what exactly this is. It’s a solid little indie-rocker, but doesn’t offer much in the way of POP or PIZZAZZ or, you know, originality. Earnest vocals and punchy guitars are nothing new. But the thing about EPs is… there is usually more to come. (Note: ellipses use likely representative of feelings.)

TENDER FOREVER
Wider

(K)

Nods to folks like Calvin Johnson, Kimya Dawson and Scream Club in an album’s liner notes are usually, pretty safely, a good, solid sign that amazingness is in store. If you know nothing more about Tender Forever, association with these artists would up the profile. But, thing is, Tender Forever is amazingness all its own. Melanie Valera is a fantastically talented young woman who embodies with her modest songs and song craft that which makes music so interesting-she is forthright, heart-achingly subtle, and painstakingly heartbreaking. A cross between K Recs talents Dawson and the Blow, with bare, powerful vocals mixed with wickedly dance-worthy beats, Tender Forever is what happens when every right element falls into a singular one-woman package. Amazingness.

THE WAGNER LOGIC
Easiest to Grip

(Wilderhood)

This might be uncool to mention, a faux pas of some sort, but nevertheless… the Wagner Logic is that band on MySpace whose default photo for the LONGEST time was a photoshopped image of some mulleted (mulletted? there is no proper spelling, assuredly) family with the band members’ faces atop the originals. Yeah. They were on a friend-adding frenzy at some point, you probably know them. This disc is what one might guess, a mixed bag of genres and indefinable (in a bad way). Sometimes it sounds like the Thrills, which would be okay if they stayed there, but then sometimes they start screaming? And sometimes then they don’t and it’s flat, and sometimes it’s not. And sometimes it’s upbeat and dance-y and sometimes it’s mellow and hum-drum-y and, well, you know, you get it.

MATTHEW WINTERS
…Under Your Skin Like Splinters

(LOCAL, self-released)

File this under “We knew him when,” because Matthew Winters, with charm, personality and frickin’ talent through the roof, is headed for bigger and better things. Winters has long been one of Spokane’s finest, with hoards of adoring fans to boot, and wherever he takes his career next will no doubt be interesting to see-enough determination and anywhere might be possible. With his gentle, careful wordplay, Matt winds life experience through imagined realities and regularly lands on something quite extraordinary. Insightful and effective, simple and sincere, he’s a musical Romeo, with enough talent to win your heart.

WOELV
Tout Seul dans la Fort en Plein Jour, Avez-Vous Peur?

(K)

The truly fabulous thing about K Records is that they aren’t afraid to be wacky. Crazy. They release some stuff that even the most inventive and open-minded music fan can’t quite grasp. Woelv is a tough one. Sung completely in French, it’s at first distancing, and then by the same lines overwhelming and welcoming. It took four listens for me to make it past track three, but now I’m nearly speechless. Think Bjork, if Bjork ever felt capable of wrapping its arms around you and making you feel hopeful and comfortable. Inexplicably, Woelv has just that capability.