Seattle Ultimate Hits

Seattle Weekly's music writers compile two CDs of our favorite local tracks and talk to their creators about how they were made.

It took a lot of work not to make our third annual Seattle-centric mix three discs instead of two. Call it a tribute to the industriousness of the city's musicians, or just call it dumb luck. Either way, we're pleased with the results. And although the CDs we made were strictly for editorial purposes, we figured it would be nice to get some feedback on them from the folks we included. So we asked as many of the artists as we could reach to talk about the songs we chose. Their comments are sometimes silly, sometimes enlightening, and always interesting—just like the music itself. We hope you hear them—the songs and artists both—the same way we do. MICHAELANGELO MATOS

DISC ONE (78:27)

1. A Frames, "Eva Braun" (Black Forest, Sub Pop) 3:26. iTunes

A great punk band's most wistful, resonant moment yet.

"I guess she's a strange person to choose as the subject of a song about love and forgiving. Aside from her obvious place in history, she was pretty, but from what I know about her, she wasn't unusually bright or interesting. One of the many things she does represent—whether or not we can understand her choice of partner—is an extreme devotional love, one that you could argue takes the concept beyond its natural place. But I don't think I actually thought through any of that when I wrote this song. There had been a History Channel biography about her, and for some reason, it got me started. When I hear it or we play it now, I always think that the guitar solo makes me feel what I'm attempting to get across with the lyrics."—Erin Sullivan, guitarist/vocalist

2. Kinski, "The Wives of Artie Shaw" (Alpine Static, Sub Pop) 3:16. iTunes

Hard-charging boogie rock that explodes into a swirling, psychedelic noise solo midway through.

"The song is based on and inspired by big-band leader Artie Shaw. Artie had eight wives, including Lana Turner and Ava Gardner. The song is based on a series of eight repeating bars, with each bar growing increasingly more frantic and uncontrolled. The main motif within the verses is used to depict the day-to-day drudgery of married life. The distorted flute noise burst in the middle (eight) of the song depicts the outer turmoil that Artie inflicted on his wives, as opposed to the inner turmoil of the verses. In demo form, the song was known to the band as 'The Whores of Glenn Miller,' but that interpretation of the piece fell by the wayside. The song seems to go over pretty well live, and we're not sick of it. Yet."—Chris Martin, guitarist/vocalist

3. Sick Bees, "God Will Stop Yer Party" (The Marina Album, Up) 0:23. iTunes

A kiddie taunt scored for punky guitar and drums; over before you knew what hit you.

"One of our friends was around a week away from dying—she was really sick, and we were taking care of her. Our neighbor wanted to throw a party right outside her window. We asked her not to, but she refused. The day of the party, I walked outside and was standing on the front porch going, 'Fuck.' A building was being built next door; they hadn't put the siding on yet. It was windy, and this piece flew off the building, went up in the air, landed on the power lines across the street, and blew the power out in the building. It was absolutely crazy. My neighbor that's cool said, 'Hey, we should go down and turn the breakers off so if the power company gets the power back on, she still won't have power and won't be able to have the party.' And sure enough, she had a bunch of people over there sitting around with a bunch of candles."—Starla, guitarist/vocalist

4. Buttersprites, "Yellow Peril" (Buttersprites, Dionysus) 2:38. iTunes

A kicky cover of Public Image Ltd.'s "Public Image," with some new, racially pointed words.

"I thought it would be a fun twist at the Japanese culture fad that is coming around so pervasively through products and fashion. It's like we are on the ride with it, but it could teeter into the territory of prejudice and cultural misunderstanding. But it is all mixed up in the mosh pit of people's good will. And the Buttersprites will ride it as hard and as high as it will go, while doing our best to remain true to ourselves, and of course, poking fun at it all. We say, 'You got what you wanted,' but 'what you wanted' is more complicated than you think."—Haruko Nishimura, vocalist

5. Daylight Basement, "Godspeed Girl" (Any Kind of Pretty, Expanding Brooklyn) 3:37. Three Imaginary Girls (free MP3)

New wave lives on this irresistible pop-rocker—or at least Prince's early-'80s synth sound does.

"This was originally written four years ago about Tiffany [a former bandmate]. She was always like, 'Leave it at the door, we need to rock and roll, and that's the way it is.' That was such a good thing. It wound up being a song [about] the strong women in my life—girlfriends and family and whatnot, and just wanting to be like them. Originally, it was just a guitar song, and it morphed into these crazy mariachi trumpets and the synth horns."—Bre Loughlin, vocalist/keyboardist

6. DJ Lance Lockarm, "Shielium" (MP3, 4:21.

Local mash-up master mixes Ready for the World's "Oh Sheila" with Black Strobe's "The Abwehr Disco."

"I loved Ready for the World and Front 242 as a kid, pretty much at the same time. Fast-forward 20 years, [when] I discover French duo Black Strobe, basically the Front 242 of today (but good!) at the same time I purchase a copy of the 'Oh Sheila' 12-inch. I played 'em together, messed with the mix a little, and here you go. Melvin Riley's faux-Brit accent, purrs, and grunts make him sound more like a fey villain today than a desperate kid 20 years ago."—Brian MacDonald, aka DJ Lance Lockarm

7. U.S.E., "Umbrella of Love (RK47 Mix)" (Party People, Side Out, Japan) 5:47. iTunes

The city's favorite party band gets their wistful midtempo ballad dubbed into a beefy house groove.

"RX47 is one of our friends, Ron Kurti, from San Francisco, who came up to live in Seattle a little bit. He was a roommate of our guitar player [Jason Holstrom]. He was always in the basement, secluded with all his processors and racks, all kinds of weird instruments. One day we found out he wanted to do a remix. It was like, 'Yeah, go for it,' and he threw out that banger."—Jon E. Rock, drummer

8. Caro, "My Little Castle" (The Return of Caro, Orac) 10:14. Kompakt Store

Dance-floor epic that incorporates jazzy piano, plaintive vocals, and an homage to early, "jacking" Chicago house.

"I was trying to combine some modern musical ideas, like serialism, with something really danceable. It's got this kind of almost Basic Channel–type rhythmic foundation. I was trying to add some melody to that. It was inspired by people like [techno producer Ricardo] Villalobos. It always gets a good reception when I'm playing out, 'cause I'm singing with some vocoder. It's pretty fun; I definitely get into more of a lounge-singer mode with that. It's almost a track that calls for a kind of debaucherous, Weimar Republic–style performance—some weird, sinister lounge vibe."—Randy Jones, aka Caro

9. Jeff Samuel, "Endpoint" (12-inch, Trapez Ltd.) 8:45. Kompakt Store

Seething, bubbling minimal techno epic that found favor with Europe's DJ elite.

"I was still in college when I made that—over winter vacation in December 2000, in my mom's house. I had to borrow a friend's minidisk recorder and record it out and then back into my hard drive. I made all my tracks like that until a few years ago. I didn't have many tracks that sounded like it—I still don't. When I had it done, to me it sounded super Detroit [techno], which is funny because it ends up perfect for Kompakt [label head] Michael Mayer—he really dug it."—Jeff Samuel

10. Bruno Pronsato, "Wuorinen" (12-inch, Orac) 7:44. Kompakt Store

Clicks, clacks, slurps, exhales, pings, and pongs bound around a steady pulse that seems to mutate along with what's on top of it—weird, earthy, sexy.

"That track was put together in March. The name comes from Charles Wuorinen, the modern composer. I fell in love with a tape piece of his called 'Enconium.' I wanted to make the track in his honor—sort of using his sound. It was a gesture toward him [during] my three-month infatuation with him. I tried to approach that track with Charles in mind."—Steven Ford, aka Bruno Pronsato

11. L'Usine, "Breed" (Autonomous Addicts, the Designed Disorder) 5:01. iTunes

Click-clack laptop melodicism, and the easy highlight of an iffy compilation CD.

"I did that one a couple years ago. The comp has been in the making for a while. It [took] a couple weeks. Once I have a simple phrase going, that's where I realize where I want to take the melody and where the transitions will go. I have an MS2000 synth; when I made this track, I was using it for a lot of my tracks. It's got a lot of wave table samples, and I'll start writing a scratch-pad sequence with that. Then I'll resample it. That's what I did with the sort of piano-sounding [melody line]; I had one sequence going, then resampled it and made it into something else. Usually, it starts out a lot more involved, then it gets more and more simplified over time."—Jeff McIlwane, aka L'Usine

12. Swampdweller, "Crunchtime" (Swampdweller, Freetone) 7:01.

Bebop and Destruction's leader's new ensemble that moves away from straight jazz to incorporate hip-hop, funk, and anything else they can cram in.

"That one was written by Ari Zucker, the guitar player in the band. He brought it in as a finished song. That first record was basically two rehearsals—we recorded the whole thing in two days. We're recording another one at Jack Straw [Studios] right now. For the studio sessions, especially with turntables and with so many people, I just tell all those guys if they hear it, they should play it, and if it doesn't work, I'll just take it out."—Marc Fendel, alto saxophone

13. Blue Scholars, "The Ave." (Blue Scholars, Blue Scholars) 3:02.

Local hip-hop favorites offer a slice of life from University Avenue.

"That song was actually written before a lot of the songs that made it onto the first album, in summer 2002. I wrote some of those lyrics when I was still in school. Actually, there's been a few rewrites of the song where I revised a few of the [lines about "coffee-shop philosophers" and "so-called artists"]. Despite me putting it into the song kind of critically, that was actually a lot of the people I hung out with in college, people who happened to be on the Ave. It's a shout-out, but at the same time it's a critical shout-out."—Geologic, MC

14. Common Market, "Connect For" (Common Market, Sciontific) 3:18.

RA Scion calls for unity in local hip-hop over one of the sweetest beats of the year, from Blue Scholars DJ/producer Sabzi.

"About 80 percent on the Common Market album, I wrote to Sabzi's beats. As an MC, I had never, ever written to the beat before—it's unusual, a lot of younger MCs always write to the beat. By the time I got around to the album, Sabzi and I knew where we were headed. That beat almost dictated what needed to be written; it was one of those unifying pieces."—RA Scion, MC

15. Framework, "Mom Cries" (Hello World, Keivarae/Jasiri) 4:03.

Recently released from jail, a local rapper candidly talks about his imprisonment's effect on his family.

"My mom was upset about my situation, and I felt her pain. I went back to my room and put [the song] together in, like, two days. I was just writing a cappella, with a beat in my head. I wrote the first verse in maybe 45 minutes. Later on, I went back, wrote the second verse. The next day, by the end of the night, I was done. I first performed it in the studio with [producer] Bean One. Hadn't nobody heard [the lyrics]. I didn't need the paper or nothing—I just spit it. I had it memorized for a long time before we recorded it."—Framework

Framework plays a CD release party at the War Room at 9 p.m. Wed., Dec. 28. $5.

16. Velella Velella, "Do Not Fold/Do Not Bend" (The Bay of Biscay, Velella Velella) 5:51.

What if flute-led, downtempo post-jazz-funk didn't actually suck?

"I knew that at some point I wanted to completely flip the beat and go with something really simple. So I pulled out everything except one little piano part, and laid down that little party bass line, and from there it just kind of went. We kept adding things, and finally, we were at a birthday party for a friend of ours that was starting to wind down. It was near our place, so we were like, 'All right, everybody, you're coming to our house to record vocals!' Everybody was a little bit inebriated to start off with, but we got everybody drunk and told them all to sing loud and clap. That's all the talking and the people we have on there—all of our friends, drunk, after a party." —Andrew Means, multi-instrumentalist

DISC TWO (79:07)

1. Schoolyard Heroes, "Panic in the Year Zero" (Fantastic Wounds, the Control Group) 4:08. iTunes

A "perky nuclear send-off waltz," as Rod Smith put it in SW's June 29 issue, with vocalist Ryann Donnelly and guitarist Steve Bonnell essentially performing a winding, grinding, snarling duet.

"It's a tawdry tale of death, destruction, nuclear war, and the frustrating love life of a teenage hooligan"—Jonah Bergman, bassist

2. Girth, "Fucking the Temple of Fame" (Living in Truth, Hector Stentor) 1:44.

Superhard, technically acute shred-metal made by a guitar-drums duo who've recently expanded to include a keyboardist.

"We were just getting into grind—fast stuff, figuring out all these other exciting ways to play. I wrote the song on drums and gave it to Dave [Webb, guitarist], and he was kind of like, 'Whoa.' [laughs] We traded ideas back and forth. The drums kind of implied certain feels for some sections, but I didn't write out melodies for him or anything like that. There were certain sections where it called for a certain kind of riffage or articulation."—Peijman Kouretchian, drummer

3. Intelligence, "Tropical Struggle" (Icky Baby, In the Red) 1:58. iTunes

Fuzzy production can't hide a tune that sounds like a clattering, post–shock treatment B-52's.

"The title came from misreading the different flavors of some huge, cheap, 22-ounce, horrible, piña colada–esque drink specials on a dry-erase board at a pizza place we played in Chico, Calif. The opening band had a four-piece horn section, and they basically sounded like the cantina song from Star Wars with Korn's rhythm section, but kind of so bad it was great. We played for four people (the Popular Shapes, who we were on tour with), and maybe 10 seconds after we got off the shoulder-high stage, a 'secret band' rushed in and set up and played Bad Religion and Ramones covers, and the place was packed like it was spring break in Cancún. So 'Tropical Struggle' for me is kind of about having the best time in the worst place ever or the worst time in the best place ever. There are also references to getting drunk-driven home by Wynona Judd, arguing with the band the Hunches, sneaking under the fence to get into heaven, and everyone having a huge party when you die."—Lars Finberg, guitarist/vocalist

4. Casy and Brian (Catbees), "Nocturnal Friends" (MP3, brian) 1:07. MySpace homepage

The chaos' zeitgeist, or, the zeitgeist's chaos.

"We like to blaze up and hit the nocturnal exhibit at the Woodland Park Zoo. The bats and armadillos look like some kind of a menacing gang in the dark. We wouldn't want to run into a bush baby in a dark alley for sure. Ka-kaw!"—Casy Marquis

5. Cripples, "Hillside Strangular" (Culture, Dirtnap) 2:55. iTunes

A midtempo, three-minute sharp shock with a drawled vocal that revs up midway through—sharp, thick, needling.

6. The Cops, "Invisible City" (Get Good or Stay Bad, Mt. Fuji) 3:34. iTunes

A new band's most politically charged moment; aggressive like early U.K. punk, with some obvious sonic similarities to same.

"That's one of the songs we've written that I feel like, 'Well, yeah, I can see where you might compare us to the Clash'—not that that's a bad thing. We wanted to write a really upbeat dance song. Lyrically, it's a sort of a comment on the whole sort of [blue] states versus red states, how the bigger cities seem to be the more forward-thinking, progressive places to be and are kind of losing their power and effectiveness in our country today."—Michael Jaworski, vocalist/guitarist

7. Speaker Speaker, "Statues/Shadows" (Again & Again & Again, Speaker Speaker) 1:51. band homepage (free MP3)

Power-pop trio packs uplifting emotion into the shortest break-up anthem ever.

"On the extended-play section of [the CD reissue of] Elvis Costello's My Aim Is True, there's a song called 'Jump Up,' and like a lot of Costello stuff, it's cynical, there's a feeling of despair in it. One of the lines goes, 'There's holes in my socks that match the holes in my feet/And I put my feet in the holes in the street/Somebody paved me over and I was a statue,' so I worked it into ['Statues/Shadows'] as my response about things not being as bad as he sees them in that song, and everyone's doing OK. I wrote the song, but it was cool to hear Colin [McBride, guitarist] singing it. It changed the way things are emphasized."—Jasen Samford, drummer

8. The Valley, "Kisses, Hugs and Prescription Drugs" (The Valley, the Swing-line) 2:57.

Quicksilver guitar, laconic shouting, burning lead guitar that opens up into a wah-wah bridge, and—you knew this was coming—more cowbell.

"I wrote this song after going home to my sister's graduation. It has nothing to do with her except I got the 'li'l sister come on' hook stuck in my head and expanded on the line from there. (Side note: This was spring of 2002, way before I heard the Queens of the Stone Age song. So where's my money, Josh?) You can get a prescription for grass if you have glaucoma or something like that, right? Hey, the Valley likes to have fun."—Dan Beloit, singer/guitarist

9. Cantona, "Run Boy Run" (A Sort of Smile, Cantona) 4:04. iTunes

Ace Britpop created 3,000 miles from its ancestral home.

"We were joking that it's a song about the love and betrayal of monkeys, because when Glenn [Pittaway, guitarist] was doing the mixing, he put this sound sample of monkeys laughing in a section. It made it to this final stage, and you can just barely hear them if you listen closely. It took me forever to hear them, and now I can't not hear them." —Leslie Beattie, vocalist/guitarist

10. Crystal Skulls, "Airport Motels" (Blocked Numbers, Barsuk) 3:31. iTunes

Crisp pop-rock caught between melancholy and indifference, with popping guitars guiding its path.

"The way I write songs is [to] take things that have actually happened to me and sort of fictionalize them a bit. It could be about a band, or it could be about an affair, depending on how you read it. I started out writing it about a band, being on the road and the sort of relationships band members have with lead singers of bands, but it obviously had some affair/relationship-sounding things in it, too." —Christian Wargo, vocalist

11. Pulses, "Try and Avoid the Draft" (Gather Round and Destroy All Our Records, Dirtnap) 3:22. iTunes

Sixties-pop dropouts caught between good times and bad.

"The song is less about anything political and more just about being young. Sometimes I find myself resenting the very young because I'm now sort of past that and a little jealous. I wanted to give it an After the Gold Rush feel, [but] I don't know if it came out at all. I badly wanted to be playing the piano on this song, but I don't know how to play the piano very well, so instead I had [producer/engineer] Johnny Sangster play it while I played acoustic guitar. However, when I did the vocals, I had the microphone set up at the piano so I could sit and pretend I was doing the playing. We recorded most of it in Canada around the time Fahrenheit 9/11 came out."—Jesse Steinchen, vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist

12. The Posies, "Last Crawl" (Every Kind of Light, Rykodisc) 4:26. iTunes

"Vodka to the left of me/Tequila to the right/Time is like a bruise on my face tonight."

"My attempt at a torch song for both the '70s AM radio set and the alcoholic-ally inclined. When I hear it now, I envision restless housewives on qaaludes watching daytime TV, quaffing peach wine coolers while fantasizing about tender, understanding relationships with Dr. Phil. Lyrically, it's kind of inspired by 'One for My Baby,' then filtered through the soft-rock sensibilities of David Gates of Bread, or maybe Seals & Croft on a really good night. After all is said, done, and consumed by the song's protagonist, he still has a hold on hope, proving that at the end of the day, no matter how cynical or inebriated, I am ultimately a romantic at heart. And speaking of organs, kudos to my liver for being so forgiving and resilient."—Jon Auer, singer/guitarist

13. Math and Physics Club, "Weekends Away" (Weekends Away, Matinee) 2:33. band homepage (free MP3)

The gentle, chiming quasi-theme song of Puget Sound's answer to Belle & Sebastian.

"I was cajoled by friends to attend an open mike at EMP. I sat limply and listened until a guy with glasses and a mop of dark hair strolled past, prompting my friend to declare that she'd found my lost brother. About 20 minutes later, he got onstage with a drummer, a keyboardist, and a guy with a Rickenbacker and launched into the riff of 'Weekends Away.' Within the year, I'd joined Math and Physics Club; we'd released two EPs, heard ourselves on KEXP, toured with our heroes, the Lucksmiths, and, of all things, played the Sasquatch Festival. I guess open mikes aren't that bad, after all."—Ethan Jones, bassist

14. Brandi Carlile, "Follow" (Brandi Carlile, Columbia) 4:13. iTunes

The singer-songwriter starts her major-label debut with a dark, redemptive anthem, mixing twang and soaring mope rock a la Radiohead.

"Tim Hanseroff, the guitar player, wrote most of the lyrics himself at our practice place. It was something he was playing for me, little riffs in hotels. We got together and rearranged it to make it our song. It doesn't have a big, beautiful story behind it, but it is a big, beautiful song. It's one of my favorite ones."—Brandi Carlile

15. Laura Veirs, "Magnetized" (Year of Meteors, Nonesuch) 2:37. iTunes

Gorgeous lyrics ("I was slain/By your olivine eyes") and a haunting, slow-burning melody make this the most affecting song on the local singer-songwriter's excellent new album.

16. Na, "Song of Frog" (B-Sides, Sockets) 2:29.

Twee for knob-twisters and junk junkies.

"The main melodies were taken from a Japanese popular nursery rhyme. It is called 'Kaeru (Frog) no ('s) Uta (song).' Japanese kids learn this song at first grade. I thought we should include in the credits that this song was a cover, but since it's a nursery rhyme, we didn't know who composed it and we didn't have enough space to explain this—we don't have an insert for this CD. So I just ignored it—I didn't think the song would catch someone's attention." —Noriaki Watanabe, cellist

17. Holy Ghost Revival, "Hot Luv in a Berlin Bombshelter" (Beast With Two Backs, 17 Television) 5:53. band homepage (free MP3)

Hunky Dory meets Brain Salad Surgery, with well-placed horns.

"The song was partly inspired by contempt for political righteousness from the right and the left. [The lyrics] come from the diary of a teenage opium queen who closed his mind and stumbled on moral relativism. A war song for the disciples of beauty, it tells the story of two queer Nazis who transcend the horrors of their situation through uninhibited acts of passion: 'In a battered bomb shelter, it's a shameful thing we do/But if you were counting the days to your doom, I think you'd find yourselves out doing the same things too.'"—Conor Saint Kiley, vocalist

18. Voyager One, "Salvation" (Dissolver, Loveless) 4:15. iTunes

Multi-instrumentalist duo anchors fuzzy, buzzy atmospheres with tambourine-shaking, '60s-guitar-rock charm.

"It started with something I was working on to give to Reggie Watts. It was in a real electro-funk direction, kinda Chemical Brothers sounding. There was no guitar or bass on it at all. I played it for Reggie at the early stages and he said, 'Man, it sounds awesome, but I don't know what to do with it.' He was moving in a comedy direction and sonically it was way dirtier and harsher than anything he'd ever done. So when Peter [Marchese] threw the bass line on it, it totally opened [the song] up. We used dozens of effects, like the Roland Space Echo. The tape on these things is really old, so if you get a scratch or crinkle in it you get messed up harmonics."—Jeramy Koepping, vocalist/multi-instrumentalist

19. Degenerate Art Ensemble, "Oni Gorshi" (The Bastress, Tellous) 4:02. band homepage (free MP3)

DAE is best seen as well as heard, but gentle trembling, jazzy Japanese psycho-babble, and pounding riffs color this track a vivid cartoon hue.

"This song was recorded immediately after a 42-day tour in Europe, so the band was completely living inside of this music. We were totally tuned in to each other. In the end section, several of us had to learn to chant in Japanese. The chant is nine beats long while the band is playing a phrase that is seven beats long. This was a really, really tough thing to learn. It's waaaay worse than rubbing your tummy while patting your head."—Joshua Kohl, conductor

20. Nels Cline/Wally Shoup/Chris Corsano, "Minus Mint" (Immolation/Immersion, Strange Attractors) 4:15. iTunes

Wilco guitarist Cline and New England drummer Corsano join local sax legend Shoup for an engrossing free session.

"The trio had played a gig at a Monday night improv series in L.A. called 'line-space-line' the night before at an art gallery. Though we had never played as a trio, we had all worked together before and the music flowed like water—very satisfying, very well received. Tuesday afternoon, we went to Catasonic Studios, owned and operated by Mark Wheaton, a Seattle native, it turns out. We played a number of spontaneous pieces, letting the music dictate. Not much discussion, no 'leader' per se. The trio energy and cohesion was as heightened and inspired as the night before."—Wally Shoup, saxophonist

21. Ficus Trio, "Track Two (Clip)" (Live at Gallery 1412, 5:08. Open Music Workshop (free MP3)

Excerpted from a 27-minute number, pianist Gust Burns, alto saxophonist Gregory Reynolds, and percussionist Greg Campbell improv in slowly expanding concentric circles—a fascinating mood piece.

22. Bill Frisell, "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" (East/West, Nonesuch) 8:00. iTunes

The Marvin Gaye classic, reinvented as a slow-burning jazz-guitar trio meditation, recorded live in California. It ends our mix, appropriately, with a round of applause.

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