While melodic indie rock and pop certainly aren't underrepresented on the Northwest landscape, sometimes I think that pop-fortified hip-hop and hardcore-minded heavy metal are currently the two most powerful forces at work on our local scene.
I'd never claim to be a historical expert on the former, but the sheer number of wildly original voices emerging lately is pretty staggering. Case in point: Ben Laub, a precociously talented kid who operates under the name Grieves. Since arriving in Seattle a few years ago from Fort Collins, Colo., Grieves has built up an impressive underground following. He has a natural ability for infusing both goofball humor and disarming emotional vulnerability into his effortless flow, all while producing minimalist, periodically poppy beats that belie a level of technical skill that could propel him out of his Queen Anne studio and down more mainstream avenues. His self-released, full-length sophomore effort, Irreversible, dropped earlier this month (his debut EP, Every Hell Has Its Springtime, has sold out), and his subsequent touring schedule has been nothing short of ambitious insanity. The day this issue hits the streets, he and touring partners Type and Murder Dice will be in Lincoln, Neb., as part of a series of bicoastal dates that don't wrap up until at least mid-October. He will, however, make a brief stop back in Seattle on Sept. 11 to open and MC the Grayskul record-release party at Chop Suey, so put that one on your can't-miss calendar right now.
Hard rock and metal have always enjoyed prominent placement in the local picture, and both Seattle and Portland are nurturing an increasingly impressive number of quality heavy-rock acts that are as blistering as they are sludge-driven. Portland-based bands like Black Elk and Red Fang keep getting bigger and better, making me more jealous than ever of our more affordable, sin-friendly sistercity. Luckily, we have superb local heavyweights like Akimbo to keep me from fully defecting to the south. Navigating the Bronze, their sixth record (andsecond on Jello Biafra's AlternativeTentacles label) is a seamless and searing pairing of hardcore punk's fearless, lightning-quick onslaught and classic metal's slowly simmering aggression, a ridiculously complex, yet compulsively listenable, Molotov cocktail. As anyone who's watched him rule his kit like a lead-limbed octopus will testify, drummer Nat Damm is the band's brutal centrifugal force, propelling vocalist-bassist JonWeisnewski and guitarist Aaron Walters with just enough muscle to let their strangled howls and sky-scraping scales escape through the mix. Earplugs are recommended for their record release party this Friday, Aug. 24, at the Comet.
Akimbo fans were no doubt among the packed crowd in attendance at Pierced Arrows' inaugural Seattle show last Friday night at the Funhouse. Everyone from Eddie Vedder to members of the Coconut Coolouts and Kinski (whose frontman, Chris Martin, was working up a sweat as part of opening act Unnatural Helpers) was on hand to show Toody and Fred Cole some serious love. Sounding more unstoppable and energetic than ever, the couple who led Dead Moon for nearly 20 years unveiled their fresh incarnation to a wildly appreciative audience. With a notably more briskly paced drive courtesy of new drummer Kelly Halliburton and a welcome increase in distortion (apparently Fred's done some pedal shopping lately), Pierced Arrows burned through a nearly hour-long set that included a cover of Neil Young's "Mr. Soul" and classic Moon anthem "Over the Edge." If you missed it, well, you really missed out—they don't have any additional Seattle shows scheduled in the near future. However, should you be in the mood for a road trip, there are plenty of opportunities to catch them in Portland, the next one being Friday, Aug. 31, at the Mt. Tabor Theater.