Reviews: It's April 2012, and Seattle Sounds Like...

Our take on every new local release.


* The Absolute Monarchs, 1 (4/17, Good to Die Records, From the shredding on anthemic "Killing the Old" to the jangled, dissonant guitars of "Sharp," Absolute Monarchs rock hard and keep a heavy hand on the volume, but stay within tight songwriting parameters. Echoes of the Kills and some San Diego beach-punk reverberate throughout, but that greasy garage rock is pure Seattle. GWENDOLYN ELLIOTT (Sat., April 21, Comet Tavern)

Animals in Cars, Motion Blur (out now, self-released, On its eight-song debut, this year-old Seattle quartet shows a fondness for early Merge and Matador Records bands like Sebadoh and Pavement. "Nothing" could be an outtake from Weezer's Blue Album, and though the playing and production is a bit sloppy in parts, Blur is a promising first effort. DAVE LAKE (Fri., April 13, The Mix)

Caspar Babypants, Hot Dog! (4/17, Aurora Elephant Music, Chris Ballew's fifth album as a children's Pied Piper, Hot Dog! contains more of his irresistibly lovable, plinking sing-alongs and a whole new cast of cute animal characters, like Stompy the Bear and Eleanor the Elegant Elephant, that your kids will be liking more than you in no time. ERIN K. THOMPSON (Sat., April 7, Mount Baker Community Club)

Bakelite 78, What the Moon Has Done (4/13, self-released, With jazzy scats, Dixie guitar plucks, accordion and trumpet pairings, and the occasional duet, Bakelite 78's new album woos even the most prudish listeners into smirking smiles. Keep your ears open for the snarky Seattle references. KATHERINE MCKEON (Fri., April 13, Columbia City Theater)

*Beat Connection, "Think/Feel" (out now, Tender Age, The first single from Beat Connection's forthcoming full-length, Palace Garden, due later this summer, is an incredibly svelte song, shimmering and liquid-smooth as a clean pool of water thanks to the easy-pulsing beat, the bell-like marimba, and guest vocalist Chelsey Scheffe's serene intonations. EKT (Thurs., April 5, Chop Suey)

Kristin Chambers, Endless Road (out now, self-released, There are some really nice, mellow flourishes on Kristin Chambers' new EP, particularly on the title track, and she's a very gifted vocalist. Maybe too gifted: Listening to Chambers is impressive yet somehow vacant, like hearing a musical-theater pro nail "All That Jazz" during a karaoke competition. MIKE SEELY (Sat., April 21, Sorrento Hotel)

Andy Clausen, The Wishbone Suite (out now, Table and Chairs, From the ever-prolific Table and Chairs collective comes this elegant chamber-jazz composition that unites wild improvisation and frenzied syncopation with elements of classical composition, flashes of pop, and buoyant, melodic themes. GE

Cold December Way, Electrified (out now, self-released, Too bad it's not the mid-'90s, because these guys would be a kick-ass opener for a Gin Blossoms/Goo Goo Dolls/Dramarama tour. DL (Sat., April 7, Cafe Racer)

*Country Lips, Touched (4/8, self-released, "Well I'm shit-faced wasted, sitting by the campfire drinkin' Hamm's . . . " That's the opening line of "Twelve Oh Nuevo," the second cut on Country Lips' 10-inch vinyl, and it describes the vibe of the entire record. The eight-piece "outlaw country" group crafts songs that feel as though they ought to be belted out by friends on a beer-guzzling bender. It's good-ol'-fashioned honky-tonk music, with guitar twang, foot-stompin' rhythms, and a rebellious streak a mile wide. KEEGAN HAMILTON (Sun., April 8, Crocodile)

Dog Shredder, Brass Tactics (4/17, Good to Die Records, Lightning-quick time changes, epic shredding (of guitars, not dogs), and prog-metal thrashing make this Bellingham trio's three-song onslaught of sound a robust follow-up to their 2010 two-song, self-released Boss Rhino EP. GE (Thurs., April 26, Barboza)

Fight the Current, Bridge (out now, self-released, With a sound akin to what Lifehouse's would be if that band worshiped John Mayer, Fight the Current puts together a solid album of grainy, emotional alt-rock. "Found You Today" has a '90s Top-40 edge to it that's a tad nostalgic. JOE WILLIAMS

*Go El Grande Go, ExTant (out now, self-released, This is the kind of record you can put on as a musical litmus test. Can your subject see past the unhinged vocals and the deceptive simplicity to get that this record is actually out-of-sight? For fans of Jeffrey Lewis, Daniel Johnston, Kimya Dawson, Captain Beefheart, and all those other misunderstood folky weirdoes who aren't even considering commercial viability when they create music. MA'CHELL DUMA LAVASSAR

The Goblin Market, Beneath Far Gondal's Foreign Sky (out now, Green Monkey Records, Goblin Market is a side project of two members of veteran Seattle retro-psych band Green Pajamas, and their latest album is inspired by Emily Brontë. From Colin Meloy's mind, this would be a recipe for pretentious disaster. In Goblin Market's humbler hands, however, it's a surprisingly pleasant, melodic listen. MS

Golden Gardens, The Eden Sessions (out now, self-released, While this unplugged record is built of three songs spanning almost 16 minutes, there is little to no variation whatsoever. The entire release is essentially one long, meditative guitar strum with a few whispers and hums. JW

*Grave Babies, Gothdammit (4/17, Hardly Art, When anyone can record crystal-clear pop or indie rock on their home computer, what does it say when a band chooses to make their music sound lo-fi and blown out? Well, if you take the first track of Grave Babies' new five-song EP at face value, it says, simply, "Fuck Off." Such surly goth posturing and noisy treatments belie some ingratiatingly poppy tunes, though. "Nightmare" rides a twangy, easygoing guitar lead before drowning it in dour, groaning vocals; the pneumatic snares of "Mourning Heir" almost swing. For all the shrill guitars and reverb-muddled moping, it's almost as if these guys are having a good time. ERIC GRANDY (Fri., May 4, Funhouse)

Graz, Teenage Bassland (out now, Automation Records, The Kent-based producer's latest pairs "Luv 2 H8 (Seattle)," a clever but grating novelty song about Seattle clichés, with trashy dubstep remixes (or are they mashups?) of "Bad Romance" and "Baba O'Riley." ANDREW GOSPE

Hey Beautiful, Gone (out now, self-released, This three-song EP approximates the subtle dream-pop of a band like Low, but too often the droning arrangements don't do enough to support singer Mackenzie Buchanan's serviceable voice. AG

JD Hobson, Where the Sun Don't Shine (out now, self-released, Hobson's brand of bluesy Americana is steeped in rich outlaw tradition. His latest blends originals and covers seamlessly, making it hard to tell which are which, and that's a compliment. DL (Thurs., April 12, 418 Public House)

*Impossible Bird, Impossible Bird (4/28, self-released, This debut album, composed of an internationally known fiddler, acoustic guitar, and impeccable vocals, is an absolutely stellar combination of upbeat alt-folk that's mesmerizing and radiates talent. JW

Infinite Loop, Hyper Palace (out now, self-released, This youthful production duo's sense of irony (see the titular sample on "Funky Mama") is more developed than its music, which veers between vocoder-laced electro-pop and hip-hop-leaning instrumentals. AG

Kissing Potion, Gimme Love (out now, self-released, Named after the greatest lip gloss ever invented, Kissing Potion is more a sonic explosion of Don Cherry than wild cherry (and not at all Buckcherry) for your ears. With a stereotypically funky horn section and big vocals, this is the kind of band whose chill energy and pro execution pull you into their whole set at an outdoor festival. Let's go ahead and call them Bumber-funk. MDL (Sat., April 7, White Rabbit)

Chris Klimecky, This Journey (out now, self-released, Imagine throwing Lucero, Switchfoot, and Brantley Gilbert into a meat grinder. That awkward country-grunge "Let me hug you while I'm sweaty" squeal you hear? This Journey. Klimecky's voice is so misplaced that the whole experience is simply uncomfortable. JW

Chad Knight, Shy Daydreamer (out now, self-released, Part of what stands out about this album is also its problem: Knight flexes his muscle on a variety of styles, jumping from hip-hop to reggae to alt-rock, but it feels more like an unfocused artist's identity crisis than a fully formed voice. DL (Fri., April 6, Hard Rock Cafe)

Sam Lachow, "23rd Avenue" (out now, self-released, Though the "I - I be on the block," etc., vocal drop seems kind of style-jacked from Blue Scholars' similarly stuttered refrain from "Slick Watts," Lachow's beat is simple yet effective. His verses are short but also enjoyable. TODD HAMM

The Life, Alone (out now, Green Monkey Records, After their 1987 debut, Seattle band The Life promptly broke up. To celebrate Alone's 25th anniversary, their label is rereleasing it. Admittedly, it'd be a lot cooler if a new band sounded this retro with their chorused guitar tones and New Wave melodies, but if you've played your Big Country and Simple Minds records to death, this ought to scratch your itch. DL

Lux, We Are Not the Same (out now, self-released, Electro duo David Chandler and Leah Rosen swap lead vocals throughout their 13-track debut, fusing synth-rock, New Wave, and a dance-floor-ready sound with poppy nods to every genre from '50s bop-rock to '90s grunge. GE

Midnight Salvage Co., What You Hope For (4/6, self-released, Led by Brason Alexander's gravelly, sputtered vocals, this Tacoma five-piece's first album is pure blue-collar, beer-drinking heartland rock, a gritty, stripped-down folk-roots panorama somewhere between Asbury Park Springsteen and The Hold Steady. GE (Fri., April 27, Skylark)

Debbie Miller, Measures + Waits (out now, self-released, The second release from this songwriter and classically trained pianist (and her first since relocating here from New York) runs the gamut from elegantly choral ("Inch by Inch") to bouncy and quirky ("It's Been a Day"). Miller's sweet vocals and restrained melodies give all the songs a clean and peaceful aura. EKT (Sun., April 15, Columbia City Theater)

The Missionary Position, Consequences (out now, The Boredom Killing Business, Consequences sounds like lead singer Jeff Angell's hometown of Tacoma: a little past its prime, bluesy and boozy—yet virile enough to rip your jeans off and fuck you quick and hard in a bar's back lot. In that setting, doing it missionary-style would actually be quite innovative. MS (Fri., April 13, Tractor Tavern)

Moraine, Metamorphic Rock (out now, Moonjune Records, There's the sort of jazz that's great for pleasant dinner music, and then there's the kind that's a bit more dangerous. If you like your jazz bopping and meandering but filtered through the haunting, heady lens of '70s prog-rock and world music, then Moraine is the perfect trip for you. GREGORY FRANKLIN (Thurs., April 19, Cafe Venus/Mars Bar)

*MxPx, Plans Within Plans (Out now, Rock City Recording Company, You won't find any surprises on the ninth studio record from Bremerton's favorite pop-punk sons, but you will find the band sounding renewed and more vital than it has in years. Perhaps this new energy stems from all the recent behind-the-scenes changes—namely that MxPx isn't so much a fully functioning band anymore. With longtime bandmates Tom Wisniewski and Yuri Ruley taking full-time jobs at Bremerton's shipyard, singer/songwriter Mike Herrera has been left to tour as the MxPx All-Stars without them, though the pair do play on Plans. Maybe this time apart has sparked a newfound passion among the musicians. Long gone is the Green Day aping that clogged their early albums; in its place, a more realized band deftly merges catchy, Costello-influenced pop-punk with an occasional hardcore breakdown or foray into power pop. As they hit their 20-year mark, MxPx sounds better than ever. DAVE LAKE

*Naomi Punk, The Feeling (4/24, Couple Skate Records, The Olympia-and-Seattle trio's second full-length album is a glorious racket. The songs' discernible melodies and choruses are washed over with the clamor and clang of metallic-sounding guitars, walloping drums and cymbal crashes, and strangely spirited vocals so thin and echoing they almost sound disembodied. EKT

The Navins, Time to Go (out now, self-released, Featuring ex-members of Tad, Gnome, and Peach, the Navins' three-song EP harks back to the golden age of college rock, combining the power pop and jangly guitars of bands like Redd Kross and the Posies with noisier indie-rock faves like Built to Spill. Retro and pleasing, especially for those 35 and over who like their rock 'n' roll with a bit of grit and an equal amount of melody. DL (Fri., April 13, Comet Tavern)

Neighbors, John in Babeland (out now, Lost Sound Tapes, An agile album of fuzzy power pop and indie rock from this Seattle quartet, with hints of twang in some corners, British invasion and American garage in others, led by sometimes gawky but largely endearing vocals. EG (Wed., April 13, UW Ethnic Cultural Center)

Stephen Nielsen, Mystic City (out now, self-released, Simple melodies and sparse and punctuated guitar work propel Mystic City. Nielsen falls into that vein of folk rock that sounds down-home without being at all country, and his honestly emotive storytelling is quite listenable. MDL

*Out on the Streets, We Buy Gold (4/21, self-released, Few records explode out of the gate with the grandeur and passion of this EP. It's impossible to peg the multilayered indie pop, but a few words come to mind: bold, upbeat, dance . . . British? Two more: must listen. JW (Sat., April 21, Hard Rock Cafe)

Petty-P, "The Incredible" (out now, self-released, Petty-P has a voice that sounds a bit like that of Cypress Hill mike-man B-Real, but a shade lower, with a Dirty South inflection. Petty isn't on the same level as Real, but his overanimated rhymes have notably improved here, and DJ Erok's beat definitely helps things along. TH

*The Piniellas, Without a Fight (out now, self-released, These Ramones-loving nice guys serve up a platter of throwback riffs, mashing up early-'60s innocence ("I want to be with a rock-'n'-roll girl") with the derelict, rebellious instrumentation of NYC punk. CHRIS KORNELIS (Fri., April 6, 2 Bit Saloon)

The Satellite 4, Street Food (out now, self-released, The Satellite 4 specialize in smooth, contemporary lounge music sweetened with some soulful organ and jazzy good vibes. Won't your parents be surprised when you show up at their barbecue this summer with the perfect soundtrack? MDL

*ShewHorn Jonez and His Super Sonic Patriots, Steamin' With ShewHorn Jonez Vol. I (out now, self-released, Color me surprised, ShewHorn. Your name made me wonder what the hell I was getting into. Steamin' is a interestingly low-fi take on summer hip-hop jams that occasionally veers into Kool Keith-esque territory. MDL

Silicon Girls, Rana (out now, self-released, Three gleeful Eastside boys from the Old Redmond Firehouse crew make vertiginous, breakneck music complete with wobbling guitars, bratty vocals, and one educational number ("Greatriot!") that solemnly recites some Presidential similarities between Lincoln and Kennedy—kind of like if Sonic Youth taught your history class. EKT (Wed., April 18, Jewelbox/Rendezvous)

Soundgarden, 22 seconds of "Live to Rise" (out now, Hollywood Records, For the first time in 15 years, Soundgarden's recorded and released brand-new material. Unfortunately, they've only teased 22 seconds of "Live to Rise." It sounds more like Audioslave than Soundgarden. It's not bad. But, like the rest of the awkward rollout of Soundgarden 2.0. it's a bit frustrating. 22 seconds? Really? CK

The Spittin' Cobras, Year of the Cobra (out now, Omega Records, Resurrecting the all-too-underappreciated genre of '80s heavy metal, Alx Karchevsky's roaring vocals ignite this punk-influenced speed-rock outfit that calls to mind AC/DC, Metallica, and the Sex Pistols. GE

Sugar Sugar Sugar, (out now, self-titled, This hesher's delight is an homage to wind-whipped, '70s freeway rock. The Bellingham trio serves up plenty of O-faced guitar solos, straight-faced cowbell, and double-time dustups. Just in time for summer. CK (Fri., April 6, Funhouse)

Sundries, All Good Daughters (out now, self-released, A fun album with addictive flair. Indie-grunge with a dash of soul, Sundries weaves smooth angst with beautiful guitar picking and intricate backbeats. The standouts, "The Hunter" and "Ribbon," grow effortlessly with soaring vocals and snappy melodies. JW

*Ticktockman, Ticktockman (out now, self-released, Ambitious early-aughts riff rock pumped through a tunnel of fuzz and polished for radio on the other end. This headbanging guitar-rock record—featuring veterans of Wild Orchid Children and Gatsbys American Dream—is the arena-rock record to beat in 2012. CK (Sat., April 7, High Dive)

Tomten, Ta Ta Dana (4/10, Flat Field Records, The two tracks on this EP's B-side are pleasant but forgettable. The reverse, however, contains two supremely elegant pop songs—both of which will appear on Tomten's forthcoming summer full-length—that belie the band's youth. The title track is smooth and stately with a longing organ melody; "So So So" is a blithesome, head-bobbing tune sung like a bird by bassist Lena Simon. EKT (Thurs., April 12, Tractor Tavern)

*Variable, Sleeper Files (out now, self-released, Sleeper Files' rhythms play with aqueous synth splashes and various sharp bits of sound data in a way that occasionally implies plot, but atmosphere is the real star here. It takes a while to get going, but things heat up by the midpoint. TH

Various artists, Soul of Seattle (out now, Empathy Records, Local label Empathy Records has gathered some of the finest soul and R&B music the town has to offer in this 16-track compilation (a special nod to Mycle Wastman and Malice & Mario Sweet). All slow jams and relaxed get-downs, the city's put its best voices forward on this one. TH

Various artists, The Undercaste Mixtape (out now, self-released, A couple of keepers on this mixtape deserve repeat listens, but far more earn a skip. The tape's sound quality is pristine, though, which accomplishes its goal as a functional promotional tool for one of Seattle's long-running recording spaces, Undercaste Studios. TH

*Rocky Votolato, Television of Saints (out now, self-released, Votolato's eighth full-length is an archetypal Seattle folk record, but it's both pretty and unpretentious, and he's a skilled enough songwriter to convey a message without beating you over the head with it. AG (Sat., June 9, Neumos)

*WaMü, Viafuckt (out now, Talking Helps Records, wamü.com): Invoking at least two failed or crumbling local institutions and one natural disaster, WaMü's Viafuckt is an appropriately anarchic set of primal-scream and skronk therapy, sax and violins, things falling apart. EG (Wed., April 11, Mercury Lounge)

The Washover Fans, Live at Empty Sea (out now, self-released, Holy Avett Brothers, Batman! These kids sure dig the Jayhawks. Finely, with pleasing results, these hicksters unpretentiously cover a bunch of songs (from the Velvet Underground to Foo Fighters) that showcase a wide array of influences and may or may not get them sued. MDL

The Way We Were in 1989, Floating Islands (4/24, Team Pegasus, Chill, ambient electro-pop with New Wave and folk leanings. The songs on this EP roll fluidly into each other, and all display a marked contrast of dueling male and female vocals, breakup themes, and edgy tempos. MDL (Thurs., May 3, Columbia City Theater)

Wayfinders, Wayfinders (out now, self-released, Lo-fi garage sounds, folk harmonies, and a freewheeling take on '70s rock place the Wayfinders somewhere between the Velvet Underground's stripped-down style and T. Rex's glam rock. GE (Sat., April 14, Wildrose)

The Willow Collective, Underground Sky Soaring Collective (out now, self-released, An intriguing eight-song LP full of haunting and fantastical tunes, though at times the guitar riffs seem to clash rather than coalesce. LAURA SWARTZ

*X-Suns, X-Suns (out now, self-released, There's a beautiful simplicity about this record that makes it a stellar piece of post-rock. Each track is a mini-orchestra, layered with dazzling guitar and backbeat, without an emphasis on speed. It's brilliant, complex music without the need for flash. JW


Canyons of Static, "Wake/Drift" (out now, Fin Records, One of those musical projects where the tracks are more audio experiences/experiments than "songs." Soundscape-style indie rock that makes for an epically indulgent instrumental mood-core trip. MDL

The Coathangers & Davila 666, "Smother" b/w "No Crees Que Ya Cansa" (4/17, Suicide Squeeze, The language of punk is universal on this 7-inch split between Atlanta bad girls the Coathangers and Puerto Rican hellions Davila 666, who offer, respectively, organ-flaring rawk and a tinny, drum-machine-driven guitar wipeout. EG

*Ruby Fray, Pith (4/17, K Records, Fray's debut record doesn't stay in one place for long, moving from freak-folk to wistful balladry to skewed indie pop, often in the span of a few songs. It's a bit unfocused, but never boring, and indicative of an artist with lots of room to grow. AG

Horse Feathers, Cynic's New Year (4/17, Kill Rock Stars, While their name hints toward rowdy, blurry nights soaked in whiskey, Horse Feathers is actually a much more contemplative, gentle affair. Still firmly rooted in Americana, every element of the record seems to shine and sparkle with clarity, even as singer Justin Ringle struggles with his own mortality. GF (Fri., April 20, Barboza)

*King Tuff, "Wild Desire" (out now, Suicide Squeeze, Carefully fuzzy overdriven vocals, totally carefree, joyriding guitar melodies and singing, and lo-fi static so honest you hear the cassette recorder click off at the end. EG

*Maps & Atlases, Beware and Be Grateful (4/17, Barsuk Records, This Chicago quartet shows noted growth on the follow-up to their complex and off-kilter 2010 Barsuk debut Perch Patchwork. Beware still contains Maps & Atlases' trademarks—intricate guitar lines and fret-tapping, Dave Davison's squalling vocals—but the songs, particularly album standouts "Fever" and "Vampires," have an added hypnotic pop zing and sheen. EKT (Wed., June 13, Crocodile)

Solid Home Life, Solid Home Life (4/10, Fin Records, Switching between harmonic vocals and glossy vintage instrumentation, Solid Home Life creates an album of lo-fi folk that could have benefited from a little more studio direction, or a drummer capable of keeping a steady beat. JW

*White Woods, "Where Did You Go" (out now, Suicide Squeeze, Coathangers singer/guitarist Julia Kugel takes time off from bratty punk rock to craft (what else?) twee, fairy-forest folk songs—but surprisingly good ones. EG

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