It's December 2012, and Seattle Sounds Like...

Every local release reviewed.


Big Chocolate, The Red (12/4, self-released, Recent SoCal/Portland transplant Cameron Agron, aka Big Chocolate, plays right into the favor of any Skrillex/Deadmau5 fan here, with big-ass drum tracks and CGI drops. TODD HAMM

Bladaow, High Tek Lowlives (out now, self-released, This three-song EP sounds mixed but not mastered (online anyway). Moreover, the instrumentals outplay the MCs, as their styles and deliveries are still developing. TH

*Blue Sky Black Death feat. Skull & Bones, "Casualties" (out now, self-released, Though these days every rapper who raps over an identifiable Blue Sky Black Death instrumental is likely to be compared to Nacho Picasso, rhyme duo Skull & Bones (Caz Greez and Bolo Nef) prove their worth by spitting some convincing nihilist bars. TH

Sonny Bonoho, "Concubine Juicy" (out now, self-released, Area freak Bonoho takes his oddball act to its logical end, blurting mainly nonsensical lyrics in a semi-coherent pattern. But the smashing MTK beat is a stylish rework of some classic soul, which makes the song worth a spin. TH

Books on Fate, Memory (out now, Ephemerata Records, Sweeping New Wave synths nestle into dark pop-song structures reminiscent of Echo and the Bunnymen and The National. Tracks like "Carnival Lights" and "Asleep on the Phone" are dead ringers for the latter. GWENDOLYN ELLIOTT

Captain Midnite, All This Will Fade (out now, self-released, Production-heavy music has had quite a year in Seattle. Captain Midnite's latest tracks vary in style, featuring guest stars like Georgia rapper Kyle Lucas and running the gambit from ambient to hip-hop. MA'CHELL DUMA LAVASSAR

* Cascadia '10, "Apophistry" (out now, self-released, This single from the Afrobeat ensemble is a team effort. The rhythm section rides out jazz-funk grooves, then gets out of the way to let the horns show off their soloing chops. It's engaging, danceable, and—critical for an instrumental track—never boring. (Thurs., Dec. 6, Nectar Lounge) ANDREW GOSPE

Caspar Babypants, I Found You! (12/18, Baby Pants Music, On his sixth full-length kids' album, Chris Ballew enlists the help of friends like Rachel Flotard and John Richards for another set of catchy, cheery children's tunes. (Sat., Dec. 8, Mount Baker Community Club) GE

Certain Inertia, Wednesdays (out now, self-released, Pleasant but familiar hybrid of alt-country and jamtastic dad rock. MDL

Jonathan Coulton & John Roderick, One Christmas at a Time (out now, Roderick/Coulton): Featuring 10 original, loosely funky tracks, this is a must-have Christmas album for the McSweeney's set. Frequently, the duo sounds like Junta-era Phish. That's meant as a compliment. MIKE SEELY

*A Crime of Passion, Consume:Receive (out now, self-released, The type of recording metal bands spend their careers building toward, Consume:Receive is rich with intricate guitar solos, stop-and-go breakdowns, and spastic, bottomless vocals. JOE WILLIAMS

The Den Mothers, Oh Yes . . . This Rocks!! (out now, Reedco Records, "Lo-fi garage rock" doesn't even begin to describe the Den Mothers. "Commies (Can't Cross the Street)" and "Tramp Slut" are fast, raw, raspy, and offensive—a huge middle finger to the concept of music in general. JW

Feverton, Apestrut (out now, self-released, A preview of sorts for an upcoming full-length, this three-song EP combines hip-hop, funk, and electronica into a whole that feels insubstantial despite the 10-piece band's maximalist approach. The best cut here, seven-minute closer "Underneath My Skin," shows that Feverton should stick to writing jams instead of singles. AG

* Fey Moth, White Blind (out now, self-released, Every track on this synth-pop trio's latest LP could be a single. Looping bass lines are layered with dreamy, hook-laden melodies to create compulsively listenable tracks that will lodge in your head for days. Swirling synths add a dark, ambient quality that keeps White Blind from being straight-up pop and calls to mind Grimes' latest album, Visions, but with less-wispy vocals. (Mon., Jan. 14, Chop Suey) SARAH ELSON

French Letters, Here There Be Serpents (1/1, self-released, Featuring Michael Crossley's dirty drawl, long-playing tracks like "Cheapside" echo the vocal theatrics of Nick Cave or the sputtering lyrics of Craig Finn, unraveling with visceral spoken-word and spacey guitar solos. GE

Garage Voice, The Messenger (out now, self-released, This trio fuses bright guitar rock with churchy organs and gospel-inspired lyrics, with pristine and punchy results. The best track on this three-song EP is the crunchy opener, "Afflictions," which quotes ominous lines from the book of Psalms in cascading, choral-style vocals. (Sat., Dec. 15, Barboza) ERIN K. THOMPSON

Gibraltar, Storms (12/8, self-released, I'm not sure of the circumstances around a mescaline-fueled gang bang between Neil Young and Crazy Horse and Interpol, but its offspring calls our fair city home. Gibraltar may look like a bunch of teachers in a summer band, but their edgy, twanged-up power pop is one of the best local debuts of the year. (Sat., Dec., 8, Highline) MDL

* The Glass Notes, As the Building Crumbles (out now, self-released, Frontman Robb Benson's expressive voice is this album's highlight, particularly on songs like "Glass Notes," on which he effortlessly transitions from the high end of his range into falsetto. A slight twang hangs over the whole thing, making the album a kind of power-pop/Americana hybrid, like Soul Asylum as interpreted by the Jayhawks. DAVE LAKE

Go El Grande Go, Number 3 (out now, self-released, For the very generous, songwriter John Goodfellow's third album could pass as conceptual art, a sort of academic deconstruction of the folk song. But for the pragmatic, it's practically unlistenable, and his melody-less, miked-way-too-close vocals need far more support than the sparse instrumentation provides. AG

Horace Pickett, Anatomy (out now, self-released, This nerd-rock band has an affinity for 1980s New Wave, and their third LP is filled with quirky, angular songs that recall Devo above all, but also incorporate a broader range of influences. "Body Language" is a jazzy instrumental, and "Phantom of Dance" could be a B-side from the Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack. DL

The Interruption, Bowery Cowboys (out now, Reedco Records, Short and straight to the point (the four-song EP lasts all of six minutes), Bowery Cowboys sounds like a really out-of-tune Marcy Playground meshed with the idea of ambient lo-fi garage rock. JW

Dylan Jakobsen, Long Way Home (12/28, self-released, That Jakobsen's music career started on Myspace is itself hardly interesting or unusual, but it makes the fact that he's beginning to move beyond the Hot Topic crowd all the more salient. Long Way Home contains less wince-inducing balladry (except for "Everybody (I Need You)," which belongs on a One Tree Hill episode circa 2006) and more mature, surprisingly folksy pop songs like the harmonica-laced "Kids." (Fri., Dec. 28, El Corazon) AG

Jus'Tina, Live to Love (out now, self-released, This singer/songwriter's powerfully robust and rich voice shines on tracks like "Everybody Wants to Be Loved" and "You Are Love," which combine easy-listening, jazzy instrumentation with warm piano and vibrant synth. JW

* Keyboard Kid, "Challenger" (out now, Automation Records, The first edition of Automation Records' digital-singles series is a serious win, as Keyboard Kid fills the channels with the chatter of artfully splayed blips and synthesizer beats that equal his most amazing piece to date. TH

Lanty Big, Cool Ass Beats Vol. 1 (out now, self-released, This 30- minute, free-flowing beat symphony draws samples from a huge variety of sources, though their presentation (mainly drum patterns and tempos) gets a little stale at times. Good for a skim. TH

Legato Bebop, Proximity (out now, self-released, The new EP from Issaquah experimentalist Patrick John White runs the gamut from manic, eerie, haunted-house synth melodies ("Stray Dog Strut") to calming, Zen-like tones ("Homes") to the heart-swelling romanticism of the standout track, "Perpetual Love." EKT

Bruce Leroy, Leroy (out now, self-released, Classic hard rhymes from Tacoma that come across strong without the extravagant glam that has weighed down other lyricists in this vein ("No rims, no tints, no sub, ridin' stock"). TH

*Luxe Canyon, Luxe Canyon (out now, self-released, Brothers Kyle and Matt Nielsen's eponymous debut is a strikingly well-produced, fundamentally sound electro-pop record with no element out of place—airy synth pads, mid-tempo beats, and occasionally vocodered vocals. It gains momentum as it progresses, culminating in the shimmering "Venus Finlandia," as fine a dance track as you'll hear in Seattle this year. AG

Nine50Nine, Hollow Bones (out now, Triple Props Records, As Nine50Nine, drummer Dave Krusen (Pearl Jam) and vocalist Ty Willman (Green Apple Quick Step) bring a hard edge to their brand of Southwestern country rock. (Sun., Dec. 9, Crocodile) GE

*Andrew Norsworthy, The Key & the Cross (out now, self-released, The sixth LP from this Anchorage-born Seattle transplant is a blues record, a departure from Norsworthy's usual folk sound. The experiment pays off, with traditional blues arrangements alongside more folk-leaning fare like "Going to Brownsville" and "So Cold in China Blues," the album's delicate closer. The format allows Norsworthy to showcase his impressive guitar playing, which is accompanied only by his equally strong voice and some foot-tapping. If I have any complaint, it's that the record grows a bit monotonous on the second half, though Gina Belliveau's vocals on "New Future Blues" help to change things up. If Zach Braff ever makes a follow-up to Garden State, Norsworthy's intimate material would be a welcome addition to its soundtrack. DL

*OCnotes, Pre Future Post Modern Love Songs: aka AlienBootyBass (out now, self-released, OCnotes' past few albums have been magically complete journeys void of any kind of trend-pandering or tainted pop aspirations—endlessly inventive rivers of sound to be swept away in—and PFPMLS is another engulfing edition. TH

* Prism Tats, Vacant & Impatient (out now, Whooping Crane Records, This 7-inch comprises two fast tracks of dirty, trashy guitar pop with irresistibly catchy, driving choruses—"Vacant & Impatient" and "Haunt Me"—plus a bonus track, the earthy, mopey, and compelling "Know-It-All." EKT

The Purrs, "Rotting on the Vine" b/w "You, the Medicine, and Me" (out now, Fin Records, The first track on this veteran psych-pop outfit's new 7-inch is cleverly caustic and self-deprecating ("I'd sell myself for anything/A couple pills/A diamond ring") with twisting guitars and deft vocals; the B-side abruptly takes a slower, darker, and more somber turn. EKT

Sebastian and the Deep Blue, Plastic Parts (out now, self-released, Genre-bending, feel-good, casino-party-band music that blends horns and dueling male/female vocals while dabbling in white soul, funk, and pop. MDL

Wes Speight, Hackneyed (out now, self-released, The common feature of Speight's languid, arty alt-rock songs is darkness; he often sounds like a male version of Chan Marshall. Despite its title, the singer/songwriter's latest is ambitious enough to be more interesting than much of what Seattle has to offer—though "The Old Man & the Sea," an attempt at Tom Waits-ness, misses the mark. DL

Static Producer, 1 (out now, self-released, If you strip away "Arrogance" (which is so uncomfortable that hearing it, it's impossible not to smirk and click "Next"), tracks like "Bleed Our Bones" boast an interesting country/grunge mixture that's original, if a tad overbearing. JW

Swingset Showdown, Short Bus Ruckus (out now, self-released, Nineteen goofy, piano-fueled tunes that are fun, but which pretty much hit the same note many, many, many times. MDL

TBASA, Good, Good, Good (out now, self-released, Even if TBASA sounds directionless at times on its fourth release, the group has wandered into a compelling sound—a space-rock/trip-hop hybrid that's best when they dial up the beats on tracks like "Spree Killer" and "Mind Blown and Wiped Clean." AG

Thee Gene Rotten Fairies, "Craps 4 the Devil" b/w "Graveyard Tard" (out now, Reedco Records, This Auburn three-piece's two-song 7-inch is lo-fi garage rock with vocals more spoken than sung. The A-side is a peppy song about the devil; the B-side is anchored by a surf-guitar riff and lyrics about a handicapped zombie. DL

Theoretics, Plenty of Anything (out now, self-released, The five-piece backing band does a decent lounge act, and they've added some promising electronic elements, but vocalists Chimaroke Abuachi and Mark Hoy add little to the mix. (Sun., Dec. 16, Neumos) TH

Trip Like Animals, The Bubbleator Sessions (out now, Grumpy Old Bear, Built for the 1962 World's Fair, the Bubbleator (Wikipedia it) was a Seattle Center fixture for two decades before being turned into a Des Moines greenhouse—and now a one-time recording studio for Trip Like Animals. Their latest EP is filled with riff-heavy psychedelic hard rock, with a vocalist who owes a debt to Layne Staley and songs that combine fuzzed-out guitars with Middle Eastern progressions. DL

VALIS, Minds Through Space and Time (out now, Strange Earth Records, With a psychedelic grunge sound (see "Tortured Times"), former Screaming Trees bassist Van Conner, his brother Patrick (guitar), and Matt Vandenberghe (drums) recall a time when three-piece bands rocked harder than modern groups four times their size. GE

* Various artists, Ball of Wax Audio Quarterly #30 (out now, self-released, Going themeless for the 30th edition, Levi Fuller compiles acoustic power pop from Proud Wonderful, a dark dance track from Sides, electro-rock from Electric Dylan, and many others, with eclectic yet solid results. MDL

Vox Mod, CAPSULE (Selected Transient Works 04-09) (out now, self-released, Local electronic artist Vox Mod is the kind of sound junkie and professional eerie texturist who, through a good set of headphones, can properly creep you out. CAPSULE is a massive 22-track collection of lost pieces that will get under your skin. TH


Matt & Toby, Matt & Toby (out now, Tooth & Nail, The latest from Matt Carter and Toby Morrell (founding members of post-hardcore band Emery) shines with piano, acoustic guitar, and upbeat vocals. JW

*Mogwai, A Wrenched Virile Lore (out now, Sub Pop Records, A remix album of 10 stretched-out and reworked versions of songs from Mogwai's 2011 Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will. Highlights include RM Hubbert's fragile mutation of "Mexican Grand Prix," the zippy synths on The Soft Moon's "San Pedro," and the aqueous pulsations of Xander Harris' "How to Be a Werewolf." EKT

My Heart to Fear, Lost Between Brilliance and Insanity (out now, Solid State, Lost is littered with clean, screaming vocals, eerie keyboard, and uplifting harmonies. Closer to the style of Atreyu before they sold their soul, tracks like "Blood Money" pound forward in a low, powerful, raspy voice you can feel in your chest. JW

Schwarz, "Earthlink" (12/11, Automation Records, This Baltimore club DJ/producer provides the second recording in Automation's Digital Singles Series. It's a dark, hollowed-out angular dance track with elements of chiptune and electro-club that could succeed in the right late-night setting, but isn't terribly accessible on a larger scale. TH

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