Posts Tagged ‘Washington’

Like many important bands, Seattle quartet Versing got their start in college radio—Tacoma’s KUPS. The group’s main songwriter/guitarist/vocalist Daniel Salas served as alternative music director there, where he met guitarist Graham Baker, drummer Max Keyes, and bassist Kirby Lochner. Now Versing are poised to spread their coolly combustible brand of rock on those said airwaves…and beyond if the world knows what’s good for it.

Baker, Keyes, Lochner, and Salas have risen through Seattle’s competitive rock ecosphere with nonchalant élan. They cheekily titled a previous album Nirvana, but never mind the bleach: Versing isn’t emulating Sub Pop’s most famous artist. Rather, these four twenty-something aesthetes are forging an exciting sound that finds a golden mean between lustrous noise and ebullient melody.

Emerging from a stint as a drummer in a stoner-metal band, Salas formed Versing as a vehicle to vent obliquely about his political and social views with irony and humor. Populated with strange characters, his songs often double as “critiques of centrism and conservatism, from a leftist perspective. That’s a theme: committing to something or doing something that may be hard but is the better option. However, when I write politically, it’s more allegorical and can be interpreted beyond the political realm. I find that more interesting to write about than my personal life.”

That being said, the pell-mell, ostinato-laced “Renew,” which Salas says is his most hopeful song, has a personal message. “It’s about taking time to care for yourself—even when things are all weird and fucked up.” Meanwhile, the immersive, pummeling “Offering” evokes those twin pillars of 1988 rock: My Bloody Valentine’s Isn’t Anything and Pixies’ Surfer Rosa. “I just really enjoy that droning line of guitar feedback,” Salas says. “We use a lot of feedback on our songs, but I think that’s one of the more deliberately musical uses we’ve found for it. It’s sort of a fantastical song about traveling through a mystical portal to stop an encroaching force of evil, and the feedback is like the whirring sound the portal makes.”

Another fantastical song, “Tethered” is a low-key, Daydream Nation-esque anthem with plenty of dissonance and surging, distorted guitars, plus rhythms that drive piles. Salas explains that it’s “about how people are tied together,” figuratively. “It’s a reminder of the interconnectedness of humans, to people who make excuses for not doing the right thing” for the greater good of humanity.

With Versing, songwriting is obviously crucial, but much of the pleasure in 10000 comes from its guitar textures. They’re swarming, yet also spiky and agile. The funny thing is, Salas writes most of Versing’s songs on his unplugged Gibson guitar. “I like a more shambolic tone than something that sounds really clean and put together. I like there to be some screechiness to it—something that’s not right.”

Salas cites earlier purveyors of abstract rock music Cocteau Twins and Wire as major inspirations. Much of the rock that followed in the wake of 9/11, though, leaves him cold. “9/11 messed up a lot of things culturally, including music,” he says. “It engendered a deep social conservatism and nationalism that meant the chaotic and unpracticed sounds previously common in rock music had to go, in favor of tighter playing, more simplistic subject matter, and super clean production.”

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Gently chiding the Seattle music scene’s self-seriousness while acknowledging Versing’s playfulness and irony, Salas says, “There’s a ‘let’s just fuck around and see what comes out,’ aspect of what we do, which I think is uncommon for Seattle bands.”

Versing’s freewheeling attitude has paradoxically resulted in 10000, an engrossing album that’s impossible to feel ambivalent about.

releases May 3rd, 2019
Sat, Feb 16th – The Sunflower Lounge , Birmingham United Kingdom
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Pedro the Lion has always been David Bazan, but it took a long time to get back there. In August 2016, during what he now recognizes as his lowest point, Bazan was touring the country alone in an aging minivan and found himself in his hometown of Phoenix, AZ. In need of a break from the road, he spent a night off at his grandparents’ house instead of driving on to San Diego. Before leaving town the next morning, after realizing that even the most familiar places can become unrecognizable, Bazan gave himself the gift of a quick detour past the house he grew up in, and on the way, experienced a breakthrough – one that would lead him both forward and back to another home he had built many years before.

From the beginning, Pedro the Lion didn’t work like the bands Bazan had played drums in, where each player came up with their own parts. Instead, like scripting scenes of dialogue for actors to play with, Bazan recorded and arranged all of the skeletal accompaniments for his obsessively introspective lyrics and spare melodies. Each player would then learn their parts and, together as a band, they brought the skeleton to life. While bandmates played on a few recordings, Bazan often played all or most of the instruments himself.

“I found so much joy working this way,” Bazan remembers. “It came naturally and yielded a feeling and a sound that couldn’t have existed by any other process. At the same time, I was also aware that not everyone wanted to play in a band where the singer wrote all the parts and might perform them on the record. Someone even suggested it might not be a valid approach to having a band in the first place. Being insecure and wanting to find camaraderie, I became conflicted about my natural process.”

By 2002, after recording Control, the high rate of turnover in the band finally caused Bazan to ditch his “natural process” in favor of a collaborative writing process. When, after a couple more years, this move did nothing to stabilize turnover, Bazan was perplexed. In November 2005, Bazan decided to stop doing Pedro the Lion altogether.
Ironically, Bazan didn’t see “going solo” as a chance to revert back to his original process of writing and playing all the parts. For the next decade Pedro the Lion felt off limits, even forgotten, like a childhood home Bazan had moved out of. He pushed forward with releasing solo albums & relentless touring in living rooms and clubs, through every part of the US and beyond, sometimes with a band, but mostly on his own. It took a toll on his family and more acutely on himself. By the summer of 2016, he still hadn’t found the personal clarity or the steady collaboration he’d been seeking and was at the end of his rope.

“I had abandoned my natural way of working in the hopes of creating space for a consistent band to write with…and it hadn’t worked. So I got a rehearsal space, mic’d up drums, bass, and guitar, and really leaned into my original process again. It immediately felt like like home. Before long I realized it also felt like Pedro the Lion.

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In June 2018, with Bazan on bass, vocals, and arrangement writing, Erik Walters on guitar and backing vocals, and Sean Lane on drums, Pedro the Lion went into Studio X and Hall of Justice with producer Andy Park to create Phoenix, the first new Pedro album in 15 years.

The songs themselves are the result of mining your past for who you are now. On opening track “Yellow Bike,” Bazan encapsulates a core ache he’s been exploring since 1998’s It’s Hard to Find a Friend with the line:

My kingdom
For someone to ride with

Phoenix also deals with having to be better to yourself in order to be better to others on “Quietest Friend,” and harkens back to Control’s “Priests and Paramedics” with a story about EMTs facing a gruesome scene, and storytelling as coping mechanism, on “Black Canyon.” It bears witness to both what was around and what was inside, with the signature kindness and forgiveness that lightens Pedro the Lion’s darkest notes.

The result is a twisting, darkly hopeful introspection into home and what it means to go back, if you ever can. It is rock and roll wrapped in tissue paper, its hard edges made barely soft. Every melody is careful, a delicate upswing buoyed by guitar lines that hold each tender feeling together like string before ripping them apart to see what’s inside. It is an ode to the place he still loves despite how alien it can appear to him now. It is the story of a life from the beginning, but not a linear one. This life is a circle, and Phoenix goes back to that first point, to show that when we are looking for home we’ll eventually run into it again, whether it’s in the desert, in a rehearsal space, or on a stage.
released January 18th, 2019

La Luz is a band in Seattle, WA, started in the summer of 2012 by Shana Cleveland (guitar), Marian Li Pino (drums), Alice Sandahl (keyboard) and Lena Simon (bass). Everyone sings. Songs by Shana and La Luz.

La Luz just might be the greatest rock band in the world. It’s OK if you didn’t know. Since achieving instant hype on the strength of their pretty garage pop songs and haunted girl group vocals floating around guitarist Shana Cleveland’s glow-in-the-dark surf guitar lines, La Luz’s music has possessed an effortless ear candy quality that makes it easy to overlook—if not outright dismiss. But La Luz have always been stealth rock-‘n’-rollers with a taste for the raw; their discography reveals a band gradually ramping up the intensity of their sound while cloaking its creeping menace in soft clouds of four-part harmonies that soothe.

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With the epic Floating Features, La Luz’s slow burn reaches a boiling point, leaving no doubt that the quartet—Cleveland, bassist Lena Simon, organist Alice Sandahl, and drummer Marian Li-Pino—are among the most imaginative, dynamic rock bands currently active. Always technically impeccable, Floating Features is a showcase for the band’s deeply empathetic musical chemistry, embodied in moments of impassioned musicianship delivered with all of the confidence and none of the cockiness commonly associated with rock star moments. And there are a few of them here. Floating Features is a record rife with moments that thrill, from Cleveland’s fearless, heartbreaking guitar solos, her most powerful passages often preceded by howls emanating from somewhere just deep within the sound, to the angelic, enveloping atmospherics of “Mean Dream,” to stunning centerpiece “California Finally,” a song so rhythmically complex it seems to follow its own dream logic; the chorus of “I do what I want” tumbles into echolalia as Cleveland plays catch-up with Li-Pino’s off-kilter beats. A record of luminous beauty and subtle majesty, Floating Featuresis a portrait of a rock band playing at the peak of their powers, La Luz’s very own Houses of the Holy remade in their own heavenly image.

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Flasher are a trio who play an amalgamation of joyful, frenetic pop, punk, post-punk and shoegaze. The band released their debut album, Constant Image, this year via Domino Records, and it landed among our list of the best albums of the year. What sets them apart from many of their peers is their knack for writing such immediate pop melodies and their slick production value, which maintains their chugging rock energy and allows their impressively consistent tracklist to shine. Each member contributes vocals—guitarist Taylor Mulitz (formerly of Priests) is playful and self-assured, bassist Danny Saperstein’s vocals are snotty and eccentric and drummer Emma Baker lends gorgeous vocal harmonies

Flasher – “Skim Milk” from ‘Constant Image’, out now on Domino Record Co.

Daily Dose: Valley Maker, "A Couple Days"

Austin Crane is Valley Maker, a singer song-writer hailing from Seattle, USA. He will release his sophomore LP, Rhododendron, on October. 12th via Frenchkiss Records.

Following his previous single, “Light On The Ground,” Crane released another new single, album opener “A Couple Days.” The song was one of four tracks that he recorded alongside Chaz Bear of Toro y Moi whom he met back in college at the University of South Carolina. Bear produced the track and also contributed drums, bass, keyboards and backing vocals.

The song, which also has an accompanying video directed by Joseph Kolean, showcases Crane’s lush, textured folk vocals, spacious sound and melancholy backing vocals. His language might be metaphorical and rhetorical, but his tender voice and indie-rock songwriting are both immensely grounding.

The remainder of the album was produced by Trevor Spencer (Father John Misty, Fleet Foxes), and includes contributions from drummer James Barone (Beach House, Tennis), bassist Eli Thomson (Father John Misty), trumpeter Brandon Camarda, saxophonist Andrew Swanson and vocalist Amy Fitchette.

From the new Valley Maker record, Rhododendron – out October 12, 2018 on Frenchkiss Records.

 

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David Bazan’s been reliably releasing music and touring under his own name for nearly a decade; his most recent record, Care, came out last year. But before that, he was Pedro the Lion. He retired the name in November 2005, and after that, it felt off-limits: For Bazan, that designation belonged to a band, even if he was its only constant. Although Bazan was writer, arranger and principle player on all the Pedro the Lion records, he performed with a full band on tour. His self-titled material, however – whether recent synth-based pop experiments or acoustic reflections on big-picture questions – was often played solo.

“Yellow Bike,” the first single from Phoenix.The song begins with Bazan recollecting a childhood Christmas scene in his warm, worn tone. The titular gift under the tree makes his heart race, a kick drum thump animating the excitement. Over insistent bass and ascending guitar, he connects those childhood bike rides to an adulthood on the road. Its lived-in video, rendered in washed colors and grainy textures .

For both fans and Bazan himself, there was a sense of resolution in the reclamation and return to that name, which explains the excitement last year when he announced a handful of Pedro the Lion tour dates, a full U.S. tour. And now, there’s Phoenix, the first new Pedro the Lion record in 15 years. Out January 18th, Bazan recorded the album joined by Erik Walters on backing guitar and vocals and Sean Lane on drums.

Phoenix comes out January. 18th via Polyvinyl Records.

Out September 21st, “Tell No One” is the debut full-length by Washington, D.C.’s Bad Moves. It’s a perfect power-pop album — alternately explosive and vulnerable, loud and tender. Recorded with Hop Along’s Joe Reinhart, it’s an album about secrecy — it’s anxiety and weight. The songs are meant to tell a story about how self-discovery works when you’re a kid and how those experiences, revelations, and regrets ripple into adult life. Bad Moves are Emma Cleveland, David Combs, Katie Park, and Daoud Tyler-Ameen.
released September 21, 2018

We haven’t heard any music from Globelamp, the musical moniker of Elizabeth Le Fey, since her 2015 album The Orange Glow.  That album was an honest and impressive record, detailing Elizabeth’s abusive relationship and the complex fall out from it, involving court cases, restraining orders and a host of very public exchanges. This week marked the announcement of a third Globelamp record, “Romantic Cancer”, due for release on her new home Nefarious Industries, as well as the release of a new single, “Black Tar”.

While The Orange Glow bathed in technicolor psych-folk, Black Tar is instantly a more restrained affair. Elizabeth’s vocal is largely unadorned, left to all it’s idiosyncratic flair, accompanied by a just gentle acoustic guitar rhythm and an accordion, courtesy of James Felice, which adds a certain Parisian feel to proceedings.

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Discussing Romantic Cancer, Elizabeth has suggested it is a record about how we perceive relationships, how, “we start believing Love equals Pain. As though Love is a type of cancer that must be avoided at all costs”. As intriguing and challenging as ever, the return of Globelamp is an occasion to be celebrated.

All songs written by Elizabeth le Fey 

All guitars, keyboard, and tambourine played by Elizabeth le Fey
James Felice – Accordion on Blinded, Sorceress Of Your Soul, Black Tar, Look Out Mountain
Morgan Y. Evans – vocals on track Sha La Love, trombone on Look Out Mountain

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Say Hi is Eric Elbogen. It used to be called Say Hi To Your Mom. Like a good neighbor, A new Say Hi LP! Can you believe it?! Caterpillar Centipede is record number twelve, with ten rock gems that will worm their way into your heart in whatever way possible (hence the title). LPs, CDs and a brand new t-shirt are available in addition to the digital version . Until this week we hadn’t though about Say Hi for probably the best part of a decade. Then, as they do an email landed in our inbox, declaring a new album on the way, a new single to listen to and we were instantly propelled backwards, to a box room in a Leeds flat, and it was every bit as exciting as we remember it.

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The track, Green With Envy, is the latest single to be lifted from Say Hi’s upcoming album, Caterpillar Centipede, which is out next week. With it’s Teenage Dreams like guitar riff, glitchy electronic pulse and emotive vocal, it’s just a fabulous alt-pop song. As Say Hi frontman, Eric Elbogen recalls, “‘riffage’ and ‘anthem’ were the two words going through my mind once the tape was rolling”. He’s not wrong; it’s a stone-cold indie-disco floor-filling banger, just about 10 years after they went out of favour with the mainstream. Still, with an album inspired by being visited in a dream by a centaur called David Bowie, Say Hi might just be the band to bring it back into fashion, or at least have those of us too old for dancing dreaming nostalgically of a youth well lived: either way it’s a triumph.

Listen to Whitney Ballen’s “Rainier,” a missing-you gem

“It’s easy to get down on yourself / When you’re surrounded by people who don’t know what goes on in your head,” Whitney Ballen sings on the title track of her latest LP, You’re A Shooting Star, I’m A Sinking Ship. It’s the irony of existing in a world filtered through social media comparing real life to curated ones, and longing for validation that seems further away with every scroll of the touchscreen.

The album’s twelve tracks are set perfectly in Ballen’s Pacific Northwest, a place collectively pictured in a romantic mist that blots out its everyday banalities. Vocally, the Washingtonian shares space with the likes of Mirah, Laura Stevenson, and Jenny O. Describing her sound, “Imagine Joanna Newsom as a ghost, benevolently haunting a cabin in the woods, and you’ll get an idea… I love it. Her voice is so unique, this whispered sort of knife “It didn’t sound exactly like any one thing I had heard before, but still managed to feel comforting and familiar too. I think it was the many contrasts that drew me in and made me want to share this album with everybody else.”

I’m not from the Pacific Northwest and maybe people rhyme “Mount Rainier” and “wish you were here” all the time, but it knocked me over here, on this beautiful track from Whitney Ballen’s You’re A Shooting Star, I’m A Sinking Ship.

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“Mount Rainier tends to show itself on the days we need it most here, at least for me it does,” Whitney, who’s from Washington, says. “It’s a casual reminder of the things that linger in an ever-changing world. Rainier was the view from an ex’s dining room window (before it was sold for condos), where the housemates would sit and drink crafted coffee most mornings. When things go away friends, mothers, fathers, houses, partners — we find and hold onto memories through the most mundane things. Luckily, Rainier is still here.”

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The album is released on August 24th as a co-release between the storied Father/Daughter Records and exciting new Substitute Scene.