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Music Reviews

The Stratford 4

The Stratford 4

The Revolt Against Tired Noises

Jetset

This CD starts out with a soft yet noisy disembodied waltz that brings to mind early My Bloody Valentine, but with the distortion under more control, allowing for the vocals to slide through without a lot of effort. The dynamics hit like ocean waves bringing the guitars up and crashing over into softness. Then all of a sudden you’re caught up in a beautiful “Sonic Youth meets Yo La Tengo with a slight touch of Pavementesque discordance” bouncing, uplifting pop song, and you just smile. The pop continues, slightly off kilter, but infectious, the rhythm section moving like train tracks against the rolling of the guitar and harmony of the vocals. The songs drift into slow quiet moments of clouded introspection and then build up into a soaring realization, and you’re taken along for the ride, wanting nothing more when it’s over, except maybe to hear it all again.

Jetset Records: http://www.jetsetrecords.com

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Music Reviews

The Prima Donnas

The Prima Donnas

Drugs, Sex, and Discotheques

Peek-A-Boo

Punk wave, new wave, no wave: this CD is overflowing with waves. Otto, Nikki, and Julius make up this band, taking the sounds of dance craze gone by, by way of Devo, and throwing in some slightly French touched punk and synthesized noise. Punk rockers in dayglo boots and those wrap around sunglasses. These British boys broke up in the summer of 1998, leaving us with this solid retrospective of those final days. Muddy and deep keyboard sighs against droning choruses and excited tin can beats. Makes me feel young again.

Peek-A-Boo Records: http://www.peekaboorecords.com

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Music Reviews

Mid Carson July

Mid Carson July

Wessel

Fueled By Ramen

Energetic and upbeat almost hardcore edged rock n’ roll. Slamming between some early Bad Religion and the more right now sounds of bands like Alkaline Trio (but without so much pop melody and more of a ska-punk sneer). Some head shaking bass lines hit rolling steady underneath an almost heavy metal guitar riff, while the non stop vocals scream and sing towards the inevitable end of it all. There’s really no time to take a breath, caught on those pop hooks that sneak in like some sonic traffic light, stop start, and proceed with caution.

Fueled By Ramen Records: http://www.fueledbyramen.com

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Music Reviews

Owen

Owen

Owen

Polyvinyl

This is soft and full of desire and rain. Drifting indie style across time and oceans. Like Joan of Arc but sweeter, Kinsellas’ voice drifts strong and broken and solid against floating melodics and distraught harmonies. The songs move into the future of the same sounds that have been flowing back to the days of Cap’n Jazz, but with more focus than ever. Similar at times to the jazzier mellowness of Tortoise, or some of the John McEntire work found moving soundtrack style against the ears. This is not a solo album, and the musicians hold together music that feels as perfect as a sad photograph.

Polyvinyl Records: http://www.polyvinylrecords.com

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Features

The Top 19 Shows in Seattle, 2001

The Top 19 Shows in Seattle, 2001

1) January 13th: S, Sam Jayne, and Magic Magicians at Graceland

As a way to start out the year, this show was perfect. Almost acoustic, and very West Coast, all three performances moved through me and made me realize again that all I want out of life is music. S is the solo project of Jen from Carissa’s Wierd, Sam Jayne is from Love As Laughter, and Magic Magicians features members of 764-HERO and Black Heart Procession. Beautiful.

2) February 3rd: Love As Laughter and Black Heart Procession at Crocodile

This follows along the same lines of number one, but with the entire bands doing their thing. The dark beauty and joy of the Black Hearts mixing with the soul and rock of L.A.L.

3) March 30th: Creeper Lagoon and Guided By Voices at Showbox

This was tricky, as there were so many good shows – Nick Cave, Spoon, Mojave 3, Stephen Malkmus, Jeff Tweedy, Brassy, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club… but as with every month, I tried to pick the one that made me feel the best, the one that connected most with me at that time, and when I saw Creeper Lagoon, I was in some ecstatic shaking pop lust heaven that is getting harder to come by. While I love Nick Cave, seeing him again was like seeing a favorite movie. No surprises, you know it’s good. Creeper Lagoon was vibrant and right there.

4) April 12th: Lesliwood and Vendetta Red at Crocodile

After this show I was hooked — Vendetta Red every month. My jaw dropped, I was in awe. I felt the music, I felt the band love their music, and love playing it. Vendetta Red has got to be one of the most dynamic live acts in this town at the moment, and every time I see them, it makes me believe in rock and roll. Sometimes my faith wavers, but not when bands like this can keep playing. “Rock n’ roll can save you!”

5) May 27th: Imperial Teen at Crocodile

What can I say? Imperial Teen. They played their hits, they played their non-hits. They filled the house and the energy kept everyone smiling. It was a full on upbeat energy rush that I need sometimes. Frank Black almost made this number, but though I enjoyed hearing him play all those Pixies songs, it just didn’t seem right. Imperial Teen, on the other hand, did no wrong.

6) June 23rd: Smog at Crocodile

Emotional and moody music sometimes is just as affirming as upbeat energy, and Mr. Callahan put on one of the most beautifully sad shows of the year. Surpassing in this month, for me, both The Red House Painters and Calexico. It helped that Dirty Three’s Jim White was doing the drums, making me sigh like starlight.

7) July 11th: Waxwings, Von Bondies, and The White Stripes at Crocodile

There were quite a few hyped bands this year, and I managed to see some, like The Strokes, whose lackluster performance left me with nothing but a bad taste in my mouth and enough money for another drink at the bar down the street. The White Stripes, fortunately, managed to live up to the media word, and put on a show that made me actually dance, shaking my hips with their rhythms and moving my feet to that dirty groove. The openers, Von Bondies also impressed me, moving along some of the same garage door streets, and the whole show was a slice of Chicago in Seattle, and it made my city feel a bit more real. At least until the end of the night.

8) August 1st: The Divorce, The Lashes, Vendetta Red, and Post Stardom Depression at I-Spy

Once again, Vendetta Red… There are so many amazing bands that deserve to be noticed Why not these guys? The Lashes were punked out and sweet in that perfect post-throwback retro right now way, Post Stardom Depression flew like some drugged out Brian Jonestown Rolling Stone Psychedelic Groove Massacre, and The Divorce were again, an amazing band that I’d never seen before, and after this performance – I’m a fan. It’s intelligent pop with a hard rock edge and hooks that shake you out of your shoes, and after this show I realized that even if no-one out there knows yet, Seattle has some fantastic bands… again.

9) September 14th: Places and Crooked Fingers at Crocodile

This was the first time I ventured out of my home since September 11th… It wasn’t easy to do, going out, trying to see a band I liked, being around people. I made myself go out, I took my girlfriend with me, we went to into the darkness of the band room and waited for Crooked Fingers to play. It was so perfect and so beautiful. Still pretty quiet for a Friday night, everyone still hiding out at home, but still a good crowd. The band was on stage, and then the singer, Eric Bachmann, said “Let us join you for a bit…” and then he with a guitar, a stand up bass player, and a banjo player, came down off the stage and walked into the audience. We all circled around them and they played three songs – just quiet and acoustic and beautiful and his voice moving through all of our hearts, and the audience all moved together. It was like a moment of perfect musical communication between all these people who were strangers – bringing us together, and it meant so much. After that they went back on stage, plugged in, and blew us away. Music is my salvation, my religion, how I pray.

10) October 24th: Heather Duby and Halou at I-Spy

Number ten was almost Mark Eitzel’s show at the Crocodile, but Halou won out, mainly because of the newness, to me, of the band. I didn’t know much about them, other than hearing a few songs and hearing the praises that Matthew, a co-worker, lavished upon them. He convinced me to go see this show, and I’m so glad I did. It was ethereal beauty, reminding me of Portishead and The Cocteau Twins, with a little cocktail darkness. Crooning beauty that swayed and left me floating for days.

11) November 21st: The Glands, Love As Laughter, and Beachwood Sparks at Graceland

This may have been the last Love As Laughter show I’ll ever see, and that made this performance both sad and exciting. Stuck between the energetic and frantic catchiness of The Glands and that sixties right now sound of Beachwood Sparks, L.A.L was the perfect old school new school rock that had me right up front, singing along, and hoping that the band sticks around just a little longer.

12) December

As I write this list, December hasn’t happened yet, though I am predicting that I will be enjoying the Tomahawk show at Graceland on the 1st. Faith No More meets Jesus Lizard with a little help from The Melvins. It’s going to be loud, and if the album is any indication, I’m going to love it. This might be overshadowed by the International Noise Conspiracy, though they already make the list at #14.

13 ) February 13th: Ryan Adams at Century Ballroom

Going back to the early days of 2001, there was Nomeansno, Coldplay, Momus, and more, but the show that I still feel was seeing Ryan Adams. It was a crowded show, but still with an intimate feel. The lyrics, the voice, the guitar, the cigarette smoke, the alcohol… it all moved together into a night of true poetry.

14) April 27th: International Noise Conspiracy and Rocket From the Crypt at Graceland

Both bands are so intense live. Both bands move you in different ways while still holding the same non stop energy. It’s hypnotizing, mesmerizing, and so exciting. It’s like being in church, if church was all about rock and roll. These bands get up there and preach what they love and what they know, and we’re all in the audience, bouncing around in joyful worship.

15) May 29th: No Motiv, Hot Rod Circuit, Dashboard Confessional, and Alkaline Trio at Graceland

Four bands, all ages, and a possibility for extreme annoyance. Still, the combined effect of Dashboard Confessional’s angstful melodramatic acoustic emo and Alkaline Trio’s in your face energy and post punk pop threw me into a musical frenzy of joy and electricity. The dynamics between the bands and the dynamics held within each band made for a nicely intense show. Openers No Motiv and Hot Rod Circuit were excellent as well, but the last two bands were why I was there.

16) June 15th: The Swords Project and Spain at Crocodile

The mellow intensity of The Swords Project and the soul searching sadness and beauty of Spain came together in an evening of sighs and wonderment. Such beauty.

17) August 16th: Carrie Biell, Mike Johnson, and Rose Thomas at Crocodile

It’s always a pleasure to see Mike Johnson. His voice is one of my all-time favorites, and to be next to the stage, while he breathes smoke and music and digs through my veins like every song is almost a shot of whiskey too many: makes me swoon. Then Rose Thomas as well… her voice is that of an angel – when she sings. When she’s doing her in-between song banter, telling jokes or stories, she’s closer in tone to a mischievous pixie, but in song, she melts my heart.

18) September 26th: Steve Wynn at Crocodile

He performed the entire Days of Wine and Roses album in order. His new material blows me away, and The Dream Syndicate have been one of my favorite bands for years. The show was perfect, Steve Wynn was in fine form, playing for himself and the audience, and his enthusiasm covered the night. Besides all that, I actually talked to him at the end of the night. I was shaking. I don’t talk to my musical idols too often.

19) September 19th: Actionslacks, Rival Schools, and Burning Airlines at Graceland

Actionslacks, putting out one of the best albums of the year, with Burning Airlines… how can that be bad? It was an intense, high energy, emotional, pure pop rock kinda show, and even the all-ages crowd did not make me cringe like it usually does. I’m getting old, but shows like this make me feel young again.

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Music Reviews

Centro-Matic

Centro-Matic

Distance And Clime

Idol

This release follows along the previous Centro-Matical efforts: a little Red Red Meat and a little Guided By Voices. Definitely that emotional lo-fi indie rawkus rock. Almost anthems for a disillusioned generation of music lovers that sweep like waves of rain on a desert drive at dusk. Poetic lyrics sung/spoken like truth, harmonized like crooked light, “We’ll shake it off to spite. as they waited outside. You were murderous tonight…” Listening to these songs make me think of the weather, shifting from clouds to sunlight. The rhythms are steady, and the bursts of noise follow the structure of the song, never getting too lost in the ecstatic sounds of dischord. There are even moments of an almost pure beauty floating through, and when those hit you, you’re hooked.

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Music Reviews

Visitor Jim

Visitor Jim

Visitor Jim

Fortune

Kinda cute and quirky alterna-edged pop. Touches of an acoustic style slide through the songs, with a radio drawl that makes me think of Barenaked Ladies, but I can’t quite figure out why. Maybe a little more along the lines of Cake, but with more straight ahead rock n’ roll. Or if Corky and the Juice Pigs (or something like that) were into singing better songs with more instruments. The hooks are sharp, the production is clean, and there’s a nice feeling of space between the notes. Never too full, letting the songs speak softer.

Fortune Records: http://www.fortunerecords.com

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Music Reviews

Con Dolore

Con Dolore

This Sad Movie

Clairecords

Mournful sound of trains and crowds fade into the ache of a piano. Like The Rachels, like Godspeed, and then it moves into an electronic drone, brining in the music, the band, Con Dolore — “with grief,” and you can hear it in the shadows of the sounds. Kristy Moss, singing soft and seductive, moves between Hope Sandovaal and Sarah McLachlan, while Ed Ballinger, sharing some vocal duties, also lets the guitar slide like a slow Cocteau Twins dream. The keyboards and drum machines are used well, keeping within the structure of the songs, letting the human touch stay prominent. When the two voices harmonize, you can lose yourself in the melodics, never too harsh, and never overdone. Lounge electronica for the sad hipster, an indie soundtrack for a rainy day, and still you walk away smiling.

Clairecords: http://www.clairecords.com

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Music Reviews

Alex Woodard

Alex Woodard

Nowhere Near Here

Woodshack

Nice straightforward pop/rock with a touch of the alt.country acoustic guitar strum flowing through the songs. Singer/songwriter Alex Woodard moves between a Bruce Springsteen slice of life and a road weary take on the journey through. Some nice straight and steady grooves move through the songs, keeping the quieter moments moving like a midnight highway and the full epic guitar endings from flying too far off the ground. Subtle touches of cello fall into the mix, and a nice use of the Wurlitzer keeps this from being just another rock n’ roll band.

Woodshack, PO Box 21813, Seattle, WA 98111; http://www.woodshack.com

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Music Reviews

Sense Field

Sense Field

Tonight And Forever

Nettwerk

Intense and dynamic rock that soars between shoegazing noise and emo lows and highs. Some ties to other Nettwerk bands like Gob and Mystery Machine, Sense Field creates an atmosphere of melodic pop, and then shakes the ground with storms and oceans of energetic rock. The vocal harmonies catch and twist around your heart and the almost Cocteau Twins brightness of the guitar makes your skin shimmer. The songs are not as dark as some of the ones that belong to other bands on the Nettwerk roster, but there is still an underlying sense of sadness and poetry that moves through and moves you as you let the songs flow through.

http://www.nettwerk.com