Matson on Music
Fall album roundup: The Moondoggies, Truckasauras, Drew Grow and the Pastors' Wives, THEESatisfaction, Blood Hot Beat
Posted by Andrew Matson
For the transitional period between summer and fall, my colleague Jonathan Zwickel and I wrote reviews of five pop music releases from Seattle and Portland. They are as follows:
"We Can't All Be Blessed" by The Moondoggies
Since "Don't Be a Stranger," their 2008 debut, the Moondoggies have become a certified Northwest favorite, regularly selling out Seattle venues and drawing huge festival crowds, touring the country and earning kudos from national publications. The local music scene has invested in these four hirsute 20-somethings from Everett. "Tidelands," their follow-up, is one of the most anticipated albums of the year and it contains the Moondoggies best work.
It's a more ambitious album than their first: bigger arrangements, bigger emotions, fewer mug-swinging singalongs, more full-blown catharsis. The first three songs, starting with concert fave "It's a Shame, It's a Pity," bleed together into a 10-minute medley that encapsulates the Moondoggies' MO — big three-part harmonies, swaying rhythms, regal organ, hooks inside hooks inside hooks. And existential crisis: Seems singer/songwriter/guitarist Kevin Murphy has been broken down and rebuilt more times than a vintage Volkswagen.
Eventually we arrive at "We Can't All Be Blessed," the album's penultimate song and one of the great musical feats of 2010. Here visionary songwriting and Erik Blood's production yield an Americana hybrid of Led Zeppelin's "The Rain Song" and Radiohead's "High and Dry." It's a wall-of-sound monument — ethereal vocals, transcendent lyrics, steel guitar and violin from the 'Doggies' big bros the Maldives — layers over layers for five full minutes of climax, and it's moving beyond description. This is the song that made men of the Moondoggies. JZ
The Moondoggies play 9 p.m. Oct 9 at the Pyramid Alehouse, 1201 First Ave. S., Seattle; $18 advance, $21 DOS (800-838-3006 or brownpapertickets.com).
"Crushed By Stars" by Truckasauras
The brothers/buddies in this Seattle-via-Kirkland instrumental electro-hop group named their sophomore album "Quarters" after a defunct Kirkland video-game arcade.
The reference shows how deeply of this area they are, and also nods to the winning sentimentality in the group's vintage synthesizer/Game Boy-based blend of '80s rap, '90s post-rock and '10s texture-centric electronic music.
The song to play for friends that need some convincing to listen to bleeps-n-bloops-type music is "Crushed By Stars," a cover of a track by local cybergaze band Sleepy Eyes of Death. With arpeggios spitting and puffing over a driving rhythm, Truckasauras quickly builds to a soul-saving melody. Nobody in Seattle makes synthesizers cry so beautifully.
Elsewhere, "Quarters" creates landscapes and twists the listener's ear. "Fresh Blue; Dope Yellow" is a coronation theme that slips into view, shrinks into a staccato version of itself, then briefly blooms back into its original, regal melody, cramming three movements in one minute. "Double Wilde" seethes and twinkles, and the title track and "Show These People Who's Springstien (Yes We Can)" (sic) pound outward with direct, forward momentum. AM
"Friendly Fire" by Drew Grow and the Pastors' Wives
They hail from Portland but copious touring and a tremendous showing at August's Doe Bay Festival gained DG&tPW an ardent following in Seattle. For good reason: This electric/acoustic quartet is one of the newest and brightest lights in the Northwest. Grow's been making music for a long time, and over the past 18 months with the Pastors' Wives — upright bass, electric and occasional slide guitar, drums — has arrived at a garage-gospel style that's as gripping as it is unusual.
Their self-titled album is at once rustic and novel, possessed of the same straightforward pop sensibility as Brill and Phil Spector mediated by Grow's unabashed, Facebook-ian need to share. Nothing awkward or emo here, though — Grow's oblique lyrics and unorthodox production keep the music at a weird, unpredictable smolder even as the whole band sings with neck-vein-bulging intensity. This one unfolds very slowly, sensuously, and leaves a lingering afterglow. JZ
"Bush" by THEESatisfaction
Seattle sing-rap girlfriend duo THEESatisfaction's summer release remains an excellent entry point into the group's suddenly sprawling catalog of do-it-yourself computer-soul. Drawing from instrumentals released last Thanksgiving, the EP consists of Catherine Harris-White and Stasia Irons adding vocals to Irons' sample-based compositions, yielding punk-length pop songs about complicated, real-world social change.
"Bush" is an explosive call for common courtesy from inside a community; "Washington" looks at community from a different angle and asks for the ceasing of unsolicited support that sometimes feels like a stranglehold. "Obama" and "Reagan" feature swinging horns, pirouetting keys and lyrics about white people stealing black music. Bonus listening points if one appreciates a pro-black message, or doesn't mind the term "cave bitch." Throughout the EP, Harris-White's flinty voice carves controlled melodies, Irons' nimble raps are alternatingly abstract and blunt, and the pair harmonize seamlessly. AM
THEESatisfaction play 8 p.m. Oct. 28 at the Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave., Seattle; $8 (thecrocodile.com).
Blood Hot Beat, "Blood Hot Beat" (self-released)
"East Village" by Blood Hot Beat
Clock check: Seattle quartet Blood Hot Beat is 10 years late for the ballsy, Strokes-y swagger of their eponymous debut and 20 years late for the freaky-deak slap-bass solo that punctuates its second song "Corner the Snitch." Also there are saxophones, drum solos and guitar heroics. Untimely? Yeah. But also timeless — thank you, Blood Hot Beat, for spitting cheap liquor in the po-face of indie rock.
Which would be merely irritating if these songs weren't so rocking and vocals so alluring as Kevin Magnum's, even as he's yelling about shoving his unmentionables "all up in your face." Spiritual brethren to local shredders Shim, Blood Hot Beat sounds on CD like the kind of band meant to be seen live, the aftermath of which is most likely a scene of sordid debauchery similar to the one depicted on their album cover. Here's hoping that along with sensitive-sweater taboos they lay waste to a few Seattle venues this winter, when we really could use their kinda heat. JZ
Blood Hot Beat play 9:30 p.m. Oct. 8 at the High Dive, 513 N. 36th St., Seattle; $7. Tickets available at the door.
Dec 31 - 6:30 AM Premiere: 'Seattle Party' by Chastity Belt
Dec 31 - 6:00 AM 'Stop Biting' night at Lo-Fi now an album, mini doc
Dec 29 - 11:52 AM Were you there? 'The Rolling Stones' and Shabazz/THEESat
Dec 28 - 6:00 AM Top 40 of 2012, Seattle and beyond
Dec 27 - 6:00 AM Shabazz / THEESat: a history of high-concept Seattle shows