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A very good year for Seattle-bred music
Night Watch / Tom Scanlon
According to the Chinese calendar, 2004 was the Year of the Monkey. On the Seattle music calendar, it was definitely the Year of the Mouse.
Isaac Brock and the rest of Modest Mouse blew up like a Thanksgiving parade balloon over the past 12 months. The little band born in Issaquah in 1993 had a monster year, with a second major-label album (fourth overall) that went platinum. "Float On," a surprisingly catchy, carefree tune, became a hit single, pushing sales of "Good News for People Who Love Bad News," a rich, diverse album that serves as a bridge from Brock's intensely quirky side to his pop leanings.
The videos to "Float On" and "Ocean Breathed Salty" were played many times on MTV, and Modest Mouse performed on "Saturday Night Live," "The Late Show With David Letterman," "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" and "Austin City Limits" (scheduled to air Jan. 22). Brock, who now lives in Portland, must have made many trips to the bank, as "Float On" also served as background for the "Real World — San Diego" finale and a Sirius commercial.
The coming edition of Spin magazine names Modest Mouse "Band of the Year," and MM picked up two Grammy nominations.
The next Seattle band to go massive? It could very well be Death Cab for Cutie, which, in a very similar way to Modest Mouse, started very young (teenage band members) and had a slow, steady growth on the national touring circuit, with rising critical acclaim. Death Cab spent the first half of the year touring with its excellent, late-2003 album, "Transatlanticism," then a few weeks ago stunned its corporate-hating fans by signing a major-label contract. After releasing a live EP on local Barsuk Records, Death Cab will release subsequent recordings on Atlantic Records, with a new full-length possibly as early as late 2005.
Ben Gibbard, the singer-songwriter and general creative force behind Death Cab, recently posted a message to fans on the band's Web site (www.deathcabforcutie.com):
"Our decision to leave Barsuk was a difficult one, but thankfully it comes with the blessing of [Barsuk owner] Josh Rosenfeld and everyone at Barsuk Records. Josh and the gang have been wonderful for us. If someone would have told me six years ago ... that Barsuk and DCFC would be in the positions we are today, I wouldn't have believed them. ... Some of you may be under the impression that signing with a major label involves making some drastic changes. Thus, in the spirit of full disclosure, here is a detailed list of the changes that will occur now that we are on Atlantic Records:
" 1) Next to the picture of Barsuk [a dog] holding a 7" there will be the letter 'A' on both the spine and back of our upcoming albums.
"I hope all of you can deal with this list."
Don't feel too sorry for Barsuk, as the Seattle indie label retains a cut of Death Cab's catalogue and has a growing stable that includes rising stars Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter and the Long Winters, as well as comeback band Nada Surf.
Sub Pop Records finished the year with a flourish, signing Sleater-Kinney, which sets the Seattle label up for 2005 possible releases by the Shins, Gibbard side project the Postal Service and S-K — the latter's next record being produced by David Fridmann, of Mercury Rev and the Flaming Lips indie-rock fame.
Seattle homeboy Duff McKagan had a big comeback year, as the former Guns N'Roses member transitioned into Scott Weiland's Velvet Revolver.
Laura Veirs and aforementioned Barsuk artist Sykes continued to release inspired music, and the pre-teen sister duo Smoosh continued to move toward national stardom (NPR, opening for Jimmy Eat World).
Two Bremerton acts emerged as rising stars: Kane Hodder, the Murder City Devils-like rockers, and Blue Scholars, a Jurassic 5-esque hip-hop duo.
The electronic-rock trio Mercir might be Seattle's most talented new band ... for those who like Radiohead, at least.
Acceptance was under-the-radar in Seattle, but signed to Sony/Columbia Records, which likes its Jimmie Eat World similarities. The band's large-label debut will be out in early 2005.
Mon Frere, a pop-punk band from Mountlake Terrace, won EMP's young-bands contest, but runner-up Idiot Pilot proved to be the big winner, as the Bellingham duo signed to a big label.
A trio of massive (by Seattle standards) clubs opened in 2004, pumping up the nightlife scene.
By far the most important addition to the club scene was Neumo's, which opened in February and instantly became a key venue (mostly live music, with a Sunday hip-hop/DJ night); Jerry Everard, owner of the original Moe's, brought instant respect.
Premier, a converted warehouse just south of Safeco Field, opened and toyed with its identity, with dance nights, hip-hop and pop-punk shows.
The former Polly Esther's got a glam-makeover and became Element, a DJ/dance club in a live music-dominated city.
In Pioneer Square, Cow Girls opened and became an instant hit with its Urban Cowboy-Meets-Girls Gone Wild formula.
See Sound Lounge brought a little Capitol Hill flavor to Belltown.
Nectar Lounge and the Wonder Bar became two new live-music venues in the Fremont-Wallingford area.
The Hideaway — which less than a year before took over for the beloved Sit & Spin — went away, leaving one less place for local indie/punk bands to perform.
It should be a fairly quiet nightlife weekend, with many clubs closed for Christmas. Belltown's Club Medusa is doing its usual R&B/hip-hop dance tonight, with Brett Michaels, DJ Tam and DJ Kemal.
Chop Suey has a Christmas night dance party, with Glimpse and DJ Risk (10 p.m., $10), followed by its Sunday-night hip-hop jam (10 p.m., $3).
Truly putting the "spirits" in "spiritual" on this Christmas Eve is the Blue Moon Tavern, on 45th Avenue in the U District. The grand old dive bar is putting on "Midnight Mass" tonight, although with a warning: "This will not be your typical midnight mass. In fact, hardcore churchies best stay out of here ... "
While Rudolph might not make it, there are sure to be a bar-full of red noses.
Tom Scanlon: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company