Best New Local Music: Spring 2014

As is nearly always the case in the Pacific Northwest, there are a myriad of bands at the moment vying for your attention. You would think that eventually, the number of new musicians emerging would start to wane-but somehow this region continues to nurture people creating new sounds. Sometimes, it can be a bit overwhelming-certainly, not every new band is going to develop into the next…[insert famous local musician here]. At the moment, however, there are a quite a few artists out there who have recently put out outstanding releases. I thought I would highlight a few here for you. You might discover a favorite new band, and the artist might gain some new fans: win-win.

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Gibraltar – The New Century. Bandcamp. Edgy, jittery, pulsating-not usually words one would use to describe a band featuring…piano? Yet, Gibraltar, whose songs often prominently feature a piano, are exactly that-an arty, post-punk band who can veer from moody, aching, skewered ballads to driving, frenetic, pounding rockers. Opening tune, Satisfied, is easily one of the best songs of the year. Gibraltar would be great paired on a bill with The The The Thunder.

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Helms Alee – Sleepwalking Sailors. Bandcamp. Sludge Metal. Stoner Rock. Grungy art-metal post-rock? Whatever genre you wish to label this local band with-they have it perfected. Not usually my thing, somehow this just works for me. Their latest album is heavy, but not claustrophobically so-it does have screaming (a metal requirement these days?), but it also has spooky harmonies and interplaying guitars that would make Alice in Chains and Sigur Ros jealous. Helms Alee have been around for awhile, but I think this is easily their strongest and most approachable work yet. If you are in the mood for something a little heavier, yet with moody atmospherics to it, you should seek this out. I would imagine they are a roaring beast to behold live. Listen to Pinniped for a great example of what they’re all about.

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Iska Dhaaf – Even the Sun Will Burn. Bandcamp. Of all the great new local music, this is the album that is the biggest revelation. Just a duo (Nathan Quiroga and Benjamin Verdoes), these two musicians have created an album that is truly remarkable. “Inspired by Sufi poetry, limitation, and an obsessive preoccupation with writing”, Iska Dhaaf are far from your your run-of-the-mill, generic indie band. Their songs seethe with insight, intelligence, and a mastery of combining disparate elements into a cohesive whole. You can hear moments of surf-rock, goth-punk, Middle Eastern dirges, and winding art-rock. That all sounds great on paper, but who knew that something so intellectualized could have such energy, passion, and life to it? Why would anyone want to ever listen to Vampire Weekend after hearing this?

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Shake Some Action! – Catch the Sun. Bandcamp. Ok-let’s be clear. Shake Some Action! are breaking no new ground with their music. But who cares, when their music is this sunny, upbeat, fun, and joyous? As I’m sure was their intention, the album of the summer has already arrived. Lazy days with a cooler and friends in the park officially have their soundtrack. Definitely for fans of psych/power-pop in the vein of the Posies, Blue Skies for Black Hearts, etc. Great stuff.

Now-go out there and support local music!

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Feeds on Majesty: New self-titled EP

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I found a link to this local group in my e-mail inbox recently. Definitely different than the kind of music I usually listen to. I hadn’t heard of Feeds on Majesty before-lead musician, Travis Gore, is a bassist with the Seattle Symphony. While their music certainly reflects great musical proficiency-their self-titled EP isn’t what I would expect to hear from a performer with a symphony. Instead of coming from a classical, or even baroque, setting-the music reflects an interest in folk, bluegrass, and at times, even ‘slow-core’ musical stylings. The chord changes and rhythms are almost experimental in nature. I can’t say these are songs you’ll be singing in the shower, as most of the songs have an ethereal, surreal quality to them. Much of it very beautiful (The Haunting), and at other times, unsettling (Leaves Turn to Green). All of it unique and interesting, though.

I think fans of Red House Painters, Joanna Newsom, Fleet Foxes, and even Tortoise will find this of interest. You can download the EP over on their bandcamp page.

It looks like the group has a couple of opportunities to catch them live over the next few months as well. They will be playing with their new line-up at the Can Can on August 18th; with the avant-garde contemporary orchestra ‘Scrape’ at the Royal Room on September 8th; and at Benaroya Hall as part of the Day of Music on September 22nd at noon (this is event is FREE too!). I am definitely going to try and catch one of these shows to see them live.