Those seminal sounds


Ok-this is going to be a flashback post.

Every music fan has a time period, era, or genre of music that they identify with-music from your formative years, your youth, music that got you through a rough patch, whatever.

I certainly had music that I discovered as a kid that changed my perspective about what music could sound like. I remember hearing “The Tide is High” by Blondie on the radio in the car when I was like 5 or 6 and thinking it was sounded so different and fascinating. On a trip to visit relatives on the East Coast in the early 80’s, I remember a cousin who I thought was very cool at the time, was listening to early albums by U2, B-52’s, Talking Heads and R.E.M. I had never heard any of those bands or that kind of music. During high school, I finally started to expand my musical palette a little bit beyond whatever was on the generic radio station. But it wasn’t until I was out of high school and in community college that my true time of musical discovery happened, 1991-1993 to be exact. Right when the whole “alternative” scene was bursting. Not only was I discovering the music that would set the course for the kind of sounds I’d continue to enjoy in the future, but it also coincided with me coming out of my shell, and discovering who I was myself.

Looking back now, these albums seem like pretty basic alternative fare-Alternative Rock 101, you could say.  But for me, these are the albums that I played and played and played-the music that defined (and continues to define) and provided the soundtrack to my life.

What songs, albums, genres shaped you? Leave a comment below, or discuss on my Facebook page.

Smashing Pumpkins – Gish

Pavement – Slanted & Enchanted

My Bloody Valentine – Loveless

Ride – Nowhere

Sonic Youth – Dirty

R.E.M. – Automatic for the People

the Breeders – Pod

Mudhoney – Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge

Beat Happening – Jamboree

Some Velvet Sidewalk – Avalanche

Pixies – Surfer Rosa and Doolittle


Hump Day Hummables #4: Sky Cries Mary, Shipwrecked & Every Iceberg is Afire


There was a time in Seattle in the mid-90’s, when one could imagine it was San Francisco in the Summer of Love, or at least Burning Man. It was the Summer of 1994, and local psychedelic/dance fav’s Sky Cries Mary were just getting set to release their second full-length album, This Timeless Turning. They had already scored a hit on KCMU and the End with the first single off of the album, Every Iceberg is Afire. But they hadn’t really played a lot of the new material from the album to a live audience. So they decided to throw a free cd release party/show at Volunteer Park in Capitol Hill. The weather totally worked in the band’s favor-classic Seattle July weather-70’s and sunny. Already having established themselves as kings and queen of the psychedelic scene, the band had a fairly rabid following at the time. Pretty much every one of those fans turned out for this show.

The band chose for their set to play the songs off the new album from start to finish, and then followed the show with an encore of older favorites. Well, between the naked hippies, the lavish yet surreal band costumes, lead singer Anisa’s soaring soprano, flowers everywhere, body paint, the sunshine, the burning incense, now-legal drugs being not-so secretly toked, and the band’s 60’s psychedelia meets 90’s trance-dance sounds; regardless of whether you bought into the whole jam-band/psychedelic thing-everyone present was transported to some other place and time. The day ended up being one to remember and talked about for years to come.

Two of the more straight-forward, poppier songs of This Timeless Turning are Shipwrecked and Every Iceberg is Afire. Here are the official videos for both of them.

And if you’re interested, go check out the band’s website, it’s loaded with lots of cool pics, and you can listen to all of their albums. Their first album, A Return to the Inner Experience, still stands as their best. The album veers from then-trendy trance sounds to a Rolling Stones cover to psychedelic pop. David Byrne thought they were going to be the next big thing. They certainly were huge in the Northwest, but that didn’t quite happen on a national scale. Either way-if you want some chill, upbeat music-you can’t really go wrong with Sky Cries Mary.

Hump Day Hummables #1: Hazel, Day-Glo


Every Wednesday (Hump Day), I’ll be digging in the youtube vaults to find some classic Northwest alternative/indie sounds to share with you. I might also share some touring band that I was lucky to see at a local venue. Should be a fun way to kindle the memories, and-you might just discover a new favorite classic band.

For this first edition, I was in the mood for something, well…chipper. One of the first bands that sprung to mind was Hazel. Based in Portland, Hazel put out two solid albums on SubPop in the early/mid-90’s, Toreador of Love and Are You Going to Eat That?. I had the pleasure of seeing this quartet at Sit n’ Spin (a combo laundromat/live music venue-definitely one of the oddest and coolest venues in Seattle at the time) on a bill with Some Velvet Sidewalk and, I believe, Harvey Danger and Modest Mouse.

Today’s hummable is Day-Glo, off of Toreador of Love. Read more after the jump.

Even though they were on SubPop, Hazel was sort of outside the alternative explosion of Seattle/Pacific Northwest at the time.  Their catchy, melodic, upbeat brand of noisy, punky pop had more in common with Superchunk and bands from the East Coast than other bands in the NW scene. That being said-they definitely still had a loyal regional following.

There were two main things that set Hazel apart from their peers. For one-a lot of their songs had interweaving, dueling vocal melodies vs. just a background vocalist harmonizing. Second-one of their members, Fred, did not play an instrument. He was a dancer/performance artist. Sure-the Happy Mondays had Bez-but Fred wasn’t just shaking some maracas on the side of the stage. He was a whirlwind of dreadlocks, flailing arms, Jethro Tull-ish toe pointing, and other shenanigans. He really brought something quirky, alarming, and special to a Hazel show. While their two albums are great (especially Toreador), this is one case where if you weren’t able to see the band live back in the day, then you kind of missed out.

Fortunately, this video for Day-Glo captures some of that energy. I hope it brings a smile to your day.