Seattle Shows

In January I broke my annual New Year’s Resolution to forego resolutions, and decided to see at least one music show a month in 2012. And unlike the resolutions I actually document, this one is going swell. Fingers crossed that this post don’t jinx it.

My first, Fitz & the Tantrums at the Showbox on 01/20, is what convinced me to make music a priority this year. The lead singer Michael Fitzpatrick, reminiscent of David Byrne in both appearance and intensity, is a seemingly bottomless well of energy and enthusiasm. And the opening act, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., was fantastic as well.

In February I saw Veronica Falls, who sound like my long-time favorite Heavenly but with all the sunny optimism replaced by dirge. (I like dirgy music, so that’s a rave.) The real revelation of the night, though, was opener Bleached, who blew the doors off the joint. Between the two I was transported back to my days as an Evergreen State College slacker in the early 90s, catching Riot Grrl bands in downtown Olympia. Ah, youth.

Bleached, “Electric Chair”. Daaaamn.

Last month I attended the show of the lovely Lomolo. And a few days later I finally saw Nada Surf, a band of which I have been a fan for some 20 years. I enjoy Nada Surf’s new album The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy so much that I actually bought the CD, to play in my car. A CD! Remember those? Well I own one, again.

Not bad for an old square, eh? And I already have April in the bag. Last Tuesday I was a guest at an exclusive performance by The Lumineers, which you can watch on the Chase Jarvis website. And last night I had the great fortune to see Typhoon–or, at any rate, as many members thereof that could fit onto the Tractor Tavern stage (11 of 13).

That’s me clapping at 1:48. I am helping the band!!

Honestly, this has been one of the easiest projects ever. My problem, if any, has not been finding shows I want to attend, but deciding from among the plethora of great options this city has to offer.

Here are some that I have resolved to attend in the coming weeks.

First Aid Kit, April 11 at the Crocodile Cafe: I am entranced by First Aid Kit’s first single Emmylou, and listened to it incessantly for a week and a half after its release. First Aid Kit adds compelling evidence to my hypothesis that I am a total sucker for Swedish bands.

M83, April 26 at the Paramount Theater: “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” clocked in at #6 on my list of Favorite Albums of 2011, and has only risen in my estimation since. Love that frog song!

Washed Out, May 2 at the The Neptune: The only song by this band I have heard is Amor Fati, and yet that alone has the show on my radar. It’s either going to be them or The Jezabels, who play The Crocodile the following evening. Decisions, decisions … Update I just listened to Washed Out’s “Within and Without” and The Jezabels’ “Prisoner” back-to-back, and it was The Jezabels by a landslide.

Destroyer, June 3 at the Showbox: “Kaput” is another from my list of 2011 favorite albums (#2!), and I cannot wait to see these guys (or, rather, this guy, Dan Bejar) live.

Lomolo (again), June 29 at the Columbia City Theater: I bought a ticket to Lemolo’s CD Release Party as soon as it was announced, as a way of showing support for a band I have long enjoyed; apparently I am not alone in my enthusiasm though, because the show sold out about an hour later. Fear not: Lemolo added a second release party for the following day, the tickets for which go on sale Monday, April 9th. I will send out a reminder that morning via Twitter.

Lemolo, “On Again, Off Again”.

That’s just a fraction of the many shows I have my eye on. I mostly track these via Songkick, which auto updates my Upcoming Seattle Shows Google Calendar as new concerts are added. I also maintain a Spotify playlist, which you can find here. Drop me a line if you intend to catch any of these, or if there’s something you think I should add to my list.

Favorite Albums of 2011

Said the Gramophone yesterday released their annual list of the year’s best songs. I put the 70 that were available on Spotify onto a playlist, which you can find here (assuming you have Spotify installed).

SoG has long been my favorite mp3 blog, and I was pleased to see many of my favorite 2011 albums made appearances on their list (except, inexcusably, my #1 pick). I’ll emphasize that these are my “favorites”–I make no claim that they are the best. But they are the ones I most enjoyed in the last 12 months.

The Joy Formidable, “The Big Roar”: Earlier this year I was itching to catch a show, and saw that The Joy Formidable”, an unknown-to-me band, was coming to the Crocodile Cafe the following week. I picked up their one and only disk, but got sidetracked for a while and neither listened to the album nor attended the concert. When I finally put on “The Big Roar”, I could feel my heart sinking with every track: craaaap, that show must have been fooking amazing! Given the reception The Joy Formidable has received since that missed opportunity in late April (e.g.), tickets to their next appearance won’t be twelve bucks, that’s for sure. Ah, regrets …

Destroyer, “Kaputt”: You kids today may not remember this but, back in my day, when you bought an album and discovered that you didn’t really like it much you would nonetheless listen to it a bunch in the hopes that it would grow on you, because you just blew all your allowance on this stupid “Glass Tiger” cassette and it wasn’t like you could just go download something else. That, thankfully, is not something I have to do anymore. And yet I did it with “Kaputt” nonetheless. I was underwhelmed with my first few listens, but people with better musical judgement than I (which rules out no one) assured me that the album was terrific. Really? Well, if you say so. I don’t know when it happened, but at some point I stopped listening to Kaput to make myself like it and started listening to it because I already did … a lot.

The Head and the Heart, self-titled: I probably listened to this album more than any other this year as it was a favorite of both myself and my eight-year-old son, something we could play in the car as a compromise between Lady Gaga and Elliott Smith. (Who prefers which I’ll leave as an exercise for the reader …) This is the first album from the band, but the consistently high quality of the material is of “Best of” compilation caliber.

Lykke Li, “Wounded Rhymes”: I went a little bananas for Swedish pop music this year, starting with Peter Bjorn & John’s “Gimmie Some”, then moving on to Lykke Li’s “Wounded Rhymes”, and then … well, actually, I just stuck with Wounded Rhymes, and have listened to it every week or so since. Featuring simple melodies and emotionally resonant lyrics, tracks like Sadness is my Boyfriend manage the neat trick of being both catchy and contemplative.

Wild Flag, self-titled: Since the breakup of Sleater-Kinney in 2006 I have followed the various members in Quasi, The Corin Tucker Band, and the TV show Portlandia. Now in Wild Flag, Carrie Brownstein’s newest venture, we have the closest approximation of that classic S-K sound. Their live performance of “Romance” from SXSW earlier this year is well worth watching.

M83, “Hurry Up We’re Dreaming”: Now that LCD Soundsystem has closed up shop, M83 may become my go-to electro rock band (although they may have to duel for my affection with MGMT). In an era when so much emphasis is placed on the single, “Hurry Up We’re Dreaming” is a nice throwback to the days when bands crafted albums instead of individual songs, something to listen to in its entirety when you’re able. I have a fond memory of hearing Raconte-Moi Une Histoire for the first time while driving around, and totally cracking up at the kid’s narrative. It would be great, right?

Kurt Vile, “Smoke Ring for My Halo”: When I asked my friends for music recommendations early in 2011, Kurt Vile’s debut album was the most oft-provided suggestion. I’m trying to figure out a way to describe it without using the the word “sensuous” and failing so I guess I’m not describing it.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, “Belong”: You’re not going to find this album on a lot of “Best of 2011” lists I reckon, but I am a total sucker for that 80’s synthpop sound. (See also: The Killers, Ladytron, and, lord help me, Chromeo). It’s as if they distilled my “Jesus and Mary Chain” Pandora station down into ten tracks.

The Decemberists, “The King is Dead”: Colin Moloy was kind enough to contribute a post to my Infinite Summer project, and he then based the video for “Calamity Song” off a chapter of Infinite Jest, so I would be predisposed to like this album even if it wasn’t awesome. Which it is. Awesome.

(A close second for “My Favorite Music Video of 2011” is the only other one I saw all year, Robyn’s Call Your Girlfriend. Love it. Perhaps because of the aforementioned Swedish pop music mania, but still.)

Fleet Foxes, “Helplessness Blues”: I put neither Adele’s “21” on this list nor PJ Havey’s “Let England Shake”, but would be remiss to forego the “best albums of 2011” triumvirate entirely. So here ya go: Helplessness Blues by the Fleet Foxes, the sort of album that you can listen to intently while wearing headphones or put on as background music to a dinner party.

You can find a sampler of these albums below and on Spotify.