Fiendish Conversation with The Cave Singers’ Pete Quirk

The Cave SingersI chatted with The Cave Singers’ frontman about the new album Naomi and his love of Seattle. Check it out.

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All the Times We Had – Ivan and Alyosha

All the Times We Had - Ivan and AlyoshaFolk-pop is all the rage these days. With Mumford and Sons and the Lumineers topping Billboard, they leave the door wide open for new acts to follow. Seattle has been turning out great folk-pop acts for years (well before it became trendy), and the debut full-length album from Ivan and Alyosha, All the Times We Had, is the latest breakout contender.

All the Times We Had is heavy on folk-pop trademarks without being derivative. The band eschews barnburing numbers, instead focusing on soft, welcoming melodies. Vocal harmonies are rich yet understated; the rhythm section is rock-steady; and guitars are a deft mix of acoustic picking and electric slides. Over the course of the record, Ivan and Alyosha proves it can pull off a sugary sweet toe-tapper (“Be Your Man”) just as well as a song that seems ripped from a summer porch jam with their buddies (“Don’t Want to Die Anymore”).

The key hook for the band comes from Tim Wilson’s swoon-worthy singing. The timbre (and production) of Wilson’s vocals on All the Times We Had evokes a certain dusty Americana air; he charms with each note in a way that’s reminiscent of The Killers’ Brandon Flowers on Sam’s Town. Armed with lyrics that tend toward the universal rather than the personal—“an oasis in the desert / where the waters run clear / and the only way to see it / is to believe that it’s there” (“The Fold”)—Wilson fronts an uplifting band, more intent to climb mountains and persevere than linger over loneliness.

With its in-vogue sound and voice that will melt the hearts of the ladies (and more than a few fellows), All the Times We Had sets Ivan and Alyosha up for a big 2013.

Review Score: 5.1

*Original version published on SeattleMet.com.*

Fiendish Conversation with Hey Marseilles’ Matt Bishop

Photo by Martin Watson.In anticipation of Hey Marseilles’ new album Lines We Trace, I chatted with Matt Bishop about up-and-coming Seattle bands and college admissions counseling. Check it out.

The Helio Sequence Feature From The Inlander

The Helio SequenceDespite being one of my favorite bands, I really struggle expressing The Helio Sequence’s brilliance in word. I try my best in this Inlander feature. Check it out.

Points of Reference: Ben Gibbard

Photo: Ryan Russell.

I talked with Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard about how Louis C.K.’s Louie, John Lennon, and others influenced his new solo record Former Lives. Check it out.

Falling – Seapony

Seapony - FallingSurf pop has had an unexpected resurgence in the past few years, spearheaded by Best Coast front woman Bethany Cosentino and her sundrenched garage rock about boy troubles. Seattle’s Seapony and its front woman Jen Weidl take the same lo-fi formula and execute it with sweeter precision on Falling, the band’s second full-length (released Sept 11). The album makes a strong case for Seattle’s indie surf pop sound—perhaps Seapony could, with time, best the Best Coast.

Seapony isn’t reinventing the wheel on Falling; the band is just giving it a good polishing with Turtle Wax. All the surf pop trademarks are there: fuzzy guitar, rhythmic simplicity, Dick Dale-lite guitar leads, and a general carefree vibe. It’s easy to imagine Weidl swaying in a sundress while singing about “Sunlight.”

Here’s the thing about Seapony: You’re either in or you’re out after one song. Variety isn’t the band’s strong point (heck, I’d argue the Ramones had a more diverse sound) but Seapony’s singular song structure—tweaked on 12 different tracks—is still immensely satisfying. What keeps the band from wearing thin is the contrast of Weidl’s lyrics to the music’s sunny disposition. Most of Seapony’s songs (“Never Be,” “What You Wanted,” “Sunlight,” etc.) are melancholy ditties about how things aren’t going to work out in the end. Falling manages to provide a one-way ticket to Bummertown without moody wallowing; this effortless blending of a happy veneer and a sad core is what will keep listeners coming back.

Review Score: 6.6

*Original version published on SeattleMet.com.*

The Kaleidoscope – Lemolo

Lemolo - The KaledoscopeNever mind what the Eurythmics said in the ’80s. After listening to The Kaleidoscope, the debut album from Seattle duo Lemolo, it’s clear that this is what sweet dreams are made of. The lynchpin of Meagan Grandall and Kendra Cox’s lyrical dream-pop is Grandall’s delicate coo. It’s as if she’s singing a lullaby to coax restless children to sleep. Her guitar playing never forces the issue, as her carefully selected notes seem to swirl while the duo’s looping keyboard drives each song forward. Even Cox on drums provides understated beats. On the rare occasion when she brings the noise (notably with the constant thumping kick of “Open Air”), her drumming doesn’t disrupt the album’s current.

It seems appropriate that Grandall and Cox became friends as kayak instructors; Lemolo is less about making hit singles and more about rhythm and flow, a cascading soundscape fit for lazy afternoons on Lake Washington. But don’t let the sleepiness fool you: Lemolo is everywhere this summer. Between high-profile opening gigs (for Sharon Van Etten next week), festival dates (Capitol Hill Block Party, Doe Bay), and sold-out release shows for The Kaleidoscope, the Seattle dream-pop duo is hard at work soothing our souls.

At times, The Kaleidoscope’s tracks veer dangerously close to sounding the same. Things drag on tracks “On Again, Off Again” and “Who Loves” because of lyrical repetition, but only if you take the songs on their own, and not as part of the whole. The album isn’t about a message; it’s about a feel. Even though Lemolo only offers one extended jam (the seven-plus minutes of “We Felt the Fall”), it’s clear that giving tracks room to stretch out and breathe is closer to the band’s natural form than the conventional three-minute pop song.

Review Score: 7.1

*Original version published on SeattleMet.com.*