Entries in visiblevoice.net (8)

Thursday
Mar022017

DeVotchKa at The Wild Buffalo - Bellingham, WA

Performing in front of a sold-out crowd on Valentine's Day Eve, Denver-based DeVotchKa's set was pitch-perfect for the date: equal parts celebration of - and longing for - love. Front-man Nick Urata's lyrics, whether upbeat and danceable, downtempo and contemplative, are always pure poetry. The live experience gives an extra appreciation for the richness of the words.
The band's chemistry is second-to-none, a fine-tuned, cohesive machine that leaves room for extensive improvisation. Seeing each member of the band seamlessly transition from one instrument to the next - from sousaphone to upright bass, piano to accordion, drums to trumpet, or theremin to bouzouki - is truly a sight to behold, and only adds excitement to a truly captivating live show. 
"How it Ends", arguably one of the most beautiful songs of the 21st century, served as a perfect coda near the end of an electric, dance-filled set, giving hope to the lovesick and caution to the enamored.

 Photos // Words by Alexander Hallett

Wednesday
Feb222017

Hoot & Holler - V.V. Session

The Hoot & Holler gives me faith in folk musicians who are willing to claw their way through the hipster convolution. This duo plays sweet and unpretentious songs reminiscent of sitting around a camp fire that evokes a good old fashion sing along. We were able to meet up with them on their tour when coming through Seattle before their show. We squeezed in to a 1977 VW Westfalia named Jolene for a video session which seemed to come quite natural for them since they had been living out of the tour van for some time. Please enjoy this session with The Hoot & Holler!

Listen and buy their new album "Reasons to Run" Here!

Words // Video // Photo by Adam Richert

Video Editing by Alexander Hallett

Monday
Dec262016

The Album Leaf w/ Rituals of Mine - at Neumos in Seattle

Rituals of Mine

The Album Leaf visited Seattle for the first time in over 5 years, playing to a capacity show at Neumos. The tour coincides with the release of their first album in 5 years, Between Waves. Touring with, and opening for, The Album Leaf was Rituals of Mine (formerly Sister Crayon).

The tight trio of Rituals of Mine, headed by Terra Lopez, put on one of the best live sets I've seen all year. It was clear that, judging by the audience, I wasn't the only one in the house who hadn't heard their work at that point. It was also clear, by the line to their merch table, that I wasn't the only one who became a new fan. When you get time, check out "To Show You Violence." The haunting beauty of the track live carries over beautifully to record, and it has quickly earned a place on my personal "favorite songs of 2016" list.

With an abundance of new and old material to draw from, The Album Leaf's 90 minute set flew by. Opening with several cuts from the new album, front man Jimmy LaValle has shifted gears in sound from the earlier releases, ushering in a more electronic, glitchy soundscape punctuated only sparsely with vocals. Having been fairly well acquainted with their catalog up until the newest release, the divergent sound took some getting used to, but by the third track in its beauty was clear. Closer "The Light" brought thunderous applause and an encore from the audience. Their return from an extended touring and recording hiatus was well worth the wait.

See The Album Leaf on tour:

The Album Leaf

Photos // Words by Alexander Hallett

Sunday
Dec112016

Chris Staples: V.V. Sessions & Album Review

Despite, or perhaps in spite of, his plaintive delivery Chris Staples Golden Age is a triumph. Staples crafts simple self-searching songs, free of affectation, and lightly backed with interesting instrumental choices. Staples nearly whispers how secure he is with the insecurity of an accidentally, yet possibly “Relatively Permanent” engagement. "How lucky can two people get / hand in hand, side by side / a coincidence we even met / this could be an accident / or relatiely permenet" It's alluring, and pointed, a song about acceptance of where you've arrived.

On the title track Staples works farfisa organ, reverb electric, and jangling acoustic under a snare beat "yeah, look me in the eye with a straight face on / so what you saved a little money but your youth is gone / and you're dreamin bout your long lost babylon" reminiscing about the decision to just not try so hard anymore. Staples "Missionary" uses clave, and banjo to describe his journey to the realization that he's not changing any minds. "Cheap Shades" is an account of Staples own birth, baptism, and youth reminding us all that "nobody asked me" and "the morning sun is gonna wake me / herbs from the garden gonna bake me / no fast talker gonna take me anymore" with harmonium and a gamelan beat. Like the perfect spice in a recipe, American Folk, West African, and Indonesian sounds lightly adorn the first half of the album. Staples is on a pilgramage towards enlightenment here, treading so gently that you might not notice him, opening to the light at the speed of a flower blossom, slowly, quietly turning up, but growing noticeably.

On "Park Bench" which Staples recorded live for Visible Vocie, the resolution is simple. One man dies on a park bench, the other on a yacht, both (or all) desire the same thing "to live each day like it's my last" because "these moments that we share dissolve into the air / without warning or apology they pass". As on the album Staples is solo with guitar here (with some string backing). A stark departure from the other accompanied songs but a choice in backing nonetheless, a nod to the alone-ness of birth and death.

Chris Staples - "Park Bench" from Kitchen Sessions on Vimeo.

Staples is resolutely uncertain. A man comfortable with not knowing. "Am I Jekyl, Am I Hyde? / Will you ever be satisfied? / I change like any other man" he sings tongue in cheek on "Dog Blowing On A Clarinet". His wit shows on "Times Square" a song referencing everywhere, about not going anywhere at all, instead opting to stay home --but even then leaving the decision to the accompanying singer in the duet. It's a familiar existence. Avoiding responsiblity to the point of declining to make the simplest of decisions for fear of the consequences. Life has to beat you pretty hard to come to that conclusion, and Staples (or the characters in his songs) bear it with grace. On first listen Staples cover of Belle & Sebastian's "Chalet Lines" seems controversial. The original was written and sung by Stuart Murdoch, from a woman's point of view after being raped. Staples uses the song to show mastery of delicacy, as Murdoch did. When Chris sings the lines "She asks me why I don't call the law / Oh, what's the fucking point of it all?" you believe him/her, and better yet start to feel respobsible somehow.

Chris Staples "Chalet Lines" from Kitchen Sessions on Vimeo.

 

I'd love to say Staples has grown into such a good songrwiter, but it seems he's always been so. As exhibited here on his song “Answers, Questions” from 2011. With the same gentle delivery, foreign folk fingerpicking, and devastating word choices “with his one good eye, the moon looked down at me” Staples lets us know “I don't have any of the answers / I don't even know the question anymore.”

Chris Staples "Answers Questions" from Kitchen Sessions on Vimeo.

 

Overall, Staples subtelty could work against him. Plainspoken, balanced people rarely attract attention. But whatever diet of desperation and hope he's on is forming him into a songwriter with the eloquence and chops. His is the tendency towards awkwardness that made Stephen Yerkey, T-Bone Burnett, or dare I say Leonard Cohen, cult heroes: musician's favorite musicians, songwriter's favorite songwriters. 

 

Words by Sean Jewell

Video by Maurice Morales & Adam Richert

Video editing by Maurice Morales

Tuesday
Jul262016

Capitol Hill Block Party 2016

DAY ONE

Rumor has it Dilly Dally’s performance at Capitol Hill Block Party’s 20th Year was the show to see by local record A&R’s. Their record Sore has been tearing through my speakers since it came out last year, so it was a good show to kick off this neighborhood’s summer festival with. Katie Monks, Liz Ball, and band wasted no time ripping into their albums worth of songs, which is centered around the idiosyncrasies of Monks painfully beautiful voice and Ball’s head down rockin’ guitar riffs.  

As the sun set over Seattle I made my way into Neumo’s for local hip hop maven Do Normaal’s set of head in the clouds hip hop. With a DJ playing her beats from a laptop and MPC Do Normaal rapped clearly and accurately from her two Eps. She paced the stage bursting with flow of consciousness raps and already had the people dancing before she left the stage herself and entered the crowd for “Let That Thing (Go)”.

Wild Powwers took the stage next, and set up the city’s best drummer Lupe Flores center stage. Bouyed by a thundering rhythm section including Jordan Gomes on bass, singer Lara Hilgemann caused the crowd to gasp audibly as she tore into six and twelve string electric. Her voice now runs the gamut from spirited high harmonies with Flores, to feral growl.  Not even a lengthy break to repair a broken bass string halfway through the set, and the myriad of music in every bar on the street could get the crowd to break their gaze with the stage.

Security had a heavy presence at CHBP, from stage hands, to local police and sheriffs, and entry points blockaded with cop cars. The festival retained a peaceful feeling despite being one of the most heavily gentrified areas in the city. Known as Seattle’s prime gay-borhood, and arts district Capitol Hill has seen homophobic violence rising consistently with rent prices, but aside from a drunk earlier in the day being tossed from Neumo’s for homophobic slurs towards bartenders people seemed to be caring for each other pretty well.

DAY TWO

Day two began for me with a rousing set from Thunderpussy. Their bare bones rock n’ roll had the day crowd rushing towards the main stage. Their cover of early Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well”, and the party starting tom-tom beat of the song “Thunderpussy were crowd pleasers. Thunderpussy has become a formidable live presence with shows full of, dance numbers, badass custom costumes, and power trio rock that recalls classic rock’s riotous inception.

Up and coming local act Carseat Head Rest was already in command of a huge crowd with his full band. Playing from his latest album Teens Of Denial, Will Toledo fit the part, singing confidently, either fooling a crowd into loving experimental rock, or turning them into tasteful fans on the spot. As with Teens Of Denial, the massive sound system and full band helped his music take on a full, loud sound that was pleasing and punishing at once. As I left the show I found myself thinking, “Wilco, with naiveté”. I thought it in the best possible way.

I have to admit when I ditched the building crowd and escaped to Barboza, Nuemo’s basement bar to see Jus Moni, I thought I was catching a show not many people would know about. I was wrong. The place was packed back to the door and as I entered her band included Porter Ray, Taysean (Kingdom Crumbs), and Stas The Boss (Thee Satisfaction). She sang like a bird through her debut EP –mood-setting, uplifting R&B set to afro-futurist beats, to the delight of the entire crowd.

Outside on the mainstage british electronic producer TOURIST had a mass of bodies the size of two city blocks bounding under his earworm hooks, buzzy synths, electronic bloops, and inevitable, hotly anticipated bass drop.  I was surprised to see him playing mini moog and synth keys live.

After an early evening break at the food truck ranch for frybread tacos, I descended once again into Barboza in time to catch the enigmatic Scott Yoder. Yoder’s latest permutation shows off his classic songwriting skills, ranging in sound from doomed love lounge numbers to dusty road folk Another sexy Seattle crooner with songwriting chops.

Upstairs at Neumo’s Grizzled Mighty rocked out a set of distorted, De Stijl blues. Drummer Faustine Hudson and guitarist Ryan Granger whipped the raucous crowd with slide licks into a beer flinging mosh pit.

DAY THREE

Day three saw pop maven Maiah Manser belting out songs from her forthcoming EP to a growing crowd. Backed by a full band that included wildly entertaining electric cello, her crystal clear singing and artistic compositions set the tone for the day: gorgeous vocal vibes.

Up at Vera Stage SassyBlack performed songs from her latest EP No More Weak Dates. Sassyblack’s DIY songs are vocal runs over polyrhythms that fill a void in pop music where young gay women, who maybe like Star Trek and comic books more than you, can express themselves safely.

My Capitol Hill Block Party ended with a vibrant set from The Joy Formidable. They came all the way from Wales and rocked the hell out of the mainstage.

Words and photos by Sean Jewell

Thursday
Jun092016

The Cactus Blossoms - Album Review & Visible Voice Session

***Newport Folk Festival Preview***

We met up with The Cactus Blossoms before their show with Pokey Lafarge at the Tractor Tavern for a session. With sea planes overhead and the smell of the sea air on a Seattle afternoon, you could not ask for more. I personally can't wait to see them at the Newport Folk Festival this summer!

One thing you'll notice when you listen to “You're Dreaming” by The Cactus Blossoms is that there isn't one second of wasted space. Songs are played out from beginning to end with a confident assurance that belies the ages of Jack and Page, the two Minneapolis-born brothers. With the songwriting sensibilities of Dolly Parton meets Bob Dylan, and pitch-perfect harmonizing that's reminiscent of brother duets like The Everly Brothers, The Cactus Blossoms are sure to be a household name in a small matter of time. “You're Dreaming” is their first big foray into the public sphere (touring aside), and it positions them well for future releases and a growing fan base.

“Stoplight Kisses” kicks off the album on a nostalgically upbeat note, and sounds like it could easily have fit into the catalog of Bob Dylan with a little Beach Boys influence. The lyrics are straightforward, but this song is about the vibe, and it makes me want to experience the place they create in this 2-minute track.

The title track, “You're Dreaming”, keeps the mood consistent, and the harmonizing between the two singers is excellent. The relaxed guitar and loose drums serve as the perfect bedrock for their voices, and the lyrics "I'm not sleeping, I'm not walking. And you can't hear my talking when your eyes are closed" help evoke the dreamlike atmosphere that permeates the beautifully concise 34-minute album.

The Cactus Blossoms - You're Dreaming

The instrumentation over the course of the 11 tracks is intentionally minimal - vintage guitars, upright bass, tight kit drums. It's a vehicle for the brothers' voices to glide effortlessly along from one song to the next. The album plays out as almost a full tale of love. From the upbeat beginning of the title track and “Clown Collector”, to the the darker territory of “Powder Blue” and “Change Your Ways Or Die”, and the catharsis of “No More Crying the Blues” and “Adios Maria”, the real star is the effortless vocal union between the two brothers.

The Cactus Blossoms - Clown Collector

By the time “Traveler's Paradise”, the album's final track, drops, the brothers sing, "Goodbye, sure is good to know you. I'm so thankful for you." It's the perfect close to a beautifully melancholic journey that floats along as easily as a summer breeze, and it's such a smooth listen that you'll be hard pressed not to press play again the moment it's over.

 

Words by Alexander Hallett

Video by Jorge Gonzalez

Video editing by Adam Richert

Wednesday
Jan132016

Single Release: Kris Orlowski - "Walking in my Sleep"

Kris Orlowski is ready. 
Our phone call is happening hours earlier than scheduled, squeezed in while he's still in Nashville. He's busy writing songs while seeing a growing circle of friends and industry contacts. He offers to step outside where it's quieter but I can hear him just fine. 

His new album, Often in the Pause, is due out in April (PRE ORDER NOW!) and the first tune “Walking in my Sleep" sounds like a departure for the Seattle-based singer-songwriter. There’s more of a rock-radio polish to the production and an unmistakable upward trajectory. He still displays the disarming voice and knack for melody he showed on Believer (2014), but with aims for larger audiences. 
“It’s exciting, but it’s kind of scary,” he says of the record, which will consist of 12 songs from varying genres, all revolving around life and it's carousel of transitions. “The album's really close to our hearts. It's a bit of a different me, but I'm excited about it." 
And it sure sounds in his voice. Be sure to take a listen to his new single below, and check out his interesting covers of "Halo" (Beyonce) and "Nice Work if You Can Get It" (Gershwin) as well.
Upcoming Show Dates: 
1/28 – Green Frog, Bellingham, WA 
1/29 – Yakima Sports Center, Yakima, WA 
1/30 – The Bartlett, Spokane, WA 1/31 – Caffè Mela, Wenatchee, WA 
2/3 – White Eagle, Portland, OR 
2/4 – Sunset Tavern, Seattle, WA 

2/5 – Sunset Tavern, Seattle, WA

 

Words by Brian Hodge

Video by Adam Richert

Friday
Oct172014

Quiet Life - Housebroken Man

Housebroken Man, the new EP from Quiet Life, doesn’t wait long to introduce itself. A plinking piano and a chugging rhythm guitar practically kick the bar room doors open, letting the lilting voices of Sean Spellman and Cary Ann Hearst (Shovels and Rope) do-si-do on top. The titular housebroken man is “laying off the bourbon and the weed” but there’s enough winking knowingness here to give the listener doubt about its sticking power. It makes for a rousing opener.

“Shaky Hand” is another cautionary tale, this form in a Brucean ballad, about the dangers of booze. The next track, “Messin’ Around”, covers what goes wrong when those cautions go unheeded. “If I don’t die before I get old, I’m going to quit messing around,” Spellman sings.

Clearly, Quiet Life are leading anything but a tranquil existence. Growing success as an up-and-coming act can do that to a group. The EP seems to grapple with how to be the best versions of themselves amid increasing expectations and temptations.

These songs were written when a lot of things were in flux,” Spellman told Esquire. “Lyrically, they came together at weird or rough times in certain relationships I was having. Housebroken Man is about trying to be a good boyfriend/husband/whatever and imagining and idealizing the perfect life.”

The EP concludes with a cover of Townes van Zandt’s “Waiting Around to Die”  - complete with an assist from Jim James - signifying that despite the ratcheting worries, Quiet Life is capable of turning gut checks to gold.

 

Quiet Life - Housebroken Man from Kitchen Sessions on Vimeo.

 

 

Quiet Life -Shaky Hand from Kitchen Sessions on Vimeo.

 

Words by Brian Hodge

Photo//Video by Adam Richert