Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

{This is part two of my 2013 year in review — check out part one here, and the accompanying Spotify playlist here. Don't forget, if you like something you hear on the Spotify, BUY THE MUSIC. That's how it works!}

{David Bazan / by Victoria VanBruinisse}
David Bazan at the Neptune, as part of the Barsuk 15th-year anniversary shows.

Summer — endless summer! — was full to the brim of incredible shows: I had the fortune of hosting John Vanderslice in my living room (and my backyard), spending a few days with Tom Brosseau, seeing Paul McCartney from the third row at Safeco, strolling around the farm for a hot weekend at Pickathon, and it all closed out with a most excellent Bumbershoot experience. I literally couldn't have asked for more!

At the same time, my sonic landscape was interspersed with the likes of Crosby Stills & Nash, KEXP's Six Degrees of Sharon van Etten, a hearty Zeptember, and tracks off the new releases from Laura Veirs, The Moondoggies and a random (to me) band that hit the imaginary inbox called Brass Bed.

I love these songs the same way I love "Northwestern Girls" by Say Hi. They feel so locally-steeped and hand-forged, bringing the best of the PNW home to roost in their respective deliveries: Laura Veirs takes us on a light-soaked journey paying homage to the sun, the Moondoggies bombard us with sound from the stage of our favorite Ballard bar. A+++. {Get the MDs album here, and Laura's here. Hers is even available on reel-to-reel!}

If we're going to get super technical here, this Brass Bed track came out on a 7" in 2012 as a preview of the 2013 album, The Secret Will Keep You. So, filed under new-new or new-to-me-new, it still counts so far as I'm concerned. I haven't spent a ton of time with the full-length, but the single struck me enough to slip it into a few mixes this year. Not local, still magically delicious. Start with their bandcamp and go from there to see if anything else strikes you — there's an EP of Nilsson covers from 2012, and tour dates if you're inclined.

{Tom Brosseau / by Victoria VanBruinisse}
Tom Brosseau, holding down the fort out behind our own Tractor Tavern.

Speaking of Tom Brosseau, not only did I get to take in two incredible shows on the tour he did with Sean Watkins this past summer — at the Alberta Rose Theater in Portland, and the following night at the Tractor — I've got my bets hedged on his 2014 release, Grass Punks, being one of the best non-local releases of the year (right alongside my pending-official-release northwest favorites, Damien Jurado's Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son and Barry Uhl's An Account of the Happenings at Wretched Knob). It's my favorite record he's done since I fell in love with what I mean to say is goodbye — I've been listening to it pretty much non-stop since picking up a tour-only copy at those shows this summer, and I can't wait for it to get officially birthed out into the world. Keep an eye on all things Tom at his website here.

{Breeders / by Victoria VanBruinisse}
the Breeders at Bumbershoot 2013.

This year's Bumbershoot lineup, while not a new release of any sort, was pretty fucking killer — and it bears mentioning again what a tremendous time we all had over the course of the weekend. I personally had the best times Sunday (wall-to-wall with the likes of Death Cab for Cutie doing all of Transatlanticism, Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside, the Barsuk panel, Bob Mould, the Breeders, the Zombies, and that wasn't even half of it!) followed only slightly by Saturday (AKA Charles Bradley Day, with runner-up sets from Gary Numan and !!!). The KEXP lounge ruled, the days stretched, the nights were incredible, and it tied with Pickathon for my favorite festival of the year, for sure.

{Andrew Bird / by Victoria VanBruinisse}
Andrew Bird with Tift Merritt at Pickathon in August.

After all that goodness, with the year drawing to a close, the momentum of literal and metaphorical hits kept coming: I took my inaugural trip to Doe Bay for a friend's wedding, saw an uptick in my rotation levels of the Who and the Grateful Dead, got introduced to Jacco Gardner and caught wind of Andy Fitts' EP {this track is the jam!}, stumbed across Neko Case's newest album {this will be seven minutes of your life well-spent}, saw a new release from XVIII Eyes, swooned over Charles Bradley's "Ain't It A Sin", had the fortune of attending a second John Vanderslice performance at the sunset, went to those unreal Barsuk anniversary shows, and topped it all off with an unforgettable night with Jeff Tweedy at the Moore.

So far as the releases mentioned there, first and foremost, Jacco Garnder hit my radar in late September / early October, by way of one of those trust-a-friend weeknight show excursions. Here's what I had to say about it at a primary glance:

The structure of Gardner's music is primarily a one-man show, layer after layer of tracks set just right. The sound itself is modern psychedelic, and by "modern" I don't mean mod-sounding, I mean a totally legit take on the quintessential sixties vibe that sounds current and throwback all at once — somewhere between how Joni Mitchell's Blue is utterly timeless, and how those real-deal roots musicians put factory-spun stomp-and-clap bands to shame. At first glance, the new album (Cabinet of Curiosities) kind of sounds like Cloud War minus the XTC vibe, spliced with some Liam Finn and a boatload of hallucinogens, with gorgeous choral melodies and a whole lotta harpsichord. And the song from the video above, "End of August," makes me want to put on big headphones in the middle of a field somewhere in an overstuffed armchair — maybe with a crocheted blanket? — so I have a squishy front-row seat to trip out in, while I watch summer fade.

The album has totally held up to repeated listens these past few months without losing any shine — if you haven't tuned in yet, follow the links here to pick the record up, and cross your fingers for another northwest date in 2014 (I spy Texas in May!).

And to swing back into local territory, as mentioned, Seattle saw an excellent release from XVII Eyes this fall. From November:

I've had the newest release from XVIII Eyes {fka Eighteen Individual Eyes} on repeat since the end of last month, trying to find a way to describe the wash of feelings I get from each start-to-finish listen. As a result, I've got notes about how the sound is delivered through a legit indie rock / alt.electro-synth modernized Cure-esque filter, and how a stunning movie-soundscape of capital-R Relationship flashes through my brain with the meter of heartbeat-synced percussion, and how those clear, clean vocals both mirror and constrast piercing guitar work that hits me right in the center of my person.

XVIII Eyes continues to forge on into 2014, with their most up-to-date internet info on Facebook. Catch them this Friday at the Crocodile, or hold out for their show on January 14th at Barboza with Katie Kate. (Or, go to both.)

Shit. Like Victim of Love wasn't good enough, Charles Bradley has to go and put out this Black Friday Record Store Day-only track that's unabashedly killer. I'm not sure where to purchase it exactly now that Black Friday has passed, but I promise to update once I find out. For now, hit that Soundcloud page and repeat, repeat, repeat while you dance yourself clean.

Also, I can't stop listening to this song. I know very little about Courtney Barnett aside from hearing Troy Nelson play this track on KEXP, and subsequently falling in love with the lo-fi psych-tinged garage vibe. Her website frequently has an error message about maximum bandwidth exceeded, hard copies of the EP referenced above are sold out (according to her bandcamp at least) and I don't see any non-Australian tour dates. For now, pick up the digital copy and tell all your friends. Hopefully we'll see her stateside soon!

There were a ton of other one-hitters that I hope will sustain into the new year, like that Palma Violets track, a few cuts off the new Portugal. The Man release, and almost all of the Queens of the Stone Age record …Like Clockwork (don't hate). We'll see what truly carries over into 2014 in next year's year-in-review!

{Photos of David Bazan, Tom Brosseau, the Breeders, and Andrew Bird by Victoria VanBruinisse.}