Three Imaginary Girls

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

Your monthly imaginary horoscope told in album reviews!

Aquarius (January 20 – February 18)
As Aquarians themselves may testify, water is a symbol of life and rebirth. The shimmering beauty of such timelessly heartbreaking underground pop bands as Guadalcanal Diary has been reincarnated in The Swim Team, with all the mystery, romance, and fire of its forebears. Juice For Jesus is one of the most refreshing Seattle debut albums you'll hear. In razor-sharp political taunts like "Dubya" or the mesmerizing "This Is Not My Dance" their sound seems crafted from the kudzu and shattered hubris of the South gone wrong, which could just as well be the haunted affairs in foliage near Roosevelt High School as well. The power is in their restraint. Jangling guitars, handsome vocals from songwriter Amos (his well-thought-out lyrics not afraid to either be topical or provocative), and the slinky rhythm section of Lari Garrison and Adonis Torro means I have a new CD set for repeat in my player for a few weeks. When they play live, I will be there.

Aquarius Valentine's Day Tip: "Forget her face, forget her hand, leading me through this demon land."

Pisces (February 19 – March 20)
Even in romance, Pisces tends to be a patriot and a humanitarian. It's this effective combination of commitment and empathy to the Other that is exemplified by the madly devoted spiritual songs of Half-handed Cloud, fierce in praise and yet tender in performance. The What's The Remedy? five song vinyl EP is a bit more sedate and contemplative than Halos & Lassos, the head-spinning nineteen track song cycle Asthmatic Kitty will release in March. That album will be an essential purchase for fans of absolutely hypnotic marginalist apocalypse pop, but then so should this wonderful collaboration with Sufjan Stevens. That's right! John Ringhofer of Half-handed Cloud plays with Stevens! This is an exceptional, if more laid-back, version of their art-gospel music. A small, very affectionate Seattle audience thrilled to John's appearance at the Crocodile Café last month (last minute added to a Three Imaginary Girls' bill), so hopefully he will return (and treat us to that delightful cover of The Smiths' "Reel Around The Fountain" again.)

Pisces Valentine's Day Tip: "That the entire universe, as we experience it, could be a forgery is best expressed by Heraclitus. Once you have taken his notion, no doubt into your head, you are ready to deal with the issue of God" (Philip K. Dick, Valis).

Aries (March 21 – April 19)
Speaking of Theophanous and the idea of the divine disclosing through doubt, consider how the Buddhists consider that maybe the universe doesn't even exist. As opposed to Noodles, which definitely does exist and has in fact been around a while, as cherubic as the three young women who make up the band look. Led by the supremely confident vocalist/songwriter Yoko, their new eight-song CD Ivy Noodles is fiery, if a bit familiar-sounding. It is poetic alternative rock, powerfully played, with exceptional drumming from Ayumi. It is with the girl-group harmonies of songs like "April" and the precise guitar frenzy of "Draw" that the songs eventually become hard to resist. Like most Arien women, there is a very strong organizational quality here, evident in the graceful maturity of the compositions. I have the feeling that live these catchy anthems really burn up the stage like Roman candles. {Catch Noodles at the Crocodile on February 11th with Mon Frere and The Stereo Future (5p, all-ages)}

Aries Valentine's Day Tip: "At time of such, I've been in my heart."

Taurus (April 20 – May 20)
Taurus can avoid many mistakes if she decides to just stop and think before she bellows. She doesn't enjoy making a fuss, she actually regrets it. Such emotional outbursts and consequences thereof same are described in the songs of the Seattle band Friday Mile's debut album Using Up Our Trust. Jace Krause is from Montana, and there's a chilling expanse to the relational distances he sings about on this sublime ten-song folk-rock album, especially on heartbreakers like the excellently written "Harborview." Fans of Rocky Votolato will find much to like here; Krause isn't quite as tenaciously bitter or passionate, goes down a lot more easily, but is no less poignant. Small details fill each track with vivid scenarios of trust and hope spoiling and rising suspiciously. This is easily some of the best singer-songwriter material heard since the breakthrough work of Freedy Johnston. While I'm still waiting for a masterpiece to absolutely slay me, I have trust Krause will probably come up with one by the next disc.

Taurus Valentine's Day Tip: "Wear those clothes around your neck, tied up tight so they don't fall. Wear that cross around your neck, tells you when it's time to go."

Gemini (May 21 – June 21)
Gemini can charm the birds right out of the trees. Like the Little Prince, this month he better figure out if he can handle what he's tamed. I don't know if the Posies' Jon Auer tamed Monostereo in his studio whilst producing their six song introductory EP Evil Awesome, but there's a sexy, dangerous feel beneath these moody, mostly mid-tempo rock songs. Lea Tucker sings and plays guitar with a feckless ease even when the vibe is stark and indicting, as on the gripping title track. The "Louie, Louie" styled sweetened swagger of "Ringer" could be all over the airwaves, and will no doubt end up on some show produced by Fox. That is not to mean this is overtly commercial music; there doesn't seem to be a second of empty ambition on these half-dozen well-crafted songs, that Auer seems to have captured perfectly.

Gemini Valentine's Day Tip: "Open the screen door and come on inside."

Cancer (June 22 – July 22)
For Cancers who love piano-based love burning you down wide-screen small city scenarios, the grand pop of Modern Skirts will be the perfect soundtrack for the month of romance on Catalogue of Generous Men. It's Black History Month as well, which has nothing to do with this band's sound, though a hint of gospel trickles through nicely, especially in the windswept opener, "New York Song," which also has a delicious almost-Queen dramatic bridge. Modern Skirts are from Athens, and twilight walks around lakes and joy rides through the woods can be heard all over this lush, college rock opera. Jay Gulley has a nice, healthy, slightly haunted voice to match his warm, nicely detailed lyrics. Think if Sameer Shukla was out in the sticks and hadn't plagued himself with demon women and eye plagues yet, bringing the piano up in the mix and lowering the sarcastic sheen. Layers of different style keyboards, an ability to rock and chamber-pop non-pretentiously on great stories like "My Bully" make this a band to watch out for.

Cancer Valentine's Day Tip: &qu
ot;If you like, ride a bike; it's better for the city."

Leo (July 23 – August 22)
Leos have excellent disposition, emotional involvement, the ability to win honors, and an intuitive avoidance of trouble going for them. Even in a somewhat tense month like February, where winter chill meets romantic expectation, Leo can call on inner strengths, such as can be found all over the sterling, Stoic, song craft of Ray Davies' Other People's Lives. This album is as friendly, thought-provoking, well-played, and occasionally wonderful as any Ray has done solo or with the Kinks. The peaks and valleys are fewer, but Davies never forgets to create an awesome "keep on living mate" anthem like "Life After Breakfast" or a satirical, shrewdly acted high-concept topical song like the cranky and a bit vicious "Stand Up Comic." The fact he is still delivering albums both so parochial and universal in scope, filled with real human thoughts and emotions, hopes deferred and fears still unmet, like a fine novelist or a consistently pleasing filmmaker, is astonishing. He gets a little zero to the bone in sharp character studies like "Next Door Neighbor" and "Creatures of Little Faith," but I believe he never writes out of anything but love (and occasional self-deprecation). Superb veteran singer-songwriting without an inch of flab or a even plethora of hard-earned wrinkles.

Leo Valentine's Day Tip: "Don't be a total embarrassment to your friends and family, take the pills and drink the tea."

Virgo (August 23 – September 22)
The romantic life of a Virgo is complicated, as they don't accept others on face value. It takes some time for a Virgo to get to know whether they like someone or not. One of the most surprising things about punk rock history is the romantic depth felt by young women who participated in the scene since its inception; a secret history that has often been neglected by the various collections grouping the 'anti-hits' of the pugnacious pop-art movement. On Music Video Distributor's new DVD collection God Save The Queen the usual grimy suspects are judiciously stacked for maximum (rock and roll) visceral value, including wonderful live performance pieces from Johnny Thunders and Iggy & The Stooges to the Buzzcocks. But the great thing about this video compilation is the interview segments and footage of punk rock goddesses Bekki Bondage (Vice Squad) and Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex, really fantastic documentation I've never seen anywhere else. Also included is prime sexy Generation X conversation and live action, confirming the fact that Billy Idol was actually really talented back in the day. The rare Toy Dolls and Adicts' clips are lots of fun and very engaging, with their unique frontmen mugging it up and being very theatrical, showing a sense of humor left out of a lot of overly dramatic anthologies of this type. But if you want drama, the blistering bombast of full-on punk provided by UK Subs and Subhumans is not to be missed either. I've never been a big Brit gutter punk fan, but these clips are essential to any punk rock collection. I would have bought this for the Spex doing "Identity" alone. If you're unfamiliar, please pick uop copies of Germ-Free Adolescents with this awesome compilation immediately.

Virgo Valentine's Day Tip: "Oh bondage! Up yours!"

Libra (September 23 – October 23)
It takes a lot to ruffle a Libra, but eventually they may become unglued if their life is out of balance, as romance tends to make it. Then a Libra might have a tendency to wallow in darkness, and nothing helps that out like a couple of great songs on some nice vinyl grooves. Velvet Blue Music in Orange County just put out two elegant seven inchers, one from the band Map, led by intuitive charmer Josh Dooley, who writes songs like "A Monk With A Gun" and the bum trip "Alone on Christmas" which is bad dream pub-folk, coarse like worn silk and strange as liquid fog. (Arch art-blues "Sequels and Remakes" is thrown in for good measure.) LN sends out a solid original, "Without Your Song," but it's the compellingly mordant cover of "Girls Just Want To Have One" (written from a male perspective by new waver Robert Hazard in the first place anyways) on the B-side that makes it an essential purchase and will no doubt grace many a depressing mix tape. Excellent graphics make these singles very collectible.

Libra Valentine's Day Tip: Your father's got a point, it's time to live your life right.

Scorpio (October 24 – November 21)
Scorpio has the ability to express other people's points of view almost as well as their own; their identities are built on a seamless objectivity, combining talents learned from others as if they were their own as well. This can be useful for romance, as it fights against sexual narcissism. In the case of a stunningly original album like Llama's self-titled debut, Rusty Willoughby crafts classic independent pop. It was fantastically produced by Kurt Bloch a comes complete with guitars that click right up to your ears and bass that curls around the tips of the hairs along your spine and drums that chunk down in your bowels. Richly vivid in sound-craft, lyrically concerned with finding peace and love in the storms of relationships whilst the music never fails to hook you, moving you with a glistening groove through almost neo-psychedelic romps like "Alright" (with a fabulous trippy ending), the multi-tempo "The End," and the blessed-out drugged-up drum-driven "It's OK." There's a hypnotic immediacy and precision to all of this that demands attention. Remember how the Cars stripped it all back and shined it all up perfectly at the same time? Llama sounds nothing like the Cars, but the legacy of perfect power pop continues just the same.

Scorpio Valentine's Day Tip:"Because if Heraclitus is correct, there is in fact no reality but that of theophanies; the rest is illusion." (ibid., page 39). That doesn't mean that you don't have to buy her flowers on February 14th, though.

Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21)
A Sagittarius leaps from idea to idea like a frisky centaur, the way that real punk rock used to do. Even when the subject matter is just girls, first wave punk rock could always put a spin on things. That's why picking up copies of two extremely well-done reissues from the gloriously forever-hardcore Vancouver label Sudden Death, The Young Canadians' No Escape and the Modernettes' Get It Straight, is crucial to understanding the spirit of those times. These over 20-track each anthologies collect virtually everything both critically important Canadian punk bands ever released, but this is not empty-headed buzz-saw brute rock. These are slyly observed, urban milieu-drenched discussions of cosmopolitan down-life, captured over streams of seven inch records and Extended Plays that got dearer to the darkened hearts of city kids the more they were played. Songs like the Modernettes' hilarious "Suicide Club" and the Richard hell-poetic "Red Nails" are terrific, sarcastic and sinister adult rock, adeptly penned by talented writer Buck Cherry and with gut-punching bass-lines by r
ock goddess Mary-Jo Kopechne; the Young Canadians combined smart-ass skanking with power pop to prime the pubs. This stuff bounces and thrills non-stop, never failing to excite, as much as anything that Stiff Little Fingers or the Voidoids ever recorded. Canadian punk had a lot more to say, both lyrically and musically, than a lot of the mildly caustic noise American bands outside of NYC were getting away with in the late 70s. The Modernettes are expert players, exuding a sexy energy they didn't feel the need to leave out of their protests, and the Young Canadians wrapped it all up with the mix tape classic "I Hate Music" (anyhow, that's how I first heard it). If you're currently getting off on the Epoxies and the Briefs and wonder if there's some old school stuff not completely played out you can still discover transgressive catchy underground rock energy in, order these two pleasure-packed dystopian compact discs right away.

Sagittarius Valentine's Day Tip: "Your red nails are going to kill me."

Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)
Capricorns enjoy being alone and spending time by themselves. This can sometimes be tough on their lovers, but then some romantic music might be helpful to make things less awkward. The Moore Brothers' lilting mod-folk may seem a bit icy at first, but the earnest trembling in tender serenades like "Girl With A Light" or "Wish You'd Stay" make their fourth album Murdered By The Moore Brothers The Moore Brothers a light joy throughout. A lyrical phrase about "Jesus walking on the water" or "everything going wrong" make this seem like angels singing the blues. This album was recorded by the grandson of the painter Renoir, and it sounds as artful as that might imply. Greg Moore has a delicate but never effete way of constructing a beautiful tapestry of choral light and desire. The whole thing just hangs together like a crisply acoustic sound-lattice. It will remind you of no one, even as it charms you like classic turtleneck folk-pop bands of the 60s and early 70s. A slight avant-garde edge creeps out when you least expect it, as in the strange chorus of haunting closer "Pham," making you come back again and again to figure out the mystery.

Capricorn Valentine's Day Tip: "Now Is The Time To Chill."