Three Imaginary Girls

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

Imaginary rock and roll astrology CD reviews by Chilly C for September 2003

Virgo {August 23-September 22}
Earth to Virgo: everyone knows your "leave me alone" vibes are vain attempts to mask a desperate-puppy "pet me please" need for attention. This month, just go for it. That's right: curl into a ball, howl for love, and wag that freaking tail until you're knocking vases off tables. When the porcelain shatters on the floor over your screaming, you'll probably sound a lot like the Divorce. The Seattle trio's noisy debut release There Will Be Blood Tonight (Fugitive) whips up quite the stir, buzzing eardrums and curdling blood. But the Divorce don't just cry for attention, they earn it. To wit: hooky guitar pop isn't usually this danceable—imagine the Faint if they were inspired by Hüsker Dü and the Foo Fighters instead of Manchester new wave. Second, the Divorce writes some of the smartest pop songs out there. Catchy and complicated, the album's ten songs twist and turn in unexpected ways from the jumps and breaks in "The Force of the Iron Cobra" to the surprise ending of "Redcoats." Third, there's that stellar band name. Fourth, they're curled up on the floor screaming and carrying on. Wait, no, that's you Virgo. But look—you got my attention!

Libra {September 23-October 22}
Your balanced personality often puts you in the role of arbiter and mediator for the less-than-flexible. What to do, though, when your friends want you to tip that balance and take sides? Simple. Explain that Even the Villain is the Hero of His Own Story. That's the album title of the new release by the Small Change (Unsmashable), and this cd is bound to both solve arguments and get everybody dancing. Sure, your friends may disagree about philosophical matters, but everyone can boogie to raucous guitar pop. "Collided" recalls Twin Cities slop-punks Soul Asylum; other songs conjure the Black Crowes, Thin Lizzy, and the Jam. Greg Collingsworth's shredded vocals give the impression that he's shouted his way through plenty of arguments himself. And remember, Libra, you're balanced, but you're also bright. If the arguments don't subside after you've tried, just turn up the volume and start dancing!

{October 23 – November 21}
Hang on for the ride, Scorpio. Your soaring confidence steers you through a breakneck crash course of up's and down's this month without so much as an emotional scratch. I'd warn you if you were threatening to careen into maniacal territory, but so far you're impressively grounded: self-assured and self-aware. stellastarr* must be channeling your inner poise: this post-Interpol NYC art band delivers their variant on a hip retro-flecked sound (the Fixx/ Pulp/ Imperial Teen) that only a dizzying confidence could enable them to pull off. Their smashing self-titled debut release (RCA) smartly mixes loud-quiet guitars, boy-girl vocals, and serious-ironic lyrics such as "if I decide to rule the world / I'd still be coming after you…" This is what I mean about confidence: ruling the world isn't something Stellastarr* needs to work for. They just need to decide whether they want it. And Scorpio, so do you.

Sagittarius {November 22-December 21}
So. There have been a coupla big parties lately that were (supposedly) off the proverbial heezy. And you weren't invited. Not to worry. Picture the following scenario like a teen-movie montage, Sagittarius: your parents go out of town for the weekend. You decide to throw your own party and show those hipsters that you're not one to be ignored. You plaster flyers all over town. Pass out handbills to all the cool kids. You and your friends laugh and make a big mess trying to turn your house into a full-on French disco. All the while, Seattle's United States of Electronica plays in the background. Their self-released 3-song ep has more dance power than most full-length albums. Ultra-sincere about having a good time, USE turn Daft Punk's masked vocoder sarcasm into joyous, positive delight. In their ode-to-Seattle parties "Vamos a la Playa," when USE say "everyone come on," they really do mean everyone. Sagittarius, people will be talking about your party for weeks. And then, when your parents come back unexpectedly early? Again, not to worry. Once they hear USE, they'll throw down their luggage, unfurrow their brows, and start dancing too!

Capricorn {December 22-January 19}
You're great at making casual hook-ups, Capricorn, but not so great at turning them into something more enduring. Listening to the new cd by Seattle's Terror Sheets, Street Corner Fields (Sad Robot) will help you change all that. Step One: put on the cd and dim all the lights. The slow tempos will soothe you and your partner, and the mysterious sonic textures will spark some great conversation ("wait, is that a piano?" "what are they saying right there?") Step Two: when you finally head to bed, say "let's kiss for one more song." Have that song be the sweet-sounding album-closer "Until You Glow." The plaintive hidden bonus track after four minutes of silence will provide just enough surprise to keep things excitingwithout spoiling the mood. Step Three: master Joe Syverson's breathy vocal style (start with the melancholic "Gravel Specs"). Use this hushed voice in morning-after conversations to guarantee a call back after you've each gone your separate ways. Repeat on the second date, this time with the songs in shuffle play mode. Time for bed, Capricorn!

Aquarius {January 20-February 18}
Even the most fervent of emotional pack-rats would acknowledge that your cluttered psychological attic needs some thinning out. In short, Aquarius: clear your head. This month, give a listen to Noba's debut cd Man With A Briefcase (self-released). Release the long-held feelings that you no longer need, and let this NYC four-piece collect the junk for you. Dexterous genre-jumpers, Noba shift gracefully from Son Volt-inspired sleepy Americana ("Bye Bye") to Jellyfish chamber pop ("Losing What's Already Lost") to twisted Elvis Costello-style bile ("The Deepest Red"). Noir keyboards and conversational lyrics will make you feel like you're eavesdropping—or at least rummaging through someone else's stuff. A vicarious thrill that's all payback and no baggage. Sometimes, Aquarius, the best voices to listen to are not the ones in your head.

Pisces {February 19-March 20}
Let's talk about that new acquaintance of yours, Pisces: the quiet, brooding type who doesn't give much away at first. Your overtures have gotten you nowhere, and now part of you, understandably, wants to give up on the potential friendship. I'm here to officially reinforce the part of you that wants to keep trying.
For additional support, listen to How Not To Get There (Blue Tree), the delicate new cd by Mount Vernon WA's Mindhead. It's a challenging but rewarding listen: quiet, brooding songs that don't give much away at first. Steering clear of obvious hooks, the songs build instead on simmering, repeated phrases and on the importance of the detailed, narrative lyrics. Best of all, the last two songs are the bestand most emotionally powerful—songs on the record: "6 Months, 3 Days" is heartbreaking, and the organ-drenched "Fear" is expansive and inspirational. Had you given up on Mindhead, you'd have never made it to these great songs at the end of the cd. So when it comes to your new acquaintance, please keep trying, because 6 months and 3 days isn't really all that long for something so worthwhile.

Aries {March 21-April 19}
Lately you've felt the tug of spirituality, Aries, and you don't know how best to express it. Well, that stuff's a little out of my leagueI gaze at the stars, not beyond them. But you're definitely not alone in your nascent journey into the mystic. Your unlikely fellow traveler is Evanescence, the fish-out-of-water goth band from Little Rock, Arkansas. Their debut cd Fallen (Wind Up) is breaking out like crazy with its of-the-moment riff-rock churn. Single-handedly saving the band from cliché is singer Amy Lee, who sings like Tori Amos might after watching Edward Scissorhands 100 times in a row. Lee's so-called 'dark' explorations (blood and screaming are involved, often) are about as convincingly wicked as Willow Rosenberg's vampiric doppelganger on Buffy; she shines brighter when she puts aside the gloomy posturing and tackles the bigger questions. "Am I too lost to be saved?" she asks on "Tourniquet" and it sounds like a legitimate plea. And when her Linkin Park-derived bandmates slow down on the piano-based "Imaginary," Lee belts out "I know well what lies beyond my sleeping refuge." Quite a mouthful, but she sure sounds like she means it. I can't say where your spiritual pursuit will lead you, Aries. But keep asking questions, and steer clear of the blood and screaming.

Taurus {April 20-May 20}
Your usual ability to eschew unnecessary attention somehow eludes you, Taurus. And when all eyes are finally fixed on you, you'll notice that the spotlight certainly doesn't use the eco-friendly, lo-watt bulbs. Exaggerated and hyperbolic, your month will play out like tasteless tabloid headlines, reducing your complexities into one-dimensional screeches: Supercharged Libido! Problem Drinker! Uses Work Phone For Personal Calls! This month, however, Oakland CA's Winfred E. Eye is burning right alongside you. Their new release, third full-length The Dirt Tier (Luckyhorse Industries) is a complex, detail-rich collection, but look what people are saying about them: "Sounds like Captain Beefheart!" "Sings like Tom Waits!" "Hits Metal Pieces, Not Real Drum Kit!" Of course there's more to this band than soundbites can capture. "Grey Ghosts" sighs like an old boxer during his retirement-deciding final fight, and the title track gives off sonic shivers like it's a vintage music-box in a horror movie. The difficult-to-categorize often run the risk of over-simplification. Insist on letting your complexities shine as bright as the spotlight you're under. As Winifred E. Eye says, "let's get back to living well."

Gemini {May 21-June 21}
The stars spell out kindness for you, Gemini, but to tell you the truth, I can't tell if that means you should be kind to others, or if someone's going to be kind to you. Luckily, your Gemini-twins nature makes me think: why not work both angles? It can't hurt to plink some silver into tip jars, and to quit calling your friends during "The Real World" (especially when Leah's in the booth, but I digress). And after all, good things often happen to people who do good. That's why nothing good happens to the characters in the songs on Rodeo Sauvignon (self-released), the new cd by Seattle three-piece the Reluctants. Between all-night fighting, all-night drinking, and sneaking out with lover's best friends, these tales of woe are strictly about the dirty and the down-and-out. Luckily, good things do happen to the Reluctants themselves: their snappy, distorted alt-country (equal parts Old 97's and Meat Puppets) is beginning to attract some enthusiastic media attention. The band members must tip well at espresso carts and let their friends watch Leah in peace! Hew the honorable path yourself, Gemini, and who knows what good will come of it.

Cancer{June 22-July 22}
I look at the stars so much, Cancer, that I sometimes find myself re-imagining the shapes of the constellations. Who's to say the stars of your zodiac sign look like a crab? Personally, I think they look more like a Gibson Les Paul: with the smaller stars as the frets and the Beehive Cluster as the volume knob, turned all the way up to 10. Think big this month, Cancer. Really, really big. Listen to Led Zeppelin's How The West Was Won (Atlantic). This isn't just any old 3-cd live set, it's a gigantic monument to a larger-than-life band at the peak of its powers. Featuring literally enormous performances of "Dazed and Confused" (over 25 minutes) and the 20-minute drum solo "Moby Dick," the live versions on this long-overdue release are a testament to a band that attempted heroics, defied enemies, and became something much bigger as a result. According to mythology, Cancer the crab became a constellation in honor of his valiant attack on the unbeatable Hercules. Also according to mythology, Led Zeppelin became the biggest band on the planet by being unafraid to play their songs in the biggest ways possible. And while we have no actual proof of Cancer's legendary battle, "How The West Was Won" stands as physical evidence that there was a time when Led Zeppelin really did rule the earth. So think big, Cancer, and when you look up at the sky at night, look for the guitar, and start tellin' your friends you want to be a star.

Leo {July 23-August 22}
Well, Leo. Here you are. But where is here? After successfully reaching a significant milestone in your life, sometimes it's hard to know what to do next. You finally got that promotion, or bought that new house, or got engaged to your sweetheart. So now what? Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional must be asking himself that same question. On new release A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar (Vagrant) the emo poster-boy sounds like he's reached a similar crossroads: he's outgrown his persona as acoustic balladeer with the broken heart of gold, but he's a little unsure of where to go next. And while the new cd offers no radical changes, the subtle shifts in tone are almost more revealing, coming from a guy who knows that his every emotional detail will be fanati
cally analyzed. Lead single "Hands Down" boasts a full radio-friendly sound but relatively little romantic anguish. The sparse "Ghost of a Good Thing" sounds like Ben Folds both musically (the nasal harmonies) and lyrically, trading Carrabba's heartfelt empathy for a glib resignation. Still, on other songs he illustrates an awareness of his turning-point position, as on "Rapid Hope Loss" which contrasts bitter put-downs with genuine regret in such lyrics as "so much for so much more." There is nothing wrong with airing out your indecision, Leo. But if your recent achievements leave you a little lost, there's always something else to aim for.