Three Imaginary Girls

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

Check out some of the unreleased not-quite-ready-for-prime-time-yet-full-of-promise releases we’ve got piled up on our imaginary CD shelf. For this month’s issue {August 2004}, we’ve reviewed Birds of Prey, This is the Process of a Still Life, Hyperemotive, Andrew Norsworthy, The High Dive, Somerset, Angela Jossy, and Juhu Beach.

Birds of Prey
Jim Biggs of Black Nite Crash once laughed {in his charmingly dry, self-deprecating way} at how his band emulated a shoe-gazer style that wasn’t particularly successful even in its own heyday. Which got me thinking: perhaps influence (and eventual fame and financial success) might follow at odd intervals {a la the Velvet Underground}, as delicious shoe-gazer stylings have been co-opted and expanded upon by so many contemporary indie-artists (BRMC, the Ravonettes, etc). If this theory holds true, expect great things from local trio Birds of Prey (Jeffrey McNulty, Filaree Moore, Charles Smith), who have effortlessly infused a untainted demo disc with lushly-involved shoegazer-ness. As igLiz said, “It sounds like they’re not trying, but they’re still really proficient. Like that kid who gets an A on the science test and you’re all like, “Hey! How do you know what Jacob’s Ladder is?” That was a great movie.”

The Birds of Prey demo sounded muddled, equalized heavy on the bass and absent on the treble making it sound nearly distorted. The band broods with flat, cool harmonies: thudding and heavy, dense without swirling, noisy, but not ethereal. The third track “Rejection Park” introduces a welcome levity with female vocals from bass player Moore. My favorite track by miles, the song features a more evolved melancholy, with glimmers of hope offered in Moore’s Corin-meets-Deal vocals. It’s an appropriate midway-through track for your glum-mood mixtape. Note to Seattle: someone should invite Birds of Prey to the Shoegazer festivals that seem to crop up towards the end of each year.

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This is the Process of a Still Life
Do you have annoying friends who like smooth jazz, the most evil form of contemporary music we know, because it helps them “relax?” At long last, This is the Process of a Still Life offers the indie-rockers’ solution to smooth jazz. Welcome to halfway-to-new-age! This is what people should play when they’re getting a massage, and they should burn incense, and we could all get into it. Blissfully zen out with their moody and evocative instrumentation; it’s blissful without boredom, and intellectual without pretention. While it’s difficult for a six-piece all-male instrumental art band to captivate my pop-rock lyric-lovin’ ear, This is the Process has succeeded.

I played it for igLiz, who said, “I imagine it as the background music for the Mt St Helens documentary. “Earth. A majestic wonder. But also — the great avenger! Da Da DAH!” And then they show the lava. I’m saying, it’s like that.”

I’d be remiss not to point out the awesome song titles, all lowercase, including, “oh god, the lights are going dim,” “pretty is predictable,” and my favorite, “cross my heart, hope you die.” This is the Process… could create The Wall for the new millenium, and I’d bet my Cure boxset that Michael X and other Mogwai/Building Press fanatics will lose their shit for them. Per their website, there’s a tentative tour date in Seattle for mid-October 2004. We’ll be sure to add any show dates we can find to our imaginary calendar.

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Most bands provide a list of influences with their demo CD, to give a frame of reference. Have you noticed how bands won’t list the one that seems most obvious? It’s like how BRMC won’t ever say Jesus and Mary Chain. They’ll cut it out, they’ll admit to the Charlatans and the Stone Roses — anything except for the Jesus and Mary Chain.

Now take this three song demo from Hyperemotive. How come he doesn’t list… Tom Waits as an influence? This guy (as Hyperemotive appears to be a one-man project by a Chicago transplant to Seattle simply named “Nate”) lists influences of British invasion, soul, indie, and Dylan, who he’s apparently on a last name basis with. But he won’t say Tom Waits? I can hear the Dylan influences; he sounds like Dylan/David Dondero in the janglier parts. He’s better and more interesting than most singer-songwriters. I suspect all the girls must swoon when he performs at singer-writer nights. If he were at Borders, it could be mayhem — but I bet he’s going for a smokier crowd. As well he should. I bet he’s driven across the Midwest. The songs sound promising, but with the even modulation, nothing sounds on top of everything else. My cat keeps licking his photo. She also keeps peeing on my hardwood floors.

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Andrew Norsworthy
Andrew Norsworthy‘s CD Stateside brims with Mountain-fresh optimism, excellent song-writing skills, and densely-produced sound. It’s extremely proficient and safe, but not so much so that it’s uninteresting. He’s like Lyle Lovett without the curly hair/crooked nose quirk and crook. This is what they play in the movie soundtrack when the protagonist moves into his new apartment with his girlfriend, and they’re running back and forth, excited and grinning. “Where are we gonna place this bowl?” they laugh, stumbling over boxes into one another’s arms. I envison Norsworthy playing at wineries, as his presentation exudes more chardonnay than whiskey. But with his song-writing prowess, he could totally get that sensuous Austin singer-songwriter thing going, should he get a little more Lyle in his Lovett…

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The High Dive
The High Dive have a nifty gem of an EP called On and On, which features a retro-surf sound not unlike the Thrills’ So Much for the City release, though misted with a Seattle grey. While the music echoes longingly with salt and sand, the music has a darker, more brainy quality than your standard beach surf fun tunes. With f
rontman James Walls‘ harmonies, lilting falsetto, and melancholic lyrics — as well as horn solos to rival Men at Work — I found the High Dive EP enchanting. Speaking of Men at Work, igLiz thought they sounded like they were from Down Under. “It reminds of New Zealand or Australia. They sound like the Lucksmiths, and Architecture in Helsinki, guest-starring Grant Lee Phillips on vocals as a foreign exchange student,” she said.

Check out these lovely lyrics from the EP’s title track:

“Fading to gone
Sunlight, twilight, the end
and beyond, here and on into
an endless end.

I’m feeling it wrong
Too long with me.
Let it pass along, here and on,
On and on, into
an endless end.”

I guess it shouldn’t be surprising then that Walls recently moved the band from Seattle to So Cal. Ahh well. So much for seeing the High Dive any time soon in Seattle…

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Next up we have another local Seattle band, Somerset, who formed in November 2003. Their debut release White Dwarf offers light melodies, delicate without being too precious. Wistful and romantic, with Rebecca Gutterman gentle strings (guitars and violin ones) and Lisa Johnson‘s whimsical yet grounded vocals painting a lovely portrait of indie-pop melancholy. The two women boast impressive musical resumes, having played with such acts as Orbiter, Halou, the Fox Force Five, and Silkworm. At times I found the release dabbled a bit into sensitive Lilith territory. Their self-described, “music for a do nothing Sunday evening” proved delightfully apt this week — unless you count “review Demo-A-Go-Go” CDs as something to do.

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Angela Jossy
If I were to enter the indie-rock dating arena, I might suggest that Angela Jossy hook up with the ladies of Somerset for a female-earnest-singer-songwriter-guitar-strummer-clear-vocaled collaboration. Jossy is a competent song-writer with a airy, pleasant voice and a twang for good measure. South Puget Sound’s answer to Alanis Morrisette, her songs brim with similar young female angsty song themes and lyrical reprimands, both to men and, often more harshly, to herself:

“If I can be gracious to all your friends
Even the ones the ones you slept with.
And if I don’t bother you with my fears…
If I can put a sigh in all my dreams
So you don’t get jealous…
And if I can listen to all your sorrows?
Does this mean that I can be your queen?
Or does this mean that I can tolerate anything?”

This song (“Tolerate Anything”) features a grindier electric guitar that suits her nicely — with a voice that sweet, a little contrast helps makes the track a bit more savory.

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Juhu Beach
First off, the editor in me loves the hyphenated modifier in the album title “Knee-Deep in Telegrams.” I am a stickler for grammar, and little details like this thrill me to the marrow. Juhu Beach, a Seattle-based four-piece (Aadip Desai on drums, Mark Richards on vocals/guitar, Jason Sciarrone on vocal/guitar, and Shaye Straw on bass), would sound great on Audioasis, in case any of you guys/girl are reading this. With a rich musical legacy (band members hailing from Marazene Heartbeat Clock, Veer, and Pint O’ Guinness), Juhu Beach sound as solid as PBR, with frail vocals riding over darkly strident guitars. They’re the kinda band that you’d be proud to hear play at Graceland on a Wednesday. Their spot-on rock melodies could break through the veneer of indie-crowd indifference as well as stand up to anything an annoying frat guy would throw their way.

They sound like the band that the cute boy at the record store’s band sounds like. You know, the mop-headed one who went to UNC Chapel Hill. They sound a bit like Polvo. And they’d also sound great in the tinny speakers of your Volvo.

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