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Loveless New Faces Record Review

Two Years

New Faces consists of Nico Janssen on lyrics and lead vocals and guitars; Kyle Hove on bass and shouts and claps; and Conor Sisk on drums and those ever-present shouts and claps. These three young men from Port Townsend astonished judges into giving them first prize at the EMP Sound Off this year out of over one hundred entries. The band has been getting play on KEXP and hitting all the requisite block parties and regional festivals besides.

Produced and mastered by Blakes' winning studio team of Brian Brown and Martin Feveyear, there is an unholy confidence from the beginning of Two Years onward, starting with radio-feeding single "Impulse" through the torched intimacy of "You To Me" ("you're twisting up your heart on me").

I confess that I actually downloaded the album into my favorite listening device backwards though, and thought it bizarre a fresh new band's first full-length would start off with the maturity and depth of the melancholy "End Of A Time" (actually the last track here) with Janssen's handsome baritone and all-the-way-through-quotable lyrics: "Not the same anymore / days of old are days of old." That wizened punch goes straight into one of the best bridges I've heard lately: "While pessimists create apocalypse / there's some young girl getting her first kiss." This is timeless alternative rock as meaningful as the Stranglers in the 70s, the Call in the 80s, or any other sort-of dark philosophical group with a crisp lyricist and a deep danceable sound. (Next time out I would love to hear Janssen really go off in his guitar playing; somehow, with the arch construction of their tracks, I doubt that he will.)

Back to what the music seems to be about: There's a lot of empathy in these songs, as in the observations about a girl in "Across The City" ("Just in from a night of pain / her hopeful evening turned to shame"), and the spidery bass lines of Hove and great percussive syncopation from Sisk keep everything from ever getting near ponderous or morose. I'm not going to say there isn't a lot of familiarity in the heavily compressed and over-the-top catchiness of "Impulse" and elsewhere; but knowing how thrilling this band is live, it's refreshing to find out how deep and strong the songs would get — arguably a lot stronger from beginning to end. You don't expect that much potential shown on a debut these days.

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Carrie Akre Goodness Interview Loveless

Imaginary Interview: Carrie Akre

Back in 1996, before there was a Three Imaginary Girls, I had my first huge music crush in Seattle on the legendary band Goodness. The five-piece band rocked my early days in this town in no small part thanks to its incredible front-woman, Carrie Akre (who also fronted seminal grunge band Hammerbox, and boy oh boy do I wish I'd lived in Seattle to have seen them play in their heydey). Goodness disbanded before the turn of the new milleninium, and many band loves have come and gone, but I've always carried a torch for Goodness.

Imagine my excitement when I finally met Carrie Akre last Decemeber, only to discover that we were both extremely pregnant; my daughter was due in January, and her son in March. Not only that, but I also found Carrie was incredibly approachable and cool — always a pleasant when meeting a favorite musician, isn't it? — and we agreed we needed to hang out again once our babies were here.

My wee girl and I had the pleasure of hanging out with Carrie and her little guy Orion at West 5 a few weeks back, where we chatted a bit about rocking, rolling, parenting, and of course, the reunion of Goodness (!!!), who will rock us all this Saturday night August 9 at the Showbox.

{All photos by Kyle Johnson.}

igDana: Hey Carrie! This is pretty surreal…

Carrie Akre: Isn't it amazing? Last time we both saw each other we were both pregnant. It's a wild feeling.

igDana: Let's start out with a hard-hitting question: Do you have any of those Rock a Bye Baby CDs for Orion and if so, which?

Carrie Akre: I think I do! We have the U2 and the Rolling Stones ones. We also listen to this Andre 3000 Class of 3000 compilation and a few others, but I don't know about the negative messages in those songs! They all talk about the industry, and how hard it is to just be yourself. It gets me wanting to preserve innocence. I'm trying to recapture that sense now…

Carrie Akre and babe. Photo by Kyle Johnson.

igDana: Having a baby is always tough, but even more so when you're used to going to lots of shows. Do you guys still get out much?

Carrie Akre: (Laughs). I looked at Marty at one point right after Orion was born and was like, "We're still gonna hang out, right? This isn't over, right?" Here and there we're starting to get out, but ya konw, how many bars can you see and how much hanging out can you do? We've had enough of it. Being a mom has made me appreciate being slow and having quiet time with him. He fascinates me.

Photo by Kyle Johnson

Do you hope Orion will be a musician? If so, is there anything you're doing to encourage (or discourage) that?

Right now I like making noises at him, to imitate his noises. I love just babbling to him. I'm curious if he will be able to sing, or what he may choose to play. If that's what he wants to do, I'd say to go for it!

I'm interested to see what he does. What if he makes music I don't like? What if he's a singer-songwriter guy and he's not very good? When I was pregnant, I called a medical intuitive. She nailed some shit about me that made me like, woah. She said she thinks Orion is going to be a philosopher. It would be interesting if he became an academic.

Really? Is your family musical?

My Dad is, but my Mom's not at all. Isn't it weird to think that when they get old they're going to find out who you are. Like, "Oh, you played music?"

Photo by Kyle Johnson

So what's next for you, musically? Do you plan to tour still, now that you're a mama?

I'm going to tour, but just me. That's what tough about being a solo artist; you have to pay each extra person. I mean, viva the dictatorship, but it's spendy, and everyone in the band works so scheduling is tough.

Since gas prices are so high, it would cost me more to drive than fly. So I'm just going to pick places and fly there. I wanna go to Austin. Harris (Thurmond, ex-Hammerbox) lives there and plays in a band. I want to open for him and play Austin, and we'll play some Hammerbox songs together.

I miss getting out of town and the adventure of it.

Do you have another record in the works?

Oh hell no! You know what? It's going to be awhile. When I do make it, I want it to be a little more rocking. I miss rockin' out. But I don't like being so busy that I'm not centered. It's easy to get overwhelmed, and I don't want his life to fly by, to miss out. I want to really focus on him. Sometimes I really want to just move to a small town. Sometimes I'm craving just being outdoors and being on the planet.

Orion. Photo by Kyle Johnson


You performed this past New Year's Eve at the Showbox when you were seven months preggo. How was that? Did the crowd react?

I didn't have any trouble with breathing. Adrenaline kicked in and I've had years to build up my diaphragm, so singing was never that hard. I had a great time at the Showbox that night! That was a good show to play, and our band really started to hit our groove. Earlier in my pregnancy when we played at the Tractor, I announced, "A lot has happened, I've been married, and I'm expecting. I'm not just getting fat." (laughs)

What are you most excited about playing with your old band again?

I want to make sure I sweat. That's what I miss about playing in a bigger band, sweating. I feel like I haven't used my body in two years, like I now have this sausage suit on and my real body is underneath. Everyone has to keep reminding me: you just had a baby.

Photo by Kyle Johnson

Hah, I know how you feel. And I can't wait for the big reunion show. Remind all those in imaginary land where and when they need to go to catch your shows.

August 9th is the big Goodness reunion at the Showbox. Then Goodness will be playing again at the Mural Amphitheatre at the Seattle Center on August 23rd. I'll be playing solo in September 18 at the High Dive with Shawn Smith and Voyager One.


I'd better call a babysitter.

Yea, me too.

Categories
Loveless Record Review The Shackeltons

The Shackeltons

Proceed with exuberance: The Shackeltons' new self-titled album may lead to blown out speakers and excessive speeding. The band has found that perfect indie-rock sound, with sonically charged, powerful post-punk beats anchoring lead singer Mark Redding's talking/screaming/pleading vocals.

These are eleven modern love songs. The listener is placed on a ship at sea (there are several references to ships and sailing on the album), and taken on a rocking, bobbing journey through waves of desire, yearning and heartbreak. The opening song, "Your Movement," has perhaps the best and most telling lyric of the album: "We held it in our hands/and didn't know it was love." The music that accompanies each song isn't especially wistful or floating, but offers layers and a buildup of sometimes frenetic energy. It's the kind of music I would love to hear live. Besides the first song, the other stars of an altogether strong album are "Yellow Cadillac," "The Ship" and "Emergency."

I knew the album met my approval as I drove to work and found myself continuing to turn up the volume further and further until I could feel the whole car rattling and humming. The Shackeltons is a vibrant, textured, emotionally intelligent album. I don't know if my speakers will ever be the same.

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Imaginary Scoop Loveless Voyager One

Voyager One rejoins local label Loveless Records

Seattle band Voyager One have announced that they are not only planning to release a new record in the early part of 2008, but also that they will return to Loveless Records to do so. The band was the first signee to Loveless back in 1999, and their next release, Afterhours in the Afterlife, is slated for release on February 26, 2008.

From the press release:

Seattle’s Voyager One has rejoined Loveless Records to release their anticipated new album, Afterhours in the Afterlife, out on February 26, 2008. Afterhours comes on the heels of the band self-released gem, Dissolver (TokyoIdaho 2005) which received critical acclaim, “9/10 stars” Under the Radar, and got the band touring nationally with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

The return to Loveless marks both a rebirth of the band in a sonic direction and is a reinforcemet that Loveless is committed to bringing quality music to the masses.

When Loveless began, the idea was to put out music by some great, undiscovered Seattle bands. “The label got started when a friend and I were at a Voyager One show and were blown away that no one was putting out their music. That night at the Crocodile over many beers, it was decided that we were going to put out their debut.” – John Richards, KEXP Morning Show host, and Loveless partner.

 

Voyager One will also play the Loveless Records Christmas party tomorrow night, Saturday December 8th, at the High Dive. The band goes on early (7p!) and will be playing tracks from Afterhours in the Afterlife.

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Carrie Akre Loveless Record Review

…Last the Evening

There really is no obvious reason Carrie Akre needs to put out another record at this stage in her long and impressive career. She’s been the lead singer of three rock bands (Hammerbox, Goodness, and the Rockfords), has released two previous solo albums, with the last one, Invitation — released back in 2002 — being funded by contributions from fans, which gave her freedom from record label demands.

With …Last the Evening, she has not only found a home in local Seattle label Loveless, but he's also found her muse and put together a very strong album, one that's markedly different from Akre’s previous releases, as it's written on a piano.

The songs that work best on …Last the Evening are the ones that either use minimal production and Akre’s powerful voice or, in the case of “Breathe,” simply rock. The title track is a soulful piano ballad that progressively builds to an intense climax, with Akre’s piano driving the tempo and tension of the song. Read the lyrics from the opening verse/chorus/verse and you’ll see the thoughts of a musician wondering aloud if it's time to move on and find the next phase of her career.

"Lonely rooms, empty faces, I’ve seen them all in these saddened places and from the corner of the room I watch them all as they dance and move.

But I won’t last the evening here alone. My heart is telling me it’s time to come home.

So many nights I’ve been here singing my songs through tears and laughter and for awhile it was really good but that time has passed and I’ve understood."

“Stupid Is” (which, by the way, was recognized as “Supid Is” by CDDB when I imported the CD to my iTunes library) is a perfect example of a strong singer being able to rescue a song that tries to let the production get in the way. There’s a lot of mellotron used and on first listen it's a bit distracting, yet Akre’s voice pushes it out of the way and her harmonies and lyrics are all you really can focus on during the song.

“Breathe,” as I mentioned earlier, is the most rocking song on the album. Akre sings over electric guitars; her voice changes tempo and volume from verse to chorus seamlessly as she sings over the loud instrumentation. It’s a moment when you realize that she is, at heart, as much of a rock star as she is a singer/songwriter. The lyrics are not sentimental but understanding (“hey little girl, are you crying because you’ve been broken down? We’ll you’re not the one to blame for all the motherfuckers hanging about, but nothing’s going to change if you don’t go and figure it out”).

Not every song on this record works as well as the ones mentioned above. A couple of songs (“Trafalgar Square” and “Half Shelf Life”) use some artificial sound effects that feel misplaced and divert attention from Akre’s voice – still the most important “instrument” featured on …Last the Evening. Yet, that is largely irrelevant. Carrie Akre has been an important figure in Seattle music for at least the past 15 years and has a large group of adoring fans. This is her strongest and most consistent record. For an artist to put out a record at this stage in her career is certainly admirable; to make one as good overall as this one is nothing short of special.

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Imaginary Scoop Loveless Powerpop Academy Pris

Local band Pris on CSI tonight!

I just got an email from Burke Thomas of longstanding Seattle band Pris, letting us know that an instrumental version of one of his, "The Assassin," will be featured on CSI:New York tonight!

He writes:

Pretty sweet to slide onto a show like this as an indie. It's an instrumental version of a new tune.

It's in some sort of Lab sequence…  maybe halfway through the show.

The song isn't on Pris' latest release (on Japanese label Powerpop Academy), but Thomas says he might make it available as a bonus EP shortly, either on Powerpop Academy or his local label, Loveless.

Congrats, Pris!

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Loveless Record Review Tom Brosseau

What I Mean To Say Is Goodbye

He's not quite thirty. He's lived in this town forever, it seems. He walked in on his best friend making love to his sweetheart. His mother and father lost the farm, but he had to stay in town to watch it go to some other family while helping out at the garage. He's still thankful to have the moonlight, though, when he walks home from work, and that makes him thankful. When he sits out on the big rock at the end of the yard in the small house in-town now and plays and sings for his friends, they know he would have been a star before rock and roll, before the atomic bomb, before his best friend made love to his sweetheart in their bed.

North Dakota native Tom Brosseau is twenty-eight years old and he has created a completely convincing persona based on the light, melancholy songs about busted boomtowns and hard times and flying away that five decades ago would find their ways to Nashville somehow. He plays shows often with artists like Aimee Mann and John Doe, and sounds as similar to them as they do to each other. It's "That Feel," as Waits said, the feeling of a vagabond's heart directing the fingers on the steel strings.

There is an unsettling sense that it is not a persona. Sam Jones, who directed Wilco's I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, has produced these twelve barely adorned songs exquisitely, letting Brosseau's magical voice be the center, though it is the singing of the too-smart wallflower boy in the corner.

I don't know how it ended up in Seattle on the Loveless label, but that was sure a keen idea of its owners (including John Richards) to release it. It's not alternative anything, it can't be simply categorized as country music — it is pure song in a quiet place, pure storytelling about heartache and how that makes life kind of special too.

The names of the additional players startle: The strings of Nickel Creek's Gabe Witcher and Sarah Wilkins gently kiss the delicate palette, while the keyboards of Benmont Tench (Tom Petty) and the brushes and snare of Pete Thomas (E. Costello) can barely be noticed. This is a good and bad thing. Though the hushed focus on Brousseau's voice sets a great mood for the whole album as a piece, Angela Correa comes along the prairie to sing the dark spiritual "In My Time Of Dyin'" — and her conspicuous presence makes one wish there were a little more diversity in the textures, tempos, and arrangements. And yet that somehow seems like a stupid thing to ask for, this being the hick-Zen sound-sanctuary that it is.

This album gets such a high rating for being so original, so consistent, and for having one of the best songs of the year, a gorgeous Hank Williams betrayal baying, "That's When Your Heartache Begins."

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Loveless Record Review The Ruby Doe

Always With Wings

The Ruby Doe, hailing from Seattle and on local label Loveless Records, have just entered a new realm of their career: the 'great record' stage.

Always With Wings is the third release by this three-piece post-punk/rock outfit and it abounds with full-throttle guitar rock — jagged, raw and teeming with machismo. The thumping drums (Joshua Gabriel) and bass (Jesse Roberts), the sweet guitar licks (Aaron Ellh) and the shouty yet melodic gritty vocals (all three band members) will make fans of DC punk as well as catchy riffs happy. From start to finish, Always With Wings slugs out one sonic assault after the next. One could fuel an entire army for weeks on sh*# this heavy.

Not since Murder City Devils represented our fair city have we had such an accessible, loud, gut-punch rock band to call our own.

"Red Letters," a song that got airplay on some local stations when released as part of an EP of the same name, is a melodious yet rocking ditty in the guise of a three-minute pop song. "Entry Point Exit Wound" opens with a red-hot riff on repeat that pulses through the track into an anthemic chorus; when the keys come in to echo the lick, the song is all the more aurally pleasing. And the album’s title track is enormously epic — so much so that when I checked the time passed on my iPod, I was shocked to discover the track lasts only 4:30.

The production on Always With Wings is what will likely bring The Ruby Doe’s music to the masses; without the chorale of vocal tracks on "Black Spots," for example, the song wouldn't be as appealing across the board. But John Goodmanson (producer) and Kip Bellman (engineer), along with the band, balance just enough raw energy with polish to make Always With Wings possibly (hopefully) attractive to a larger audience. This is not to say the band has lost its punk cred. The album, despite its poppy tendencies, still packs enough explosion to rival a cord of M-80s.

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Jonny Polonsky Loveless Record Review

The Power of Sound

t's been eight years since singer-guitarist Jonny Polonski released his much-acclaimed debut, Hi, My Name is Jonny. Rick Rubin of American Records produced that full-length, and while not widely popular on the mainstream front, the album still had a huge following with music fans and insiders. No suprise as Polonsky was discovered Frank Black, and he was duly praised by Jeff Buckley, who called him "the great Jonny Polonsky" in an interview.

Polonsky, rooted in gliding, engine-cranked rock, is sort of your Matthew Sweet meets Frank Black meets Dave Grohl kind of songwriter. His songs feature thickly layered raspy vocals with poppy hooks and a heavy threshold for guitars (i.e., amps are at 11), infused with psychedelia and hard rock in pleasing proportions.

Now here comes Jonny again with The Power of Sound, his first full-length album in eight years. The record, released on Loveless Records, is a kicker, full of decent power pop tunes. Even with its strong vein of Foo Fighters throughout, it is not incredibly consistent from song to song. Regardless, it's a solid enough effort to kick the prodigal living piss out of some of the other crappy modern power-pop rock out there.

Leading off with the catchy "Let Me Out", Jonny stirs his audience, priming them for a rocking good time. But then he immediately switches gears with the darker, dreamy, more melancholic ballad in disguise "Even the Oxen." The two songs juxtapose harsh versus hushed, indicative of the dueling sounds that Polonsky explores throughout "The Power of Sound."

"Where the Signs End" sounds like a lost track off Melancholy and the Infinite Sadness (Smashing Pumpkins), Polonsky's voice near-perfectly replicating Billy Corgan's howl atop a churning and chugging guitar assault — but all the while a melody still sneaks in, weaving joyful pop chord progressions throughout the otherwise aggressive mix.

There are some odd moments. The otherwise likable "Shitstorm" concludes with a suspiciously mid-80s wailing sax solo, and on "My Secret Life" Polonsky's vocals get a bit Courtney Love on us: so many vocal tracks you wonder if they were literally phoned in, the phone-line static later covered up in post-production. But then comes in a stellar guitar solo to right "My Secret Life."

"Calling All Babies" is a highlight on The Power of Sound, the lush, feel-good power rock swelling to an epic, booming rock number worthy of lots of mainstream radio airplay.

It's good to have Jonny back. Maybe next time he won't put nearly a decade between full-length albums, taking the great moments from The Power of Sound and expanding on them for his next record.

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Interview Jonny Polonsky Loveless

Catching Up with Jonny Polonsky

Recently signed to Loveless Records, Jonny Polonsky, brings his catchy yet tricky pop legacy to the stellar label with an indie rock blackheart. Jonny and imaginary girl Liz recently pummelled each other with emails and exchanged ideas on the indie rock musicals and Jonny's past, present, and future.


TIG: What is your favorite kind of coffee beverage?

Jonny: Today I enjoyed an iced coffee. They shake it up and I don't know what it does, but it does something delicious.

TIG: I love iced coffee!* Where do you get such a beverage?

Jonny: Starbucks. When I have time, I like to go to Felix's, an old Cuban restaurant near my house, and get jacked up on 500 cups of espresso.

TIG: Ah, the power of espresso!!! Speaking of enjoying the extreme, you've been described as an "obsessed rock and roll fan." Tell me about your first musical obsession. Does that 'first love' still affect you today?

Jonny: My earliest musical memory is of listening to "She Loves You" over and over and over on my portable record player with built in speakers. I remember my mom yelling at me from the bottom of the stairs that I had to go to school, but I just wanted to listen to the song one more time.

I still get excited about music but not in the same way. It seems like when you're young, you can really get lost in a record for months or years. I dunno, maybe that's just what it feels like cuz time moves so slowly when you're a kid. Now, I listen to a lot of different stuff and every once in awhile get obsessive about certain records. Like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs record (Fever to Tell), the Burning Brides first record, any of the Queens of the Stone Age, No. 4 by Stone Temple Pilots. Old favorites that keep inspiring me: Trompe Le Monde by the Pixies (actually all of their records, but this one is my favorite), Lust For LifeThe Idiot and by Iggy Pop, the Pretenders' first two records.

TIG: And your newest record, it has been released on a Seattle label, the super-fine Loveless Records. Why did you decide to sign with them?

Jonny They had the most money to put into promoting the record. I don't care so much about getting an advance to live off of, I just want the record to get out in the world and try to make some friends. Or get into some fistfights and make some enemies, just as long as it gets out of the house once in awhile.

TIG: There were nearly eight years between the release of your debut album, Hi My Name is Jonny and its follow-up, The Power of Sound (released 9/21/04). Were you working on the album that whole time?

Jonny: I never stopped writing or recording songs. For awhile I stopped trying to find a record label to release my records. It got really boring real fast. Plus, how long can you hear 'no' from people with bad taste and questionable haircuts, without wanting to chop off your own head and swing it around the room?

I did a bunch of stuff in the interim. I don't even know what that word means…I played guitar in Local H for a few of their tours, played guitar and keyboards (with my band) in the stage production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, played guitar for Tony Hawk's Boom Boom Huck Jam tour last year. I recorded The Power of Sound on and off for about three years.

TIG: We recently had a stage production of Hedwig here in Seattle. It was incredible! Do you usually enjoy musicals, and think of your albums as a cohesive story, with songs representing different acts?

Jonny: I used to play in the pit band in high school and we did a lot of musicals. I always hated them passionately (or it could have just been the whole 'thespian' vibe—too many fake happy people with far too much false enthusiasm for anything. "Ron, that was the most AMAZING bowel movement EVER! I can't believe your turd actually sprouted wings and flew off into the ether!") But by the end of the three week run, I would realize that there were a lot of great songs from a lot of these musicals—Grease, Brigadoon, Fast Times at Ridgmont High, I Thought You Were Dead Donald Pleasance, Donald Pleasance…(My high school was very progressive)…

I don't think of making records in theatrical or cinematic terms. I just like it to sound good all the way through, and not have any parts that I would want to skip through.

TIG: So one could think of your albums as more of a mix cd or compilation of several different moments in time?

Jonny: I guess I would think of it more like a buffet. A buffet with only ten items, and you get thrown out after 20 minutes.

TIG: Do you think of music / albums / situations in terms of musicals? For example, I've decided that the lead singer of Delays should play the lead in Harry Potter, the musical… you know.. whenever they get around to doing it…

Jonny: Hon, what's the musicals? You might be looking for Mandy Patinkin–you got the Polonsk here.

POLONSKY'S TOP FIVE MUSICALS THAT NEED TO BE

5. My Dinner With Andre starring Ol' Dirty Bastard and Chip Z'Nuff
4. The Big Chill starring Fishbone
3. Alien starring Leonard Cohen
2. The Three Amigos starring ZZ Top
1. Schindler's List starring Tom Petty

TIG: AWESOME!!!! I will start looking for investors. After all, The Producers is so 2002. I can see the Three Amigos musical incorporating rollerskates or monster trucks. The masses would surely come out for that! Viva la musical!!!!

Jonny: BONUS MUSICAL
Thelma and Louise starring RuPaul and Stephen Hawking

TIG: THANKS!

Jonny: You got it baby!

TIG: Hey, igDana and igChar… JONNY CALLED ME 'BABY' !!! Did you note his exquisite curly hair and long eye lashes?

*note to those who want to buy me a coffee beverage, I'll take an iced coffee with half coffee and half soy milk any day of the week or season of the year.