This week should go down in the juicy bits of Seattle music history as three very different Seattle bands—Velella Velella, Voyager One, and Slender Means—release excellent new music. And if that sounds like I'm gushing, so be it; the following acts live up to the hype.
Name yourself after a type of jellyfish and oceanic associations will immediately be made about your style. Velella Velella's music offers the serene beauty (with sharp electronic charges) their moniker invokes. Gelling together elements of funk, hiphop, jazz, and electropop, the local act floats in a Technicolor sea of tranquility. Multi-instrumentalists Andrew Means and Michael Burton tag team on live vibraphone, electric piano, tremelo'd guitar, organs, and synthesizers over beats meant to set the lower regions on "sway" while keeping your head in the clouds. "The songs themselves are really about the groove and the tones and the orchestration, etc.," explains Means. "The whole sea thing is just kind of a graphical/environmental lens that we like to give ourselves and the listeners. It's sunny, warm music, with a vintage feel." Check out Velella Velella live at the CD release for the whimsical The Bay of Biscay on Thursday, August 25, at the High Dive.
From the deep sea to outer space: That same night, Voyager One are also marking the release of a new CD, Dissolver, with a show at Neumo's. For fans of Catherine Wheel, Ride, Air's more pensive moments, and instrumental passages to keep your brain in unearthly orbit, Dissolver is one that'll really dilate the pupils. Jeramy Koepping and Peter Marchese have crafted the romantic record of the year, pining away for worlds unknown as shimmering effects flash across walls of magnificent melody. And they've made some major changes to the lineup this time around—the core group is now just the duo, which is how the band originally started. "We always worked best by ourselves, so we returned to that," explains Koepping. "With [2002's] Monster Zero, we had a big push from external forces to be 'marketable,' move units, sound like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, that sort of thing. That just isn't why we started Voyager One. Dissolver got its name from our tearing apart that idea and being free of external forces." He adds that Dissolver is simply "the sound of two guys who mostly agree musically, locked in a room every Sunday for a year, without thinking about who or what is outside that room." The results? Gorgeous is an understatement. Live, Voyager One swell in size to seven members and include work from Projectorhead, who provides visuals that swirl with the music.
Slender Means have an indie-pop grand slam on their hands with the debut album Neon & Ruin. Pulling from Elvis Costello, Cheap Trick, the Strokes, and Supergrass, almost every track is aimed at getting the kids beaming in their headphones all afternoon. There's a definite summer vibe here, in both the elation of the harmonies and the lyrics—where the amore crowding Josh Dawson's (broken, repatched) heart overtakes every song—or nearly every song. "A great pop song is... something with a really strong melody, not obvious and not saccharine sweet, with some pathos, some kind of sadness or anger or longing in it," Dawson explains. To that end, one of Neon's standouts is "Painless Life." It's a witty contemplation on the pill-popping generation where Dawson sings, "God bless the scientists/Redefining happiness/As a 12 hour release tablet/Give, give me the painless life/Take the edges off a serrated knife/I'm never gonna let it get through my skin/Nothing going out nothing coming in." Slender Means' coming-out parties are both on Saturday, August 27—at 3:00 p.m. at the Ballard Sonic Boom and later that night at the Crocodile. (That same night is the completely separate I Sunk Your Battleship booze cruise—where the Saturday Knights and Stabmasterarson are your open-water entertainment.)
New Juju: Neumo's is undergoing a minor facelift in the next couple of weeks. The music venue will partition the back bar into an establishment tentatively called the Juju Back Bar, which will open with familiar décor and neighborhood bartenders around Labor Day weekend. Although this updated booze-swilling space will be connected to the rest of the club, for the most part patrons can also drink there even if they're not attending a show. The Juju lounge will also occasionally host bands and DJs on a new stage with an updated sound system. (The mezzanine area will be remodeled, too, reopening as the Reading Room later this fall.) In related news, the original Bad Juju will have its last call on August 27, when a "wake" for the 11th Avenue watering hole sends the bar out in style—and all its art and furniture over to the new Juju.