recommended recommended 1/2

In 1918, German philosopher Oswald Spengler finished writing The Decline of the West, a study of the decadent, winter years of Western civilization. In 1981, American director Penelope Spheeris released The Decline of Western Civilization, a snapshot of the Germs, Fear, and the fury of the Los Angeles punk scene. In 2008, a label from London (1965) and a label from Seattle (Antarctic) release Decline of the Pacific Northwest, which owes a debt in title and in spirit to both Spengler and Spheeris.

Decline of the Pacific Northwest is four vinyl singles from four Seattle bands—the King's English, the Knast, Emeralds, and Holy Ghost Revival—and a snapshot of a new local music culture. Decline's bands are moving away from let's-play-make-believe preciousness (for example, the Decemberists) and away from anemic, flaccid indie rock (for example, Death Cab for Cutie).

Decline is born of a fiercer, heavier spirit. All four of its bands begin with a foundation of aggressive rock 'n' roll—you can hear the heavy metal in their record collections—and embellish from there. The King's English are the pop representative of the group, all hand claps and quick, tight guitars, with keyboards giving the choruses a soaring quality. The Knast are also a pop rock 'n' roll band, but with more angst and urgency, particularly in the vocals. The pleading chorus of "Best Laid Plans," with the background harmonies and smashing cymbals, are the catchiest seconds on Decline. But the most memorable minutes belong to Emeralds, the darkest and druggiest of the quartet. Emeralds play six-minute mini-epics with thick organ chords, Southern-rock guitar solos, and throaty howls. They bring the ballast.

The Decline singles are debut releases for all three of the above bands. Let us pass over Holy Ghost Revival, the fourth, in silence: both because my brother, Conor Kiley, is the group's leader and songwriter, and because their two songs—"Girls Night Out" and "Angel of Death"—are not Holy Ghost's strongest work. (Sorry, brother.) Nevertheless, Decline is an indispensable introduction to a new Northwest: one that gnashes its teeth, wears its hair long, and dances on the grave of old-guard indie pop—the weak, decadent sounds of a dying era.