John Atkins should be a millionaire. He should have a garage full of cars and a small island in Puget Sound; he should have these things because he is a crucial player on Seattle's deep bench of gifted songwriters. Demonstrated by his time in Hush Harbor, the lauded 764-HERO, and the Magic Magicians, Atkins was here to help perfect the style of rock that defined Seattle's indie aesthetic in the late 1990s, and for this he is entitled to more than praise—he should be crazy rich.
With his current endeavor, the Can't See, my hopeful predictions for Atkins's growing bank account may yet come to pass. Begun in 2005, the Can't See are a collaboration between Atkins, keyboard player Ken Jarvey (of New Luck Toy), and drummer Thomas Wright (of Aveo). The cooperative approach to songwriting the trio adopted bears a strong resemblance to the traditional roots-band format, as they give one another space to to try out an eclectic batch of instruments and textures at will. Elements of blues and ragtime seep into the corners of songs, along with the sounds of breezy '60s pop and '70s prog. It's all held together at the core by Atkins's accomplished songwriting abilities and immediately identifiable voice. His lyrics still pack the same wallop they always have, with a casual poetic brilliance that is extremely easy for the listener to connect to.
The Can't See self-released their limited-edition debut mini-LP, Coma Comma No More, on vinyl almost exactly a year ago, pressing a scant 300 copies (which have long been sold out, though the album is still available electronically as a free download at www.thecantsee.com). But the band assures its growing horde of fans that a new album is likely to appear on shelves later this year. Buy it—Mr. Atkins deserves your money.