Magik Markers, Sic Alps, AFCGT, Story of Rats
(Chop Suey) Seattle supergroup on the down low AFCGT (A Frames + Climax Golden Twins, if you're new to the underground) have a self-titled album coming out on Sub Pop in late January. Two intense listens to it have tarred and feathered my ganglia with its tumultuous noise-rock eruptions and disorienting, marrow-chilling atmospheres. These savvy vets can caustically leverage blowouts that could please Lightning Bolt fans, but they can just as craftily ooze out horror-flick ambience and twisted exotica that exist in their own demented spheres (see LP highlights "Nacht" and "Reasonably Nautical"). Sure, come for skillful out-of-town tunebenders Magik Markers and Sic Alps, but arrive early for local ear-venom dispensers AFCGT and Story of Rats. DAVE SEGAL See also Stranger Suggests.
Pillow Army, M. Bison, Jubilee, Skeletons with Flesh on Them
(Sunset) Ordinarily, when you put the word "army" into a rock-and-roll band name, it's ironic. But it's hard to listen to Pillow Army without imagining an army of musicians taking to the streets in celebration. Their sound (full of cellos and other string instruments and electric guitars and a hand-clapping chorus of dozens) is so big and so full of joyousness that an image of happy warriors is inescapable. The percussion leads you along like a parade beat—you can't listen to "You're Not Here Anymore" without wanting to march, and hug, and sing along—and their anthems are (I can't believe I'm saying this) actually meaningfully uplifting. Seriously. And not in a sloppy, sentimental Precious Moments kind of way. Sign me up for this army. PAUL CONSTANT
Lisa Dank, Sap'N, Dev from Above
(Nectar) Lisa Dank is that feisty little white chick dancing as if her life depended on it at hiphop/dance shows around town. But unknown to some, she's grinding out some sexed-up, sweated-through dance-floor tracks, coolly cooing of the magnetic power of her "Lazer Dome." Her MySpace page boasts some cool tracks, such as the aforementioned ode to oral sex (I think) and the THEESatisfaction/Onry Ozzborn–featuring "Diamonds & Gold," but it's "Ride" that I particularly dig, as she sings over a classic Mac Dre track. Her brand of Buenos-Aires-by-way-of-the-Bay wig-out, purposefully weird enough to turn off most hiphop heads (performing with a snaking Muppet phallus, complete with balls, strapped to her waist), is still not well executed live, but I'm curious where it'll go, because, man, she really means it. LARRY MIZELL JR.
Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground, the Quiet Ones, Benjamin Bear
(Crocodile) As you most likely know by now, Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground began as the side project of Gatsby's American Dream members Kirk Huffman and Kyle O'Quin that was too big to be labeled a side project. Post-Gatsby's, KKAHWU shows continue to feature up to 17 people onstage banging out the band's orchestral psychedelic pop, and while the band is still working out the official release of their second album (this year's Introducing Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground), they'll happily prove their worth tonight at the Crocodile. Opening the show: sunny popsters the Quiet Ones and high-drama popsters Benjamin Bear. DAVID SCHMADER
Laptop Battle: KFO, WD4D, Red Jeff, Tron Sister, XBEN, Sublo
(Chop Suey) See Data Breaker.
Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band; LAKE; the Beats, Man
(Crocodile) LAKE's recent sophomore album on K Records, Let's Build a Roof, doesn't explore territory much different than that of their debut album, Oh, the Places We'll Go—but this is no bad thing. The Olympia act's well-established sound—twee choral pop with hints of vintage soft rock, not unlike neighbors to the north No Kids—easily stands another go-round, even if nothing here lands quite as sweetly as Places' outstanding "Blue Ocean Blue." The group alternates and combines male and female voices, their singing coy but capable, their harmonies easy and affecting, and the band backs it all up with deft (and squeaky clean, compared to some K releases) arrangements of bass, drums, keys, and guitar. The too-cutesy lyrics of "Winking Sign" are an unusual low point, but otherwise Let's Build a Roof—recorded by sometimes band member Karl Blau—is thoroughly pleasant. ERIC GRANDY See also Stranger Suggests.
BOAT, the Exploding High Fives, Concours d'Elegance
(Sunset) On paper—say, when editing a story about them—BOAT read a lot like one of my favorite Seattle bands, Throw Me the Statue: They're book-smart, indie pop rockers armed with glockenspiels; they're beloved by Christopher Frizzelle; they seem like really nice guys. And yet, I'm not quite on board with these guys (get it?!). Where TMTS go for the inscrutable lyric and the subtle hook, BOAT go for unambiguous goofiness and sincerity and big, catchy, confetti-canon choruses. Not necessarily bad things, but BOAT's jokey songs strike me as too often "clever" rather than, you know, actually clever, their guitar windmilling as just a little too stock. Delightfully mismatched openers Concours d'Elegance make synth pop that sounds like Junior Boys' frosty electro soul heated up with an unrepentantly '80s-vintage hair dryer. ERIC GRANDY
Khingz, Okanomodé, Helladope, Mikaela Romero, GodSpeed, Black Aries, Hi-Life Sound System
(Nectar) Khingz is the embodiment of that oft-quoted Posdnuos line from De La Soul's had-it-up-to-here classic Stakes Is High: "Fuck being hard, Posdnuos is complicated!" A Sao Fend (South End to you) born-and-raised former Crip, feared battle MC, so-called conscious rapper, skater, self-professed manga/comix nerd, clotheshorse, and nomad (he now calls Vancouver, BC, home and has soaked up game from stints in the Bay Area, Brooklyn, and beyond), the MC once known as Khalil Crisis is a study in how to flout expectations. Peep his work as part of Abyssinian Creole and solo—such as his stellar From Slaveships to Spaceships or the new Coldhearted in Cloud City EP—then go see him live, where you'll find him to be a crazy, all-or-nothing riot of a performer, a dark-skinned, dreadlocked power line knocked from the sky and hissing and flailing on the concrete. LARRY MIZELL JR. See also My Philosophy.
The Maldives, Champagne Champagne, Hey Marseilles, Goldfinch
(Neumos) In the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is an island country consisting of 26 atolls running along India's Lakshadweep islands. In Seattle, the Maldives are a Band-loving band consisting of nine guys who play all manner of folk-rock noisemakers (guitars galore plus violin, piano, and banjo), every one of whom sings. Tonight brings the Maldives' annual Christmas show, also featuring performances from art-rockin' hiphoppers Champagne Champagne, orchestral popsters Hey Marseilles, and minimalist folkies Goldfinch. DAVID SCHMADER
No-Fi Soul Rebellion, Lamborghiniz, Sex Panther
(Comet) It's arguable that artists like Bellingham's husband and wife mobile party team No-Fi Soul Rebellion—with their play-anywhere agenda and electronic basis—are holding on to the vestiges of electroclash. Yet I suspect that acts like No-Fi Soul Rebellion are really more inspired by the scrappy idealism of the punk-rock basement-show scene than electronic dance music. Watching this duo, and the broader community of art-school electronic party people, embracing the DIY culture's egalitarian aesthetics (rejecting stages, inciting crowd participation, etc.) while crafting discotheque-ready dance numbers is an interesting turn of events. It's a positive step for dance music and an ironic twist to find the torch carried by people peddling the upbeat enthusiastic booty-shakin' beats the punks used to rail against. BRIAN COOK
Trouble Dicso: Linger & Quiet
(Re-bar) Portland's Linger & Quiet are the Rose City's analogue to our own Trouble Dicso crew: These organizers of the monthly Nightclubbing party at Holocene know their disco history, but they're also omnivorous music heads with ears cocked toward the crème de la crème of other genres, including techno, electro, house, dub, out rock, and African music. Massive props to any DJs who can segue from proto-freak-folkies Pearls Before Swine to German experimental-techno don Thomas Brinkmann, merge King Sunny Ade into Jandek, or blend "Ode to Perfume" by Can bassist Holger Czukay into Dâm Funk's "Sunset." Check out their mixes at www .lingerandquiet.blogspot.com. DAVE SEGAL
Gladiators Eat Fire, 26,000 Volts, Poop Attack, Last American Badass
(Funhouse) First, let's take a moment to enjoy the fact that a band exists that calls itself Poop Attack. POOP ATTACK. But they're not as crappy (ha-ha) as you'd think—this is the kind of punk rock where dudes can't help attempting half-assed circle pits while trying not to spill their beers. Every song is about fighting, drinking, or being hungover, and while they may be uninventive, at least Poop Attack are entertaining. And I think that's a fair expectation for a group that associates itself with feces. If you want something more substantial, though, stick around for Gladiators Eat Fire—they're a local heavy rock band whose hardcore-inspired drumming and piercing guitar riffs are face melting. MEGAN SELING
The Drug Purse, This Blinding Light, Blue Horns
(Sunset) See preview.
Stoked on Christmas: Jenn Ghetto, Tiny Vipers, Your Heart Breaks, others
(Odd Fellows Hall) See Stranger Suggests.
Sky Cries Mary, Hunter, Furniture Girls
(Neumos) Not that you asked, but one of the first shows I ever went to in Seattle of my own volition was a free Sky Cries Mary show in Volunteer Park. Yeah. All I had heard was that weird protozoan hippie-stomp "Every Iceberg Is a Fire" on The End, but it had me strangely obsessed in its incense-ash-stained, crushed-velvet embrace. The show was a trip, people got naked, and the sun totally broke through the cloud cover and beamed down, like specifically, on singer Anisa Romero. The ensuing crush I immediately felt didn't convince me to buy another SCM tape after This Timeless Turning, but I liked that tape all right—still, it couldn't make me forget her husband Roderick Romero's stupid hat. Nonetheless, Seattle coolfolk: Don't hide from your humble, non-hip hippie history, if you got any. LARRY MIZELL JR.
Karl Blau, Jack Wilson & the Wife Stealers, Legendary Oaks, Buffalo Death Beam
(Comet) Zebra is meant to be Karl Blau's reckoning with the musical traditions of Africa or something, but I don't really hear it. What I hear is just a gently grooving lo-fi pop record occasionally buzzing and chirping with little electronic squiggles and consistently focused on Blau's soft-spoken but sonorous singing voice and multitracked harmonies. It's Africa-descended maybe in the sense that the whole human race is Africa-descended, but it's hardly on par with, say, the Dirty Projectors' level of sub-Saharan guitar safariing. Regardless, Blau's been at this singer/songwriter/home-recorder business for a minute now, and it shows on this, one of the prolific artist's best batches of songs yet. ERIC GRANDY
Schoolyard Heroes, These Arms Are Snakes, Kane Hodder, Blood Cells, Sirens Sister
(El Corazón) Last year's Tail Swallower and Dove, the third full-length from Seattle post-hardcore/punk quartet These Arms Are Snakes, is a focused work. Chris Common's minimalist engineering/production lets the musicianship—which is quite impressive—show for itself. As many have mentioned, aspects of Drive Like Jehu and Fugazi factor heavily into TAAS's sound, but word on the street is that frontman Steve Snere threatened to quit his job if made to work during a recent Jesus Lizard show, and I'll be damned if now I don't hear a little bit of David Yow in the man's sometimes gutteral yowl. GRANT BRISSEY See also Underage, and Stranger Suggests.
Rafael Anton Irisarri, Vance Galloway, Kelly Wise
(Chapel Performance Space) Vance Galloway is one of the nation's preeminent sound engineers (he used to hook up audio for Paul Allen, produced releases on San Francisco's Asphodel label, and is currently Decibel Festival's sound guru), and he's a perfectionist with his own music, too. His primary MO involves playing custom-modified guitar to improvise uniquely Galloway-esque minimalist drones that reveal a mind operating on a more sophisticated level than most of his ilk; Galloway's palette simply brims with more interesting tones than others in his field. Drone artists are a dime a dozen these days, but Galloway's expansive tone murals are worth at least a million bucks. Rafael Anton Irisarri conjures rich swirls and wooshes of guitar and keyboard emissions, then meticulously daubs them into neoclassical/shoegaze/IDM compositions of subliminal grandeur. DAVE SEGAL
Robbie Fulks, Jenny Scheinman
(Tractor) See preview.
Midday Veil, Scriptures, Frothing Robot, Airport
(Comet) Structurally, Scriptures' brand of instrumental rock is familiar: the low droney intro, the steam-gathering build that sweeps you up in its momentum, the hard-riffing epic crescendo, the fade to black. We've all heard this before. But some formulas, no matter how flogged, just work—hell, that's why they're so flogged in the first place. Scriptures do this routine with fine style, a good ear for the epic (their songs often clock in at or near the double digits), and even an odd touch of melancholy country twang in their high-soaring guitar lines. Midday Veil are one of Dave Segal's favorite bands in Seattle right now, and for good reason—their stoned, séancing psychedelia transports and transforms with adept analog synth modulation, expansive ambiance, and heavy-lidded invocations. Your higher plane has liftoff. ERIC GRANDY
Jam Jam: DJ Collage, DJ Element
(Baltic Room) Jam Jam's three-and-a-half-year reign at the Baltic Room on Mondays attests to host DJ Collage's tenacity as a promoter and ferocity as a performer. A powerful vocalist who blowtorches pulse-quickening lyrics over dubstep, glitchy hiphop, bhangra, and reggae rhythms, Collage (aka Lawrence Chatman) is one of those hype men whose infectious energy and uplifting words can raise the deadassed. Add his great taste in music and collaborators (Meat Beat Manifesto, Truckasauras, Ghislain Poirier, Delhi 2 Dublin, etc.), and you have an event that can pulverize the Monday night blahs. DAVE SEGAL
(Funhouse) Witchburn immediately make me think of the similarly named Burning Witch. Both bands hail from the Northwest and trace their roots back to Black Sabbath. Yet Burning Witch took Sabbath's dirges to new extremes, threatening to drag their bpm down to single digits and deliberately discarding their forefathers' knack for melody. Witchburn play closer to the template, beefing up their blues and ruthlessly beating their instruments. Frontwoman Jamie Nova (also of all-female AC/DC tribute act Hell's Belles) adds a soulful energy that is generally absent in this scene. In addition, the occasional flourishes of electric viola endow Witchburn with a somber grace. As with Burning Witch, Witchburn's attraction lies in their metal roots, but their strongest assets are found in their deviations from the formula. BRIAN COOK
Aaron Mannino, Low Places
(Comet) Aaron Mannino's songs always hit your ears in a pleasant way: a cockeyed waltz, a lonesome synthesizer beat accompanied by a chorus of Beach Boys–like vocals, a plaintive country guitar lick. You get the sense that he wouldn't want to shy away from Elliott Smith comparisons—at a few points, especially in the song "Wreckage," he sounds eerily similar to Smith, and it can't be by accident—but his own voice and songwriting skills are so compelling that you're willing to forgive the moments of outright hero worship. Listen to "Gemini" with all its late-Beatles weird drama, and you'll get swept in before you even know it. Mannino is naturally seductive, and his songwriting voice is sure and true. PAUL CONSTANT
The Nightgowns, Wallpaper, the Redwood Plan, Skeletons with Flesh on Them, Special Places, Christmas Belles
(Chop Suey) Tonight is local "sparkly indie pop press" Three Imaginary Girls' annual holiday party, and if for some reason you're unfamiliar, the lineup isn't a bad introduction to the site's main bag: local bands that play (more or less) poppy indie rock. (A piddling gripe: "Sparkly" is a terrible adjective unless you're talking about, like, a Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper.) Tacoma's the Nightgowns and Auburn's Wallpaper are worth catching; the former deal in appealingly doleful indie-tronica, the latter spit out sweet wads of bubblegum pop. Less worthy are Skeletons with Flesh on Them's ambitious but thus far middling jangle and the Redwood Plan's overly obvious and rather toothless dance punk (whoever said Gossip fans would love this band severely underestimated the good taste of Beth Ditto–heads.) ERIC GRANDY