The best new music format concept, bar none
The best new music format concept, bar none Dave Segal

In 34 years of music criticism, I don’t think I’ve ever received a bar of soap in the mail—until this month. Seattle quartet Corespondents included the hygiene-enhancer with a download code for their latest album, Alternative Countries. It came wrapped in a handwritten note in which the band’s guitarist/Dan Bao player Kieran Harrison-Buhlinger explained why they sent this unconventional package. “Todd [Arney], the drummer, is a jabonero; has a stand down at Pike Place, and it just felt right as a medium.” And it smells nice, too. He says Corespondents will release a vinyl version of the record in the fall.

Alternative Countries is one of those rare rock albums that smoothly fuse elements of surf, Southeast Asian folk, reflective Ennio Morricone soundtrackage, oddly tuned, corkscrewing art rock, and dusty psychedelia. The playing’s excellent without being showboat-y, and for the first time in their 14-year career, Corespondents deploy vocals, with psych-pop veteran Gabriel Mintz lending melodious highlights to a handful of songs. If you dig the mighty Diminished Men and Ben Von Wildenhaus, you should love Corespondents, too.

Corespondents' scheduled show tonight at the Tractor Tavern, opening for the amazing Thai ensemble, Khun Narin's Electric Phin Band, has been cancelled due to visa problems for the latter. However, Corespondents will play the Blue Moon Tavern September 7 with the Mexican groups Kulkulkan, Arango, and Lemat.