A blog for Seattle music lovers of all stripes, from hip-hop and indie rock to jazz and world music.
December 5, 2013 at 12:00 PM
“Not to sound conceited,” says El Ten Eleven’s Kristian Dunn, “but there’s no one for us to look up to when it comes to instrumentals and looping. We’re the kings.”
Such swagger may seem surprising coming from a guy who writes cerebral, chilled-out songs with no words — but there’s validity to Dunn’s claims. The Los Angeles duo, which performs live at Neumos Friday, has never followed the fleet. (more…)
December 4, 2013 at 10:19 AM
It was cold, crisp and clear Tuesday afternoon as concertgoers lined up outside KeyArena for Deck the Hall Ball. But indoors it was snowing.
The snow was fake, or course, and confined to a giant video screen. But the flurries were just enough to lend a holiday vibe to 107.7 The End’s annual year-end concert, which featured such hot alternative-rock acts as Vampire Weekend, Phoenix, Alt-J and Seattle’s new-folk darlings, The Head and the Heart.
Seattle station KNDD has been staging its Deck the Hall Ball for more than 20 years as a well-stocked concert marathon for faithful listeners. This year’s holiday-themed concert also provided bands with a chance to thank the station, as well as fans, for their support.
The thank-yous came in the form of tight, spirited sets showcasing the bands’ best music. There were no shoe-gazers in this energetic lineup.
December 3, 2013 at 9:56 AM
Britney Spears, ‘Britney Jean’ (RCA/Sony)
Fourteen years ago, Britney Spears sashayed onto the worldwide pop stage as a teen idol, and now is improbably making excellent albums as an adult. She works around her thin voice with production tricks and odd pronunciations (she was always more of a dancer than a singer). She has pulled back from her well-documented drug troubles. She is holding herself together.
“Britney Jean” continues her trend of highly digitized, android-esque pop, though its songs are sadder, more personal, and less sexy than on the oblivion-seeking “Femme Fatale” (2011). The album’s highlight is “Alien,” galloping electronica that is restrained yet heavy, where Britney tattoos the chorus of “not alone / not alone / not alone” until it becomes a mantra, as if she’s trying to internalize it.
The rest of the songs go from hip-hop (“Tik Tik Boom”) to exercise anthems (“Work Bitch”). A song with sister Jamie Lynn (“Chillin’ With You”), in which Britney sings about red wine and Lynn sings about white, adds a personal feel. All in all, it’s a gleaming, bittersweet pop experience.
Other new releases
Cher, “The Lowdown” (Chrome Dreams)
Jake Owen, “Days of Gold” (Sony Nashville/RCA)
Ben Allison, “The Stars Look Very Different Today” (Sonic Camera Records)
November 29, 2013 at 5:17 AM
Seattle’s longest-running alternative-rock station — 107.7 The End — has been putting on big holiday concerts for more than 20 years, showcasing a who’s who of modern rock.
The station’s 21st annual Deck the Hall Ball features perhaps the most international lineup in the event’s history with Vampire Weekend (New York); Phoenix (France); The Head and the Heart (Seattle); Alt J, Arctic Monkeys and Foals (England); Lorde (New Zealand) and Chvrches (Scotland). Chvrches replaces Tame Impala of Australia.
November 22, 2013 at 7:30 AM
By Andrew Gospe
Special to The Seattle Times
It’s only taken Odesza 18 months to achieve the kind of stature that takes most musicians years.
Clayton Knight and Harrison Mills started playing together in spring 2012, the end of their senior years at Western Washington University. Each had been making electronic music independently, but they immediately meshed. Their individual styles — futuristic sample-based beats for Mills and gauzy, bass-centric dance music for Knight — formed the basis of Odesza’s sound.
That August they released the self-produced, full-length album “Summer’s Gone,” which quickly gained acclaim on the Internet. Tours with Northwest electronic acts Beat Connection and Emancipator soon followed, as did spots on the summer music-festival circuit in 2013, including Sasquatch! and Capitol Hill Block Party.
Now they’re playing the biggest shows of their brief career: a string of arena dates opening for big-name producer Pretty Lights, which hits the ShoWare Center in Kent Friday.
“This whole year has been a giant blur,” Mills said.
Knight attributes the duo’s rapid rise — and its ability to get noticed amid the vast sea of self-released electronic music on the Internet — to hard work.
“I think it has to do with a lot of luck, knowing people and working our asses off,” he said. “Right when we released ‘Summer’s Gone,’ we spent three weeks, probably 12 or 15 hours a day, just emailing as many people as we could. We’ve been on the grind ever since.”
This work ethic extends to the studio. On “My Friends Never Die,” an EP released in September, their production skills make a huge jump. The pair says it spent hours watching YouTube videos and reading articles about production techniques. It shows: Everything sounds clearer and fuller, and, crucial for a group that now plays arena-sized stages, the drums and bass hit harder.
For its live show, Odesza performs with two MacBooks and MIDI controllers, triggering and modulating individual parts from its songs. Knight primarily handles bass and drums, and Mills controls most of the synthesizers and melodies.
The latter are typically sampled vocals, chopped up and warped into a new, semi-recognizable context; “Without You,” from their new EP, flips a prominent sample of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” into an ebullient, helium-voiced reverie.
Pretty Lights now tours with a full band, and though Mills and Knight say they have no such plans in the near future, they’ve entertained the idea of incorporating live drums and keyboards.
“With where we are right now, as opening acts, you don’t have a lot of time to soundcheck,” Mills said. “We like to keep things as portable as possible.”
If Odesza stays on its current trajectory, however, it won’t be an opening act much longer.
7:30 p.m. Friday, ShoWare Center, 625 W. James St., Kent; $32.75-$35 (866-973-9613 or www.ShoWareCenter.com).
Andrew Gospe: @gospea
November 22, 2013 at 5:26 AM
Influential rocker Trent Reznor has made a long-awaited comeback after five years away from the public eye. The industrial-rock phenomenon of the 1990s and early 2000s went underground a few years ago, but he finally ended his long hiatus in September with the release of “Hesitation Marks,” a new Columbia Records album featuring the single “Came Back Haunted.”
Recorded in secret, “Hesitation Marks” represents a triumphant return for the celebrated musician, backed by his current band, including Alessandro Cortini, Josh Eustis, Robin Finck, Lisa Fischer, Sharlotte Gibson, Pino Palladino and Ilan Rubin. The album, Nine Inch Nail’s first in five years, made its debut at No. 1 on Billboard’s Alternative Albums and Top Rock Albums charts and drew raves from Rolling Stone.
The Grammy-winning band has sold more than 30 million albums since its debut. In 1997, Reznor landed on Time magazine’s list of the most influential people of the year, and in 2004 NIN was ranked at No. 94 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 greatest artists of all time.
Reznor, who founded Nine Inch Nails in 1988 in Cleveland, launched NIN’s current trek, “Tension 2013,” in late September. The brutally loud, two-hour program reportedly features a dazzling light show exceeding any of NIN’s past spectacles, and the music is characterized by dark themes and complex instrumentation. Explosions in the Sky opens the Seattle show.
Nine Inch Nails
8 p.m. Friday at KeyArena, 305 Harrison St., Seattle Center; $39.50-$99.50 (800-745-3000 and ticketmaster.com).
October 25, 2013 at 5:00 AM
Soul singer and dancer Janelle Monáe — who danced on David Letterman’s desk during a recent appearance on his late-night CBS-TV show — brings her “Electric Lady Tour” to Seattle Wednesday (with soul singer and producer Roman GianArthur.
The tour follows the release of her most successful album to date, “The Electric Lady,” which made its debut at No. 5 on The Billboard 200 album chart last month. The album — featuring collaborations with Miguel, Solange, Erykah Badu, Esperanza Spalding and Prince, her longtime hero (on the song “Givin Em What They Love” — is an explosive collection of R&B, funk, soul, jazz, disco and “rebel rap.”
Monáe has since received five Soul Train award nominations and landed on the covers of Billboard, Vibe, Elle Canada, The Fly and Vibe Vixen. Her touring show features such songs as “Primetime,” “Dance Apocalyptic,” “Dorothy Dandridge Eyes” (one of several songs on the album paying tribute to Monáe’s female idols), “Q.U.E.E.N.” and the new album’s title song.
9 p.m. Wednesday, Showbox SoDo, 1700 First Ave. S.; $25.50-$27 (888-929-7849 or axs.com).
October 24, 2013 at 3:22 PM
Now in its 17th year, FreakNight is Seattle’s premiere, Halloween-themed, electronic dance music party. Dubbed a “sinister circus” and a “creepy carnival,” the marathon, two-day event at WaMu Theater includes more than 50 EDM acts at indoor venues Twisted Big Top, Midway of Mayhem and Bass Asylum. Big names from the world of EDM include Afrojack, Dieselboy, Benny Benassi, Infected Mushroom, Baauer, Dash Berlin, Dillon Francis, Cosmic Gate and Alvin Risk. (more…)
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