Sunday, July 10, 2011

From 638 to Slumberland

Visqueen, Message to Garcia, Local 638 Records

"Three parts punk attitude, two parts pop hookiness, and one part '70s rock swagger."
-- Mark Deming, All Music Guide

I was a big fan of the first Visqueen album, 2003's King Me, and
remain convinced that guitarist/front woman Rachel Flotard,
who runs Local 638 Records, is Robin Zander's long-lost cousin
(I wasn't as crazy about 2004 successor Sunset on Dateland).

Like Cheap Trick's Zander, she has the definitive power-
pop voice. Flotard can scream, shout, and work it on out, but
there's a certain non-saccharine sweetness she just can't lose.

She's the yang to friend Neko Case's yin, and even sounds a lit-
tle like her redheaded doppelgänger on the country-oriented
"Beautiful Amnesia" (Case adds vocals to five of the 11 songs).

Message to Garcia isn't just a fine showcase for the skills
of Flotard and drummer Ben Hooker, but offers the kind of
wide-ranging pop-rock--a little bit country, a little bit rock
and roll--I wish Cheap Trick was still making. If you're just
as nostalgic for the halcyon days of "Surrender" and "I Want
You to Want Me," Visqueen's third has your name all over it.

Click here for my AMG bio.

Brilliant Colors, Again and Again, Slumberland Records

On their follow-up to 2009's Introducing, Brilliant Colors con-
jure up a familiar brand of jangle-pop, which does little for me, but
your mileage may vary, especially if you're into Seattle's Seapony
or Brooklyn-based label mates Pains of Being Pure at Heart.

As Margaret Reges has written, "At their weakest, they are oddly
forgettable; there really isn't one memorable track on Introduc-
, and it's puzzling." I feel the same about Again and Again.

When it comes to Slumberland, I prefer Belfast's Girls Names, who
pursue a darker muse than their other acts. That said, I give this
Bay Area trio credit for playing engagements with the inimitable
Swiftumz, who has a forthcoming full-length on Holy Mountain.

Star Anna & the Laughing Dogs, Alone in
This Together
, Local 638 Records

Click here for "Alone
in This Together."

Seattle's Star Anna of-
fers full-throated, heart-
on-sleeve alt-country.

Her third record is in
the torchy vein of Ne-
ko Case
, but without
the noir overtones.

Pearl Jam guitarist
Mike McCready plays
on "Time," "Wolves in
Disguises," and the an-
themic title track.

9/1/11 update: Star Anna plays Summer Concert at Hia-
wath in West Seattle on
9/1 and the Triple Door on 9/8.

Street Eaters, Rusty Eyes and Hydro-
carbons, Bakery Outlet Records

Click here for "Nation Builder."

I listened to Rusty Eyes once, and couldn't think of anything to
say, so I listened several times more. There's nothing particular-
ly off-putting or incompetent about Bay Area duo Megan March
(drums, vocals) and John No (bass vocals). I just can't connect
with some acts no matter how hard I try. All originals, except
for a punk-pop take on Jefferson Airplane's "Two Heads."

Rusty Willoughby, Cobirds Unite, Local 638 Records

Former Pure Joy and Flop leader Rusty Willoughby takes a
gentler tack on Cobirds Unite, a baroque-folk enterprise. The
Seattle singer/songwriter's warm, conversational tone hasn't
changed over the years, and remains his strongest suit (in the
credits, he also assumes authorship of "presumptousness").

"Find a Way Home," which combines reverb, hand claps, and
harmony vocals from Visqueen's Rachel Flotard, represents
the highlight of this solid 12-song set, which includes tasteful
covers of Dan Penn and Chips Moman's "Do Right Woman
(Do Right Man)" and Bobby Bare's "Streets of Baltimore."

Endnote: For more information about Vis-
, please click here; for Street Eaters, here.
Flotard and Hooker image from Land's End Canvas.

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