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Casiotone for the Painfully Alone – Etiquette

Mount St. Helens, the north face, taken from Johnston Ridge

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone (CFTPA)’s “Etiquette” is like a short story collection, specifically like one that covers the day-to-day granular mental transactions and emotional events of young people living in the city. Although at first blush that mind sound annoying or supremely trite and goofy, the lyrics on the album are fascinating and pretty great—Owen Ashworth is a believer in the effect and still-powerful power of rhyme. This, from “New Year’s Kiss,” is a wonderful scene in a handful of lines: “Not the way that you’d imagined it/on a balcony with champagne lips/but in a pantry against the pancake mix/you had your New Year’s kiss.” Like a Belle & Sebastian character wandering into a Magnetic Fields track. All of “Etiquette” has moments like that—carefully observed and deftly expressed, sent out through the delivery systems of sweet, brief songs.

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Collections of Colonies of Bees – Hawaii

Very small guitars, micro-guitars, playing in a stuttering rhythm. Voices emerge and dissipate. Someone comes in and plays a tight little riff, a pocket riff. Damn. Two people enter from stage right. They're speaking tenderness to each other, face to face. They start marching place, this is where the story takes off, you know. They're like, "You got it right, dark with the night." Everything bops along for a minute; the song is powered by guitar strums. Then it collapses into exhalation, percussion, tones, breaking down into vapors, atmosphere.

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Tancred – Nightstand

Kalaloch Beach Driftwood

Tancred's new album, "Nightstand," was informed, in part, by Jess Abbott's need to connect with people. During the time she was writing the album, she was reading, getting into different activities, and connecting with people, in an effort, she said, to "figure out what it really meant to be alive." Something about this reminded me immediately of David Hume and his "A Treatise of Human Nature," towards the end of which he remarks on the fact that doing philosophy often makes him sad as hell and the only thing that cheers him up again is going out to eat, or going to play backgammon with his friends so he can chop it up with them. You can kind of hear this vibe in "Nightstand" and in songs like "Something Else," where Abbott is celebrating how much fun, how energizing and invigorating it is to encounter someone in the world who lights up those pleasure centers in your brain. Musically, the song feels like a long-lost cousin of a 90s rocker, like a Breeders B-side, maybe, tons of fuzz, guitar-forward, blazing. "Nightstand" is a good time.

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Smerz – Have Fun EP

Hoh Rainforest ferns

Smerz opened for Mount Kimbie on a recent U.S. tour, and I saw them in Seattle. I didn’t know what to expect, but they were incredible. Heavy beats and crazy soundcraft paired with Catherina Stoltenberg’s and Henriette Motzfeldt’s vocals, which range from a sort of dead-eyed monotone to tender singing to sharp-edged taunting. Their songs were so unpredictable and lively, morphing every couple seconds into a new phase, a different vibe. Their EP, “Have Fun,” is a great representation of their skills: the songs float and change directions in such interesting ways, and it feels like, within each song, any kind of music could emerge—long drones, early Junior Boys-style beat programming, ambient chanting, etc. It’s thrilling.

(Mount Kimbie were also fantastic—I’d never seen them before and they played a lot of stuff from “Love What Survives,” one of the best albums from last year, along with deep cuts (and shallow cuts?) from their whole discography. They have much more of a ‘band’ setup than I would’ve expected, which drove home again how “Love What Survives” reminded me obliquely of UK post-punk albums like The Sound’s “Jeopardy”)

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