A Beautiful List
It is the Winter Solstice and for weeks it’s been holidays full of gratitude, reflections of the year’s events and excitement for the turning of the #NewYear. This time of reflection also means it’s the height of the best-of-year lists and since I’m living a year of Sub Pop, of course I have my list too! But while everybody is pretty familiar with the music-based Top Lists that fill our social media feeds, my list is not the same. Since I would tell you that EVERY piece of music released this year by Sub Pop and Hardly Art was AWESOME, my list has a deeper measure than just music. The “Beautiful List” is about the gratitude I have for the artists, the memories and the meaning that their music has blessed me with this year. I also have “Honorable Mentions” on my list because this year wasn’t just about Sub Pop and Hardly Art for me, but one of musical discovery with my 365 #AnInstrumentADay challenge, my journey playing a different musical instrument every day. The honorable mentions have to do with the people and experiences I’ve had the pleasure to know this year because of musical instruments, and believe me, this was my hardest challenge to date so I’m very grateful for the mentions!
5. Protomartyr, The Agent Intellect. WOW! Just WOW! I grew up with the 80’s bat-cavers and the 70’s punk-rockers and Protomartyr just nailed both of them in one fell swoop and then added a Sriracha kick in the ass to top it off! I literally lived my dark and stormy Fall and Halloween in Protomartyr’s shadowy vinyl swirl, so much so that I made their album my Halloween costume! Their hauntingly erotic sounds just screamed Phantom of the Opera to me and I embodied the face of David for 48 hours straight, no joke. This is a band that I never had on my radar before, but their musical “face” is now permanently engraved into my Fall-moody playlist for many years to come!
4. TheeSatisfaction, EarthEE. I wasn’t sure about the album at first, but DAYUM the more I got to understand these two women, the more they earned my mad RESPECT! Their advocacy voices, their artistry support and their Black Weirdo parties are like a who’s who of history-making MF’s, and I’m not even playing. I was even blessed this year to pick up a great Bettie Brown necklace at the Sub Pop store (made by Cat)! Besides “Stas” last name is the same as my older son’s… so she gets naming props.
3. Chastity Belt, Time To Go Home. What can I say? These women ROCK on SO MANY levels! I’ve had the pleasure of not only catching Chastity Belt play in Seattle twice but I also seen them up close and personal at a converted Yoga studio at SXSW. But if the fact that #CoolSlut is now permanently knifed into every female bathroom stall in Seattle wasn’t enough, Chastity Belt’s Julia Shapiro also rocks the Politically INcorrect and in-your-face group Childbirth too! When you hear that something is happening in Seattle since the 90’s, I am straight up telling you it’s probably centered around Hardly Art and their serious dynamos in female form. FYI, Julia is at the top of that heap of radical. If you thought you loved the whole RiotGrl thing in the 90’s… hang up your Portlandia episodes and don a pair of Doc Martins again because being a woman has FINALLY arrived! Serious props to these fellow women letting their fuck-flags FLY!
2. Father John Misty, I Love You Honeybear. What can I say? FJM is a fucking music GOD, period. Seattle was lucky to have KEXP put together a very intimate concert with the performer at the Columbia City Theater that just happened to be one of my favorite concerts EVER! Besides that FJM is just pure talent, presence and a TOTAL performer; the album is truly a magnificent piece of artwork to match the sound. I was so impressed with the balls of FJM and Sub Pop to release (and then for Sub Pop to totally give EXCELLENT customer service to thousands of warped-vinyl customers) this glorious artwork album that I even bought the FJM Honeybear Pepto-colored sweatshirt. A pinkness that I shit you not, I would NEVER in a million years wear, except for the fact that it has the #DopeAF album rocking all over it. The only reason FJM would not make my top spot was two-fold… one, Helio Sequence WON my heart this year with their music and their beautiful souls, AND second, FJM is talented but fuck but that arrogant LA thing just isn’t my “thing”. FJM darling, I know you know you’re the shit and why should you deny it let alone flaunt it in every essence of your being?! But ultimately being humble, being kind and NOT being LA is where it’s at man. FYI, your end game is always nice guys win.
My #1. The Helio Sequence, Self titled. This album has held a place in my heart since it’s release. From the moment I first heard the songs performed live at Easy Street Records, to the week I spent in Paris listening to the songs over and over as I walked the city streets to the magical day I spent with the band rummaging vinyl and celebrating Seattle under the light of a full moon… I couldn’t possibly express the beauty of the memories these songs now trigger every time I hear them! You know you have secured a place in a person’s soul when they have a couple of vinyl records, have downloaded the album on every streaming and downloadable service known to man and when the sound of the first notes trigger such vivid memories that it makes you cry. So besides all this (and there is a besides all this if you can believe it!) the two men behind this music, and those I’ve gotten to know that support them, are all the nicest and most amazing humans I’ve met in years! No seriously. When I heard KEXP‘s DJ, John Richards, talk about how The Helio Sequence are “one of the lesser-known but top-notch bands around!” (not exact, but close to his quote, sorry John) you KNOW the depth of these two souls transcends the airwaves for a reason! The Helio Sequence is literally PNW GOLD, pure GOLD. So go buy ALL. THEIR. SHIT. NOW. and educate and elevate your Sub Pop sounds while supporting these local boys! Your heart will always thank you. <3
My Honorable Mentions….
MIM. IS. EPIC! If you have never visited this world-class museum, you SHOULD! Make a trip to Phoenix RIGHT NOW and take in the marvel and the magic of music all around you at MIM, you will never be disappointed.
My Synth guru Andrew from Motopony! Andrew’s passion for his music is so clear in everything he is and this passion is only overshadowed by the knowledge of the instruments he plays. Andrew’s brilliant soul underneath that leather jacket is destined for greatness and I’m honored to have worked with his talent this year!
My super awesome guitar guru, David from General Mojo’s! David spent countless hours with me going through SO. MANY. GUITARS over the summer and what an absolute pleasure it was! What an accomplished and kind soul this one has with a smile that lights up a room. Seeing and hearing him laugh was an absolute joy in my life!
If there is one Word you should know around Seattle, it’s Gary Word. Gary has made glass musical instruments for over a decade now and even as an established glass artist, this process isn’t to be taken lightly. Gary has literally taken wooden instruments apart, made exact measurements and even studied with the instrument makers themselves to hone the craft on these amazing instruments! I am seriously honored to know and to be able to PLAY these pieces of ART! I seriously can’t believe that so many AMAZING musical instruments are not widely known in the world yet and Gary’s glass musical instruments NEED to be! I am grateful that I was introduced to Gary, so very grateful that another Seattleite is making an artistic difference in the world.
Speaking of musicians and musical instrument makers that you should KNOW coming out of Seattle…. these two men, Sean and Greg, are two of the dearest souls I’ve met this year! There is something special about them both and I am extremely honored, flattered and giddy at the opportunity to work with them on a mini-documentary about their awesome instruments! When I think of Sean and Greg my heart lights up with happiness…. I hope these two are forever in my life.
For everybody following #For1YearOfMyLife every year, THANK YOU! This fifth year was my most difficult and rewarding challenge learning about music from vinyl collecting, to record stores, to musical instruments and all the bands, support and brands that live for them! I am always extremely excited at this time of year for my new brand to start and also very sad because of all the friends and experiences that I’ve had with the current brand that are about to end. And even though I love lists, I’m often reminded through my challenges that my entire life is a Beautiful list FILLED with new people, experiences and wonders I’ve added for 1 more year.