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Short Preview- Ages and Ages

I wrote this brief for Seattle Weekly to preview Ages and Ages’ show tonight in Seattle. You can also read this brief here.

After overcoming a childhood speech impairment that prevented him from communicating verbally, Tim Perry, lead singer of Portland-based choral-pop septet Ages and Ages, voluntarily entered a nonverbal state during a 10-day silent retreat. He wasn’t allowed to speak or write, but left with the bones of the band’s sophomore album, Divisionary, in place. The album’s emotion-driven lyrics are balanced by the uplifting instrumentation and congregation-like backing vocals. Must have been some retreat. With Arkomo. Barboza. 7 p.m. $10 adv. 21 and over. AZARIA C. PODPLESKY

Filed under Ages and Ages Divisionary Seattle Weekly concert preview music writing music journalism freelance writing journalism

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Album Review- Naomi Wachira

I reviewed Naomi Wachira’s gorgeous new album for Seattle Weekly. You can also read this review here.

Naomi Wachira, Naomi Wachira (out now, self-released, naomiwachira.com) As a self-confident Kenyan-American woman, Wachira knows herself, what she wants, and what she hopes to see from others—all recurring themes in this full-length follow-up to her 2012 EP African Girl. She has strong beliefs and isn’t afraid to face those who think differently, as heard on “You Better”: “I’m the fool who believes that I can change the world/Don’t waste my time if you don’t wanna be the same or do the same.” “We Are in Trouble” is a similar call to action: “How long will it take before we realize that we are in this together?” Wachira sings with so much conviction there’s no doubt she means every word, and her Sade-like voice (self-accompanied on acoustic guitar) is warm and inviting as she gracefully reveals a vast vocal range. The album also features Evan Flory-Barnes (Threat of Beauty, Industrial Revelation) on bass, cellist Natalie Hall (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis), Darren Reynolds (Patrick & The Locomotive) on drums, and Latin percussionist Lalo Bello (Jacob Bain & Publish the Quest). Thanks to producer Damien Jurado’s light hand in the studio, Naomi Wachira has a delicate feel, with neither vocals nor instrumentation outshining the other. As a whole, this isn’t a story of a woman trying to find herself, but of a woman who has already worked through those challenges and is now stronger because of them. Wachira supports this idea right to the last track, leaving the listener with “I Know,” a final example of her independent spirit: “I’ll keep on fighting for me/’Cause I know what I’m meant to be.” (Fri., Feb. 21, Seattle Art Museum)

Filed under Naomi Wachira album review Damien Jurado Seattle Weekly music writing music journalism journalism freelance writing

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Short Preview- Feb. 15

I wrote this brief to preview Jaspar Lepak’s upcoming show in Seattle. You can also read this brief here.

Moving thousands of miles from her then-home of Minneapolis to Durban, South Africa, in 2009 gave Americana singer/storyteller Jaspar Lepak, now based in Seattle, more than enough material for her sixth album, 2011’s Forgiving Wind. Written and recorded entirely in Durban, Wind showcases Lepak’s delicate voice and the city’s talented musicians, who contributed banjo, mandolin, dobro, percussion, and more. Couth Buzzard Books. 7:30 p.m. Free. All ages. AZARIA C. PODPLESKY

Filed under Jaspar Lepak Forgiving Wind Seattle Weekly concert preview music writing music journalism journalism freelance writing

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Album Review- THUMPERS

I reviewed THUMPERS’ fantastic new album, Galore, for Seattle Weekly. You can also read this review here.

THUMPERS, Galore (out now, Sub Pop, thumpers.co) In just an eight-word Twitter bio—“POP IN THE SOUL & EXPERIMENTAL IN FORM”—London-based duo THUMPERS has nailed the description of its sound. Its debut, Galore, is bright and poppy, with big, sing-along-ready choruses and colorful keys, but it’s also more than a few steps off the beaten path with songs like “Tame,” which begins with what sounds like someone breathing heavily to the beat, features a chant-like chorus, and ends with a guitar riff manipulated to sound almost like a bagpipe. THUMPERS was formed in 2011, but Marcus Pepperell (vocals, guitar, and piano) and John Hamson Jr. (vocals, bass, and drums) came from indie-rock trio Pull Tiger Tail, and have been playing together since their teens. The duo finds lyrical inspiration in those coming-of-age years—for example, the slower, reflective “Now We Are Sixteen,” which includes London-based indie-pop duo Summer Camp, call-and-response vocals, and lyrics like, “Everything seems better when we’re 16.” There’s a communal sense to Galore’s layers of sound and the group vocals on several songs, including the aptly named closer “Together Now.” The duo also made the album, produced by David Kosten (Bat for Lashes, Everything Everything), a family affair, with siblings contributing to the recording process, including additional vocals from Pepperell’s sisters on the bouncy “Unkind (A Tougher Love).” THUMPERS, which signed to Sub Pop in September and opened for Scottish electro-pop band CHVRCHES in the fall, has made a joyful first statement with Galore, an album bound to make the band’s U.S. debut a strong one. AZARIA C. PODPLESKY

Filed under THUMPERS Galore Sub Pop album review Seattle Weekly freelance writing music writing music journalism journalism

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Short Preview- Royal Teeth

I interviewed Gary Larsen for Seattle Weekly to preview Royal Teeth’s upcoming show in Seattle. You can also read this brief here.

Royal Teeth: Another Step in a Slow Climb

When Seattle Weekly spoke with Royal Teeth frontman Gary Larsen in June, the Louisiana-based indie dance-pop quintet he leads with singer Nora Patterson was preparing to release its debut album, Glow (it dropped in August). Everyone in the group had already quit their day jobs and devoted themselves full time to the band—this brought about the EP Act Naturally ; an anthemic single, “Wild”; and an appearance on Carson Daly—but the group was still eager to do more. “We hope by the time this record comes out and we look back on another year,” Larsen said at the time, “we’ll feel like we’ve moved forward even farther.”

Fast forward to today, and seven months of touring—not to mention appearances in ads for Buick and State Farm—has been a boost for the band. “It feels really great to have built up to the point where we have an entire album of music for people to listen to and people are coming out to see the shows,” Larsen says. “It’s that slow climb, but we’re at the point now where we’re really starting to see results.”

The band recorded Glow with award-winning Canadian producer Gavin Brown, who’s worked with, and helped garner awards for, the likes of Metric, Lady Gaga, Sarah Harmer, and others. In June, Larsen discussed the process of working at Brown’s studio in Toronto, far from the humid climes of the band’s native South. “A lot of people say when they listen to our music, there’s a very bright and positive vibe, it’s very colorful music. But we recorded [the new album] in Canada during one of the coldest winters they’ve had in years.” The climate helped inspire the tone of the record, Larsen says, imbuing it with more intimacy than Act Naturally while retaining “the bright, positive nature of our music.”

Larsen is an accurate spokesman—the album is a collection of songs that inspire thoughts of love and adventure, heavy on percussion and sing-along-ready choruses; Larsen and Patterson’s pretty vocals harmonize well while each shining on their own. Yet true to Royal Teeth’s ambition, Larsen is already looking ahead, anxious to expand his band’s sound on the next album, on which he hopes to capture the energy of its live show.

Back on tour for now, Larsen remains open to whatever the future brings. “We really don’t have a feeling of how far we can go,” he says. “But if it’ll keep going, we’ll keep pushing it.” With Chappo, Hibou. Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9442, neumos.com. 8 p.m. $18 adv. 21 and over. AZARIA C. PODPLESKY

Filed under Royal Teeth Gary Larsen Glow Act Naturally Wild Seattle Weekly music writing music journalism freelance writing journalism

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Short Preview- Feb. 6

I wrote this brief for Seattle Weekly to preview Joy Mills’ show in Seattle tonight. You can also read this brief here.

With just a hint of twang, Americana singer Joy Mills (formerly of the Starlings) brings a bit of Southern sweetness to the Northwest. As the Joy Mills Band’s frontwoman, she released Trick of the Eye, a collection of songs with a lot of down-home soul, in 2012. She’s playing solo tonight, but a new Joy Mills Band record is in the works. With the Believers. Treehouse Cafe. 8 p.m. $12–$16. 21 and over. AZARIA C. PODPLESKY

Filed under Joy Mills The Joy Mills Band Trick of the Eye Seattle Weekly music writing freelance writing music journalism journalism

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Short Previews- Feb. 5

I wrote these briefs for Seattle Weekly to preview shows happening in show in Seattle tonight. You can also read these briefs here.

Terrible Buttons There’s a dark vibe to Runt, this Spokane-based folk/blues septet’s debut album. Kent Ueland’s gruff voice sounds like that of a man who’s been beaten down more times than he’d like to remember—especially on “Everybody Knows Everybody”—and Sarah Berentson’s bluesy voice becomes haunting on several songs. Even when the music is upbeat, there’s a spooky underbelly to it all. With Roaming Herds of Buffalo, Charms. Tractor Tavern. 8 p.m. $8. 21 and over. AZARIA C. PODPLESKY

While writing her 13th studio album, last year’s Still Green, folk singer/songwriter Patty Larkin found inspiration in the work of award-winning poet Kay Ryan—a fact Larkin notes on “My Baby” with the lyric “All the poems janglin’ in my head.” Larkin’s lyrics themselves read like poetry—a series of image-evoking phrases about hope, joy, and the strength that comes after grief. Triple Door. 7:30 p.m. $20 adv./$23 DOS/$30 VIP. All ages. AZARIA C. PODPLESKY

Filed under Terrible Buttons Runt Patty Larkin Still Green Seattle Weekly music writing freelance writing music journalism journalism concert previews

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Short Preview- Mayer Hawthorne

I wrote this brief for Seattle Weekly to preview Mayer Hawthorne’s show in Seattle tonight. You can also read this brief here.

On his third studio album, July’s Where Does This Door Go, crooner Mayer Hawthorne modernized his classic style of soul with elements of R&B and hip-hop—no doubt thanks, at least partially, to producers like Pharrell Williams, Warren “Oak” Felder, and Steve “Ace” Mostyn and a collaboration with Kendrick Lamar on “Crime.” With Quadron. Neumos. 8 p.m. $20. All ages. AZARIA C. PODPLESKY

Filed under Mayer Hawthorne Where Does This Door Go Seattle Weekly concert preview music writing music journalism journalism freelance writing

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Short Previews- Jan. 31-Feb. 2

I wrote these briefs for Seattle Weekly to preview shows happening this weekend in Seattle. You can also read these briefs here.

The Pack A.D. Except for surprisingly soft album-closer “Needles,” Do Not Engage features all the fuzzy garage rock listeners have come to know and love from Vancouver-based duo The Pack A.D. The pair’s fifth album, a follow-up to 2011’s Unpersons, finds drummer Maya Miller and singer/guitarist Becky Black as brash and in-your-face as ever, with Black adding even more venom to each snarled lyric. With the Dee Dees. Barboza. 7 p.m. $10. 21 and over. AZARIA C. PODPLESKY

Mary Lambert is the definition of a triple threat. A talented writer, last year she released a book of poetry, 500 Tips for Fat Girls, which she describes as “a collection of poetry surrounding body image, rape, and relationships.” An accomplished spoken-word artist, she won Seattle’s Grand Slam Poetry Competition in 2011. But perhaps most notable, the Cornish grad is a musician. Her soulful voice is instantly recognizable thanks to her contribution to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Same Love,” and the emotion with which she sings her incredibly honest lyrics often brings audiences to tears. After signing with Capitol Records, the chanteuse released her second EP, Welcome to the Age of My Body, in December, featuring songs “Sarasvati” and “She Keeps Me Warm” (an extension of the hook on “Same Love”) plus two spoken-word pieces. That month Lambert also revealed that her debut album is scheduled for a spring release; and in early January, she performed on The Tonight Show. Mack and Ryan may have ruled 2013, but 2014 could be Lambert’s year. With Lemolo, Pollens. The Showbox. 9 p.m. $15 adv./$18 DOS. All ages. AZARIA C. PODPLESKY

Filed under The Pack A.D. Do Not Engage Mary Lambert Welcome to the Age of My Body Seattle Weekly music writing music journalism journalism freelance writing

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Feature Story- Dresses

I wrote this feature story for The Spokesman-Review to preview Dresses’ upcoming show in Spokane. You can also read this article here.

Portland indie-pop duo stops in at the Bartlett

By Azaria Podplesky

It’s been two months since singer Timothy Heller got home from a tour, and she’s itching to get back on the road.

Heller will soon get her wish as Dresses, the Portland-based indie-pop band she fronts with singer/guitarist Jared Ryan Maldonado, kicks off a short run of dates at the Bartlett on Thursday.

Dresses was formed in 2012, but 21-year-old Heller has been singing her whole life.

Heller, who was named after her father, was raised on country music and said she’s been writing songs since elementary school. Heller participated in choir and musical theater, but it wasn’t until high school that she began thinking of pursuing music as a career.

“The first actual band I was in was in high school, then I was like, ‘Maybe I’m not actually bad at this,’ ” she said. “It was always in the back of my head.”

Though Heller played a battle of the bands competition at Maldonado’s high school, it wasn’t until January 2012 that the two began working together after she heard some of his solo music.

“All of my band members from my high school band had just gone away to college, so I was desperate to find someone to play with,” Heller said. “The first day we met we wrote ‘Blew My Mind.’ ”

“Blew My Mind” is the first single from the duo’s debut album, “Sun Shy,” which was released on L.A.-based SideOneDummy Records in October. Though there is a bright, dance-y feel to songs like “Blew My Mind,” “Sun Shy” and “Tell A Lie,” there are also hints of folk on the album from songs like “Painting Roses” and “Real People.”

Heller alternates between singing with the cheery lilt of a Disney princess and in a lower, though still crystal clear, tone, while Maldonado’s smooth voice fills the deeper end of the duo’s harmonies, especially on “Gotta Love” and “Tell A Lie.”

Musically, Dresses is relatively simple, which lets the lyrics drive each song. Many of the songs on “Sun Shy” focus on the highs and lows of love, appropriate for a pair who, until late last year, were in a relationship.

“It got stressful and overwhelming,” Heller said of their breakup. “Not in a terrible way, but we were prioritizing the wrong things, and we were just like ‘Yeah, we need to be a band.’ ”

Heller said she and Maldonado, 22, are still as close as ever.

The pair recorded “Sun Shy” with the help of Maldonado’s friend Trevor Dahl, who performs as Plug In Stereo. Dahl offered to manage Dresses, and shortly thereafter, Joe Sib of SideOneDummy came calling.

Though the duo originally planned to release “Sun Shy” independently, they were taken aback by Sib’s enthusiasm and signed a deal.

Since then, Dresses has opened for French alt-rockers Phoenix and San Francisco-based indie/electronic band the Limousines and completed its first national tour in November, and “Sun Shy” was recently featured on ABC Family’s “Switched at Birth.”

It’s a list of career highlights that’s still growing, something Heller hasn’t quite gotten a handle on just yet.

“It definitely is mind-blowing to look back and see how much we’ve accomplished,” she said. “When it’s happening, it feels like it’s going really slow, but then looking back, we’ve only been a band for a year and a half, maybe two years. I guess we’re doing pretty good.”

Filed under Dresses Sun Shy The Spokesman Review music writing freelance writing music journalism journalism SideOneDummy Records Timothy Heller Jared Ryan Maldonado The Bartlett