Throwaway Style is a monthly column dedicated to examining all aspects of the Northwest music scene. Whether it’s a new artist making waves, headlines affecting local talent, or reflecting on some of the music that’s been a foundation in our region; this space celebrates everything happening in the Northwest region, (usually) the first Thursday of every new month on KEXP.org.
If you follow the Pacific Northwest's underground rock scene closely, you could say the Rare Forms are somewhat of a supergroup. Scattered across three of the region's most music-crazed cities — Seattle, Tacoma, and Portland — the band holds members from some of the best garage-rock and punk bands going around here (including, but not limited to, the Shivas and VHS). But an amalgam they're not; the members of the Rare Forms try out a style equal parts romantic and cloaked in darkness. The Girl With the Wipers Tattoo swapping spit with witches finishing up their shift stirring whatever's in the couldron. As I mentioned not too long ago, the band was clearly born under a Dead Moon. (I know, quoting yourself is tacky, but facts are facts.)
The Rare Forms (out now via Casino Trash Records) is primarily rooted in sex, love, and rock 'n roll, but a pervasive darkness is a thread running throughout. There's the song that compares relationship gaslighting tactics to WWI gaslighting tactics. There's the song about careening through red lights to get to a set of bedsheets to tussle underneath. There's the song awesomely titled "Vampire Blowjob," a gothic, lust-filled romp stinging from fangs sinking into neck flesh and grinding hips you might as well read about here because it's doubtful the song will be granted airplay. There are the tears, dirt, and blood tangling up heads of hair in "Boneyard," the failed affirmations in "Self Sabotage."
Occasionally on the album you'll find the rot of broken hearts. "Love Song" is about not wanting to give someone a love song, steeped in dejection, unwilling to stop the bleeding with a few chords and some singing. The song floats along in 6/8 time and presents itself as a tender sock hop ballad, all slicked-back hair and polka-dotted dresses. Only this is not the love song the intended "you" wanted; it's a gorgeous refusal. "We Leave" finds singer Kristin Leonard begging a lover to leave her, a silver tongue and dagger eyes promising her the world. After the relationship ends and the promise of time healing all wounds is uttered, there are still the remnants of being caught in the spell.
Leonard's vocals have been compared to Grace Slick, and while I'd say they're more akin to something found in the duskiest corner of Toddy Cole's thrift store Junkstore Cowboy, her vocal presence sounds like she was born to front a rock and roll band. Pathos linger from her sung words like chem trails.
It feels as though with all the avarice and death hovering over us at all times, love is our only salvation. That's why there are so many songs about it and the crushing feeling of having your heart broken. We obsess over love, because what else do we really have? The Rare Forms seem acutely aware of this quandary, which is why such songs fit so snugly beside the album's darker material. Of course, a band so interested in power dynamics and the dark side of human nautre would have a song about cults. "Cult Camp" is a recruitment pamphlet of sorts, though the kind which reveals machinations of their organization rather than flowery promises and capitalizing on lost souls needing organization to guide them.
You see satanic shades of red
Public consciousness in your head
Intuiting the golden thread
Come with us instead
All over the album, freewheeling guitars scream in the night sky, the rhythm section of Rachel Barrett on bass and Dillan Lazzareschi on drums provides a heavy forward push, lightening up just a tad on poppier numbers like "Worry Me" and "Who I See," ruminating on the depression a failing relationship causes and going out on the town and leaving your lover at home.
The album closes with the album's bleakest track, "Haunting Me," a stalk through a ghost town after all the shops have closed, a look at rolling around in your own grave and bleeding out while seeing demonic figures in your nightmares. In the context of the album, throughout all its movement through the darker corners of its creators' minds, it's a very fitting ending. No resolution, no healing, just a continued journey through the parts of ourselves we try to keep stuffed underneath our beds.
The Rare Forms are doing a short tour starting tomorrow, so make sure to catch them!
January 10th - The Highline, Seattle (with Bread & Butter and Razor Clam)
January 11th - Antisocial Skateboard Shop, Vancouver B.C. (with Brutal Poodle and KCAR)
January 12th - Black Water, Portland (with Perfect Buzz and Bad Shadows)
Cedric and Eva Walker are Hosting a Music Video Show Called Video Bebop
Growing up, I was an MTV kid. I would easily tire of cartoons. I'd play outside for a few hours but would eventually get tired of that, too. But, put me in front of a television playing music videos and I could sit and watch all day. I'd stay up past my bedtime to watch 120 Minutes, would cut on BET's Rap City when I came home from school every day, and a few of my earliest memories are emblazoned with the logo of Yo! MTV Raps.
Turns out, twin siblings Eva and Cedric Walker — who obviously don't have enough to do as the braintrust of the Black Tones, one of the city's best bands and, in Eva's case, also hosting KEXP's Audioasis — loved music videos as youngsters, as well. To bolster their love for the form, they have enlisted their friends Alaia D'Alessandro and Danny Denial, along with Eva's fiance Jake Uitti, to produce a show called Video Bebop, a half-hour program dedicated to music videos starring Pacific Northwest artists. The show will air the second Saturday of every month on Seattle Channel starting this Saturday, January 11th. Read more about about Video Bebop here (courtesy of The Stranger).
The newest single from the Seattle band's forthcoming debut album includes a dark yet prismatic video.
The veteran Portland psych band are back with a new album and an evocative video for its lead single.
Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJ’s think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the A...