Seattle troubadour Rocky Votolato celebrates the release of a cathartic, breakthrough new album, “Hospital Handshakes” Friday, April 24, at the Fremont Abbey.
Much-loved Seattle punk rocker-(Waxwing)-turned-acoustic troubadour Rocky Votolato celebrates the release of “Hospital Handshakes,” Friday, April 24, at the Fremont Abbey. The project is far more than just another album for the 38-year-old singer-songwriter. It follows a period of depression and writer’s block that had Votolato wondering on a therapist’s couch if he had anything left to say.
As for most artists, writing was the best medicine. And once the dam broke, Votolato spewed out 25 explosive new songs, 11 of which made it to the album. It’s raw, two-fisted stuff, with death, suicide, guilt (“I’ve wasted so much time”), fear and pain taking center stage, though solutions such as “making friends with these demons” (“White Knuckles”) peek through the urgent angst.
To produce, Votolato enlisted ex-Death Cab For Cutie multi-instrumentalist Chris Walla, who envelopes the singer’s rough ’n’ raspy confessions with clouds of whooshing Moog synthesizer and reverbed guitar, undergirding them with throbbing bass or single-note guitar fire. The strategy pumps up the energy, to be sure, but often sounds more synthetic wrapper than organic development.
Exclude from that judgment the touching “So Unexpected,” the pleading revelation “This Is My Work” and the riveting, condemned-man-ballad “The Finish Line,” which are so functionally integrated they almost sound like they come from a different album.
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But production aside, Votolato’s muscular thrust and power should make his album-release party a cathartic and celebratory affair.
8 p.m. Friday, April 24, at the Fremont Abbey, 4272 Fremont Ave. N., Seattle; $13-$18 (206-414-8325 or fremontabbey.org).