Four albums by Northwest artists come out this week, in time for Record Store Day Saturday (April 16). They include releases by the Sonics, Northwest garage rock pioneers; En Canto, Seattle’s only Brazilian forró band; rapper Sol; and Acapulco Lips, a psychedelic surf band.
Record Store Day — Saturday, April 16 — is just around the corner. Here are reviews of four albums by Northwest artists you may want to check out.
The Sonics, ‘Live at Easy Street’ (ReVOX)
The Sonics thrilled a packed Easy Street Records in April, 2015, when they put on a special show for Record Store Day that was also a fundraiser for radio station KEXP. Happily, the show was also recorded, and “Live at Easy Street” fully captures the heady atmosphere.
The five-piece garage-rock band gets off to a rip-roaring start with its own “Cinderella,” then tears into powerful, tight versions of rock ’n’ roll/R&B classics like “Money” and “Keep a-Knockin.’ ”
The excitement quotient is heightened by the appearance of numerous V.I.P. guests. Mudhoney’s Matt Lukin joins in on a burning rendition of the garage-rock classic “Louie Louie.” Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder adds his distinctive vocals to the rave-up “Leaving Here.” And the Sonics’ best-known number, “The Witch,” gets a little extra help from Ben Shepherd (Soundgarden) and Mark Pickerel (Screaming Trees).
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It’s been 50 years since the Sonics’ heyday. But you’d never guess that from the spirited, energetic performances here. This vinyl album will be available on Record Store Day (April 16) and downloads can be ordered online from Pledge Music.
(The Sonics perform May 22 at the Neptune Theatre.)
— Gillian G. Gaar
En Canto, ‘Solto Por Jeri’ (self-released)
It would be a left-handed compliment to say that En Canto is the best forró group in Seattle, but if they did have any competition, the bar is high. This delightful, animated septet’s first full-length album of the Brazilian Northeast’s accordion-woodwind-and-percussion-generated folk music sparkles with life.
Many of the songs were written by the group members, inspired by a monthlong vacation in Jericoacoara, a national park with a paradise-like beach in the state of Ceará, where forró arose. (The title means “Released to Jeri.”)
Highlights include the jaunty “Elas,” by accordion player Jamie Maschler and flutist Meese Tonkin, with its clock-evoking chorus of “tic-tac tic-tac”; Antonio Barros’ chugging “E Proibido Cochilar (Napping Forbidden)”; pianist Mike Withey’s caressing love song about an old flame, “Sempre”; a poetic, electric-bass feature by bassist Martin Strand, “Brincadeira De Martim (The Kingfisher’s Game)”; and the reggae-like “Eu So Quero Um Xodo,” by Lucinete Ferreira and Jose Moraes.
Vocalist Adriana Giordano sails over the band’s galloping rhythms with husky élan. Though the production is slightly tinny and the arrangements occasionally crowded, this music will light up many a spring and summer afternoon.
(En Canto performs April 29 at the Royal Room.)
— Paul de Barros
Sol, ‘The Headspace Traveler’ (Zilla Music)
Twenty-seven-year-old Seattle rapper Sol’s smooth voice, catchy flow and party raps are on full display on his new record, “The Headspace Traveler.”
Already, Sol’s records have achieved mass appeal (his 2012 LP, “Yours Truly,” rose to No. 1 on iTunes’ U.S. hip-hop album charts). Nevertheless, the question must be asked: What is the substance behind his success?
Sol makes undeniably charming music, but his central themes are smoking weed, appreciating the female form, working hard and kickin’ it. Certain songs, like the triumphant “P.O.M.” and the bumpin’ “Ain’t Gon’ Stop” (which has earned some 742,000 plays on Soundlcoud) work joyously. But songs like the trite “Done Some Wrong” and “Long Road” fall short of their intention.
“Headspace” is worth a spin — especially if you’re into glossy rap, and who isn’t, now and then? But looking to the future, Sol’s work might benefit from writing less about fun and more about temptation, as he does on “P.O.M.,” where he spits, “I know my body’s a temple but it’s like I’m trying to destroy it. Without a deal from the devil I’m tryin’ to get where I’m going.”
(Sol performs April 15 at the Showbox.)
— Jake Uitti
Acapulco Lips, ‘Acapulco Lips’ (Killroom)
The self-titled debut LP of Seattle three-piece Acapulco Lips (presumably a play on the word apocalypse) is the first release by Killroom Records, a joint venture of KEXP DJ Troy Nelson and Georgetown-based engineer Ben Jenkins.
The Lips have some surf rock in them, not unlike recent Emerald City notables La Luz, who got tired of the gloom and gray and moved to Los Angeles this past winter. But the nine spirited tunes here — with their bright, searing guitars, fuzzed-out bass and punchy drums, with just the right amount of flash — more closely resemble the ’60s psych obscurities on Rhino Records’ “Nuggets” box sets, with a hint of early White Stripes in the group’s bash-it-out execution.
Putting singer-bassist Maria-Elena Juarez up high in the mix serves the songs well. Her vocals are melodious and lyrics relatable on twin standouts “Hangover Blues,” about the inevitable existential dread that follows a night of hard partying, and “My Time,” about waking up refreshed for a change, ready to conquer the day. Both are potential summer-anthem contenders.
(Acapulco Lips plays May 21 at the Funhouse.)
— Charlie Zaillian