Ball of Wax 45 Songs: gemmules / Julia Massey / Foghorns

gemmules‘ “Olympic” is the perfect last sixty-two seconds of a late ’80s alternative gem . . . without Bono’s singing over the top.

Julia Massey‘s “To Us Too” shows that you can still have a catchy hook repeat five times in a minute and a half pop song.

The Foghorns (performing at the Ball of Wax 45 show next Friday the 2nd!) sing from inside Monstro the Whale with their latest smash hit, “If You Wake.”

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Ball of Wax 45 Songs: GravelRoad/Harvey Girls/Darryl Blood

GravelRoad brings the sped-up scuzzy road rock with “Med Pass,” sounding like ’70s ZZ Top on bath salts.

The Harvey Girls‘ “Butterfly2” is a haunted, back porch dirge, like the Doors’ “The End” played in Carcosa.

Darryl Blood‘s “Cluster” is similarly spectral, though more cerebral than spooky thanks to a probing piano motif and spacey, ambient noise.

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Ball of Wax 45 Songs: Mike Votava/Orphan Train

Unless your first name is ‘Weird,’ funny songs can be tough to pull off, but – as Mike Votava demonstrates on “Pants Are Optional” – if you have a severely constrained time limit and a sweet keyboard hook, anything is possible.

Further in music and humor: although Orphan Train‘s Aram Arslanian‘s anthemic head-banger “Curtis Curtis” isn’t (I don’t think) meant to be funny, its instrumental bones have their origin as the walk-on music for Carlos Mencia’s standup routine a decade or so ago.

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Ball of Wax 45 Songs: Colin J Nelson/Frustration Club

BoW stalwart Colin J Nelson, realizing that the perfect thing to do with a 60-second song is to create a jingle, gives us this musically and lyrically adept “Treatment for Online Dating Promotional Content.”

Aaron Robertson, aka Frustration Club, makes his Ball of Wax debut with “Nothing Was Wrong,” a punchy summer pop tune that takes the “singles” part of the “One Minute Singles” theme to heart.

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Ball of Wax 45 Songs: Storm the Palace/Brite Lines/Emory Liu

Leave it to Storm the Palace to squeeze more technical skill into an opening piano chord than I will obtain in a lifetime; also note that vocalist Sophie Dodds, with whom, despite the fact the she’s a sophisticated Brit, I’ve consumed the great American beverage Wild Turkey inside the confines of Ballard’s Conor Byrne, shines as she delivers a pristine, soothing anecdote of the loneliness of a young woman and failed romance; as always for this group, maximum skill, minimum pretense.

There’s such power and clarity in singer Zach Gore’s delivery—my favorite Brite Lines tunes strip away arrangement to feature the vocals unadorned– and here he delivers straight away, delivering platitudes generously and honestly, the band supporting in proper jangly power ballad mode; the result is a “lullaby” that does the job of all lullabies, in that it attempts to sooth and reassure the singer.

Immediately following Brite Lines’ sheen is Emory Liu‘s “Fortunate,” a more shambled effort with god-bless-em hand claps—lo fi feels reassuring and essential when done right, as this track is, and presented between tracks with such polish, it’s a profoundly welcome honest scuff.

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Ball of Wax 45 Songs: Luminous Craft/The Vanities

Luminous Craft‘s Dominick Campbell (performing the BoW 45 release show September 2nd) opens the fragile “Don’t Fret, Charlotte” with a groovy Fender Rhodes riff, which he quickly abandons for fingerpicked acoustic guitar and an electric guitar gently strumming chords with the tremolo rolled up to make a sleepy campfire love song.

Foghorns collaborator and KSCU DJ Peter Colclasure, aka The Vanities, contributes “All the Sad Young Men,” a lush, wistful lullaby that couches Colclasure’s fragile, phased vocals in billowy synth strings.

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Ball of Wax 45 Songs: Ken Cormier/Natalie Quist

With “No Hall Pass,” Connecticut’s Ken Cormier (one of many BoW 45 artists also heard on the first One Minute Singles) pivots from lo-fi automotive absurdity back to the breezy, perfect pop I originally fell in love with way back on Volume 9.

There are folk singer/songwriters, and then there are artists like Natalie Quist (playing the BoW 45 release show on September 2nd), who can create a 60-second gem like “Into the Wild Sea,” which sounds like it had been bouncing off the hills for a hundred years or more before she pulled it out of the air.

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Ball of Wax 45 Songs: Sindri Eldon/Electric Dylan

Maybe it’s because I’m most of the way through volume 5 of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s epic autobiographical novel My Struggle, but I find something very Knausgaardian about the solipsistic, manic intensity of Sindri Eldon‘s “I Can’t Feel Anything” – and whether or not that means anything to you, it’s a surprising and oddly delightful facet to discover in a 90-second slice of blistering Icelandic transplant arena rock.

Longtime BoW contributor Michael Sanchez (in his Electric Dylan guise) returns with “I’m Not Your Boyfriend,” another piece of beautiful minimalist pop, featuring simple yet enigmatic lyrics; flawlessly blasé vocal delivery; and hazy, woozy keys.

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Ball of Wax 45 Songs: Territory & Hombre/Sam Russell & the Harborrats

[Given the “One Minute Singles” theme of Ball of Wax 45, we here at the Blog of Wax have decided to embrace the spirit of brevity in our track reviews, which will come two at a time and one sentence each. Enjoy! -ed]

1) Territory & Hombre‘s “New Episode” is a tribal, psychedelic mushroom cloud of lovely lo fi weirdness from the wilds of Tucson, Arizona.

2) Seattle via Kenosha, Wisconsin’s Sam Russell (with his Harborrats, celebrating their 10th anniversary and BoW 45 at the Sunset on September 2nd) is the realest of real rock and roll deals, and “From the Pulpit” further demonstrates that Sam, to plagiarize an email thread I had with Bart Cameron, is the glorious, living embodiment of Walter Hill’s Streets of Fire.

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Ball of Wax 45: One Minute Singles, Friday, 9/2 at the Sunset!

BoW45-posterBall of Wax 45: One Minute Singles Release Show!
Featuring Sam Russell & the Harborrats (celebrating 10 years!) / The Foghorns / Levi Fuller & the Library / Terwilliger Curves / Seth Howard / Natalie Quist / Luminous Craft
Friday, September 2nd, The Sunset Tavern
7:30pm / $10 (Includes BoW 45 CD)

Ball of Wax 45 is coming! Chock full of 30+ songs, each from 60-90 seconds long, this is the perfect collection to cap off your summer, and we have the perfect event to celebrate it. I’m very excited to bring the BoW show back to the wonderful Sunset Tavern in Ballard, and to share the evening with musical friends old and new. Join us! And keep your eyes and ears locked on this here blog for a dizzying array of short and sweet (and occasionally sour) musical treats between now and the 2nd.

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