A year after making their BoW debut as The Laughing Group, Seth Howard and co. return with “What Happens Stays,” a pretty little waltz number (replete with jazz chords, melodic Casio, and lush backing vocals) with subtle, evocative lyrics. I’m not 100% sure what this song is about, but as always Seth’s lyrics are precisely crafted and beautifully delivered. Certain phrases evoke the mundanity of living in this strange futuristic time in which we find ourselves. A reference to bitcoin early in the song, and later, this: “Sirens are mute now, all I can hear is the navigator’s voice dull and clear.” This is a strange time to be alive, but I’m very happy Seth’s voice is part of it.
The Laughing Group will play this tune – and probably some of their more rocking numbers as well – at the Ball of Wax 50 release show, December 15th at LoFi. Get your tickets now!
Louis O’Callaghan (once the Graze, sometimes just Louis O’Callaghan, now Sun Tunnels) is one of Ball of Wax‘s oldest, dearest friends. He first popped up way back on Volume 2, and while he’s had some extended absences, he always finds his way back. “I Guess Not” is part of Louis’s brand-new EP, Old Haunts Vol. 1, which finds him putting the finishing touches on various tracks that have been languishing on one hard drive or another (I have no idea what that must be like). “I Guess Not” a deeply satisfying slab of driving, 6/8 rock with loud guitars and drums and bass (thanks to Terry Kyte and Sugar McGuinn) and Louis’s emotive tenor emoting all over it. There’s a mostly instrumental break about halfway through with these beautiful “hyeahhh”s kinda buried in the mix but peeking out just enough to thrill the close listener. Then it all sort of flops apart at the end as Louis sings the title, almost as a comment on the song itself. Hey, is this a heck of a kickass rock song or what? Ehhh, “I guess not.”
Our pals Visceral Candy are back with more densely layered, thoughtfully constructed art-funk – this time in the form of an exasperated comment on the Current State of Affairs, this absurdist dystopia we somehow became trapped in about a year ago. “What the heck, America?” asks Seth Swift, and while some of us might quibble with his G-rated word choice, the sentiment is deeply familiar to those of us who’ve been trapped in a constant WTF loop for the past year-plus. “Doot Doot” offers no solutions, but clearly expresses the disorientation and frustration of being a thinking human in America today – and honestly, sometimes all my brain can muster as my eyeballs are bludgeoned with the day’s news is “doot doot doot doot doo,” so this feels about right.
Visceral Candy will bring this and several other tunes to life at the Ball of Wax 50 release show, December 15th at LoFi. Get your tickets now!
With four hand-claps on an 808, Wiscon gets Ball of Wax 50 off to a rollicking start with “More Bones,” probably the most delightful song about the blood feuds of paleontologists you’ve heard all year. For most of the song the band and singer Taryn Rene Dorsey keep things upbeat and relatively fun, with the taunting refrain “I’ve got more bones than you” working its way under your skin like a velociraptor’s teeth. (Or like a shovel in a Montana dig site? I dunno, I gotta work on my paleontology similes.) The band changes gear at the end, though, and we’re treated to a half-time, chanting ode to Was (Not Was) that swirls into noisy, chaotic heaviness, and had me giggling with glee on first listen. “More Bones” will also appear on the band’s new EP Jazz Cigarette, which should be out any minute now.
Ball of Wax 50 Release Show
Friday, December 15, 9pm
LoFi Performance Gallery
429 Eastlake Ave. E.
with The Foghorns, Screens, Visceral Candy, The Laughing Group, and Jenni Potts
$8 advance/$10 door (includes a copy of Ball of Wax 50 CD)
The 50th volume of Ball of Wax Audio Quarterly is, as usual, a scintillating blend of strange and beautiful new sounds from the Northwest and beyond, from friends old and new. The release show is a pretty good reflection of that dynamic as well, from the brand-new-to-me Jenni Potts to our old, dear pals The Foghorns – along with appearances from some friends we haven’t seen enough of in a while.
We’ll be rolling out the BoW 50 tracks between now and the release date. Stay right here to follow along!
As you probably know if you’re looking at this site, Ball of Wax Volume 50 (Autumn 2017) was supposed to be devoted to music by women, curated by me and Sharlese Metcalf. After much deliberation, Sharlese and I have decided to postpone our collection of music by women. We’ve realized we don’t have the bandwidth at the moment to give this project the full attention it deserves and to create a compilation that we and the participants will be proud of. This volume will be finished and released in the near future, but not as Ball of Wax 50.
We’ll announce more details soon, but in the meantime, BoW 50 will be another unthemed collection of fantastic music.
On that note: if you have some new music you’d like to send for consideration for Ball of Wax 50, please do.
Just as we were releasing our “Songs of Resistance” volume (to benefit NW Immigrant Rights Project), California singer-songwriter Eric Anders was putting the finishing touches on Eleven Nine, his collection of artfully crafted anti-Trump songs (to benefit Lambda Legal). “Big World Abide” is one of those songs, though it actually has its origins in our previous presidential nightmare – it was originally written in the dark days of G.W. Bush’s second term. Eric and producer Matthew Brown (him again?) reworked the tune with the help of some crackerjack Seattle musicians for this dark, swampy rendition, which beautifully evokes the bleak unease that has permeated these past several months for most of us. Lyrically it’s a bit less on the nose than the approach many of us took on Volume 47, but that can be an effective strategy: Your Fox-watching uncle might run to turn off the stereo as soon as he heard the first few words of, say, “Racist Thief,” but keep nodding his head obliviously as Eric’s clear baritone croons, “These believers they terrorize / You might hope our lies evolve / It seems, hardly at all.” We’re happy to have Eric among our ranks, fighting the good fight.
[With this post, we’re welcoming a new writer to the Ball of Wax fold. I’m pleased to introduce Aurora Fonseca-Llloyd, who has already upped the literary ante around here with this first review. -ed.]
Seattle-based indie folk duo The Winterlings make a lot from simple elements in “The Dead.” There is a jangly electric guitar playing straightforward chords, a bassline built of long, slow notes, and simple drumming with plenty of snare and a few well-placed crashes of the cymbal. The trembling vibrato of singer Wolff Bowden’s voice is backed by a chorus of ahhs. The various parts are woven deftly above the twang of the guitar, the tension in the song rising and falling and rising again before coming to a gentle end.
The song shares a title with one of James Joyce’s best short stories, and the lyrics play on similar themes, its sharp metaphors and simple chorus – “the dead are still giving birth to all the life we have left” – exploring the space between a horror of death and the hope that a life might resonate beyond its end. The shifting layers of instruments, the words, the angelic backing voices, the ache of Bowden’s singing combine to move the listener to a joyous sort of acceptance of the inevitabilities of existence. In the chaos we live in, it’s lovely to feel that kind of complicated pleasure.
Ball of Wax newcomer Anika Reichert joins Seattle-to-Hamburg transplant Matthew Brown on “Burn Down,” a smoldering* piece of synth-and-drum-machine-based pop. The sedate, yet propulsive backing tracks are somewhere between John Carpenter and Depeche Mode (a pretty damn good place to be, if you ask me), and Reichert delivers the vocal with a Teutonic remove that eschews overt emotion without seeming bored or disaffected. Her clear, cool voice floats above the churning musical bed beautifully, making for an eminently listenable song. Reichert and Brown have crafted something new and delightful from heavily-mined nostalgic musical territory, always a neat trick.
*Sorry, I typed that without consciously thinking about the song title, but I’m leaving it.
Robert Deeble has been with Ball of Wax since the very beginning – Volume 3, to be precise – and over the past few years he’s been gradually sharing sneak peeks with us from his long-awaited and soon-to-be-released album, Beloved, which is about his daughter and what they all went through to become an adoptive family. As an adoptive father and a longtime friend and fan of Robert’s, I’m obviously predisposed to love this album, and guess what? I totally do. But I think I can be objective about this song as an intimate, heartfelt, and moving piece of music. “Uncertain” is a perfect word to describe both the process of adopting a child and just being a parent in general. Wait, you realize, I’m supposed to be the one who knows what’s going on? It truly is terrifying, but still, like Robert, you find yourself thinking “This life, it kicked us in the ass / come on let’s kick it back. / First step, I’m holding out my hand / faithful as a man.” I will also pick out one sonic detail that I love: the perfectly rhythmic string-scrapes as Robert moves from chord to chord on the verse, sounding almost like sampled seagulls and adding a beautiful upswing to the song. So glad they chose to include and highlight this rather than treating it as a recording faux pas.
Beloved should be out next month. Robert will be playing songs from the album along with some string players this Saturday at the Ball of Wax 49 release show. I’m really excited for this set (and the show in general). Don’t miss it!