By Matt Crowley/The AS Review
Last week the AS Underground Coffeehouse Concert Series returned from its winter slumber and will continue this week with acts from both the east and west coast.
At 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 20, Your Heart Breaks and Angelo Spencer, both from Olympia, will play the Coffeehouse. Angelo Spencer will play first, bringing his electric guitar-heavy, often fast-paced music to compliment the softer, harmonic vibes of YHB. Spencer hails from Brittany, France, where he spent most of his life before moving to the Pacific Northwest in 2006. Since then, he has recorded multiple albums, including a split 7” with fellow French native Tender Forever (whom you may know via her acoustic cover of Justin Timberlake’s “My Love.” Highly recommended). Most recently, Spencer recorded “Et Les Hauts Sommets,” which is set to be released on K Records in February 2010.
In one of his songs, “Hayfever,” Spencer cranks it to 11, layering screeching, blood-coming-out-of-your-ears guitar riffs over more “traditional” yet overwhelmed rhythm guitar and percussion. “Hayfever” is uncomfortable and beautiful at the same time, the type of song you would blow out your speakers with just to see how loud it can get. While it may be the most hyperbolic of Spencer’s songs (more “accurate” examples of his work would be “Fearless Freak” or “Weird Colors”), it perfectly captures the disjointed nature of his music.
Underground Coffeehouse Assistant Coordinator Lora Mednick described Spencer as having a “large sound variety,” noting that “I feel it would appeal to a lot of people because of that variety.”
Your Heart Breaks follows Spencer. YHB, which began in 1999, is a collaboration between of a number of artists not only in the Pacific Northwest, but across the United States as well. On Wednesday they will be represented by regular Clyde Peterson. Other “regulars” include artists Karl Blau and Steve Moore.
Your Heart Breaks hails from the northwest folk scene that stretches down the east coast of the Puget Sound. Obvious comparisons can be made to artists such as Kimya Dawson (who, by the way, is married to opener Angelo Spencer and contributes to YHB). YHB relies heavily on lyric-heavy songs with light, but not sparse, instrumental accompaniment, but unlike the work of Dawson, feels softer and more harmonic. It’s hard not to like Peterson’s voice; it isn’t spectacular in any musical sense, yet conveys a sense of calm that makes it surprisingly comforting.
“She really captures people,” Mednick said.
Two days later, at 8 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 22, pop rockers Asobi Seksu will visit the Coffeehouse before heading east to continue their nationwide tour. Asobi Seksu, based out of Brooklyn, is comprised of Yuki Chikudate and James Hanna. Their most recent studio album, “Hush,” was released in 2009 and was met with rave reviews, including four-star ratings from Mojo and Spin magazine.
While the band certainly sounds like pop rock, Asobi Seksu are heavily influenced by shoegaze and, according to Mednick, have a “strong Japanese flavor.” Their sound is heavy on the effects (one word: reverb), combining the lightness of Chikudate’s voice and keyboard arrangements with the often heavy drone of Hanna’s guitar backing.
In “Me & Mary,” Chikudate jumps right out of the gate: “Call your name and spinning while I sigh / Drown my eyes at the summer sky,” she sings. Hanna’s guitar makes way for cymbal crashes and a light keyboard before exploding at the onset of the chorus. The band’s shoegaze roots are fully evident here and during the bridge, as Chikudate’s voice melts into the hum of the backing instruments. It may not be pure, unadulterated shoegaze (for better examples, check out earlier songs such as “Sooner” and “Strawberries”), but it is loud and catchy and will surely provide a change of pace for the Coffeehouse after Wednesday’s shows.
In addition to the Wednesday and Friday shows, Mednick hinted at a possible Valentine’s Day theme in the works. To learn more about future shows, including popular Bellingham act The Femme Uke, pick up a concert calendar at the Coffeehouse or look for one posted around campus.
As always, the shows are free and open to the public.