Seattle is known for a few things—coffee, rain (though it's more cloudy than rainy) and, er, a particular heavy style of rock music. Time was, if your band didn't sound like a series of near-heroin experiences, you didn't have much chance of being noticed in the Emerald City. Times do change, though, and with them so has Seattle's musical topography, which has developed a much more indie pop-friendly contour.
"Yes, I think it has most definitely changed," Michael Lerner, the brain and most of the brawn behind the Seattle band Telekinesis, says via email from San Francisco. "I would say we've definitely got a scene happening right now, which I would attribute to Death Cab for Cutie, Band of Horses, and others."
And it's hard not to hear just a bit of Death Cab frontman Ben Gibbard in "Rust," the opening track of the band's self-titled (plus an exclamation point) album. The melody, sung breezily over a strummed acoustic guitar, has a Gibbardian lilt—but it's actually Death Cab guitarist Chris Walla who had the most direct impact on the album.
"Chris is not only one of the nicest human beings on this planet, he is a total genius," Lerner says. "He takes risks, and almost always succeeds. He is always searching for something different or inspiring."
Not that he had much time to search for such things while working on Telekinesis!.
"We only had two weeks to track and mix this record, essentially, so we really had to be swift," Lerner says. In the process, Lerner and Walla settled on a regimen for ensuring it got finished in the allotted time: Record and mix one entire song a day. "It's definitely an incredible way to make a record. There is no looking back, and you have to commit to things in the moment. I think that is a very different mentality from the way most people are making records with [software like] Pro-Tools or Logic. I work in a studio, and I always hear people say. 'Oh, we'll just fix that later.' I guess we wanted to avoid that method all together."
The resulting collection of songs calls to mind the romantic bedroom recordings of East River Pipe or the slightly dorkier Kleenex Girl Wonder, and the West Coast power-pop of early Beulah. In short, this is indie rock—not experimental, wildly adventurous or particularly challenging, but engaging nonetheless, packed with slightly wistful pop songs and tasteful arrangements. From the 1950s-teenager melodies of "Awkward Kisser" to the driving piano of "Calling All Doctors," Telekinesis! is smart, well-executed and charming—and Walla's production is crisp (but not too crisp) throughout.
Lerner, who played almost every instrument on the album, also cites '70s wunderkind Emitt Rhodes, who played and recorded everything on his albums, as an influence. "I am still completely dumbfounded wondering how he managed to pull it off," Lerner says, in spite of having pulled off basically the same feat himself. But when Telekinesis roll into The End next Monday, Lerner won't have drumsticks taped to his elbows while trying to reproduce his recordings in a live setting—he'll have a full band behind him.
There'll be no looking back then, either.
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