Tag Archives: Sub Pop

Yuno Steps Outside the Bedroom to Become a Household Name

Yuno

If a predominant fever dream of the internet age is the legend of the kid who makes music in his bedroom becoming a rock star overnight, Yuno Moodie is the next best thing. He’s a 27-year-old homebody who has been crafting melodic, layered psychedelic pop in his bedroom at his parents house in Jacksonville, Florida for a decade—with scattered acclaim and some modest successes along the way—who finally found his big break. Earlier this year, Moodie (who records music under his first name, Yuno) landed a deal with the influential Seattle indie label, Sub Pop. Not overnight stardom, perhaps, but a pretty life-changing development nonetheless.

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U-Men: Seattle’s Secret Art-Rock Influencers

U Men

Photo by Cam Garrett.

It’s 1985, and the members of Seattle’s U-Men are backstage, getting ready to play their biggest gig to date. The weirdo-punk quartet had spent the last four years slamming through every basement, social hall, dive bar, and art gallery that would book them. Now, they were preparing to play their hometown’s annual Bumbershoot Festival, and honest-to-god capital-e “Event” in the 16,000+ capacity Seattle Center, in front of parents, kids, and ‘normal folks.’ Needless to say, they were more than a little surprised to be there. “[It] was our first big show that was family-friendly,” remembers U-Men guitarist Tom Price.

It was a grand opportunity for the group, whose fan base up to that point consisted of a couple hundred punks—most of whom were at the Seattle Center with them for the 1985 show. U-Men were the kind of band that occasionally dressed in Speedos for their live gigs, had once broken a stage, and had, another time, set up a wrestling ring for an amateur match before their set.

As legend has it, the audience at Bumbershoot was only somewhat interested in the band—until the final song. The stage at the Seattle Center was surrounded by a moat; U-Men dumped lighter fluid into it and set it on fire. The flames shot 20 feet into the air.

“People went nuts,” Price says. “Parents in the back with the strollers were horrified. Security freaked out—which, of course, got the kids more freaked out. I’d never seen anything quite like it, as far as the instant transformation of a crowd. We thought, ‘We got to do something to fuck with people’s heads big time,’ and it kind of worked.”

Four years later, U-Men broke up to little fanfare. Three decades later, they still boast a hardcore fan base of locals and a handful of killer releases, which have now been re-released by one of their hometown’s biggest indie labels, Sub Pop. Many U-Men fans went on to form their own bands: Soundgarden, Mudhoney, and Pearl Jam are just a few. And though these groups, and the general grunge explosion that came to define the city in the ’90s, didn’t sound at all like U-Men, they certainly learned from the group’s DIY ethos and middle finger-in-the-air attitude.

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Pissed Jeans’ Matt Korvette & Author Lindsay Hunter On Sexism & “Guy Bands“

Pissed Jeans

Pissed Jeans by Ebru Yildiz

The latest album from Pissed Jeans, Why Love Now, sports a cover that is all pastel pinks and blues, with a photograph of the boys in suburban cookout-style collared shirts. Most of the band members are sporting smiles. Vocalist Matt Korvette even has his shirt casually unbuttoned. It’s only the deadpan stare from drummer Sean McGuinness that hints that the band might have more up its collective sleeve than well-groomed appearances would suggest.

On Why Love Now, Pissed Jeans serve up a collection of harshly humorous looks into the straight white male psyche. The lead single, “The Bar Is Low,” is the band’s most polished and accessible number—with an almost-ZZ-Top bar bounce, though male deprecation is classic Pissed Jeans. The hammering noise-rock showcased on their previous albums is on full display here as well, with Randy Huth’s rumbling bass anchoring barn-burners like “It’s Your Knees,” and “Worldwide Marine Asset Financial Analyst.” Huth and guitarist Brad Fry operate as twin battering rams for most of the album, making the moments when Fry steps out with a solo particularly effective. This record is Korvette’s most varied performance yet, as he ranges from almost tuneful singing to the hoarse barks utilized on earlier albums. It’s an album filled with self-absorbed characters—from the target of “Not Even Married,” a recently dumped friend partying away the “trauma” of a “squeaky clean break,” to the aforementioned financial analyst who watches the “ice caps melt away,” but is only brought to tears by an accounting error.

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Porter Ray Brings Seattle Hip-Hop Forward With “Watercolor”

Porter Ray

Porter Ray by Jay Scroggins

In 2014, Porter Ray was overwhelmed. The emerging Seattle rapper had just signed with hometown label Sub Pop which, while certainly exciting, is mostly known for releasing indie rock. A month after signing the deal, the mother of his 2-year-old son was incarcerated.

“There was pressure on me, being a single father and having a 2-year-old,” Ray says. “There was pressure releasing a rap album on Sub Pop. I wanted it to be this perfect thing, because I knew it was going to be something that a lot of people didn’t expect the label to do, and I wanted to represent it properly. Too much was happening at the time, which was throwing my heart off and making it difficult for me to record.”

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Album of the Day: Sleater-Kinney, “Live in Paris”

The thing about Sleater-Kinney’s 2015 post-hiatus album No Cities to Love and the Portland rock group’s ensuing tour is that, as they were quick to explain at the time, this wasn’t a reunion. They’d never broken up—they’d just pressed pause, focusing on other projects. When they were ready to start making music together again, they did. As Sleater-Kinney’s entire career has been, it was on their own terms.

Live in Paris is a document of one of those 2015 shows, and it’s an excellent live album in all aspects. It’s recorded and mastered evenly and professionally, as would be expected from an official release, but there’s nothing about it that sounds sterile. You can hear Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein moving to and away from their microphones, and there are some very natural moments, as when Tucker struggles to get all her lyrics in without losing any ferocity on “What’s Mine is Yours,” a breathless ode to love as subversive energy from 2005’s The Woods, which sounds far more vital here than its studio version. Both her and Brownstein’s voices have ragged edges by the time they get to the blown-out bridge. Janet Weiss’ performance throughout the entire record should silence any rogue naysayers who don’t think she’s one of America’s best rock drummers—powerful and precise, Weiss keeps up a pace that’d have most gasping midway through the set, injecting the occasional sly, jazzy curlicue or syncopated part with fluid ease.

This is not a set that rests or lopes along. It’s hard, tense, and aggressive, but it also bubbles with ebullience—Sleater-Kinney at their best. The setlist is pretty evenly divided throughout their discography—several tracks from No Cities to Love, The Woods, and One Beat, as well as a smattering of nostalgic selections from Call the Doctor, Dig Me Out, and a stunning version of “Start Together,” from 1999’s The Hot Rock. It serves just as easily as a terrific introduction to Sleater-Kinney’s discography and ethos as it does as a treat for longtime fans.

And so Live in Paris ends up being a portrait of a band that started full of youthful fury over 20 years ago as they figure out how to turn that energy into something sustainable now that they’re, you know, grownups, without losing any momentum. Die before you get old? Nah, not if you can do it Sleater-Kinney’s way.

—Jes Skolnik

Album of the Day: Morgan Delt, “Phase Zero”

Psychedelia was once rock’s avant-garde, but half a century later, the music of mind expansion can sound frustratingly conservative. Retreating into introspection— specifically, the stoned fantasies of the ‘60s—almost feels irresponsible in a world that demands engagement with the present.

Though he lives in Los Angeles and wears his hair long, multi-instrumentalist Morgan Delt must understand this. Phase Zero, his first album since leaving Chicago retro-rock label Trouble in Mind for Sub Pop, bathes serious anxieties about contemporary life in lysergic sunlight. You only have to squint a bit to identify the shadows on the horizon. The sounds of vultures circling and windstorms brewing in so many tracks’ long, ominous outros might be your first hint.

Opener “I Don’t Wanna See What’s Happening Outside” sets up the dissonance between style and theme. Steel drum sounds splash like pebbles tossed into a stream. The buzzing in the background could be cicadas. Delt’s guitar ripples gently, his voice full of hippie sweetness. But he’s singing about witnessing, and turning away from, atrocities: “I saw bodies devoured / It’s no business of mine / You know I’m only a coward.” Given the news from Orlando, Baton Rouge, Milwaukee: it could be the song of the summer. Delt gets explicitly topical on “The System of 1000 Lies,” letting a reverent hush fall over anticapitalist salvos and clickbait clichés like “one weird trick.” More often, though, the visions of environmental apocalypse and human cruelty he buries under glittering instrumentals could come straight out of classic dystopic fiction. Phase Zero may sound like the Summer of Love, but it reverberates with the fear that winter is coming.

—Judy Berman