Kill Rock Stars compilation
The Sound the Hare Heard
Kill Rock Stars

If you’ve heard a compilation released by the Olympia, Wash.-based Kill Rock Stars label then you’ve sampled quintessential riot grrl groups, spare experimental rock and still-green punk bands, like Rancid, before they became popular. The newest KRS comp, however, is something strange and different compared to its predecesors.

The Sound the Hare Heard is strange simply because it’s not as weird, cacophonous or jagged as other KRS comps; it’s morning coffee songs or a soundtrack for a rainy day. Thao Nguyen drawls through “Feet Asleep” in an old-time country style, and in “Why” Essie Jain’s voice creeps like a vine around shimmery piano scales and smoky tones of steel guitar. The most enthralling track is Laura Veirs’ “Cast a Hook in Me,” which features lyrics about a merman and highlights Veirs’ imperfectly pretty vocals. Also included are solo pieces by the mystically political Sufjan Stevens and famed ex-Missoulian Colin Meloy (now of the Decemberists).

The Sound the Hare Heard is a shockingly non-ironic collaboration; a rough and charming platter of solo artists and storytellers, something akin to Dylan, Paul Simon or Joni Mitchell, but of this time. (Erika Fredrickson)

Kill Rock Stars’ The Sound the Hare Heard Tour comes to The Loft above Higgins Alley Tuesday, June 20. Lovers, Thao Nguyen and Southerly are scheduled to perform, with locals Helmet Tag to open. Doors at 8 PM. $6.

Aaron Espe
My Whole Life

Aaron Espe’s sonic style is the musical equivalent of close talking, a feature of human behavior that demands no special skill in conversation but certainly requires above average acumen to convey in recorded music.

His vocals tend toward whispers—moody and brooding like crooner Chris Isaak but nasally rather than thoracic. They meld well with the engineering of My Whole Life, on which the squeaks of fingers manipulating guitar strings sneak into more than one song. As a result, listening to Espe requires accepting a little intimacy; emotional claustrophobes might find his album threatening.

Here’s a test: If the denouement of an episode of “Felicity” has ever reduced you to quiet tears—and you’re willing to admit it—you’re probably enough in touch with your inner Espe to embrace his frankly melodious songs and brightly breathy vocals rather than run for an inoculation from the nearest aging Shout at the Devil cassette you can locate.

Bolt if you must, but realize while you run that dismissing Espe’s unabashedly introspective and reflective songs means dismissing the whole genre, for this singer-songwriter is among its best exemplars. (Jason Wiener)

Aaron Espe performs at The Raven Cafe Thursday, June 15 at 7:30 PM. $10/$7 students.

The Aggrolites
The Aggrolites
Hellcat Records

The Aggrolites eponymous major label debut is a guilty pleasure summer soundtrack. It’s party music that sounds as if it was recorded in a time machine, capturing an authentic ’70s mix of Motown soul and Kingston reggae. The rhythms are infectiously danceable and beautifully dirtied-up by Jesse Wagner’s raspy lead vocals. The result’s been described as Wilson Pickett playing a house party backed by the Meters and Maytals, and that’s dead-on.

The opening two songs—“Funky Fire” and “Mr. Misery”—are arguably the best two examples of The Aggrolites’ high-energy, vintage sound, but all 19 tracks deliver the same rambunctious and gritty groove. Six instrumentals provide peppy organ-heavy interludes, with a strong Dave and Ansel Collins influence.

And lyrics? That’s the one place this effort falls short—no sociopolitical commentaries here, a la the seminal reggae soul of the ’70s—but it hardly matters. The songs are punctuated with Wagner’s call-and-response shout singing and other guttural noises that add more flavor than any chorus or verse.

The band originated from Southern California’s punk and ska community, but that contemporary lineage is misleading. The Aggrolites sound like a genuine throwback. (Skylar Browning)

Wax Tailor
Tales of the Forgotten Melodies
Decon Records

Wax Tailor (aka French producer JC Le Saout) is the sort of instrumental hip-hop producer who twists sounds in such a way it creates a narrative in your head. Known as a master of “cinematic hip-hop,” Tailor combines various sound sources like vintage string instruments tuned to minor keys and voiceover narration from old movies to create an ambiance that often mirrors film noir. Even the album cover of Tales of the Forgotten Melodies pays homage to that particular style with its high-contrast, dreary lighting of an abandoned warehouse, giving the impression that the effort is drenched in melancholy.

The mood on this album, however, isn’t always so dark. Tracks like “How I Feel” point to a sense of optimism for the future, and “Where My Heart’s At” expresses Tailor’s love of hip-hop with a little lyrical help from guest MCs The Others.

Although some people might dismiss Tailor as just following in the footsteps of RJD2 or DJ Shadow, he proves with Tales of the Forgotten Melodies that he’s making his own distinct brand of instrumental hip-hop. (Ira Sather-Olson)

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