Arthur & Yu
Seattle-based duo Arthur & Yu quickly became favorites on the local and national music scenes for their evocative, lightly psychedelic folk-rock tunes and rich but homey harmonies. Grant Olsen was born and raised in the state of Washington and had come back there early in the 21st century to make music, while Sonya Westcott, who had played bass for a spell with Rogue Wave, had recently relocated to the Pacific Northwest from San Francisco, CA. Olsen met Westcott through a notice posted on Craigslist, which caught his eye when he noticed her influences and enthusiasms included Lee Hazlewood, Karen Dalton, and Melanie. The two began working together, recording homemade demos of Olsen's songs, and when they needed a name for their act, they put together their childhood nicknames -- Olsen's friends called him "Arthur," while Westcott was known to her pals as "Yu." The Arthur & Yu demo started making the rounds of indie records labels and the two began playing small-scale live shows when their recordings caught the attention of Jonathan Poneman, co-founder of Seattle's Sub Pop Records. Poneman was planning to launch a new label, Hardly Art Records, and he was impressed enough with Arthur & Yu's demos that they became Hardly Art's first signing, and their rough recordings were released in June 2007 as the album In Camera. The album won enthusiastic reviews, and Arthur & Yu hit the road, taking their music across the country both as headliners and opening for the likes of Iron & Wine and Kevin Drew.
© Mark Deming /TiVo
© Mark Deming /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released June 19, 2007 | Hardly Art
The phrase "in camera" is sometimes used to describe movie visual effects (such as fades, dissolves, or wipes) that are done on the cheap during shooting rather than on an optical printer after the fact, and there's a vague similarity of purpose between this sort of technique and the echoey, lo-fi production that dominates the first album from Seattle indie folkies Arthur & Yu. While the simple, pared-down approach on In Camera may well have been dictated by finances or lack of experience, it also meshes beautifully with the feel of this music, and adds a level of aural personality to these melodies that might not have been present in a more high-tech recording. Grant Olsen's songs are stark but beautiful even at their most cryptic, and his harmonies with Sonya Westcott sound like the dreamy voices of stoned sirens calling out across the avenue late at night. While Olsen and Westcott's approach clearly reaches back to '60s folk-rock, it's hard not to hear echoes of the third Velvet Underground album or a bare-bones variation on Lee Hazlewood's collaborations with Nancy Sinatra at the same time, and the ghostly layers of keyboards and percussion that hover in the background punctuate the acoustic guitars to fine effect. In Camera is such an effective debut that one almost fears what might happen if Arthur & Yu are given a bigger budget and a better studio for their next project, but they show so much talent here as they make the most of so little that one can hope they'll do at least as much with a bit more. © Mark Deming /TiVo