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Alternative & Indie - Released August 6, 2002 | Hardly Art

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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
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 11, 2007 | Hardly Art

Although The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly is billed as Le Loup's debut, it's technically a solo effort by frontman Sam Simkoff, who recorded these tracks in his bedroom during a lengthy period of post-college anxiety. As a result, fans of Le Loup's live performances will find this album to be markedly different, from the number of instruments used to the softer dynamics of each track. The Nations' Millennium General Assembly largely relies on synths, banjo, drum machines, and Simkoff's vocals, all of which are stacked together to create a sort of Sufjan-approved computer symphony. It's a one-man show that uses repetition to its advantage, with each song slowly growing from a ripple to a sonic swell. And while such material sounds best in a live setting, where Le Loup's seven members can collectively flesh out each song, this collection of bedroom recordings is nevertheless eccentric and engaging. Simkoff flits between the earthy sounds of his banjo and the programmed, experimental bleeps of his keyboards, linking the two camps together with lyrics inspired by Dante's Inferno. There are cantos, recollections of dreams, and odes to the heavens, all delivered by a choir of multi-tracked Simkoffs in a manner that's both grand and intimate. In fact, intimacy may be the album's strongest suit, seeing as the band's expanded lineup may never be able to reach such a quiet dynamic again. The Nations' Millennium General Assembly may serve as a precursor to Le Loup's live, bombastic sound, but it's also an enjoyable look at the band's frontman, his considerable capabilities, and the initial melodies that set everything in motion. © Andrew Leahey /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released July 8, 2008 | Hardly Art

Plenty of bands have embraced the Rolling Stones as a key influence over the years, but much of the debut album from the Dutchess & the Duke suggests this is a new milestone -- a band that has built an entire act around reworking "Sitting on a Fence." Granted, there's a lot more to the Dutchess & the Duke's formula than that, but at their core they're playing rock & roll with just a couple of acoustic guitars and voices, stripping the whole business down to its most basic elements, and their melodic style and their bursts of lyrical insouciance often suggest Mick and Keith in their quieter moments in the 1960s (think Between the Buttons without the gingerbread). Even if the similarity isn't exactly coincidental (and it may well be), the truth is that Jesse Lortz and Kimberly Morrison write this sort of song nearly as well as the Stones did in the mid-'60s, which is to say they do it very well, and while the arrangements are simple in the extreme (acoustic guitars, some hand percussion in the background, and not much else), they also bring out the strength of the melodies with an easygoing, no-nonsense sincerity that's winning. The same can be said for Lortz and Morrison's harmonies, which are rough but committed and just right for this brand of folk-rock with attitude. At a bit less than 31 minutes, She's the Dutchess, He's the Duke doesn't go on long enough to wear out its welcome, and a few more tunes would be welcome, but even the short running time fits in with the duo's "less is more" attitude, and this is one of the more satisfying debut albums to come down the pike in 2008. Note to Lortz and Morrison -- maybe you could try a tribute to "Out of Time" for your production-intensive follow-up? © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 23, 2008 | Hardly Art

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Rock - Released October 7, 2008 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released July 20, 2009 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released September 21, 2009 | Hardly Art

A few things have changed since The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly's release, not the least of which is the addition of four new members to Le Loup's lineup (Christian Ervin, Michael Ferguson, Robby Sahm, and Jim Thomson). What was once a spare, introspective solo project has turned into a lush, outgoing group effort, and it results in Le Loup's most fully realized, not to mention celebratory, work to date. Sophisticated but not stuffy, ambitious but rarely self-indulgent, Family offers an example of the stuff that can go right on a second release. Family features some of Le Loup's most pop-oriented work to date, especially on a track like "Beach Town" -- a haunting, gritty deconstruction of a surf song. This isn't to say that Le Loup have compromised their tendency to experiment on this album -- far from it. Like The Throne, Family is rich with bells and whistles -- there's a lot of textured looping, overdubbed vocals, distortion, and reverb. The main difference here is in Family's generous array of organic instruments, particularly in the form of hand drums, tambourines, bells, handclaps, and rattles. Granted, there are times when this makes the album feel like a night at the drum circle (particularly at the end of "Forgive Me"), but for the most part it adds a warmth and glimmer to Le Loup's sound that was missing in their earlier work. Much of Family has a prayerful feel to it; there's a lot of chanting, especially on "Go East" (which, between the choir-like vocals and banjo flourishes, sounds practically Sufjan Stevens-esque). All the chanting and the organic instrumentation give Family a suggestion of the esoteric 1960s; the album's opening track, "Saddle Mountain," has hints of the Incredible String Band and Pentangle. Family shows that Le Loup have really come into their own since the release of their 2007 debut. © Margaret Reges /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 5, 2009 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 1, 2010 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 29, 2010 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 12, 2010 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 26, 2010 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released July 12, 2010 | Hardly Art

Outside of the Pacific Northwest, Carissa’s Wierd are probably best known as the group that spawned Band of Horses. Mat Brooke, Jenn Ghetto, and their rotating lineup of backup musicians were once the toast of Seattle, though, celebrated for their sparse indie rock sound and unpredictable stage shows. Indie rock has changed quite a bit since the band’s heyday -- it’s become louder, harder, and more indebted to the crowded dancefloor than the quiet bedroom -- but the legacy of Carissa’s Wierd still burns brightly in Seattle, prompting the local label Hardly Art to issue this compilation of the band’s work. They'll Only Miss You When You Leave: Songs 1996-2003 serves several purposes: it cobbles together a number of hushed, quietly orchestral songs that have long since gone out of print; it honors a band that never quite received the recognition it deserved; and it introduces the rest of the country to one of Seattle’s best-kept secrets. With tracks taken from all three of the band’s full-length albums (as well as previously released compilations like I Before E and Scrap Book), this album covers a lot of ground. Carissa’s Wierd were a consistent band, though -- despite their rotating lineup, Brooke and Ghetto always seemed to play their songs with whispered energy, as though they were afraid of waking the neighbors -- and They'll Only Miss You When You Leave is surprisingly cohesive as a result. © Andrew Leahey /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released July 26, 2010 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 9, 2010 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 11, 2010 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 11, 2010 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 11, 2010 | Hardly Art

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 25, 2010 | Hardly Art