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The Haul: The Wicked Farleys, Kilmer, and Accelera Deck

I hadn’t visited Easy Street on my first trip to Seattle, but it came recommended and had positive reviews on Yelp. (Whether Yelp reviews accurately correlate to my level of record-collector scum has yet to be determined.) Maybe it was the enormous, spinning sign or the paintings of recent album art on the side of the building (the eagle from Mogwai’s The Hawk Is Howling looked a bit confused), but Easy Street seemed like a very particular type of record store, the event store. It reminded me of the now-closed Record Service on Green Street in Champaign, a store which had a good stock of new and used music, threw release night parties, and held occasional in-store performances. I appreciate the existence of event stores, since they get people excited about buying music, but as this meme demonstrates, I do not have that problem. I’m more concerned about finding some out-of-print LP for sub-eBay prices.

The strength of event stores is the stock of new releases and used CDs. If you’re drawing customers because of an in-store or a big new release, it’s crucial that any other recent release and staple artist/album is available for you to buy. The problem with event stores from a record collector’s standpoint is that this emphasis on the new and classic (plus all of foot traffic) decreases the possibility that anything rare or obscure is in stock. Easy Street had a great array of new LPs, especially electronic/house/techno, but I’m hesitant to buy those when I have to fly them across country in a few days. I’m simply less excited by browsing a store when I have a good idea of what will be in stock and more excited by digging through crates of dusty LPs that might hold a gem. I chose to hold out and see what the other Seattle stores had to offer instead of loading up on records that I should own by now, but if I lived in Seattle, I’d frequent Easy Street on a regular basis, much like I frequent Newbury Comics in Boston.

25. The Wicked Farleys – Make It It LP – Big Top Records, 1999 – $2

The Wicked Farleys' Make It It

If memory serves—and for the two bucks I spent on this LP, I wouldn’t be heartbroken if it didn’t—the Wicked Farleys were Boston’s answer to the spazzy indie rock of the Dismemberment Plan. After Googling some background information, they existed around the same timeframe as the Dismemberment Plan, so it wasn’t a direct line of influence, but I remember them getting lumped in with the nervous twitches of early Dismemberment Plan more so than their actual influences. The reliable Built on a Weak Spot mentions Swirlies/My Bloody Valentine/math-rock influence, which makes sense given their geography. I also recognize Michael Brodeur’s name from numerous record reviews and interviews in the Weekly Dig and the Phoenix. All of this background bodes well, better than my lone Dismemberment Plan connection.

Having spun the first side of Make It It, most of my touchstones have proven accurate. Brodeur’s vocals come close to the melodic, higher register pipes of Travis Morrison, but he doesn’t have the same level of vocal charisma (or lyrical ingenuity) and the falsetto occasionally wears thin. A few more songs with the energy of the appropriately titled “Find Shit Break Shit!” (I’m amazed Limp Bizkit never covered it) might help, but I prefer their mid-tempo tracks musically. The guitars are definitely on the Swirlies tip, taking the combination of shiftiness and heaviness from a song like “San Cristobal de Las Casas” and exploring it in depth. There’s a bit of North of America’s angularity floating around, too, cementing the Wicked Farleys’ place in the soup of late 1990s indie rock. It would be great if I could lose sight of the contemporary references, but even without a groundbreaking streak there are enough solid, well-made songs on Make It It to justify the purchase.

26. Kilmer – Reason Can Deceive, Faith May Be Misplaced, But Love… CD – West of January, 2002 – $1

Kilmer's Reason Can Deceive, Faith May Be Misplaced, But Love...

I received Kilmer’s self-released first album, 1998’s The Highlands and the Lowlands, as a promo during the Signal Drench days, leading to a positive review of its blend of emo-core and indie rock and an interview shortly thereafter. Its closing track, “How the Fifth Column Fell,” outshined its counterparts, presumably taking inspiration from WWI poetry (Owen, Sassoon) with the multiple narrator approach to its war story. I’ve gone back to “How the Fifth Column Fell” a number of times since Signal Drench folded, and the song holds up. It’s emotional without falling prey to many of the emo clichés of the era. I haven’t gone back to the other songs in ages, although I recall using one of the shorter tracks (“Three Sixty”) on a mix tape. Skimming through the lyrics now it’s pretty clear that they were one of those vaguely Christian rock groups particular to the Northwest, not that Sunny Day Real Estate and Pedro the Lion set a bad example.

By the time Kilmer released Reason Can Deceive… in 2002, Signal Drench was gone and my desire to keep tabs on groups I’d first heard because of the magazine had largely vanished. Plus, the record didn’t make enough waves to show up in Midwestern record stores. I imagine their support in the Northwest scene was limited, since they weren’t based out of Seattle, they weren’t on a nationally recognized label, and their mix of introspective guitar rock and lighter, more romantic piano-based tracks didn’t align them with a single movement or genre at the time. A common story among bands I enjoy, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the music’s great.

So is Reason Can Deceive a lost gem? That depends on how much you like Radiohead’s The Bends and OK Computer, since many these songs owe a large debt to those records. The production and performances are considerably improved from their roughhewn debut, but this ultimately trades spontaneity for polish. I prefer when the songs stick closer to the emo-core leanings of The Highlands and the Lowlands, like “Mediterranean Postscript,” “Arthur I,” “Fundamental Principle” and the interlocked guitar outro of “Spilling Summer.” Lead singer Peter Nelson often veers toward flowery lyrics and fluttering delivery (a criticism of his more recent group, August Anchor, as well) and Brian Ward’s grittier vocals don’t come to the forefront very often. I owe Reason Can Deceive a full listen one of these days, but I’ll probably stick with the standouts for now.

If you want to hear either of Kilmer’s albums, Brian Ward has MP3s posted on his photography website. You’ll have to right click the links and fix the typo in “photography,” but it’s worth doing if you enjoy the specific songs linked properly above.

27. Accelera Deck – Addict CD – Blackbean and Placenta, 1999 – $1

Accelera Deck's Addict

After getting hooked on a few songs from Accelera Deck’s Narcotic Beats—still one of my favorite electronic albums—thanks to Epitonic.com (a site that appears to have been left for the wolves), I picked up a bargain priced copy of Exhalera Deck’s superb “Exhale” 12" and started an obsessive journey into Chris Jeely’s ever-expanding catalog. Unfortunately, only his first few releases displayed this shoegaze/electronic hybrid (September Plateau’s Occasional Light is another good example), since he dropped the fuzzed-out guitar textures in favor of drum-and-bass and glitch styles. Thankfully, I learned about this development from SoulSeek, not my local record store, so I could safely sample Jeely’s immense discography and track down the records that appeal to me. (I still hope to stumble upon the 2LP pressing of Narcotic Beats.)

I technically didn’t need to track down Addict, since it was available for full-price at Parasol for years, but I never fell in love with this stylistic direction. While Jeely’s melodic touch comes through on a few of these songs, its drum and bass approach feels like a distant cousin several times removed to Accelera Deck’s early work. Addict’s predecessor, Conviction and Crack, is a much better midpoint between these styles.

Even though he left me behind in many stages of his evolution (his affair with Guided by Voices styled acoustic songwriting was quite a curveball), I’ve kept tabs on Chris Jeely and was rewarded with the gorgeous pointillist landscapes of Pop Polling, the traditional indie rock of Skulllike’s Eggs on Equators, and the billowing live instrumentation of A Landslide of Stars. I haven’t tracked down any of his more recent work after he “retired” the Accelera Deck mantle, but I imagine more name changes, stylistic changes, and limited pressings are in order.