No one seems to be able to stop talking about Kendrick Lamar this year, and while we are no different from the rest in that regard, we've naturally made the effort, as usual, to put together an Albums of the Year list that is typically unconventional and probably features quite...

When listening to so much post-rave, R&B-indebted bass music, one can't help but detect a certain critical distance. It's like they can't get the power and force of the gravel landslide sub-bass and jerking, jittering trap rhythms to jive with the stories of seduction, temptation, malaise, and emptiness the vocals...

Though the haunting voice of Portland songstress Sara Jackson-Holman already lends itself well to a song bearing the title “Haunt Me”, the remix by hometown hero Natasha Kmeto transforms all of the bright notes of the piano-heavy original into atmospheric grey skies. Pair that with a number of delightful frills-and-lace...

Natasha Kmeto
A couple years ago, I asked Decibel's founder Sean Horton how he manages to make an appearance at every single one (or almost every one) of the showcases during Decibel Festival. His advice was simple: "Don't drink, don't do drugs, don't eat, DON'T STOP!" While this may indeed work for Sean (is he a robot?!), I am but a mere human and had to abandon at least one of his key tenets (I'll let you use your imagination as to which ones). Overall, I felt like my Decibel Festival 2014 experience was less cohesive than in past years, but that may have just been due to my own headspace; I had a hard time settling for just one showcase each night, so ended up show-hopping far more than I ever have at Decibel. Here are a few of the performances & showcases that stood out. Natasha Kmeto @ EMP Sky Church for the Opening Gala; Photography by +Russ
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Seattle’s 11th annual Decibel Festival is quickly approaching, which means it’s time to start the agonizing process of picking and choosing amongst the myriad of showcases, Optical shows, After-Hours, conference workshops, and boat parties the festival has to offer. There are shows and conference activities offered up to 19 hours...

To pay proper homage to the musical grandness of 2013 and to usher in the new year 2014, we've once again decided to call upon our tastemaker friends to compile their favorite up-and-comers throughout the Pacific Northwest. Here, Gina Altamura and Van Pham of the innovative, multimedia-minded nightclub Holocene give us the scoop on Portland bands to watch (and see their 2012 list here. Those who are interested in the Seattle scene can view the picks of the stylish boutique shop and venue, Cairo, here.
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Aan __ www.facebook.com/weareaan

I've believed wholeheartedly in the exceptional talent of Aan's Bud Wilson ever since I first heard his emotionally riveting avant-rock back in 2009. Fast-forward to the present, and Aan is experiencing a well-deserved breakout year. After extensive touring -- including a string of dates with the Smashing Pumpkins -- the band is in top form. Even in mid-size nightclubs, Aan puts on a show fit for an arena with their sheer dynamism and technical skill. Bud is a multi-faceted crooner, capable of delicate romance and ferocious vitriol alike, and he deftly charts a course across this wide emotional territory: a map of Amor Ad Nauseum (the title of Aan's excellent upcoming debut LP). With the recent addition of Brainstorm's Patrick Phillips -- ecstatic West African-influenced guitar shredder -- to the live band, I can only imagine 2014 will be even more exciting for this group. - GINA ALTAMURA (Editor's Note: Aan will be playing Holocene's next film score series, Fin De Cinema, on Purse Candy and Philip Grass; they will be scoring the Japanese animation, Night on the Galactic Railroad. See more details here. Their next record, Amor Ad Nauseum, drops February 1st, 2014.) ++ SEE: ALL POSTS RELATED TO AAN

Phone Call www.facebook.com/phonecallsound

An incarnation of Portland's favorite disco sons, Strength, Phone Call kicks it up a couple of decades with their hard-hitting hip-hop beats, and introduces more assertive synth lines in lieu of Strength’s guitar-heavy grind. It’s unabashedly -- if not absurdly -- sexy, with plenty of space for singer Bailey Winters’ charismatic swagger to shine through. There’s a little Prince, a little JT, and a gleeful dive into the deep reaches of boogie funk crate. Some wear your sunglasses at night/Miami Vice vibes or at least they’ll make you think that it’s getting a little hot in here... But there’s no mistaking: they’re here to make us dance, and maybe leave the place with somebody tonight. - VAN PHAM (Editor's Note: Phone Call play Holocene on New Year's Eve, with Le1f, Shy Girls, and PWRHAUS... along with DJ slots from Miracles Club and Radiation City. Details here.)

Natasha Kmeto __ www.natashakmeto.com/

Natasha Kmeto is a total badass. Unpoetic I know, but nonetheless the most satisfying descriptor for this futuristic soul diva. She's an expert at working a crowd, and as a solo performer relying on electronics, this is especially impressive. As a producer, her adventurous bass music is powerful and entrancing, while her vocal delivery is more captivating still. Her unabashed reflections on the vicissitudes of love and the trials of artistic ambition are belted out with incredibly authentic emotion, lending her music an immortal quality of spiritual resonance. - GINA ALTAMURA ++ SEE: ALL POSTS RELATED TO NATASHA KMETO + NATASHA KMETO INTERVIEW
Out with the old, no matter how good it is! Here's our comprehensive list of Top Albums of the Year 2013, schizophrenic as always to reflect the diverse tastes of our staff, though there is some overlap. It's highly recommended you check out every release here, as each has its own creative strengths.
Matthew Carter - electronic, experimental, metal, pop, rock Vivian Hua - dance, indie, pop, psychedelic, soul Troy Micheau - classical, electronic, experimental, instrumental Judy Nelson - dance, electronic, indie, pop, psychedelic, soul Elizabeth Perry - indie, mainstream, pop, rock Peter Woodburn - classical, instrumental, metal XUA - electronic hip-hop, mainstream, pop Albums of the Year 2013
Natasha Kmeto Interview Photography by Patti Miller
Mystics throughout the ages have sought to express the relationship between birth, death, and time through all manner of ritual and philosophy. In Qabballah, we have the Supernal Mother Binah, who crystallizes Force into Form, thus making us subject to time and decay. In the ancient Greek religions, we have the story of Demeter, whose periodic descent into and return from Hades signifies the cycle of birth and death. And in astrological terms, we have the Saturn Return, which signifies the recurring point where the God of Time returns to the position he held on our chart when we were born. This last concept has worked its way into the modern Western lexicon to the point of cliché, but it serves the purpose of illustrating a point in our lives -- which happens around every 27 to 30 years -- when we are seemingly forced by some unseen hand into a state of brutal self-reflection. It is the mid-life crisis; the night journey; the start of C.G. Jung's path to individuation. Regardless of what we call it, this is an ordeal that most people are at least tangentially familiar with. Some event, possibly innocuous at first, becomes the source of friction that challenges us to engage our assumptions about who we are and what we are doing, so that we might make better use of our time on Earth. Now in her late 20s, Portland electronic musician Natasha Kmeto has felt the impact of her own Saturn Return and emerged from it all the better. Though not explicitly dedicated to the topic, her latest album, Crisis, is a highly personal record about love, loss, and longing that marks a maturation point in Kmeto's musical career. It has also lifted her from the status of popular local artist to internationally-renowned R&B singer and electronic music producer.
"It was my career that facilitated me traveling more and starting to experience different things in my mind, [so] that I kind of realized that the trajectory I was on was not the one that I wanted to be on. I kind of did a 180 and had to get really honest with myself and figure out what I wanted, because I wasn’t happy." - Natasha Kmeto
MusicfestNW 2013 began for me like every other MusicfestNW experience. I consistently respect the festival's curatorial efforts, which always yield at least a handful of acts I am excited about, and an even larger smattering that I don't exactly care for but greatly approve of from an objective standpoint. This year, however, I decided to take it preeeeeetty easy, both because I've seen many of the bands in the recent past and because I wanted to save myself for the rest of the September festival whirlwind (Decibel Festival and TBA Festival are still on the horizon). The positive news to report is that I saw no filler acts at this year's MusicfestNW. Every act I saw was fantastic... but here are my top three.

Royal Canoe

It seems that every other year, I find an indie pop band that I instantly fall in love with. I need not hear an entire record to know these folks resonate with me; I need only the first track to sense familiarity. In 2009, that band was Nurses; in 2011, it was Gardens & Villa. 2013's candidate for "band I'm going to pimp out to all my friends" is Royal Canoe. The six-piece Winnipeg-based band traveled across the country to play an opening MusicfestNW slot for !!!, and despite the fact that very few people in the crowd seemed to know who they were, Royal Canoe were instant crowd-pleasers and dance-insinuators. They rolled through tracks almost exclusively from their recent LP, Today We're Believers, with one exception: the ridiculously sex-groovy "Summersweat" from their 2012 EP. Twas a set full of falsettos balanced by deep mutated vocal effects, and topped off by -- not one, but four -- vocalists harmonizing or shouting gang vocals as necessary. Also notable were the double drummers, one of which triggered numerous sounds on an electronic drum pad, and a series of sick ass synths that sprang awesome leads like unstoppable leaks. Royal Canoe are the first indie pop band I've seen in a while who truly seem like they are doing something irreplaceable. Their set is something wholly and bizarrely themselves, and unparalleled. As if in response to my bitching just the day before about the fact that live shows rarely wow me anymore, in Royal Canoe swooped, to uphold my high expectations for them. I'm only sad that even with all my proselytizing, I failed to rouse up much interest from my friends, who were busy with other MusicfestNW events. They missed out. Learn more about Royal Canoe in my interview with them.
Now in its tenth year, Seattle's Decibel Festival has grown from a tiny electronic celebration to a world-renowned music festival without sacrificing attention to detail along the way. From fabric wristbands to the notable lack of corporate sponsors -- save for ones that directly affect the electronic music scene in some way -- Decibel has retained a number of the charming qualities which usually become lost to larger festivals. Its continued stress on the audio-visual merging of music and motion art continue to push the festival forward as well, as Seattle's best venues were sometimes upgraded with video equipment and makeshift spaces were sometimes transformed into festival-worthy ones. This review highlights some notable shows from Decibel 2012, ranging from excellent to quite mediocre, and includes write-ups of Andy Stott, Jimmy Edgar, Clark, Demdike Stare, and Orbital. SEE FULL FESTIVAL RECAP AND PHOTO GALLERY

Jimmy Edgar

The Decibel Festival guide claimed that the Warp Records showcase on Wednesday evening would be for fans of Prince, which led to some confusion for me. Would that be in reference to main headliner and mad music scientist Clark? Certainly not. Then who? The winner of the prestigious association -- and pleasant surprise for the festival -- turned out to be 1983-baby and astrology-enthusiast Jimmy Edgar. Edgar, a most handsome and dapper fellow, rose to the stage behind a stripped-down version of the LED light rig he usually travels with, ready to perform his 2012 Hotflush release, Majenta. No hitches here, it seemed... until the projections behind Edgar began to fill the screen. The generic and low-quality visuals, which were more suitable for Windows 95 screensavers than for Edgar's clean productions, seemed like a stock offer from Decibel rather than Edgar's own choice. They became a painfully glaring and vibe-dampening reminder that the newfound "necessity" of supplying electronic shows with accompanying visuals can sometimes go awry when the visuals are tasteless, or of a different taste than the musician's music. They were distracting, to say the least, and it was unfortunate that habit dictated that they received much more attention than they warranted. (Apologies, I suppose, if they are indeed Edgar's creation, though I doubt it, and the criticism remains.) Unfortunate visuals aside, Edgar queued up quite a dance party by passionately embracing every type of electronic music that might even be tangentially related to Prince -- from C&C Music Factory-type club jams and dirty '80s breaks to breathy R&B-influenced slow jams. Soul was at the heart of all of Edgar’s music, and its presence in his body was also clear, from his intense concentration to his spontaneously fabulous uses of vocoder. Such sensory vibage was not lost upon the audience, either. Never have I seen a grouping of men so stoked about the performance of another man, as man after ecstatic man screamed, "Jimmaaaay!!!!!" as though they were going to tear their shirts off in support of Edgar at any given minute. Twas one of the best shows I saw at Decibel, and most certainly one that made a lasting impression.