The man behind Jigsaw Records has insurmountable knowledge about the most underground of bands, of obscure labels from all corners of the planet, most of which favor various subgenres and sub-subgenres of indie pop. This knowledge should not be regarded lightly, as Chris McFarlane has had his eye on the industry, and in some form has been a part of it, for a very long time. McFarlane is the purveyor of great underground pop music from his brick and mortar shop dubbed Jigsaw Records in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. The record label was re-birthed from the record shop, which opened earlier this year. Not ringing a bell? This might: Chris was also the main man behind the IndiePages website.
So IndiePages has been lacking of new content for a few months now, but there’s good reason: Jigsaw Records, the label, has returned in full force with new releases and great tunes. About a month ago, Chris shot me an email chalk full of new items he was working on putting out, and I figured that was prime real estate for another Label Spotlight. We’ll start out with the new stuff (four of five albums) then dive into the vault, as there are still plenty of early greats available from Jigsaw’s original tenure, including releases by Chris’ own Suretoss and (a long-time personal favorite of mine) Patients Please.
* * * * *
016: We Are Here by The Gazetteers
From Albany, NY comes the most recent band to release a record via Jigsaw — The Gazetteers. In a way, We Are Here reminds me of an early, more pop-worthy version of The Mountain Goats, were that band to have a minor obsession with indie pop and super bouncy melodies. Actually, front-man Frank Boscoe has a fairly impressive past in indie pop, having been a major factor in Vehicle Flips (Magic Marker Records) and Wimp Factor 14. Their third release, this album was recorded a few years back but only now is coming to our ears. Great stuff and good timing, in my opinion.
Download: “Trapped Inside A Skill Crane” by The Gazetteers
[audio:100730-gazetteers-trapped-insidea-skill-crane.mp3|titles=Trapped Inside A Skill Crane|artists=The Gazetteers]
Download: “K.I.S.S.” by The Gazetteers
* * * * *
014: True To Nothing by Goblin Universe
A new obsession of mine is the first track off Goblin Universe‘s True To Nothing. The song is called “No Love” and it’s just a hair over a minute long, but it’s the perfect album opener. I’m not going to post it here, but I will include it in the next podcast for sure. True To Nothing is a compilation of a few released by the band during their existence early in the century. So, in a way, this is a reissue of those releases. Chris also threw in a track from a compilation and a few unreleased tunes. Goblin Universe is packed with plenty of that fuzz we all love, and they front that fuzz with some pretty damn amazing tunes. I can see this becoming a major favorite in the months to come…
Download: “Here Comes Gnome” by Goblin Universe
[audio:100730-goblin-universe-here-comes-gnome.mp3|titles=Here Comes Gnome|artists=Goblin Universe]
Download: “Hands” by Goblin Universe
* * * * *
013: Impress & Defend by Spraydog
Within the first few moments of any Spraydog song, you’ll know this band has a thing for the 90s. They have the grit of artists like Versus and Dinosaur Jr. but they also dig indie and power pop. Impress & Defend is their latest release and it features the same aggressive pop they’ve been creating for more than a decade. They sent me one of their last records three, maybe four years ago and I thought it was pretty solid. But I f*ing love this!
Download: “Cry Out Scream Shout” by Spraydog
[audio:100801-spraydog-cry-out-scream-shout.mp3|titles=Cry Out Scream Shout|artists=Spraydog]
Download: “Polaroids Not Portraits” by Spraydog
[audio:100802-spraydog-polaroids-not-portraits.mp3|titles=Polaroids Not Portraits|artists=Spraydog]
* * * * *
012: At Promise Beach by Premise Beach
Lo-fi punk influence jangle pop outfit Premise Beach one of the recent artists to dish out a release on Jigsaw. Their life as a living, breathing, working band was brief, existing between the spring and summer of 2009, but in that short amount of time they were able to throw together the LP At Promise Beach. “Touching Towns” and “Catching Up” are both good examples of what to expect on the album — playful jangly guitar meanderings fronted by catchy, frenzied vocals. No surprise, that’s Chris himself on drums.
Download: “Touching Towns” by Premise Beach
[audio:100730-premise-beach-touching-towns.mp3|titles=Touching Towns|artists=Premise Beach]
Download: “Catching Up” by Premise Beach
[audio:100730-premise-beach-catching-up.mp3|titles=Catching Up|artists=Premise Beach]
* * * * *
011: Parallel Plots by Patience Please
Another where Chris wears the percussion hat, Patience Please has been a favorite of mine for near five years — since the release of this EP in fact. Chris notes that the band was “seemingly doomed from the start by a volatile relationship” between the vocalist and keyboardist. With the skilled lyrics of Jordan Michelman (bass) wrought with inner torment and clever wordplay, and the vocal styling of a front-man (Ray) obsessed with Costello, Patience Please was, in my opinion, one of the greatest displays of indie pop talent you can find. There’s a lot of nostalgia behind this record for me, and it takes me back to the days shortly after wrapping up grad school, enjoying the lazy hot Pullman summer before packing up and moving to Seattle and joining the real world.
Download: “Cynics & Critics” by Patience Please
[audio:100730-patience-please-cynics-critics.mp3|titles=Cynics & Critics|artsists=Patience Please]
* * * * *
010: Music For Happiness by Dutch Elms
The first time I heard “Cleopatra”, the opening track to Dutch Elms‘ Music For Happiness, I immediately thought of early New Pornographers. They have a similar pop vibe with heavy keys, male/female vocals, and highly infectious, punchy guitar riffs. Oh yeah, and shrouded in a late 90s indie pop sound. Dutch Elms comes from the early Jigsaw releases, pre Patients Please, which ultimately was the final release of the label before Chris took a bit of a hiatus from putting out records through Jigsaw.
Download: “Cleopatra” by Dutch Elms
Download: “Therefore Talk” by Dutch Elms
[audio:100801-dutch-elms-therefore-talk.mp3|titles=Therefore Talk|artists=Dutch Elms]
* * * * *
009: Of Today – For Today by Leslies
Like Dutch Elms, Leslies produce catchy indie pop music that carries a hefty punch. With fun verses and truly unforgettable choruses, you may recognize their name from the Labrador Records collective of artists. Of Today – For Today didn’t get a home on Labrador, but it finds a welcome presence here on Jigsaw. Beware: it’s easy to fall in love with “So Sincere”!
Download: “So Sincere” by Leslies
Download: “Blue Suede Shirt” by Leslies
[audio:100802-leslies-blue-suede-shirt.mp3|titles=Blue Suede Shirt|artists=Leslies]
* * * * *
007: Days Are Getting Shorter by Poconos
Super fuzzed out pop fronted by Tami Heaton, at least on the song “Booksmart”, Poconos plays fun, harmonic pop songs with immense energy. The band includes Heaton and her pal Mike Applestein. A few listens to “Booksmart” and you’ll agree with me — this band has the sound of K Records written all over it. Great stuff, and it’s still in print!
Download: “Booksmart” by Poconos
* * * * *
003: Rhythm Of The Chicken Shake by Boyracer
“Doorframe” is no where near as raucous and rambunctious as the typical Boyracer song. This is a band whose lo-fi fuzzed-out noise punk-pop sounds has been lauded by those throughout the Pacific Northwest underground pop scene (and well beyond, for that matter) literally for decades. Rhythm Of The Chicken Shake is the only release covered in this label spotlight that is sold out, though there are several others on Jigsaw Records possessing that OOP (out of print) label.
Download: “Doorframe” by Boyracer
* * * * *
001: …Like the Sun 7″ by Suretoss
If you know Suretoss, you get bonus points. To demonstrate the longevity of Jigsaw Records and Chris’s presence in the music scene, he released this record in 1995. There’s a good chance that some of my readers weren’t even born yet. If this is your first listen, Suretoss has that 90s sound, somewhere between grunge, punk, and full-fledged indie rock; as Mac notes, he takes “influence from 80s/90s US indie-rock, including (but not limited to) Husker Du, Superchunk, Jawbox and Lync.” The band, of course, is just one of Chris’s many legacies, and perhaps may be his first. More recently, you can find him accompanying the likes of Seattle’s Iji and Math & Physics Club.
Download: “Pillow” by Suretoss