#3 Paper (Hot Sax Version) by Explode into Colors
If a friend was visiting me from out of town, I'd want to take them to an Explode into Colors show; there's something undeniably Northwest about their ecstatic rock outs. The band borrow the spooky garage (and saxophone!) from primordial NW groups like the Wailers; their impressive rhythm section is designed to slay at Olympia house shows and at the Vera project.
This song, Paper (Hot Sax Version), is chase music. An intense beat, heavy with alt percussion, leads the way for a powerful baritone guitar. There are no lyrics, just MIA-ian echo yelps, but the song doesn't need them to tell a story: That evocative surf guitar line, that ever so right cow bell, it's enough to raise a fist for.
#2 Caterpillar Playground by Nurses
Caterpillar Playground opens with a melancholy whistle and chiming piano chords. It has every right to feel lonely but refuses to do so. It's a nice metaphor for the band, a wandering pair of friends that have made idiosyncratic folk for years with little notice but kept refining it anyway.
It's a song that tops my itunes play count for its mood as much as its surefire structure. The whole thing echoes and quakes, like a textured sigh.
#1 Old Natural Feeling by Heatwarmer
It's impossible to "just like" Heatwarmer. The band snags bits from discarded American music—honky tonk, smooth jazz, patriotic show tunes, and let's them reflect on each other, tracing the common yet lost emotional potential of USA uncool.
This song is a raucous surprise. Old Natural Feeling starts with Native American flutes and moves through up-tempo piano riffing, religious four part harmony and a sick metal guitar solo.
It's pretty dark, ostensibly about someone dying in a car crash and realizing that their pain has been felt by hundreds of others, but you wouldn't know it from the joy the band plays it with. They know they're getting away with something but that something is so unhinged and bizarre, so simultaneously smart and silly that it has to be celebrated. Heatwarmer have struck on a uniquely American magic, an ostentatious place where our shared history struts around, naked, bloated and not nearly as ashamed as it should be.