A weird wind is blowing from Seattle, funneling down from Capitol Hill through a basement recording studio in the Denny Triangle and back out again, fraying the warm, comfy corners of the city. Isaac Loves You, Especially You bottles the gale, collecting 14 tiny and not-so-tiny explosions of new rock ’n’ roll music made here and now.
A few threads conjoin these songs: Each was recorded in the brightly painted sunken bunker of a studio known as BLDGs. Accessed via the no-man’s-land parking lot behind Re-Bar, BLDGs (say “buildings”) is the incense-scented kingdom and full-service laboratory of Aaron C. Schroeder, a Texas-born musician, producer and audio engineer who radiates a voracious appetite for the act of creating. Complicit with the bands on the compilation, Schroeder’s offering Isaac Loves You as a free download minus any physical collateral, like an inside joke everyone’s expected to figure out because it’s worth it. This means you.
Also, every entry is fucking grand. Not necessarily in scope—intimacy, subtle humor and low-overhead guitar are most prevalent—but in energy, songwriting chops and smarts. Schroeder’s production clears the way, uniformly crisp and professional. Peppy, sticky tunes are hard enough to come by. Executed at this level, by 14 different bands, all recorded over the last 12 months, they add up to a bellwether.
Possibly accidental but certainly prescient, Isaac’s opening number signals the sea change: Changes are coming whether you like it or not. Changes happen for a reason and either you get it or you don’t.
Thank you, Detective Agency, for saying—singing—what everyone’s thinking, and for doing it with racy boy-girl harmonies and sweet guitar. Changes in hierarchy, in album format, in listening habits. Good things. Good song.
A few songs later, Charms dives into “Open Wide” with a cavernous tom drum hit followed by underwater vocals and woozy, Leslie-spun keys. Death Metals expounds on “The Saint and His Works,” at seven-and-a-half minutes the compilation’s longest composition, a droning groove slinking under assertive alpha-male vocals. Contrast that with Childbirth’s clever lesbian sex jab “How Do Girls Even Do It” at one minute twenty-six.
Further garage-rock glory by Killer Ghost, Sir Coyler, Sharkie—bands whose names I’d never heard two weeks ago, whose music I’ve replayed every day since. Guitar-rock balladry by the Torn ACLs. Sky-grabbing synth-pop by Sharkie (“Your face is a braille poem/I trace with my fingers”). Toilet-bound scuzz-punk from the Dumps. With its bouncy tropical pop, Week of Wonders stands alone among grinding rock ’n’ roll; word is they’ve disbanded upon the relocation of a member to New York. Wishbeard, one of my favorite finds of last year, closes with “Strawberry ’69,” playing the elegant line of least resistance through a sinuous math-rock bramble.
Where do these bands come from? How do they exist in an overpriced, over-stimulated city? How is rock ’n’ roll relevant in 2014? Some sort of magic, and Aaron Schroeder’s BLDGs is the conduit. Isaac Loves You corrals a young underground teeming with talent and ideas and determination. It rocks start to finish. It will give you hope.
BLDGs bands will play free shows at Everyday Music on Capitol Hill starting 6 p.m. every Saturday in March. Check bldgsrecording.com. Pictured above Detective Agency inside BLDGs studio. Photo by Aaron Schroeder.