Here's Carissa's Wierd.
Featuring future members of the much-hyped Band Of Horses (who I have to admit I've never heard), and Jen Ghetto's solo project S, the band's sound was a blend of symphonic arrangements, delicately strummed guitars, and nearly whispered, fragile vocals that sets them apart from other bands in the Seattle scene that was awash in a tide of Mudhoney and Nirvana clones during an era of record industry exploitation of the area due to it's status as a musical hotbed.
Bands like Sunny Day Real Estate, early in the decade, and the Tacoma Area's Botch in the late 90's/early '00's blazed trails in the "emo"/hardcore genres, yet somehow seemed to become associated with a stereotyped image, which all too often happens when a band gets bumped from "cult" to "granddaddy shit" status. SDRE's rhythm section eventually would help form Foo Fighters with ex-Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, and Botch went on to seriously influence bands like Norma Jean. That's kind of the how the scene seems to go. Carissa's Wierd's relative obscurity is a gift in a way. They carry no reputation and thus no baggage - the music seems to speak for itself. Unlike musicians like Elliott Smith, (who's rainy day lo-fi sound is somewhat akin to Carissa's Wierd aesthetic), who have biographies available in any major book store about them, which creates an almost overpowering individual aura that overpowers the music sometimes. Carissa's Wierd's music survives as a sole testament to their power of artists. Their power as musician's somehow seems to lie in their virtual anonymity - when you hear a Carissa's Wierd song for the first time you have no preconception about what the singer might be saying - you have no previous reference to go on except maybe the lyrics to another song. It somehow makes the recording seem just as intimate, if not more, as listening to a famous artist sing a famous song about a situation that is understood, because of their celebrity status, between the artist and the audience. The fact that you are somehow out of the loop about the true circumstance for the song being penned at all makes it seem all the more soul-bearing as an offering in this band's case.
Their delicate, tight approach results in lilting yet jarring melodies, and intimate recordings. Often referred to as things like "Sadcore", or "Slowcore", they truly sound as their fan-run Myspace heralds them as: "Punk kids grown up and gone sad." The male/female vocal is unique and well-played. Their two true full lengths show the fullest extent of their strength as songwriters; the guitar hook and complimentary melody in "Ignorant Piece of Shit" (2003's Songs About Leaving) is one of the most compelling riffs I've ever heard. Their use of orchestral instruments really gives the music a great atmospheric vibe, while remaining completely manic depressive - their prowess lies in their ability to absolutely mesmerize you with stunning instrumentation while at the same time singing, well, some of the most depressing lyrics I've ever heard. The aptly titled "Die" (2004's I Before E) is a perfect example with lines like:
You’re standing on a lonely road
(suppose I had said that I had lied, just when you said that you were)
Die right now
I never asked to be here
A bit melodramatic at time, but it somehow never manages to seem cheesy. Their entire catalog is worth the download, and their Scrapbook b-side collection features some great covers that point you in the right direction if you're wondering about influences - a gentle acoustic version of "Asleep" by the Smiths as well as version of Leonard Cohen's "Chelsea Hotel" that features Sam Beam of Iron & Wine fame circa the time he was releasing his breakthrough album Our Endless Numbered Days, that would propel him to indie star status. The album also features some great demo and alternate versions of LP songs, as does I Before E, which also features the excellent aforementioned "Die".
And now, a shout out from Mike Teunis for shits and giggles:
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Ugly But Honest: 1996-1999 (1999)
You Should Be at Home Here (2001)
Songs About Leaving (2002)
Live in Denton, TX July 13, 2003
I Before E (2004)