Pillow Army are an unusual quartet featuring acoustic guitar and vocals, violin, cello, and drums. They played a pretty good set of indie pop-rock, with a bit of an art-rock edge due to the strings if nothing else. The strings added a nice color to the sound—but not too nice, getting down and crunchy at times. I liked their sound, and although I think they need a little time to develop some more, I'll be keeping an ear out for them.
Altspeak list themselves as a quartet on their MySpace page: vocals and guitar, guitar, bass, and drums; for this show the vocalist only sang, while an extra person played second guitar. They played a set of modern rock with echoes of mid-'80s Britpop. They reminded me of the Purrs, having some decent songs but overall a generic, unremarkable style; but perhaps like the Purrs, Altspeak will grow on me with more listens.
I'm not much of a fan of the Comet Tavern as a venue, it's simply not built for good sound. This was evident when Hotels played, as they sounded a bit deadened and dull, not as crisp and bright as normal. Even so they still played a good set. The band's slogan of "Travel, Romance, Solitude, Rest" aptly represents the various elements of their style, at times dreamy and distant, at times visceral and vital. Their songs have a memorable quality, instantly recognizable and familiar to me though I've only heard some of them at the three shows I've attended, yet still feeling fun and fresh every time. Thus, I was very excited to hear that Hotels are releasing a new album in February, When Hearts Go Broke, featuring many of these songs, but at the same time I almost don't care because it's enough to enjoy them in the moment of the live show. Still, you can be sure I'll be picking it up, as well as continuing to catch as many live shows by Hotels as I can.
Tea for Julie are the quartet of Michael Deresh (guitar, vocals), Travis Stanek (guitar), Jon Dwyer (bass), and Jad Simpson (drums). Similar to Altspeak, they played a set of '90s-influenced modern pop rock. I found their bright guitar sound and energetic mid-to-up-tempo tunes a little catchier than Altspeak, though. They really won me over when the bassist, seemingly goofing around between songs, started a very familiar bass line and the whole band came in for a really good cover version of the Stone Roses' "I Wanna Be Adored." Their following song—one of their own—also sounded very familiar to me, probably from airplay on KEXP; I believe it was "Hello," in any case it was quite good. They ended with another cover, of Blondie's song "Union City Blue", which sounded rougher and not as good as "I Wanna Be Adored" but was still decent. Like Hotels, Tea for Julie suffered some obvious problems with the venue, as the higher-pitched vocals were lost in the ceiling and the overall sound mix didn't really need to be so loud. Also unsurprisingly, most of the already-small audience left before they started, which was unfortunate: Tea for Julie were pretty good and deserved a better audience. I'll be interested to hear them again some time.
That's it for December, unless by chance I catch something while I'm back East for the holidays or on New Year's Eve here at home. Not much is on the calendar yet for January, but I see that Point Juncture, WA are playing a show at Neumos on Thursday the 8th; they have some lovely dreampop singles playing on KEXP and I've really looking forward to seeing them live, so looks like I've got a show lined up. I'll be checking the listings for other shows over the next few weeks, and looking for news on the reopening of the Crocodile Cafe, which will be an exciting event.