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Last Friday the 20th, I went to the Sunset Tavern to see two bands celebrate album releases: Heart to Elk, the third album by Point Juncture WA, and Where Hearts Go Broke, the second album by Hotels. Opening the evening was The Animals at Night.

I first saw The Animals at Night just last month, and I don't really have much to add to that review. Once again they played some great dance music, but the club was so packed there was no room to dance. The crowd did seem to be into the music though, which was good for the band. I have a feeling The Animals at Night will be popping up a lot around town and expect it won't be long before I'm seeing them again.

Hotels marked the release of their album by playing it straight through, down to maintaining the segue from "Near the Desert, Near the City" into "Leilani". They also had on hand singer Annie Alldredge to provide her lovely guest vocals on "The Heart That Hears Like A Bat". Unfortunately the sound quality at the Sunset is rather poor, and standing up front near the stage I found the mix lacking. The guitar was a little submerged when it wasn't taking the lead, and overall the crisp interplay of the various parts did not always come through. Still, that was the fault of the venue, and the band made up for it with their energetic and enthusiastic performance. I believe the club was sold out for this show, and I expect that as word gets out, Hotels will be moving up to bigger venues soon.

I've been excited to see Point Juncture WA ever since I started hearing their single "Melon Bird" late last summer on KEXP. The quartet of Amanda Spring (lead vocals, drums), Victor Nash (keyboards, vocals, and trumpet), Skyler Norwood (bass, guitar, vibraphone), and Wilson Vediner (guitar, added percussion) played a mix of indie pop-rock and shoegazer-influenced prog rock. Because Spring does most of the lead vocals, the band had the unusual setup of having the drums front and center on the stage. That setup also made it easier for the band to trade off parts, which they did a few times, Spring taking over vibraphone and bass while Norwood took drums and vocals; Vediner played some vibraphone too and occasionally banged on a cymbal or drum in the midst of songs. The set as a whole felt a lot lighter and more pop-oriented than I had expected, based on "Melon Bird"—which, to my disappointment, they did not play—and reminded me somehow of Imperial Teen. Later I found out that Heart to Elk is their third release, not their debut as I'd thought, so it may be that the more pop-sounding songs were older ones. They did play "Once Tasted Ever Wanted", the other single that KEXP has been spinning, and it had a cool psychedelic/Euro-rock feel to it; some of the others were on the heavier side too, with shoegazer-y distorted guitars. Even so, I was left feeling that had I seen them live first rather than hearing "Melon Bird" on the radio, I wouldn't have been so excited. However, Heart to Elk is a satisfying album and I look forward to hearing more from Point Juncture WA.

I have another review to write, for Annuals at Chop Suey last Wednesday, and I'll have that up soon. Meanwhile, March is upon us, and I'm currently looking at two shows: Asobi Seksu at Chop Suey on Tuesday March 10, and Simian Mobile Disco at Neumos on Friday March 13. I still need to go through the full listings to see if there's anything else I want to catch. Oh I should mention Hotels are doing an in-store gig at Easy Street Records in West Seattle on Friday March 20. Also noteworthy, the Crocodile has been booking shows starting in late March, and I look forward to seeing the newly-renovated club. Finally, KEXP's Spring Pledge Drive is going on this week; I wouldn't know about so many great bands were it not for them, so I highly recommend making a contribution.

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