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WINDING DOWN 2009: Cake, Deck the Hall Ball

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

Winding down the year by no means signals a less-than-stellar lineup of great shows. On the contrary, there are plenty of December concerts worth seeing and investing in a pair of earplugs for. Here's what I suggest checking out this month.

Passion Pit
Moore Theatre
December 9

Among the most awkward pop tracks to emerge this year - and also one of 2009's absolute best - is "Sleepyhead" by Passion Pit, an infectious fusion of fuzzy synths, hearty handclaps and unusually catchy vocals. Technically, the song was released last year by the Cambridge, Massachusetts five-piece on the EP Chunk of Change, though it was re-released this summer on the group's full-length recording Manners. With the exception of the twinkly "Sleepyhead," the album is one big dance party from beginning to end, primarily "Little Secrets" and "Folds in Your Hands." Whether they lower the seats at the Moore or keep them up, Passion Pit is sure to inspire body wiggling from an expected hipster turnout. Look for an interview with Passion Pit in the Seattle Gay News on December 18.

J. Tillman
The Crocodile
December 11

Those suffering from Fleet Foxes withdrawal can get a temporary fix by an evening spent with J. Tillman, drummer of the famed folk ensemble and a solo artist, as well. His newest collection of self-penned material, Year of the Kingdom, is very mellow and nearly depressing - it compliments the wintry gray afternoons in Seattle just fine. The long-haired, bearded musician is likely to play many tracks from the new album, but fingers crossed he includes songs from his 2008 effort, Vacilando Territory Blues, such as the atmospheric "Firstborn." Don't be surprised if fellow Foxes like Robin Pecknold or Skyler Skjelset come out to support Mr. Tillman.

KEXP's "Yule Benefit"
w/ The Cave Singers,
The Thermals
Neumos
December 12

The Cave Singers are the latest Seattle act to create international buzz, on the strength of the trio's second recording Welcome Joy, which incidentally doesn't contain the awesome single "Dancing on Our Graves" - you'll find that track on the threesome's 2007 album Invitation Songs. The Cave Singers, comprised of remnants from local defunct bands Pretty Girls Make Graves, Hint Hint and Cobra High, are categorized as modern folk, but elements of bluegrass and retro pop are also embedded in their sound. They'll perform at Neumos as part of indie station KEXP's 7th Annual Yule Benefit, also enlisting Portland punk unit The Thermals. This is probably your last chance to catch The Cave Singers live in Seattle this year.

107.7's "Deck the Hall Ball"
w/ Muse, Phoenix,
Vampire Weekend, and more
WaMu Theater
December 15

Local radio station 107.7 The End continues its winning streak of putting on a bangin' holiday bash with the 2009 installment of "Deck the Hall Ball," already sold-out. Muse always gives a kickass performance; they're loud, dramatic, and powerful on a live stage, and they usually match their booming sound with an electrifying light show. French pop-rockers Phoenix own this year's coolest album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, and I intend to have my feet off the floor when they play "1901," and maybe again when they do "Girlfriend." Vampire Weekend will introduce new material from their much-anticipated sophomore release Contra, and here's hoping they perform "M79" from their self-titled debut. 30 Seconds to Mars, led by Hollywood cutie Jared Leto, and festival favorites Metric are also on the impressive bill.

Ledisi
Dimitriou's Jazz Alley
December 17-20

Grammy-nominated R&B artist Ledisi makes a sweet return to Seattle, taking up a four-night residence at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley in mid-December. Her previous visit was a one-night-only appearance at Benaroya Hall a few months ago. Celebrating the success of her sophomore album Turn Me Loose, the Oakland native is expanding her fan base by way of knockout live performances - from blues to gospel to traditional soul, this girl can sing it. The acclaimed singer-songwriter has been a stage act since the age of 8, even fronting the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra. Ledisi will perform two sets Thursday through Saturday and a single set on Sunday, backed by a seven-piece ensemble. This is a perfect time of the year to enjoy a show at the cozy Jazz Alley, with a glass of wine or dessert and coffee.

Cake
Paramount Theatre
December 31

Cake is just the kind of band you want to play at a New Year's Eve party, and Seattle fans lucked out as the Emerald City was selected by the Sacramento quintet to host their annual year-end shindig. Yes, these are the guys who funked up Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive," the same dudes who gave us "The Distance." Cakesters, as I believe they're called, travel from across the country to the group's NYE show, so if you come across a flock of wasted kids in the vicinity of the Paramount Theatre at the stroke of midnight, bingo! A new album is being worked on, but in the meantime you can listen to a number of Cake's past songs on a long list of film soundtracks, including I Love You, Man and Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

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