Locals Only Artist of the Month: Cumulus
Seattle has long been a frontier town that attracts musicians who want to invent and reinvent – from Jimi Hendrix to Kurt Cobain to the next unnamed musical star. While the sound may change from decade to decade, the Northwest’s music scene is as vibrant as ever. And here at The End we feel it’s important to help put our homegrown talent in the forefront by giving you a taste of our cities musical richness.
Cumulus began as a confessional art project of singer/guitarist/songwriter Alexandra Niedzialkowski. With the addition of childhood friend Lance Umble on guitar and Leah Julius on bass, Cumulus became a proper rock and roll band. And “proper” is the word. Alex’s songs are a study in juxtapositions: delicate but powerful, specific but universal, naïve but knowing, and above all personal despite being steeped in the classic pop themes—love, loss, youth, wonder, disappointment, joy. In Umble, she has a counterpart expanding her songs’ unguarded feeling and simplified solo arrangements into a complex sonic universe teeming with harmonic possibility and throbbing with noise. Sometimes gentle, sometimes utterly the opposite, the waves of sound coming from Umble’s dexterous, muscular guitars form a protective layer to surround Niedzialkowski’s hushed voice—not to drown it out, but to let it be heard all the more clearly. Seattle musician Leah Julius, who they met at a Bruce Springsteen tribute show, of all places, offered to play bass for Cumulus despite never having played the instrument in her life. They happily accepted, which meant Julius had to learn the songs and the instrument all at once. This crash course became the glue between the disparate elements at the band’s core.
Trans- will release Cumulus’ debut full-length, I Never Meant It To Be Like This, this autumn. The album, produced by the band at Phil Elverum’s studio The Unknown in Anacortes, WA, is what Spin has called “…an elegant, understated work of deftly flickering guitar pop,” and “a comforting rainy-day blanket.” We prefer to think of the record as a masterpiece in miniature—ten songs of expansive, explosive indie pop at whose epicenter are the indelible melodies and haunting twilight voice of singer/guitarist/songwriter Alexandra Niedzialkowski.
For reference: I Never Meant It To Be Like This places Cumulus squarely alongside contemporary acts like Best Coast, The Dum Dum Girls, and Tennis, while reaching back to a not-so-distant golden age of indie pop when good bands had hits, and the knack for wide-readership hooks (Elastica, Veruca Salt, Juliana Hatfield) and loud guitars (Yo La Tengo, My Bloody Valentine’s first album) didn’t preclude a heroic dose of delicacy (Heavenly, the Delgados, Velocity Girl, Tiger Trap). All of which is to say you could almost mistake Cumulus— who appear, let’s face it, pretty adorable—for twee if they didn’t rock so commandingly.