Beautiful balladeer: Rocky Votolato gets in touch with his roots.
Robin Laananen

Minus the Bear, Rocky Votolato

While Seattle's Minus the Bear features winding, sometimes jarring guitar work that calls to mind D.C. post-core and math rock, the band's tone is more in keeping with Built to Spill. Songs melt by with an easygoing fluidity that belies the dense swirl that often envelops them in a hazy, somnambulant waltz, reminiscent of fellow Northwestern acts such as Pond or Modest Mouse.

When he isn't penning solo albums, Rocky Votolato is the singer/guitarist for churning indie rockers Waxwing, which includes his younger brother, Cody (Blood Brothers). On his solo joints, Votolato channels the desperation of Chris Carrabba (without the mythic self-pity) and the gentle roots amble of Rhett Miller (before his recent turn toward insipidness). Votolato's latest, Makers (Barsuk), is his best-written release yet, driven by tender, thoughtful ballads ("Wait Out the Days") and shuffling country-rock paeans ("Portland Is Leaving").


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