It always pleases me to attend a sold-out show for the friendly realization that HEY YOU ALL FOLKS LIKE WHAT I LIKE and, more importantly, the knowledge that it is an extra-nice feeling for artists themselves to put a butt in every seat. Last Thursday night, an excellent bill of Musicians From Foreign Lands -- Courtney Barnett from Australia and Alvvays from Canada -- packed Seattle's Moore Theater to it's rather steep rafters, and provided us with two very different interpretations of fine modern pop.

First up were Alvvays, which you should pronounce "Always," but will probably pronounce like your Swedish Grandpa Sven. I knew the band from some heavy rotation on Sirius XMU and their delightful song "Archie, Marry Me," and was quite impressed with the crystalline vocals of lead singer Molly Rankin. Their sound was something of a mix between the swirling dreamy shoegaze of Washed Out and the clear pop sensibilities of the Cranberries; hypnotic, but not trippy, indie with a distinct flair for clean harmonies and memorable songs. I enjoyed them very much, even without being neither Canadian nor Swedish.

(Click on the images to enlarge, and click on the Flickr links for more!)

I'll make a bold statement right here: I think Courtney Barnett is the finest lyricist in rock music right now. Oh, yes I do. I am a complete sucker for words, and Barnett has won this spot for me with her incredibly clever way of combining humor, intelligence, pathos, and keen observation into snapshots of everyday life. Like Ray Davies or Andy Partridge or Elvis Costello, she has an innate feel for balance -- how to be playful with a lyric without becoming overly silly, and how to use humor to illuminate the absurd or serious. If this weren't enough, she is a gifted songwriter with a knack for melody and construction, knowing when to break up verbose monologues with a catchy guitar riff or soaring harmonies, deeply understanding the language of classic '60 British Invasion, pop singer-songwriters of the '70s, the crunch and shred of punk, and the timelessness of folk storytelling. And if THAT weren't enough, she is an incredible and unusual guitarist whose pickless style of percussive playing adds to her unique and compelling sound. SO THERE!

Barnett arrived onstage to a very welcoming crowd, and proceeded to charm the crowd more and more with each successive song. Surprisingly, with her verbal prowess shown in her music, she spoke little between songs to the audience; a few asides and some thank yous, and that was it. Did some of the detail in the lyrics get swallowed up by stage sound and the venue acoustics? Yes, which would be unavoidable, and is too bad because they are so good. But we did get a chance to really hear Barnett play, all aggressive and driving and quite awesome, which is not spotlighted as much on her recordings. Everyone seemed to be able to sing along the entire time anyway, occasionally stopping to yell, "I love you, Courtney!" Barnett more than delivered this evening, and when I grow up, I'd like to be just like her.

Here's the jaunty "Pickles From The Jar" from the encore!

Thank you to the Moore, STG Presents, Katie Nelson and Grace Jones at Grandstand, and of course, Alvvays and Courtney Barnett!