Welcome to another edition of First, Last, and Favorite; our column where we get to probe our favorite local artists about the records that set them on their musical path, as well as what they’re playing right now. This round we get to know Cumulus. (Who’ll be playing here Thursday 9/27 at 7pm!)
Cumulus is the musical alias and rotating cast around Seattle based singer and songwriter Alex Niedzialkowski. She’s been working under that name for much of the last decade. Her newest record is due out next week and is titled Comfort World, derived from a personal mythology inspired by a billboard for a long out of business mattress store. The artist explains: “I thought that ‘Comfort World’ was positive and where I was supposed to be. It wasn’t until months later after the end of my relationship, and being fired from my job, and having life generally just kick me in the ass, that I realized I had become stagnant in the pursuit of my own happiness. I realized that to indulge in the ‘Comfort World’ for too long is to give up, and I’d like to think this album was my catalyst for choosing forward motion.”
What you get with the new Cumulus record is smart and articulate indie-pop. It’s got just enough rough edges, and is both intricate and direct in the right ways. And then there is Alex’s voice, which is unique, clear, and melodious. All in all it’s no surprise that this record is released by Trans- Records, operated by Chris Walla, formerly of Death Cab For Cutie. Check out a track:
Alex shares with us her thoughts on the record that opened up the rich world of northwestern indie, a favorite from youth that’s aging gracefully some twenty years later, and her current favorite by another Seattle artist that we had the pleasure of featuring here in this same column!
Mirah Advisory Committee
The album that really set me on the path of being a songwriter: I went through a pretty heavy phase of emo and pop punk in high school. Everything I listened to was boys complaining about their horrible girlfriends, and I absorbed every word, singing along in the front row of every show. It wasn't until years later I realized that this was a big reason it took me so long to see myself actually on the stage. All of high school I saw my role in music as the muse, the super fan, but never the creator. My senior year of high school my friend heard one of my songs I had written, and handed me a Mirah mixtape. I remember hearing Mt. St. Helens for the first time and it changed my life. It was everything I was searching for but didn't know it, until it was there in my portable CD player. This album set in motion what would then become my obsession with Mount Eerie, The Microphones, Karl Blau, Kimya Dawson, all of the pacific northwest music that I really feel led me to where I am now.
Jenn Champion Single Rider
Not only is this album just banger after banger, dancing in your car with the windows down kind of music but- I think it's really important that it exists. I love the direction that Jenn has taken her songs, and I love how unafraid she is to explore genres and possibilities. I really feel like with this record in particular, Jenn is using the language and tools of high production pop music to share a perspective that doesn't always get a platform in pop music itself. "Coming For You" is such a beautiful song about resilience. I can't help but feel inspired when this album comes on.
Third Eye Blind Self Titled
I feel like this album was my first real moment of "Oh, I love music." Not just on a casual listener level, but on a worship level. I got this record for Christmas when I was 10 years old. My dad took me to see them at Bumbershoot in 1998? I was on his shoulders, in the crowd, singing every word to Semi Charmed Life. It's been amazing to see how much this album has stood the test of time. Stephan Jenkins was 30 when this album came out, and I never could have predicted that an album I picked out at 10 years old would only become more relatable the older I got. I also think just stylistically, this album is a masterpiece. I have memorized every guitar hook as if they were lyrics themselves. I will always, always go back to this album and this band, probably for the rest of my life. I also can't deny that their penchant for hooks rubbed off on me and impacted my whole songwriting process!