It’s always wonderful to see artists shine a light on places where most people retreat in the shadows. A longtime mainstay on the club scene in Seattle, Billy Brandt knows the intimate gritty details behind the Emerald City mythology.
One of many gray days intrinsic to life there inspired Brandt – a singer, composer and visionary storytelling troubadour – to conceive of his adopted hometown in a film noir context to create City Noir, his fascinating, off-color, not always happy, shimmering and tech-wealthy ode to a landscape rich with dichotomies.
Flavored with all kinds of jazzy soundscapes and grooves – from the hipster beatnik poetry of the title track and the haunting, classically tinged offbeat love song “Beau & Cello” to the surreal, exotic romantic dream of “Tango Happiness” – the collection is part whimsy, part depression, full of squalor and splendor. It’s a time travel experience that takes us from a Humphrey Bogart crime drama to a world where the Bill Gates of the world reside only miles from where the sidewalk ends and tent cities spring up.
In his poetic, mostly sung but sometimes spoken or talk/sung observational narrative, Seattle is a realm where “software meets hard times,” and “a town once driven by the smell of teen spirit but now driven by the smell of the other evergreen, cash money.” While often thought of as a more refined version of Tom Waits, Brandt – working with his longtime rotating cast of ten musicians he calls “The Thing” and “The Stuff” - is very much a free jazz spirit following a spritely muse like no other.
Tapping into everything from Cuban music to old school jazz and romping blues, he’s capable of awakening our social consciousness to unexperienced levels one minute, and inviting us into a beautiful, wistful moment of intimate soul the next.