Oakland, CA's Jim Yoshii Pile-Up began in 1997, when Paul Gonzenbach (vocals/guitar), Frankie Koeller (bass), and Ryan Craven (drums) and Sikwaya Condon (guitar) began performing. Named in honor of Jim Yoshii, a high school friend of the band, the group released a self-titled EP on Yoshii's own Old Prospector Records in 1999. Guitarist Ian Connelly joined in 2000, and the band's first full-length, It's Winter Here, was released the following year on Absolutely Kosher Records. Sikwaya left the band and was replaced by Noah Blumberg, who was first featured on 2002's Homemade Drugs, again on Absolutely Kosher. Recorded with Scott Solter (The Court and Spark, Tarantel), the album marked a definite transition in the band's sound, as the members experienced dramatic changes during the album's assembly. Gone were the comparisons to Mogwai, Bedhead and Slint (though the discerning ear might still uncover traces of the Cure, Cat Power and Three Mile Pilot). The songs shifted their feel from the guitar-wash fuzz crescendos of the first album to more of a crisp, cold-light-of-day sound with an unusual amount of intimacy in both the music and the words. The blend somehow came out as heavy pop.
This transition continued with their third album, Picks Us Apart, recorded by Shawn Porter and released in 2005. Gonzenbach went through some more dark times before writing the album and the songs definitely convey that. He's much more of a wry wit than he's given credit for on all of the records, but especially this one, a sort of incredulous sense of humor that acts as a last defense from the preposterousness of life, relationships, daily routines and social necessities. Blumberg takes back-up vocals very effectively on "Jailhouse Rock" and Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart lends a hand and voice to a couple of songs. Save for the threads in Gonzenbach's voice and lyrics, this is a world away from the band's earlier material.
The Jim Yoshii Pile-Up is currently on hiatus.