To pay proper homage to the musical grandness of 2013 and to usher in the new year 2014, we’ve once again decided to call upon our tastemaker friends to compile their favorite up-and-comers throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Here, James Scheall, Cameron McCreery, and Katherine Humphreys of Seattle’s stylish boutique shop and venue Cairo throw out their wide-ranging picks for Seattle bands to watch. Those who are interested in the Portland scene can also check out the list compiled by the innovative nightclub, Holocene, here.
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Cock & Swan __ soundcloud.com/cockandswan
Cock & Swan’s Ola Hungerford and Johnny Goss are a couple of weirdos making beautifully intricate, often kaleidoscopic pop music. Layers of analog synths and bass guitar provide a hazy, warped framework for Hungerford’s subtle, dreamy vocals to build on. Their 2013 LP, Secret Angles, sounds like something you’d find under a stack of scratched-up Boards of Canada and Broadcast CDs, in the best way. Trippy in the least annoying way possible. – CAMERON MCCREERY
Black Hat __ blackhat.bandcamp.com/album/covalence-ep
Nelson Bean’s music as Black Hat exists somewhere in the strange, hazy middle-ground between dance music and noise. Harsh drums and lurching bass give way to droning synths and eerily beautiful melodies in a constant vortex of sound. There is a definite darkness to Black Hat’s music, but it’s more than just a gothy occult obsession; there is a very natural, very real darkness at work here, one that will draw you in and never let go. Hypnotic head nods ’til the end. – CAMERON MCCREERY
La Luz __ laluz.bandcamp.com
Melancholic oohs and ahhs drift sweetly from rain to the Puget Sound, sung by the harmonious spirits of La Luz, who are taking the foggy beaches and rainy side-streets of Seattle by storm. Not only can they hang ten with their epic surf rock shredder tracks, but they’ve somehow have perfected the balance of drifter sadness and hilarious campiness. Not to mention, they totally survived an insane car accident and have bounced back like it’s no one’s business. Pick up their cassette via Burger or their LP via Hardly Art. – KATHERINE HUMPHREYS
Garek Druss __ www.garekdruss.com
Visual and sound artist Garek Druss performs solo and collaboratively as A Story Of Rats, as well as with duo Dull Knife, multimedia ensemble Saint Genet, and Portland-based bands Tecumseh and Atriarch. Druss’ compositions, whether evoking an ominous darkness in his doom-drone projects or the tangible sense of triumph in his commissioned scores for performance art pieces (often written in conjunction with D. Salo), are steeped heavily in theory. Druss approaches his immersive synth- and organ-based soundscapes with an ear for the dynamic interplay of movement, time, timbre, pitch, melody, and harmony, which elicit deep visceral reactions. Like the content of his drawings and design, if you close your eyes while you listen, you may see the immense interconnectedness of the universe peel away as layers of geometric patterns reveal the meticulous texture of chaos. 2013 was a busy year for Druss, with releases from A Story Of Rats out on Translinguistic Other and Feathered Coyote Records, scores for Saint Genet and Anna Telcs, and The Celestial Din, an audio-visual installation at the Hedreen Gallery. Let’s just hope that Druss can keep up with his prolific output. – JAMES SCHEALL
Youryoungbody __ youryoungbody.bandcamp.com
As Youryoungbody, Killian Brom and Emily Cripe make dark, energetic synthpop. Brom draws from his past work in black metal bands and doing sound design for video games creating lush, hypnotic soundscapes, to which Cripe lends her beautiful, expressive vocals. Their sound is constantly evolving, drawing from everything from witch house to Italo-disco and industrial, all imbued with a youthful energy and a penchant for experimentation. Best experienced in a basement. – CAMERON MCCREEDY
Ian Kurtis Crist __ healthproblems.bandcamp.com
When Ian Kurtis Crist isn’t howling over the bass and drums of his gnarly noise punk band, Health Problems, you can find him performing solo with his confrontational industrial project Bat, writing catchy new wave synthpop tunes as Uneven Eyeliner, or creating visual art and installations with his partner Adair Tudor. In person, Crist is mild-mannered and kind, but once onstage, his face twists and contorts; he drops to the floor and convulses; and, if he catches your eye, the intensity of his unflinching stare is sure to make even the most confident person feel awkward. His lyrics are unapologetically dark and sexual, and deal in experiences with homophobia, dysfunctional families, apathy, and his unquenchable libido. Krist’s artistic output seems to be constant, but Seattle has yet to realize the level of his genius. – JAMES SCHEALL
Midday Veil __ www.middayveil.com
Midday Veil create a heady version of psychedelic rock true to the experimental nature of the genre, driven by motorik beats, analog synthesizers, and vocalist Emily Pothast’s grandiose wail. Often sounding more like a German band from the ’60s or ’70s than a current band out of Seattle, it is no wonder that co-founder David Golightly studied under electronic music pioneer Karlheinz Stockhausen and the members curate a deep appreciation of the avant-garde in art and music. With their well-placed lulls and crescendos, Midday Veil certainly make it easy to get lost in their cosmic atmospheres and dramatic song structures. Not only did 2013 see the release of their second full-length The Current on Golightly and Pothast’s record label Translinguistic Other, in true Seattle fashion this band’s members never seem to sleep. Golightly and Pothast also give site-specific audiovisual installations and performances as Hair and Space Museum; Garrett Moore can be found drumming for Brain Fruit; and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Timm Mason and bassist Jayson Kochan are members of the Motor Collective and make techno music respectively as Mood Organ and Airport, and collaboratively as TJ MAX. May these masters of space and time never cease their efforts to bring us closer to accessing the multidimensional contours of infinity. – JAMES SCHEALL
Childbirth/Chastity Belt/Pony Time __ childbirth.bandcamp.com
We started this list with Childbirth – the mother’s daughter’s pregnant or, um… maternity ward rejects? Anyways, we started with Seattle’s hottest new “supergroup” Childbirth – who are not only hilarious but also just seriously will shred you into a hot flash. They are composed of Julia Shapiro of Chastity Belt — who can’t be left off because the No Regerts album they put out on HYR was definitely one of Seattle’s best albums this year. Then there’s Stacy Peck of Pony Time, whose Go Find Your Own was the anthemic album for everyone wearing a sweater and sunglasses at house shows this warm sunny summer. Rounding out the line-up is Bree of Tacocat – who just announced a new album on Hardly Art in 2014. Literally the greatest, superest, definitely most pregnant band in Seattle currently rocking the untied-in-the-back scrubs. – KATHERINE HUMPHREYS
So Pitted __ sopitted.bandcamp.com
Take anything grunge and put it into the meat grinder, add some vocal mods, and you’ve pretty much got So Pitted. Post-grunge isn’t good enough for them — because the fact is their music is emotionally raw while maintaining an almost metal level of punk anger. Once I witnessed singer/guitarist/drummer Nathan Rodriguez slam himself against a concrete floor in a room where no one was dancing — while vocalist/guitarist/drummer Liam Downey held down the creep and mega-babe Jeannine Koewler stoically ripped tidal waves of guitar. They’ve only just really appeared this year with three EPs that are shaky with snark and distortion as well as some killer bleached shirts — and if you haven’t caught them yet, keep your eyeballs peeled way back for them in 2014. – KATHERINE HUMPHREYS
Alex Osuch, aka DJAO, is no stranger to the zone. Whether knocking out heavy-hitters alongside fellow zoner Nice Nate as NICE&AO or working on his own, AO’s music is never far from reverb, ambiance, and all-around vibes. Songs like “Time to Stop Waiting” from the Friends of Friends compilation Show Me The Future highlight the warm, emotive, organic qualities of AO’s sound that set him apart from his peers, accentuated by his soft vocals and dynamic ear for rhythm. Expect big things from the homie. – CAMERON MCCREEDY
Bandcamp offers the option to add as many music/fake tags to your music as possible – but Wimps went with simply ‘punk Seattle’ because really, what more do you need to know about a band called Wimps? Total partners in crime — but probably not real crimes like robbery and assault, more like too much sitting around being boring or trying to using their mind to trip passersby — Rachel Ratner, Matt Nyce and Dave Ramm have impressive CV’s. This would, in other bands, skyrocket them to “supergroup” status; here it simply helps explain how a group so lacking in social desires would make music so 100% amazing. Sarcastic but not assholes, obsessive but not tiring, Wimps release on End of Time Records is perfect for rainy day mosh pits or just surfing the web at home. – KATHERINE HUMPHREYS
Excited For 2014!
While we can’t give away all the rumors we’ve heard floating around, our short list of artists to watch out for includes Pill Wonder aka Will Murdoch’s sunny almost-cute pop project, and FF or the plaid idols of post-rock. Guitar pop trio Dude York have all been fairly quiet this year, unless you’ve been talking to one of the three of them about their upcoming LP on Help Yourself Records. In fact keep your eyes on Seattle labels in general – exciting things are happening over at Couple Skate Records</stron even though Ian might not live in Seattle any longer we still count him as a Seattleite, as well as punk/pop/garage DIY label Help Yourself Records. Not to mention Sarah Moody’s side project, End of Time Records. In fact one last plug – don’t forget the glistening/beautiful Golden Van Records which can be caught at DIY venues/shows around Seattle with their curated selection of records. Haunting dreamgirl Briana Marela recently recorded an album in Iceland and did a kickstarter to fund the release – which will be very early in 2014. Finally Seattle favorite Stickers have taken their post-wave game to new levels, recording new tunes and playing some of the best shows of the year. They will have an LP out on End of Time in 2014, and rumor has it they are already at work on a second LP.
Related Article: Up-And-Coming Portland Musicians: Holocene’s 2014 Bands To Watch