Throwaway Style is a weekly column dedicated to examining all aspects of the Northwest music scene. Whether it’s a new artist making waves, headlines affecting local talent, or reflecting on some of the music that’s been a foundation in our region; this space celebrates everything happening in the Northwest region, every Thursday on the KEXP Blog.
This summer is breezing by, like summers often do. Already we have reached the point of Seattle music’s biggest midsummer event, Capitol Hill Block Party, where a decent part of the Pike-Pine corridor is shut down for dozens of acts and thousands of your closest friends (or folks who at least have a shot at becoming your closest friends). Starting tomorrow and lasting through the weekend, Capitol Hill Block Party is a stellar resource to check out your favorite bands and discover new favorites with the added benefit of taking in the atmosphere of one of Seattle’s most bustling neighborhoods.
Naturally, CHBP is teeming with great local acts, so just like we did when Upstream Music Festival + Summit rolled through Pioneer Square a month and a half ago, we’re here to offer you a smattering of some of our favorite local acts playing the festival. The selection process was simple in theory but less so in execution; when you are selecting one local act per stage per day, there are quite a few names you have to scratch out. After much deliberation over the selection process, here are fifteen local acts playing this year’s Block Party you might want to check out.
Dude York is a band who are as anthemic as they are empathetic, crafting open-hearted, open-throated singalongs about disenfranchisement, heartbreak, and stressing the fuck out during the holidays. The band recently (“recently” as in “two days ago”) released a new single, “What Would You Do if You Had Some Money Now?,” which is unequivocally the most danceable track the band has released so far. Dancing and pogoing and singing outsized songs about all the ways life could go wrong sounds like the perfect way to kick off CHBP weekend.
The duo of Joe Gillick and Sage Redman have built an entire world within their soundscapes, running the gamut of EDM, electronica, and all sorts of waves (coldwave, darkwave, new-wave). Those waves crash right alongside Redman’s quietly emotive vocals, sometimes serving as the proverbial teacup in a tempest, sometimes the component which completes the minimal craftsmanship of their immensely danceable and thought-provoking tracks.
“Moorea Masa has been singing since she could talk,” says her Bandcamp page, and given the way the Portland-based singer/songwriter can convey an array of moods in the atmosphere of her soulful vocals, it’s clear her dexterous facility with the art of singing surely can only be gained with decades (more specifically, two and a half decades) of practice. Her catalog is littered with folk guitar and swelling soul, breakup ballads and odes to friends to have passed away.
A Seattle trio making quite the name for themselves in the city -- featuring twin siblings Eva and Cedric Walker (guitar/vocals and drums, respectively) and bassist Robby Little -- the bluesy, punk-leaning rock of the Black Tones is going a long way to subvert the misconception that rock music shouldn’t be classified as “black music” in the vein of hip-hop and R&B. Their stellar single “The Key of Black (They Want Us Dead)” brought forth a sense of identity the band refers to as “Black Power Rock,” but don’t sleep on the band’s ace songs about their grandparents (“Plaid Pants”), a veiled ode to Steve Buscemi’s character in Pulp Fiction (“Welcome Mr. Pink”), and a stirring acapella quasi-spiritual (“Grinnin’ in Your Face”).
There’s not a wealth of information available about this three-piece punk band, but what I can offer you is they put on quite the kick-ass show. They oscillate wildly between a stomp and a shimmy, equally as adept at blaring, smashing songs like “Receiver” and ping-ponging dance-punk like “Old Baby” -- the former sounding like a lost group from Sub Pop’s archives and the latter easily slotting in among DFA favorites from a certain vintage.
The technicolor, danceable neo-psych of Spirit Award seems like its influences would be siphoned directly from space, but the band’s influences are as earthbound as you can imagine, listing Can and early-period New Order as influences, and songs about anxiety, relationship woes, being robbed, and losing a family member fill the course of their very good debut album Neverending. A fair forewarning: If you smell the odor of cannabis a little too early on this particular afternoon, this could very well be what incited the spark.
Not incredibly far removed from her origins as a self-taught singer/songwriter and producer, the rising R&B star has released two excellent EPs in 2018: Bloom and FLEXA, replete with indelible melodies and incisive lyrics about independence, the pain that often comes with growth, steering clear of fuckboys, and the pleasure of depositing checks. Her sometimes-relaxed, sometimes-utterly-jubilant tracks are perfect for the early evening swing of her time slot.
Peter Michel’s dancey, dreamy strain of indie-pop music -- particularly the highlights from his most recent album, Something Familiar -- is more or less exactly the kind of music you want to hear at the midpoint of a music festival. Catchy enough to dance to, but chill enough to enjoy a gorgeous summer afternoon and not blow all the energy you have stored up for the next day and a half.
Never the type of artist to rest on her laurels, the Seattle artist’s 2018 EP, Fight the Numb, further emphasizes her quietly experimental style, as evidenced by songs like the subwoofer-shattering “Zero” and “Sorry It’s Okay,” which simultaneously floats and bounces aggressively. Sierra does so many different styles so well it wouldn’t prove easy to determine you’re catching the same artist’s set if it weren’t for her stirring, expansive voice.
The madcap post-punk of Boyfriends -- the band Spesh principals Sergio Mirazo and Michael McKinney were once a part of -- were weirdly divisive, which makes Spesh’s focused mixture of early-80s record collector rock (particularly drawing from the fruitful wells of post-punk and new wave) all the more appealing. Names like Psychedelic Furs, the Smiths and Orange Juice have been bounced around in conversation about them; I’ve heard they sounded like “the Replacements covering the Cure.” Their debut full-length, Famous World, drops this fall, so it’s easy to anticipate hearing a lot of tracks from it during their set, as well as breaking a sweat moving around.
There is a distinct yacht-rock vibe going on in the music of Andrew Vait and Emily Westman; slinky and slightly weird and bursting with melody. In fact, the band discards guitar lines and sugary vocals better than a lot of groups have stored up for years. Theirs is a wildly cosmopolitan brand of music, throwing the aforementioned yacht-rock into the pot along with elements of funk, R&B, even a little jazz. It’s exactly the kind of music that would incite a summertime dance party in the middle of Seattle streets.
This should come as no surprise being as though she’s a Cornish graduate, but the magnificent compositions of Alda Agustiano, in addition to being frantically bounce-heavy, carry a world of life; elements rustling and stirring around, poking their heads in and ducking out. Classified as electronic music but very heavy in hip-hop vibe, the songs from Chong’s 2018 EP Love Memo are relaxing songs in the comfort of one’s own home but absolutely thunderous in a live setting.
A deftly skilled guitar player equally influenced by six-string greats Jimi Hendrix and Prince, Jones also injects a sense of soul not commonly found in contemporary rock music. This is due in no small part to his voice, its gravelly, wavering tone giving anything he sings about a sense of enormous gravity. There are a number of styles handled extremely well in Jones’ hands, able to switch from blues and doo-wop to grungy rhythm-and-blues in one fell swoop.
Why yes, this is the second time I have recommended penciling in a Whitney Ballen set along with the rest of your Seattle music festivities this summer. Her new full-length, You’re a Shooting Star, I’m a Sinking Ship, drops in August (watch this space for many words on it) and this will be a very opportune chance to check out songs from the album in a live setting. Barboza doesn’t have windows, so you can rest assured your weeping won’t be incredibly public.
For the past few months, I’ve been showing off my somewhat diverse musical tastes for this column, but if I had to pick a default genre-of-interest for myself, it would be either punch-you-in-your-face hip-hop or bitterly (and hilariously) sardonic garage-punk. Steal Shit Do Drugs (or SSDD if you’re talking to your parents or local youth pastor) squares themselves quite firmly in the latter category, the aesthetic midpoint of most of the bands its members gathered themselves from: Monogamy Party, the Dutchess and the Duke, Coconut Coolouts, and one of my very most favorite bands to be classified as “formerly of Seattle,” the Intelligence. Whatever aggression you have about potentially having to return to work on Monday, here is the set to fiercely headbang it out.
While You're at Capitol Hill Block Party, Why Not Attend These Cool Panels?
Hypothetical situation: Say you make music, you've been playing around town, and people seem to think you're really good at what you do, but you haven't quite gotten to the point where you're actually generating income. Before Capitol Hill Block Party officially starts on Saturday, two panels will be featured, rounded out by a wide array of local luminaries. The first will focus on management and the second on making money while making music. If you're interested, read more about it and RSVP here.
Every year that Capitol Hill Block Party returns, I can't wait to be uncomfortable with a bunch of sweaty people in the red-lit basement that is Cha Cha Lounge. That's not sarcasm. This year's lineup boasts some incredible headliners like Run The Jewels, Angel Olsen, Thundercat, Wolf Parade, and ...