Throwaway Style: PNW Releases We Can't Wait for in 2018

Throwaway Style, Local Music
Dusty Henry
Guayaba // photo by Carlos Cruz (view set)

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.

The dust is still settling on those year-end lists, yet here we are again looking toward what's next. Just finishing out 2017 feels like cause for celebration on its own. While it was a wonderful year for music, it was a hard year on basically every other front. Artistically, I have to wonder if things are just getting started. Most of the material that came out this year was crafted before the end of 2016, meaning we're now going to start hearing more artists' responses to the crazy world around them and the thoughts brewing inside themselves. I'm not just talking about protest music, but music that reflects the human condition and finding your place among the chaos. Music and art are personal but can be indicative of a great dread or joy weighing over swaths of people. 2017 saw PNW musicians being bolder than before and there's no sign of 2018 letting up on that front. So let's take a look at what we can anticipate guiding our musical and non-musical conversations in the new year.

Both Guayaba and Taylar Elizza Beth have been teasing new material throughout the back-half of 2017. Fingers-crossed that 2018 is the year that these records finally see the light of day. Both of these rappers have become powerful forces and voices within our city, propelling themselves forward as independent artists and working on their own terms. Guayaba made no qualms on her last EP, Black Trash/White House, calling it like it is on the song "Uh Oh": "pacific northwest passive aggressive, so motherfucking infuriating." But Guayaba's music is transcendent beyond calling out the bullshit she endures. Black Trash/White House came out near the end of 2016, but the punch of Guayaba's flow continued to manifest itself through 2017. Every verse on that EP surged with personal and existential truths and I can't wait to learn more from her on whatever she does next.


Elizza Beth's voice, quite literally, has become a definitive force in its own. The way she raps and sings has become a part of modern Seattle music and will only continue to flourish and grow. Beyond just the wondrous gift that is her Fresh Cut Flowers EP, her singles this year have hinted at an ever expansive direction for the thriving MC. Whereas Fresh Cut Flowers reveled in atmosphere, singles like "Stop Calling My Phone", "Light On", and "Wake Up" show that she knows how to write hits. Which direction will her debut full-length go? A bit of both styles? Hopefully, we'll find out soon.


And how can you talk about Seattle hip-hop with DoNormaal? It'd be hard to blame her to keep riding the momentum from her stellar 2017 LP THIRD DAUGHTER into next year, but it sounds like she's already working on another project called yippee. Details around when it will drop haven't been revealed yet, but judging by this tweet from DoNormaal it'll be a different yet exciting direction in comparison to THIRD DAUGHTER. I feel inspired just thinking about what it could be.

Rounding out some more from the 6950 crew (which I'm sure we'll hear even more from next year, can't imagine RVN and co. will be quiet in 2018), producers Brakebill and Wolftone have hinted at a sequel to their 2015 collaboration, Introvert Exhibition, which featured beats from Brakebill and raps from Wolftone. Realistically 2015 wasn't very long ago, but artistically these two artists have continued to evolve at a rapid rate. The first Introvert Exhibition was great, but given how their perspectives have grown and changed since then and the artists they've worked the past couple years, there's plenty to get excited about with these two friends and collaborators working together in this fashion once again.


A new group of rappers and R&B vocalists began to emerge in the city this year outside of the crews we've started to become accustomed to, bringing even more spirit and perspective to the growing hip-hop scene in Seattle. 19-year-old ParisAlexa has come along way from her appearance at the 2016 SoundOff! competition. She showed on this year on releases from COSMOS and Samurai Del. The single "Hole In The Ground" from her forthcoming Bloom EP, release date TBD, exemplifies her vocal dexterity and maybe the best thing she's done so far. That she's able to go from a low croon to hitting triplets back-and-forth is the sign of a pro. The beat feels like it's trying to keep up with her and not the other way around. That momentum is sure to carry over to her EP and more secrets of her talents will likely be revealed.


BlkSknn continues to be one of the hardest working MCs in the city. Following the self-release of his debut tape, Small World, the rap moniker of Ajene Kaylan is opening himself up to darker territories than the ecstatic charm that propelled him through 2017. It takes some artists a good while before they decide to make artistic leaps and challenge themselves beyond their comfort zones, but Kaylan is proving himself fearless with his upcoming Disconnect EP. The tracks he's released thus far, which actually aren't on the release, hint at a darker and more introspective tone for the Seattle rapper. It's a u-turn from what we've been accustomed to so far from him, but that just makes it all the more exciting. Hearing him rap over this hazy, murky beats from producer Donato (who also did the jubilant beats on Small World) he sounds just as steady as ever. We won't have to wait long to hear how this new BlkSknn sound manifests as Disconnect drops on January 10, 2018.


Ishmael Butler recently revealed in a KEXP interview that Shabazz Palaces will be releasing some sort of album in 2018, coming off of releasing two LPs in 2017. More local hip-hop to come as well from groups Planet 39 and PF Liars, so stay tuned for those as well. On the indie rock front, recent Barsuk signee and Cataldo band member Ruler (aka Matt Batey) as some sort of impending release coming up. This will be the first proper release we've heard from the power-pop project. If early singles and Ruler's anthemic live shows are any indication, it has promise to be full of enduring ear worms.


Portland's Little Star had an incredible year with their self-titled LP progressing the band without losing that basement party aesthetic that made their sound so enrapturing in the first place. The band is keeping the momentum up with a new EP, Even In Dreams, out January 12 via Good Cheer Records. The first single, "Providence," leans deeper into their post-punk influences, channeling the longing ethos of a bootleg John Peel session with The Smiths (a very, very good thing). With how varied their self-titled record was this year, I'm sure the band has a few more tricks they're going to unveil.


Following up her Being Here Is Hard EP from this year, Seattle songwriter Whitney Ballen will return again with a full-length album recorded live with a band. Ballen is astounding enough on her own, leaning into the vulnerability of her lyrics with the sparseness of just her voice and guitars. But having seen her perform with a band, the emotion only heightens with grander, more lush arrangements. No release date available yet, but keep your ears peeled (is that a thing?). Crater will also come back with a new LP titled Unearth, out January 12. Judging by the singles "NOVOCAINE" and "UNEARTH," they too sound bigger than ever. The surges of synthesizers on these tracks feels positively massive. Completing the trifecta of heavy emotions, instrumental wonders Newaxeyes are planning a release of their debut LP, BLACK FAX, on March 16, 2018.


Given David Bazan's comments at recent shows that Pedro The Lion isn't just back as a touring act but will begin releasing new material once again, it should be a heavy year for local sounds. Help Yourself will also be releasing the debut EP from local band Advertisement which the label has described as "Milk Music meets Crazy Horse meets The Rolling Stones meets Exploding Hearts." As this is a column named after an Exploding Hearts song, color me excited.

New and News

Vicky Cornell Establishes The Chris Cornell Scholarship for Law Students

Though Chris Cornell may be gone, his legacy is continuing to do some good in the world. His wife Vicky Cornell has announced The Chris Cornell Scholarship which endows $1 million to UCLA School of Law students as a means of continuing his passion for justice and human rights issues. Vicky Cornell describes the scholarship in a press release: "My husband and I agreed that given the opportunity of education, people have the power to change the world. UCLA School of Law is an institution known for its academic excellence and we are proud the Chris Cornell Scholarship will provide funding for future students and future leaders of the world."

USF Drops Third LP, Pacific Decade

It's been a couple years since we've heard from Seattle electronic outfit USF, but they've blessed us with a new full-length album of material right at the buzzer of 2017. Their new LP, Pacific Decade, dropped last Thursday. It's a testament to the band's prowess and imagination that this new album is just as entrancing and momentous as anything they've released over the years. Check it out below.


Freaks of Nature Release Outsider Tape on Jungle Gym Records

I don't know if the owners of Jungle Gym Records ever sleep, but they've managed to sneak in their 18th release of the year with a new tape from the trippy Freaks of Nature. Outsider Tape bridges house and psychedelia in a way that aptly fits the record's title. It's expansive and wandering, making for a dynamic listen. Jungle Gym Records isn't just prolific. Records like these earn their place on the roster with some truly innovative production. Stream Outsider Tape below.



Live and Loud: This Week’s Recommended Local Shows

December 28: Tomo Nakayama, Briana Marela, Hunter Gather, Lori Goldston at Neumos


December 29: Nettie FEST with Devil Hunt Me Down, The Spider Ferns, Wind Burial, Witch Bottle, Carrion Crows, and Tiffany Wilson at Substation


December 30: Yung Uglee Album Listening Party with BlkSknn, Charlie, and Tre Wunder at LOVECITYLOVE


December 31: NYE: Darqness vs 6950 with DoNormaal, Guayaba, Taylar Elizza Beth, Brian is Ze, Reverend Dollars, Dos Leches, Howin 1000, and Toya B at The Hillman City Collaboratory


January 3: Benefit for DESC with Baywitch, WEEP WAVE, Vomitface at Chop Suey


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