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.
It has been 42 Thursdays since I was given the baton from Dusty Henry to run Throwaway Style, KEXP.org's celebration of Northwest music culture. That's a lot of chords, a lot of hours worth of songs, a lot of words. There's a sense of thinking you've felt all there is to feel when you've observed or been a part of something for long enough, the sensation of reaching the plateau. But I can assuredly say working on this column for the past nine months has deepened not only my knowledge of the vast music scene of the Pacific Northwest, but my appreciation as well. (Allow me to emphasize the fact that this particular plateau was very, very high off the ground already.)
There's nothing new to report on the local music front this week; everybody has pretty much checked out for the holidays. Therefore, for the final Throwaway Style of 2018, allow me to present to you a handful of my favorite articles from the year.
For my first act as Throwaway Stylist, I explored the full discography of one of my very favorite (and, in my humble opinion, most underrated) Northwest bands, Olympia's Broken Water. An excerpt: "The music matched the temperature of the room; balmy, at times downright scorching. The force of the set was pummelling, but the melody coursing throughout the music was pleasing to the point where I closed my eyes and took it all in. The thump of Pooknyw’s drums almost shaking my lungs out of my chest plate, the wail of Jon Hanna’s guitar shredding through my ear canal with utter disregard, the pulse of Abby Ingram’s bass pumping through my bloodstream."
In an attempt to try something new, I debuted a series blending short fiction and music writing. It's admittedly pretty weird.
Inspired by Dusty's beautiful and heartbreaking writing about Grouper, I decided to explore ten years of loss, emotional breakdowns and listening to the music of Liz Harris as a healing mechanism. An excerpt: "As soon as Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill came out, our day drinking would be bookended by falling asleep sometime in the afternoon, curled up into each other, with the album playing out of my computer speakers on repeat. Sometimes we’d talk quietly while resting our heads on a shared pillow, sometimes we got lost in our own thoughts. I’d dream I was floating down a river, face up, watching puffy clouds turn black to the quietly clanging drone of 'Tidal Wave,' or I’d feel Que Linda’s hand surveying the rising and falling of my chest while I breathed during 'We’ve All Gone to Sleep.' The album would sometimes settle the disquiet of my thoughts, but only sometimes."
Arguably the greatest guitarist currently living in the Pacific Northwest, I spoke to the Wooden Shjips frontman ahead of the release of the band's excellent 2018 album V. We chatted about the band's process, Levitation (back when it was called Austin Psych Fest), the restorative power of music, and the sky raining ash in the summer of 2017.
As you might have noticed over the past year, Throwaway Style has a deep affinity for the work of AJ Suede. The Seattle transplant (by way of East Harlem, NY and East Stroudsburg, PA) has been on a mean run since his excellent 2017 album Gotham Fortress was covered in this space. Seattle rap’s King of Goths has spent the year inking himself up, smoking like the proverbial chimney, and of course, toiling away at his craft fastidiously. He’s released a staggering six(!) projects in 2018, and picking a favorite is simply a matter of taste. The mostly self-produced tracks from the Darth Sueder series are, for my money, among his very best work.
Aside from music, pro wrestling is my greatest area of intellectual obsession. When Stallion – a trio steeped in the hell-raising good time of territorial era wrestling, formed by members of Pony Time and Coconut Coolouts – formed a few years ago, I was all in. When I was notified they'd be releasing a double cassingle titled Professional Rock 'n Roll and reprising their raucous Backyard Bunkhouse BBQ Brawl and Rock 'n Wrestling Rager, it was a no-brainer to write a feature about them. On a warm summer day, I went to their practice space and drank beer with them for a couple of hours.
An excerpt: "While on the rooftop, Luke points out the similarities between being a musician and a wrestler. In both fields, regular practice is required. In both fields, people are always on the road, trying to make it to the next town. A similarity it’s good to possess that's not mentioned but exists in all forms of art and entertainment: It falls flat when a performer doesn’t believe in themselves. Rappers are the musicians closest in psychological makeup to wrestlers – the hyper-competitive nature of the rap game, the alpha-male posturing – but I’m sure every top wrestler from the territory era considered themselves to be a rock star. Stallion is just the band to bring that fantasy to life."
Wimps have been one of my favorite Seattle bands for years, and Garbage People is (again, in my humble opinion) handily one of the best records of the year – stay tuned to KEXP.org for our online staff's collection of the year's greatest Northwest records. After listening to it obsessively for almost two weeks, Rachel Ratner came to the studio and we talked about the percentage of Wimps songs being inside jokes, serious topics being explored alongside songs about nabbing slices of pizza and napping, and that weird moment when you realize you're an elder statesperson in your punk scene.
I saw one of the greatest rock bands in history play their first hometown show in years. No further introduction needed. An excerpt: "The Sonics are one of a handful of rock ‘n roll bands around that doesn’t make the term 'rock ‘n roll' sound corny. From their days blaring from the stages of dance clubs and music halls in the sixties – including Carpenters Hall, a building to which they would return (albeit in a slightly different iteration) this past Sunday night – they embraced the teenage danger of the genre. Lennon and McCartney harmonized in hopes of holding your hand while Gerry Rosalie hollered about drinking strychnine."
In a three-part piece, I write about one of my favorite books of the year, interview its author, Kat Gardiner, about music and failure and looking for a hometown, and Gardiner submits an exclusive mix inspired by Little Wonder. An excerpt: "As the cafe – the backdrop of Gardiner’s protagonist’s experience and the fulcrum for the wreckage she is surveying – also serves as an all-ages venue; music is ever-present in Little Wonder. Pacific Northwest music stalwarts (as well as music scattered across regions and decades) make their way into the pages of the book in the form of cameos, assorted ephemera, and spirituality between the lines on the page. Spencer Moody appears as a symbol of years of teenage lust and its blisteringly awkward aftermath, a glass painting by Neko Case (from 'when she was still a dishwasher at Hattie’s Hat') is cast as a deity looking inside the souls of all who see it, Karl Blau playing music in his backyard studio offers a quaint and fulfilling snapshot of friendship.
Little Wonder itself serves as the fiction equivalent of a twee-punk album, with twenty-five one-minute (sometimes thirty-second, sometimes ten-second) songs. Fractured, affecting, irreverent, brief glimpses of fully-rendered people and relationships."