2011 is Full of Potential
Lemolo at Conor Byrne ::: Photo Josh Lovseth
In nearly every conversation I’ve been having lately, there’s been a reoccurring theme: that something is happening in the Seattle scene, across genres, and that a certain energy exists right now locally in a way not seen for years if not decades. This energy seems to have gathered independently in nearly all of the successful sub-genres in Seattle, but also across and within the larger community that supports the Seattle music scene.
For those outside of Seattle, thanks to the likes of Shabazz Palaces, THEESatisfaction and Macklemore, 206 hip hop has been getting national recognition in 2010, and we expect it will continue to do so in 2011 in part thanks to this marked diversity. The Lonely Forest, with the help of Chris Walla turned in a stellar EP that begs the question, if those were all album b-sides, how good is that full length in March going to sound? The band with the most people talking in Seattle in 2010 was (no surprise) the Head and the Heart, and we’ve no reason to believe that electricity isn’t going to translate on a national and international level in 2011.
From a local perspective, the energy on display also emanates from the more general creative musical M.O. that Seattle’s been fostering. While Seattle may be known across the world for Cobain and Vedder, the current batch of musicians aren’t cognizant of any expectation toward filling their shoes, and instead seem to relish building something as unique as possible for themselves. And aside from a creative standpoint, the young guns in town are building new self-supporting scenes of their own that will endure beyond the interest of the latest single. Truckasaurus and Head Like a Kite have welcomed all kinds of collaboration this year, and on both counts local hip hop rose to the challenge. The Campfire OK, Artists Home and Bombs over Bellevue families are all actively feeding back within their own groups and producing their own narrative of what will be the next thing. A walk down to Conor Byrne open Mic on Sunday night will reveal the scene in live action motion before your eyes, some of our area’s best songwriters out on the sidewalk nervously practicing and performing songs they’ve just written yesterday.
Though the likes of My Goodness, Hobosexual, and Unnatural Helpers can still give Seattle the claim of being the hotbed of rock n’ roll that it longs to retain, nowadays Seattle could just as easily brand itself a town of folk, modern rock, hip hop and or Americana. Outsider rock gained momentum here because that kind of unbridled creativity and feedback had the freedom to happen and thrive here, and now we’re seeing those values manifest on a larger scale two decades later. Above any reputation begotten of a vaunted time, that feedback is what makes the larger Seattle scene special.
Below you’ll find a list of the local bands who we think will be making the biggest impact on a local and/or national level in 2011, in no particular order. Ten come out of Seattle, in addition to one from each of the larger metropolis’ to the north and south.
Beat Connection | on bandcamp | As far as we’re concerned, Beat Connection made THE summer record of 2010. Hopefully these UW “dorm-wavers” will issue a worthy sequel, but for now a re-release Surf Noir nationally is in the works. I’m down with it being the summer record of 2011 too. -josh
If you thought 2010 was a year to be remembered for the Head and the Heart, 2011 is already shaping up to be an equally memorable span for the six-piece. With a Dr. Dog U.S. tour on the horizon in January, and other dates in the U.K. supporting the Walkmen and visiting radio stations, plus and an already sold out show at Neumos in January, the first quarter of the year positions the band to find new international audience in a way few local bands have had the opportunity to do. Our web analytics tell the tale of 2010 in that the Head and the Heart were by far our most popular topic. (By. Far.) Though we’ll likely have much less occasion to write about the band in the coming year, I some how don’t expect that statistic to change. Via their genuinely fun live shows a national re-release of their debut record, they’ll be converting an even larger audience to be sure. -josh
Lemolo just might be the band we’re most excited about right now. The latest songs the duo of Meghan Grandall and Kendra Cox have been creating feel quintessentially northwest, tailor made to compliment the pitter-patter of rain on the window. The recently self-released Open Air EP, only clocking in at two songs, is still in this writer’s opinion the best EP to come out of Seattle this year. That Grandall’s approach to pop songwriting can be legitimately termed Gibbardian, makes it only natural that Open Air’s two songs comprise what in my view is the best sequel to the Postal Service’s famous aesthetic I’ve been eagerly awaiting since 2003. -josh
Land of Pines | on myspace | As a confirmed competitor in 2011′s Sound Off! battle of the bands, Land of Pines are still young and have just been emerging in Seattle in recent months. Their debut recordings feature swelling choruses not unlike another recent Northwest export of note who also appear in this list, the Lonely Forest. Eschewing the expected playful and mellow boy-girl vocal stance, Kessiah Gordon and Evan Easthope trade-off on full-throated verses over full-speed tempo changes. -josh
Portland Pick! ::: Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives | on bandcamp | on twitter | The word is spreading fast about Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives passionate performances. After each show new fans go out and testify to friends about what they witnessed and they come back with new converts for the next show. Even the Huffington Post (via Fuel or Friends) are getting hip to Grow’s anti-gospel and with a new album coming out in 2011, the Pastors’ Wives are perched to make a big beautiful noise next year. -abbey
My Goodness | on myspace | Though Seattle’s got a reputation for rock, for the most part the bands who are making headlines these days are something different from that dated vision of our town. Though the time for “grunge” as we knew it is now past, there are still a few bands wielding a bit of “fuck you” swagger with the volume turned all the way up, and My Goodness is the best of them. Equally comfortable dishing out the dirtiest of blues and the hardest of rock, this duo is the new manifestation of what people are still moving to Seattle in search of after watching “Singles” for the hundredth time. The four songs from their debut record that are now streaming on myspace only reinforce my earlier feelings about My Goodness: that they are the most exciting rock band in Seattle right now. -josh
Shabazz Palaces | on subpop | Debuting at Neumos in January and playing just a few live shows altogether in 2010, Shabazz Palaces have been taking things at their own pace. Which is not necessarily saying going slowly or aren’t getting anything done. With a pair of incomparable debut EP’s under their belt this summer the duo was named a local hip hop “Genius” via the Stranger Genius Awards. September brought the announcement that they were now under the wing of Sub Pop, and November brought a national re-release of both Of Light and Shabazz Palaces. What more than just 206 heads are now realizing is that SP is deep, a living statement made by veterans displaying mastery of the fundamentals while at the same time innovating anew. By actively taking control of the beat by playing live African instruments and manually controlling the samples, the songs escape the predictability of prefabrication, and allow for emphasis in what is most definitely a concerted statement with meaning. For years now some have been saying local hip hop is poised to break open to a national audience, but 2011 finally feels like the year where that national statement might be made, provided of course acts such as Shabazz Palaces, Macklemore, Blue Scholars and Champagne Champagne continue the run they’ve been on, and their coattails are as big as we think they are. -josh
Macklemore | on the www | on twitter | It’s no secret we’ve got a special place in our heart for the Seattle rapper who wears the Northwest on his sleeve. 2010 represented a second year in a row of actively honing his craft in front of all of us: making t-shirt fashion statements, getting called on for choice opening slots for major national acts like Big Boi, and at Capitol Hill Block Party outshining the national act with whom probably the most direct comparison to him makes sense, Atmosphere. With a number of video’s in the pipeline and a tearjerker of a benefit single just released, he’s revving up for an active start to repping for the Town far outside the 206 in 2011. -josh
Campfire OK | on facebook | on twitter | Slated for a February 2011 release the debut record of Mychal Benjamin Goodweather and friends, STRANGELIKEWEARE, is in a word, grand. There’s an undeniable theatricality to songs styled with a dash of the Decemberists or maybe Sufjan. The theatricality extends from Goodweather himself and writing that is yes, at times dramatic to the point of being “emo,” but backed by artfully arranged pop songs he’s able to make his point in modern terms on more than just a lyrical level. Chocked full of swelling choruses and orchestral breakdowns, each song on STRANGELIKEWEARE represents a palette that’s as sonically dense as any band in the Northwest is creating right now. With that goal of a larger than life sound in mind, Goodweather and Campfire OK are sure to establish themselves as a favorable name on the lips of more than just Seattle’s hopeless romantics. -josh
Vancouver Pick! ::: Dan Mangan | on facebook | on twitter | 2010: Huge in Canada. 2011: Huge everywhere else. It’s gonna happen. With just the right balance of playful energy and somber reflection on his 2009 release, Dan Mangan’s Nice Nice Very Nice had legs and and was released in the U.S. in 2010, taking the cake on our list for the Canadian contribution of this year. Currently in his home country this humble gentleman (as you might expect a Canadian to be) wields his acoustic in front of crowds of thousands and women scream in return. Yeah, Canada is a different place, but having seen the magic for ourselves for a Sound on the Sound Presents show we can attest, this guy and his band are so good going all mushy like a screaming indie queen isn’t outside the realm of possibility. At the very least I’ll be screaming along that “Robots Need Love Too!” -josh
Lonely Forest | on the www | If any band is expected to make 2011 their year, the Lonely Forest is that band. One hopes that a Chris Walla produced record, major label support, and a generally exciting stage presence will be what it takes to launch them into the national consciousness and not get lost in crowded market of polished young adult rock. Heir apparent to the Death Cab contingent, John Van Deusen’s songs seems to appeal equally to girls and boys, chronicling the mistaking of our way through life while always searching for a better way. This year’s Walla produced EP includes “Turn off the Song,” which in anthemic fashion encapsulates that philosophy as it implores us to “turn off the song and go outside” and in effect experience life for ourselves. The EP’s other main track “Live There” doubles down, calling out the fakery “LA made me think,” while declaring allegiance to the Northwest and it’s “miles of tall evergreens, the smell of the ocean, and cool mountain breeze.” Given either song could’ve easily anchored a larger record, and how positive we’ve been about the Lonely Forests other new songs that’ve been heard live, it’s no stretch to say their new record Arrows, slated for a March 22nd release, is our most anticipated local release for 2011. -josh
Zoe Muth and Her Lost High Rollers | on the www | Now with label support Zoe Muth will finally be able to release her next batch of road-tested country of which it seems she’s in an endless supply. I’m not at all reluctant to make the statement that her point of view makes her a modern day Patsy Cline, an updated version of Country as likely to make use of the spittoon or ride on a motorcycle as beat her lashes above a country dress. Better than anything the Mid-South has been manufacturing in abundance for decades now, Muth dispenses with the pretense of angelic Southern pleasantry and gives as good as she gets. Though “Hard Luck Love” may be a curse hanging over Muth’s head, that it brings her to write songs could easily be mistaken for classics is about the best she (and we) can hope for. Of our area’s much talked about Americana scene, we’ve got a hunch that Muth and her Lost High Rollers have got the mettle in them to take it all the way to Nashville while adjusting a few expectations on the country radio dial along the way. -josh
A shortlist of Northwest albums we’re already looking forward to in 2011: Cave Singers, Dave Bazan, Damien Jurado, Hey Marseilles, Goldfinch, The Maldives, Grand Hallway, Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives, Kelli Schaefer, The Lonely Forest, Zoe Muth and Her Lost High Rollers, Nurses, My Goodness, Shabazz Palaces, Fresh Espresso, Hounds of the Wild Hunt, Say Hi, Watch It Sparkle, Shelby Earl, Black Whales, Gabe Mintz, Tony Kevin Jr., Dan Mangan, agesandages
And Hopefully: Fleet Foxes, The Long Winters