Seattle’s best new alt-country band
Seattle has been swooning this year to the sweet sounds of The Head and The Heart (theheadandtheheart.com). The sextet’s self-titled debut LP was released in June and met with immediate praise for its surprisingly seasoned sound. The band members play with a synergistic cohesion that suggests they’ve been together for years. Beautifully harmonized vocals, sweet piano and violin accents with down-home guitar riffs decorate timeless music that moves our heads and our hearts.
Seattle’s best new hip-hop band
Ever heard of space-jazz-rap? Hip-hop duo Stasia and Cat of THEESatisfaction (theesatisfaction.bandcamp.com) have perfected it with clever rhymes about gender politics and black consciousness, intertwined with spaced-out beats and the sass of Soul Train. The band has blown up stages all over the Emerald City this year, releasing two downloadable EPs as part of a mixtape series as well as a 7-inch vinyl single in collaboration with local hip-hoppers Champagne Champagne. Thee spaceship has landed, and we are in its thrall.
Best newfound old bands
Thanks to local filmmaker Jennifer Maas’ documentary Wheedle’s Groove (which premiered at SIFF in May; wheedlesgroovemovie.com), many Seattle eyes were opened to a significant chunk of the city’s musical history that had previously been largely forgotten. In the late 1960s and early ’70s, the Central District boasted a host of funk and soul bands, such as Black on White Affair and Cold, Bold & Together, which packed clubs nightly and gained airplay both locally and nationally. Many band members still live and work in Seattle and, since the release of the movie, have been playing together live as Wheedle’s Groove—giving locals the perfect chance to catch up on music history.
Most dance-able new album
Dreams Suspend Night, the third full-length album (self-released in May) by local electro-rock masters Head Like a Kite (headlikeakite.com), was designed to sound like “an underground radio playlist for Saturday night’s drive to the party,” according to HLAK producer Dave Einmo. It succeeds, alternating between synth-groove, indie rock, electro-pop, soul and hip-hop. Re-released in October on Roll Call Records with a new track—“Diamond Paint,” featuring Tilson of The Saturday Nights—the album inspires new dance moves with every listen.
Most delightfully conceived local music video
OK, so we might be a little biased on this one, but we can’t resist the happy charms of the video for "Rio" by local orchestral folk rockers Hey Marseilles (heymarseilles.com). Released in June and directed by Seattle magazine photo editor Hayley Young, the video is a highly theatrical interpretation of the song, complete with constantly changing stage props, actors and a giant screen backdrop where cleverly appropriate footage is projected. It’s absolutely dreamy.
Seattle’s best new acoustic indie rock band
Listening to Demons and Lakes—Ravenna Woods’ (ravennawoods.net) debut album, released in January—it’s hard to believe this acoustic powerhouse is just three men making such a mountain of sound. The group earned instant popularity in 2010 after appearing on KEXP’s Audioasis and touring the East Coast with fellow Seattleites and orchestral poppers Hey Marseilles. Led by multi-instrumentalist Chris Cunningham, who plays guitar, mandolin and violin, the trio creates a serene soundscape speckled with xylophone tones and harmonized vocals that take listeners on a magic carpet ride.
Best grunge band reunion
Last year saw a flannel-shirt factory full of ’90s-era grunge bands re-emerging (Mudhoney, Pigeonhed, Satchel, Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains), but by far the most thrilling was the Soundgarden reunion, which kicked off with a secret show at Showbox at the Market (the band played under the anagram Nude Dragons). Those of us lucky enough to squeeze into the packed, intimate venue were treated to a thoroughly killer show, in which Kim Thayil thrilled on guitar, Matt Cameron whaled on drums, Ben Shepherd ruled on bass, and Chris Cornell proved he can still hit those high notes with aplomb. In a word: wow.
Seattle’s best new rock band
Joining the trend of old-school psychedelic rock bands using the word “black” in their names (see: Black Mountain, from Vancouver, B.C., and Black Angels, from Austin), Black Whales (blackwhales.com) released its debut EP Origins in late 2009, with a sound that’s audibly influenced by early Rolling Stones, The Who and Led Zeppelin (but don’t be surprised to hear a splash of The Clash at times, a hint of The Beatles at others). The band just finished recording a full LP (at press time it remained untitled and a release date was still to be determined), as well as a new 7-inch A- and B-side single, which is very good news. We’re looking forward to hearing more from these dark marine mammals.
Best local hip-hop videos
Seattle has become quite the hip-hop hotbed over the past decade, and this year several local rappers released particularly awesome music videos shot in and around our city. Macklemore’s (myspace.com/macklemore) “The Town,” an ode to Seattle and its local music scene, beautifully depicts the rapper (aka Ben Haggerty) reminiscing about the good ol’ days of Seattle hip-hop while sprinkling in appearances by local artists. Grynch (myspace.com/grynchmusic) blew up in Seattle with his single “My Volvo,” a paean to the 1986 wagon passed down from his mother. The accompanying video was shot all around Ballard—Grynch’s home turf—featuring, you guessed it, his beloved (if decrepit) Volvo. Fresh Espresso’s (myspace.com/freshespresso) “Big or Small” video—for the catchy track that samples the Bee Gees’ “Staying Alive” and has earned much-deserved attention for these local hip-hop heavyweights—was filmed by videographer Stephen Gray (who also shot Grynch’s “My Volvo”) and features striking visuals musically integrated to perfection.
Best of the Decade: Music
Sonic Boom Records
Juanny Cash (Vince Mira)
Chapel Performance Space
Head Like a Kite
Death Cab for Cutie