In case you missed the memo, we live in an increasingly globalized world. No realm is safe–least of all music. In a lot of ways, this is a really good thing. The ease with which artists and culture creators can now create and share content, even across thousands of miles, is amazing and unprecedented. East African beats find their way into Caribbean soca, which in turn influences reggaeton and American hip-hop.
Of course, globalization has drawbacks as well. The social and political implications are obvious, but the advent of the digital age has triggered seismic shifts in the realm of music, too. The very nature of fandom has drastically changed. Not so long ago, a burgeoning music fan had to dig through bins of records, read zines or underground publications, borrow tapes from friends, and jump through a whole host of other hoops to discover new music. Engaging with a local music scene was how many fans experienced music and expanded their horizons.
What was once a tactile experience has now been streamlined into something vastly different. With a few clicks, I can listen to almost all of the recorded music humanity has ever produced. When any music is instantaneously available, even across continents, suddenly the idea of a local music scene seems pithy. The world can be your scene now.
While the nature of local scenes has changed, they don’t seem to be going anywhere. From a listener’s standpoint, it makes sense. Despite the abundance of music from around the globe, there’s nothing quite like engaging with artists in your own neighborhood.
Seattle is home to one of the most fertile underground rock scenes in the country (not to mention hip-hop, but we’ll leave that for another day). What follows is my completely subjective list of local rock bands that you should definitely be aware of. These guys and gals are shredding, achieving national acclaim and most importantly, creating groovy tunes for us to jam out to. I’m not saying that you might be uncool if you don’t check some of these folks out, but I’m also not not saying that, y’know?
Rock n’ roll is no fun sometimes. Feminist rock, as a general rule, tends to be even less fun. But all of those conventions have been blown to hell by Tacocat, living reminders that the personal is political and also catchy as hell. A quartet of best friends, Tacocat write plainspoken, pop-punk songs about catcalling, periods, waiting for the bus and the plight of weekend service workers who suffer under the tyranny of tech bros hell-bent on having a crazy night. Like Gloria Steinem on a unicorn, they smash through “girl band” cliches and rock n‘ roll posturing with beach-y guitars and trenchant self-awareness. Their music is available on Spotify, and physical copies of their debut, NVM, are available at local record stores. Their new LP Lost Time is due out at the end of this month via Hardly Art, and you can catch them performing at the record release party on March 31st at Chop Suey.
I’m obsessed with Boyfriends. DEMOS, currently their only release, has been on repeat on my phone for the last few months. I even ponied up and bought the MP3 because it’s that good, people. The noodling guitar-bass interplay on Future is Female is some of the most infectious string work I’ve heard in a long while. Plus it’s beyond refreshing to see an all-male rock outfit that doesn’t take itself so fucking seriously. They’re goofy, sparkly and unafraid to make music for wussy boys who grew up and got really into garage rock and new wave, which is a very good thing. You can listen to their Bandcamp (and download DEMOS) here.
One of the most high-profile acts out of the PNW right now is Chastity Belt, whose woozy, blown out Time to Go Home landed itself on several critics’ best of 2015 lists. And listening to them live, its easy to see why. Julia Shapiro’s voice is a deadpan force of nature, dragging you along with her whether you want to go or not. And their songwriting shimmers with a wry humor that makes their politics seem even keener. They’re like cool older sisters who introduce you to the Raincoats and tell you not to say rude shit to girls. The first time I heard Shapiro intone “we’re just a couple of sluts going out on the town,” on Cool Sluts, I snorted aloud. How audacious is that? Chastity Belt’s music is available to stream and purchase on iTunes. Currently they’re on tour, but they’ll be back on the 27th at Sunset Tavern before heading over to the UK.
Mommy Long Legs
Mommy Long Legs are so fucking cool. They’re colorful and spunky and unapologetically bratty. Their music radiates with all the frenetic, furious energy of youthful indignation . They’re my kind of ladies. Assholes and Life Rips, their two releases to date, are snotty delights with lyrics like “I wanna hurl, hurl, hurl on sorority girls/ I wanna spew, spew, spew on fraternity dudes.” But lest you think them merely wanton haters, songs like Weird Girl celebrate the weirdos among us with scream-along choruses and crunchy guitars. Mommy Long Legs are currently on tour (like everyone else in the world, apparently) but in the meantime you can listen to both of their releases on their Bandcamp () or check out their live performance in the KEXP studio on Youtube.
When describing her solo Julie Ruin album, Kathleen Hanna talks about wanting to create something that sounds like a teenage girl created by herself in her room. That description could just as aptly be applied to the music of Lisa Prank. The stage name of Robin Edwards, Lisa Prank’s music burbles with anxious longing and brash danceability. Why Can’t We (Just Dance), the standout track off her crush on the world EP, is a rollicking New Wave number about opting out of relationship bullshit in favor of having fun. It’s a spunky over-it-anthem that sounds like a Go-Gos B-side that’s in on its own joke. Lisa Prank also has a Bandcamp and crush on the world is also available on cassette.
I want to be Nail Polish when I grow up. Writing dense, anxious punk songs that last about a minute and a half , they bludgeon you with lyrics like, “I woke up and everything was fine/ I got dressed and everything was fine/ I walked to work and everything was ok, ok/ and then something happened and I FREAKED OUT.” Their first release, Abrupt is an aptly named album that lashes out at everything: gentrification, the crushing anxiety of urban living, their audience, themselves. Every time I look at another corrugated metal monstrosity, and realize that the city I hoped to move to vanished a decade ago, I put on Nail Polish and rage against everything with the optimism and petulance of a child.