2014 was a fantastic year for Seattle records (and sports teams), but I managed to narrow my yearly list down to 35 great local recordings.
I use the word “recordings” because, this year, I decided to include EPs since so many important local releases only had 4-6 songs. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a huge fan of the “album experience,” but I think that we’ll see EP’s become even more commonplace in coming years, especially with the Internet putting the focus on individual tracks and singles. Truth be told, one of my favorite releases of the year was a cassette ONLY release (never thought that would happen!)
But the format is really irrelevant to the quality of the music. I’m constantly asked in interviews about the state of the Seattle Music scene now as compared to the scene in the 90’s and I’ve always had trouble answering that question because I just don’t look at things that way. Artists today are just as important and vibrant as the Grunge superstars of yesterday and, looking over this list, I was reminded of the diversity of the Seattle scene. With the national spotlight temporarily on the Northwest again thanks to Macklemore and The Seahawks, 2015 could be monumental. Let’s do it again next year.
35. Suck – Suck
Watch out for these artful troublemakers that formed outta the ashes of Sound Off! favorites, THEE SAMEDI. I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something going on with Noah Earl Faust of Suck. I predict he’ll go to art school, dropout and then form a band that’ll change the world.
34. Grieves – Winter and The Wolves
Grieves is another hip hop artist that is bigger worldwide than he is in his own hometown. These songs are so different than his past records: first of all, he’s SINGING in addition to rapping and the production sounds like he used a live band: piano, guitar, strings and horns! This is much more than just a hip hop record.
33. Constant Lovers – Experience Feelings
Seattle imprint, Good To Die Records, has yet to fail me. Loud and mean. The f’in guitar on this Constant Lovers record sounds like an evil swarm of bees. This is the child of a polyamorous relationship between P.I.L., At The Drive In and Fugazi. Fuuuuck.
32. Shaprece – Molting EP
This is my dream collaboration: Shaprece, IG88 and Phillip Peterson from Tennis Pro! I can’t wait to see what this crew delivers next. They’re poised to own it.
31. Shabazz Palaces – Lese Majesty
Shabazz is not an easy listen. People either LOVE em or hate em. If you’re the later, smoke some weed and try again. Let that surreal Erik Blood production swallow you up.
30. Killer Ghost – In The Forest Green EP
Witnessing this garagey quartet at the West Seattle Street Fair (Summerfest?), I honestly thought Killer Ghost’s drummer was gonna spontaneously combust on stage… IN A DRESS! Never seen someone play like him. This is a cassette ONLY release. Deal with it. Watch out for this band in 2015.
29. The Young Evils – False Starts EP
A little less young, a little more evil. Wait, a dude from Def Leppard plays a wicked solo on this new record by The Young Evils? YESSS.
28. My Goodness – Shiver and Shake
My Goodness got noisier than ever on their latest, and just announced the greatest news yet: CODY VOTOLATO (BLOOD BROTHERS, Waxwing, Telekinesis, etc) HAS JOINED THE BAND!
27. Courtney Marie Andrews – Leuven Letters
I challenge anyone to find a better vocalist than Courtney Marie Andrews in Seattle right now.
26. Android Amaker – Android Amaker
Android Amaker was the most unexpected collaboration of the year. Brent Amaker, P Smoov (Mad Rad/Fresh Espresso/Ten Hundred) and Vox Mod came together to create their own electro weirdo cartoon soundtrack. When Brent Amaker makes the scene, people notice. It’s an event. A really really weird event.
25. S – Cool Choices
Jenn Ghetto (S) is extremely shy, yet she posseses some kind of comforting power. I found myself pouring my soul out to her within 15 minutes of our 1st meeting. She possesses a self deprecating honesty that instills trust and empathy. She bravely put every bit of herself into this record. “Cool Choices” feels like an updated version of Liz Phair’s “Exile in Guyville”… except without the guys. Please go listen to this record NOW.
24. Gifted Gab – Girl Rap
So great to have a badass female rapper as a part of the Moor Gang (Nacho Picasso, Jarv Dee, etc.) Gab’s flows are every bit as intense and equally biting. And her lyrics make me laugh my ass off. Good on ya, Gab.
23. Lonesome Shack – More Primitive
This record is so f’in genius. Bluesy, rootsy, swampy. But the reverb on the vocals also makes it a little creepy. I love this so much. Check out Lonesome Shack if you haven’t already.
22. OCNotes – 808 Punk
Only Otis (OCNotes) would attempt to write a punk rock record on a Roland 808! This is the best recording he’s ever released. Respect.
21. Kris Orlowski – Believer
I’ve said it many times, but if the right WB TV show got ahold of “Carolina,” everything would change for Kris. That song, with some muscle behind it, has serious Top 40 potential. Somebody get that song on Gilmore Girls NOW and watch teenage America swoon.
20. Jen Wood – Wilderness
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to the single “Run With The Wild Ones” from Jen Wood… My favorite song of the year. Who doesn’t love a good emotional anthem about staying true to your wild side?
19. Tacocat – NVM
JST FCKNG FN. RLX.
18. Mary Lambert – Heart on My Sleeve
Watching Mary’s rise to fame has been one of my favorite events of 2014. I heard most of this record on an iPhone speaker in the back room of Fuel Coffee in Wallingford as her manager previewed each track for me. Anyone who uses “mom jeans” in a song is ok with me.
17. Jaymes Young – Habits of My Heart EP
Formerly Jaymes McFarland, this former Bothell, WA resident has grown more in the stretch of a year than any artist I’ve ever seen. A worldwide tour, a badass publishing deal and featured vocalist on the new David Guetta record were just a few of his achievements. Something very soulfully mesmerizing about Jaymes Young’s voice.
16. Noah Gundersen – Ledges
Noah Gundersen has a way of making everything he sings sound really important. He played at one of my Christmas events last year and I was mesmerized by his ability to command attention to his live set. You could hear a pin drop in-between songs. He released this through Nashville indie label extraordinaire, Dualtone Records (The Lumineers).
15. Graig Markel and the 88th St. Band – Graig Markel and the 88th St. Band
I tried to sign Graig Markel‘s band, New Sweet Breath, to a record deal in 1998 because I was obsessed with his soulful 70’s AM radio indie jams. There’s something about Graig’s NSB songs that really resonate with me. This record is the closest thing Markel has come to that NSB sound. The melodies are almost melancholy AND anthemic at the same time. Connects with a simpler time for me.
14. Hightek Lowlives – Humanoid Void
There’s gonna come a time when everything for electro R&B duo Hightek Lowlives clicks and shit just takes off. I’ve seen the new video and when the rest of the world peeps it, look out.
13. Blake Lewis – Portrait of a Chameleon
Former American Idol star Blake Lewis went back to the DIY ethic on his latest effort and released his new record himself. This time around his lyrics are more personal than ever and detail his experience being the child of an alcoholic parent. This is one of the best pop records of the year.
12. Kithkin – Rituals, Trances & Ecstasies For Humans in The Face of Collapse
Pop songs hidden amidst a cacophonous riot, Kithkin’s 2014 album is totally out of control, but strangely alined. The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Psychocandy” made me feel the same thing: chaos and order at the same time.
11. Odesza – In Return
Odesza is the BIGGEST Seattle artist that no one over 35 knows about: two sold out Showbox shows and selling out other venues as well. Surprised they don’t get more press here. Electronic. Moody. Texture. Soundscape. I overuse those words, but dammit they apply here.
10. Motopony – Idle Beauty EP
I’m intoxicated by this Motopony EP and it’s ability to lure me into a safe, comfortable space and then yank the carpet out from underneath me. Every song seems to have some truth about my own life in the message. How do they do that?
9. Raz Simone – Cognitive Dissonance
The first time I heard “They’ll Speak” from Cognitive Dissonance, it moved me to tears. I don’t remember a hip hop song that had that kind of effect on me. This whole “mixtape” is fantastic and tells a story of a kid growing up in a city and his struggle with defining his own morality amidst some dark shit. This record was not officially sold because of uncleared samples. Find it and treasure it… Raz is gonna make this city proud.
8. Iska Dhaaf – Even The Sun Will Burn
I like pop songs. Especially when they’re disguised as anything but. This record is so noisy that I still can’t believe that Iska Dhaaf are a duo.
7. Murder Vibes – Murder Vibes
I’m hoping 2015 will be the year of hooks and bands will realize that focusing on a BIG chorus has a payoff. Murder Vibes came outta left field and grabbed my attention immediately.
6. Perfume Genius – Too Bright
Perfume Genius reminds me of Elton John’s evil stepson. Gorgeous songwriting with a dark twist. NOBODY else is doing this shit.
5. Damien Jurado – Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son
Once again, Damien has created a strangely comforting cinematic experience on his new album. The whole thing was inspired by a dream about silver people, UFO’s and God. ‘Nuff said.
4. Smokey Brights – Taste For Blood
Smokey Brights are a contradiction in terms from the beginning. This is why I love them. So many wonderful mixed messages on this record. The band released 100 pink and white beachballs into the crowd with the words “Taste For Blood” on them at their show at Timber Music Fest. The crowd went APESHIT. It was the most confusing AND brilliant live moment I’ve witnessed this year.
3. Sam Lachow – Huckleberry
Sam Lachow is one second away from superstardom. This is one of the most tuneful, clever hip hop records I’ve heard in awhile. Somehow Sam has mastered the art of appearing to “not give a fuck,” all the while, being a workaholic.
2. Katie Kate – Nation
Katie Kate is redefining the Seattle Sound. She went from being a rapper to a songwriter on this record. And damn, the girl can sing. She just inked a deal with The Agency Group and 2015 is promising to be big. Try listening to “Sadie Hawkins” and not humming that shit all damn day!
1. Cataldo – Gilded Oldies
Hands down my favorite record of the year. Introspective, intelligent… a perfect rainy day record. And I can’t get enough of that Cataldo horn section! Equal parts Paul Simon and Death Cab For Cutie, Gilded Oldies has become the soundtrack to my 2014.
(Marco Collins is a renowned DJ, music programmer and bad role model who’s the subject of an upcoming documentary called The Glamour & The Squalor.)
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- CHBP Photo Set: Constant Lovers