Best of 2014: Top Talent from Tacoma
By Wade Neal
I’m sitting in front of my vintage speakers from Santa thinking back on the year in Tacoma music.
“Where is this ‘Tacoma’ you speak of?,” you may ask, and “why is the city deserving of its own year-end musical recap? Well, the Sonics started it all from here and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was written in Tacoma, so let’s start with those. It’s difficult to explain, but the bottom line is that Tacoma is an ugly/beautiful, manna/poison kind of place with weird contradictions that tend to spawn a lot of great music.
Below is a list of good people making music from our humble town in 2014, in no order, because we are way democratic and anti-hierarchy down here by White Mountain on the south end of the Salish Sea.
I have yet to see this band live, but Ben Roth’s (Oberhofer, Crater) new project Bod has produced some of the heartiest psych prog I have heard all year with their new record Party Drug, which is out now on Tacoma’s Swoon Records. I imagine the live show kills, and also revives one from death, at the same time. Also, they are doing limited edition cassette releases, which warms my DIY heart.
No nonsense here. This is raw, blazing, yelly punk from Criminal Code. Their latest EP, Salvage, gives off vibes like Hüsker Dü’s Land Speed Record album or Chicago hardcore band Articles of Faith, with a touch of the Cobain chorus pedal. Plus they just got back from Europe, proving that Tacomans can be continental too.
Some lineup issues led to a name change and a slightly new direction for Tacoma’s heavy mainstays formerly known as Mahnhammer. But they are still blistering as Ex-Gods. Look out for their new EP soon.
Fame Riot make infectious electro-pop rock with a flood of glam and a dash of good humor. I really want this duo to get famous and write the next “Pon Pon Pon” and tour Asia and also have apartments in Hong Kong and Dubai.
The Low Humbles
Named after a band on the classic faux-Beatles pinball machine, Beat Time, The Low Humbles are an epic studio project that is sure to impress fans of Tame Impala, Temples, Lee Hazelwood and the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. Keep a look out for the vinyl release in 2015. Hunter Lea (Mono in VCF), co-producer of the amazing Lee Hazelwood book/collection on Light in the Attic Records, is heavily involved, so expect something dreamy and majestic.
Two of the band members of Pig Snout may be only six and nine years old (!) respectively, but their music is as heavy as a cartoon anvil. Music made by unaffected and pure-at-heart is always inspiring, and this family band (Dahlia (6), Lucien (9) and their dad Justin Tamminga) is no exception. A thrill to watch live.
Rockwell Powers and DJ Phinisey
Check out the latest release from Rockwell and Phinisey, The Build. Hypnotic beats and samples accented by soulful synths with a T-town flow bringing the Tacoma truth.
Strictly Sacred isn’t a band, it’s Isaac Olsen’s loving documentary tribute to our heroes Girl Trouble. And it’s a “must see.” The film is accompanied by a comprehensive GT compilation that digs deep into the Tacoma vault.
Late night favorites Wheelies have made this list before, but bear mention again since their Swoon Records debut Never Die made it to the world this year. Slightly mental chaos pop that doesn’t even know it is a beautiful daisy growing by the creek with an oily sheen. I can listen to “Bottom of My Glass” about seven times in a row per sitting.
Wade Neal is a long-time Tacoma resident who plays guitar in the iconic northwest band Seaweed.
More #BestOf2014 coverage
- Best of 2014: 9 More Great Seattle Records
- Best of 2014: Our 37 Most Favorite-est Albums of the Year
- Best of 2014: 18 Super Good Television Programs
- Best of 2014: Marco Collins’ Top 35 Seattle Records
- Best of 2014: 14 Movies we Enjoyed
- Best of 2014: Dear Hardly Art, S.W.A.K.
- Best of 2014: 123 Songs we Liked a Whole Lot
Other related coverage
- Q&A with Tacoma’s Patrick Galactic
- The Sonics Live @ Macefield (photos)
- Live From Tacoma: The Cave Sessions
- Best of 2013: Top Talent in Tacoma
- Mono in VCF: Stating Their Name for the Record