Nada Mucho

41 Seattle Bands We’re Watching in 2018

Posted by May 26th, 2018 23 Comments »

Introduction by Matt Ashworth 
Artwork by Tim Basaraba

Here we are again. It’s May. We’ve been listening to oodles of local musicians’ stuff online for the last four months. Sharing links. Championing songs. Debating. Cajoling. And reminding ourselves just how deep a well the Emerald City offers when it comes to emerging musical talent.

Per tradition, we skipped all the great local bands you already should know about. Artists who’ve been regularly championed by the mighty and wonderful KEXP, as well as those whose talents have already elevated them to regular appearances on major stages like Sasquatch and Bumbershoot. With this particular list, we’re looking for the bands who will make that leap in the next couple of years.

Also, as has become our custom, we’ve included comments on why we selected each artist, pictures so you can give them a friendly “hello” when you see them about town, and — more importantly — some links so you can go listen for yourself.

As always, please share your thoughts on these artists or others you think we should know about in the comments section.

Of final note, in the Fall we will have a music festival featuring many of these artists like we did last year and the year before and the year before that.

Bear Axe

Photo by Christiana Wu.

It’s hard to know what to say but this band shreds. Hard rock solos. Vocalist Shaina Shepherd pushes her vocals past “soul” territory into “shreds,” like Sharon Jones fronting Mötley Crüe. While the Bear Axe records don’t yet match their live show, there’s no reason to miss them either, if you like the shred. – Graham Isaac

Bandcamp: https://bearaxe.bandcamp.com/releases


Chong the Nomad

I’ve got a lot more to learn about the 41 bands on this list, but I think it’s gonna be hard for any song to best Chong the Nomad’s “In Conclusion,” a lovely and highly-personal track from the classically-trained Alda Austiano, who seems to have translated her education in film scoring, music composition and classical chamber music into an impressive 6-song debut. The rest of the collection focuses more on her production skills, which the performer also flaunts on her single “You’re Really Pretty,” a catchy little club hit. But it’s the combination of these forces on “In Conclusion” – vulnerable storytelling and impeccable production – that hint at just how good Chong’s debut album could be. When the bass comes in at 49 seconds it’s one of those rare moments in music that makes you momentarily believe that everything is going to be OK. Others seem to be catching on, as without a significant amount of time performing locally under her belt she’s already been invited to perform at Capitol Hill Block Party 2018. Rightfully so. – Matt Ashworth

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chongmakesmusic/

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/chongsongs/


Crystal Beth & The Boom Boom Band

Each song by Crystal Beth & The Boom Boom Band is so different that it’s difficult to describe their sound, but I will give it a shot. The five-piece group makes multi-instrumental psychedelic jam rock with a sense of humor. Singer/songwriter Crystal Beth’s (Beth Fleenor) vocal chords seeming possessed by a different and equally talented spirit on each song. Always shocking. Always odd. Never boring. – Tim Basaraba


Darto  

That Darto could put out an album as good as 2017’s Human Giving and still fly relatively low on the radar is a testament to the number of great bands making music in Seattle. It skips between familiar but comforting Indie rock reference points, like the Ravenottes-style boy/girl vocal number “I Am” and the gorgeous Leonard Cohen / Mark Lanegan / Bill Callhan / Arthur & Yu / Lee Greenwood style vocal track “Fell Ill.” No two tracks sound the same, which keeps the intrigue level high enough to play this record all of the way through in one setting. You know, old skool style. Better yet, put this record on the next time you’d otherwise play Luna or Yo La Tengo loud on an early summer’s day. I hope the band has enough time and resources to put out a new album in 2018. – Barbara Carmichael

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Dartowa/

Bandcamp: https://darto.bandcamp.com/album/human-giving


The Deadrones

We Are Watching, the Deadrones‘ first full release, was one of my favorite recordings of 2017. The record offers a super lush and textured sound that calls to mind reference points like Songs for the Deaf-era QOTSA, My Bloody Valentine and even Muse, but without the annoying vocals…all without sounding derivative of any single artist. The three-piece band recorded with Steve Jones at Big Sound Productions, which resulted in a very clean and professional sound … so much so that one might fear a quick transition into stadium rock. It’s a familiar and lovely sound, but any kid who has yet to hear such an epic, melodic soundscape may think the Deadrones’ next show is going to be at Key Arena. – TB

Bandcamp: http://www.thedeadrones.bandcamp.com


Eats Batteries

Brand new bass/drums instrumental duo Eats Batteries sound like a regular rock band filtered through a cement mixer. Somehow, what comes out is a fuzzy sound that’s smooth and crunchy at the same time. And there’s NO NEED to worry about some stupid vocalist ruining perfect rock music with cliched lyrics. This stuff is progressive but not heady, and doomy but not so doomed out it makes you sad. Music to jump out of an airplane to. – TB

Bandcamp: https://eatsbatteries.bandcamp.com/releases


Fantasy A

While it may be hyperbolic, it’s only SLIGHTLY to say that no one in town hustles harder than Fantasy A. He’s got movies, posters, and a compelling personal narrative. His raps boast an earnestness, sense of place and honesty that can’t help but endear the listener. Whether or not he achieves his goals of rap stardom, it’s not hard to root for him. – GI

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fantasyfanking/


Fucked and Bound

Photo by Uly Curry

If you’ve seen He Whose Ox Is Gored, then knowing that vocalist/keyboardist Lisa Mungo is fronting her own hardcore band (alongside Ox’s Brian McClelland on guitar) should be enough to sell it. Here, the doom and atmospherics of their other project is set aside in favor of fast, shredding, righteously pissed off hardcore. Already signed to Void Assault Records, F & B hit the ground running; expect to hear a lot more about them as time goes on. – GI

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lisamungo


Guest Directors

It makes sense that Seattle would have a solid shoegaze scene, given that our weather tends to act as its own mood wash. Here, Julie Bartlett (The Drolls, ex Mutiny Mutiny) leads a band of tight players through songs that alternately shimmer and hammer. These are songs that are perfect to score a rainy bus ride or a day of introspection, but they absolutely explode live. Of all the bands exploring shoegaze in Seattle, Guest Directors are perhaps the best at getting the balance of mood and power right. – GI

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/guest.directors/

Bandcamp: https://guestdirectors.bandcamp.com


Happy Heartbreak

“Feel good music” doesn’t make me feel good. Never has. But the feel good music of Happy Heartbreak, a project fronted by the enigmatic Craig Suede, does what no other feel good music has…it makes me consider: “what is happiness?” Is it the time between suffering the silent moments? I haven’t figured out the answer, but Happy Heartbreak’s music makes me think about these questions, which is something most music doesn’t do these days. – TB

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/happyheartbreakmusic/

Bandcamp: https://happyheartbreak.bandcamp.com/releases


Head Band

With only two songs available thus far on Bandcamp, betting on Head Band for #41for2018 seems like a bit of a stretch. However, those two songs indicate a band that’s steeped in good old fashioned rock ‘n roll from years of listening to the Stones, VU and the best of southern rock. The band played at the Freakout Festival last year, and the crew over there has a pretty good eye for talent, so we’ll be anxiously anticipating more tunes from this three-piece. Get a taste of what’s to come with “Blown Away.” – MA

Bandcamp: https://headbandrock.bandcamp.com/album/head-band-s-t-7


Jake Laundry

I normally hate it when otherwise enjoyable musical artists take a dystopian view of technology. No matter how hard I try, it just makes them seem naïve on this particular topic. But Jake Laundry pulls it off. His “millennial navigating the digital world” theme seems genuine and informed, and his signature track “Uber Millennial” doesn’t sound like you think a song characterizing a generation unfairly characterized as digitally-addicted would. Conversely, “Run When I Can” has a Fruit Bats kind of vibe and I’m way into it as well. Also, it’s rare that I have the opportunity to recollect that Thomas Dolby Aliens Ate My Buick tape I got through Columbia House, and I think ““Church of The Silicon Valley” does the trick. Finally, his whole visual and video thing seems intriguing. I’m definitely watching Jake. – MA

Bandcamp: https://jakelaundry.bandcamp.com


Jason McCue

A lot has happened for Jason McCue since we debuted his song “Fault Lines” last November. He’s released a new album, PANAGEA, from which “Fault Lines” is taken, on Portland’s Fluff & Gravy Records, and it’s a lovely collection of indie folk pop that calls to mind Elliott Smith or Modest Mouse at their quieter moments. Equally smitten with the former Mo Pop! Sound Off winner, local star makers KEXP hosted the album’s release show in February and have been giving it steady airplay. McCue’s also recorded a set for the Band In Seattle TV show this month. All of this follows Seattle Weekly’s 2017 account of his breathtaking Sound Off! Performance, in which that publication’s editor-in-chief Mark Baumgarten indicated the 20-year-old McCue “crooned for his paramour and mean-mugged his enemies, which included, in a turn worthy of the late, great Phil Ochs, our current commander-in-chief and his supporters.” Needless to say, you might already be watching Jason McCue, too. If not, now’s a good time to start. – BC

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jasonmccuemusic/

Bandcamp: https://jasonmccue1.bandcamp.com/


L80

L80 is not a band. L80 is Thomas Dolby doing an off Broadway two-person show with glitter, nipple tape and streamers. Tony James and Chadka are performers in every sense of the word. I know it seems strange that this is our second Thomas Dolby reference on this list already, but check out a few songs and tell me it isn’t true. They have some solid recordings but you HAVE TO see them live. I’m still looking for my pants… – Lance Sobotka

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/l80seattle


La Fille

Alright Already,” the lone song by Seattle four-piece La Fille available for consumption on the band’s digital properties, is a tight, catchy bit of classic guitar-based power pop. It’s such a great song that it feels destined for regular KEXP airplay very soon. In fact, it’s good enough to have me and the rest of the Nada crew anxiously awaiting more. – MA

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lafilleband/

Bandcamp: https://lafilleband.bandcamp.com


Mud on My Bra

Two-piece Mud on Bra employ just enough punk and just enough garage. Their music is raw, yet conceived with thought and played with skill. This is the type of band that K Records wishes they would have had on their roster back in the 1990’s. – TB

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MudOnMyBra/

Bandcamp: https://mudonmybra.bandcamp.com

Bandcamp Counselor: February and March 2018


Nauticult

The whole rap-rock thing didn’t *have* to be a bad idea. It was more the execution, taking the dumbest, most obvious elements of both, that failed. It’s been long enough, and, as genre distinctions blur in general, more artists are taking a nuanced approach. Nauticult make music that’s glitchy, paranoid and energizing, with metallic guitars slicing through slick beats. – GI

Bandcamp: https://nauticult.bandcamp.com/releases

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/nauticult


Nordra

The music of multi-instrumentalist Nordra, the solo project of Zen Mother’s (#41for2016) Monika Khot, guides me through a modern industrial world, complex and not without peril while also not necessarily dark. A harsh, sharp and edgy world but “Apologize to me Humanity” keeps me sane. It has a deep energy. It cuts through my skin. I guess I’m not so much “watching” Nordra as I am “feeling” them in 2018. – Jim Toohey

Bandcamp: https://nordra.bandcamp.com/album/nordra


Otieno Terry

Otieno Terry is an interesting case. One could easily argue that he’s already elevated his art form and local esteem beyond the traditional scope of this list. He first crossed our radar four years ago, when he wore those bomb ass glasses and seemed to channel Stevie Wonder when his futuristic soul project Hi-Tek Lowlives performed live on KEXP. He seemed destined for a quick rise to major label stardom. Fast forward to today, and though he released an excellent solo album last year, The Woods, and drew the attention of notable Seattle rock scribe Jonathan Zwickel and former 107.7 The End DJ Marco Collins, the views of his professionally-done videos and online catalogue remain criminally low. This is a man dripping with talent, who seems to have the artistic vision and diverse set of talents of an Andersen Paak, to cite a more recent reference point. Please watch him. – BC

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/otienoterry

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/otienoterry


Paris Alexa

One of the best things about living in Seattle is the bounty of local music nerds highlighting the best of the city’s emerging local talent, and one of the hottest and most prolific right now is local writer Dusty Henry. So when he gushed on the KEXP blog about former MoPop Sound Off contestant Paris Alexa, a soulful R&B singer, songwriter and producer, we quickly tuned in. The 19-year-old artist writes, records and performs with a sophistication that belies her tender age, making her one of the most exciting acts operating in the 206 zip code today. Start with “Hole in the Ground” from her excellent 2017 EP Bloom or the gorgeous “Lovin’ You” with Mike Sylvester, also from last year. – MA

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Parisalexamusic/


Peyote Ugly

Peyote Ugly is fun. They’re weird fun, but they’re fun, with synth-y psych that borders between noodle and shred. They do a good job of bringing the much-labored genre of psych-rock into the modern age without being too. . . serious about it all. The guys also showed up at one of my band’s shows, got completely wasted, but weren’t assholes at any point of the evening. Those kinda vibes. – GI

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/peyoteugly

Bandcamp: https://peyoteuglyseattle.bandcamp.com


Pink Parts

Dear toxic males: do not fuck with Pink Parts. Don’t do it. See them live, then turn in your punk card because they are the best pure punk band in this city. They released their Steve Fisk-produced debut full length last year and it kicks as much ass as their live shows. – LS

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wearepinkparts

Bandcamp: https://pinkparts1.bandcamp.com/releases


Quiet

Quiet have been steadily raising their name recognition the last few years and the five-member group seem poised to make a bigger impact in 2018. Dark, heavy and melodic, they seem to have settled on a lineup after a lot of turnover. They are Sabbath-y with some legit pop hooks. A great live band, they’ve done a lot of experimenting in the studio (they released a couple acoustic tracks over the last few months). Hopefully a proper album is due in 2018. – LS

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/xxquietxx/

Bandcamp: http://quiet.massmindmusic.com 


Rat Queen

Rat Queen is one of those duos you see live and think you have figured out. Trust me though: you don’t. Each Bandcamp recording prepared me to be amazed by the next genre-bending entry in their growing catalogue. Despite this diversity of sound, each odd turn makes sense even thought you can’t really explain why… kind of like a David Lynch film. – TB

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/allhailratqueen/

Bandcamp: https://ratqueen.bandcamp.com


Razor Clam

Razor Clam are one of the bands I expect to see getting some big shows in the next year or two. Aya Mara has been a part of the Seattle music community for years (Soft Blows, for example) but her current incarnation as lead singer of RC is the best one yet. At times dreamy, at times furious, this is exhibition and top-notch songwriting fused perfectly. See them now or pay a lot more to see them later. – LS

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/razorclamglam 

Bandcamp: https://razorclamglam.bandcamp.com/releases


Seacats

Like Great Grandpa (#41for2016), Seacats seem like they would be my absolute favorite band in late 1999. Lucky for them, it’s totally OK for young bands to reference such warm influences on their sleeves when it’s so perfectly and joyfully executed. I would rather see Seacats than Weezer right now. Start with “Wrecked.” “Chopping Firewood” is terrific too. It reminds me of early Nada Surf. – BC

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/seacatsband/


Sean Downey

I think Sean Downey may be a genius. As of press time, he’s my number one favorite artist on this here list. Recently I’ve been enamored with the phrase “familiar but they own it” as a way to describe artists that operate in warm, familiar musical territory without sounding dated or derivative, and Sean Downey’s latest work is the latest example. The “Fall into the Maze” video gives us a glimpse into his visual world with the use of seemingly simple components used perfectly. And how can you not like “Suddenly, I’m Afraid,” a song made up of nonsense words (or whatever you call his verbal noise making… nerdy onomatopoeia?). Sean Downey just isn’t like anyone else. – JT

Facbook: https://www.facebook.com/SeanDownBro/

Bandcamp: https://seandowney.bandcamp.com


SEMINARS

NW punk/noise rock lifer James Burns has been in a variety of projects that explore the different edges of loud rock, but one consistent element has always been his keen songwriting sense. With his garage-y post punk act SEMINARS, he sharpens his attack and levels it with a variety of local concerns on songs like “Gaslight/Blacklist” and “100 Problems.” This year, SEMINARS is releasing a new single every month, to culminate in a full length at the end of the year, letting listeners in on the ground floor of the song/record writing process. – GI

Bandcamp: https://seminars.bandcamp.com/


Shubzilla

Shubzilla has been on the NERDCORE game for a grip and it wasn’t until the Dinner and a Movie album with local hero BILL BEATS that I believe she started to transcend the very specific sub genre of NERDCORE. Flat out, Shubz can rap and the lyrics are pointed, descriptive and often hilarious which is a refreshing change from the mubblemouth emo rappers that Seattle is full of. Start with “Frank Lloyd Wright.”– TB

Bandcamp: https://shubzilla.bandcamp.com


Spirit Award

I’m a sucker for a good garage pop record and Spirit Award added some seriously dreamy synth on their most recent record, Neverending. Perfect for a stoner walk in the sunshine with headphones. They’ve been on the rise for quite a while, don’t miss a chance to see them live. – LS

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/spiritawardband/

Bandcamp: https://spiritaward.bandcamp.com/releases


Strawberry Mountain

Strawberry Mountain seem suitable for a playlist alongside your other favorite Elephant-6 kitchen sink psychedelic pop type stuff. They debuted their single “Set Back the Clock” with Glide Magazine recently, which seems like a more coherent approach that some of their earlier recordings on Spotify. According to what appears to be one of two publicists for the band, “The crooked smile that takes over your face as your body decides to embrace the overhead summer sun is the only way to describe the feeling of listening to the opening notes of Strawberry Mountain’s sophomore album.” The early tracks definitely indicate they are trending in the right direction. Lots of promise. I’m rooting for Strawberry Mountain. – MA

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/strawberrymountain/

Bandcamp: https://strawberrymountain.bandcamp.com/


STAHV

I am a sucker for drone (see my previous love letters to Seattle legends Earth), so on my first listen to this is solo project from Ari Rosenschein (Teacher & The The Royal Oui) I was sold. Atmospheric and heavy but without the false bravado of a full-fledged Stoner Doom band. And absolutely no lyrics about wizards or swords. In fact, no lyrics at all with STAHV. Which is great because I see wizards and swords when I close my eyes. Not the corny kind from old D&D covers, the kind that haven’t been seen yet. – TB

Bandcamp: https://stahv.bandcamp.com


Sundries

The first time I heard Sundries I was both shocked that I’d never heard them before and stoked that a band had expertly brought the winding, angular indie rock I loved in the mid 00s to the present. However, where many of those bands traded in cold intellect, guitarist/singer Sadie Frank bares her soul in song. This is tight, precise music, but it’s also immediate, emotional, and impacting. – GI

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sundriesmusic/


Taylar Elizza Beth

At last year’s Freakout Fest in Ballard, one of the unquestionable breakout stars was Taylar Elizza Beth. With beats both slinky and spacey, she had the crowd at the back of Hattie’s dancing and swaying. She was the only artist I saw that night that had an unplanned encore demanded of them. She acquiesced good-naturedly with one more song and said “okay, I really am done now.” Expect big things from this rising hip hop star. – GI

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/taylarelizzabeth/


Thee Deception

Thee Deception makes just the type of abrupt, cacophonous punk rock noise that many of NadaMucho.com family grew up on. The kind that makes us want to spend all of a sunny July weekend in the basement of the Cha Cha Lounge instead of outside with everyone else. – BC

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheeDeception/

Thee Deception: https://theedeception.bandcamp.com


Tres Leches

Oh god Tres Leches are good. Each entry on their debut four-song EP is different than the next, but all are equally impressive. “Get Off My Back” is a sassy little La Tigre-style number. “Illumination” has a Bahaus meets Sonic Youth feel and “Good Things” is a piano-driven epic with great dual male/female vocals. It sounds like a Baroque-era song uncovered in an ornate crypt and brought to life by indie rockers Please give us more…and soon. – JT

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/treslechesband/

Bandcamp: https://tresleches.bandcamp.com/releases


Voycheck

Calling Voycheck “noise rock” underestimates the dark mood they’re able to conjure— the samples, Chas Roberts’ cavernous, near preacher vocals. You can hear plenty of Jesus Lizard and early Helmet in their sound but they avoid retread status by creating a mood all their own. – GI

Website: https://www.voycheck.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/voycheck/


Wall of Ears

Psych pop is one of my favorite things in this world, along with kittens and really soft bathrobes (c’mon, they’re awesome). Few bands identify this way but Wall of Ears embody the genre better than anyone else in these parts. Hypnotic synths and textural guitars are great but the pop is what brings it all together. Chris Lott and crew are on fire. Can’t recommend their 2017 release Hello Beautiful Nothing enough. – LS

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WallOfEars/

Bandcamp: https://wallofears.bandcamp.com 


Weep Wave

Again. How are there artists this good in Seattle that we don’t hear about sooner? Weep Wave are a lovely, fuzzy little DIY indie pop band with just enough angst to make it interesting. Expert use of organ and keys without them sounding corny. The four-piece band’s 2017 Amassing a Mess EP is great. – BC

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/weepwave/


Xurs

It takes a real skill for a band to appeal to both genre aficionados and casual observers alike. In Xurs‘ case, the genre in question is scratchy, scrappy art punk. You can hear elements of Wire and Pere Ubu but delivered with enough four-on-the-floor attack that catharsis is ensured. Singer Shane Kennedy snarls and sneers, but imbues the whole affair with an undercurrent of intelligent vulnerability that make Xurs one of Seattle’s best punk bands. – GI

Bandcamp: http://xursrock.bandcamp.com/releases



23 thoughts on “41 Seattle Bands We’re Watching in 2018

  1. James says:

    Are the three dorks staring at their phones part of Nodra’s band?

  2. Joyanna M says:

    You missed out on having unicorns on your list

    1. The Unicorns are from Montreal, so they are ineligible for this particular list. But we’ve written about them before.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Unicorns

  3. Jack says:

    Legit list! Gotta check out the ones I’m not familiar with. Happy to see both Quiet as well as Fucked and Bound on here. Hoping my own group (Filthy Traitors) makes the cut in the future. Cheers!

  4. Mud on My Bra is awesome- so glad they made this list!!! Definitely worth seeing live!! Bear Axe is THE coolest band on the scene, no doubt – everybody should know about them!! Y’all should also watch Watch Rome Burn – cause they rock! they’ve got “Watch” in their name, and I hear their members are shameless self promoters…

  5. Denler says:

    There are only 40 bands on this list…

    1. That is great news it means we probably forgot one.

      1. Patti Lundgren says:

        You forgot Sister Madame!

  6. Dwayne says:

    +1 on Spirit Award. Amazing live performance.

  7. Timothy says:

    How could you forget about that’s cashed

    1. Hey, what’s that?!

  8. Raylette says:

    Awesome list
    So glad you included Parisalexa. She is amazing

    1. 🙂 You gonna go see her at Upstream this weekend?

  9. Matt says:

    I would check out Anthrocene as well. Seattle “eclectic metal”; we had a hard time saying what sub genre we are as with the diverse group of metal heads, we pull on progressive, metalcore, deathmetal, and power metal. Our first album drops in August, or come see us 6/2 supporting Insomnium at El Corazon.

  10. Brian says:

    Hoping Old Coast joins this list one day.

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