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Best of 2014: Top Talent from Tacoma

Posted by December 29th, 2014 7 Comments »

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.

Tacoma band Bod on


Criminal Code

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.

Criminal Code on

Criminal Code’s latest record, Salvage (EP)


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.

Ex-Gods on

Fame Riot

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.

Fame Riot on

The Fame Riot

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.

Hunter Lea on

Hunter Lea

Pig Snout

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.

Pig Snout on

Pig Snout

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.

Rockwell Powers on

Rockwell Powers. Photo by Andrew Cox.

Strictly Sacred

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.

Wheelies on


Wade Neal is a long-time Tacoma resident who plays guitar in the iconic northwest band Seaweed

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7 thoughts on “Best of 2014: Top Talent from Tacoma

  1. Nick says:

    Tacoma label that’s making some moves.

  2. Excellent picks, Wade. A few other Tacoma bands that should be enshrined in these sacred halls…

    Trees and Timber
    These cats released one hell of a power pop LP (visit their Bandcamp and gaze upon the glorious vinyl) in December on Swoon Records. Straight-up 60’s pop strut (see “Wolf and Sheep”) intersects with garage-y stompers (“Stop Fucking it up”) to create a high-contrast sheen of hum-ability and lyrical disorientation.

    With an EP forthcoming on Swoon Records (notice a theme?), MirrorGloss gleefully hop genres, weaving between Prince-esque funk-soul grooves and electro-punk swagger. They don’t have a ton of music available online but have already gained a reputation as a one-band house party, no matter what stage or venue they occupy

    Coma Figura
    Coma Figura is an excellent, unabashed bedroom pop band. The ease of Kyle Gootkin’s lyrical delivery is astounding. Indie pop with flourishes of soul and ballsy overdrive make me imagine a poolside party scored by Built to Spill, Fleetwood Mac and the Pixies. These kitties got pop knowledge far beyond their years. Oh and guess who’s releasing their next album? Click here for the answer.

  3. darren selector says:

    Thanks for the tip re: The Low Humbles. Huge fan of Mono in VCF and Hunter’s solo works.

  4. Jeff says:

    I second that, Darren. Can’t wait to hear The Low Humbles

  5. Rod says:

    Yep, too bad y’all missed the boat on Trees & Timber. Now that’s a great band!

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