The Best Local Records We Heard This April

Activist hip-hop, occult rap, and weirdo punk made our month.

Oh, Rose is one of many, many excellent freaky pop bands from Olympia featured on the new Guest Records compilation. Courtesy of the artist

A quick P.S.A. for showgoers now that spring is here—the warm weather doesn’t give you a license to be a rowdy douche at shows. I know it’s hot, and that means you want to take your shirt off and dance, which is fine, but that doesn’t mean you get to slam into everybody around you like a riot cop and drag the performers off the stage into your personal sweaty boy-hell. In honor of the recently deceased, think to yourself, “What would Prince do?” Would he go aggro right now, or transmute his pent-up energy into elegant blossoms of feminine dance majesty? More purple auras, less purple bruises, people. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s dive into this month’s local music gems.


Seattle’s Own

There are a number of ways to measure success in music. You can count record sales and streams, you can count the number of people who come to your shows, and if you’re really petty, you can count Facebook likes and Twitter followers. But there’s something to be said about the unquantifiable impact music can have on people’s perception of reality. Although Seattle rapper Draze can count music sync spots on ESPN, Empire, and Love & Hip-Hop as tangible marks of success, perhaps the most impressive outcome of his first new album in seven years, Seattle’s Own, is how it has become a movement—both a rallying cry for Seattle activists and a wake-up call for folks blind to what’s happening in the Central District. Take “Irony on 23rd,” a song that articulates the CD community of color’s critique of Uncle Ike’s pot shop so well that organizers adopted the song’s name for their protest on the street corner on 4/20. Through his uncompromising appraisals of gentrification in Seattle on “The Hood Ain’t the Same” and his call for others in the hip-hop community to drop the “poppin’ bottles” mentality and get into real issues on “Ain’t Nobody Talkin’ About No Real Shit,” Draze’s record stands apart because, as he says, “Fuck selling dope and fuck selling records/These boys are selling you dreams, I put this thing in perspective.” Plenty of rappers have bars, but Draze is one of the few who also probably have legislation.

Trowa Barton

Post Romanticism

MC and producer Trowa Barton, named after a character with impossibly fringy bangs from the Gundam anime, is part of a burgeoning local occult hip-hop movement. The Seattle-based Thraxxhouse collective takes the sound to New Agey, soul-searching sadboy realms, while Tacoma’s Crimewave dwells at the darker, mosh-ready horrorcore end of the spectrum. But Trowa Barton’s Underworld Dust Funk crew, which counts Seattleites like Khrist Koopa, Bolo Nef, BB Sun, Martis Unruly, and Dizzi Slick among its ranks, puts its own spin on the vibe with a dusky, magickal unearthliness that’s more moonlight and flickering candles than pitch-black haunted-house interiors. Barton’s new Post Romanticism is perhaps the most articulated example yet of UDF’s developing sound, a gorgeous offering of gruff, guttural hymns to the night laid over lacy, witchwave warmth that Trowa and collaborator Khrist Koopa should be very proud of. “Revolution” is the easy standout, a glimmering, hypnagogic trap-tune that floats along languidly like a contented, levitating ghost and inspires repeat listens. “Ashes out the Window” is similarly swirling, gently riding a subtle snare-and-hat rhythm over cavernous church-choir reverberations. Even when the album edges the energy toward straight-up bangers on “Stay” and “Riot,” there’s an incredibly mature sense of restraint that immediately steers clear of cliché and grounds the songs in Trowa Barton’s uniquely wraithlike universe.

Guest Records

Guest Records Compilation 001

Olympia’s punk scene is ridiculously good right now, but the DIY capitol of the world also currently has truckloads of great weirdo pop groups, many of which are conveniently collected on this new comp. Named after the Guest House, a scrappy former house venue many of the bands on the label performed/recorded/practiced at, the comp is a sprawling 21-track, 10-band slice of scuzzy Oly life rife with solid-gold nuggets. “Lottery,” by the criminally underrated Oh, Rose, gets prominent placement as the second track, a deserved slot given the tune’s rollicking, rev-up energy and stunning, breathy vocals from front woman Olivia Rose (imagine if Belle & Sebastian weren’t so goddamned sleepy and replaced their cardigans with sweaty tank tops). Ben Varian, a Mac DeMarco-esque indie lounge lizard, squiggles all over the tracklist with his elevator-ready synth-tones and perpetually chill delivery—a vibe that warbles even harder in the hands of similar-sounding Olympian Déjá Blue on “NECTAR SAFARI.” My favorite find on this record, however, is the artist on the very last track—the incomparable SEAGULLINVASION. The one-man freakshow’s sole song on the comp, “Doing,” is a sampledelic cartoon fantasia that should retroactively be made the official theme song to Flubber. The kinetic tune led me down a rabbit hole into the artist’s wild catalog of “electronic slash slip slop slump slurp,” which sort of sounds like a singing chicken and a giant amoeba got hold of a microphone and an MPC.

Paranoid Time

Demo 2016

Trawling around Bandcamp and Soundcloud’s local releases usually means wading through lots of straight-up garbage—some dude trying to bring 1994 back, some lady trying to be Evanescence, five trap records that sound like 500 other trap records. Finding stuff like Paranoid Time makes it all worth it, though—a raw, zero-fucks-given punk group from Seattle that tossed an excellent demo into the digivoid of Bandcamp without much fanfare or presence elsewhere (they’ve popped up on the bottom of some local DIY bills, but that’s it). Featuring what sounds like the squeaky, SpongeBob vox of Joe Ross from fellow Seattle punk outsiders Miscomings, Paranoid Time’s songs are all pogo-stick fits of epileptic, joyful weirdness—rushing through dirgy, power-chord shred tunnels with that glorious, bizarre falsetto punctuating it all. “Smiley” is the standout here‚ a bass-driven song that wastes no time cramming a great hooky chorus and a freakout solo in 2’01” flat. The demo is the latest in a recent streak of incredibly solid, spirited punk records coming out of local musician/producer Ian Kurtis Crist’s Office Space studio.

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