The Best Local Records We Heard This May—XL Edition

The scene put out too many good albums, so get ready for a jumbo-sized edition of our roundup.

Usually when I write these record roundups, I pull out three, maybe four albums that really grabbed me that month. This May, however, has been ridiculous on the local music front. Trimming it down to the usual number was nigh impossible. Thus, we’re doing a double-stuffed edition, so prepare your earholes for six excellent records.

Mommy Long Legs | Rock Product

The reigning queens of Seattle sing-along basement punk, Mommy Long Legs, just put out their rippingest EP yet. That’s a feat, considering their first record was straight-up titled Life Rips. So what changed? Rock Product is still classic Mommy Long Legs—the barfcore four-piece’s tunes are still built on summery, surfed-out riffs and some of the most fun lyrics in town (one line in lead track “Diva Night” simply goes “69!/420!/69!/Six-ty-niiiiiine!”). The difference here is in the recording and production—Rock Product is the hardest-hitting, most brilliantly blown-out the band has sounded so far, a shift courtesy of Seattle’s DIY punk producer extraordinaire Ian Kurtis Crist. The crunchy, red-line compression on these tracks suits Mommy Long Legs’ life-affirming racket perfectly. When the crushing opening chords on “Dick Move” come in after the tune’s jokey, noodly intro, they absolutely pummel you. If you’ve never experienced Mommy Long Legs live (which you should as soon as possible), Rock Product is the closest the band has come to replicating that transcendental experience on record.

Lac Seul | “Kenora”

The latest from two of the core producers behind Seattle’s lo-fi house/techno label Jungle Gym Records switches up the formula a bit. Lac Seul’s last outing, Districts, zoomed in on the coastal vibe that’s come to define the Cascadian electronic scene. “Kenora” retains those breezy touchstones, but the tone here is much more urban, chock-full of delirious, squiggly bass lines and tunes you can strut down the sidewalk to. Opener “Time Code” is a bona fide cruiser, the kind of effortless, improv dance-floor workout Jungle Gym specializes in. “Mercury City Narrows” takes those bass lines on an even longer drive (10 minutes to be exact), interspersing them with dramatic chord washes and ever-evolving clattering grooves. My personal favorite is “Golden Pines,” the EP’s sunniest tune replete with simple, effective rhythms—a testament to the “less is more” philosophy at work here. The brilliance of Jungle Gym is how organic and easy they all make it look—Lac Seul just seems to crap out gold.

Xylitol | IS TOXIC TO PIGS??

If you miss the righteous, fury-driven d-beat of G.L.O.S.S. (R.I.P.), you should try getting your face kicked in by Olympia’s new shredders Xylitol. The band first impressed us exactly one year ago with the goblin-shriek glory of their demo, a five-song whirlwind equal parts political polemic and punk punch line (sample lyric: “Pick all fights/Fist all night”). A lot of exceptionally terrible things have happened since then, and fittingly, IS TOXIC TO PIGS?? is even more pissed-off. Take “ATROCITY MAN,” a 300-mph sonic kick in the dick. “Stretch back, recline on your 10 billion dollar life,” the band howls like a banshee, “Try to forget the day we all unsheathe the knife.” The invective doesn’t leave the band’s sense of humor behind, though; take “BISQUICK,” which revs things up with the line “I don’t give a fuck ’bout you fuck pigs/One day you’ll suck up my Bisquick.” If you’ve been down about the heavy headliness, let Xylitol transmute that despair into motivational, virtuous anger.

Taylar Elizza Beth | Fresh Cut Flowers

Taylar Elizza Beth is a fascinating performer. She raps and sings in a distinctive hush. Her finely woven, delicate vocal approach makes for some interesting tension with her stage presence—she is a highly animated force, dancing, posing, and gleefully prodding the audience into action. That diametric push-pull makes her long-awaited EP Fresh Cut Flowers an equally arresting listen. Take “High and Haunted,” a nearly beatless track that drifts by on spooky organ chords. Beth keeps her volume equally low, but her verses seem constantly at the edge of erupting, reeling herself back in as soon as she reaches a precipice: “I am afraid of no one, I am afraid of myself,” she sings. Record highlight “Free My Mind” is a gorgeous, longing tune fit for our entry into summer, but it also flirts with that curious inner tension: “I am ready I know/This monstrosity inside of me/Doubt caught on/Compromising now my quality.” That tug-of-war between restraint and release results in a complex, deep record, one that rewards repeat, attentive listens.

Fish Narc | Water

Young Seattle producer Fish Narc is an incredibly versatile musician. Most folks probably know him as one of Thraxxhouse’s core beatsmiths, pumping out moody gothboi trap for Mackned, Yung Bruh, AJ Suede, and the rest. At one point he was a Hardly Art signee—the guitarist/lead singer of now defunct art-rock band Hausu. Today, he also moonlights as a formidable house/techno producer. Last year’s Fish Snake Narc on New York label Pastel Voids was a self-admitted “collage” of sketches, bouncing from straight-up club tracks to bizarre hybrids that married Modest Mouse samples with chilly rave bass. Water, is far more focused but just as fun, and stands as one of his best works yet. The tunes thematically riff on the EP’s title—“Christian Audigier” builds out of a gorgeous, crystalline arpeggio that weaves asymmetrical trails throughout the moody, propulsive lo-fi rhythm. “Drawing” is the most chipper Fish Narc’s ever sounded, skittering along a borderline-tropical sub-bass melody with a vibe that bleeds into the rubbery, thumping, water-park jam that follows, “SKRRRT.” (Ironically, final track “Misery” is pretty summery too.) If you’re looking for some left-field electronic music, here are some cartoony jams you can jump off the dock to.

Hoop | Super Genuine

Contemporary rock, especially live, can feel like little more than a race to the loudest. Whoever has the biggest amp stack wins (and hey, let me take 15 minutes of your time to tell you about the specs on my huge amp stack, buddy). With Super Genuine, Seattle’s Hoop has crafted a gorgeous, attention-grabbing rock record that hums rather than screams, and is almost heavier for it. Hoop’s spiritual roots lie in Anacortes, the ferry town where front woman Caitlin Roberts wrote and recorded the album, and those roots are all over the record. Nich Wilbur, who produced Super Genuine, and Allyson Foster, who performs guest vocals on it, are both members of Anacortes’ Hungry Cloud Darkening, whose gorgeous, must-listen 2014 LP Glossy Recall also mastered the art of truly vulnerable minimalist rock. Super Genuine departs from that formula in that it’s not afraid to throw in distortion from time to time. But the way that distortion is applied, over gently thrummed chords and murmured, poignant reflections on life and relationships, as in “Drawn to You” and “To Know Your Tone,” flips rock’s script on its head and in the process comes out with something legitimately affecting and innovative.