Without a doubt, the award for “hardest hustle in Seattle” goes to Christianne Karefa-Johnson, aka DoNormaal. In the past eight months since her incredible debut LP Jump or Die came out, Karefa-Johnson must have played something close to 50 or 60 shows. That’s all on top of spearheading her own artist collective (69/50), playing a raved-about, sold-out opening set for Santigold two weeks ago, and heading to New York to study with the Underground Producers Alliance after winning the organization’s first Andreas Robbins Scholarship. That hard work has paid off—the MC is one of the most buzzed-about new artists in town, and rightfully so. Her left-field, experimental approach to hip-hop, full of woozy, eerie textures and inimitably playful poetics, is a shot in the arm to the local scene. Karefa-Johnson has a way of squeezing every ounce of character out of each word she utters, twisting and stretching individual syllables into unique expressionistic opportunities and jumping-off points for clever, unexpected melodies. In “50 Jasper Horses,” an ominous tune about a vision she had in a dream, she raps like one of the phantoms she describes, turning her quavering banshee moan into an earwormy chorus: “I can’t believe what’s in my miiiiiiiiiiiiiind!” There’s a reason she’s playing three festivals this season: She’s really goddamned good. If you haven’t yet caught her live show, don’t be a doofus—make sure to do DoNormaal. You’ve got plenty of chances this summer. Catch her at: BIG BLDG Bash, Bumbershoot, Block Party at The Station.
“Fuck all those little indie dudes that are calling themselves R&B,” Chanticleer Trü told Willamette Week in March after his band Chanti Darling won the paper’s Best New Band poll. “We want to give proper tribute and respect to this genre that hasn’t gone any damn place.” Trü, a Technicolor-clad vocalist with a silky-smooth falsetto, has taken Portland by storm in the span of a single year with his ass-shaking supergroup, whose sound does a lot more than simply pay tribute to R&B. Trü recruited an all-star cast of musicians to realize his particular vision, including Natasha Kmeto, Wild Flag’s Rebecca Cole (on keytar!), and Gossip drummer Hannah Billie. But it is queer hip-hop producer Damon Boucher who gives the group its distinctive retro-future bounce, crafting a strutworthy mix of classic R&B mixed with Paradise Garage house, funk, and disco—a mass of influences that coalesces into something that transcends the sum of its parts. The group has only two recorded singles out (both of which slay), but with Trü’s history in performance art, theater, dance, drag, and cabaret, the live show is apparently where it’s at. Catch them at: Pickathon, What the Festival.
Summer festivals are all about chilling out, getting vibey, and enjoying the sun. Moni Tep—who performs as JusMoni—fully embodies that spirit. The Beacon Hill native weaves her phenomenally luminescent voice through a sage-smoked take on soul, R&B, and electronic music. On the artist’s latest, JusMoni as Saffroniaa, the songs twinkle like rays of light, “MGC” squelching through a sun-drunk rhythm as Tep’s vocals swirl in layers above it all—her trademark bouncing bass lines keeping things bumping through all the haze. Tep calls the internationally renowned Black Constellation crew family, and they frequently appear on her tunes as well—Chimurenga Renaissance giving “Guava” a spacey, celebratory instrumental treatment and StasTHEEBoss lending guest vocals on the record’s effervescent queer-anthem “Hot Potato,” a smooth tune all about stealing someone’s girlfriend. JusMoni is appearing at two of Seattle’s more exciting, community-minded festivals this year—BIG BLDG Bash and the Block Party at The Station. This latter performance should be a special one; Tep is a Beacon Hill native and a regular face at The Station (at one point, a giant painting of her face literally hung there), and that home-field advantage should make for an excellent show. Don’t hesitate to light one up beforehand, as she told Seattle Weekly recently, “I believe in using medicinal herbs to assist in elevating your higher being.” Catch them at: BIG BLDG Bash, Block Party at the Station.
Every day, it seems, one more dude with a denim vest hears Tame Impala and The 13th Floor Elevators for the first time and decides to start a “psychedelic” guitar band. There are quite possibly more run-of-the-mill psych bands in the world now than actual psychedelic mushrooms. Many of these groups are content to turn up the treble and the fuzz, ape John Lennon’s nasally croon, and call it good. Vancouver, B.C.’s Jo Passed, however, comes at the sound from a legitimately psychedelic angle—his songs are really weird. The singer and multi-instrumentalist started out playing in an experimental punk group, and that sensibility leaches into the playful, wonky structures of his tunes. “In” from his Out EP warps, well, in and out of noodly, muted lines that unexpectedly blow up into feedback-laden explosions. “Pet Crows,” the single from his upcoming Up EP, teeters back and forth like a seesaw on a lopsided guitar rhythm and skittering rim clicks that never totally settle into place—a sound Passed claims was inspired by the classic freakazoid avant-punk of Pere Ubu. It’s those unlikely influences that will make Passed stand out this festival season amid what’s sure to be another deluge of dudes singing reverb-soaked tunes about third eyes. Catch them at:BIG BLDG Bash, Music Waste.
The UW jazz department has cranked out a crazy-high percentage of this city’s tightest musicians. Among them are the members of The Dip, a seven-piece soul band that met through the school and quickly took the UW house-party scene by storm with their deep, deep, deep in the pocket grooves. Upon listening, it’s immediately obvious how closely these guys have studied classic ’60s Motown records, a spirit you really can’t fake. The “Honeynut Horns,” the group’s brass section, pepper the swinging rhythms with warm and fuzzy melodies that sound triumphant as hell on a big stage outside in the sunshine. Seattle electronic pop-group Beat Connection shares drummer Jarred Katz and singer Tom Eddy with the band, and Eddy spreads his buttery croon thick over the dusty, feel-good tunes. When we premiered the group’s dreamy single “Ready to Go,” I wrote that it “made me feel like I was in a balmy sun-drenched park, dancing with my loved one while chirping birds hung out, perched atop bountiful overflowing pitchers of lemonade.” I could say the same about every single song on the band’s self-titled LP from last year—this music was engineered for outdoor festivals. Catch them at: Sasquatch, Capitol Hill Block Party.