Throwaway Style: Summer is Over (If You Want It)

Taylar Elizza Beth // Photo by Cole Whitworth

Throwaway Style is a weekly column dedicated to examining all aspects of the Northwest music scene. Whether it’s a new artist making waves, headlines affecting local talent, or reflecting on some of the music that’s been a foundation in our region; this space celebrates everything happening in the Northwest region, every Thursday on the KEXP Blog.


This morning I walked outside to a familiar sensation — the stale smell of rain on dirty concrete. It’s the last day of August but it feels more like a premonition of every day we’ll have come November. I was reading the Seattle Weekly the other day and came across this comic by local artist Robyn Jordan entitled “End of Summer” that perfectly captures the feeling of this time of year: the nostalgia for things you did and the pains of regret for the things you didn’t while we have that brief respite of blue skies and warm air.

Yeah, I know that September is still technically summer but tell that to all the marketing campaigns slamming us with “Back to School” narratives and Halloween candy being thrown at us in department stores. We’re still going to have some beautiful sunny days, but this is where the real summer fun starts to slow down. Look, fall is tight. You’ve got pumpkin flavored crunchy leaves and crispy air (am I doing this right?) and not to mention the soothing sounds of the rain. But Seattle summers are something special. So is the music that defines it.

 

Let’s get this out first: hip-hop continued to assert its dominance this summer in the Pacific Northwest. When we started this column, DoNormaal had just released her brilliant sophomore LP, THIRD DAUGHTER. It’s immediately clear that this was a landmark moment for her and the scene she’s helped build up but it’s become even more evident as time has gone on. I heard “Ego Slave” booming out of car stereos while walking around the hill and overheard people gush about their favorite tracks. But she was far from the only local rapper to soundtrack the summer. Taylar Elizza Beth  may have released her Fresh Cut Flowers EP back in May, but it’s presence continues to extend and grow in the city (I mean, Justin Bieber dropped his “Despacito” remix back in April and people called that the “song of the summer,” so timelines are pretty arbitrary). That Elizza Beth’s spacious, swooning sounds took off in a season typically associated with upbeat, peppy anthems is a testament to both her talent as a songwriter as well as Seattle’s eclectic taste and willingness to go against whatever the rest of the world is doing.

This summer we also saw the rapid ascent of Portland rapper Aminé who’s gone on to be a chart topper and even got one of modern music’s highest honors: featured in a Beyoncé Instagram video. His debut LP Good For You just exudes the joy of summer. When things inevitably get gray and stormy again, songs like “Caroline” are going to be time capsules for those humid summer days driving down the freeway with the windows down. There are also glimpses of artists who are surely going to rise within the scene, like Seattle rapper BlkSknn who dropped my personal song of the summer “Reggie Miller” earlier this year. You may have seen him out around Westlake selling copies of his debut album Small World, putting in the work to get his music out there. I can’t wait to inevitably gush about whatever he does next. Just like he says on the opening lines of “Reggie Miller,” he’s a “legend in the making.”

 

Hip-hop wasn’t the only genre soundtracked the Seattle summer. Punk and indie rock will always have roots embedded in this city and a new wave of artists continues to emerge to reinterpret it in their own image, which involves a lot of self-awareness and breaking the fourth wall. Sundae Crush‘s Crushed EP exuded this with a healthy dose of early ’00s nostalgia, singing about the taboo of reaching someone’s AIM messages on opener “Chatroom Messages.” There’s vulnerability in there as well, like the real life struggle for affection captured in “Dating Game 3000.”

Hardly Boys came through with one of the most fun records of the season with their steaming Dear Diarrhea. It’s an album full of summer daydreams, like on “House Boat” where they fantasize about getting stoned on a house boat via Air BnB. Speaking of stoner anthems, have you heard Great Grandpa‘s ganja zombie opus “28 J’s L8r”?  The quintet’s debut full-length Plastic Cough is more than just the funny moments scattered around the tracklist. It’s a deeply personal, shoot-for-the-stars, watershed moment for the band. It’ll be a while before I get the chorus to “Teen Challenge” out of my head.

This is all before going into the neural, anxiousness of music by Naomi PunkCHARMS, and EMA that captured the stresses of living in 2017 — a year of political and technological uncertainty where every day comes with a new reason to panic. Sometimes leaning into those feelings was more cathartic than trying to avoid them. Car Seat Headrest even throw out a hint of more of this to come after summe’s over with their foreboding single “War is Coming (If You Want It)”.

 

Summer’s ending, if you want it or if you don’t. Maybe it was great for you, maybe it wasn’t. For me, Northwest music was a refuge from the world seemingly imploding in out self — even when the music itself was challenging me on my own worldview. Pacific Northwest summers have a magic to them and I think that it goes beyond just the sun peeking out for a bit. It’s the people and the artists that make it what it is. These albums and more embodied the spirit of what it’s like to be here now. And that’s a beautiful thing.

New and News

COSMOS Head to Paisley Park for Musicology Battle of the Bands

Seattle hip-hop outfit COSMOS are one of the hardest working groups in the city, constantly showing up at gigs all over town and translating the energy from their debut mixtape Moonshine to anyone in ear shot. Now they’re taking that spirit and heading out to Paisley Park in Minneapolis — yes, that Paisley Park — to compete in the Musicology Battle of the Bands this weekend. The winner of the competition will receive recording time at the Paisley Park studio and a mentorship session with members of Prince’s New Power Generation. Break a leg, dudes!

 

ETC Tacoma Drops an Essential Compilation with SoundWaves Vol. 3

Boutique retailer ETC Tacoma is selling more than just clothes, they’re becoming a major force in promoting 253 artists. Alongside hosting and promoting shows, they’ve begun releasing SoundWaves compilations featuring artists from the area. With the third volume in the series, they’re branching out from just Tacoma and highlighting acts from across Western Washington. You’ll hear Seattle favorites like Taylar Elizza Beth and Astro King Phoenix, as well as a slew of new artists to be discovered. And oh yeah, they’re all new tracks too. With 20 tracks, there’s plenty to keep you busy and set you off on some great music discovery.

 

Fountaine Drops H.F.I.L. Bonus Track “Shower Music / Lan Line”

Portland rapper and producer Fountaine had me with his hazy beats and assertive rhymes, but he stole my heart with his constant Dragon Ball references. Earlier this year he dropped the sprawling H.F.I.L., a shout out to the anime’s version of hell, and he’s blessed us again with a bonus track from the LP titled “Shower Music / Lan Line”. It really feels like two tracks, highlighting the duality of his style that can go from laid back to “back away from me” on a dime. Dope sleep on his music or you may end up in Other World.

 

Live and Loud: This Week’s Recommended Local Shows

September 1-3: Bumbershoot feat. Aminé, Dude York, Stas THEE Boss, and more

 

 

September 1-3: Northwest Psych Fest feat. Kinski, Weeed, Máscaras and more

 

 

 

September 1: Religious Girls, DYED, Merso at Black Lodge

 

September 2: BlkSknn, QUBe, DefSeed, HOT, Freddy Fate at Cafe Red

 

September 4: DoNormaal, So Pitted. RVN. The White Tears & Pearl Dragon Is at Chop Suey

 

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