Throwaway Style: AJ Suede Bridges Seattle and East Coast Energies on Gotham Fortress

AJ Suede

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.

We have now entered the grey time here in Seattle. Summer was great and all, allowing us a brief respite from the cloud cover (you know, when the sun wasn’t being covered by smoke). Now it’s time to put those summer jams tucked away in the closest with our fidget spinners and Vitamin D sourced optimism. Fall officially starts tomorrow and fighting the bleakness is futile. It’s time to embrace it. Thankfully the perfect soundtrack for the season has emerged.

AJ Suede wasn’t intending on becoming a Northwest artist. The Harlem rapper originally flew out to Seattle thinking he’d be here for a few weeks to link up with local producer Wolftone. A few weeks quickly became five months on Wolftone’s couch. When inspiration strikes, Suede follows it. He’s no novice, either. Though he’s only 24 years old, he already has 20 releases to his name between albums, EPs, and mixtapes. On Sunday he dropped his 21st, Gotham Fortress, via Blackhouse Records.

To be honest, when I first heard this record I knew nothing about Suede and just assumed he’d already been living here. He shouts out Leary Ave and the Aurora Bridge nonchalantly like a true local. But knowing he’s from the East Coast sheds light on some of the album’s finest assets. Suede spits with the force of New York greats. He has the grit, tenacity, and power associated with the rap capital, contorted into his own image. Infusing that with the surrealism and unpredictability of Northwest hip-hop is something I didn’t know I wanted. He’s a presence that demands your attention.

“Writing verses for many different multiverses,” he boasts on “Don’t Look for Me.” The east coast and west coast might not be their own universes like they felt in the ’90s, but the line is telling of Suede’s genre and lyrical fluidity. In the same verse, he drops references to Rick and Morty‘s Bird Person while throwing shade at opportunists. On “Negative Energy,” he laments people dragging him down with their pessimism while rapping over a beat that sounds like swirling dark matter. He can live and write in this darkness while talking shit about darkness. He exists above it all on this record.

Wolftone demonstrates himself as one of Seattle’s top-tier producers on Gotham Fortress as well. He’s had a busy year collaborating on tracks with DoNormaal, Taylar Elizza Beth, and RVN — he and Suede also collaborated on the SUPASUEDE EP back in March. While he’s always been reliable for inventive and dynamic beats, his work on Gothan Fortress is some of his most self-assured production yet. Never has he sounded murkier and more adventurous, balancing dark, jazz-infused beats like opener “Gas Light” and the violent noise of “Iconoclast.” It’s a testament to his growth as an artist as well as the musical chemistry between himself and Suede. It’s a compatibility that goes beyond being the boards. Whenever Wolftone jumps on the mic to go back and forth with Suede, they are complementing parts.

The album was conceived with all the collaborators in the same room. Even for features, the artists would venture out to Wolftone’s Fortress studio so they could all share the space and create. In the Internet era, collaborations can easily and effectively happen over any distance. Lots of great records are made that way nowadays. But for this project, proximity was an asset. As he raps alongside DoNormaal and RVN on tracks like the suspenseful bleakness of “Don’t Look For Me,” it’s easy to imagine the trio sharing verses in a basement cipher.

Who would’ve thought one of the best local hip-hop records of the year would come from someone who just moved here? Suede has embraced the Northwest ethos but hasn’t sacrificed the east coast presence that’s helped form him as an artist. It’s a blending of both coasts into a nightmarish, paranoid, and totally thrilling LP.


New and News

Shelf Nunny Releases New Song “Washed Out” featuring AudioOpera

Seattle producer Shelf Nunny has a knack for composing airy, sweeping instrumentals. His apt sense of mood and space was one of the cornerstones of his shimmer debut, Wishful Thinking. He explored a lot of sonic territory on that record, but the only thing missing was the human voice. On Sept. 29, he’ll release his sophomore EP, Little Time We Have, on Hush Hush Records. This is his first time working with vocalists, but you wouldn’t know it listening to his latest song “Washed Out.” Collaborating with Toronto’s AudioOpera, he retains the same whimsical flutters that made his debut a stand out while also adding a dose of humanity to ground it down. The two sound like they were meant to work together, with AudioOpera’s soft vocals meandering through Shelf Nunny’s lush rhythms. Listen to the track below as well as the previously released single, “Good 2CU” featuring Noosa.


Vancouver’s Peach Pit Drop New Album, Being So Normal

Vancouver B.C. outfit Peach Pit likes to refer to themselves as “chewed up bubblegum pop” and, I gotta say, it’s a pretty great descriptor. The Canadian trio demonstrate exactly what that genre tag sounds like on their latest release, Being So Normal. It’s a record that keeps the rough edges of indie rock with the grooves and hooks of the catchiest pop music. It’s a hypnotic blend, latching into the listener’s ears with swirling bass lines and cool, steamy vocals. Even when they’re singing about (metaphorical) guillotines cutting off (metaphorical) heads, you’ll want to (not metaphorically) dance. Stream the album in full below.

Live and Loud: This Week’s Recommended Local Shows

Sept 21-24: KremFest featuring Black Milk, Tay Sean, Vektroid, Sextile, Succubass, and more




Sept 22: Iska Dhaaf, Kelli Schaefer, Gunpowder Stitches at Tony V’s



Sept 23: Stas THEE Boss and Kelli Frances Corrado at The Vera Project



Sept 26: Stop Biting featuring Akira Gautama, Grimeshine, and Thirdeyebling at Lo-Fi




Sept 26: Biddadat. Richie Dagger’s Crime, The Brodcast, and DJ King Dee at The Nectar



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Review Revue: 10,000 Maniacs – In My Tribe

10000 Maniacs - In My Tribe

I figured it might be nice to have a post featuring a band that needed no introduction for a change, so today I bring you In My Tribe, the album that properly launched 10,000 Maniacs into the spotlight thirty years ago (give or take a couple months), where they remained for several years until Natalie Merchant moved on to other things. I said 10,000 Maniacs needed no introduction, and yet, paradoxically, they might need a re-introduction. Did you know they’ve been continuing on as a band this whole time, and just released a studio album two years ago? It’s true! They just played at the Triple Door a couple months ago! So, hey, rock on with your bad selves, 10,000 Maniacs.

One notable fact about this particular album is that it originally contained a cover of Cat Stevens’s “Peace Train,” which was taken off later editions of the CD in the worldwide Cat Stevens purge that ensued after he said some things that led many to think he supported the fatwa against Salman Rushdie. Though this record still has “Peace Train” on it, at least one KCMU DJ spoke out against playing it — but not for any political reasons.

“Natalie has restrained her voice . . . and the jangly, folky guitar is gone. This is a pop, not a folk album . . . Hmm, I’ll have to listen more to decide if I like it or not!”

“Verdi Cries is a beaut.”

“True, it is.”

“False, it is not.”

“A different slant on what they’ve done before, this is one of those records that gets under your skin w/repeated listenings. However, skip ‘Peace Train,’ a silly song to begin with, and it hasn’t improved with age.

“‘Kerouac’ Yes!”

“Don’t Talk skips!”

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Thursday Music News

photo by Victoria Holt (view set)

  • Angel Olsen is following up 2016’s MY WOMAN with a new album of B-sides, rarities, and demos called Phases. Due out November 10 via Jagjaguwar, the album will also include some previously unreleased tracks, including the song “Special,” shared with us today. Other unreleased tracks on the album include “How Many Disasters” and “Sans.” She’s also including “Fly On Your Wall,” the song she contributed to the anti-Trump compilation Our First 100 Days. [ Under the Radar ]
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Song of the Day: Hiss Golden Messenger – When The Wall Comes Down

photo by Matthew B. Thompson

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJ’s think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on The Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “When the Wall Comes Down” by Hiss Golden Messenger from their 2017 album, Hallelujah Anyhow, out Friday on Merge Records.

Hiss Golden Messenger – When the Wall Comes Down (MP3) Read More »

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Wednesday Music News

photo by Anton Corbijn

photo by Anton Corbijn

  • Arcade Fire have been touring behind their latest album Everything Now, released earlier this summer. At some of those shows, including Lollapalooza, they’ve covered John Lennon’s 1973 song “Mind Games.” They’ve now done an official studio recording of the cover for the latest installment in the Spotify Singles series. The cover is relatively straightforward, with an added signature Arcade Fire anthemic touch. The band will play the Key Arena on Sunday, October 15 with Phantogram. [ Pitchfork ]

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Project Pabst, Day 1: Iggy Pop, Father John Misty, Filthy Friends, FIDLAR, White Reaper, Pup, Lizzo, The Last Artful Dodgr

Iggy Pop // all photos by Matthew B. Thompson

The fourth annual Project Pabst descended upon the Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland over the last weekend of August. Since its inception, the festival has been set like a variety jukebox arrangement one would listen to over a few cold beers or, in this case, cold PBRs. Yet, the best quality about this festival is that none other possesses the intensity and energy Project Pabst is able to condense into a single weekend.

Day one set the pace with Portland’s The Last Artful, Dodgr opening with the first performance as the crowd rolled in just after noon. The format of Project Pabst and the success of it is that each band is scheduled with a five-minute break so concert attendees can trek back and forth with enough time to see every performer. White Reaper, originally a punk trio from Louisville and now a five-piece, tore into an electrifying set that pushed the momentum forward with the crowd.  Under the sweltering summer sun, the crowd (along with a trove of photographers) made their way back to the larger stage. Newly-formed supergroup Filthy Friends — fronted by Corin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney) and Peter Buck (R.E.M.) — played next and did not disappoint. After initially starting out as a David Bowie cover band between friends, their evolution into a full-fledged rock group was more than apparent.

The Last Artful, Dodgr

White Reaper

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Midnight In A Perfect World: Eddie Bermuda


Eddie Bermuda is the alias of Eddie Sumlin, a DJ and producer originally from the Pacific Northwest, with strong roots in the Tacoma area, who currently calls Los Angeles his home base. Known for his smooth DJ sets that explore house, disco, soul, hip-hop, jazz, R&B, and anything fresh in-between, he co-hosts a monthly radio show called Mixed Fruit alongside Mia Carucci on London’s NTS Radio. He’s also putting in work on a forthcoming EP of all original music that’s due out early 2018. His exclusive guest DJ mix for Midnight in a Perfect World is a silky journey that touches upon a wide range of styles, yet it’s all held together by consistently lush and groovy vibes.

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Song of the Day: Jane Weaver – Modern Kosmology

photo by Rebecca Lupton

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJ’s think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on The Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is the title track “Modern Kosmology” by Jane Weaver from the 2017 album Modern Kosmology out on Fire Records.

Jane Weaver – Modern Kosmology (MP3) Read More »

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KEXP Exclusive Interview: DoNormaal

photo by Matthew B. Thompson

Seattle emcee DoNormaal offers surprise after lyrical surprise in the tightly packed, staccato rhymes brimming on her latest LP, Third Daughter. The rapper, who burst on the Emerald City scene in November 2015 with the release of her beloved first full-length Jump Or Die has maintained status as one of Seattle’s most sought-after spitters. With her latest, DoNormaal’s star continues to rise. But for the oft-introverted rapper, what do these recent changes signal for her future? And how did this career first begin to take shape? To answer these questions, and others, we caught up with the rapper over Labor Day weekend to talk past, present, and hopeful future. Hear an exclusive live session from DoNormaal on Sunday, October 1st at 6:30 PM PT on Street Sounds on KEXP.

How did you discover hip-hop?

Growing up, music and pop culture were always a big part of my home culture. Our mom was into all that funky ’70s stuff, like Michael Jackson and The Jackson 5, the Commodores, and she loved The Beatles. My grandparents also love hymns and gospel music. And then my twin sister and I have three older siblings that range between 4- and 11-years-older than us so we were growing up with a lot of teenagers around. There was always that older kid influence. From a very young age, we were watching MTV and listening to what they were listening to. I grew up listening to everything from Brian McKnight to 2Pac, Prodigy, Destiny’s Child, Mase, Daft Punk, ABBA, Aaliyah, Charlotte Church to Wu Tang.

But there was one specific moment when I became really obsessed with hip-hop and that was when I was like 10. One of my older sisters used to sleep with the TV on all night tuned to MTV. Sometimes I’d wake up in the middle of the night and go in there if I couldn’t sleep. It was really comforting to me because the TV would be on and a fan would be going but she’d be knocked out, just snoring in the glow and the noise of it all. I went in there one night and the video for “On My Block” by Scarface was playing. It was very emotional and very hip-hop. He’s speaking about where he comes from and who he does it for and the video paints such a strikingly vivid and beautiful picture of that. I just started crying and crying. And there was a little star shining in the sky out of the window as it was slowly starting to get light outside and I just kept looking at the star. Read More »

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Tuesday Music News

photo by Matthew B. Thompson (view set)

  • Nashville’s Mackenzie Scott, known musically as Torres, is gearing up to release her first album for 4AD called Three Futures. So far, we’ve heard “Skim” and the title track, and today she’s shared “Helen In The Woods.” The single comes with a slightly creepy, deranged video directed by Ashley Connor with the spotlight on Scott. Three Futures is out September 29. Torres will be in Seattle on Tuesday, October 10 to play Neumos. [ SPIN ]
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