Black Up by Shabazz Palaces
Lest Macklemore lead you to believe local rap has all the edge of a golden retriever licking your hand, experimental hip-hop duo Shabazz Palace’s debut Black Up is spare, swift, complex, anxious, abstract. Think Radiohead meets Black Star. Think MF Doom meets Sun Ra. Whatever you do: Think.
The Heist by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
That a dorky white dude in Seattle was rapping affably about his love of thrift stores ought to surprise no one. That Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s “Thrift Shop” went diamond, racked up a billion YouTube views, launched The Heist into the sonic stratosphere, and became the city’s biggest hit since “Smells Like Teen Spirit”—who could’ve guessed that?
Lost Time by Tacocat
Tacocat’s third album is about as charming an introduction to Seattle’s current music scene as you’ll find. You’ve got tech-bro disdain (“I Hate the Weekend”), feminist snark (“Men Explain Things to Me”), and a dash of nerdiness (“Dana Katherine Scully”) all wrapped in a bright, concise, pop-punk package.
Nevermind by Nirvana
Yeah, we’ve all heard “Come as You Are” too many times. But have you listened to Nevermind lately? The whole album—including less trodden tracks like “Breed” and “Territorial Pissings”—remains a fuzzed-out disaffected monolith, with interludes of quiet, even poetic introspection. And, no, we’re not letting it go anytime soon.
No Regerts by Chastity Belt
While song titles like “(Giant) Vagina” might look at home on a Tacocat album, Chastity Belt’s approach on 2013’s No Regerts bears little resemblance. Here the lithe plinking guitars sound like Sonic Youth at their loveliest while singer Julia Shapiro stretches sometimes cutting, sometimes silly lyrics (“chips and dip / nip slip”) into anthems of youthful longing.
Teens of Denial by Car Seat Headrest
There is no more nationally renowned young indie band in this city than Car Seat Headrest, initially the solo project of Will Toledo (now touring as a seven-piece). And Teens of Denial is the ideal entry point. Its roaring, unruly, gleefully ambitious guitar rock pulls from a wide palette of influences—Pavement, James Brown, Queen, Beck, the Beach Boys—to parse depression.
Little Queen by Heart
Up until the late ’80s, most major musicians Seattle spawned—Quincy Jones, Jimi Hendrix—left the city behind before hitting it big. But Heart, the 1970s hard rock group fronted by the local Wilson sisters, recorded its greatest album in a Westlake studio, including the evergreen indictment of record industry sleaze: “Barracuda.”