Hear Here

4 Seattle-ish Albums to Listen to This Spring

Car Seat Headrest, Perfume Genius, Tomo Nakayama, Shabazz Palaces. This is what 2020 sounds like.

By Stefan Milne April 30, 2020

Perfume Genius's Set My Heart on Fire Immediately arrives May 15.

Making a Door Less Open by Car Seat Headrest

Car Seat Headrest’s first studio albums garnered many comparisons to bands like Guided by Voices and Pavement, but Will Toledo's project reminds me most of another 1990s indie guy: Beck. Both he and Toledo favor talk-sing vocals. Both come from lo-fi beginnings. Both now have a knack for eccentric stagewear. Both approach genre omnivorously. And both, in some paradox of influence, sound wholly like themselves. Never has this parallel been clearer than on Car Seat Headrest’s new Making a Door Less Open. The record doesn’t scrap the indie guitar rock of Teens of Style and Teens of Denial. But Toledo and company fold in pop, electronic, folk, and hip-hop—building an album that sounds like a collection of (good) singles. “Hollywood” charges along with distorted, rap-like vocals (sure, let’s compare it to Beck’s “Devil’s Haircut”). The droning “Hymn” enlists an organ and glowering guitars. “Marvin” is an expert bit of indie guitar pop. I haven’t gotten especially excited about a Beck album since 2005’s Guero. But most of Car Seat Headrest’s warm, intelligent, eclectic record has me giddy. Releases May 1

Set My Heart on Fire Immediately by Perfume Genius

Few artists’ records fall into such a narrative arc as Perfume Genius’s. A decade ago, under that moniker, Mike Hadreas released his first album, Learning, with little more than some spare acoustic piano and vocals so shy and delicate that if you shut your eyes while listening, you think the music might disappear. Hadreas has since grown more confident, more expansive (see his recent collaboration with Seattle choreographer Kate Wallich). Genius’s newest album, Set My Heart on Fire Immediately, might not open with the titanic force of 2017’s No Shape, but the arc abides. Here he waltzes through sounds and registers—guitar rock here, outright pop there, an actual waltz—but the quieter moments come with gravitas. When Hadreas turns to his gossamer falsetto on the song “Jason” over strings and a harpsichord, the effect is no longer one of disappearance but of acute presence, as if to say: I have the floor. Listen. Releases May 15

The Don of Diamond Dreams by Shabazz Palaces

On its latest album Seattle’s reigning avant-rap duo returns true to form: spacey and spacious, heady and headstrong. You can, as with any Shabazz Palaces album, treat The Don of Diamond Dreams as a background soundscape—glitchy yet chill, as if George Clinton filtered some hip-hop lullabies through the internet. Attentive listening rewards, though. “Fast Learner” sounds utterly Shabazzian until Purple Tape Nate crops up for some squiggly Auto-Tuned vocals. “Bad Bitch Walking” slides into such a nonchalant groove—drums like a heartbeat, bass strutting out some funk—that if you aren’t paying attention, you might miss a nicely syncopated verse from Stas Thee Boss. Released April 17

Melonday by Tomo Nakayama

Tomo Nakayama built his name on gorgeous, gentle, celestial folk—his voice, some lyrics, an acoustic guitar or piano. But his new recordMelonday is a clear departure, trading in bright swirling electropop and watercolor synths. It’s more Phoenix than winsome singer-songwriter, more Postal Service than Death Cab for Cutie. This is a dance album about, in part, the loneliness of technology. The greatest introduction you might have, full of quarantine art's contradictions, is the solo dance party Nakayama streamed to celebrate its release. Released April 7

Show Comments