Childhood’s End by Athr
A lot of the most exciting musicians in Seattle right now are working outside of typical genres. Add Athr, who's been floating around the city's music scene for a few years, to that mix. Their first album might be best characterized as avant-industrial-futurist R&B/hip-hop, though even that poly-hyphenate characterization misses a few shadings. Deep, vibrating club bass might meet a passage of hazy a capella, then a Radiohead-like soundscape. This is music for the dance floor brooding of 2050 that coheres around Athr’s rich, ranging voice.
A Long Walk by Chong the Nomad
If you threw together all the singles Chong the Nomad has released since her 2018 EP Love Memo, you’d end up with one of the best LPs to come out of Seattle in recent years. Single after single is an exuberant act of creation, tossing weirdo instrumentation and wonkily beatific harmonies into catchy-as-hell electropop tracks, sounding as if Dirty Projectors headed to an EDM show. Maybe Stas Thee Boss shows up for a guest spot. Or Ben Gibbard. In Chong’s world it all makes sense. Her new EP, A Long Walk, continues this streak, brimming with smart, glitchy bedroom bangers—simultaneously sunny and pensive.
The Shadow by Naked Giants
Hearing the new Naked Giants record, I was richly ambivalent. On one hand, I felt deeply grateful for The Shadow, another impossibly fun album after band’s 2018 debut, Sluff. Here the garage rock trio deploys the same massive riffs and earworm hooks but stretches the sound further: a little funkier here, a little more harmonious and tender there (“Turns Blue” sounds as if it might have drifted over from a Roxy Music album). On the other hand, this is the sort of record you want to drop when crowds can pack the Showbox for a raucous album release show.
Whole New Mess by Angel Olsen
Last year, on All Mirrors, we heard how epic and polished an Angel Olsen album could sound, with the singer-songwriter, backed by a 12-piece string section, parsing a shattered relationship. But before that she made Whole New Mess, a solo version of the same songs, up in Anacortes at the Unknown, a recording studio in a former church. The result strips back the album to just an organ and guitar, and forefront what’s always been best about Olsen—songwriting chops and stunning vocals. It sounds very much of this moment: a voice alone in a room, working through some shit.