I took a jaunt up to Washington for the first time in damn near a decade last week. And despite multiple trips to Seattle in the past, I’d never seen a proper concert in the city before. This is no longer the case, and a couple of these five tracks that marked my trip related back to those live music experiences. Here they are, along with two new discoveries and one absolute classic that tell the story of a memorable trip to the PNW.
Nicola Cruz – “Criançada” (feat. Castello Branco)
We arrived on a Wednesday and made our way that evening to the tightly-packed yet still comfortable Nectar Lounge in Seattle’s Fremont District. Nicola is one of the few producers I’ll make a point to not miss when he comes through for a DJ set and I was happy to make up for the SF set I’d be missing with this Seattle tour stop. “Criançada,” with it’s Brazilian rhythms and vocals by Castello Branco, is a total standout on the incredible cultural journey that is Siku. Nobody infuses indigenous South American music into electronic production quite like the French/Ecuadorian Cruz and more than anything, this is type of music I want to have playing at a club when I’m catching up with friends, drinking and dancing the night away.
Fontaines D.C. – “The Lotts”
To be fair, we spent half of our time in Tacoma with friends and made our way back and (sometimes) forth to Seattle every day. Multiple hour-long-ish drives could’ve been a pain, if we didn’t have some serious catching up to do and more often than not, Seattle’s spectacular KEXP public radio station was the soundtrack for our drives. I pine for a public radio station on the FM dial in SF like KEXP, or LA’s KCRW and Austin’s KUTX, because it’s such a viable discovery mechanism. Case in point, I finally honed in on Irish post-punk band Fontaines D.C., whom I should’ve caught at SXSW, because holy shit what a fucking band! Singer Grian Chatten’s vocals call-to-mind Ought’s Tim Darcy, but with a noticeable Dubliner drawl and while similarly bleak at times to Ought, there’s a hotter fire burning under Fontaines D.C. Their latest album is called Dogrel, it’s out now on Partisan Records and stop wasting your life and listen to “The Lotts” now.
Local Natives – “Someday Now”
We got a hotel in the University District on Thursday night and hit up the quirky Neptune Theater to see SoCal’s Local Natives. They just dropped their fourth LP, Violet Street, on Loma Vista Recordings and the staying power is real with these cats. Their sophomore album, Hummingbird, will tear you to pieces and theirs is music that many of us have grown with over the past decade. As the band matures, so do the listeners and story arcs and moments in your life are inextricably tied to the music. Local Natives tackle love, creative ruts and loss so eloquently. The latter especially is an emotion they’ve done better than most (see: Hummingbird) and being at a show with close friends, powerful memories and emotions course through you. This band is nothing short of a reminder of what we’ve been through both as individuals and together, and that sometimes, even if they don’t say it in as many words, your friends and loved ones need you in their lives. Violet Street is a worthy addition to the Local Natives discography and “Someday Now” was enacted beautifully in the converted movie house venue that still serves great popcorn.
Simi – “Mind Your Business” (feat. Falz)
Every Lyft or Uber driver I had in Seattle was a young male African immigrant. They all had warm personalities and weren’t shy for conversation. On a Sunday afternoon ride from the Seattle Center to our hotel, our Nigerian driver was listening to a stunning singer named Simi. Her vocal range was divine atop electronic West African drum patterns and a distinct pop heartbeat. Much of her vocals are auto-tuned, but in this case, the effect is used to accentuate Simi’s talent masterfully, rather than frivolously. On “Mind Your Business”, she sings in both English and Yoruba and her music was a welcome unearthing on this trip.
Prince – “Call My Name”
On our last day in Seattle, we hit the Seattle Center for some good old fashioned tourist attractions and the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) was incredible. We were totally mesmerized by exhibits on Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix’s many tour stops and one called “Prince from Minneapolis.” The Prince exhibit refreshingly highlighted some of the photographers he collaborated with and the first song playing when I gazed at photos of The Purple One on his home turf was the sultry “Call My Name” off of 2004’s Musicology (his 28th studio album, mind you.) I can’t recommend MoPOP enough and if you’re looking for another reason to go to Seattle, “Prince in Minneapolis” is it.
(Lead image is part of MoPOP’s “Nirvana: Taking Punk To The Masses” exhibit)