We keep hearing about how 2016 has been a massive dumpster fire, and in many ways us SMI folks do not disagree. But if there’s been one thing that has kept us afloat these past nasty months, it’s music, and more specifically, local music. Co-editors Abby Williamson and Christine Mitchell took some time out to reflect on a few of their favorite releases from PNW bands this year.

Ravenna WoodsAlleyways and Animals EP

Of all the releases on this list, this is the only one that one could argue that there’s a conflict of interest (since I did help the guys film the music video for the first single “Alleyways“), but I will stand behind my position wholeheartedly. This five-piece has come a long way since Demons and Lakes. And while they’ve grown immensely as a band – experimenting with more electronic sounds, electric guitar, and even utilizing Brantley Duke’s beautiful solo vocals on this EP – Ravenna Woods has always maintained their thematic backbone. They’re proof that a band can evolve without losing what made them great in the first place. -A

Naked GiantsRIP EP

These three are on the express lane to big things, I can just feel it. Their energetic live shows are unmatched, and incredibly refreshing in a musical climate that can all-to-often fall into the sleepy folk rock that Seattle has become known for. It’s nice to see some college kids jumping around stage playing thrashy bluesy punk rock. It doesn’t hurt that they’re three of the nicest guys you could have the pleasure to meet. Their stint on this season of Band in Seattle only shows that even further. Plus, “Ya Ya” is perhaps the catchiest song I’ve heard all year. -A

I’m in LOVE with this EP. It’s bouncy, lo-fi garage goodness, it’s full of sunshine, and it makes my legs go all spastic. The beginning of “Twist” makes me grin like a maniac. . .”Do you wanna do the. . .taaaawistwithme?” “Mmmmmmmmokay!” And then EXPLOSION. When it’s played live, the whole room goes with it. The scroungy blast of these tunes. . .and you can’t do anything BUT blast them. . .I just can’t get enough. I even asked for a tape player from Santa just so that I could listen to Naked Giants in lo-fi glory. – C

MaszerDreamsz EP

If you could call any of these bands a super group – Maszer would be the one and only. The brainchild of David Tomer-Rapaport (aka Stitcx), Maszer brought together the mystical melodies that come out of Stitcx’s mind, the spooky ethereal vocals of Katie Blackstock, and the impeccable and ferocious drumming of Joseph Braley. In fact, putting this list together has made me realize how many amazing drummers Seattle has. Good for you Seattle drummers, you go Seattle drummers! I digress, because Maszer’s debut EP has gotten a ton of buzz, and for good reason. “Fata Mirage,” “Passers By” and “Roar” show such a dynamic range within just one short EP. Plus, their live shows are really a sight to see. -A

I really enjoy this EP. . .but what truly blows my mind is playing the bonus track “ROAR” on my record player. IT’S ETCHED ONTO THE CD, PEOPLE. What in the actual chicken nugget. -C

Fauna ShadeFloral Hall EP

I know before I said that the Naked Giants guys are the nicest – and then I remembered Fauna Shade. Working on a show like Band in Seattle, you meet a lot of artists in abnormal circumstances, but these three were so much of a joy to work with, truly. However, that doesn’t undercut how great their new EP is. If Floral Hall were just two songs “No Nostalgia” and “Bazzle Shabazz,” I’d still include it because of how good those songs are, but they managed to deliver complexity within four songs. Bookending the ragers with “1973” and “P.S.” was so smart. Seriously. Everett’s got it going on. – A

“1973” is a brilliant track. It fades in, all hazy-shoegazy with nostalgic keyboard and Scotty Smith’s singular vocal awash in feedback and lost time and it’s romantic, depressing, and matter of fact all in the same blow (“this is just my life”). Meanwhile, “Bazzle Shabazz” is a completely different sort of journey within the mind as well as a total 180 in tempo and style. It’s the band’s barnburner, and we all need it in our lives. – C

Evening BellDying Stars

Channeling southwestern melodies and old school country duets, Evening Bell is a breath of fresh air. It’s psychedelic western music – which is definitely something you never knew you wanted. But now that it’s here, all you can think is “how was this never a thing before now?!” This record is amazing. “Light the Lanterns,” Western Theme,” “This Bar Room Ain’t Your Church,” and the hauntingly beautiful “What An Angel Does” set this thing apart from so many other records that could fall into the same category. Caitlin Sherman and Hart Kingsbery have the most natural harmonies all throughout the album, and it just makes me more excited for more releases to come. -A

Wild PowwersHugs and Kisses and Other Things

Of all the bands on this list, Wild Powwers is by far the most underrated. You’d think after changing your name twice it would be the end of a band – but not these three. I mean, you’ve got a dream team. Lupe Flores is one of the best drummers in town (and we have a lot of great drummers in Seattle), Jordan Gomes is a straight up beast on bass, and Lara Hilgeman is one of the most prolific songwriters we’ve seen in a long time. Girl just can’t stop writing, and the stuff she is writing is badass. The hard and fast “Party Song” contrasts so well with the dirty sexy “Whose Keys Are These,” and it manages to all sound like the same band. -A

Deep Sea DiverSecrets

I own a lot of records, but as someone who lives pretty much paycheck to paycheck, purchasing albums on vinyl isn’t an every day occurrence, so when I went out and bought Deep Sea Diver’s new album on vinyl, it means a lot. It jumps right off with the catchy but equally as melancholy “Notice Me,” and it just doesn’t quit after that. There are synth pop heavy tracks like “See These Eyes” (its music video is mind bending and lovely), and simple ballads that showcase Jessica Dobson’s lilting, bellowing vocals like “Always Waiting.” It’s a rollercoaster, and not one that leaves you feeling sick afterwards. -A

Hey MarseillesHey Marseilles 

Hey Marseilles are the veterans of this list, I guess. I mean, they’ve been doing this thing together for 10 years now, and that’s not common in this day and age. This newest full length from them ventured into a whole new territory though – it felt so free and fun, and yet the most adult of all their albums. For me, it came out during a dark time and acted as a catharsis aide, and for that I thank the guys of Hey Marseilles. On top of all of that, the album featured the first cover that the band has released – David Bowie’s “Heroes,” and less than a month before the album came out we lost David Bowie. That’s some magical stuff right there. -A

Smokey BrightsHot Candy

Hot Candy just proves that Smokey Brights are a force to be reckoned with. Their last album is great, but this endeavor is a masterwork of pop, rock, and even some psychedelic influences. The lead single “In Demand” was so perfectly timed that I would even call it serendipitous, and I kind of hate that word. The band said this about the song: “There are a lot of ugly facets to getting what we want as consumers, and, even though most of us are aware of them, we rarely piece them all together. It’s a lot to juggle mentally, and, when you get down to it, it’s an awful lot of human suffering on tap when you order your underwear via Amazon Prime.” BRILLIANT. The vocal harmonies of husband/wife duo Ryan Devlin and Kim West are especially on point on this release, and I – for one – am ecstatic that Kim has gotten more solos on these songs (particularly “Just One Thing”). Girl you can belt it! 10/10, would DEFINITELY recommend. – A

Various Artists (Live In Everett) – Everett Sounds Vol. #1

I’m so thankful for this compilation. Now I have something to hand out while I blather on and on and ON about how Everett’s music scene is flipping amazeballs and diverse as all get out. The Live In Everett blog put this beauty together and it has something for everyone, and probably a lot more. The awesome lead track, I Will Keep Your Ghost’s “Sleep,” is warm and electronic, as is Leava’s contribution “Crutch.” Others veer toward folky-country (Tellers, Jess Lambert), quirky-cute (The Porters, Oliver Elf Army), and Bowie-esque glam (Johnny Lee Ledford).  Crystal Desert brings the punk, and Fauna Shade and The Moon Is Flat round it out with a bit of psych. Snohomish County is dope. – C

Crystal DesertBLACK SUMMER

My ears subsisted on this six song EP all summer long, as well as barreling right along into the fall. Each month over the summer, two tracks were released, and each set of two songs had their unique recording and production techniques despite being recorded in the same historic, century old Everett home. I’d absorb each pair hungrily. With great gusto, too, because BLACK SUMMER’s themes of frustration, anger, alienation, and broodiness are funneled through garage punk with an underlying progressive structure that turns rage into a journey that is cathartic while being relatable. “Revenge Complex” is my song for 2016. Listen to it and you’ll find out why. – C

Various Artists
Four Corners: A Split

This was an ingenious idea: four up and coming bands bring their varying styles of music together to create a wonderful pastiche of an album. Everyone benefits from hearing them all as the tracks roll into our eardrums, one after the other. You can read my full review of the album here, but this release introduced me to several new bands this year that I also made time to experience live. From Asterhouse’s soaring rock anthems to Actionesse’s psychotic, horn-driven ragers, from Crystal Desert’s basement doomers to The Pro-Nouns’ pop layers, it’s all worthy of repeated listens. I’m all about that bass on “Sick Of Living,” not only the killer solo riff but also the vigorous noodling in the bridge. *horns* – C 


Certainty has been in high rotation for me these past few months. I’m the sort of person who finds love songs to be smarmy, so I was completely shocked and more than a little bit embarrassed to become so enamored of this EP so quickly. But honestly, there is a lot more going on here than gooey puppy eyes, from the opener “Waiting To Start,” which hits home for me as a procrastinator’s anthem, all the way to the culmination, “Bigger Than Me,” an ode to human insignificance. Jay Clancy’s voice is insouciant and burrows into your brain. . .soon you’re singing along, EVEN TO THE LOVE SONGS. The music is sneaky. It’s happy and seems relaxed until you try to follow its thread and realize that the layers here are complex in their coziness, like a handmade quilt lulling you to sleep. And dammit, the love songs are good, too. – C

TacocatLost Time

Tacocat capitalizes on being totes adorbs while at the same time smashing the patriarchy with a punk-drenched rainbow. Lost Time continues this tradition but with a darker tone than in previous efforts. “I Hate The Weekend” tackles the influx of tech bros on Capitol Hill, “The Internet” takes on trolls, and “Men Explain Things To Me” is, well, self-explanatory. The happier tunes stand back in deference to these more serious tracks, and the closer, “Leisure Bees,” offers up valuable life advice: “Take your time because it’s your time to take / And the values that you want / Are the ones that you create.” Solid. My whole family loves Tacocat. – C

Abby Williamson is a photographer, writer, and video blogger with a passion for live music – especially the local scene. She recently moved to Seattle after commuting from Gig Harbor for shows an average of once a week for five years, so she’s happy to not have to drive as much and photograph even more concerts! When she’s not elbowing her way up to the front row at a show or sorting through thousands of photos of those shows, Abby also does freelance wedding photography, all the while cultivating a decent-sized following on YouTube. Abby has contributed to several music blogs over the last five years (and she’s really excited to join the SMI team!), and has been published in at least one album booklet for the band, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. She would like people to know that while music photography and writing is a huge passion in her life – she is a fan first, photographer second.