TV Star, "Ride" (KR Records)

Supercrush, "Lost My Head" (KR Records)

The desire to curate scene-defining compilations has existed in Seattle since at least 1988's Sub Pop 200. Nearly 30 years later in 2017, Crane City Music spotlighted the Emerald City's underground hip-hop movement with Solar Power: New Sounds in Seattle Hip-Hop. Now, Supercrush member Mark Palm's KR label is releasing From Far It All Seems Small, a 14-track comp that captures some of the exciting studio action generated by the town's subterranean rock groups. 

On first listen, I almost thought that From Far It All Seems Small was the handiwork of one or two artists, such was the unified aesthetic of the songs pounding through the headphones. Ordinarily, that might seem like a complaint, but overall, the quality of the music here attains a high level of sonic pleasure. Palm has selected the acts for this comp to create optimal continuity, and he possesses a keen ear for noisy, tuneful rock pumped out in concise chunks (the longest track is 3:46).

Palm and his Supercrush bandmates conceived the collection's concept while on a national tour, using the marathon drives to ponder the bounty of excellent Seattle-area bands. “We realized the scene here is the best it’s been in a long, long time," Palm said in a press release. "There was a good feeling of camaraderie developing between many of the groups from playing shows together and working alongside each other on various projects. The comp is an opportunity to celebrate the music from our extended circle of friends here in town, and hopefully to galvanize the scene and contribute further to that sense of camaraderie.” 

While that's a lovely idea, it's indicative of a mindset that realizes achieving global renown in the manner that '90s local grunge bands experienced is hopelessly quixotic. But within this realm of diminished expectations, From Far It All Seems Small stands as a civic-pride monument to rock that punches above its weight, and with efficiency. No, it's not trail-blazing, but it is fun.

Sun Spots open proceedings with "Hole One," which exudes youthful exuberance and meaty tunefulness, proving that brutes can pull heartstrings, too. Spiral XP's "Awake (Spring Version)" purveys uplifting, doleful rock in the Jesus and Mary Chain/Pastels vein while Dead Family Dog's "Crispin Glover" doles out aggressive shoegaze à la Swervedriver. More Scottish '80s influence surfaces on Star Party's "Old as the Sun," which recalls Shop Assistants' ramalama pop punk, enhanced by alluringly defiant, distant vocals.

The title of Versing's "Skin (Kirby's Dream Debased)" may reference the Fall, but the music's more in the wrenching shoegaze steez somewhere between My Bloody Valentine's Isn't Anything and Failure. Speaking of which, Shine's "Happy Diving" has that woozy euphoria and benumbed male/female vocal interplay that have made MBV such a luscious listening experience. I even hear a (probably unintentional) homage to the wah-wah guitar from Chapterhouse's "Falling Down." This is one of the album's peaks. Kennero's "Sunlight" evokes classic '90s loud-quiet-loud indie rock with earnest white-boy vocals. You may detect faint echoes of "Smells Like Teen Spirit." 

Supercrush deliver the comp's first single with "Lost My Head," a soaring, yearning rock gem with masterly dynamics and shockingly wonky keyboard tones that rarely appear, but make the most of their brief time. It's a crafty mini-masterpiece that sounds destined to score a quirky montage in a rom-com movie ca. 2031. 

The album's second single, TV Star's "Ride," is understatedly buoyant rock with a melody that entwines itself around your brain with indestructible tendrils. It contains one of the most enrapturing brain-worm hooks of the decade. When I think back to spring of 2024, I'm going to flash upon "Ride" as one of the era's definitive cuts. And at 126 seconds long, it leaves you gagging for more. 

Release parties for From Far It All Seems Small take place May 31 (w/ TV Star, Supercrush, Versing, Prim, Kennero) and June 1 at Black Lodge (w/ Sun Spots, Dead Family Dog, Shook Ones, Fluung, Fell Off). The compilation is available digitally and at Seattle and Tacoma record stores, with an exclusive, limited-edition “Emerald City green” colored vinyl release available only at Sonic Boom. The record will be available in stores throughout America on June 28.