Now that you're in Seattle, you've probably noticed that there are more bands playing in town every night than you could ever see, even if that's all you did for the rest of your life. With that in mind, here's an incomplete crib sheet of some of our favorites. Read The Stranger every week for ongoing coverage, and check in regularly with Things To Do, the only live music calendar you need.
Shabazz Palaces: The most advanced, adventurous hiphop ensemble not only in Seattle, but possibly the world, Shabazz Palaces keep it surreal lyrically and sonically, turning the streets into rivers of stardust.
THEESatisfaction: While moving and grooving in Shabazz's orbit, THEESatisfaction come at you with somewhat earthier flows and production, with skill levels of great depth and soul. Their tracks are smooth yet gripping, and full of beguiling melodic curlicues.
DoNormaal: Everyone's going nuts for this newcomer's art; it's easy to hear why. She's bringing much-needed weird-woman energy and insights to this male-dominated sphere. Her new album, Jump or Die, gives off early Tricky vibes—a very good thing.
Porter Ray: Anointed as the next great Seattle rap hope by Sub Pop A&R rep Ishmael Butler and our own Larry Mizell Jr., Ray boasts a honeyed flow and wise-beyond-his-tears lyrics, all set within chill nocturnal atmospheres. His tracks ease into your pleasure centers and stir your emotions with effortless cool.
Mackned: Mackned's woozy, ominous soundworld and foreboding lyrical delivery mark him as one of the town's most distinctive hiphop voices. He's perhaps the brightest dark star in the Thraxxhouse universe.
Honorable mentions: Raz Simone, Avatar Darko, Nacho Picasso, Chimurenga Renaissance
Diminished Men: It's so apt that Diminished Men record for Alan Bishop's Abduction label: Their music reflects his ravenous aesthetic of merging various genres into startlingly individualistic compositions. If 1960s Morricone, electric Miles, and early-'70s Can float your boat, sail on with Diminished Men.
Midday Veil: One of the most exciting Seattle rock acts of this decade, Midday Veil have migrated from third-eye-opening space-rock unit to an ensemble playing a mystical-glam strain of cosmic disco and artful songcraft. Rarely have the sexy and cerebral conjugated so spectacularly in one group.
Master Musicians of Bukkake: With cult-like intensity, MMOB erect alternate-world soundscapes that conjure psychedelic vistas of places that only exist in their perverse imaginations. Heavy and light, demonic and celestial, brutal and beatific—their music enshrines paradox.
Chastity Belt: There's no more pleasurable way to learn about the vagaries of young adult life in Seattle than through Chastity Belt's perceptive, morosely beautiful songs. Julia Shapiro's deadpan voice and sardonic words nonchalantly rivet like those of a seasoned comedian.
Nail Polish: With their crucial no wave energy and spastic dynamics, Nail Polish are the antidote to the city's placid-rock status quo. They call out gentrifying assholes and bro culture with lyrics as cutting as their Gang of Four/Contortions-inflected guitars.
Honorable mentions: Car Seat Headrest, Fungal Abyss, Gazebos, Ecstatic Cosmic Union, Wind Burial, New Weather.
Raica: Raica (Chloe Harris, co-owner of the visionary Further label) continually finds novel ways to turn abstract electronic music into dark revelations. Every live set is different and enthralling—a rare feat in any genre, but especially so in electronic music.
Newaxeyes: One of those groups that gracefully elude categorization and make you think anything is possible, these four young bright sparks locate the beauty in noise and the calm in chaos. They can make you dance spasmodically, but more often they trigger feelings of majestic disaster and tense peace.
Kate Olson: Saxophonist in Syrinx Effect and K.O. Ensemble and a collaborator in Ask the Ages and Electric Circus, Olson is renowned for her deeply expressive and mesmerizing virtuosity in both band and solo formats in experimental and jazz idioms. Her solo work especially will appeal to fans of pioneering minimalist composers like Terry Riley and Pauline Oliveros.
Meridian Arc: In a strange turn of events, the drummer of hard-rock band Terminal Fuzz Terror entered the synthesizer lab and became this city's John Carpenter and Bernard Szajner. Meridian Arc (aka Andrew Crawshaw) coaxes sinister drones and ill gurgles from his machines for that dystopian sci-fi-film aura that's all the rage these days.
Marcus Price: Unpredictability and adventurousness pervade Price's electronic music. He takes elements of IDM, noise, and ambient to build perversely complicated and mangled compositions that keep you guessing and reeling in most peculiar ways. Check out his Four (three) EP for proof.
Honorable mentions: LIMITS, Garek Druss, Pulling Out the Light, Geological Creep, RM Francis
Archivist: DJ/producer Alex Markey is at the beginning of what could be a long, rewarding career, if his Pathfinder EP on New York's Blankstairs is any indication. Improving on his great 2015 Decibel Festival set, the tracks here propel with a streamlined stealth in the coolly exhilarating manner of dub-techno-minimalist greats like Porter Ricks, Scion, and Fluxion.
P L L: With krautrock kosmonauts Brain Fruit in limbo, synth sorcerer Chris Davis (P L L) lately has focused on his solo output, and fans of high-energy/high-impact techno have benefited. His hardware-fueled techno sets take you on euphorically punishing roller-coaster rides.
Bardo:Basho: There's no one in town like Kirsten Thom: She sings like Dead Can Dance's Lisa Gerrard and makes ethereally earthy minimal techno with spiritual underdrones. Her live performances have been improving steadily, revealing an artist poised to take techno to rarefied places.
Big Phone: When he's not working on machine intelligence projects at Google, Kenric McDowell creates some of the most cerebrally involving, texturally interesting, and slyly groovy techno in the region. Check his Black Earth App Worship EP for a PhD-level seminar in club-friendly synthesis.
Fugal: It seems like Fugal (secondnature member Ted Shin) is always playing at the bottom of bills, but he deserves higher status. He specializes in that sort of bruising, rock-ribbed techno that makes the most sense at 4 a.m., when those proverbial stimulants are smiling hardest in your brain and limbs.
Honorable mentions: Simic, Mood Organ, AOS, Airport
Industrial Revelation: Justifiably renowned and bolstered by a Stranger Genius Award, this quartet launch jazz to some heady, rocky, and soulful places, converting people who normally don't usually care about the great American art into raving advocates. Daring arrangers and deft melodicists, IR are a heart-bursting spectacle onstage.
Afrocop: Think of Afrocop as Industrial Revelation's more introverted and more psychedelically inclined cousin. Afrocop's scintillating instrumentals take serpentine and funky routes to induce higher states of consciousness.
Wayne Horvitz: A master of many modes of jazz and fusion, keyboardist Wayne Horvitz is a key catalyst in Seattle's music scene as both an adventurous player and as owner of the Royal Room venue.
Wally Shoup: Venerable free-jazz saxophonist Shoup is still a dynamo of well-articulated rage and beauty on his instrument. Ask his storied collaborators Thurston Moore, Nels Cline, and Chris Corsano for proof.
Hound Dog Taylor's Hand: What an artful conflagration of noise rock and jazz, as generated by Climax Golden Twins guitarist Jeffery Taylor, bassist John Seman, and drummer Mark Ostrowski. Fans of Sonny Sharrock and Billy Cobham's Spectrum, take note.
Panabrite: Prolific synth maestro Norm Chambers ranks among the world's foremost purveyors of rigorously sculpted ambient composition. Informed by the brainiest German kosmische musicians and Italian minimalist/progressive composers of the 1970s and '80s, Panabrite's music always elevates.
Benoît Pioulard: Thomas Meluch came into his own in 2015 with three releases that thrust him toward the world's highest stratum of ambient music, up where Brian Eno circa Discreet Music and William Basinski circa The Disintegration Loops hover with preternatural grace.
Hair and Space Museum: Moonlighting from their main project, Midday Veil, Emily Pothast and David Golightly realize their most cosmic Terry Riley–esque dreams, using ambrosial keyboard peregrinations and space chants to induce a mystical drift.
Gel-Sol: A one-man Orb, Gel-Sol (aka notorious prog-rock maven Andy Reichel) combines ribald humor with an affinity for the trippiest tones and dankest dub rhythms.
Monadh: Rising young producer Jake Muir is releasing his debut album, Muara, in March on revered Seattle label Further, and it's a vessel for deeply aquatic sonic tranquility. This could be the start of a long career in beatless bliss.
Eldridge Gravy and the Court Supreme: With membership in the double digits, Eldridge Gravy generate a tower of funk/soul power in the vein of Parliament-Funkadelic and Sly & the Family Stone. As I wrote in 2014: "Bravura male and female vocals bounce off of and intertwine with one another over horn-laden, percussion-heavy jams that give your get-down muscles a rigorous workout." That still holds.
Grace Love and the True Loves: A passionate re-creation of classic large-scale R&B/soul revues from the 1960s, Grace Love and the True Loves are distinguished by their namesake's robust, charismatic voice. From burners to ballads, she and her guys nail it.
McTuff: This trio come at funk from a soul-jazzy perspective, with each player—Hammond organ guru Joe Doria, virtuoso guitarist Andy Coe, and powerfully funky drummer Tarik Abouzied—flaunting dexterous chops and telepathic groupthink. They're Seattle's own Medeski Martin & Wood.
Polyrhythmics: Seattle octet Polyrhythmics have mastered that big-band Afrobeat/funk fusion thing with verve and adventurousness. On their latest album, Libra Stripes, the group's 32 limbs work in synchronicity to produce a complex sinuousness and flamboyant brassiness. Were he alive, Fela Kuti would not disapprove.
Honorable mentions: Down North, Staxx Brothers