"Shop local" is a phrase commonly heard this time of year to encourage holiday shoppers to support local businesses. While you’re heeding the call, you might want to consider supporting local artists, especially if a music lover is on your list.
Since it’s no secret that Seattle’s music community is stacked with an abundance of talent, here are some recommendations of records released by locals in 2010 that will help you live out the "shop local" mantra to its fullest.
The city’s youthful hip-hop scene continued to grow this year with several excellent albums any hip-hop head would appreciate. For starters there’s Jake One and Freeway’s The Stimulus Package, which pairs local producer extraordinaire Jake One with Philadelphia underground rapper Freeway, resulting in some of the best hip-hop of the year.
You also can’t go wrong with Macklemore’s reissue of his Vs. EP. The reissue includes the original EP along with remixes and unreleased tracks. You can legally download the original for free here if you want a sampling of what the reissue has to offer. Another choice for the more aggressive and bratty hip-hop fan is Mad Rad’s The Youth Die Young. Think Licensed to Ill-era Beastie Boys with more sexually explicit lyrics. Parents be warned: there is quite a bit of objectionable language on the Mad Rad record.
The city’s folk scene is picking up steam, too, and has spawned several amazing albums. The band that made the biggest splash in the scene in 2010 was the Head and the Heart, which made its debut this year. There’s plenty of local hype behind these guys (not every new band gets a massive feature in the Seattle Times), and big things are expected in 2011 from these recent Sub Pop signees.
Another artist expected to have a big 2011 is Chris Mansfield, aka Fences, whose self-titled debut album Fences has drawn comparisons to Elliott Smith. Also of note from the folk scene is Tidelands, the sophomore effort from the Moondoggies. The campfire rock featured on that album is some of the best music Seattle had to offer in 2010.
If there is a punk rock fan on your list, be on the lookout for a trio of albums at the record store. First, there’s Unnatural Helpers’ Cracked Love and Other Drugs, which boasts a track list of 15 blazing songs that play out in a fiery 27 minutes. The band is a modern day punk rock Mudhoney. On the more experimental side of the punk spectrum is The Lights’ Failed Graves, an album that mishmashes rock subgenres and blends them into an excellent stew of punk rock potpourri. Somewhere in the middle of those two lie The Cute Lepers and their album Smart Accessories, which at times comes across as a new-wavey Ramones record.
Of course it wouldn’t be a listing of local music recommendations without mentioning grunge. If you’re shopping for someone whose radio dial is still tuned to the 90s, the reunited Soundgarden released a career retrospective called Telephantasm complete with one new track, “Black Rain,” that serves as a reminder of just how good these icons can be.
There were also new albums released by Brad and Satchel with both bands featuring vocalist Shawn Smith. Brad’s Best Friends? showcases Smith’s softer side along with some great lead guitar licks by Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard, and Satchel’s Heartache and Honey is a more direct and loud hard rock album. Also, 90s power-poppers The Posies released one of the best albums of their career in Blood/Candy, and while it’s not grunge per se it will likely make any 90s rock fan smile.
Speaking of local icons, three excellent releases for the classic rock lover went relatively under the radar. First there’s Heart’s Red Velvet Car. The Wilson sisters continue to age gracefully on their latest album — their best effort in years. For Hendrix fans there’s West Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology and Valleys of Neptune. The latter is a record of previously unreleased Hendrix material including a finished version of the title track. The former is a four-disc boxed set of Hendrix’s work spanning his early days when he recorded with the likes of Little Richard and the Isley Brothers, as well as more familiar Hendrix fare like “Fire” and “Castles Made of Sand.”
In case you want to give something music-related that isn’t a record by a local artist, while still maintaining the "shop local" ethic, here are a few recommendations that will set you back a bit more than the cost of an album download on iTunes. But they're sure to make any music fan happy.
- EMPSFM membership: It’s going to be a big year for Paul Allen’s Jimi Hendrix shrine. In April the museum will open the world’s largest Nirvana-themed exhibit and in June the science-fiction portion of the museum will premier Avatar: the Exhibit which explores James Cameron’s 2009 3-D epic. Multiple membership levels range in price from $50 for an individual to $85 for a family. Memberships are good for one year, and all provide unlimited visits to the museum during that period.
- Sasquatch! Music Festival tickets: A special package deal for the annual Memorial Day weekend event went on sale last month. For $285 you get a ticket to every day of the May 27-30 festival at the Gorge Amphitheatre. The lineup has yet to be announced (Foo Fighters are the only confirmed act), but typically Sasquatch! is a trend-setting event that showcases more than 75 artists big and small. In past years the festival has featured the likes of Arcade Fire, Beastie Boys, Coldplay, Kanye West, Pixies, R.E.M., and other impressive names, so there should be something to please almost every music fan. Ticket packages include camping passes for the weekend.
- The Showbox VIP Club: Want to make sure your favorite live-music lover gets special treatment at both Showbox at the Market and its counterpart Showbox SoDo for an entire year? For $499 you get a Showbox VIP club membership with guaranteed seating for a year at every event at either Showbox (the two venues have very limited seating), and you never have to wait in line for admission. You also get first dibs on purchasing tickets to every Showbox event (including secret shows), free coat-checking, and the ability to buy tickets to sold-out shows all year long. For $799 the VIP membership is transferable.