Seattle’s Gift to the World the Seventh: a mixtape of sorts

Among others, Berlin [#] and Vienna [#] have both tried to give electronic music; Montreal tried to pass off Celine Dion [#]; Philadelphia threw American Bandstand and Pink into the mix [#]; New York celebrated their music & theater [#]; DC handed off Sousa [#]; so we couldn’t let the 7 days of Metroblogging Gifts to the World pass without mentioning Seattle’s vibrant music scene, in this admittedly non-representative final entry in the series:

Everything All the Time from Band of Horses just might be the best album out of Seattle this year. Rising from the ashes of the incomparable chamber pop of Carissa’s Wierd, Ben Bridwell, Mat Brooke, and an ever changing cast of the usual suspects came up with a simultaneously new and retro americana. The album calls to mind driving along a dusty empty highway, conversations in crowded bars with impeccably curated jukeboxes, long summer days with baseball games in public parks that end with the sun hanging low on the horizon as its light bounces off the water and tumbles up the hills like gold. There is nostalgia for skipped days of school and tenuous stages of a budding romance. It has resilience of surviving a particularly rough half-decade. It wears its heart of its sleeve and includes lovely square postcards along with the liner notes.

Impossibly bright and fuzzy guitars explode out of nowhere [mp3], a tentative pedal steel melody allows itself to be devoured so the song can turn into something entirely different at the midpoint, and there is a quiet harmony about Florida. Mat isn’t in the band anymore and Ben and the rest of the gang are leaving us for one of the Carolinas. But even when it’s reminding me of something else, Everything All the Time will remind me of Seattle.

The reason that I mention all of this is that Band of Horses is just one of many signed to Sub Pop, our friendly neighborhood label that, for better or worse, brought you grunge and put Seattle on the map in the 1990s. Although they started in Olympia (which is also home to the state’s capitol as well as giftworthy record labels Kill Rock Stars and K Records. And Sleater-Kinney! But this is not, is it?), they eventually moved and claimed Seattle as their home base for spreading the word about the music scene by way of a singles club. Imagine Netflix, but on limited edition seven inch discs made of vinyl that you got to keep. Now recall that the party started with a thousand copies of the first single from a little band out of Aberdeen called Nirvana. You probably know how things turned out from here. In case you’ve forgotten, recall that the interest in flannel snowballed to such rabid frevor that a sales rep (who still works at Sub Pop) was able to convince the New York Times that Seattle had its very own lingo called grunge speak [wiki] without much effort.

While you could argue that Nirvana, Mudhoney, Soundgarden, and grunge would have been enough, Sub Pop continues and can only be considered niche, if you define their niche as a stellar group of wildly eclectic and talented bands on their roster [subpop]. If the Garden State soundtrack changed your life, blame Sub Pop artists the Postal Service and the Shins (but they’re from Portland).

Of course crediting the Seattle music scene to one label is foolhardy. Just look down the street and see Barsuk, who were home to a sort of local band called Death Cab for Cutie before they graduated to the majors last year, but left their vinyl rights to Barsuk. There are so many more, certainly commenters will weigh in to point out all of the glaring omissions.

Making this “gift” all the more practical is that we have one of the country’s finest radio stations in town. KEXP started in the 1970s under a different call sign as a campus radio station at the University of Washingon and volunteer shakeups, billionaire investments, and a few studios later, the listener-powered station continues to serve up some of the best independent rock music around, along with a broad mix of as many genres as they can find. With their long-running streaming of uncompressed audio over the internet, frequent in-studio performances, and regular field trips, they’re poised for world domination.

Why, we haven’t even mentioned Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam, who are still in town, releasing albums, and touring to the delight of tens of thousands of devoted fans at a time! And just across the water, look a back a few years and see Isaac Brock and Modest Mouse making ferocious, ragged, rock in the suburbs. Yes, one of their songs was used to help sell minivans, but now Johnny Marr is a member of the band.

Skip to now, and see a local hiphop revolution taking place in a scene crowded with smart people mixing provoking rhymes with dance-able beats and putting on shows that stir even my indierock heart. Start with Common Market Venn-diagrammed to Blue Scholars. And glance a little further and find Macklemore and Voxy. Follow this thread backwards a couple decades and there’s Sir Mix-A-Lot.

Keep rewinding, and you’ll run across a guitar god called Jimi Hendrix. He’s celebrated in bronze at the corner of Pine and Broadway. Slide a little further into the archives and bump into Quincy Jones and Ray Charles. While you were historical touring, I hope you noticed Paul Revere and the Raiders? What about the lyrics to “Louie, Louie” behind glass at the Experience Music Project, a museum that invites academics, critics, and writers to convene once a year to talk about popular music scholarship?

But this entry is already too long and a day late; so we’ll stop here. Let everyone know what’s missing by adding your favorite omissions in the comments.

In case you missed it, the other six gifts from Metroblogging Seattle: em>Gift the First, Gift the Second, Gift the Third, Gift the Fourth, and Gift the Fifth, Gift the Sixth

Read about gifts from around the metroblogging world with this updated guide [la.metblogs] or follow some of these technorati tags being used across the metroblogging network: Metblogs7Gifts, 7Gifts, Metroblogging7Gifts.

1 Comment so far

  1. Zee (unregistered) on December 3rd, 2006 @ 9:52 pm

    Missing: Heart.

    Okay, sure, they’re from the Eastside (so are Queensryche, whom you also failed to mention) but besides joining Jimi and the Steve Miller Band in representing the Puget Sound in perpetual rotation on classic rock stations ’round the world, the role of the Wilson sisters in helping serious women musicians get treated seriously can not be understated.

    Speaking of female musicians, Carrie Akre (, one of the best damn local musicians EVER, is working on her latest album which should be available soon, real soon. Also, Betty X ( is so awesome that even people who don’t normally like hardcore like Betty X. Anna Coogan & North 19 and Ruby Dee & the Snakehandlers ( play excellent country/alt-country/honky tonkin’ music. I also love Loni Rose ( and…well…lots more. We really do have an amazing music scene.

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