Throwaway Style is a weekly column dedicated to examining all aspects of the Northwest music scene. Whether it's a new artist making waves, headlines affecting local talent, or reflecting on some of the music that's been a foundation in our region; this space celebrates everything happening in the Northwest region, every Thursday on the KEXP Blog.
"Much to be thankful for, but I don't have a hometown babe," DoNormaal raps on "Ego Slave", the second track on her latest LP THIRD DAUGHTER. There's a tinge of irony to the line. DoNormaal, aka Christianne Karefa-Johnson, may not feel like she has a hometown, but Seattle has definitely adopted her as their own. The 25-year-old rapper has become somewhat of a fixture in the Seattle scene. Go to enough local shows and it's almost inevitable that you'll see her perform. It's just a numbers game. Last year alone she played 97 shows, opting to ignore blackout dates and be on stage as much as possible. Genres be damned. You could find her sharing the stage with noise rock bands in punk basements or opening for Princess Nokia at The Crocodile. Wherever there's a show, she there. What's remarkable is that it's never felt like she's overstayed her welcome. I can't remember how many times I've seen her at this point, yet she's always been a draw and only adds excellence to whatever bill she's on. The way she sways across the stage against her sometimes woozy, sometimes chant-like flow. It's not uncommon to find her jumping into the crowd and staying there for half the show.
DoNormaal's fueled this never-ending sprint off the steam from her 2015 LP Jump Or Die. The release of that album really started to mark her ascent, an excellent introduction to her unpredictable rhythms and taste in spacious, pensive beats. THIRD DAUGHTER sees DoNormaal delving deeper into those traits that first got her noticed, getting fiercer and weirder. A beastly 19 tracks, you get to spend a lot of time learning who she is. One second she's hypnotic and wondrous on songs like "emotional", then later she's playing with the My Little Pony theme on the track, well, "my little pony." Just a little over a week after the release and I still feel like I'm trying to absorb all of it (and also trying to stop myself from just putting "don't make me wait" on repeat, maybe her most lush and just plain beautiful song yet). DoNormaal has earned the city's attention at this point, meaning THIRD DAUGHTER essential listening in its entirety.
The new record doesn't just symbolize DoNormaal's growth as an artist, but the current movement of young hip-hop artists in the city. Looking through the production credits on the record is like a phonebook listing of up-and-coming producers in the city: Brakebill, Luna God, Fish Narc, Mario Casalani, Joe Valley, and on and on. The only two features on the record come from her 6950 crew cohorts Wolftone (who also produces two of the tracks on the record) and RVN. Listening to THIRD DAUGHTER is getting a sampler of Seattle hip-hop, a scene that's growing into one of its most exciting iterations yet – a scene that finds DoNormaal at the center of it all. It's a role she's appeared to openly embrace, constantly curating line-ups and dance parties that feature some of the city's best talents. Seattle hip-hop has always been hard to classify and that hasn't changed, it's only gotten more diverse and expansive.
DoNormaal isn't the only Seattle rapper making bold, exciting creative choices with their rapping – the whisper-like Taylar Elizza Beth, the steady, fierce Guayaba, as well as RVN's art-rock angst show that this is a scene with rappers who all operate within their own lanes. The excitement around THIRD DAUGHTER is a win not just for DoNormaal, but for all the artists she's coming up alongside. Every time I listen to THIRD DAUGHTER, I bounce between being in awe of how inventive DoNormaal is an MC and daydreaming about the inevitable day when Seattle hip-hop breaks beyond the Emerald City. It really does just feel like a matter of time at this point. So much music is being created in this city, so many scenes within the scene that are thriving and creating new sounds. Hip-hop is seizing the moment most right now, with the ambition to break out. THIRD DAUGHTER feels like a major landmark in that pursuit. Soon it won't just be DoNormaal's omnipresence at local gigs, but her and everyone around her showing up on larger and larger platforms. This is a record Seattle needs right now; a defined rallying point around one of its most electrifying talents.
Balazar, a moniker used by local producer and rapper Akira Gautama, is gearing up to release a new record called The Sage on August 1. Gautama is a fairly prolific artist – he's already dropped two tapes under his own name earlier this year and put out eight releases last year. Even with the rapid fire releases, I'm always anxious to see what direction Gautama will go in next. He describes The Sage as sampling records from around the world, between North America, South America, and Asia specifically. He dropped three songs this week from the record, but it's the opening track, "Lha-Bangs", that has me transfixed right now. The booming beats crashing underneath what sounds like samples of distorted horns and chants create a menacing atmosphere that plays to Gautama's experimental strengths.
Close Encounter Release First Light
Seattle psych-rock/dream-pop outfit Close Encounter dropped their debut LP last week, First Light. It's an expansive record where every glistening note reverberates and dissolves into the cosmos. I recommend putting this one late at night and letting the layers of ambiance sink in.
Darto Announces New Album, Human Giving
Darto has been teasing new material for a while, teasing us soundtrack work they did for a skateboard video ("Omniscient") as well as the un-released film frontier. All of this work has exposed a different side to the post-punk, noise act; opening up their sonic palette to include more ambient elements layers as well as seeing the band explore sound design. On Sept. 8 the band will release Human Giving, the proper follow-up to 2015's remarkable hex. We don't have any sounds from the new record yet, but I can't wait. The band also announced an upcoming tour with LA psych-rock act Wand in the fall – hard to think of a better pairing. They'll play their album release show on September 8th at Black Lodge with Big Bite and Casual Hex.
Ephrata are Only Getting Better with New Song "Odds"
Yesterday, we had the chance to premiere Ephrata's first single from their upcoming self-titled, out September 22. It's worth point out again because, well, I really dig this band. The band often verges between jangle-pop and shoegaze, with this track leaning toward the former. Do you hear those harmonies? Insane. Check out out full interview with the band.
Haunted Horses Return with new EP "COME"
It's so great to finally have Haunted Horses back, even if they weren't gone for very long. The band broke up in May of last year and returned to the stage this last February. Their new EP, "COME", is short and speedy five tracks but it's some of their grimiest, but intriguing work yet. The time away did them good, it sounds, but I can't wait to see what they come back with next. Stay tuned for an interview with the band here on the KEXP Blog.
Throwaway Style is a weekly column dedicated to examining all aspects of the Northwest music scene. Whether it’s a new artist making waves, headlines affecting local talent, or reflecting on some of the music that’s been a foundation in our region; this space celebrates everything happening in the …
Today would have been Chris Cornell's 53rd birthday. Since news hit of his death in May, there's been an outpouring of love for Cornell and his music. From Soundgarden and Temple of the Dog to Audioslave and his prolific solo career, he gave generations of fans music to adopt as their own. He gave …