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.
This is the 30th installment of Throwaway Style since the column started in July of 2017, but over that time I don’t think I’ve ever actually talked about what that name means. Alluded to, maybe, but never outright defined. Now seems as good of a time as any to explain it and what it means to me – and maybe for you too.
Savvy Northwesterners might recognize that the name shares its name with a track by Portland punk band The Exploding Hearts from their first and last proper album, Guitar Romantic. The Exploding Hearts’ story is a tragic one. Just a few months after releasing their record, the band was driving North on I-5 back from a gig in San Francisco when (to the best of anyone’s understanding) one of the members driving fell asleep at the wheel and lost control of the car near Eugene, Ore. There were only two survivors, guitarist Terry Six and manager Rachell Ramos (King Louie, who played on the record, was not on tour with the band at the time).
This would be a tragic story even if the band hadn’t released one of the all-time greatest Pacific Northwest punk records (I’d even go as far as to say just one of the best PNW albums in general). I think about that story a lot. Since I first learned about the record when I was teen, the band’s end has haunted me and forced me to reconsider how I appreciate not just local artists, but the lives of people I love and even my own mortality. But death isn’t what defines The Exploding Hearts’ legacy for me. I learned about their untimely end first, but it’s a different, almost indescribable feeling oozing from the music that clenched its teeth into my flesh and hasn’t let go. It’s more than sneer, more than attitude, more than powerful hooks that implant themselves in your ear drums. To quote the equally incomparable Shabazz Palaces, “it’s a feeling.”
It’s also a feeling that wasn’t completely exclusive to the band, but something I’d felt from PNW artists my whole life. So when it came to name our local music column, I turned to Guitar Romantic for guidance. Re-listening to the album for the millionth time, the title “Throwaway Style” stuck out (as did its reference to Seattle in the second verse). It suddenly dawned on me, “That’s it. That’s what our region is.” Trying to define the PNW sound is a non-starter if you’re using genre tags. There’s still people out there who think everything out here is grunge and flannel (okay, the second part still might be true). And while that is a big and notable part of our story, it’s not the whole of it. It leaves out all the remarkable hip-hop, electronic music, noise punk, indie rock, and every other sound that’s bubbled up from the Northwest (and not just Seattle, either). And across all those genres and scenes, there’s still that thread that loosely keeps it all together. A “I really don’t give a fuck, but here’s another masterpiece for you” air about it all. I call it Throwaway Style. I come across music that falls under this scope almost every day, but recently I watched a video that maybe encapsulates the whole concept better than I could ever explain to you.
Fittingly, the very first Throwaway Style was about Seattle rapper DoNormaal. She’s probably come up on the column more than any other artist. Haters will call it favoritism; I just call it showing respect to an artist when it’s due – but I digress. Earlier this month she dropped a video for a new song called “Buddy.” Presumably the first single from her upcoming album yippee, “Buddy” is truly unlike anything I think I’ve ever heard before. I saw her perform the song this last New Year’s Eve and my mouth was agape as she joyfully rapped over a soundtrack of horn fanfare. No “traditional” hip-hop beat underneath, just a marching band blaring triumphantly while DoNormaal dexterously rhymes overtop. I tried to tell friends about it, but there was no way to do it justice. That is until the “Buddy” music video dropped.
Filmed entirely on a GoPro at the Seattle Boat Show and directed by DoNormaal herself, we watch as she poses on yachts and jetskis throughout the CenturyLink exhibition in leopard print tights, a camo jacket, and Vans. She dances on a Super Bowl XLV display, browses through a selection of “NautiGirl” merch, and flips off the camera from behind a face-in-hole cartoon bikini display. Even the way she answers her phone with the R.I.P. Peep and Wolftone stickers at the beginning feels exciting with the rush of drums and trumpets howling through the speakers.
I watched this video maybe 10 times the weekend it came out. I smiled and welled up. It’s a simple enough idea and easy to marginalize as “just goofing off at the boat show.” But it’s so much more than that. It’s punk rock. It glows with defiance, radiates with joy, and dazzles with its makeshift production. It gives me that magic feeling that I got when I was 15 years old, pressed against the stage at Schoolyard Heroes concert in a sweaty Bremerton church basement watching them play songs like “Serial Killers Know How To Party.” I know other cities have their own musical moments like these, but it’s different when you experience it firsthand for yourself in your hometown. There’s a sense of pride and belonging. Even when it’s not you being the one creating the art, you can feel a bit of your home swelling in the breaks of the rhythms and the sweat on the microphones.
Next week, I’ll be handing over the Throwaway Style reins over to (seriously) one of my favorite writers, Martin Douglas. I leave you in more than capable hands (you need to read his piece on Kurt Cobain if you haven’t already) and I can’t wait to see where he takes this column. I’m not really going anywhere, Martin and I literally sit next to each other (how’s it going, dude?!). And I certainly won’t be stop writing about local music for KEXP or anywhere else. That could never happen. I love local music so much that my heart could explode. Thanks for sharing this space with me. I can’t wait to find those next magic “throwaway style” moments.
Khotin and Project Pablo Combine for New Project Rest Corp, Announce Infinity Scroll
Vancouver B.C.’s Khotin is teaming up Montreal producer Project Pablo to form a new project fusing called Rest Corp. If you’ve been keeping track of Canada’s thriving house scene, this is insanely exciting news. Due out March 8, you can sample the three tracks from their Infinity Scroll 12-inch now. Just from this five minute medley of tracks, you can already feel the mastery at work. Surprisingly enough, the two recorded the entire 12-inch over one week at Deep Blue in Vancouver.
Chong The Nomad Releases Debut EP, Love Memo
Seattle producer Chong The Nomad has made waves in Seattle’s bustling electronic music scene with her sweeping, romantic beats since she dropped her single “you’re really pretty.” Now we’re finally getting more music to swoon too with her debut EP, Love Memo. Over the course of five tracks, Chong finds beauty in the pulses of rhythm and an array of contorted vocal samples. She’s pushing herself further and further and experimenting even wilder than we’ve heard in the little songs she’s released, making for an exciting trajectory to witness.
Cuff Lynx Shares New EP, LAND SPEED RECORD
Blending larger-than-life synth lines with dancefloor energy has been a calling card for Seattle electronic duo Cuff Lynx. They’ve consistently found ways to up the ante from release to release and their latest EP, LAND SPEED RECORD, is no exception. Released last week, the four songs propell enthusiastically into each other and embrace their arena-sized notions. This record is poised to be a go-to for setting off your next party or sounding out of your car stereo driving down the highway.
Feb. 24: Cuff Lynx and Chong The Nomad Double Release Party at Timbre Room
Seattle hip-hop Kung Foo Grip duo teams up with #based producer Keyboard Kid for their most ambitious work yet
Tacoma's Buje Mane doesn't consider himself a rapper, but he's finding a way to pave new territory in the genre.
Vancouver DJ Jayda G has been on a steady ascent to disco dominance and her latest 12-inch single, Disco Bitch, seals the deal.