What’s your favorite current Seattle band? If you have trouble answering (or if you draw a blank after Macklemore), we’re not going to judge. But we are going to suggest it’s time to check in with the city’s thriving indie music scene. New local bands are exploring sounds, blurring genre boundaries (though we’ve wrestled them into categories here) and playing vibrant live shows all over town (see our Live Music Venue guide). Even with this sampler of 50 bands, we haven’t scratched the surface of Seattle music. Listen right here—where you can stream songs from all 50 bands—and also try tuning in to KEXP (the city’s unsurpassed discovery engine for local music) for a whole week. Soon enough, you’ll have an answer to the above question—and you might just go on and on. Peruse the local bands featured in the other genres here.
Gateway Bands: Digable Planets, A Tribe Called Quest
Ishmael Butler (aka Palaceer Lazaro, formerly of Digable Planets) and Tendai “Baba” Maraire comprise this experimental trip-hop duo—whose entrancing beatscapes earned them a Sub Pop contract—and whose 2011 album, Black Up, was incredibly well-received. Spin magazine calls them “psych-rap mystics,” and that sounds about right—as long as you add “from outer space.” With the July release, Lese Majesty, these hyperintelligent aliens are coming to take us away on a metaphysical head trip, with a soundtrack of heavy beats, burbling synth and hypnotic rap. subpop.com/artists/shabazz_palaces
Gateway Band: The Doors
Singer Timmy Sunshine has a bit of an Oasis sound in his vocals, and there is a similar, charmingly aloof quality to how he comports himself on stage, too. The Comettes, who call “Earth” their hometown, feel a bit pleasingly out there. Full of moxie and celebratory spirit, their sound evokes The Walkmen and Cold War Kids—ambient yet incisive all at once. In addition, they hold the distinction of recently opening for Grammy-nominated group The Lumineers. The 2014 EP Sun Came Up shows them polishing their sound to a fine burnish. thecomettes.bandcamp.com
Gateway Bands: Jefferson Airplane, Cream
This Sub Pop band displays the best of psychedelic rock without overdosing on the dreary. The male/female harmonies will open your eyes and ears like a hit of wasabi, and the group isn’t afraid to add a flute to the mix of giant rock drums and distorted keys. Their music may make you feel like you’re chasing Alice down the rabbit hole, but at the end of the trip is a whole universe of music. Explore it on the acclaimed 2013 release, The Sun Dogs. soundcloud.com/rose-windows