Musical best-of lists can be great references for being turned onto new artists, albums, songs, etc. you were previously unfamiliar with, but in a lot of instances, best-of lists can unfortunately suffer from being a tad narrow in their selections. Recently, fellow northwestern music outlet Nada Mucho published their list of 12 bands that they considered to be the best modern talent coming out of Tacoma, Washington in the calendar year of 2015. Their list had some undeniably on-point picks, to be sure, but there’s so many more talented artists coming out of the Tacoma area to be reported on.
And since we’re practically inseparable BFF’s with Nada Mucho (we go over to their house for pajama slumber parties and eat ice cream and gossip about boys every weekend), we thought we’d wage a friendly war against them and present our list of 10 MORE great musical artists coming out of Seattle’s thalidomide twin that shouldn’t be overlooked by anyone. Considering our editor-in-chief and reviews editor have both lived in Tacoma for nearly a couple decades or more, we figure we’re qualified to put our list of artists from our backyard out there.
Cannons at the ready, everyone!
The Fame Riot
Let’s address the flamboyant, glittery spandex-wearing elephant in the room now. It’s easy to overlook some no-name band that only plays the underground club circuit and doesn’t have any social media whatsoever, but a best of Tacoma list without The Fame Riot is like Thanksgiving dinner without the cranberry sauce. Not only did the fabulous glam-synth-rock duo put out one of the best local EPs of last year, which happened to have some of the most infectious power pop singles of 2015, but they’re also perhaps the best live band in the City of Destiny. (And okay, yeah, they were a part of their 2014 best-of-Tacoma list, but if Wheelies can make it in two years in a row, these guys are more than deserving of a second annual spot.) After their lovingly-received Bumbershoot 2015 performance, I can only hope The Fame Riot becomes a Seattle festival staple from here on out. — Jess Casebeer
Sleepy Pilot borrows from several genres including blues, electronic and roots based music, while making the different styles participate in an audio game of chicken, unleashing a unique psychedelic rootsy sound. While their music isn’t likely going to cause people to form the “Wall of Death” at their shows, they will get you aout of your seat, or at least they should. — Glen Casebeer
While Aethereus may not be the most strikingly original metal band on the block, I’m pretty partial to any modern metal band that doesn’t ruin its genuinely heavy sound with clean choruses that could be out-rocked by Ashlee Simpson. Aethereus’ latest EP Ego Futurus is a pretty filling tech-death release, with a lot of heavy, lightning-fast grooves, and spacey, cavernous atmospheric passages that recall to mind greats in “post-metal” like Isis and The Ocean. Though some may find their playing a bit too mechanical and needlessly flashy, I think they have a lot to offer to fans of this kind of metal. — Jess Casebeer
Since all our most notable bands are acts like The Sonics and The Fabulous Wailers, Tacoma isn’t really the place most Washingtonians look to go to for good electronic music, but that doesn’t mean our city doesn’t have its couple highlights. Kuma is a Tacoman that comes from the post-Blue Sky Black Death camp of trap music producers that take the omnipresent heavy, bombastic production style and turn it into music you can slow-dance to. Kuma’s short, but sweet and overlooked discography is very much deserving of diving into if you like electronic music that feels like like you’re listening to it while wrapped up in an electric blanket. — Jess Casebeer
Part power pop, part rock and 100% fun, Strangely Alright plays a potent mix of well-crafted covers and originals while always delivering a great time for the listener. The thought-provoking lyrics blended with the musical chops of these long-time veterans of the stage and studio puts them on our “A” list of Tacoma bands. — Glen Casebeer
The Approach takes elements of reggae, hip-hop and rock, tosses it in a blender, crafting a delicious sonic substance that will leave your ears happy and your legs sore. The band has made great strides in getting their name out there in the last few years and should be on a lot of radar screens for years to come. — Glen Casebeer
A Tumblr icon? Yeah. A campy Internet-bred cloud rapper? Well, sure, okay. An endlessly entertaining live act with a lot of charisma and stage presence? Without a doubt. While Seattle may be the city most people think of when they think of Washington hip-hop music, Jared (aka Crimewave) and a handful of other members of the “Boiler Boyz” collective are giving the Tacoma rap scene a unique look and feel. One that’s darker, moody, shit you can mosh and headbang to. The 66.6% EP was released last year, and was a surprisingly idiosyncratic release for the cloud rap subgenre, with a lot of different sounds and styles all combined into one brief, but satisfying package. And with a new project under the Crimewave name coming at the end of this month, I’m pretty fucking excited to see what Jared has to bring to the table in 2016. — Jess Casebeer
Phasers on Kill
If Phasers on Kill came out in the late 90’s or early 2000’s I have no doubt they’d have been huge. The band lives in the power-punk arena and are sort-of an Offspring meets Green Day hybrid with catchy songs and witty lyrics, teamed with an energetic live show. While you probably won’t leave their show contemplating the meaning of life, you’ll likely be covered in sweat from all the ass-wiggling. — Glen Casebeer
The Bomb Shelter
Nada Mucho, I cordially invite you to come to next year’s VanFest music festival with me — it’s a pretty great way to be exposed to all sorts of new music from all over Washington. I’d never heard of The Bomb Shelter in my life prior to going to last year’s VanFest, and I ended up leaving a fan of this Tacoman quintet. The Bomb Shelter is a rock band equally informed by postmodern indie rock and Blood Brothers-esque eccentric post-hardcore. In the live setting, the five-piece brings a lot of energy and crushing instrumentation to the table, and though listening to their music, it is pretty apparent that their recorded output’s production budget was about as expensive as a Hungry Man TV dinner, their songs are still ambitious and have a lot of skill interwoven. I recommend them, they’re pretty solid. — Jess Casebeer
Big Wheel Stunt Show
Big Wheel Stunt Show makes it on the list for a few reasons, the biggest one being that outside of The Sonics, they are my favorite Tacoma band of all-time. The next reason is that they just announced the band will be back together after a 2 year hiatus due to bass player Jake Melius moving to Arizona. Without a doubt one of the best live shows you’ll ever experience on the local level. If you like your music rooted in meat and potatoes rock -n- roll, they are a MUST see and are as Tacoma as it comes. — Glen Casebeer
And with that, we finalize our shots fired at Nada Mucho. But now it’s your turn. We’re just two publications, and just two publications alone can’t possibly cover everything there is in Tacoma. Which is why we’d like to hear from you. Let us know what great Tacoma bands you think we both missed in our lists below. Remember, all is fair in love and war!