In addition to our inaugural Seattle Critics Poll, which named the best local albums of 2018, we pick a few other acts who impressed this year.
While our inaugural Seattle Critics Poll named the top 20 local albums of the year, that still only covers a fraction of the artists that left their mark on the Seattle music community this year. Seattle Times music writer Michael Rietmulder rounds up a few of his other favorites from 2018.
Best live act: Naked Giants and Thunderpussy (tie)
A tie? Isn’t that kind of a cop-out? Totally. But you try picking between these unruly garage rockers and rock ‘n’ roll revivalists who each spent much of the year on the road honing their already tight live sets. The punkier Naked Giants fire up clubs with wild-man guitar solos and hard-hitting drums, while Thunderpussy climbs in and out of deep-groove valleys with Whitney Petty’s equally heroic riffs and Molly Sides’ mystical howl leading the charge.
Best new band: Fuzz Mutt
One of several bright young bands incubating in Everett basements and garages, this scruffy power trio debuted this year with their impressive “Colorless” EP packed with melodic grunge-punk jams. Singer/guitarist Max Stephens seamlessly shifts from sprightly garage tunes like “The Doubt” to more morose stuck-on-the-sofa anthems like “A Quiet End” and the dispirited “Lost Things,” delivered with a stoner-punk malaise inviting Wavves comparisons.
Breakout act of the year: The Black Tones
We already told you about Parisalexa and Chong the Nomad, but this garage-blues trio also cemented themselves as local favorites this year through consistent club gigs and standout performances during the Capitol Hill Block Party and the Paramount Theatre’s 90th anniversary celebration. With hints of psych-rock and proto-punk, The Black Tones dropped a pair of singles — including “The Key of Black (They Want Us Dead),” poignantly released on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination — whetting appetites for their Jack Endino-produced record expected sometime next year.
Best nonlocal album from a local label: Low, “Double Negative” (Sub Pop)
Do not adjust your headphones. The lurching static welcoming listeners to the veteran indie-rock minimalists’ chilling new album is jarring by design — a dystopian road sign informing listeners that this isn’t a typical Low release (as “typical” as any Low record can be). The Minnesota trio’s electronics-heavy “Double Negative” pulses like a digitized heartbeat, its blurry soundscapes awash in distortion and crackling dissonance that somehow feels darkly soothing in the bleakest of times.