Eight short months ago, a wise Seattle man and midlevel golfer named Macklemore predicted, in song, that 2022 was going to suck demonstrably less than 2021. Dude’s optimism on the evergreen New Year’s Eve bop “Next Year,” Mack’s first track with his old producer pal Ryan Lewis in several years, almost had us convinced.
The jury’s still out, but six months into 2022, it’s still pretty crazy out here. On the bright side, a number of Mack’s fellow Seattle artists have been kicking out quality jams, at least improving the soundtrack on this flaming hellscape planet. Here are some new Washington albums, released through mid-June, that we haven’t previously written about that are worth adding to your rotation. Shoutout to releases we’ve already covered from 28AV, The Dip and Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio, and the chill West Seattle dude who sings for Pearl Jam.
(Note: Some of these videos may contain explicit language.)
3rd Secret, “3rd Secret”
This super new supergroup is anchored by Giants in the Trees members Jillian Raye and Krist Novoselić, Washington’s most famous aviating granger. On their surprise-dropped debut, marked by Novoselić’s new love of fingerstyle guitar playing, the Wahkiakum County duo push the Trees’ folk and ’70s rock influences in heavier directions at times, with help from Soundgarden’s Matt Cameron and Kim Thayil, and others (you can spot Thayil’s cerebral psych-metal licks a burnt orange horizon away on “I Choose You”).
AJ Suede, “Metatron’s Cube” and “Hundred Year Darkness”
When it comes to navigating the hyperfast world of rap music in the streaming era, there are two schools of thought: Pump out the “content” (remember art?) fast and furiously to stay in the mix or take your time and make each project stand out. In recent years, East Coast transplant AJ Suede has emerged as the most prolific rapper in Seattle without sacrificing quality across his high volume of releases and his two 2022 albums are his best yet.
Ben Zaidi, “Acre of Salt.”
Following his 2019 collab with seasoned Seattle producer Budo, Zaidi returns with a fresh set of dreamy, indie singer-songwriter fare drawing from folk and bedroom pop. Zaidi continues sharpening his songwriting across delicate, plaintive songs that feel intensely personal and meticulously crafted.
Blakk Soul, “Make it Count”
Perhaps no other Washington artist dispenses grown-and-sexy R&B vibes quite like Tacoma’s king of the slow jam. On his latest outing, a more pronounced ’90s influence beautifully jells with airy textures in the vein of contemporaries like dvsn.
Brittany Davis, “I Choose to Live” EP
The most eclectic debut of the year thus far comes from this singer-songwriter who hit the Seattle scene as a member of Stone Gossard’s Painted Shield side project, which dropped its sophomore LP in March. On their first solo outing, released through the Pearl Jam guitarist’s Loosegroove Records, Davis deftly merges R&B, hip-hop, electro-pop, rock and dance music across six variegated tracks that played well during their NPR Tiny Desk performance. Catch them at Timber! Outdoor Music Festival next month.
Chris Carroll, “Still”
The lo-fi indie-pop crooner (who plays the Sunset Tavern July 20) finds a singular sound on his debut album, throwing a slow-rolling haze on sample-heavy tracks that Carroll’s baritone floats through like cattail fluff caught in a meadow breeze. The crisply lurching “Ghost” sounds like Orville Peck, Primitive Radio Gods and Washed Out had a baby.
Claudine Magbag, “Better Luck Next Time.” EP
With her sophomore EP, former Sound Off participant Claudine Magbag cements her status as one of the brighter young singer-songwriters in Seattle, merging introspective R&B and woozy bedroom pop. Warm guitars cozy up with blurry electronics and sparse productions on tracks like “Right Now,” on which her longing vocals swim in the dimly lit beat like a lonely rooftop pool at dusk.
Clinton Fearon, “Breaking News”
Despite finding inspiration in a hellscape news cycle, the Seattle reggae titan’s pandemic album is a torch of love for the dark times. The gently swinging title track is a call for compassion to prevail over division, while “Social Unrest” is an upstroking perseverance anthem, as soothing as it is determined.
Eugenie Jones, “Players”
A standout among Seattle’s deep pool of talented jazz singers, Jones tapped an equally deep roster of session players (32 to be exact) while cutting her exquisite new album of originals and standards in Seattle, New York, Chicago and Dallas. For all the travel miles, the hometown sessions yielded some of the highest returns: particularly the effervescent “These are Thorns” and “Ey Brother,” which finds the Jackson Street Jazz Walk organizer taking an imaginary stroll through the neighborhood’s jazz era heyday.
High Pulp, “Pursuit of Ends”
Born out of Royal Room jam sessions, this adventurous instrumental troupe makes good on its ANTI- records debut — a gleaming, synth-laced set of avant-garde jazz with echoes of the L.A. beat scene. Drummer Bobby Granfelt’s coolly skittering percussions underpin High Pulp’s soul-centering compositions that arrive as smooth and inviting as a satin comforter, with cameos from kindred standouts on the national scene (Brandee Younger, Theo Croker) and Seattle fixtures (Greg Kramer, Alex Dugdale).
The Tacoma-born, SoCal-based emcee delivers unimpeachable, tightly coiled bars without sacrificing his strong sense of melody. Part of the Seattle area’s Day One Entertainment crew, “Corduroy” places Jaywop among the region’s line of high-IQ lyricists with a crazy smooth flow.
Karl Blau, “Love & Harm”
After skipping to Philly, one of Washington’s most creatively restless artists returned to his old Anacortes stomping grounds last summer to cut this mesmerizing set of psychedelic folk-country. Laced with daydreamy pedal steel, the clear-eyed “Love & Harm” is some of the DIY mainstay’s more accessible work and also among his best.
King Youngblood, “BIG THANK”
One of the heirs to Seattle rock’s post-grunge lineage, singer/guitarist Cameron Lavi-Jones subscribes to the Dave Grohl school of blistering melodic anthems — the kind that could soar on rock radio without stooping to the format’s lowest common denominator. (How many hard rock acts employ a full-time cellist?) The alt-rock quartet, which plays Capitol Hill Block Party next month, has already earned its stripes on the local club circuit and “BIG THANK,” produced by London Bridge’s Eric Lilavois, represents a big step in their maturation.
Mala Suerte, “Mala Suerte”
Make no mistake, Mala Suerte’s border-bridging, garage-rocking, wall-o’-punk frenzy is best experienced live. But close your eyes, crank this unholy debut from members of Seattle’s Acid Tongue and the Grizzled Mighty and their like-minded Mexico City friends, and you can practically feel the beer cans whizzing by your head.
Max Creeps, “Nein”
Speaking of punk frenzies, this “mysterious” Seattle duo — who look and sound a lot like Duff McKagan and the Fastbacks’ Kurt Bloch — emerged this year with a fun/fabricated backstory about the breakup of the “influential” band no one had ever heard of. For all the extracurriculars, “Nein” is a blast of no-frills punk rock ‘n’ roll that goes down like the last swig of Rainier before biking home from a dive bar club.
Pedro the Lion, “Havasu”
Back in January, Northwest indie rock dignitary David Bazan released without warning chapter two of a planned five-album project exploring his past through various childhood hometowns. If anyone can keep such a granular self-reflective saga compelling for five whole albums it’s Bazan and “Havasu” picks up where he left off after reviving the Pedro mantle for 2019’s mighty “Phoenix” LP.
Sea Lemon, “Close Up” EP
In one of the strongest debuts of the year, singer-songwriter Natalie Lew’s glimmering, jangling dream-pop hits like a summer breeze here to chase the Juneuary gray away. One spin and the infectiously sparkling “Sunday” will be running through your head all week.
Small Paul, “Strangeland” EP
This month the new band from local fixtures in the Moondoggies, Chris King & the Gutterballs and All Star Opera cracked open its first EP, teeming with the sort of countrified ’70s rock the first two acts hang their hats on. King and lead ‘doggy Kevin Murphy share vocal duties across four tracks that shimmer like a mirage across a dusty Eastern Washington landscape.
Tres Leches, “Fósil”
The local post-punk faves return on their anticipated sophomore album to rail against low-paying promoters and the commodification of art (“Two Fifty”), and Seattle police union boss Mike Solan on the biting defund anthem “Cop Out.” In its less confrontational moments, the twirling psychedelia of “Tiempo” and “Nieve” show the songwriting strides multi-instrumentalists Alaia D’Alessandro and Ulises Mariscal have made since 2019’s well-received “Amorfo.”
UMI, “Forest in the City”
This rising R&B star has been simmering for years after a number of impressive EPs and singles, not to mention a soul-cleansing Capitol Hill Block Party set in 2019. The Seattle-reared, L.A.-based singer (the niece of Seattle gospel-blues force Lady A) delivered her neo-soul inflected first full-length this spring, kicking off her tour back home with a sold-out, two-night blowout at Neumos.
Vic Daggs II, “Eye of the Storm” EP
The Kent rapper announced himself with this well-honed, six-song debut, teaming up with ace Seattle producer Elan Wright. Daggs sounds equally comfortable chopping up hard-hitting beats (“Natural”) as he does slowing it down and getting vulnerable on the half-sung “Ashes.”
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated Jillian Raye’s last name.