It was an interesting year for rock music in Seattle. Scene veterans like Soundgarden, Mark Lanegan, and the sometimes supergroup Walking Papers all released albums that prove they’ve got some creative juices left in the tank. And more importantly they proved that those juices are capable of pumping out music that’s relevant in today’s musical landscape. But 2012’s great local rock albums weren’t strictly limited to the Just for Men crowd. There were plenty of albums made by younger artists such as The Young Evils, Kithkin and Absolute Monarchs that show the rock scene in Seattle has evolved way past the g-word, and that there’s plenty of youth, spirit and vitality coming out the rock music made in the Emerald City.
Perhaps it’s this balance of old and new that makes Seattle’s music scene one of the best in the country. Legacy rockers stick around town and create new projects (RNDM, the previously mentioned Walking Papers) and younger artists take notes while paying their dues, resulting in fresh, new sounds that give off strong signifiers of becoming future arena fillers (I’m looking at you Jessica Dobson of Deep Sea Diver).
There were lots of diverse sounds coming from the Seattle rock scene this year and the below 10 records, which are listed in no particular order, represent some of the best local rock music released in 2012:
Walking Papers Walking Papers
How could this not be one of the best local rock albums of the year? It’s filled with good old-fashioned hard-hitting rock ‘n’ roll that just happens to be made by former members of Guns N’ Roses (Duff McKagan) and the Screaming Trees (Barrett Martin) along with a soulful and highly underrated frontman (Jeff Angel) and occasional assists from Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready.
Mark Lanegan Band Blues Funeral
Mark Lanegan‘s albums are always interesting. The man’s deep, highly distinguishable voice makes all of his records worth at least one listen on vocal merits alone. He and his band outdid themselves with Blues Funeral, an album that is by far Lanegan’s best solo(ish) effort since 2004’s Bubblegum.
In many ways Joel Schneider’s other band is much better than the garage-blues assault he’s known for in My Goodness. The Monarchs’ debut record tops My Goodness’ debut (which is no small task) by being a record that feels more fully realized and dynamic compared to My Goodness’ raw garage-blues approach, plus it shows local label Good To Die Records can support more than just local heavy metal releases.
The self-titled debut from this group of rockers formed by former members of Gatsby’s American Dream and Wild Orchid Children, is a rollicking rock ‘n’ roll punch in the gut for your ears.
Just because Pearl Jam wasn’t active this year doesn’t mean the band’s respective members were sitting idle cashing in their royalty checks. Jeff Ament teamed up with his old pal, and former Fastback, Richard Stuverud to create a power trio fronted by an unlikely power rock singer in Joseph Arthur (from Fistful of Mercy), resulting in one of the best Pearl Jam side projects in years.
Soundgarden King Animal
It took more than 15 years but it was well worth the wait. The follow-up to 1997’s Down on the Upside sounds, well, just like what you’d expect. Melodic, loud, thrashing and heavy in the most radio-friendly, modern rock ways possible. Thankfully Soundgarden didn’t attempt to follow a trend or create one with their comeback record and instead released an album that’s true to their own style and sound.
Kithkin Takers & Leavers
This EP from the former Sound Off! contestants is filled with energy and ambition. The album is available at a name-your-price-cost on Bandcamp so do yourself a favor and download it now. Then go see these guys live the first chance you get, because they top their recorded energy in a live setting, which makes Takers & Leavers that much more fun of a listen.
This group of local scene vets – Ben London, Lincoln Barr and a few others – joined forces with producer dynamos Jack Endino and Johnny Sangster to create one of the best power-pop-rock records in recent years. If you like The Posies, Super Deluxe or Big Star, you can’t go wrong with Chamelon.
The Young Evils Foreign Spells
The Young Evils showed up on the scene a few years back as a cutesy folk group that featured male-female harmonies. This year’s Foreign Spells sees the band more or less transform into a full-bodied rock band, which hopefully is a sign of things to come.
Interview: The Young Evils get ‘more young, less evil’
Deep Sea Diver History Speaks
Jessica Dobson’s band, Deep Sea Diver, is one of the most refreshing new arrivals on the local scene. She put her experience playing with The Shins, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Beck to good use by honing her songwriting skills which resulted in this stellar nine-song debut.
Honorable mentions: Tea Cozies Bang Up, Dog Shredder Brass Tactics, Fox & the Law Scarlet Fever