The Speed of Sound

Seattle’s scene will likely never again experience anything as cohesive as grunge, which is fine by us.

When we started pondering our year-in-music wrap-up, we thought we could define "the new Seattle sound." Then I remembered this fall's Reverb Music Fest.In case you missed it, last October Seattle Weekly filled a dozen Ballard clubs and stores with over 60 local bands. Walking from venue to venue, one would've been hard-pressed to hear any cohesive sound shared among the bands. There was the playful lesbian hip-hop of Team Gina, the American-raga-psych of The Curious Mystery, the irony-drenched techno of Truckasaurus, and the thundering godhead metal of Tad Doyle's Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, to name a few.Seattle's music scene is so vibrant and healthy not because everybody sounds the same, but because we have lots of folks creating musical hanky-panky in several different pockets of the city—and they all have access to the Internet, rendering any chance of a Grunge Redux impossible. Musicians can now listen to any type of music from anywhere in the world at any time they want. As a result, listening to music today can be akin to reading a DNA map of the last 50 years of pop.How else to explain why, this year, Hannah Levin noticed many of her favorite local metal bands were influenced by either the heavy sludge of the Melvins or the new wave of British metal? Or why Kevin Capp noticed a striking number of local rappers were picking up where Tupac left off, turning their life stories into rhyme? Or why, following years of closet hipster appreciation, this was the year it was officially OK to profess your love for the Grateful Dead? And try explaining the fresh-out-of-the-box success of Fleet Foxes and Moondoggies, two bands that traffic in '70s roots nostalgia.Trends come and go with alarming brevity these days. As Harper's senior editor Bill Wasik observed, the Annuals were declared "Best. Band. Ever." by Pitchfork in the fall of 2006. Six months later, all their fans moved on to their new favorite band ever, Peter Bjorn & John. In other words: Bouncy indie pop out, spritely European folk-pop in.Who knows what sounds will crop up in our local scene in 2009, which bands will still be together, or how drastically people's tastes will change? So think of the pieces that follow as a sort of time capsule. In a couple years, you can look back and say, "Dude, remember when all our metal bands were wearing bullet belts and showing off the Iron Maiden licks they finally learned?" or "Man, what was up with our indie rockers getting all hippie on us?"Music has pretty much always been the sum of whatever musicians are listening to; it's to our benefit that we've got a city filled with restless-eared musicians listening to a wide variety of music in this sped-up, hyper-connected era. So maybe there is a current Seattle sound after all. With apologies to Band of Horses, let's call it "everything all the time."

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