Best New Music 2017

Photo by Toryan Dixon

Seattle history is crowded with musical legends as tall as the Space Needle—and just as old. But far more relevant in 2017 are those stories rooted in the shadows, iconic Seattle stories that bloom eternal despite ongoing ignorance or indifference. They’re the stories of marginalized people who’ve been here for generations, living and creating without the benefit of institutionalized mythmaking. If today we aspire to be a place of radical inclusion we’d do well to recognize the awakened individuals already among us. We’d do well to let music show us the way.

Our music, with its grunge-ridden tradition of confessional earnestness and disdain for commercialization. Its compulsion to celebrate in the face of strife, to rock our way out of the darkness. Its myriad faces and voices and sounds that fly under the radar elsewhere but sing the story of this place to the people who live here. Let’s wake up to that open-minded West Coast sensibility that we helped cultivate. Let’s embrace the song next door.

In reporting this issue, I spoke to more than a dozen talented, inquisitive, activated musicians, musicians of every color, gender, sexuality; purveyors every conceivable genre and style. Over and over I heard people intent on conveying a groove while seeking the truth. People intent on making the world better. Self-aware people. One of them, Stephon Dorsey, who makes sensitive, sensual soul music under the name Goodsteph, had rekindled his teenage appreciation for James Baldwin, the brilliant Black intellectual whose conflicted life is remembered in the recent film I Am Not Your Negro.

Dorsey recalled a moment from the film that has provided him with his current artistic MO. Baldwin was being interviewed on TV and describing “apathy and ignorance” as the price America pays for it history of segregation, both institutional and voluntary. “It’s what segregation means,” Baldwin explains. “You don’t know what’s happening on the other side of the wall because you don’t want to know.”

People want to know about music—now more than ever. Which is why music, Dorsey told me, in all its myriad forms, disparate voices and looming social influence, is so important: “That’s the cure. That’s the bridge. To trump segregation and the separateness that our country was built on. How can we use art and music and culture to let people come get a peek at the other side of the wall? Art is humanity. Getting down to what is true to humankind. That’s the work we’re doing.”

And this is the music we’re listening to. Welcome to City Arts’ Best New Music 2017.

Taylar Elizza Beth

Exploded, Deconstrcuted Soul

Sera Cahoone

Sera Cahoone releases her fourth album of pop-polished country folk—and it may be her best work yet.

New Track City

Upbeat, Infectious Hip-hop


Elegant Downtempo Soul


Anti-Establishmnent Digi-Pop

Moon Palace Meets Pierced Ears

Aaron Schroeder’s latest studio makes room for creativity.

Northern Natives

A Collective Updating Neo-soul, Streamlining Hip-hop and Funkifying EDM

Emma Lee Toyoda

Panoramic Folk Rock

Paradigm Shift

Seattle’s best dance party tracks the city’s ongoing evolution.