Illustration by Shannon DeLurio
Bellingham has given the world of music two massively popular acts, Death Cab for Cutie and Odesza. Bellingham has a large and varied music scene with shows constantly occurring at any one of its various craft breweries. Sometimes, it’s difficult to find these artists. These are some local artist I found and wanted to write about, this is not a review by any means, just my impressions.
Alpha Cat – From the Trailer Park to the Tour Bus:
Alpha Cat is a rapper and producer, his album “From the Trailer Park to the Tour Bus” was released in 2016. Alpha Cat describes his music as hip hop, rap and conscious rap. Notably, Alpha Cat sounds like something from the bling era of rap, the early 2000’s to late 2000’s, characterized by artists such as Lil Wayne. The album’s title even feels like a throwback to the bygone era of bling rap.
The outdated sound of “From the Trailer Park to the Tour Bus” is something that nagged me the entire time I listened to it. In my opinion, a lot of bling rap has not aged terribly well. The recording quality and mixing quality often sounds poor which doesn’t help album.
There’s a point on the song “High in the Sky” where a line is briefly repeated, and the first time I heard it, I checked Spotify to make sure it wasn’t glitching out. No, that is genuinely how the track played.
The lyrics are cringey and generic. On the track “No Apologies” Alpha Cat says the line, “we’re poppin’ like a baby out a pregnant chick.” Yikes.
The album over extends itself as well, such as on the track “Late Night Magic,” where Alpha Cat attempts to make a sexy R&B track which is anything but sexy. If the album wanted to be a nod to bling era, go for it, but consistency and quality are key.
Overall, I wish I could get the 55 minutes of my life back that I dedicated to listening to this. If you are interested in listening to a song by Alpha Cat, listen to “Big Body Block.” It’s still fairly un-enjoyable but it has a 90’s west coast hip-hop vibe. I would highly recommend skipping the Alpha Cat verses and listening to the Blacknificent feature, which is actually pretty decent.
barnes blvd. – last summer
barnes blvd is a producer and musician who released the album “last summer” in 2018. The album is made up of 11, relatively short, lofi hip-hop beats. Songs of the album would not feel misplaced on the often meme’d about lo-fi hip beats – beats to study/relax/game to.
However, I strongly feel that putting any song off this album on that playlist would be a great disservice. While these are lo-fi hip hop beats, barnes blvd laces folk and indie rock instrumentals into his tracks which gives the music a unique flare. The inclusion of mundane sounds such as birds chirping or rain creates a sense of atmosphere and cohesion that rounds out the album.
Second, the album needs to be listened to front to back. You can cherry pick certain songs and it’s still enjoyable, but there’s something to be said about the fact it’s so much more enjoyable to listen to front to back.
The sound is best described as a happy sadness. Although the album is quite brief at 25 minutes long, it feels like a journey and certainly leaves me wanting more.
The album has a strong sense of cohesion from the music, to album artwork, to the album name everything fits in place perfectly which bolsters the atmosphere.
The song “Epilogue” is a standout moment on the album. The song is almost entirely a candid conversation, with a poetry reading. Light instrumentals swell behind the poetry/conversation. After the poetry concludes, the track becomes slowly muted and birds chirping is all that can be heard. It’s a perfect send off for the end of the album (not counting the bonus track).
I’d absolutely recommend listening to this.
Dog Mountain – Meadow:
Dog Mountain is an alt-rock band. Their album “Meadow” came out in 2018 and is so far their only album to date. Their sound is reminiscent of early 2000’s alt-rock akin to early Modest Mouse or Wolf Parade. Of course, Dog Mountain’s sound is all their own and is not ripping off either of these artists.
Tracks sometimes feel chaotic dipping in to crunchy garage rock and at other times sounding spacy and psychedelic.
I was instantly captivated by the first track, “Mansion.” It begins fairly melancholy and explodes halfway through before mellowing out again. The somewhat manic nature of the song was captivating.
“Dead Mountain Dog Eye” and “Mansion” are two tracks that exhibit what I found most enjoyable about Dog Mountain and that’s unpredictability of their music. I found myself expecting songs to remain static throughout their run time, but at unexpected moments bursts of energy or tonal shifts would appear.
Even if these moments aren’t unexpected, like in the song “Casey,” which alternates between thundering and mellow, it keeps the album fresh and interesting through its 38-minute run time.
The song “I Hate Summer” stuck with me upon my first listen. The narrative of wanting to be alone and stay inside during summer, which is arguably the best time to be in Bellingham, really interested me.
There really isn’t much more I need to say about this album, my first impression is that I really enjoyed my time with this album and believe it’s well worth a listen.
Each of these artists have their music on Spotify, but Spotify pays small artists poorly. Making music is hard and these artists are passionate about what they’re creating. Support your local artists. If you listen to and enjoy any of these artists, purchase their music. You can purchase Alpha Cat’s music on ReverbNation, barnes blvd. on Bandcamp and Dog Mountain on Bandcamp.