Whether you’re craving vintage grooves from Latin America or leaning towards some moody tunes from the UK, there are all sorts of international performers coming to Seattle this spring. And the best part? You won’t have to break the bank or drive out to a festival ground to get your music fix. May these artists tide you over until summer!
The story of the Skatalites is something out of legend. Though the group had only released one LP together in 1964 before disbanding a year later, they are credited with defining and perfecting the “Jamaican sound” of the late 50s and 60s.
Pioneers of the ska genre, their work paved the way for reggae to take the world by storm years later and their legacy has carried on into the new millennium. They are best known for their adaption of the “Guns of Navarone” theme and their collaborations (often uncredited) with many leading Jamaican artists, including Prince Buster, Duke Reid, and Bob Marley and the Wailers. The Skatalites had even led the recording sessions that birthed the Wailers’ single “Simmer Down.”
The group reunited in the 70s and 80s during the second and third wave ska revivals to record new material and embark on a few worldwide tours. Last year’s release Walk With Me features the final recordings of founding member Lloyd Knibb on percussion.
Today, Lester Sterling, alto saxophone player, is the last remaining founding member in the group. Onstage, he is joined by eight accomplished musicians who carry on the spirit and the tradition of The Skatalites. Impeccable technique and high energy rhythms make this a show not to miss, not just for the sake of history, but for those who want to witness pure, unadulterated ska at its finest.
Los Amigos Invisibles
This six-piece band from Venezuela formed in the early 90s, emerging as a technicolor oddity amidst a scene of grunge and garage rock.
Their penchant for mixing funk and popular dance music styles made them a staple in underground dance halls and the group was met with high acclaim when they dropped their debut album A Typical and Autoctonal Venezuelan Dance Band in 1995.
Their reputation eventually gained them attention worldwide, earning them two Latin Grammy Awards, one for Best Rock Album in 2000 and Best Alternative Music Album in 2009. Their tenth studio album Repeat After Me, released this year, successfully harnesses the disco anthem sound you’d find in any roller rink, while showcasing some fantastic bass lines (“Robot Love” and the English-language track “Sex Appeal”) and happy whistling melodies (“La Que Me Gusta”).
Marina and the Diamonds
Welsh singer-songwriter Marina Diamandis is one of those artists who cannot nestle into a genre and stay put.
Her debut album The Family Jewels, released in 2010, cemented her status as one of the UK’s strongest up and coming acts. And stateside, Diamandis has had the opportunity to expand her empire by touring with Katy Perry and Coldplay.
Last year’s release Electra Heart further demonstrated her love of the eclectic, from Regina Spektor-esque piano-driven numbers to more upbeat pop songs that straddle the line between New Wave and Glam Rock. At its heart, this is pop music with an outrageous and out of the box attitude, and a style (think Old Hollywood meets Roy Lichtenstein) to match.
An English singer-songwriter known for blending folk and pop sensibilities, Beth Orton effectively launched her career in the early 90s through collaborations with super producers William Orbit (including her first single “Water from a Vine Leaf”) and the Chemical Brothers. Her second album, Trailer Park, arrived in 1996 at the height of Britpop, just the right time to make her stand out from the pack and win critical acclaim.
Trip-hop and electronica influences were apparent in her songwriting, leading many to dub her music “folktronica,” though her albums in the years after took a more definitive acoustic and introspective turn. Her sixth studio album, Sugaring Season, was released last year and displays her most organic folk sound to date. Orton’s soulful voice and stripped-down melodies making her deeply personal lyrics all the more dynamic.
Signed to Seattle’s own Sub Pop, this indie rock quintet from England released their debut album Antidotes in 2008, but it was their second album, 2010’s “Total Life Forever”, that brought the band worldwide attention, thanks in part to popularity of the stirring track “Spanish Sahara”. The album was nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize later that year.
Their newest album Holy Fire stays true to their experimental/progressive rock roots, though there’s a decidedly more mature and polished feel overall, from the moody atmospheric track “Late Night” to the upbeat TV on the Radio-esque “Inhaler.” Continuing their tradition of layering synthesizers and watery guitars with stuttering rhythms and dissonance, Foals creates a kind of ambiance that’s conflicting in the best possible way: one moment it’s relaxing, the next it’s unsettling.