Five ‘can’t miss’ foreign bands playing Seattle this month

Midnight City
M83: Big in Europe, better in Seattle (Photo by Rama)

Concert season is upon us, and what better time to discover some new music? Starting next week, a slew of amazing bands from overseas are playing in Seattle. Some have enough domestic charm that you’ll barely detect their accents, while others mix rock music with traditional African and Middle Eastern sounds.

Here’s a rundown of the top upcoming shows. Plan accordingly and live out the rest of your spring in style. 

1. The Naked and Famous

When: April 24 @ Showbox SoDo

Where They Came From: Formed in Auckland, New Zealand in 2008, this indie electronic outfit released their debut album “Passive Me, Aggressive You” in September of 2010 to critical acclaim, even having been named one of the 15 Breakout Bands of 2011 by the BBC. They have gone on to play several festivals stateside, including 107.7 The End’s Summer Camp in 2011.

Why You Should Care: This band has been touted as “one to watch” by both NPR and the BBC and has comfortably situated itself on every music blogger’s radar for the past year and for good reason. The overall electropop goodness and catchy choruses are undeniable.

What to Expect: Immaculate vocals and musicianship, a pleasant surprise for an act that came into being just a few years ago. Megan, who runs a media blog on Tumblr, says that the group has pulled out all the stops for their US tour. “The light show was beyond amazing, like nothing I’ve seen before,” she said, citing the overall vibe and the wild crowd as a testament to the magnetic stage presence that gave the band a leg up across the Pacific. This group has the opportunity and know-how to make it big, so catch them while you can!


2. Justice

When: April 25 @ The Paramount Theatre

Where They Came From: This Paris-based electronic production duo, consisting of Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay, first fell into the spotlight in 2007 with the release of their debut album and hype-ready single “D.A.N.C.E.”, both of which were hailed by critics and received three Grammy nominations. Their sophomore album, “Audio, Video, Disco” was released in October of last year.

Why You Should Care: If you’re looking to dance, forget the club. This is where you want to be. With their heavy rock and house influences, Justice never fails to amp up the energy with their deliciously cacophonous beats.

What to Expect: An illuminated cross in the middle of the stage will beckon you in, making the scene at first look like a religious revival gone horribly right…until the duo sits behind their pulpit and commands their chorus of electronics to blow your hair back. Just don’t let the term ‘dance music’ put you off; these guys pack a punch (see “Stress” for more details). Or better yet, check out their performance at this year’s Coachella.


3. M83

When: April 26 @ The Paramount Theatre

Where They Came From: Founded in 2001 in Antibes, France, this electropop group led by Spanish-French musician Anthony Gonzalez has six studio albums under its belt, including last year’s acclaimed double-disk release “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming,” which landed itself on most music outlets’ “Best Of” lists (including Spin and Paste).

Why You Should Care: With lead single “Midnight City” infiltrating the airwaves, charts, and the hearts of critics, the band seems to have been successfully upgraded from indiedom’s best kept secret to sought-after headliners, proving to new audiences that their sound is just as ethereal and immense as the galaxy for which they’re named.

What to Expect: Living up to the expectations that go along with their namesake, M83 performs with an army of synthesizers, strobe lights, lasers and most importantly, a backdrop of the night sky to achieve a cosmic effect. “They’ve done all the ground work for you,” 107.7 The End’s Live Music Blog reports, “all you need to do is stand there and try not to blink and miss something.” For those who enjoy ringing endorsements, recent UW graduate Evan Yang echoed The End’s sentiments and recommends the group for anyone who enjoys the likes of Sigur Ros, Bjork, and Active Child. The best word to describe the show? “Awesome.”


4. The Touré-Raichel Collective

When: April 28 @ The Triple Door

Where They Came From: Ok, so I cheated a bit. The Toure-Raichel Collective is in fact made up of two artists, Vieux Farke Toure (son of African blues pioneer Ali Farka Touré) and the Idan Raichel Project, who are co-headlining this tour across the United States, representing their home countries of Mali and Israel, respectively. After meeting by chance in a German airport, Toure and Raichel decided to collaborate. The result was this year’s release, “The Tel Aviv Session.”

Why You Should Care: Good music, plain and simple, that you won’t find on the radio. Touré builds his tunes from the ground up, starting with a foundation of folk and blues and infusing it with striking guitar lines and modern beats to transcend both age and musical tradition (listen to “Fafa” and tell me you don’t feel something). Similarly with Raichel, traditional Middle Eastern and Ethiopian instrumentation has made room for western pop sensibilities (see “Halomot”), creating a sound ridiculously accessible and intriguing to new listeners.

What to Expect: You won’t find any dramatic lighting effects, but the rich instrumentation should be enough to keep you on your toes. These musicians are practically idolized in their home nations and have gained worldwide respect from fellow artists for their craft individually. Together, their sound is exactly what a jam session should be: quietly energetic, freeform, and organic. “We went to the basics of both of our cultures and we just let the music flow,” Raichel told NPR.


5. Tinariwen

When: June 12 @ Showbox at the Market

Where They Came From: This collective of musicians hails from the southern region of the Sahara, where its founding members met in a rebel camp, determined to protect their homes and fellow Tuareg people. Through their plaintively honest messages and highly-political origins, the group’s music allows western audiences into what Dave Segal of The Stranger calls their “stunning translations of refugee hardship into slow-building, ecstatic sonic consolation.” Just this past year, their album “Tassili” won the Grammy for Best World Music Album. And hey, they’ve even shared the stage with Bono.

Why You Should Care: Their name alone, roughly translated to “empty places,” paints a picture of a vast landscape, rich with muted, organic colors while their incessant yet melancholic guitar riffs do more than fill the void – they give life to it.

What to Expect: The group is prone to jam sessions in the middle of a set, but instead of coming off as self-important, the effect is magnetic. Of their previous Seattle performance, Seattle Weekly’s Chris Kornelis gushed over the band’s grooves, which he described as “thick and syrupy and seemingly executed effortlessly.” The fact that you may not speak the same language as this band is irrelevant – the emotion poured into the music is universal. Have a look at their jam session with members of the Brooklyn-based band TV on the Radio.



Kelsie Mhoon is a journalism student at the University of Washington and has written for several Next Door Media outlets. She is currently an intern at Seattle Weekly and is a contributing writer and artist for the LA-based Biji Magazine.