What D.C. Releases To Pay Attention To This Year

By WAMU Staff

Dutch producer Martyn, a Northern Virginia resident, releases his third LP this year.
Dutch producer Martyn, a Northern Virginia resident, releases his third LP this year. Edwige Hamben

Bandwidth contributors tell us what local recordings they’re most looking forward to in 2014.

Deleted Scenes, “Lithium Burn”
April 15, Park the Van/Nevado

Deleted Scenes’ 2011 breakthrough album, “Young People’s Church of the Air,” shifted the D.C. indie-rock band in a more experimental direction, but the hyperactive “Stutter”—the first single from the group’s forthcoming followup—indicated that the foursome has definitively taken off the parking brake. That song might be the most loopy on the album. But Deleted Scenes’ less madcap singles, like “You Get To Say Whatever You Want,” showcase the skills of producers Brian McTear and Jonathan Low (also known for their work with Sharon Van Etten, Kurt Vile, and The War on Drugs), who have cast off the impenetrable haze of “Young People’s Church of the Air” and sharpened every element on the record—most notably singer Dan Scheuerman’s formidable voice. (Valerie Paschall)

Typefighter, “The End of Everything”
April 22, Huge Witch Records

Since releasing its first EPs, Typefighter has ditched the banjo and acoustic guitars and turned up to 11. Songs like the anthemic single “Much” show that the quartet can do triumphant guitar riffs just as well as Titus Andronicus—though Typefighter hasn’t yet veered into rock-opera territory. But the band still knows how to channel a moment: On the album’s title track and the sentimental “I Like the Way You Are,” they set aside noise and let singer Ryan McLaughlin’s raw voice hang either forlornly (the former) or gratefully (the latter) in the ether adding depth to what is otherwise a perfectly welcome stomper. (Valerie Paschall)

Protect-U, “Free USA”
May 13, Future Times

If “Time 2 Technique” offers a preview of what’s in store for Protect-U’s first LP, “Free USA” should be one of the year’s must-have electronic albums. D.C. musicians Mike Petillo and Aaron Leitko have released tracks here and there, laying a foundation with beats that would get even the most sedentary listener’s head bopping; but now, they seem to have mixed the funky beats that made “Motorbike” so urgent with the twinkling synths that colored their early tracks like “U-Uno” and “Double Rainbow.” There aren’t many albums that can work for people in any mood and any setting, but this could be one of them. (Valerie Paschall)

Gods’Illa, “Believe in Gods’Illa”
June, self-released

It’s still unbelievable when you think about it: That Gods’Illa‘s 2011 project, “CPR: The Blend Tape” was hosted by the great Erykah Badu. That’s not a slight against the Forestville, Md., hip-hop trio. But the famous vocalist’s appearance seemed to validate the group—which spits conscious bars just as ably as lyrics about nothing—and brought more attention to what truly was an excellent tape. Its new album, “Believe In Gods’Illa,” arrives with just as much promise—even without a celebrity endorsement. (Marcus J. Moore)

Priests, “Bodies and Control and Money and Power”
June 3, Don Giovanni/Sister Polygon

On its earlier material, D.C. quartet Priests shredded through angry, political, surf-flecked punk rock—and both releases spoke to the band’s immense potential. Now, having honed its sound and message with incessant touring, the group has become the most promising torchbearer of D.C.’s vibrant punk and riot grrrl traditions. “Right Wing,” Priests’ first single from this summer’s “Bodies and Control and Money and Power” is almost startling in its cleanly produced and spot-on D.C.-via-L7 sound. If the rest of the album is as laden with hooks and sing-along refrains as its first single, the band may have to sink their fingernails into the dirt to keep from being dragged out of the underground. (Ron Knox)

Martyn, “The Air Between Words”
June 16, Ninja Tune

It’s odd to think of Dutch-born house/dubstep/techno producer Martyn as a local artist. The Northern Virginia resident doesn’t play many local dates, and he hasn’t made much of a mark on D.C.’s electronic-music scene since he moved to the area (for love) in 2009. But Martyn is kind of slippery that way anyway; he subtly changes sounds almost as often as he boards an airplane. His second album, the thrilling 2011 LP “Ghost People,” traded in quick-footed, high-energy house music, but his debut LP, 2009’s “Great Lengths,” borrowed a little more from dubstep. For his third album out this summer, Martyn promises yet another shift: something closer to his debut, but still different, he told Resident Advisor. No word on live D.C. dates yet, but I won’t hold my breath. (Ally Schweitzer)

The 1978ers, “People of Today”
July, Mello Music Group

yU is always thoughtful, from his elaborate rhyme cadence to his evocative beats. For his solo work, namely 2010’s “Before Taxes” and 2011’s “the EARN,” yU riffed on daily endeavors and kept an eye toward brighter times. On “People of Today,” yU will join producer SlimKat as The 1978ers—both were born in 1978—for a thoughtful narrative about everyday folks. That’s not surprising, given yU’s low-key demeanor and common-man ethos; there’s a reason he’s called the “humble king.” (Marcus J. Moore)

Warning: This song contains explicit lyrics.

Diamond District, “March on Washington”
September, Mello Music Group

Released in 2009, Diamond District’s “In the Ruff” arrived the same year President Obama took office. But while huge swaths of the city celebrated the country’s first black president, “In the Ruff” kept D.C.’s blight in full view with its grainy beats and raw rhymes. Since then, group members Oddisee, Uptown XO and yU have made significant strides, and “In the Ruff” is considered a landmark album for DMV hip-hop. What will they do for an encore? (Marcus J. Moore)

Warning: This song contains explicit lyrics.

Ex Hex’s debut album
Release date to be announced, Merge

Some of the best parts of Wild Flag’s 2011 LP happened when Mary Timony channeled her inner ’70s crotch-rocker, and Ex Hex is basically that distilled into one band. The trio’s first 7-inch, released last month, is a power-rockin’ blast, especially “Waterfall.” It’s music for leather jackets and Miller Genuine Draft—about fun and not much else—and that’s part of what makes Ex Hex one of the most exciting new D.C. rock bands in years. (Ally Schweitzer)

The Black Sparks’ debut album
Release date to be announced

The term “high school band” usually serves as an excuse for terrible music. But the high schoolers in The Black Sparks have played together for five years, and if last month’s show in Bethesda with Priests, Give and Vile Faith offered any indication, the band’s sound is maturing quite nicely. The Black Sparks established themselves as a solid hardcore act. Now their new material finds them snaking through a more complex (albeit still brutal) instrumental attack rather than merely pummeling the audience with a two-minute adrenaline rush. There’s no name or date for their forthcoming album yet, but they’ve just recorded their material at Inner Ear—a good omen in itself. (Valerie Paschall)