SONG OF THE DAY: David Bowie blesses us with creepy new music


Have you seen this? David Bowie is putting out a new album, Blackstar (due out January 8), and released this nearly 10-minute long short film a few days ago as the first single. If this video is any indication of what’s to come, we are no doubt in for a sweeping and cinematic saga ripe with genre-defying sounds, dark and mystical allusions and the inimitable Bowie oddness that has been alluring audiences for over 50 years. I’m as awed as I’ve ever been with this rock icon who continues to be at the vanguard of musical innovation and exploration. See/listen for yourself.

“Blackstar” ~ David Bowie

Youth Lagoon Makes First Ever Appearance at The Fillmore


Last Wednesday night, a nearly sold out Fillmore welcomed lo-fi pop group Youth Lagoon to the stage for the very first time. Playing in such an iconic venue – where the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd all performed – one would think Youth Lagoon would come prepared to put on one of their best shows ever. Especially since this stop in SF was going to be one of their last before heading overseas for a month-long tour across Europe. But the lack of engagement from Trevor Powers (the lead singer of the group), as well as the dismissal of a few key songs, left many fans feeling dissatisfied. Remarks on the “ridiculously short encore” and clarifying questions such as “I didn’t miss any of the beginning, right?” were frequently heard as concert-goers filed out of the venue.

Powers started the show apologizing and admitting to the crowd that he felt sick. After theatrically taking a shot of honey to sooth his vocal chords, the group kicked into “No One Can Tell,” a song off their most recent album Savage Hills Ballroom.

Throughout the rest of the night, Youth Lagoon consistently alternated between playing songs off their three albums. A very clear distinction could be heard when the group played a song from The Year of Hibernation, their very first album, versus a song from Wondrous Bughouse or Savage Hills Ballroom.
The Year of Hibernation, which debuted in 2011, is filled with mellow keys and soft, conversational-style lyrics. The songs sound like they were recorded in a tiny bedroom, giving the listener a feeling of familiar intimacy. As soon as the lights dimmed and Powers sat down at the keyboard, the Fillmore crowd knew what to expect. Wondrous Bughouse and Savage Hills Ballroom are much more aggressive in nature, with layered drums and melodic precision. Powers and the group really showed off their diversity with this album, shifting away from the dream-like, hazy nature and moving more towards blunt force and kinetic sounds. This shift became extremely evident when Powers abandoned his mellow keyboard and started jerking and thrashing around on stage during the songs “Officer Telephone” and “Dropla.” Read More

PHOTOS: Sturgill Simpson @ The Fox Oakland – Evolution All The Way


Whether he wants to or not, Sturgill Simpson is evolving country music. To be honest, I hesitate to peg him as a country artist, even though I can’t possibly leave country out of describing him or his show Wednesday night at The Fox in Oakland. The problem is “country music” is a goddamned subjective matter.

On the one hand, there’s a strong faction — you can find their creed at, which should give you a sense of where they come from — desperate to be done with “Bro Country” as the music of mainstream country stars like Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton is called. That faction holds to the theory that pop-country is fed by the industry not the fans. That REAL country music isn’t dead, “it’s just being hidden from you.” These people claim Sturgill Simpson is making real country music, and they see him as one of the leaders in bringing it back to the mainstream, along with Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton and others.

Sure enough, taking in the show with a sold-out crowd, there were strong currents of classic country singers and songwriters – those in the outlaw country tradition such as Waylon Jennings, to whom Simpson is most often compared, and of course Johnny Cash with that rich deep baritone voice. There are whiskey, drugs, dreams and demons, lost things. Not many minor chords, but still somehow you feel sad. And there’s this sense of anarchy. Structured chaos, as if the sound itself were rebelling against some other set of sounds. Simpson himself is about as outlaw as they come these days — literally clad in a blue collared shirt, he’s the grandson of a mining family from Kentucky and formerly associated with the Navy and the Union Pacific. When he set out in 2013 with his debut High Top Mountain, he told Saving Country Music, Read More

Noise Pop Festival Returns February with Early Headliners The Mountain Goats, Vince Staples, Parquet Courts, The Cave Singers, HEARTWATCH + Many More


It’s always an exciting time of the year when we get our first glimpse at the Noise Pop lineup. We know we’re going to get some high quality acts in settings that highlight some of our favorite local music venues. The festival runs February 19th through 28th this year, so expect to see more acts and a film announcement soon. Badges and tickets go on sale Friday at 11am PST here (starting at $145 for all non-seated shows + special events).

Noise Pop feels different than other festivals here in the Bay Area. They claim over 200,000 combined attendees for the 2015, but having the shows in our great local venues makes each show intimate. Sometimes the big events feel like a carnival that rolls in and out of town, Noise Pop has a more tangible connection to our local music community.

They also tend to do a better job at promoting local acts, not sticking them in that 11am Sunday slot like Outside Lands for example. Make sure to catch some of the local talent on the bill including HEARTWATCH, Astronauts, ETC, and it looks like there is a Film School reunion this year.

Acts announced so far:
Astronauts, Etc. (Oakland)
Beacon (our previous review)
Film School (SF)
Heartwatch (our previous coverage) (SF)
Kamasi Washington (previous coverage)
Natasha Kmeto
Parquet Courts
The Cave Singers (previous coverage)
The Mountain Goats (previous coverage)
The Thermals (previous coverage)
Vince Staples
Wild Ones (previous coverage)
Art by Kii Arens

SONG OF THE DAY: “Glory Days” by 1955


Check out this video from Bay Area band 1955, weaving a tight rock n roll sound that throws back (and sideways) to Nick Cave, The Strokes, The Black Keys and even some new wave vibes. The video cultivates the song’s wicked hook and plays out in vivid Palm Springs detail the irony of the song. Where at first it seems like singer Sasha Papadin is truly reveling in the good life, that image is slowly diluted by insinuations lyrically and visually that maybe the whole idea of “Glory Days” is a sham, brought down upon us from our Capitalist Overlords. (As an interesting side note, Papadin is the son of a Russian poet, Valentin Papadin, who defected from the communist Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War.)

The success of a video like this one is that I immediately want to watch it again. But not just to take in the story again with this new lens – which only makes the video better and better with each watch; it’s also to get another dose of the tune, which I, at least, find rather infectious.

1955 play Brick & Mortar next week on Friday the 20th. Tickets here.

“Glory Days” – 1955 

Freddy & Francine bring powerhouse Americana/soul to the Lost Church Thursday 11/12


A few weeks ago at a folk music conference in Oakland, I had my mind blown by two Americana/soul singers who call themselves Freddy & Francine. Their actual names are Lee Ferris and Bianca Caruso. I always love when people move from epic names to more commonplace ones. There’s something humble about it. The music, however, is entirely epic, with emotional melodies that wring you out like a sweat rag. When the foot stomping starts and the harmonies let loose, your heart will explode and you’ll be lifted out of the fog of whatever depression the daily grind has lowered into your mind.

“You Are Not My Maker” – Freddy & Francine.

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Photos: Leon Bridges Harkens Back to an Earlier Era of R&B at Sold Out Fillmore


In a little over a year, Leon Bridges has gone from being freshly signed to building a passionate cult following. His debut album, Coming Home, reached No. 8 in the US, introducing the world to his new wave of guitar soaked 50s-inspired soul.

He was welcomed last week to San Francisco to play at a sold-out Fillmore. His retro soul was at home in the historic venue which joins San Francisco’s Fillmore and Western Addition districts. The area known as “The Harlem of the West” was a fitting location for Leon Bridges to perform music which heavily throws back to sounds of early-civil rights era R&B.

Looking around the Fillmore there were flutters of people wearing vintage clothing; white shirts, skinny ties and waistcoats were the garments of choice. It made for a nice contrast seeing the retro-fitted fashionistas cozying up to people from all walks of life there to enjoy the man of the moment. Read More

Nothing Weird Going On in the Van: An Interview with Graham Ulicny of Reptar


About halfway through my interview with Graham Ulicny, singer and guitarist for Athens, GA-born Reptar, he pauses. “Hold on one second, I think we’re coming to a check-in point or something.” After a few moments of silence, I can hear the entire band erupt in laughter as they leave the check-in point (which was in the middle of the Arizona desert). “He asked if we were on a school outing. Yep… we’re just some school boys driving to San Diego… some nice american school boys.” He added, “nothing weird going on in here… at the moment.”

But things certainly do get awesomely weird when they take the stage. Reptar is set to play the Rickshaw Stop tonight – get your tickets here before they sell out.

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Photos: Treasure Island Music Festival Day 2 The National, Chvrches, Panda Bear, Father John Misty and Many More


Words and Photos by Pedro Paredes-Haz

There are a lot of things that set Treasure Island Music Festival apart from the other festivals we see in Northern California. First we have the beautiful setting, you really can’t beat being in the middle of the Bay during the Indian Summer. Secondly is the alternating format where every act is just a minute’s walk away, eliminating the FOMO experienced at other festivals. But perhaps the thing that sets the festival furthest apart from the competition is loading Saturday with the dance acts and Sunday with buzzed about indie rock acts. This isn’t a hard set rule and there are dance acts on Sunday and indie acts on Saturday, but the vibes are definitely very different.

This year we were treated to an absolutely stellar set of acts on Sunday. The action started early with acts like Viet Cong, Mikhail Cronin and Ex Hex and continued all the way through closing act The National. Check out our gallery for some great shots of all the acts. I’ll focus on some of my favorite acts for the review.

José González

There are few things that say lazy Sunday afternoon more perfectly than José González. The Swedish folk singer filled the breezy afternoon with a mixture of original songs, covers and songs by members of his accompanying band. He gave the crowd what they were waiting for on the last song, playing his cover of “Heartbeats” by The Knife solo as the band and audience looked on. It’s hard to say a cover is better than an original, especially in this case because the original is so good, but in this case it might be true.

Panda Bear

Even while watching him create music live, I often can’t figure out how Panda Bear AKA Noah Lennox weaves such complex beats and melodies together. A one man music machine, Lennox looks so unassuming, but the way he composes music and mixes his own voice is genius.

For me the best moment was hearing “Boys Latin” off the new album Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper live. The beat is a deep industrial shoe gaze and Lennox’s vocals are almost gregorian. You will never hear vowels the same again. Read More

SONG OF THE DAY: Foxtails Brigade inject ghosts into Joanna Newsom’s “Book of Right On”


If you know local band Foxtails Brigade (OIM Records) — whose career got a boost recently when their video for “Far Away And Long Ago” won the a Best Music Video Award at the Atlanta Underground Film Festival — you know that they have an uncanny ability to make creepy sound beautiful. Their cover of Joanna Newsom‘s quirky and sparse “Book of Right On,” released today, does just this, paying homage while injecting haunting echoes and empty spaces in a terrifically beautiful way.

No one will argue that Joanna Newsom is a brilliant musician, but many people are turned off by her warbly voice. (Personally I love it.) Foxtails Brigade’s lead singer (and songwriter) Laura Weinbach’s smooth and controlled voice blasts that concern out of the park. It is underpinned by her distinctive guitar plucking reminiscent (in the best way) of a barely functioning music box that lets loose a few notes at midnight when insomnia is plaguing the house. (Weinbach’s the Hollywood-born daughter of a horror film maker and cult comedian.) Washed in and then stripped of a dozen other plucking sounds – the blerping of a space machine, a glockenspiel, distorted guitar wahs – the song keeps a percussive, staccato feel while still feeling orchestral as the lead melody strings us along. This is gothic folk at its best. Have a listen below and tell us if you agree. (You can also download the song for free via Soundcloud.)

They are playing Amnesia on Friday October 30th, but are headed for much bigger stages. Catch them in this intimate setting while you can. Foxtail Brigade puts on an incredible live show full of musical prowess.

Annie Bacon / @anniebacon

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