CACTUS

Interview: Aussie Transplants Miami Horror on Crafting Their Sound Ahead of Headlining The Independent 6/3

05/31/2015

Before Miami Horror headlines a sold out Independent on Wednesday, I had a chance interview Ben Plant, producer and creative force behind the band. They have been busy recently, moving from Australia to LA, exploring ways to to blend different genres into their music and putting out the album All Possible Futures. 

Miami Horror comes from Australia, a large island isolated from the rest of the world where marsupials and synth pop have flourished and evolved into creatures you can’t find anywhere else. The Australians have pushed the boundaries of electronic pop and created hundreds of sub-genres of synthpop. Miami Horror infuses their music with disco and other nostalgic elements, but what surprises me most is just how psycadelic the music can get. Especially the new album and tracks like “Forever Ever.” The biggest single is “Real Slow” an amazingly bouncy track that will have you bobbing whether you are hanging with friends, jamming in your car, or hating life at the office.
Read More

thumb_DSC_0024_1024

Photos: The Knocks & Phoebe Ryan Ignore the Fog to Bring Summer Vibes to Sold Out Independent

05/30/2015

If you love to dance there are few live shows that can compete with The Knocks. Thursday they put on a clinic in getting a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd moving. Outside the wind was howling and whipping up the fog, but inside warmth radiated off the crowd as The Knocks mixed a set filled with new songs, fan favorites and surprise guests.

Phoebe Ryan is supporting The Knocks on their short West Coast tour. Small in stature, the LA-based singer packs a wallop of personality and vocal power. Her smooth, breathy lyrics float on a bed of sparse electronic melodies and heavy drums. Accompanied by synth/keys and a live drummer the singer got the crowd going with her mashup of R. Kelly and Miguel “Iginition/ Do You…” and single “Mine.” She also played to the crowd with a song called “Chronic” about sex and well, chronic.

In one of the best moments I’ve seen recently at a show, someone brought a homemade sign for her high school band If The Shoe Fits, causing her to have a pretty good laugh on stage. After the her set she spent time with the fans taking pictures and talking, which is always nice to see. Read More

AlexWinston Press Photo 2_Credit to Emily Knecht

You should care about Alex Winston’s show @ The Fillmore 6/9

05/27/2015

For a few weeks, I’ve been listening to a lot of radio pop music and yearning for substance. Somehow substance (dynamic, nuanced, well-crafted songwriting) has not been one of the defining characteristics of commercially successful pop music for decades. Today, I got the sonic equivalent of a medium-rare, pan-seared filet mignon delivered right to my inbox: Alex Winston‘s “Careless,” which you can see and hear below. She’s hitting the Fillmore Tuesday 6/9 supporting Neon Trees, and we will be there.

When “Careless” starts, I first think I’ve accidentally clicked on a track from Daft Punk‘s Random Access Memories. Then Winston’s vocals hit, and they are full of a reserved emotion, held back as someone who is trying not to say something they really want to say. Cue the curt little smacks on the high hat, which you get from keeping the cymbals tight-lipped, so to speak. (Kate Bush‘s weirdly Baroque-pop “Army Dreamers” comes to mind, wrought with unspoken emotion.)

At 0:46 the whole song explodes open. A tom-heavy pick up lands in a wide, wet cymbal splash. Vocally, all reservations are abandoned, and the emotion morphs into a strong confidence, with a backing choir that has evaded over-production, keeping the feeling of a bunch of friends singing along. This chorus is truly careless, expansive. This chorus rewrites the rest of the song. Now the reserved verses feel like an inhale instead, with the next exhale just a pre-chorus away. Read More

DSC01205_a

Interview: Caitlin Canty brings gorgeous sparse Americana to Freight & Salvage

05/26/2015

The Freight & Salvage in downtown Berkeley is known for its excellent curation of folk, Americana and traditional music. You could just swing by on a Tuesday and be almost guaranteed an excellent show if these genres are your jam. If you were going to do that this week, however, we recommend you swing by on Friday night May 29th instead and catch Caitlin Canty open for Eilen Jewell.

Canty is a Vermont native living in Nashville who brings an unfettered voice and songwriting style that is at once reminiscent of Nicki Bluhm, and distinct from her. Where Bluhm veers towards the rock side of country, folk and blues, Canty steers closer to the folk side of blues and country. Where Bluhm exudes a lightness of heart even in the saddest song, Canty seems to bring a haunting sadness to every note she sings. While combining American genres earns them both the Americana tag, Canty’s Americana seems best suited to the intimate 500-seat Freight & Salvage listening room, which boasts some of the Bay’s best sound by the way. Read More

The Knocks

After Years of Putting in Work, The Knocks are Poised for a Huge 2015

05/21/2015

Earlier this month, I was checking Twitter (as I often do every minute of my waking life), and I saw The Knocks tweet that Apple was featuring them in the New Artist Spotlight on iTunes. I found this pretty funny, and I’m sure B-Roc (Ben Ruttner) and JPatt (James Patterson) had a little chuckle as well. For guys that have been putting out music and touring for over five years it must seem a little silly to be called a “new artist.” But even in a world where labels are turning out new 20 year old “DJs” every week, there are artists in the grind working on a unique sound. So far 2015 is looking like it might be huge for The Knocks.

The duo creates electronic music infused with disco licks, funky beats and deep house kicks. Like fashion styles, music is often cyclical, the 80s are back and funk is on the rise. If you distilled the past four decades of dance music into the best elements, what you would be left with is The Knocks. They call it retro-futurism and I guess I can get behind that term. It’s a style they have been perfecting for the past five-plus years and, while the music hasn’t changed drastically from “Dancing With The DJ” in 2010 to “Collect My Love” in 2015, the world is more hungry for the sound.

Read More

LIF_1758aaaaaaaaaaa-01 (1)

Up-and-Comers Life in Film Support The Wombats at the Fillmore this Saturday

05/14/2015

We have liked what we’ve heard so far from London’s indie rockers Life in Film. We first got wind of them back in February when they released single “It’s What Happens Next That Matters Most,” and have been anxious to get a glimpse of the quartet here in the Bay Area.

Luckily for us, they are playing the hallowed Fillmore this Saturday with fellow countrymen The Wombats. What’s better than a night of dancing to some of the UK’s best upbeat rock?

While The Wombats have made a name for themselves with tightly produced, quick hitting and high energy rock, Life in Film takes a lighter touch. Their folk, indie rock harmonies give way to long picks of twangy, low-fi guitar. Longing, salt-of-the-earth lyrics draw you in for an experience that feels both new and harkens back to the UK’s musical past.

Check out single “This is War” below and you can grab tickets to see The Wombats, Life in Film and Cheerleader for $20 plus fees here

DSC_0922

TICKET GIVEAWAY: 1939 Ensemble live at Elbo Room Monday 5/11

05/06/2015

It’s not entirely clear to me how two members of the Breeders are playing a Monday night at the Elbo Room in the Mission; it being a categorically small venue teetering on the edge of dive bar status. But they are, Monday May 11th. Though Kelley Deal’s new band R. Ring is headlining the night, it’s a group called the 1939 Ensemble that I’m most excited to see. A rhythm-nerd’s paradise, the band’s newly released track “Slade” will force you to stare, stomp, and shake your head. How can anyone’s hands move that fast? Call your drummer friends for date night, and if you’re lucky, it’ll be a cheap date … because we have two tickets to give away!  Read More

JoseGonzales_BimbosSF_042715_JKeefe_7D-0135.jpg

José González Throws Curve Balls @ Bimbo’s 365 Club

05/04/2015

Last Monday and Tuesday, one of San Francisco’s oldest and most storied nightclubs, Bimbo’s 365 Club in North Beach, hosted a rare pair of sold-out shows for Swedish singer-songwriter and guitarist José González. This is his first solo tour since 2008, to support his new record Vestiges and Claws. I’ve been wanting to seen him live for more than 10 years now, so I think I reached the maximum allowable score on the excitement scale for seeing a soft-spoken classical guitarist. Read More

IMG_20150428_225323

Mastodon and Clutch Show Metal’s Ability to Both Rock and Pull on Heartstrings @ The Fox Theater

05/01/2015

On Tuesday April 28, Mastodon and Clutch came to the Fox Theater in Oakland for the Missing Link Tour. Clutch opened the double bill with their punk influenced sounds and Mastodon closed the show with a more traditional metal sounding show, with all the typically intense guitar solos and beautiful transitions.

The vibe was friendly and easy going throughout the show. Although metal shows may be associated with angry people dressed in black garb, my experience has always been that the shows are pretty relaxed. During the sets, the intensity of the music on stage is so visceral that besides the smallish, yet consistently occupied mosh pit, most of the audience is attentively watching. The music tends to suck up and process all the angry energy that most listeners have at one time or another, leaving the person to enjoy the intricate musicianship and the beautiful surroundings of the Fox Theater.

Having never heard Clutch before, I was excited to see what they would be like, and they were great. Read More

IMG_2556.JPG

Photos: If You Saw Young Fathers and Mas Ysa at the Independent Saturday, You’re Lucky

04/29/2015

Young Fathers rocked the Independent Saturday with Mas Ysa in a show we have been looking forward to for a while now.

First up was Mas Ysa, is the stage name used by Thomas Arsenault. The artist was born in Canada, but went to high school in Brazil, where he began creating electronic music. His sound is refined and carries depth and soul with it. It’s pop music for the melancholy and existential. The energy in his showmanship translated to the crowd despite him being confined behind a desk of audio equipment. Barefooted, and bare-souled he stood on his tip toes shaking the sound up his body and out toward the audience. 

His set consisted of songs from his EP album Worth, released last February. He also performed his newest single “Look Up,” which was an anticipated crowd pleaser. He’ll accompany Young Fathers for most of their final U.S. tour dates, and will be performing with Tanlines for a couple appearances in New York next month.

After a fittingly energetic opening, Young Fathers arrived on stage. Read More

Newer Posts
Older Posts