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Song of the day: Happy Hollows’ “Way Home” gets you into the weekend

03/25/2016

Do you ever have things you keep meaning to do and then keep not-doing and then suddenly when you do it, you realize that you were perhaps cosmically meant to do it at that time and place and none other?  Well … welcome to Happy Hollows‘ “Way Home”, released in late February and only now being shared with you. It was meant for today. Bright shining sky. Friday. This is the song that you need to propel you into this very weekend. You can thank my overcrowded brain later for this impeccable timing.

Unbelievably catchy and hook-filled, this song weaves vocal melancholy with bright synth staircases that lift you up and out of the depths. It feels at once nostalgic and futuristic.  Standing out are guitarist and vocalist Sarah Negahdari’s rich and nimble phrasing on both instruments — vocally somewhere between The Pretenders’ Chrissy Hinds and My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Nova — and the drumming by Daniel Marcellus — cracking and romping decisively and reminding me of the difference between the machines and the humans. The drums wax polyrhythmic and I lean closer to the shimmering possibilities of my weekend.

The song – and presumably others – was just recorded and mixed between Los Angeles and London in collaboration with Lewis Pesacov (Best Coast) and Gareth Jones (Grizzly Bear, Interpol, Depeche Mode).

Enjoy.

Happy Hollows – “Way Home”

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Reisender Brings Busking to the Stage @ Neck of the Woods, Releases Debut Album

03/15/2016

If you go into any major city, there’s a pretty high chance you’ll see someone playing music on the street. Whether that’s a man sitting cross legged in the subway station with an old beat up guitar or a full on drum circle complete with trombones and digeridoos, chances are you’re going to a dose of (sometimes shitty, but never unwelcoming) street music.

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LIVE REVIEW + PICS: Kaleo’s polished rock & roll crushes at the Independent

03/11/2016

Last night’s sold out show at the Independent was a band you may not have heard of … yet. Unmistakably a rock & roll band, Kaleo has clearly studied its blues, gospel and country western roots. Throughout the 90-minute set, the band was effortless in the genre. From the first screams on opening number “No Good,” to drummer David Antonsson Crivello on his feet with sticks in the air to spur the crowd to its feet, from the shining sunburst Les Paul in Rubin Pollock’s adept hands and the blues-rock licks leaping from them, my head swirled with thoughts of Credence Clearwater Revival, Led Zeppelin, early Rolling Stones, the classic rock of my childhood.

Now that we’ve established that — that Kaleo is clearly a rock & roll band — I’m going to tell you all the ways that they aren’t JUST a rock & roll band. Photographer Nate Chavez and I agree: Kaleo is classic rock + Bon Iver + a boat load of polish and composure. Read More

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Photos: Animal Collective Return to the Bay to Thrill Fans at The Fox Theater

03/11/2016

Monday, Oakland’s Fox Theater opened its doors to greet a hungry crowd not ready to let the weekend go yet, as Animal Collective returned to the Bay Area under the wings of Painting With, their latest studio album. The last time the band from Baltimore was in town was for the 2013 edition of Treasure Island Music Festival, where I was able to see them for the first time. With the show taking place indoors at the beautiful Fox and featuring a new album that has a much “poppier” sound, I was curious to hear the result.

To warm things up, Ratking jumped on stage at 8pm sharp. The New York hip hop trio is to rap as Animal Collective is to pop. Their unique form of rap was filled with electronic beats and quickly captured the crowd, many of them already familiar with the act. Singer/rapper Wiki moved around the stage like a shark in a cage while performing songs from their 2014 LP, So it Goes.

At 9:15, it was Animal Collective’s turn and, as Panda Bear, Geologist and Avey Tare took their respective positions, a weird, trippy party began. The stage was decorated with dadaist and Picasso-looking images, full of color, in line with the sound of their new album. The band chose to play mostly new cuts off Painting With, probably to the dismay of some fans hoping to hear hits from previous albums. From the Merriweather Post Pavillon era, the only song chosen for the night was “Daily Routine”, which was received with great joy from the audience. But even though their most well-known hits were missing from the setlist, nobody seemed to be disappointed with the high energy show. Perhaps because AC has never been the type of band to rely on old classics, so the expectations were set accordingly. Or perhaps because Painting With is another great album filled with songs that the listeners are eager to hear live. Or perhaps the energy from their shows is enough. No matter what is the reason, the show delivered and people were happy. No matter what setlist, an AC concert is an experience that goes beyond the music.

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SONG OF THE DAY: Foxtails Brigade “Nun But The Lost”

03/10/2016

Foxtails Brigade is gearing up to release a full-length album on April 8th on OIM Records (US) and Rallye Label (Japan). They dropped their second single “Nun But The Lost” yesterday and it’s a sonic adventure, changing keys 15 times (I could only track 12), twisting and turning through its themes with bravado and brass.

This band is spectacular, and each release teases of an explosive album to come. The first, “We are not ourselves,” delivered the haunting, music-box sound the band is known for. Like other strange birds before them – think Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom (whose “Book of Right On” the band covered a few months ago) – Foxtails Brigade is teeming with talent and not trying to accommodate any prescribed notions of genre.

With this second release, the band shows off both this talent and a theatricality that suits it. One moment it’s horses and valleys and a bright sunny instrumentation and the next grinding “with the rust and the rubble” as chunky tones and grungy guitars take over. Before a breath is gone, the next peak or valley has been reached. On and on the song goes with singer Laura Weinbach dexterously positioning her voice, and its unmistakable timbre, as a melodic narrator. Read More

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Photos: Phoebe Ryan Shines at Sold Out Regency Ballroom

03/08/2016

Phoebe Ryan kicked off on tour (in support of Charlie Puth) on Thursday night in San Francisco. After finding acclaim with her carefree twist on R. Kelly’s “Ignition”, she released her debut EP, Mine, last summer. With it she was able to start defining her own space in and among a number of super-talented female singers at the moment; her relatable songwriting helping her to appeal to both the cool kids and the misfits.

This translates in to her performance with a likable and friendly stage presence. Singing to a sold out Regency Ballroom her set had the vibrancy of one in a much smaller venue. It started brightly with “Dead”; its big chorus filling out the space after the gentler intro.

Looking around you could see a dispersed number of fans singing along as if it were her own show. Her live sound balances on the thin line between pop and indie; the more pop leaning audience in attendance appearing to quickly latch on the rebelliousness in the music.

By the third song she had converted any of the non-believers left standing. A seemingly spontaneous showing of mobiles phone lights rippled through the crowd and spread. More turned on as she continued; the people in the front row unaware of what was happening behind them. Its organic growth made the moment even more poignant. People being swept away in the moment.

There was also time for new music, “Be Real”, offered a slightly darker sound, its filling and broad bass line signaling a slight change of direction, with one foot tiptoeing in to future and the other holding on to the things which makes her loved by a wide audience.

“Ignition” was fun with much of the crowd responding to her call for them to “go bananas!” and her latest single, “Chronic”, (released on March 4th) went down with aplomb.

Her short set was vibrant, exciting and had all the ingredients of a divergent pop star in the making. Looking forward to seeing what surprises she has in store as Phoebe Ryan is a name I am sure we will be hearing a lot more from in 2016.

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Live Review: The Suffers & Lake Street Dive @ The Masonic

03/03/2016

As the Noise Pop fest came to a close in SF last weekend, Houston-based gulf coast soul band The Suffers made a theater full of new fans on Saturday night. They’ve played SF 3 times over the past year, with the size of the venue increasingly mirroring the band’s growing popularity. This time, it was a sold-out show at the recently-renovated Nob Hill Masonic Theater with Boston-based outfit Lake Street Dive, and the stakes were a bit higher. Not only did they just release their excellent eponymous debut LP, they’re coming fresh off an appearance on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, and also for the first time in SF, they were opening the show.

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Photos: Vince Staples @ Social Hall SF

02/29/2016

Those lucky enough to score tickets to Vince Staples’ sold out Noise Pop show Friday were treated to a performance that lived up to the hype. By the time Staples took the stage around 10:15pm the air in Social Hall SF was almost unbearably hot and the mood of the crowd was electric.  I could already feel that it was going to get crazy, and by the end of the night Vince Staples had the majority of the room bouncing.

When we wrote about Staples before the show we discussed the realism and personal story telling that he brings to his music, and it was on full display Friday night. He got the crowd going early, opening with “Lift Me Up.” The song is a not-so-subtle examination of life as a black man in America, and as he rapped you couldn’t help but notice that the crowd was overwhelmingly white. Staples noticed as well, and addressed the composition of the crowd several times over the set. He jokingly had a show of hands for people of color in the crowd and calling out specific people in crowd yelling awkward things as “white guy” or “white girl.” There wasn’t any malice in this, he just calls it like it is, in his art and in life.

Staples is touring on his successful 2015 release Summertime ’06 and we were surprised to hear how rowdy some of the songs got live. What can feel calm and collected on album was incendiary live. People were throwing their hands in the air, jumping, and between songs Staples even had to warn people to stop pushing towards the stage because people were getting crushed up front, specifically calling for the crowd to look out for the females in attendance. Solid move.

Staples save two of the big guns for the end of the show, closing with hits like “Blue Suede” and “Señorita.” The last 15 minutes of the show were what you love to see, people jumping, losing their minds and singing along to all the lyrics. While at the end of the night I did miss some of the more delicate and complex tracks that made Summertime ’06 such a revelation, the energy and performance skills Staples brought to the stage more than compensated.

Check out the pictures from the show by Dace Hines:

 

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Sángo Brings Brazillian Fire to Noise Pop

02/29/2016

Friday night, Sángo dropped in on 1015 Folsom for one of the most wild, transformative nights of Noise Pop 2016. Here’s what we loved…

As always, the line at 1015 Folsom moved fast the minute the doors cracked. Gunkst and Danny Majik were massaging the vibes to life in the front bar room and upstairs. A quick scan for the feels around 1015 would uncover the top dance floor going off with a thriving dance party. The gravity of this entertainment was worth losing friends for a moment to sip and spectate, or go all in.

Drifting out across the catwalk provided a semi-aerial view of the main room, where Sángo would later appear. The stage had been prepped for a live set with keys, drums, etc. DJ Dials and BOGL took turns mixing next level beats from a corner table on-set. The crowd flourished and thickened, especially once Dials introduced Maségo and the Trap House Band.

Then, Maségo melted people at 1015. He opened heart valves with his sax. His fingers also flew across keys alongside the talented Trap House Band. By the last song, Maségo ended up on his back, writhing with his music, reaching up, nailing the finish on his keyboard solo, blind.

Maségo was energized and kept the night primed, but it was Sángo’s night. Read More

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Vince Staples Bringing His Blend of West Coast Hip Hop to Noise Pop

02/24/2016

As is often the case, the epicenter of the hip hop zeitgeist is LA these days. West Coast gangsta rap set the tone for many of the hits of the past two decades, and is what many consider LA hip hop. But an argument can be made that as the 90s progressed, rap mainstream lost sight of social consciousness that made early acts like N.W.A so groundbreaking. Themes of wealth and excess often overshadowing the politics and reality of living with poverty and violence. But in recent years we are seeing more threads of different types of music from down south, an example being emerging young artist Vince Staples. His style recognizes the hardship of street life,  but is far more experiential than boastful (see modern gangsta rap).

Staples’ released Summertime ’06 in 2015 and opened up a lot of the critics’ eyes. The album is a two disc epic that captures the sprawling feeling of the Long Beach streets where he grew up. When he takes the stage Friday night for Noise Pop it will just be another step in his journey from those SoCal streets to an artist who is increasingly selling out venues across the world. Staples isn’t shy about his gang-banging past as a former Crip, it’s a part of who he is and where he got his start rapping (Check out Willamette Week for a great interview covering this). It’s these experiences, combined with his desire to make the best music possible that the audience connects with. His music is not just about entertainment or partying, these are the experiences that molded him. He has gotten pushback for not embracing the gangsta rap of the 90s that glorifies the life, but it’s not about disrespect, that’s just not part of his experience.

Unfortunately, many of today’s youth still grow up enduring the same violence and horrors as Staples, but his deep intelligence and unsettling honesty act as an uncommonly direct conduit for these experiences. He has the ability to bring you into his world, no matter the uncomfortable truths you may find there. In “Birds & Bees” you quickly realize this is not a song about love, but an intense, gritty look at life as he knows it. “Rounds up in that chamber/ I’m a gangsta like my daddy/ My mama caused another problem when she had me.” Over a simple bass line and drum break, Staples spits hard truths, taking his experiences and elevating them to art.

His versatility can also be heard in “Smoke & Retribution,” a collaboration with Australian producer Flume, delivering rhymes over an incredibly sparse electronic beat. It’s easy for these electronic/hip hop collaborations to devolve into parody, but the intensity and dynamism of his voice hold your attention and really carry what is otherwise a pretty basic song. 

Noise Pop and Social Hall are in for a real treat Friday night, more details on the venue and event here.

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