San Francisco/Oakland-based Raised by Robots pays homage to a multitude of musical influences - among them early 90s indie, soul, post punk, country, and hip hop. Sort of a multiple personality disorder perhaps, but I really like this track.
Bay Area indie pop rockers, Scrabbel, are highly influenced by all things ’65-’75 and you can hear it in their music. Sunny, sweet songs that have a bit of that Belle and Sebastian feel. On the dark side, they also do a nice cover of My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Sometimes‘.
Described as ‘the love child of Karen O and Jesus and Mary Chain,’ The Blacks flat out rock. I completely fell in love with them this year at SXSW. It was tambourine player JDK Blacker that did it for me. He plays the tambourine like he’s exorcizing demons. It’s spellbinding. The SF/NY based trio are known for their short, blistering stage shows and laser-beam intensity. Their debut full-length “Nom de Guerre” was released in 2007 on Tricycle Records. “Tiger Songs” is their latest EP.
Do you like bluesy, southern fried garage rock in the style of The Black Keys, White Stripes and Kings of Leon? Then I think you’ll like this San Francisco trio called Leopold and His Fiction. I sure do. Their self-titled debut is out now and are expected to release a new album early 2009.
I was taken the first time I heard Fremont-based band, Okay. Mostly by Marty Anderson’s voice, which is strange, compelling and beautiful all at the same time. His sound may not resonate with everyone but I find his songs with simple lyrics and sparse instrumentation achieve something bigger.
Oakland-based Port O’Brien has received critical acclaim for their autobiographical second album, All We Could Do Was Sing. Their ragtag indie folk/rock sound evokes the sounds of Neil Young and Bon Iver at times and back porch, drunken singalong sessions at others.
San Francisco’s Sean Duncan, aka Kid Mud, just released his first EP ‘Birds Will Move In’. I really like this album. It has a mellow Sparklehorse feel. He records much of his work in his home studio and plays each instruments himself. Very cool.
Lady Genius’ short, layered pop songs feature shimmering keyboards and echoing guitars coupled with crisp drums and boy/girl harmonies. A SF Weekly article recently put it, “the result is like the Magnetic Fields crash-landing a flying saucer in New Pornoghraphers-land.”
This San Francisco-based trio has already built a following around town with their energetic live performances of avant-electronic music that fuses psych heavy synths and spacey delays. They’ve toured and opened for the likes of Black Moth Super Rainbow, Modeselektor and Crystal Castles. Their self-titled debut is out now. Drink it up.
San Francisco-based Geographer have that lush baroque pop sound that draws lots of comparisons to Andrew Bird and Arcade Fire. Their new album Innocent Ghosts released this summer and is getting good attention. Listen to Can’t You Wait:
This is my favorite San Francisco indie rock band at the moment. Their debut album, Lust for Life, is one of the contenders for the 2008 SF Weekly Music Awards. We’ll find out later this week if they take the prize. I’m so intrigued by lead singer, Christopher Owens, in both his personal style and vocals. He’s got all the qualities of an eccentric rock star and sounds like Elvis Costello to boot. Featured is the track Hellhole Ratrace.
Oakland-based The Heavenly States is also a contender in the 2008 SF Weekly Music Awards in the Indie Rock category. Their vibe is wholly different with a pure, straight up rock sound reminiscent to The Hold Steady. Take a listen to ‘Lost in the Light‘ from their self-produced album Delayer.
Not to be confused with Deerhunter, which I used to do early on, Deerhoof definitely falls into that category of local ‘experimental’ bands. Like most bands in this genre, I usually have one of two reactions – 1) the band is being weird for the sake of being weird or 2) I’m intrigued by the tension created by the music’s unexpected shifts and dissonance. Deerhoof falls into the latter category for me.Listen to ‘Offend Maggie’:
I don’t know much about Oakland-based girl band, Dreamdate, other than their tunes are short, catchy and make me feel good. And at the end of the day, isn’t that all that matters? Listen for yourself and see.
San Francisco-based Film School is just the kind of psych/garage rock, newgaze sound I like. Listening to them is like a game of ‘Name that Tune’ or early 90s musical influence – The Jesus and Mary Chain… My Bloody Valentine… New Order. Whatever the case, it all sounds good to me. Even better live.
I first really started diving into the San Francisco music scene at SXSW this year, thanks to The Bay Bridged and their efforts in organizing the fantastic SXSW Bay Area Takeover event. Interesting isn’t it? There is so much great music in our own backyard and I had to go to Austin to discover it. It was at that point I decided to start playing in my own sandbox. And I haven’t looked back since. The only downside to this strategy is that it becomes harder and harder to rope my music friends into coming to shows with me. ”You want me to see who? Never heard of them.”
The following series of posts – SF Bands You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of – is a culmination of this research and discovery since March of this year. There’s a lot of good music coming out of our town – putting San Francisco squarely on the map as a vital music city. And you should know about it. Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list of all the Bay Area bands around. Just my favorites. In alphabetical order, of course.
One of the things I’ve discovered in my local band research is that there appears to be some momentum in specific genres – like psyche rock and experimental. 60 Watt Kid encompasses a bit of both to me. Their self-titled debut is chaotic, bizarre and intriguing all at the same time.
It’s 1970 in San Francisco and the hippies are back. Or perhaps they never left. Listening to the flower power psych rock of Citay will certainly transport you back in time with the influences of some of the greats sprinkled all over the place – from Led Zepplin to Jerry Garcia. It feels good.
Cousin Chris (aka Chris Schreiber), is a veritable one man band who released his solo effort Moon Paperin July. The album was recorded at John Vanderslice’s Tiny Telephone Studios. The album is beautiful, with a folky-blues sound and vocals that remind me of Neil Young at times. There’s a good interview with Chris on Stranger Dance.
I’ve noticed lately that every Indie music artist seems to release their singles on 7″ vinyl these days. I see full LPs on vinyl too but this appears to be the predominant trend. Can please someone explain this to me? I just don’t get it. Aren’t we living in a digital age and still fighting for the rights of digital music? I understand the nostalgia for vinyl, cassette tapes and 8 Tracks. But if you’re an emerging indie rock band, what is the practicality of having a merch table full of vinyl singles? I never see anyone actually buy them. I don’t own a turntable anymore, do you? And if you are a band that only has two songs, wouldn’t it behoove you to make them available for download online?
Crystal Stilts released their self-titled debut this year. They have a stripped-down, moody, garage rock sound that is heavily influenced by groups like Velvet Underground and Jesus and Mary Chain. And who isn’t these days?
So what did I learn from all this? in retrospect, I’d say my preconceived notion of ‘Black’ bands as a dark and moody rockers holds water. The Crystal set as all Indie pop rockers? Not so much. Whatever the case, it’s clear that – just like people – bands can fall into the trap of naming trends.
First up in the ‘Crystal’ band category is the Long Beach, CA based group, Crystal Antlers, whose hard core psyche rock sound certainly puts my preconceived notion of all ‘Crystal’ bands as Indie Pop rockers to shame. The indie rock music world has been buzzing about their self-released, eponymous EP. The band has received many comparisons to Les Savy Fay. Check out the featured track, A Thousand Eyes.
Crystal Castles, however, falls squarely into my 80s synthpop stereotype. This Toronto-based group is all synthesizers and drum machines . Their self-titled debut album is a bits and bytes bump and grind fest. Featured track, Courtship Dating.
Hey, look! More psychedelic sounds from the ‘Black’ band contingent. This one in the form of the otherworldly, electronica variety – á la Air and Octopus Project. My music friend Noah turned me on to their 2007 release, Dandelion Gum, last year. I like it a lot and find myself gravitating toward this kind of ambient, ethereal music in the wee hours.
BMSW will be releasing their new album, Drippers, in September. You can pre-order a limited edition scratch-n-sniff version of the CD or 10″ here. Check out the track Happy Melted City from their forthcoming release or download Bonus Drippers for free now – which is a bunch of old, unreleased songs.
Here’s their creepy video for the Dandelion Gum album track, Sun Lips.