Bands to Watch 2011 :: Ben Van Houten, The Bay Bridged

Meet Ben, co-founder and programming director of San Francisco’s esteemed The Bay Bridged, a non-profit arts organization and online music publication chartered to educate the world on the awesomeness of the Bay Area’s independent music scene. And we love them for it. They curate some great showcases and festivals around town and make The City a better place musically. Here are Ben’s picks for the (mostly) Bay Area bands to watch in 2011. And for the record, I agree with all of them.

Artist: Young Prisms
Album: Friends For Now
Release Date: 1/18/11
Homeland: San Francisco, CA

I always associate this SF band with Weekend because I saw them both for the first time on a joint bill at the Hemlock beginning of last year. If Weekend was last year’s breakout local shoegazey rock group, Young Prisms deserve to fill that slot in 2011. After an EP on Mexican Summer, the band’s full length Friends for Now is out this month. The record’s a little heavier than I expected, and that’s a good thing. A lot of these reverb-soaked bands are too thin and brittle to make enough of a racket.

Artist: Exray’s
Album: Exray’s
Release Date: 2/1/11
Homeland: San Francisco, CA

Jon Bernson (Ray’s Vast Basement, Window Twins) is one of these can’t-miss artists for me, and Exray’s manages to incorporate his singer-songwriter and electronic pastiche sides into one compelling project. Are they garage pop or abstract beatmakers? Both. You probably heard this duo’s music in the movie The Social Network, or you’ve seen their name around the blogs recently, gaining buzz before the anticipated release of their self-titled full length.

Artist: Bare Wires
Album: Seeking Love
Release Date: Out Now
Homeland: Oakland, CA

I feel like Seeking Love didn’t get the, um, love it deserved last year, although it may have been unreasonable to hope that “I Love You Tonite” would be blasting out of every stereo all summer. Well, there’s still next summer, although Matthew Melton and band apparently have another album coming out soon. I know the Bay Area has a bunch of garage rock bands, but these guys write amazing pop songs about love with hooks aplenty.

Artist: Sea of Bees
Album: Songs for the Ravens
Release Date: Out Now
Homeland: Sacramento, CA

Sea of Bees became one of our favorite new artists last year over at The Bay Bridged, the latest in a long track record of great performers from the Sacramento/Davis area. Jules’ voice is unbelievably emotive, and when she conveys sadness, you feel it in your gut. Late last year, she signed to a UK label, and is doing a ton of European shows in the first quarter of this year. It would not surprise me at all if she’s a deservedly bigger name when she finally returns to California.

Artist: Kurt Vile
Album: Smoke Ring For My Halo
Release Date: 3/8/11
Homeland: Philadelphia, PA

I had to sneak at least one non-local artist in my list. I recognize that there’s a certain obviousness to picking any band with a big upcoming record on Matador as a “band to watch,” but Vile’s definitely become someone I’m expecting to have a big 2011. I’d slept on Childish Prodigy, but between last year’s Square Shells EP (find me a seven-minute song as good as psych-pop gem “Invisibility: Nonexistent”) and the songs that have leaked from the new album, I’m definitely more ready this time around. I suspect Vile will be this year’s Fresh & Onlys, showing that weird pop can be recorded well and still maintain its eccentric charm.

[Mixtape] Love, San Francisco

Love, San Francisco

  1. “Original Sin” – Geographer
  2. “Hesitation” – E x r a y’ s
  3. “Mild Confusion” – Tamaryn
  4. “Pure” – Blackbird Blackbird
  5. “Cut from a Different Clay” – Phantom Kicks
  6. “Rocketeer” – Sunbeam Rd.
  7. “Marmalade” – Sea of Bees
  8. “Spark” – Grand Lake
  9. “Mama Fell Asleep” – fpodbpod
  10. “Heartbreaker” – Girls
  11. “Hot Sprawl” – Man/Miracle

Obsession: Sea of Bees – “Wizbot”

Sea of Bees – “Wizbot

How much do I love Sea of Bees Julie Baenziger and her debut, Songs for the Ravens? |<————————-This much—————————————————>| Please buy this album. It’s one of my favs for 2010. Such a lovely and talented singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. NPR dubbed her a female Sparklehorse and it’s the best description I’ve heard yet. Sophomore album to be recorded soon!

The Power of Ten: 10 Albums for 10/10/10

It’s 10:10 AM on 10/10/10. A perfect 10. These tri-numeral dates come around once a year and this year it falls on the number 10. Is it an auspicious day or a bunch of hullaballoo? There is a certain completeness of order with the number 10. For the Chinese the number is lucky, representing perfection or completion. We’re born with 10 fingers and 10 toes after all. Perfect beauty is measured on its scale. Top 10 lists are ubiquitous. And any respectable album contains at least 10 songs.

If you’re technologically-inclined, today is a “binary” day. The ones-and-zeros representing the binary code or the mathematical language “spoken” by computers to create all things digital. Converting the date 10/10/10 to binary code gives us 101010. And in the binary counting system, that number translates to 42, which means…absolutely nothing.

But hey, it’s a nice theme for a post isn’t it? And everyone loves a top 10 list. So, here’s mine.  The 10 albums I’m obsessed with on this month, this day, this year. The albums I have on heavy rotation right now and keep coming back to again and again. Ten, in a long list, of albums you should most definitely own. Listed in no particular order, they are:

Artist: Royal Baths
Album: Litanies
Track: “Nikki Don’t”

Artist: Deerhunter
Album: Halcyon Digest
Track: “Desire Lines”

Artist: Sea of Bees
Album: Songs for the Raven
Track: “Marmalade

Artist: Sonny & The Sunsets
Album: Tomorrow is Alright
Track: “Lovin’ on an Older Gal”

ArtistLower Dens
AlbumTwin Hand Movement
Track: “A Dog’s Dick”

ArtistTame Impala
Track: “Vital Signs”

Artist: Future Islands
Album: In the Evening Air
Track: “As I Fall”

Artist: Ty Segall
Track: “Cesar

Artist: Tamaryn
AlbumThe Waves
Track: “Mild Confusion”

Sea of Bees – “Gnomes”

Sea of Bees“Marmalade”

Check out the haunting arrangements and beautiful melodies of Sea of Bees. Sea of Bees is comprised of Julie Ann Bee (aka. Jules), a virtual one woman band who released a debut EP last year and is quickly following it up with a full length album called, Songs of the Ravens. She’s already earned the favor of notable musicians like Jon Vanderslice and Jason Lytle.  With that kind of endorsement, you might want to check out her live performance this Sunday, June 6 at The Rite Spot in San Francisco and see for yourself what the ‘buzz’ is all about.