Sunday, August 28, 2011

Best Bay Area Albums Of All Time: #8

This legendary East Bay group released one album during its short lifetime, and what an album it was. In addition to practically inventing what we now think of as ska punk, Energy helped kickstart the Bay Area punk scene that would find worldwide fame in the 1990s. Though Operation Ivy broke up less than a month after Energy’s release, their DNA is still present in nearly every punk band ever to call the Bay Area their home.

Zak Mandel-Romann of the Audiophiles and Tumbleweed Wanderers says: “Perhaps it is just a result of their brevity that Operation Ivy has not lost any of their credibility as an underground punk act despite their ultimate popularity. Only around for a few years in the late 80's, they in many ways created, or at least epitomized what would come of the East Bay's punk scene in the years to follow. Operation Ivy's only album, Energy, is packed with songs that are not only highly original and influential, but densely packed with lyrics confronting broad societal, political, and personal issues. Though not as well known as some of the bands that came in the next wave of the 924 Gilman scene (namely Green Day and Operation Ivy's spawn, Rancid) Operation Ivy and their one album are legendary in ways that those other bands can never be due to their purity of message and music.”

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Girls, Heretics, Wooden Shjips


Father, Son, Holy Ghost

* * * *


Though Girls have a reputation for their ironic streak, everything sounds completely genuine on the band’s third album Father, Son, Holy Ghost. From the genre-bending to the religious references to the emotions expressed in singer Christopher Owens’s puppy-dog voice, everything is delivered with a sincerity that’s impossible to ignore. The opening two songs set the mood. “Honey Bunny” is a galloping surf-pop song that hides a complex portrait of a loser in love; “Alex” is a remarkably beautiful ballad to an ambiguous target; the two tunes could not be more stylistically different, but both sound like completely natural territory and are delivered with the same passion. However, the major Mothra in the ointment on Father, Son, Holy Ghost is the bookending of brilliant single “Vomit” with the two most boring songs on the record. The songs in question are the ambient gospel ballad “My Ma” and the seven-minute, mostly acoustic folk epic “Just A Song.” Were the songs excluded (or at least moved), Father, Son, Holy Ghost might just be the best Bay Area album of the year so far. It’s certainly the most powerful.


The Hand We Were Dealt EP

* * * *

“Perfect In The End” is one of the most beautiful songs released this year so far by any Bay Area artist. With its gentle major chords, fluid bass, and expressive vocals, it sounds like it could be an outtake from Destroyer’s jazz-rock epic Kaputt that was given to a teen garage band to interpret. While the other three aim more for groove than beauty or mood, they are fine song in their own right. “Over Again” sounds like the White Stripes battling Jaws on surfboards; “Casanova” is a riff-flexing instrumental that drags on for only slightly too long; “This Feeling,” with its vaguely pop-punk hook and catchy chorus, would most likely be the single. While the band’s technical and songsmithing chops are obvious, the group’s secret weapon is the singing style of bassist Ryan Meagher, who makes up for what he lacks in vocal range with massive emotional range.



* * * 1/2

Wooden Shjips named their album West and slapped a picture of the Golden Gate on the cover, which gives one a pretty good idea of just how San Francisco this album is. West finds the band moving away from the impenetrable experimentalism of earlier releases and aiming for Sixties classic-psych glory, with very effective results. Spidery organs and spaced-out, Fillmore-worthy guitar solos dominate the landscape on this album, all set over a wall of droning psychedelic fuzz. Listening to West is not unlike walking down Haight Street after eating more brownies than your brain (or stomach) can handle--the music keeps you walking in a straight line, but your eyes veer in all directions to observe everything there is to see. It’s a jammy album, resulting in a good listen most likely requiring a healthy attention span or no real attention span at all. If the former, West is a gratifying and interesting listen that rarely lapses into self-indulgence. If the latter, simply sit back and let the drones wash over you, taking you in their undertow.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Best Bay Area Albums Of All Time: #9

Oakland rap group The Coup’s third album stands as a milestone in Bay Area hip-hop history as well as in the history of West Coast hip-hop as a whole. Dark, humorous, politically conscious, and fun, Steal This Album manages to be a ridiculously fun listen without losing any of its brainpower.

William Donohue from Young Bros In Love says: “I love a good story, and Steal This Album is full of them. There are the songs like ‘Breathing Apparatus’ that are really, you know, unsettling, but then there are songs like ‘Me and Jesus The Pimp,’ which is just an incredibly powerful song. I feel so many emotions when I hear this album, just too many emotions going through my head.”

Monday, August 22, 2011

Best Bay Area Albums Of All Time: #10

Though not as well-known as, say, the San Francisco garage-rock scene or the East Bay punk scene, the South Bay alt-pop scene is as massive as either and has produced no shortage of quality music. Picture Atlantic’s first (and, to date, only) full-length album, Kleos, established the Santa Clara group as the massive South Bay music scene’s ambassador to the arena. Kleos’ rich fusion of Hellenic bombast and eclectic but accessible music remains the scene’s high point.

Fan Angel de Sousa says: "Kleos is amazing because Picture Atlantic is amazing. Picture Atlantic is amazing because they possess the talent to be creative and not snobby."

Sunday, August 21, 2011


SF Rebirth has selected a baker’s dozen of writers, musicians, DJs, and other music experts to pick the best Bay Area albums of all time, from the beginning of rock n’ roll to now. We will post the list over the next several days, from #10 to #1.


Miles Atkins (Eyes Like Oceans)

Daniel Bromfield (writer, SF Rebirth)

Carlos Cisneros (The Bay Area Native)

Nick Corson (Frak & Nicky C)

Sam Crocker (ex-Madders, music writer)

Alex Fraknoi (Frak & Nicky C)

Evan Greenwald (Handshake)

Zak Mandel-Romann (Audiophiles, Tumbleweed Wanderers)

Ed Maxwell (admin, Local Bay Area Music Facebook page)

Dan Poppe (Kitten Charmer Records)

Rena Simon-Igra (Bass 10, writer, 924 Gilman regular)

Ray Wilcox (DJ, musician, entrepreneur)

Zen Zenith (Please Do Not Fight)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Big surprise coming next post!

While You Sleep

* * * *


It’s a risky move to have the word “sleep” in your album title, especially if your album turns out to be really boring. Luckily, there’s not a dull moment While You Sleep, the sophomore effort by ex-Match Jonathan Devoto’s duo with drummer Ross Traver. Evoking the sort of Nineties road-trip alt-power-pop you may have heard on the Dumb & Dumber soundtrack, While You Sleep keeps the melodic sensibilities found on debut Albatross without stepping too far into the polished arena-rock territory of that album’s songs. Each song seems significantly shorter than its length (average: about three and a half minutes), and they feel like different trucks passing by on the highway, each carrying some quirky cargo that makes you laugh out loud and appreciate life. This album will make you do the same.


The Little Green Monster EP

* * * *


The image of Brooke Dabalos sitting alone on a bench found on the cover of her Little Green Monster EP perfectly suits the music found on this EP. Composed almost entirely from vocal loops, the music here evokes loneliness and indecision, as if Dabalos is singing along to the sounds in her own head while alone on that park bench. Even when she’s making her voice sound like a trumpet or even an electric piano, she still sounds like one person deep in thought. While it’s a concept that’s been done by many artists before (comparisons to Bjork’s Medulla will inevitably arise) and could easily make for something overly twee or trite, Dabalos uses her loops to create beautiful soundscapes that buzz with human emotion.


NoSummr4U EP/oOoOO EP

* * * * / * * * 1/2

These EPs by slow-mo electro producer Christopher Dexter Greenspan, better known as oOoOO (I don’t think you’re supposed to know how to pronounce it), happily transcend the defining characteristics of the “drag” genre with which Greenspan willingly associates. The NoSummr4U EP is excellent, conjuring up nocturnal images and creating a spooky but generally harmless mood. From the menacing doom-funk of the title track to the tied-to-the-mast sea shanty “No Shore,” NoSummr4U is as eerie, mysterious, and strangely charming as the name oOoOO itself. oOoOO is less scary and much more ambient. While the sounds are interesting (see the warped Chinese-restaurant disco of “Hearts”), the songs creep but don’t always end up anywhere, preferring to merely create a thick blanket of mood.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Eyes Like Oceans. And Watsky. Wait, Lil Wayne?!? Is he even from around here?



* * *

Miles Atkins’ second release is a record so idiosyncratic, frequently unsettling, often ridiculous, and utterly human it’s almost impossible not to have some sort of extreme reaction while listening. On June, Atkins embellishes the lo-fi emo pop found on his debut, last year’s This City In Lights, with electronic textures and Americana influences. The forays into electronic music range from fantastic (“For What It’s Worth”) to abysmal (his embarrassing experiments with Auto-Tune and Apple loops). Atkins is at best during his quieter songs, particularly the sprawling “Chocolate Ice Cream & Sixteen Candles” and standout “Petronius Arbiter.” Yet the album’s most noticeable trait is its sheer intensity. Even when Atkins sounds as if he’s trying wayyy too hard (“An Evening Alone”), he still sounds like a human heat-seeking missile which follows you throughout the album before it hits the target during the grand finale on the self-titled closing track.


A New Kind Of Sexy

* * * *

After his death, Gil Scott-Heron left us with countless classic songs and poems and a influence that spanned many genres and reached many musicians. The one thing he never accomplished was writing a song about running into a celebrity while naked at a men’s spa. Good thing San Francisco poet-rapper George Watsky took care of that on “Pauly Shore Saw My Penis,” a surprisingly touching, aptly named ballad from his new A New Kind Of Sexy mixtape. Sexy is filled with weird little moments like that, including (but not limited to) remixes of Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” and Justice’s “D.A.N.C.E.;” a ’99-Eminem throwback in the form of an argument with a pot-smoking English nobleman; and some particularly weird white-Jewish-MC boasts on an epic spoken-word closer titled only with an asterisk. In contrast to the multi-faceted songs on his self-titled 2009 debut, A New Kind of Sexy finds Watsky using his self-deprecating sense of humor for purely comedic use. While this makes for a thoroughly fun and enjoyable listen, songs like “Pauly Shore” and “Amazing Grace” suggest that Watsky is at his best when he’s using his humor to explore his own emotions.


“Grove St. Party (feat. Lil B)”/“Gucci Gucci”

* * * / * * *

OK, Lil Wayne isn’t from around here, but on his new mixtape, Sorry 4 the Wait, he pays tribute to the Bay Area on two songs: a collaboration with Berkeley’s own Lil B oand a remake of Kreayshawn’s “Gucci Gucci.” Wayne sounds great on both tracks, devouring them with lip-smacking relish. The former, a remake of a Waka Flocka Flame songs features a semi-comprehensible rant from the BasedGod that’s as freewheeling and rambling as anything he’s done. “Gucci Gucci” is a decent and completely, um, logical remake--of course Lil Wayne will replace the word “Gucci” with “Tunechi,” and what better to rhyme it with than “Lady Gaga?”