I joined The Bay Bridged staff as a Production Associate last spring, and it has been endlessly enjoyable to be pulled deeper into the sonic recesses of the Bay Area’s various scenes by TBB. As an Oakland resident, my Best of list just happened to trend toward the Bay’s warmer side, so I went with it. A few 2013 East Bay highlights, in no particular order:
Glenn Jackson – Morning Swim EP
The sounds are bright, breathy, and totally groovy. This three song solo debut from Oakland’s Glenn Jackson is house music to be enjoyed outside – whether on a morning stroll, ride, or, in Jackson’s case, a swim (with waterproof headphones).
y.t.f.l.i.n.s.t.o.n.e. – Neo Griot mixtape
Richmond MC Wallah (“y.t.f.l.i.n.s.t.o.n.e.”) Umoja described his excellent 2013 mixtape as a tribute to those “who pride themselves on being outspoken of their true history.” Neo Griot features snippets of speeches from the likes of Angela Davis, Kwame Ture, and Malik El Shabazz. True to the title “griot,” which means a West-African historian or poet who keeps oral traditions alive through storytelling, Y.T. touches on personal themes of gang violence, racism, and wealth inequality with his particular gifts for truth-telling and rhyme play, along with an excellent ear for jazz-based beats (see Dilla, FlyLo, Samiyam) that fit his flow. Here’s hoping for a debut LP from this promising young storyteller in 2014.
Dan Casey – Empty City
This is a beautifully crafted LP by Berkeley’s Dan Casey. Exploring different sonic territory than his electronic outfit Yalls, Empty City evokes the hollowness and loneliness that can linger in a place after someone who has come to define it leaves.
Bill Baird – “Spring Break of the Soul”
This is one my favorite tracks and videos of the year from this now Oakland-based musical genius. You’re unlikely to hear this in Miami Beach or Cancun — it’s more befitting of a Spring Break spent on the shores of Lake Merritt. Party on, dive in!
SAFE – Re-mastered SAFE EP, Normal Needs 7”
East Bay, Vermont, and perhaps now Brooklyn-based Chris Edley, aka SAFE, released a re-mastered version of his tuneful, lo-fi SAFE EP debut as well as a 7”, Normal Needs, on Greedhead Music this year. A personal highlight was experiencing SAFE’s live performance in TBB’s studio for our recently launched Artist Spotlight Podcast. In person, SAFE’s baritone is even more affecting than on his records. The depth and intimate nature of his work is on arresting display in the video for “Black Satin Living Room,” released this year.
The Tambo Rays – “Take That”
In 2013, The Tambo Rays were cooking up something good in Oakland, and on “Take That”, their rollicking BBQ summer jam, it smelled a lot like chicken. The parallel story lines at work in “Take That” – love for a chicken and (presumably) for another human – make for sizzling, skewering fun.
Mara Hruby – “All About the Panties (That Mara Hruby Flow)” (J-Louis remix)
A few years back, Oakland songstress Mara Hruby released an impressive EP of covers, one of which was the seductive “All About the Panties” by Mos Def. Hruby is reportedly hard at work on her debut LP and recently received an honorable mention for her “Character” video from the Oaktown Music Festival. Despite Hruby’s requests to “slow down,” this 2013 remix of A”ll About the Panties” by J-Louis brings the beat to the forefront and speeds this track into serious groove territory, evoking Janet Jackson/Q-Tip era feelings.
Serengeti – C.A.B.
As legend has it, “Between 2009 and 2011, Serengeti came to Berkeley to record with Jel and Odd Nosdam, at the latter’s Berkeley cottage studio called Burnco.” The prolific sessions yielded three wonderfully zany albums, including the Kenny Dennis EP, the thematic blueprint for the Kenny Dennis LP, another fine release from earlier this year. C.A.B. standout track “My Peace” is a dark, funny, haunting goodbye note to Berkeley from the Chicago-based MC who clearly feels more comfortable in flatter surroundings.
Best Show – KALX and 1-2-3-4 Go! Records present Shannon and The Clams, Hunx & His Punx, Fuzz @ The New Parish, 5/18/13
These three bands simply destroyed the audience. It was the first really warm Saturday night of early summer, and the sellout crowd came ready to party. From what I can remember, everyone had a great time.