Tune Yards 5/27/10 at the Rickshaw Stop
Social Studies, Tuneyards – Rickshaw Stop, May 20

Photo by: Nic Buron

The Shows

This was a great year for shows. You’re lucky this is limited to local stuff, because I could go on and on. Like Field Music at Café du Nord, that was a show. Midlake at Great American took an album that I didn’t – and still don’t -like, and played it brilliantly. How about Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer at Hardly Strictly? This is not a “best of” list — just some I’ll remember.

Mumlers, Growlers, Sonny & The Sunsets, Ferocious Few – Noise Pop; Café du Nord, Feb 26. Noise Pop wasn’t going bold on this bill – just tossing together three of the very best tradition-influenced local groups and the wild card Growlers. So, so fun.

Social Studies, Tuneyards – Rickshaw Stop, May 20. Tuneyards straight up killed this one, backed up by a great band. Social Studies is probably one of the only bands that could have preceded her and left an impression.

Soft Tags – Hemlock Tavern, June 12. These guys are from Portland. Close enough, the way they huddled together and sang their hearts out and played their Flock of Seagulls riffs hearts’ out on the tiny, dark stage at Hemlock.

Still Flyin’, El Guincho – Rickshaw Stop, July 9. The best mishmash set of the year. Still Flyin’ really let it rip and El Guincho’s stripped down approach got the house moving.

Regional Bias: Verdi Club, July 23 – I’m not kissing up to my blog lords – The Bay Bridged’s annual fundraiser was one of the best parties of the year. Vanderslice and Thao, with guests Kacey Johansing and Tuneyards, rocked. But it was the free photo booth, the sandwiches and especially the 80’s soul-rocking DJ’s that made it so special. The SF indie scene’s high school dance.

She’s, Holy Shit, Girls – Fillmore, October 15. The coming out party for junior varsity superstars The She’s, and the coming home party for the road-weary but soul-rested headliners. Gets the good vibes award for the year.

The Albums

I am not up to speed with all the records – there’s tons of local stuff I didn’t even get around to hearing. But these were the ones I liked.

Social Studies – Wind Up Wooden Heart. No one in SF really sounds like this band. Imagine Yes plus Heart plus Broadcast, anchored by singer/keyboardist Natalia Rogovin’s up-front, almost boyish voice. The suite-like arrangements can be kind of infuriating at first. But repeated listens reveal a pile of great ideas, playing and production.

The Blank Tapes – Home Away From Home. Matt Adams’ DIY alt-country project has kept a low but tireless presence on the scene all year, and his self-produced/released album had a similar quiet persistence. The kind of trance jammy middle third is book ended by some great songwriting and playing – especially the vintage organ.

Kelley Stoltz – To Dreamers. Stoltz has been drumming for Sonny & the Sunsets, and this album shows their influence and that of other garage-minded locals like Fresh & Onlys. (Or does it show how he influenced them?) Anyway, it pop rocks pretty hard – but still boasts Stoltz’s expert studio craft. The songs, more than the singer, are the point and he has a lot of good ones on this record.

Farmer Dave Scher – Flash Forward to the Good Times. Farmer Dave is from Venice Beach, so this is sort of cheating. But he came through town twice, and played with an all-star local pick up band of Bart Davenport and his usual collaborators. On this album, Farmer Dave plows his jangle country sound from Beachwood Sparks and the wigged out funk of his All Night Radio project into one loamy furrow of laid back California Country Soul.

The She’sSurfer Boys / Dominant LegsYoung at Love and Life. EP’s don’t rate as high with me, but these were two of the most enjoyable local records of the year, from members of the same camp, so to speak. Looking forward to those full-length debuts, y’all.