Social Studies, Tuneyards â€“ Rickshaw Stop, May 20
Photo by: Nic Buron
This was a great year for shows. Youâ€™re lucky this is limited to local stuff, because I could go on and on. Like Field Music at CafÃ© du Nord, that was a show. Midlake at Great American took an album that I didnâ€™t – and still donâ€™t -like, and played it brilliantly. How about Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer at Hardly Strictly? This is not a â€œbest ofâ€ list — just some Iâ€™ll remember.
Mumlers, Growlers, Sonny & The Sunsets, Ferocious Few â€“ Noise Pop; CafÃ© du Nord, Feb 26. Noise Pop wasn’t going bold on this bill â€“ just tossing together three of the very best tradition-influenced local groups and the wild card Growlers. So, so fun.
Social Studies, Tuneyards â€“ 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 â€“ 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 heartsâ€™ out on the tiny, dark stage at Hemlock.
Still Flyinâ€™, El Guincho â€“ Rickshaw Stop, July 9. The best mishmash set of the year. Still Flyinâ€™ really let it rip and El Guinchoâ€™s stripped down approach got the house moving.
Regional Bias: Verdi Club, July 23 â€“ Iâ€™m not kissing up to my blog lords â€“ The Bay Bridgedâ€™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 80â€™s soul-rocking DJâ€™s that made it so special. The SF indie sceneâ€™s high school dance.
Sheâ€™s, Holy Shit, Girls â€“ Fillmore, October 15. The coming out party for junior varsity superstars The Sheâ€™s, and the coming home party for the road-weary but soul-rested headliners. Gets the good vibes award for the year.
I am not up to speed with all the records – thereâ€™s tons of local stuff I didnâ€™t even get around to hearing. But these were the ones I liked.
Social Studies â€“ Wind Up Wooden Heart. No one in SF really sounds like this band. Imagine Yes plus Heart plus Broadcast, anchored by singer/keyboardist Natalia Rogovinâ€™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 â€“ Home Away From Home. Matt Adamsâ€™ 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 â€“ especially the vintage organ.
Kelley Stoltz â€“ 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 â€“ but still boasts Stoltzâ€™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 â€“ 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 Sheâ€™s – Surfer Boys / Dominant Legs – Young at Love and Life. EPâ€™s donâ€™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, yâ€™all.