Blood Sister

Download: Mixtape: Catching Up With Some Former Locals (Podcast #350)

2014 was another great year for releases from Bay Area bands, but some of the year’s most impressive releases may not have initially received the attention they deserved. Those sorts of oversights are understandable given the volume of new albums coming out year-round. Still, as we approach the time of year when people naturally begin assembling their “Best of 2014” lists, it seemed like the right point to look back at ten of the year’s most interesting local releases that may not have gotten their due when they arrived.

Here’s a mixtape collecting songs from San Francisco bands that you may not have first caught earlier this year, but that you definitely should listen to before committing pen to paper on any “Best of” list. It’s a wide-ranging collection showing that, once again, Bay Area bands offered up exciting works in a variety of genres this year.

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About the Bands:

Joyride! – “Jump Start”
From Bodies of Water (Salinas Records/Lauren Records)
San Francisco’s Joyride! followed up last year’s terrific self-titled album with a new LP in September. The group has mastered the art of composing ultra-catchy noise-pop songs, performed with an upbeat punk rock enthusiasm and augmented with thoughtful, engaging lyrics.

Blood Sister – “Ghost Twin”
From Blood Sister (Bloodmoss Records)
Blood Sister’s early songs — employing devastating noise and melodic heft to great effect — caught our attention last year, and the band’s first EP further hones that sonic attack. The group is led by Ezana Edwards, who relocated to SF after the dissolution of Brooklyn’s Night Manager, and recently solidified a four-person lineup that includes K. Dylan Edrich of The Mallard.

Greg Ashley – “Prisoner #1131267”
From Another Generation of Slaves (Trouble in Mind Records)
Greg Ashley’s solo career is part of a lengthy and impressive resume, which also includes leading the acclaimed Gris Gris and recording and producing countless local bands at his Creamery studio. Another Generation of Slaves is the latest collection of lyrical psych-folk from this Oakland singer-songwriter, and it’s another welcome addition to this cult artist’s discography.

Dylan Shearer – “Meadow Mines (Fort Polio)”
From garagearray (Castle Face Records/Empty Cellar Records)
You likely won’t find a more beautifully-sounding psych-pop album this year than garagearray. Dylan Shearer’s latest was produced by Eric Bauer (of many great records by Ty Segall, Mikal Cronin and others), and finds him backed by members of Thee Oh Sees and Comets On Fire. In other words, a ton of talents involved, and they all come together wonderfully.

The Range of Light Wilderness – “Perfect { the first time }”
From The Range of Light Wilderness (Gnome Life Records)
After a first listen, it probably won’t be a surprise to learn that the self-titled album from The Range of Light Wilderness was written and recorded in Big Sur. The songs have a mystical beauty to them, but they’re also undeniably catchy. Fans of bands on Woodsist should take note.

Useless Eaters – “Out In The Night”
From Bleeding Moon (Castle Face Records)
Okay, so frequent touring and a series of strong records mean that Useless Eaters isn’t exactly under-the-radar, but the band ought to be considered in the same orbit as the best of their garage punk peers. Seth Sutton moved from Memphis to San Francisco in 2013, and Bleeding Moon, his fifth full length, is a relentless, searing album.

Male Gaze – “Cliffs Of Madness”
From “Cliffs Of Madness” b/w “Think Twice” 7″ (Mt.St.Mtn.)
The band’s promised LP on Castle Face Records hasn’t arrived yet, but the A-side to Male Gaze’s debut seven-inch is a combustible mix of blown-out fuzz and surging pop. But what else could one expect from a group that includes members of high-quality bands Mayyors, Blasted Canyons and The Mall? This is a group to keep a close eye on, and we’re looking forward to that full length.

Bronze – “Quality”
From World Arena (Not Not Fun)
This SF trio released its first LP since 2011 earlier this year, another collection of songs that defy easy genre categorization. Despite the heavy use of electronics, there’s a very live rock and roll feel as well, with tunes equally suited to headphones and the dance floor.

The Bilinda Butchers – “Heaven Holds a Place (ft. Harriet Brown)”
From Heaven (Orchid Tapes)
With Heaven, their debut full length, The Bilinda Butchers offered a gorgeous, accomplished electronic pop album this year. The record was conceived as a soundtrack to an imagined diary of a woman living in 19th century Japan, and it’s an immaculately crafted exploration of love, death and the afterlife.

Odawas – “Black Iron Awakening / The Empire Never Ended”
From Reflections of a Pink Laser (Bookmaker Records)
Local electronic rock duo Odawas’ long-awaited album comes five years after the group’s stellar The Blue Depths. The group’s unique, powerful sound can be intimate or epic, and frequently nails both extremes within a single song; lyrically, the new LP is reportedly influenced by the later work of Philip K. Dick.