Heron Oblivion - Photo by Alissa Anderson

Download: Mixtape: Fourteen San Francisco Bands to Watch in 2016 (Podcast #379)

Every year, it’s an exciting challenge to compile our “Bands to Watch” mixtape: exciting because it heralds another year full of great music from the Bay Area’s rising stars, and a challenge because there are far too many young acts worth including. This year’s mix of bands to keep an eye on in 2016 collects fourteen artists from around the Bay Area. Notably, all of them are new to The Bay Bridged podcast, offering a variety of sounds that include forward-thinking bedroom pop, stripped-down singer-songwriter tunes, energized hip-hop, and loud rock and roll.

Enjoy the mix and expect to hear more from all of these acts in the year to come!

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About the Bands:

Night Shapes – “Waiting for the Sunn” (Starts at 0:03)
This Oakland quartet plays heavy rock and roll mixed with elements of psych and shoegaze. “Waiting for the Sunn” is the group’s latest release, and if it’s any indication of where their in-progress second LP is headed, we’re in for a real treat.

Dick Stusso – “Heart of the Country” (4:33)
Dick Stusso seemingly emerged out of nowhere last year; more accurately, the downtrodden character sprang from the mind of local musician Nic Russo. Stusso’s double-EP debut tape, Nashville Dreams/Sings The Blues, came out late last year to much acclaim, showcasing Russo’s impressive talent for lo-fi country- and blues-inflected gems.

Jay Som – “Ghost” (6:57)
San Francisco’s Melina Duterte, also of local band Summer Peaks, is building a steady buzz for her solo bedroom-pop creations as Jay Som. 2015’s Untitled is a rough-around-the-edges collection of compelling “finished and unfinished songs.” In addition to more live shows this year, perhaps we’ll also see Duterte’s first official Jay Som release?

Caleborate – “SMH” (9:59)
Berkeley-by-way-of-Sacramento rapper Caleborate demonstrated a hell of a lot of confidence and poise on his addictive full-length debut, Hella Good, last year. He closed the year with a high-profile collaboration with Oakland’s G-Eazy, suggesting big things in the year to come.

Motor Inn – “Drive Alone” (14:32)
Odd Hours is the debut release from SF garage pop trio Motor Inn. The EP arrived in the fall, and it’s a five-song set of crazy-catchy, beach-party-ready songs, including the appropriately-titled EP closer “Night on the Beach.” The band’s been steadily playing shows around the Bay Area for the past couple of years, including recent dates with great locals Useless Eaters, bAd bAd, and Emotional.

The World – “Managerial Material” (15:49)
Oakland’s The World — truly one of the planet’s least Googleable acts — has been around less than a year, with just a couple of online demos in terms of available music. But to see the group play a live show is to instantly fall in love with their angular, noisy post-punk, full of dual bleating saxophones, killer percussion and real urgency. 2016 should be a big year for this band, so get on board now.

Heron Oblivion – “Oriar” (17:53)
This new SF band is packed with talented musicians, including Ethan Miller and Noel Von Harmonson of Comets on Fire, Charlie Saufley from Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound, and psych-folk artist Meg Baird. Together, they’re an incendiary psych-rock outfit with tight instrumentation backing Baird’s stellar vocals. It’s a winning combination that’s sure to gain broad attention when their self-titled LP arrives on Sub Pop in March.

Meernaa – “Constant Love” (22:00)
The excellent local band DRMS is no longer active, but that group’s Carly Bond and Rob Shelton have formed the new project Meernaa. “Constant Love” is the only song out from the trio, which is currently working on a debut EP. It’s an an incredible piece of dreamy synth-pop that will make you want to immediately hear more.

Hazel English – “Fix” (27:03)
If you enjoy indie-pop with a touch of summer haze, you’ll want to dig into the music of singer-songwriter Hazel English, who moved to the Bay from Sydney, Australia. English doesn’t have anything available commercially yet, but the songs she’s crafted with local producer Jackson Phillips (of Day Wave) soar on strong vocal melodies aided by a nostalgic warmth.

Mike Blankenship – “Black Music (feat. Kev Choice & D Sharp)” (30:41)
This Oakland musician already had an impressive resume before the release of Living For The Future, touring and recording for years with artists like Lauryn Hill, Sheila E and Michael Franti. But Blankenship’s debut album, which was several years in the making, reveals his talents as a producer and songwriter, uniting a wide array of talented contributors for an impressive collection of R&B and hip-hop.

Crush – “Familiar” (34:32)
Local “musclegaze” quartet Crush released two EPs last year, Crush and Crush II. True to their self-description, both EPs are loud and anthemic punk-meets-grunge. It’s a fully realized sound that indicates exciting potential for the band, which features members of Santa Cruz’s Valley Girls, and LA hardcore band Calculator.

Naked Lights – “Hedges” (37:34)
On January 29, East Bay post-punk quintet Naked Lights releases its second album, On Nature, on Castle Face Records. The band draws from post-punk and dub influences to create a dense and expansive sound, with a tight rhythm section, dual guitar lines, and lead singer Aurora Crispin’s commanding vocals adding up into music that’s heavily rhythmic and truly unpredictable.

Killer Whale – “Wait a Little While” (41:55)
Baton Rouge’s Thomas Johnson moved to San Francisco and brought a bountiful sense of creativity with him. Recording as Killer Whale, Johnson crafts psychedelic rock-pop from a mixture of acoustic instruments, electronics, and layered vocals. Johnson already released a new EP, Pink Pacific, earlier this month. One hopes that we’ll be hearing more new music from this inventive singer-songwriter before the year is through.

Madeline Kenney – “Heart Lion” (45:53)
2016 promises a full-length release from this talented Oakland-via-Seattle transplant, who crafts engaging atmospheric dream-pop. “Heart Lion” is almost startlingly minimal, a song that uses quiet space to maximum effect. The song, like the demos Kenney has posted online, rewards repeated visits.