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Best Albums of 2009 from the SF Bay Area

1. WHY? – Eskimo Snow
Its hard to believe these songs were written at the same time as Alopecia way back in 2007. A perfect mix between weird, poppy, and intelligent that is incredibly fun and satisfying.

2. Man/Miracle – The Shape of Things
A band with some of the most original mixes of influences, think Talking Heads doing sometimes darker indie dance songs, Man/Miracle is one of my favorite bands in Oakland. Every song on The Shape of Things becomes your favorite as you listen to it. A late release in November of 100 copies has already rumored to be sold out, but it will be re-released by Third Culture Records in February of 2010 making it a safe prediction that The Shape of Things will make it on this same list next year too.

3. Girls – Album
It seems that there are a number of people who are “over” this record or sick of hearing about it on Pitchfork and other prominent music blogs but, to be frank, those people are idiots. Excessive publicity aside, Girls made a really amazing record. Interesting song writing and Christopher Owens’ voice made most of the songs on Album impossible to not enjoy. Was there a better opening song on a local record this year than “Lust For Life” or a better almost seven minute slow tempo pop song than “Hellhole Ratrace”? No, there wasn’t.

4. Grand Lake – Nevermint
Grand Lake’s debut with their original 4 person line up blew me away when it was released in March. Short minimal pop songs became controlled explosions for all 7 tracks of Nevermint. The songwriting of Caleb Nichols is complemented perfectly by the wild guitar abstractions of Jameson Swanagon. Grand Lake may have moved on from these type of songs, but none the less Nevermint is one of the better listens from the East Bay scene this year.

5.Tall Grass – Nothing, Nothing Tra La La
Tall Grass made my favorite CD-R of 2009. The songwriting of Andrew Macey is both emotional and hilarious allowing it to touch the listener in a special and unique way. Like their performances, Tall Grass is best enjoyed in an intimate setting where you can feel as close to the acoustic guitar, fiddle, harmonies, and subtle percussion as possible.

-Glenn Jackson


the morning benders free download

The morning benders' recently released "Promises", the first single from their new album Big Echo, as a free download from their website for a limited time. True Panther Sounds will release the 7' single with the B-side "Oh Annie" in late February. Big Echo is due out on March 9th.


Open Blog - Thirstbusters "So There" music video

This entry is from our Open Blog. I don't know a lot of whippersnappers, but all of the ones I do know seem to go to Berkeley High. How big is Berkeley High anyway? These kids definitely have talent but I can't help but wonder, do they ever get beat up?

After meeting in the renowned Berkeley High Jazz Ensemble two years ago, Thirstbusters began performing Pop/Rock around the Bay Area. Incorporating jazz sensibilities, the young band puts on a diverse, energetic, and mature performance. Now at UCLA, UC Irvine, Oberlin and Vassar, the band always has a new exciting project waiting for them when they come home. In addition to having shows, they recorded and produced an album of all originals. The release of Time You Awake was a huge success last summer at Ashkenaz in Berkeley and the debut album is now on iTunes. Now the high-caliber music video takes Thirstbusters to a level unexpected from such recent high school graduates. They're currently planning a California tour for next summer. With Zach Sorgen on vocals and keyboard, Ryan Thomas on guitar, Forrest Mitchell on drums, and Chase Jackson on bass, Thirstbusters realize that with inspiration, dedication, and a little elbow grease, the dream can become a reality. Thirstbusters are young, full of passion, and on their way. While maintaining their youth and feel-good vibe, this band is lyrically and musically on the forefront of creative output.

You can post about your band to our open blog by visiting this site.



Bomarr, Meanest Man Contest, Roman Ruins on Gold Robot Records compilation

As we leave behind a decade that saw the decline (if not near extinction) of the indie record label, those few survivors it seems are faced with certain existential questions. When, for less than the price of Friday night's bar tab, practically any band or single recording can find it's way onto the downloadable markets of iTunes and it's ilk, and any small time musical flunky with an email can spam out copies of their songs to try and get the attention of blogs and other media (and boy do they spam), what is the roll of the indie record label here now in the future?
I suppose that question can be pawned off to someone else but for our purposes now, Gold Robot Records (a local Bay Area indie record label responsible for releases by railcars, lady genius, and others), having recently released the compilation Designed Entropy, at least has found a way to stay relevant in spite of the push towards the superfluous. Here perhaps is a bit of saving grace for the small label; it can serve as a road sign to local acts. Releasing compilations can be a great way to pull together talent and focus attention (often spread thin in this musical landscape) in appropriate directions.
Designed Entropy brings together three San Francisco acts and one Portland band for a tight sample of some great (mostly) electronic music. Further, being released as a 7inch (a process a bit more involved than throwing your rubbish onto the internet) Gold Robot Records has provided tactility, a fading quality of the album experience, to the listener. Though enough for now of this mumbo-jumbo, on to the meat of the EP: the music.
Side A of Designed Entropy features two tracks, the first "Exchange Among Systems" by Bomarr and the second "Karate Eyes" by Copy (Portland’s single contribution to the album). Both tracks sound as though they originated in the electronic music era of Kraftwerk. There is a certain simplicity to the tracks, built as a series of minimal electronic loops that, while in actuality were probably fastidiously arranged, sound as though they could have been composed on a very basic 70s synthesizer.
Though not from San Francisco, Copy's contribution to this album might be my favorite. There is a certain levity and cheerfulness to it that is so sincere it demands a smile in spite of any cynicism (a welcome difference in quality than what I normally am found listening to). All in all the elemental sound in these songs makes them stand out in a genre in which simplicity far to often falls rapidly into the mundane.
If side A recalls the sounds of Kraftwerk, side B resembles much more the electronic sounds of Joy Division and New Order. Meanest Man Contest’s track “Takitani Edit” pounds out a dark piano riff over a subtle electronic mix with the vocals sounding something of a cross between Ian Curtis and Nick Cave. It’s a nice dark turn from the levity of the previous side.
A soothing ethereal finale Roman Ruins’ “Plea for Performance” rounds out the EP in a graceful outro. Owing much of its sound to New Order, “Plea for Performance” sounds as though it was recorded at the heyday of New Wave.
Certainly this EP, compiled by Gold Robot Records, is a good sampling of Bay Area electronica. It gives a good taste of what these bands, which may not have come so quickly to my attention, have to offer. As a series too, Designed Entropy promises to continue providing us with samples of different local artists, and hopefully provide Gold Robot with the relevance in needs to stay around.

-Ada Lann


Birds & Batteries, Winter's Fall, Waste Band and Forest Floor at the Starry Plough

Birds & Batteries

San Francisco's Birds & Batteries will be making their way over to the East Bay this Friday to play at Berkeley's Starry Plough. They will be joined by East Bayer's Winter's Fall, Waste Band, and Forest Floor which should make the evening a fun mixture of synth pop, indie rock, and a touch of folk.

Birds & Batteries, Winter's Fall, Waste Band and Forest Floor
@ The Starry Plough, Berkeley
Friday, January 8th

Starry Plough is located at 3101 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley
Cover is $8


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