local and I’m listening: french miami; show Friday at Bottom of the Hill

December 16th, 2008

jay of french miami
Jay of French Miami by Adrian Bischoff

Some bands I can’t quite tell you why I like. If you described them to me, I might not even give them a listen. I’m not usually a fan of angular music or songs with dancey beats, but for some reason I looked into French Miami back in April and not only did I like them, I became obsessed. When we got their EP down at KZSU, I played it a lot. And I liked their set at Rock Make Street Festival in August. Now their first and self-titled full length is out.

If I had to pin down why I liked them, it’s how they balance melody and the hard-edged, angular and interesting riffs that anchor the instrumentation. Many more of the angular and arty rock bands tend to eschew melody mostly or entirely, but French Miami’s balance reminds me at times of Bakesale-era Sebadoh. They also have a good sense of song structure–they mix up different parts enough that it’s interesting but keep things together enough that it still feels cohesive.

The band’s bio traces their routes to Southern/ Touch and Go bands and I think that may be a necessarily link to why their music was on a fast path to me liking it from the get go: I grew up on many of those T&G/ Southern bands like Seam, Coctails, and–heck–one of my first indie rock CDs had bands like Jesus Lizard, June of 44, Shellac, and Tortoise.

But let’s step back a second here: do you care why I like them? Maybe not. So, let me say something about why you might like them: they build interesting songs out of rockin’ riffs, sweet synths and nice melodies.

French Miami – Science Fiction (mp3)

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French Miami – Multi Caliber Rifles (mp3)

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They’ve got two shows coming up, including this Friday:

12/19 French Miami, Happy Hollows, Master Slash Slave @ Bottom of the Hill, 10pm, $8, 21+

1/6 French Miami, Maus Haus, Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion release party @ the Knockout, 7pm, free??, 21+

You can buy it at Dinner Party Records for $7. $7! What a steal! You can also hear more in the Bay Bridged podcast episode about the band.

Other local and I’m listening posts (newest-to-oldest):

(Full Disclosure [1])

local and I’m listening: Silian Rail

October 18th, 2008

Silian Rail at this year’s Rock Make Street Festival, August 24, 2008

If you’ve been following my radio show playlists over the last couple months, you’ll have noticed that I’ve been playing one band pretty consistently: SF locals Silian Rail. First KZSU had their Spring Tour EP on our new file and then their new album And I You, to Pieces came through. I’ve been listening to and really enjoying both of these records.

Silian Rail’s music falls in between a number of categories. In terms of bands that I hear similarities to, Unwed Sailor’s tunes would be the closest. It’s instrumental but it doesn’t have the usual repetitive features or crescendos and decrescendos heard in post rock. The drumming is interesting and active like math rock drumming but the music doesn’t have the time shifts. It has pop song structures but these are not actually pop songs, or really songs in that they lack lyrics.

But regardless of how you try to classify this music–I’ve just been calling it instrumental indie rock–it’s engaging and has stood up to my repeated listens really well.

Silian Rail – Drunken Boat (mp3, from Spring Tour EP)

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Silian Rail – Awake (mp3, from And I You, to Pieces)

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Having seen the band at this year Rock Make Street Festival, I can tell you that they put on a good live show. The CD release show for And I You, to Pieces is next Wednesday:

10/22 Silian Rail, Aarrows, Neveragain @ Bottom of the Hill, 9pm, $8, a/a

They have various dates in the Bay Area and Northern California in the next couple months. You can find those at the band’s myspace. To buy the album, And I You, to Pieces use the paypal link on their myspace page.

Other local and I’m listening posts (newest-to-oldest):

local and I’m still listening: the Dodos; or, how there’s no reason to start the blacklash; or, they may be a Visiter but I’d like them to stay a while

April 14th, 2008

the Dodos performing at the Cafe du Nord March 29, 2007

It’s been a hair over a year since I first heard the Dodos (myspace). That show was what first inspired me to create the Local and I’m Listening series and their sound left me obsessed for months. (I may have caught on early but I was certainly not the first[1].) I liked them enough to bring a bunch of people to see the Dodos, again as an opening act five days later. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an opening band cold and wanted to see them again five days later, but I did. I’ve since been song obsessed, hosted them at KZSU and seen them yet again. This was all before Visiter came out and they got all that attention.

What I’ve set myself up for here is the perfect indie snob I-knew-them-way-back-when-but-now-they’re-crap moment. As much as I hate that sort of stuff, there’s a little part of me that’s yearning to take advantage of it. But here’s the thing: there’s no need. They’re still great. I’ve been listening to it a ton and I’ve been song obsessed again. There’s no need for any sort backlash here; the Dodos still have it.

One of the reasons I love their first album, Beware of the Maniacs, is because it has topnotch songwriting across the board. I can put that album on shuffle and basically always hit a song I love. I love their live show a ton because of all the energy, but Visiter (and Beware) doesn’t quite capture that. Where the live show succeeds on account of its energy, Visiter succeeds on subtly great melodies, meticulous production and layering and its willingness to put on some of the experimentation they do live.

The beginning of the album is impressive: the first four songs make a great introduction to the album and, for new listeners, a great introduction to the Dodos. “Walking” is a pretty atypical Dodos song. It’s got banjo and female vocals and Meric’s singing in a sweeter tone that usual. It’s a nice melody and the banjo works really well.

“Red and Purple” picks up the pace and introduces an intense world-referencing beat (reminding me of “The Obvious Child”‘s beat). The chorus has one of those subtle melodies that I was talking about and the toy piano just adds an extra little hook for part of the song.

the Dodos – Walking (mp3)

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the Dodos – Red and Purple (mp3)

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If you’ve heard of the Dodos, you’ve probably heard or seen the video for the single “Fools.” It’s still a great song–I’m not glossing over that at all–but you probably know it already. Follow “Fools”, “Winter” is another solid song with particularly interesting production (mandolin, reverbed clapping, brass).

“Paint the Rust” comes close to capturing the intensity of their live performances. The song builds to a point with frantic finger-picking and spastic drums. But here’s where the Dodos do what may become a signature element for them, a thing other bands don’t do: instead of building to a frantic climax and stopping, they breakdown the song and slow it down until it effectively segues into “Park Song.” That song and the song after it, the second single “Jody”, feature more of those subtle and beautiful melodies, sneaked into the choruses and surrounded by more agitated and experimental parts. “Jody” is a great song all around. It has intensity, great guitar parts and nice melodies.

In the last bit of the album you’ll find “Ashley” and “Undeclared”. These two songs took a little bit to sink but sank in nicely. The album ends with the almost seven minute long “God?”, which is a great way to end the album: interesting percussion and production, both softer and intense parts, and even a little of their experimental sides.

So, to recap: Visiter is great. The Dodos are great. There’s a lot of press about them and it’s warranted.

You can buy Visiter at insound or at Amoeba or Aquarius (last I checked they both had it in stock).

A still better idea is to check them out live and buy it at the show. They’ve got three dates coming up in SF, all either with great bands or free. Can’t lose, can you?

4/27 Les Savy Fav, the Dodos @ Great American
5/14 the Dodos @ Amoeba, FREE
7/19 the Dodos, The Oh Sees, Dreamdate @ the Independent

Other local and I’m listening posts (newest-to-oldest):

[1] That ¡albondigas! post is what convinced me to get to the Adem show early enough to see the Dodos. Thanks, Nick!

local and I’m listening: Two Sheds, mp3s, tour dates, KZSU appearance

April 7th, 2008

Two Sheds performing in Austin as a part of SxSW 2008

I loved their show at SxSW and I’ve been twice obsessed, so this post about the Sacremento/ San Francisco[1] band Two Sheds (myspace) shouldn’t be much of a surprise.

I’ve been listening to everything I’ve been able to get my hands on–which has been their album, Strange Ammunition and a split 7″ with the song “No Place”–and I’ve been really enjoying it. There are easy comparisons to be made on their sound, but let’s forgo those and try to get down to the nuts and bolts. Two Sheds do bluesy, folky rock music with some of appreciation of the slowness and spareness (and the tension created by those things) of slowcore all while being drenched in the deceptively simple melodies and gorgeous, breathy female vocals of Caitlin Gutenberger.

Almost two months after first hearing “It’s Hard” I’m still floored by it. It’s a slow, finger-picked tune with very simple percussion under it, but that’s all that’s needed to support the gorgeous, soulful vocals.

Two Sheds – It’s Hard (mp3)

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“Undertow” is a rocker in the slowcore school, and while the guitars and music follow the down sentiments of that sub-genre, the vocals here show something more like cautious jubilation, like they’re ready to burst out of the song.

Two Sheds – Undertow (mp3)

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Check out their myspace for more tunes and the Deli SF has another mp3 you can grab.

They have a few Bay Area dates coming up.

4/18 Elf Power, Flowers Forever, Two Sheds @ Bottom of the Hill, 10pm, $10, a/a
6/11 Two Sheds, Friday Mile, Geographer, and Marabelle Phoenix @ Annie’s Social Club, 8pm, $7, 21+

They’ll also be on KZSU from 9-10pm on May 21. I’ll be hosting this and I’m pretty excited about it. They also have plenty of Northern California and West Coast dates coming up. Their myspace page seems up to date on the tour info.

You can buy their album Strange Ammunition, out on Under a Cloud Records and/ or their Dame Satan split 7″ at Ghost Mansion Records.

Other local and I’m listening posts (newest-to-oldest):

I’m Adrian Bischoff and I approve of this band.

[1] They’re not extremely local but they’re so good that other local blogs have decided to claim them for our own.

local and I’m listening: the Lightning Bug Situation, CD release show this weekend

December 4th, 2007

I first heard about The Lightning Bug Situation (myspace) a bit more than a month back and I was quickly obsessed with a couple of the songs.

Brian Miller (who is the Lightning Bug Situation) sent me the debut album, A Leaf, a Stream shortly afterwards. I’ve been listening to it for a few weeks and enjoying it.

If there is a “typical San Francisco” sound, I don’t think this is it. An album about both the birth of his daughter and the Iraq War, it’s based around mostly fingerpicked guitar or piano and reverbed vocals. It also has processed drums and audio recordings of family and friends talking about a variety of topics, including domestic abuse and oppressive fathers, sprinkled throughout. It’s these sobering recordings that give one the most-immediate sense that this is not your average album of light-hearted indie loves songs.

“Message to Myself After Franny was Born” was the immediate standout track for me. It’s a gorgeous piano song with a gorgeous chorus and a really beautiful set of slide guitar parts.

the Lightning Bug Situation – Message to Myself After Franny was Born (mp3)

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“the New Dad” has fingerpicked guitar and supplemental piano building the groundwork for a melancholy vocal and the three together form a really pretty song. The quick sound bite of a baby here and there serves to remind one what the song is about and that it’s thoroughly grounded in reality.

The Lightning Bug Situation – The New Dad (mp3)

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If you’re in the Bay Area, you can check out the A Leaf; a Stream CD release show this Saturday:

12/8 the Lightning Bug Situation, The Antiques and The Vision of a Dying World @ Amensia, 9pm, $8, 21+

[Note: not totally sure on that price, but it seems to be somewhere around there.]

Amensia, if you don’t know it (I didn’t), is in the Mission on Valencia between 19th and 20th.

You can buy the album at CD Baby if you’re not able to get to that show.

local and I’m listening: nyles lannon. Rickshaw Stop stop saturday night

November 1st, 2007

I’ve been listening to Nyles Lannon (myspace) aka N.Lannon, a San Francisco songwriter and guitarist that also used to play in Film School.

He writes songs usually utilizing acoustic guitar, often finger-picked, but then also adds in electronic elements. Often the floating, rolling guitar is accompanied by a floating electronic sound and his slightly breathy and self-harmonized vocals. Of course, this might all falter if it wasn’t backed up by good songwriting; this does not falter.

MY friend Whitney, who turned me onto his music described his music pretty well:

I think he makes beautifully simple, sometimes catchy, songs that have a real ethereal feeling to them. There is a balance between a sort of lightness and a heaviness in the sound that I can’t find a comparison to at the moment.

N Lannon – Hollow Heart (mp3 ,from Chemical Friends)

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N Lannon – Did I Lose You (mp3, from Pressure)

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Music writers sign a contract stating that they must compare any male fingerpicking guitar songwriter to Nick Drake, but Nylse, especially when he self-harmonizes in his sometimes-used falsetto, like on “Did I Lose You”, I hear later-era Elliott Smith. Where Figure 8 was filled out with strings and honky tonk piano, Nyles’ songs, rather than being filled out feel like they are stretched and then held in front of another subtly painted canvas.

Badman (his record label) has a few more tracks for download and you can hear more at his myspace page as well..

11/3 Nyles Lannon w/ Minipop (CD Release), Built for the Sea @ Rickshaw Stop, 8:30pm, $10, 21+

Of course if you want to find out more about him, hear a bit of an interview and more songs, you can check out the podcast featuring him at the Bay Bridged. He’s got some interesting things to say about his songwriting process. (I was going to post this piece last week, actually, but I found out the Bay Bridged was about to post theirs so I held off.)

There are more tour dates on the left coast:
Fri 11/2/07 UC Davis Arts Building Davis CA
Sat 11/3/07 Rickshaw Stop San Francisco CA w/Minipop
Sun 11/4/07 Spaceland Los Angeles CA w/Rademacher
Mon 11/5/07 The Cellar Door Visalia CA w/Division Day

Note: emusic has both of his albums, but one is listed under “nyles lannon” and one is listed under “n. lannon”

local and I’m listening: or, the whale, mp3s, album review, tour dates

July 18th, 2007

promo shot

There has been some talk about SF band Or, the Whale (myspace), but it wasn’t until Lindsay from the band (who I’m guessing get their name from the full title of the Melville book Moby Dick or, the Whale) emailed me a little bit ago that I finally got around to listening to them. A few days later I had their full, debut album Light Poles and Pines.

I’m not sure what I expect, but it wasn’t this…Bands that are big in the SF scene don’t sound so…country. (People may call this alt-country but really they just mean country that’s not bad.)

It’s made up of a bunch of fairly ordinary elements: this will probably not be the only album you hear this year with good lead and harmony vocals. It’s probably not the only album you’ll hear with cohesive and interesting instrumentation, nor will it be the only one where the songs sound different enough that it’s interesting but not so different you’re left wondering if you’re listening to the same band. This may however be the best use of pedal steel guitar you hear this year. I’d like to shake Tim Marcus’ (OtW’s pedal steel player, and, I think, also a member of the previously mentioned Blammos) hand for that.

But you put it all together and it’s an album that I want to listen to over and over again with nuanced songs that are really enjoyable to listen to. It also shows quite a bit of maturity for a debut album.

The album starts off with “Call and Response.” My only complaint with this track is that it makes the rest of the album hard to listen to because I’m always pressing back to hear this again. It’s a mid-tempo song with upbeat, almost shuffling drums. The vocals, laden with harmonies, and the pedal steel work particularly well in this song.

Or, the Whale – Call and Response (mp3)

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“Rope Don’t Break” is one of the ballads of the album. It’s in a fairly slow three with female lead vocals. The tight male harmonies work really well as does the fairly sparse instrumentation, leaving plenty of room for the voices and pedal steel to float on top. The way a band handles a ballad often shows a lot about them; Or, the Whale succeeds on this ballad.

Or, the Whale – Rope Don’t Break (mp3)

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I feel like perhaps the one misstep of the album is “Bound for Home.” In this people-from-the-city-make-country-music realm, there’s a fine line appreciation over which one gets into irony. I feel the gut bucket bass sound and guiro just step over that line too much in this instance. It’s probably not intended that way, but I can’t manage to hear it otherwise.

Overall I’ve been really liking this album. You can buy Light Poles and Pines for $10 at their myspace page (with Paypal).

Those of us here in San Francisco will have two chances to check them out live:

7/20 Or, the Whale, Dame Sata, Snowblink @ Hotel Utah, $6
8/25 Or, the Whale, Birds and Batteries, Social Studies @ Great American, $12 [what a bill!]

Check out the rest of their nation-wide tour dates after the jump.
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local and I’m listening: ian fays

June 5th, 2007

I found the the Ian Fays from the latest podcase from the Bay Bridged and have been enjoying their music. The Ian Fays are twin girls plus another girl and another guy. They started recording largely on four tracks when they went to college but they’d been bands before that. (People still use four tracks?). They have breathy, close vocals over acoustic guitars, piano and casio-keyboard drums and other synths. The twin part leads to some harmonies that sound like two of the same person (which is easy enough to do by anyone on a recording but not as easy live). They also, apparently, have a habit of dressing up in different themed costumes while playing.

The Ian Fays – Barrettes (mp3)

The Ian Fays – All the Phones (mp3, from label site)

They play at the Hemlock Tavern on June 16:

6/16 Social Studies, the Ian Fays @ the Hemlock, 9:30pm, $6, 21+

It appears you can buy their stuff from the homesleep music shop and apparently via paypal.

frick! last to the party! (or am I…?): Port O’Brien (local and I’m listening)

May 15th, 2007

New and Used Records points me to a song (which he probably heard from via Pitchfork or via mward) by the Oakland band Port O’Brien (myspace).

[Yes, I’ve just spent a paragraph explaining how I’m not nearly the first to hear of this band. Honesty and disclosure in music blogging!]

I’ve been liking the various songs that are available on mp3 page. There’s also an intriguing aspect of the band involving Van Pierszalowski spending the summers in Alaska as a commercial fisher, Deadliest Catch style.

“I Woke Up Today” is a rollicking crowd shout-along over a bed of simple, but interesting dark folksy guitar and tambourine. It’s really a quite simple tune but quite affecting nonetheless[1].

Port O’Brien – I Woke Up Today (mp3, from the band website)

The Deli SF also has an interview with them.

They also have a “super secret” page of live and demo mp3s, including a funny version of “My Humps,” which ends, very appropriately with Van, the lead guy, stopping abruptly and saying “I can’t do this anymore.”

They only have a few tour dates currently and only one (May 19, this saturday) Bay Area one:

May 17 2007 8:00P The Echo w/ FUJIYA & MIYAGI Los Angeles, CA
May 18 2007 8:00P SLO Arts Center San Luis Obispo, CA
May 19 2007 8:00P Mission Creek Music Festival @ The Hemlock w/ King Kong (ex-Slint) San Francisco, CA
Sep 7 2007 8:00P Bestival Isle of Wight ~ England
Sep 16 2007 8:00P End of the Road Festival Dorset ~ England

[1] Note: I love when there are words that are just mashed together other words e.g. nonetheless, albeit, etc.

local and I’m listening beatbeat whisper mp3s tour dates

April 12th, 2007

I first heard Santa Cruz’s Beatbeat Whisper (myspace) (formerly called “Flatbread Kids” and formerly out of Stanford, I believe) over at the Deli SF blog late last week (though, apparently my fellow KZSU DJ Natalie has been trumpeting them for months and one of the album tracks was actually recorded on her show—maybe I should pay more attention). It stewed for a couple days and by the time I heard their album before my radio show yesterday, my thinking on the subject was something in the vein of (excuse my language) “holy shitballs! This is good!”

Beatbeat Whisper is a boy-girl duo with lovely, light and airy folky songs. Their use of many different odd instruments (guitar, mandolin, autoharp, mbira or kalimba, banjo) on their recordings reminds me a bit of another great folky Adem. They’re also similar, in a way, to another local band I’m a fan of, the Finches. Their recordings are a bit sloppy, a bit lo-fi at times. Sometimes this is great and works well, and sometimes, to be honest, I find myself wanting things to be a little cleaner.

The songs on their self-title debut range from folk/ noise collage at points to lovely self-penned songs that really recall tradition American songs or Anglo-American ballads. Some are melancholy and some are silly, though they tend toward the melancholy in general.

“Lulu” is a fantastic tune. It’s what first made my ears first perk up. It starts with an atmospheric background and soon there’s a melancholy and beautiful finger-picked guitar part. I really like the chorus, the music, the melody and the lyrics. If you download one song this week, it should be this.

Beatbeat Whisper – Lulu (mp3)

I had a really hard time picking a second song to share; there were about four different ones that I thought seriously about. In the end, I really couldn’t pass up “Play Me a Time” which is essentially a gorgeous lullaby with autoharp, but ends up more orchestrated, but still has a soothing lilt to it the whole way through. Had a hard week or a friend is irritating you? Try listening to this song.

Beatbeat Whisper – Play Me a Time (mp3)

There are a couple more mp3s available for download at their myspace

They happen to be playing Stanford on Saturday, so I’ll zip over for that:

Apr 14 2007 7:00P Stanford Art Affair/Soundtrack Release show Stanford, California

Here are the rest of the confirmed tour dates:
Apr 21 2007 1:00P Earth Day Festival! Lagunitas, California
Apr 27 2007 8:00P Caffe Pergolesi Santa Cruz, California
Apr 28 2007 1:00P Slide Ranch Spring Fling Muir Beach, California
May 7 2007 5:00P UC Davis CoHo Live Davis, California
May 9 2007 8:00P UCSC w/ Alela Diane Santa Cruz, California
May 13 2007 1:00P Venice Contemporary Los Angeles, California
May 13 2007 8:00P The Habitat San Diego, California
May 14 2007 10:15P Dublin’s Square Downtown San Diego, California
May 18 2007 9:00P Pehrspace Los Angeles, California
May 20 2007 6:00P KCPR 91.3 FM in-studio San Louis Obispo, California

Looks like only the CA is lucky enough for now, but keep an eye out of these guys.

Their album is available for the low low price of $8.