Thirteen years ago, bay area MC Del the Funky Homosapien collaborated with Dan the Automator and Kid Koala to create an innovative album that seemed like the infinite Christmas present to the hip-hop world, revolutionizing a brand of emotional and intelligent music that sent a precedent for the future. Continue reading
It’s been almost a year from Stomacher’s last album, Clara, and it still haunts their fans as if they’ve just seen a ghost. Continue reading
May has brought to my attention some great albums, new and old, from indie to mainstream. A few that have been in heavy rotation deserve some notoriety- I hope these recommendations can liven up your playlist for the month of May and beyond.
Bonobo- The North Borders
Matt Costa’s new self titled album is a conjunction of all his past efforts; a cohesive blend of dreamy surf pop with romanticized vocals and creative melodies.
This is Costa’s most mature effort to date, really perfecting that vintage sound he adapted on Mobile Chateau blended with the masterful songwriting roots of Unfamiliar Faces and Songs We Sing.It’s big and bold, yet subtle and stripped down when it needs to be. Songs like “Loving You” and “Good Times” have that Beach Boys- surf pop feel, while “Eyes for You” and “Clipped Wings” have graduated to a Paul Simon type level- showcasing growth in his songwriting skills. Costa recorded this album in Glasgow with Belle and Sebastian, and the inspiration is heard. “Silver Sea” has perhaps the most recognizable influence of traditional Celtic music with tribal instrumentation and a chant like lyrical structure. The album as a whole is more experimental, utilizing orchestrations to round out the music. It’s not overbearing, but just the right amount to add another dimension to Matt Costa’s already crafty songs.
Matt Costa rushed the stage on a Saturday night in San Francisco with a smile on his face, quickly glancing over the eager audience of Slims. He headed straight to his keyboard where he sat down and waited for the rest of his band to get situated. Through cheers and jeers he plunged into perhaps his biggest single, “Mr. Pitiful.” It was almost as he was getting the song out of the way, but it really energized the crowd for the entirety of the show. Costa was on point, hitting every note with clarity and really brought his songs to life with his humble energy and excitement. Matt did a great job playing songs from all of his albums. Some of the highlights were when Costa played “Desires Only Fling” and the high energy “Behind the Moon” (Off Songs We Sing) with a twelve string guitar, in which he broke a string but continued to thrash his way through the set without changing it. During the song “Miss Magnolia,” Costa placed the Mic stand below the stage with the audience. He started the song with the crowd and slowly danced away from the Mic. At one point, he stopped to sing a verse acapella, which had the whole crowds attention. Even the band members on stage seemed to get a kick out of his theatrics.
On several songs Costa had his wife come out and sing back up vocals. At one point, a girl from the crowd shouted- “I want you to sit on my face.” Matt chuckled and sheepishly retorted, “careful now, that’s my wife on stage.” The guitar player also scratched his head, “isn’t that illegal?” He chimed. The vibe of the show was very casual, even during songs like “Eyes for You” Costa always held the crowds attention. Though the crowd wasn’t too familiar with his latest album, which just dropped last month, they still danced to the songs they barely recognized. “Good Times,” and “Loving You” are catchy tunes that one doesn’t have to know to dance, or appreciate. Even during the eccentric song, “Next Time,” the crowd honored Matt’s talent and incredible backing band. With a new bass player and a slide guitarist, Costa’s sound was full and crisp.
One of my favorite moments was the encore, and I’m usually not to keen on those. Costa came out with just his guitar and played “Vienna,” a beautiful ballad. It was the first time we got to see just Matt and his guitar, and it proved his worth. At only thirty years old, he played like a veteran in his prime. He was happy that this was his show and eager to prove he belonged there. Like his music, he is constantly evolving and impressing. Although at times his songs resemble the Beatles or Bob Dylan, and he is widely linked to Jack Johnson, Costa is a musician that should stand alone without comparisons. He isn’t afraid of pushing boundaries, and his live show exemplifies how talented he is. I would highly recommend seeing him, especially while he’s still selling out smaller venues.
Check out the interview I did with Matt at SF Station!!!
Buke and Gase- Café Du Nord (Monday, February 18)
The night was early and the show was slated to start punctually. Patrons were filling the tiny quarters of this swarthy venue, the Café Du Nord, reminiscent of an early jazz bar. I checked my watch and sure enough it was only 9 pm. Four people took to the stage and the house music slowly stiffened. Guitars rang and drums riveted the ears of a nearly packed venue. It was surprising to see such an attentive audience for the opening band, a clue that it would be a good night with appreciative guests.
The first band were San Francisco locals, Yassou Benedict. They delved into their set with slow melodic guitar riffs, layered with canny keyboards and astute drums. The singer sang in a high-pitched voice reminiscent to Bjork while playing her bass guitar, frequently letting it hang while she switched to the keys. The lead guitar player, clearly the leader of the band, would also alternate his fingers from strings to turning knobs and modulations on her keyboard. During the second song, the guitar player took off his guitar and grabbed a pair of drumsticks; lending side hits on a tom for a crafty percussive experience. While this band was captivating enough, including vocal loops and dreamy guitars, there weren’t many catchy hooks, and their music at times seemed slow and dull, like an emoted roller coaster that never seemed to go up or down.
The second band, Ahleuchatistas, was a cultural storm; a two-piece band derived of pedal laden guitars and a drum set with chimes that were only missing a Chinese Gong. Fast paced jazz style guitar through an octave pedal was backed by short spurts of tribal drumming. It was like members of Meshuggah playing African Jazz in the streets of China.
Buke and Gase, a duo from New York, took the stage wearing all black. The faithful crowd applauded, paying homage to a band that was on three weeks of touring and had about another three months ahead of them. They wasted no time, plunging into dark, fastidious algorithms that seared the soul. The band uses unique instrumentation. Lead singer and guitar player, Arone Dyer, plays a six-string former-baritone ukulel with a low tuning in D. The guitar itself looks very custom, with abalone shimmering the perimeter and hearts sketched where the neck meets the body. Her guitar seemed to be indicative of her character. The bass player, Aron Sanchez, held a solid black guitar with bass strings. The guitar/bass hybrid was very powerful and sounded like he strung instrument with nothing but low E-strings. Together they are very meticulous and calculated, and often starred at each other intimately for the next move, as if their set was intrinsically spontaneous.
While their instrumentation is dazzling, the rhythm is imperative to their music. Sanchez was in charge of the bass drum while Dyer simultaneously tapped on her self made “toe-bourine.” They playfully echoed back and forth, sometimes in unison and other times separately. There wasn’t any dissonance between the two. The music they play is choppy and sporadic, but it all makes sense. Their sound on “Misshaping Introduction” was articulated perfectly, matching that same ambient sound which can be hard to do with such electronic fundamentals. The bass drum hit hard and vibrated through one’s bones while the toe-bourine added an element of chamber music, sounding like heavy chains dropping to the floor from the petit foot of Dyer. The aura of the venue seemed like a dungeon, one that you don’t worry about escaping. Dyers vocals were perfect, simulated through an effects pedal that made her sound like a robotic angel.
The band didn’t address the audience until about four songs into their set. The seemingly shy Dyer sheepishly said hello as the crowd erupted. She stood up from her stool to see her fans. Throughout her performance a docile smile would form on her face, bestowing the gratitude they have to be playing music around the world.
Perhaps one of the best moments came when Dyer broke a string halfway through a song. When they finished, she promptly restrung her instrument but not before a humorous intermission. Dyer paid tribute to opening band, Yussou Benedict, who is from Hudson Bay, where Buke and Gase currently live. Meanwhile, Sanchez casually said, “I think we realized halfway through the tour that we were doing this so we could see Ahleuchatistas play every night.” There was clapping, and then an onslaught of questions, some relevant, some not.
“What do you think about the meteors”?
Sanchez: The one that hit Russia?
Crowd: One hit here!
Dyer: We’re all going to die.
“What’s your favorite city to play”?
Dyer: San Francisco, obviously!
Sanchez: Denver was pretty cool, too.
Dyer: I actually like it here so much I wanted to move here. But Denver was really cool. If I didn’t move here, I’d move to Denver.
The questions were quickly put to rest as Dyer complacently added, “last night I broke my G string.” The crowd smirked at her flirtatious banter. “Thank you for being so patient,” she complimented, and then one more question reigned from the audience. “What’s your favorite joke”? Dyer became giggly, and without hesitation asked- “Have you heard about the magic tractor?” No response. “It drove and turned into a field!” There was subtle laughter, mainly praise for her courage to tell that joke.
The duo raced into another song, bewildering minds once again. Afterwards the soundman interrupted, “five minutes left.” They were baffled, a clear distinction of cultural nightlife between New York and San Francisco. They plunged into three more songs, ending the night in blissful fashion. The duo came out to the crowd, giving hugs and talking to friends and fans. This really showed their modesty, coming from a band that has played around the world with musicians like Lou Reed and Deerhoof, and were critically acclaimed by The National and frequented on NPR. They could have stayed backstage after a long three week U.S. tour, but instead they paid their due diligence to the fans. Throughout the clatter I heard comparisons- “they reminded me of Tegan and Sara,” one girl said. Another guy added, “I heard Crystal Castles, that singer really laid it all out there.” I may have chimed in with Tori Amos (Dyer even kind of looks like her) or Pinback, but no one had a clear definition of this group, which is the best thing a band can do. Leave you with an experience so sublime that there aren’t even words to describe it.
The Hot Toddies have distilled a musical potion for instant pleasure: Fuzzy distorted guitars complimented with modest drums and sexually insinuating lyrics that make you blush and head-bang simultaneously. This all-girl band from Oakland is anything but shy and should make even the Go Go’s proud with their first release through Tricycle Records, Bottom’s Up.
Heavy guitars embody a sound reminiscent of early Queen’s of the Stone Age and illuminate this bands eclectic taste in music. On Jaguar Love, the albums first track, singers Heidi and Erin sing playful do-op harmonies about fast cars and sex, “cruising in the fast lane, you may call me a whore,” they say sensibly, “but I don’t give a shit because I know my car is better than yours.” These girls have no boundaries, proposing in the chorus “let me take you for a ride, you might get laid.” It’s a refreshing and bold leap for women to be this candid.
These girls are the type of heartbreakers you can’t help but fall in love with, warning potential lovers that “living on the road you see, doesn’t leave much time for you and me,” in the song That Ain’t Right. The band hasn’t deviated from their old sound. In the track Green and Gold they demonstrate their ability to groove with a Supreme’s style ditty that will have you snapping your fingers. Their ballad, Boogie Nights, shows their romanticism with down tempo guitars and soothing keyboards. You’ll want to grab your lover by the hips and slow dance to acrimonious lyrics about doing cocaine at a bar and playing Beatle’s tunes on guitar underneath the moon.
The Hot Toddies aren’t just a group of girls with a dry sense of humor, either. They are also creative. In the last track, Hey Hey, they exemplify their musicianship in a jam filled with intricate bass lines and dueling guitars. This album could be great for any occasion, but is highly recommended with a glass of whiskey and a date who’s willing to sacrifice sleep for a fun night under the sheets
Check out the interview with SF Station @
In listening to Girls in Suede’s much anticipated release after a five year hiatus, it feels I’ve discovered a portal to another dimension; a dimension where Brian Wilson (Beach Boys) and John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers) are sipping tea with the Mad Hatter in a land called Oz, while Mark Sandman (Morphine) serenades them with tranquil saxophone riffs making sure Keith Moon doesn’t disrupt this charming chaos.
Often times when a band morphs different sounds and genres it can be overbearing and loses its listener. It’s a bold move. The Girls in Suede have found a way to blend all their favorite styles into one; such as funk, prog, soul, and Jazz. But in the end it boils down to one concept: The Girls in Suede have rediscovered Rock n’ Roll. From the first ambient Radiohead-esq “pallet cleanser” titled My Light to the next track Raptor, they’ve got you pondering life’s existence and dancing on your coffee table screaming “Quasimola Fasitola” right along with them.
But don’t assume their funky rhythms and sing alongs don’t have a backbone. Lyrics like, “you can walk faster when you walk alone, but together longer, that is how we roam,” (an African proverb discovered from a Snapple bottle) on 1987 really epitomize the character of this album and this band. They are long time friends that communicate through their instruments, and their camaraderie is audible. They are emotional but don’t dwell in the dark. Their honesty is hinged with an introspective vulnerability that calmly clasps your hand to ask, “can I have this dance?”
Buy this record. Play it for your parents and play it for your nieces and nephews. Play it for your grandparents. Play it while you drive down the sunset strip, or peruse shops in Chinatown. You’ll have no choice, because this album won’t leave your speakers.
***Check out the interview with Girls in Suede on SF Station!