Showbams Photography 2013: A year in review

Purity-Ring

Purity Ring // Marc Fong
First City Festival // 8.25.13


The power and impact of a great photo is undeniable. Striking photos take you to another place, inserting you into a spectacular moment from the past.

The photographers in the Bam Fam have produced many memorable, inspiring live music photos in 2013. Feast your eyes on 50 of our best shots from the past year.

Click a band or artist name to view the original article.

Fiona-Apple-and-Blake-Mills

Fiona Apple & Blake Mills // Sam Heller
Zellerbach Hall at UC Berkeley //10.8.13


Killer-Mike

Killer Mike // James Nagel
The Independent // 7.31.13


Crystal-Castles

Crystal Castles // Marc Fong
Fox Theater Oakland // 4.27.13


Phantogram

Phantogram // Marc Fong
Treasure Island Music Festival // 10.19.13


Warpaint

Warpaint // Marc Fong
The Independent // 9.17.13


Cut-Copy_

Cut Copy // James Nagel
Fox Theater Oakland // 11.2.13


Geographer_post

Geographer // Sterling Munksgard
Bimbo’s 365 Club // 11.23.13


Thee-Oh-Sees

Thee Oh Sees // Pedro Paredes
Great American Music Hall // 12.18.13


Grouplove

Grouplove // James Nagel
The Independent // 9.14.13


James-Blake

James Blake // Marc Fong
Treasure Island Music Festival // 10.20.13


Matthew-Dear

Matthew Dear // Mike Frash
Mezzanine // 5.22.13


Palma-Violets

Palma Violets // James Nagel
The Independent // 4.23.13


Polyphonic-Spree

Polyphonic Spree // Marc Fong
The Chapel // 8.19.13


Zedd

Zedd // Marc Fong
Fox Theater Oakland // 10.9.13


Robert-Randolph

Robert Randolph // Steve Kennedy
Notes For Notes Benefit // 12.6.13


Savages1

Savages // James Nagel
The Independent // 9.27.13


Steve-Aioki

Steve Aoki // Sterling Munksgard
Bill Graham Civic Auditorium // 11.16.13


The-Flaming-Lips

The Flaming Lips // James Nagel
Bill Graham Civic Auditorium // 10.31.13


The-xx

The xx // Marc Fong
The Greek Theatre // 6.1.13


Atoms-For-Peace

Atoms For Peace // Marc Fong
Treasure Island Music Festival // 10.19.13


Thundercat1

Thundercat // James Nagel
The Independent // 11.13.13


Trey-Anastasio-Band

Trey Anastasio Band // Sam Heller
Fox Theater Oakland // 4.20.13


Alabama-Shakes

Alabama Shakes // Marc Fong
Fox Theater Oakland // 3.5.13


AlunaGeorge

AlunaGeorge // Marc Fong
The Independent // 9.11.13


Autre-Ne-Veut

Autre Ne Veut // Mike Frash
The Independent // 3.11.13


chk-chk-chk

!!! // James Nagel
Great American Music Hall // 2.28.13


CSS

CSS // James Nagel
The Independent // 6.16.13


Danny-Brown

Danny Brown // Marc Fong
Treasure Island Music Festival // 10.19.13


Father-John-Misty

Father John Misty // Marc Fong
First City Festival // 8.24.13


HAIM

Haim // Marc Fong
Treasure Island Music Festival // 10.19.13


How-To-Dress-Well

How To Dress Well // Sam Heller
The Independent // 8.26.13


Jagwar-Ma

Jagwar Ma // James Nagel
The Independent // 12.11.13


Jamie-Lidell

Jamie Lidell // Sam Heller
The Independent // 3.29.13


Primus

Primus // Sam Heller
High Sierra Music Festival // 7.5.13


Run-The-Jewels1

Run The Jewels (El-P & Killer Mike) // James Nagel
The Independent // 7.31.13


Toro-Y-Moi

Toro Y Moi // James Nagel
Fox Theater Oakland // 11.15.13


Wild-Belle

Wild Belle // Eldon Christenson
The Independent // 9.26.13


alt-J

Alt-J // Sam Heller
Fox Theater Oakland // 8.29.13


Andrew-Bird

Andrew Bird // Sam Heller
Congregation Sherith Israel // 12.16.13


Andrew-WK

Andrew W.K. // Marc Fong
The Independent // 10.12.13


Anna-Calvi

Anna Calvi // Marc Fong
The Independent // 11.17.13


Big-Boi

Big Boi // Mike Frash
Mezzanine // 5.17.13


Deerhunter

Deerhunter // Marc Fong
First City Festival // 8.25.13


MS-MR

MS MR // James Nagel
The Independent // 6.16.13


Phoenix

Phoenix // Chaya Frash
The Independent // 4.1.13


Rogue-Wave1

Rogue Wave // Marc Fong
The Independent // 7.12.13


Sigur-Ros

Sigur Rós // Marc Fong
Fox Theater Oaklnad // 4.16.13


STS9_Post

STS9 // Sam Heller
Fox Theater Oakland // 3.1.13


Washed-Out

Washed Out // Marc Fong
First City Festival // 8.25.13

Showbams’ top shows of 2013

Top-Shows-of-2013

It’s been a rich year for music, but since most artists no longer rake in as much cash as they did in the past from record sales, performing live has become more essential. Easy access to streaming and torrents has created a world where music fans cultivate an increasingly wide-ranging palette. In turn, festivals have become exponentially more popular, out of necessity and due to the communal, diverse experiences festivals offer.

Most of the Showbams Team lives and frequents concerts in the Bay Area music scene (that’s what the “BAMS” in “Showbams” stands for), so many of our staff picks for best shows of 2013 took place in or around San Francisco.

The best live music performers blow minds on a nightly basis as they zig zag across the world, so if an act made our list, they probably left a lasting impact near you as well.

Click the links below to view the original show review.

El-P & Killer Mike as Run The Jewels - Photo by James Nagel

El-P & Killer Mike as Run The Jewels // Photo by James Nagel

Mike Frash // Founder, Editor, Columnist // @MikeFrash

01. El-P & Killer Mike (Run The Jewels) – The Independent – July 31st
El-P & Killer Mike provided the most engrossing live performance I witnessed this past year, both in their opening solo sets and their combined tour de force as Run The Jewels. Killer Mike, perhaps the most fascinating rapper on the planet, had the audience in the palm of his hands by enforcing crowd participation while performing “R.A.P. Music” and an a cappella version of “Reagan”. El-P’s set contrasted perfectly with Mike’s more message-driven set, but the the most magical moments occurred when the duo donned their “36” Chains”. The super-clever spits came at machine gun pace, faster than brains can process, and El-P’s weird, abrasive-yet-fun production work kept the show flowing at a delightfully hyperactive pace. The future is blindingly bright for Run The Jewels as they aim to take the throne.

02. Nine Inch Nails – Outside Lands – August 10th
Nine Inch Nails triumphantly returned this summer after a couple last minute personnel changes, but in the end it felt as though Trent Reznor knows exactly what he is doing. Far from feeling like a greatest hits nostalgia show (while they did play nearly all their big singles), Nine Inch Nails guided the uninitiated (including myself) by unfolding the performance in segments. Starting with “Copy of A” from this year’s Hesitation Marks, the first portion was distinctively electronic as shadows silhouetted the players onto the background of the stage. Then the stage opened up to reveal a live drum set, and a handful of pure rock tracks took over. From there, the mix of crunchy, industrialized rock and alternative metal that NIN is known for, including “March of the Pigs” and “Head Like a Hole”, became the focal point. In all honesty, show closer “Hurt” elicited some tears. The experience was intense, surprisingly dance-oriented and breathtakingly emotional.

03. Savages – The Independent – September 29th
Savages made a big splash this year with their album Silence Yourself, and much of the publicity for the all female foursome out of London came from their phone “ban” at concerts. The idea behind this was to instill the idea of immersion into concert goers. Savages successfully put on a show that exhibited a “live in the moment” mentality through their songs and stage presence, and in turn the audience followed Jenny Beth and company to be hypnotically entranced. Savages curated a wholly attentive experience through the use of contrast, most notably in their look, their use of black and white, and the way Savages ultimately contrast with every other group that performs live.

04. Foals – Coachella (Weekend 1) – April 12th
05. Atoms For Peace – Treasure Island Music Festival – October 29th
06. Deerhunter – FYF – August 24th
07. Bassnectar – Fox Theater Oakland – September 19th
08. Alt-J – Not So Silent Night at Oracle Arena – December 7th
09. The Flaming Lips and Tame Impala with White Denim – Bill Graham Civic – October 31th
10. Eric Prydz – Coachella (Weekend 1) – April 14th


Phoenix // Photo by Chaya Frash

Phoenix // Photo by Chaya Frash

Molly Kish // Artist Relations Manager, Columnist // @MollyKish

01. Phoenix – The Independent – April 1st
Preceding the release of their arena-filling 2013 smash album Bankrupt!, Phoenix stopped by San Francisco’s very own 500 person capacity venue to debut the new material. A last minute performance hosted a packed crowd of industry professionals and die-hard fans alike, and the setting felt more like a jam packed album release party than legitimate rock show. The French foursome dynamically performed their brand new tracks, fully engaging the attention of the audience through an intense stage show which fully used the venue’s limited space. Lead singer Thomas Mars even went as far as to stage dive, crowd surf, scale the back wall and return back full circle mid-encore without missing a beat. Catching a band of this magnitude, in a venue this size, performing yet to be released material was a once in a lifetime opportunity and one that anyone lucky enough to experience will undoubtedly remember forever.

02. Fiona Apple and Blake Mills – Zellerbach Hall at UC Berkely – October 8th
The only Bay Area stop on their “Anything We Want Tour”, guitar prodigy Blake Mills and the combustible Fiona Apple headlined an intimate performance this past October at UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall. Billed as joint headliners, Mills and Apple playfully supported and challenged each other for command of the completely improvised set list and cohesively chaotic stage show that unveiled. The lecture hall audience was treated to a concert that highlighed both artists individuality, and as a collaborative duo, exercising complete creative control over an occasionally uncomfortably raw, extremely uncensored and truly unique live music experience.

03. Matthew Dear – Mezzanine – May 22nd
Catching the Ghostly International co-founder and experimental dance artist Matthew Dear in the spatial dimensions of the Mezzanine is amazing enough, however if the dance floor is nowhere near half capacity, you’re in for an unforgettable, private performance. Accompanied by a four person live band, Matthew Dear took the stage this past May with the bravado of a veteran rock star. Playing as though he were performing to a sold out arena, he dramatically danced and belted his way through crowd rousing favorites from his entire catalogue. Stage show theatrics involving the dismemberment of dozens of white roses and passionate crowd interactions stunned the unassuming audience members. The band dynamics, amazing set list and impeccably charismatic Matthew Dear ultimately enticed the intrigue of the entirely undersold venue, prompting everyone to actively participate in the spectacle that evening.

04. Major Lazer – The Independent – March 28th
05. Moving Units – DNA Lounge – September 11th
06. Washed Out – Rickshaw Stop – August 29th
07. Toro Y Moi – The Independent – March 2nd
08. The Postal Service – The Greek Theater Berkeley – July 27th
09. Yeasayer – Mezzanine – April 12th
10. Muse – Oracle Arena – January 28th


Arcade Fire as The Reflektors // Photo by Kevin Quandt

Arcade Fire as The Reflektors // Photo by Kevin Quandt

Kevin Quandt // Assistant Editor, Columnist // @KJQuandt

01. Arcade Fire as The Reflektors – Hollywood Palladium – October 31st
When I was lucky enough to score a ticket to this Halloween extravaganza, I knew I would be in for something special as I was in the process of falling in love with Reflektor. After donning a sharp suit and heading to Hollywood Boulevard, my show companion and I began to realize this was gonna be something special. The Palladium was alive as soon as you walked though the doors as revelers danced, socialized and admired each others outfits worn on this night. Obviously the band played heavy on the new tracks and the crowd was eating out of their hand for the duration with highlights such as “Here Comes the Night Time” and “We Exist”, to name a few. The evening didn’t end once the performance was done as the band joined the crowd for a post-show dance party to rival most. By the time we cruised out into the chilly night we were pretty thoroughly damp from the sweat that had amassed inside, and all was right on a Halloween in Hollywood.

02. Tame Impala – Coachella (Weekend 1) – April 14th
The continuously impressive Australian act delivered a loaded 40 minute set displaying their ability to crush, and expand, tracks on stage like rock and roll champs. Blustery winds blew through the Empire Polo Fields,  shaking the rows of palm trees behind the stage as if nature was swaying to the psychedelic goodness being enjoyed by the sizable crowd. The conditions may have led to some minor issues with a MIDI keyboard, but that didn’t phase them in the least and powered into a different direction without missing a beat. “Elephant” had an extended interlude before closing with old classic, “Half Full Glass of Wine”. Optimism at it’s finest.

03. Paul McCartney – Outside Lands – August 9th
A Friday night set just shy of 40 songs punctuated the first day of Outside Lands as living legend Paul McCartney captivated a packed crowd. Though not my first time seeing Sir Paul show, it was a special one in many ways on a foggy summer evening. The tenderness of “Blackbird” is always a thing of beauty, and the recently road-approved Beatles tune “Lovely Rita” were just a few of the highlights from this banner set. Macca has got it, straight up. I have preached to the power of his show since I was 15 years old, and on this night many got to experience that power first hand.

04. Phish – Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys – July 31st
05. Holy Ghost! – Treasure Island Music Festival – October 19th
06. Mac DeMarco – FYF – August 25th
07. David Byrne & St. Vincent – Fox Theater Oakland – July 21st
08. Thee Oh Sees – The Independent – January 11th
09. Pickwick – The Getty Center – Los Angeles, CA – July 13th
10. The Walkmen & Father John Misty – The Fillmore – January 24th


Sigur Rós // Photo by Marc Fong

Sigur Rós // Photo by Marc Fong

Pete Mauch // Festival Manager & Columnist // @PeteMauch

01. Sigur Rós – Coachella (Weekend 2) – April 20th
Icelandic rockers Sigur Rós closed out night two of Coachella and put on an amazing performance that was highlighted by one of the most impressive visually striking stage set ups that I’ve seen. In addition to the mesmerizing video screen portrayal of various beautiful landscapes, the stage also had lamps with exposed bulbs that would light up in time to the music. The band was joined by a string and horn section for this unique experience, adding great texture to their already layered sound. The set was heavy on newer songs from their most recent album Kveikur with older tracks sprinkled in, which pleased new and old fans alike.  Sigur Rós provide a truly amazing experience.

02. M83 with Hollywood Bowl Orchestra – Hollywood Bowl – September 22nd
French indie-pop rockers stepped it up at the Hollywood Bowl this year with a little help from the in house orchestra.  It’s always tricky when mixing string instruments with electronic synthesizers, not to mention the full band, but M83 found the perfect medium. The band worked through most of their big hits like “Midnight City” and “Wait” with serious ambition and the subtle compliments from the orchestra really made the overall sound fuller.

03. Tame Impala – Fox Theater Pomona – May 30th  
This Australian Psychedelic band had a banner year as they played all over the world, but on this particular night in Pomona they showcased why they are going to be one of the biggest bands around. Their sound is pure psychedelic bliss that oozes ever so sweetly over your ears. The band weaved effortlessly between older tracks like “Desire Be Desire Go” and newer songs like the ever so popular “Elephant” and “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”. After a solid two plus hour set, Tame Impala walked off the stage and I found myself standing there speechless. 

04. Phish – Dicks Sporting Goods Arena – Commerce City, CO – August 31st
05. Medeski Martin & Wood – UCLA Royce Hall – April 26th
06. Eric McFadden with Nels Cline and Mike Watt  –  The Mint – Los Angeles, CA – January 16th
07. Femi Kuti and The Positive Force – The El Rey Theater – Los Angeles, CA – January 18th
08. The Rolling Stones – Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA – May 3rd
09. Jim James – The Fonda Theater – Los Angeles, CA – May 11th
10. Anders Osborne with Neal Casal and Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe- The El Rey Theater – Los Angeles, CA – October 24th


Alt-J // Photo by Sam Heller

Alt-J // Photo by Sam Heller

Kevin Raos // Columnist // @Semirec

01. Phish – Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys – July 31st
In late July Phish performed two concerts at Harvey’s Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena. Night 2 of the run contained one of the most infamous moments in recent Phish history: The Tahoe Tweezer. This 36 minute jam odyssey has already found it’s place in Phish lore as one of the defining moments of the current era of Phish. It’s not just the length that makes this jam so impressive, but also the song’s content, as Phish and the audience interact back and forth driving the jam deeper and deeper. Magical moments of improvisation like this do not come around very often. WOO!

02. Bjork – Craneway Pavilion – Richmond, CA – May 28th
This was my first time having the pleasure of seeing Bjork live, and she fully lived up to the hype. The entire crowd was on pins and needles as she performed her 2011 album, Biophilia, in it’s entirety. It was an audio/visual experience unlike any other concert, complete with a Tesla Coil instrument controlled by iPads and a series of sound-generating pendulums to accompany Bjork’s majestic voice. Bjork is a talent unlike anything I have ever seen live.

03. Tom Waits – Bridge School Benefit (Shoreline Ampitheatre) – October 27th
Checked a big one off the bucket list with this performance at Neil young’s annual Bridge School Benefit. It’s a wonder why Mr. Waits doesn’t tour more often as he is as talented, and as much of a showman, as he ever was. His voice sounded great, including the usual gritty and rawness that you can expect. One of the longer sets of the evening, Waits plucked tunes from his entire catalogue, yet he pulled mostly from his latest record Bad As Me. Don’t miss a chance to see Tom Waits as his shows are few and far between these days. A truly special individual and unique talent to behold.

04. Tame Impala – Fox Theater Oakland – May 29th
05. Sigur Ros – Fox Theater Oakland – April 16th
06. Alt-J – Fox Theater Oakland – August 29th
07. Nine Inch Nails – Outside Lands – August 10th
08. Rhye – Outside Lands – August 9th
09. Alabama Shakes – Fox Theater Oakland – March 5th
10. Bassnectar – Hangout Music Festival – Gulf Shores, AL – May 18th


Shpongle // Photo by Mike Frash

Shpongle // Photo by Mike Frash

The Festival Lawyer // Columnist // @FestivalLawyer

01. Shpongle – Sea of Dreams at Concourse Exhibition Center in SF – December 31st (2012)
Just a really interesting, weird and exotic New Year’s Eve show. He had a performance art group that accompanied him that night as well as a live violinist. This combo led to a really trippy, trance inducing sight and sound experience. So cool.  

02. The Cure – Austin City Limits – October 12th
When I first saw the Cure I was an eyeliner-wearing 80’s Goth kid. ACL has a 10 o’clock curfew, so when their set got close to 10 o’clock, Robert Smith announced, “Listen, we are going to play all the hits that we can until they shut us down.”  What followed next was just a very cool trip down memory lane.  Funny how music can just instantly take us back to a time or memory in our life.

03. Muse – Oracle Arena – January 28th
It’s always weird to see how much shit people talk about Muse. They seriously have a stage act only rivaled by groups like Swedish House Mafia (I still call SHM’s set at Coachella “The Night of a Million Lasers.”)  Muse combines moving TV sets, lasers, even robots all combined with the stage bravado of legendary UK acts like Queen. If you can’t sing along with me at the top of your lungs to “Uprising” then you just are really missing out on a terrific experience. 

04. Yeah Yeahs Yeahs – Coachella (Weekend 2) – April 19th
05. Bassnectar – Coachella (Weekend 2) – April 19th
06. Father John Misty – Fillmore – June 21st
07. Iggy Pop and the Stooges – C2SV Festival – St. James Park – San Jose, CA – September 28th
08. Disclosure – Treasure Island Music Fest – October 19th
09. Paul McCartney – Outside Lands – August 9th
10. Arctic Monkeys – Coachella (Weekend 2) – April 19th


Thundercat // Photo by James Nagel

Thundercat // Photo by James Nagel

James Nagel // Photographer // @JdropsKnowledge

01. Thundercat – The Independent – November 13th
Stephen Bruner delivered a performance that felt truly unique, deviating from the standards set on his album by slapping some soulful, jazzy rhythms on his epic bass. He wrapped the entire audience with the warm embrace of his music in the most personal, improvesed way. 

02. Savages- The Independent – September 27th
Jenny Beth is a goddamn rockstar. Period. 

03. The Flaming Lips with Tame Impala and White Denim – Bill Graham Civic – October 31st
This show was truly a surreal experience and did not disappoint when it came to the scope of the production. Confetti and balloons rained down endlessly it seemed, while the visual and lighting components completely enhanced this drone-filled yet enlightening event. 

04. Toro Y Moi – Fox Theater Oakland – November 15th
05. Cut Copy – Fox Theater Oakland – November 2nd
06. Digitalism – The Independent – May 7th
07. !!! – Great American Music Hall – March 1st
08. El-P and Killer Mike (Run The Jewels) – The Independent – July 31st
09. Grouplove – The Independent – September 14th
10. Palma Violets – The Independent – April 25th


The Black Keyes // Photo by Sterling Munksgard

The Black Keyes // Photo by Sterling Munksgard

Sterling Munksgard // Photographer // @sterlingmphoto

01. The Black Keys – Bottle Rock – Napa, CA – May 10th 
Bottle Rock was a first-year festival situated in the Napa wine country, and it featured a lineup which rivaled many well-established festivals. The Black Keys brought their in-your-face attitude and rocked the crowd good and hard. Bottle Rock was my fourth Keys show and they still had me singing along and dancing. 

02. Empire of the Sun – Life Is Beautiful in Las Vegas, NV – October 27th
When I got home from this festival and showed my photos to friends and family, many people asked, “what kind of music was Empire of the Sun?” The only thing I could come up with was the showmanship of Kiss and the sound and style of Phoenix. But classification aside, this band was not only one of my favorites to watch on stage in 2013 but one of my favorite to photograph. Next time they are in town I will for sure be at their show.  

03. Dave Matthews Band and Gogol Bordello – Jiffy Lube Live – Bristow, VA – July 27th
DMB keeps me coming back for more. At 60+ shows they still keep turning out new tunes and bringing back songs that haven’t been played in years. This show had many highlights including a show opening “Ants Marching”, something that band hadn’t done since 2004.  The band also busted out fan favorites such as “Granny”, “Spoon”, “Long Black Veil”, “Crazy Easy”, and “#41”.  

04. Tedeschi Trucks Band and The Black Crowes – Bill Graham Civic – December 14th
05. Imagine Dragons – Life is Beautiful – Las Vegas – October 27th
06. JJ Grey & Mofro – The Fillmore – November 15th
07. Grateful Grass feat. Keller Williams, Keith Moseley, Michael Kang and Jeff Austin – Rex Benefit – The Fillmore – December 7th
08. Sleigh Bells – Treasure Island Festival – October 20th
09. The Lumineers and Dr. Dog – The Greek Theater Berkeley – April 19th
10. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – Portland Rose Festival – Portland, OR – May 25th


!!! // Photo by James Nagel

!!! // Photo by James Nagel

Dara Shulman // Columnist

01. David Byrne and St. Vincent – Fox Theater Oakland – July 21st
Byrne’s eclectic and eccentric sound, coupled with St. Vincent’s own quirkiness and talent, proved to be a fantastic performance. Creating rich, warm sound, the eight-piece brass band was as impressive as the two talented singers themselves. Playing mostly off their solid album, Love This Giant, the combination of choreography and Talking Heads songs turned out to be the icing on the cake.

02. Paul McCartney – Outside Lands – August 9th
It’s not every day you get to see a Beatle play a three-hour set complete with fireworks. McCartney wowed the packed main stage playing his hits from the Beatles, Wings and his solo efforts. It’s hard to determine which was more impressive, the acoustic set which included a beautiful “Blackbird” or the set-closing sing-along that was “Hey Jude”. Eight more songs over two encores only helped to make this an all-time show.

03. !!! – Great American Music Hall – March 1st
Vocalist and dance machine Nic Offer never fails to entertain the crowd. Offer and the band were on fire when they debuted songs such as “Slyd” off their fifth-album release Thr!!!er. Their upbeat, dance rock kept the crowd moving throughout the show.

04. Foals – Outside Lands – August 11th
05. Atoms for Peace – Treasure Island Music Festival – October 19th
06. Vampire Weekend – Outside Lands – August 11th
07. Primus – High Sierra Music Festival – July 5th
08. Holy Ghost! – Treasure Island Music Festival – October 19th
09. Cut Copy – Fox Theater – November 2nd
10. Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters – High Sierra Music Festival – July 4th


View the Showbams 40 Best Albums of 2013
View the Showbams Contributor Picks for Best Songs of 2013
View the Showbams picks for Best Live Music Venues in 2013

Showbams’ top tracks of 2013

Best-tracks-post

Sometimes the more music you listen to, the feeling of missing out on a song or an album can make you feel a little neurotic. You simply can’t give every piece of good music it’s proper due. So when it comes to picking your favorite songs, a safe bet is to pick the songs that not only soundtracked your year but also helped define it.

Showbams presents our Contributor top tracks of 2013. What are your favorite tracks of this dwindling year? Holler with links in the comment section…


James Blake at Treasure Island Music Festival 10/19. Photo by Marc Fong.

James Blake at Treasure Island Music Festival 10/20. Photo by Marc Fong.

Mike Frash // Founder, Editor, Columnist // @MikeFrash

01. James Blake – “Retrograde”
“Retrograde” perfectly represents the state of music in 2013, providing an amalgamation of cutting edge electronic, bass & R&B sensibilities. Also, the track is hauntingly memorable — How many contemporaries can use their pitch-shifting croon-hum as a low melodic layer like this? Lyrically, manipulative seduction is the center piece as Blake propositions his subject, asking to “show me where you fit.” Retrograde means ‘moving backwards’, and the theme is splendidly represented in the song’s payoff through elongated synth that modulates enough to sound like slow degradation.


02. Disclosure – “When A Fire Starts To Burn”
The mantra of the year, “When A Fire Starts To Burn” can ignite a party or help work get done faster. Somehow the motivational speech sample never tires, and it’s one of the only samples on Settle, proving the keen production sense Guy and Howard Lawrence have ingrained in them. The simple four on the floor house beat slightly evolves every 16 bars, allowing the sample to dominate throughout. An instant classic, it’s a track that uses long-used underground themes and brings them to the forefront as Disclosure continues to explode with popularity.


03. Arcade Fire – “Afterlife”
The penultimate song from Reflektor explicitly stares death in the face and dares you to live. More than any other song on the record, “Afterlife” successfully digs into the idea of what happens when we die in Arcade Fire’s serious, intense style. The song offers multiple rhetorical questions that function as a challenge. Our time is finite, and love should be the focus. “It’s just an afterlife with you…”


04. Foals – “Milk & Black Spiders”
So much of Foals’ music is about being on the verge of total loss, although the message is almost always vague. A far cry from yelling at “Cassius” that she’s “second best”, “Milk & Black Spiders” centers on the idea of confidence in finding the right mate and openly admitting it. Found in an album full of potential top tracks, this cut contains the best moment of the album at about 3:30. Is it hyperbole to consider this one of the most euphoric crescendo of all time?


05. my bloody valentine – “in another way”
To be truly understood, my bloody valentine needs to be felt, not only heard. To experience MBV live or in the comfort of your living space like the Maxwell Guy is encouraged (although it may be too late to catch them live). The sound is jarring at first, but upon adapting to the volume level, “in another way” transforms into magnificent hypnotism once the first major chords hit. It’s like a persistent, awesome airplane is taking off in your face, in a very good way…

06. Baths – “No Eyes”
07. Vampire Weekend – “Hannah Hunt”
08. Kanye West feat. Frank Ocean – “New Slaves”
09. The National – “I Need My Girl”
10. Rhye – “Open”
11. Volcano Choir – “Byegone”
12. Phosphorescent – “Song For Zula”
13. Run the Jewels – “Job Well Done (feat. Until the Ribbon Breaks)”
14. Mount Kimbie – “Made To Stray”
15. Kurt Vile – “Wakin on a Pretty Day”
16. Darkside – “Paper Trails”
17. Autre Ne Veut – “Play by Play”
18. Jon Hopkins – “Breath This Air”
19. Haim – “Falling”
20. Bill Callahan – “Small Plane”


Vampire Weekend at Fox Theater Oakland 4/17. Photo by Marc Fong.

Vampire Weekend at Fox Theater Oakland 4/17. Photo by Marc Fong.

Molly Kish // Artist Relations Manager, Columnist // @MollyKish

01. Vampire Weekend – “Unbelievers”
Far from the New England prep rock of their previous two albums, the boys of Vampire Weekend explore new territory both in songwriting and soundscape on their 2013 release Modern Vampires of the City. This breakout pop gem explores the frivolity of faith, dissecting spirituality in the context of a contemporary domestic relationship. Paying homage to blissful rockabilly melodies executed by such greats as Buddy Holly and the Crickets and Jerry Lee Lewis, Vampire Weekend put a current spin on an archetypal pop formula, composing easily one of the best tracks of 2013.


02. Big Black Delta – “Side of the Road”
Jonathan Bates, of Mellowdrone fame, delivers one of the catchiest terrestrial dance jams of 2013 with the lead single off of his debut album, Big Black Delta. A solo project, Bates performs the entire song through layers of modified vocals, electronic improvisation and innovatively tracked percussion. He succeeds in developing an addictive one man dance party that’s just as entertaining to see live as it is to listen to on record and calls for near immediate loops of repetitive play.


03. Disclosure -“F For You”
UK sibling duo Disclosure deliver one of the hardest hitting and simplistically rendered club hits of 2013 with “F For You.” Stripping away frivolous electronic production, they find success in a modest deep house composition featuring a pulsating baseline, repetitive chorus and a stylistically pert, finger-snapping beat. The song’s sassy subject matter and infectious groove are bound to get any dance floor moving and set the song apart as a standout hit on the band’s 2013 debut album.


04. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Sacrilege”
Departing from their traditionally art punk mold, the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s burst back on the scene with the first single off of their fourth studio album, Mosquito. Highlighting rooted soul riffs and Karen O’s bluesy wails, the beat driven arrangement pays homage to the band’s time spent writing and recording in New Orleans. The track in a fiery choral cameo by the Broadway Inspirational Voices Choir and serves as the band’s rousing call to arms for their alternative counterparts. The song exemplifies the band’s successful feat in retaining some of the genres fearlessness and artistic credulity as well as their willingness to step outside of the convoluted mainstream box.


05. Holy Ghost! – “Dumb Disco Ideas”
Often compared to fellow DFA records’ flagship artist LCD Soundsystem, Holy Ghost! assumed the label’s inherent responsibility of producing the next wave of synth-pop super hits with their 2013 album Dynamics. The most comparable track, coming in the form of this funk laden jam, draws directly from the genre-defining record label’s indisputable formula for discotheque domination. Rhythmically resonating with old and new fans alike, Holy Ghost! seamlessly transitioned into their new reign of the DFA universe with this stand out party anthem that floored live music venues and festival stages, all summer long.

06. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky”
07. Atoms for Peace – “Default”
08. Arcade Fire – “Here Comes the Nighttime”
09. Toro Y Moi – “Say That”
10. Empire of the Sun – “Alive”
11. Cut Copy – “Free Your Mind”
12. STRFKR – “While I’m Alive”
13. Jagwar Ma – “Man I Need”
14. Phoenix – “S.O.S. in Bel Air”
15. Washed Out – “All I Know”
16. Kanye West – “Black Skinhead”
17. CSS – “Into the Sun”
18. Devendra Banhart – “You’re Fine Petting Duck”
19. Wild Belle – “Another Girl”
20. The Strokes – “One Way Trigger”


Palma Violets at The Independent 4/23. Photo by James Nagel.

Palma Violets at The Independent 4/23. Photo by James Nagel.

Kevin Quandt // Assistant Editor, Columnist // @KJQuandt

01. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky”
When the ‘Song of the Summer’ (sorry “Blurred Lines”) is as thoroughly enjoyable as this interstellar first single off of RAM, you know you won’t get nearly as tired of it as past summertime jams. “Get Lucky” is still is as fresh as the first time it was debuted on a Saturday night at Coachella, eventually ruling airwaves across multiple genres all over the globe. This track has it all; from a space disco groove that rivals any legendary disco jam to the sultry vocals of the multi-talented Pharrell Williams. Was it the single that most fans were expecting? Probably not, but lends even more to the production and writing talent of these two mysterious French robots that most of us know by the name of Daft Punk. Though we haven’t seen how it’ll shake out on stage, if ever, it is sure to be on repeat for the foreseeable future. 


02. Foxygen – “No Destruction”
What a fun slice of American tinged psych-pop these young San Franciscans delivered this year. Sure this band has had a rough year on the road, but these issues never diminished their stellar sophomore release, spotlighted by this rousing tale of youthful urban life and love. Dylan-esque crooning coupled with phrasing that would make Ray Davies blush lends a nod to some of rocks legends in the form of “No Destruction”. Every listen also shines more light on the storyboard that these lyrics build, adding another key component to Foxygen’s success.  


03. Foals – “My Number”
I’m not sure exactly when Foals became masters of catchy song structures, but many are happy to hear this British act upping their game to dazzling new heights. The formula of placing the hook early in the track is part of the key, and this is not to mention the amazing returns to said hook while balancing afro-inspired guitar lines, piercing melodies and unpredictable rhythm shifts. “My Number” signifies the next era for Foals while displaying they are ready to leave the clubs to larger theaters while bearing the banner of Bono-esque grandeur in the face of a changing landscape in popular rock music. 


04. King Krule – “Baby Blue”
Young Archie Marshall has come along way for a 19 year old Brit with a refreshing spin on bedroom-produced darkwave music. Though in all honesty, King Krule can not be defined as he bends genre lines all over his debut LP, 6 Feet Beneath the Moon. Archie’s unique vocal stylings paint a brilliantly simple portrait of love lost over a stripped down production that is akin to the muted style that launched acts like the XX and Toro Y Moi. The baritone delivery pitches and bends on the singer’s whim over gentle guitar flourishes and minimal beat production equally something fully unique. In an age of EDM maximalism, it’s tracks like this that demonstrate the idea of ‘less is more.’ 


05. London Grammar – “Hey Now”
London Grammar may not be an artist that the majority are familiar with, but a head-turning debut LP released in the fall has garnered this trip-hop trio much deserved attention. Hannah Reid’s vocals soar all over this chilled-out track that slowly builds to a mellow peak that could remind you of early Zero 7 (the Sia years). A feature on Disclosure’s album closer and vocal comparisons to Jessie Ware are promising signs for these up-and-comers that understand restraint can be extremely powerful as demonstrated in this powerful single.  

06. Arcade Fire – “Afterlife”
07. Parquet Courts – “Stoned and Starving”
08. Palma Violets – “Best of Friends”
09. Kanye West feat. Frank Ocean – “New Slaves”
10. Jake Bugg – “Lightning Bolt”
11. A$AP Ferg feat. A$AP Rocky – “Shabba”
12. HAIM – “The Wire”
13. Queens of the Stone Age – “My God is the Sun”
14. Vampire Weekend – “Diane Young”
15. The National – “Humiliation”
16. Ducktails – “The Flower Lane”
17. Deerhunter – “Dream Captain”
18. Jon Hopkins – “Open Eye Signal”
19. iceage – “Ecstasy”
20. White Fence – “Pink Gorilla”


Holy Ghost! at Treasure Island Music Festival 10/19.

Holy Ghost! at Treasure Island Music Festival 10/19.

Pete Mauch // Festival Manager & Columnist // @PeteMauch

01. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky”    
The summer anthem is just too good to be denied the number one spot. With Nile Rodgers laying down the funk chords on guitar and Pharrell Williams’s resurgence back on the scene with smooth croons, it gives the song has some serious lasting power.


02. Kurt Vile – “Wakin On a Pretty Day”
Best morning song ever besides Dylan’s “New Morning”? I absolutely love waking up to this song — it’s bright, catchy guitar licks are matched perfectly with Vile’s earnest lyrics about solitude, yet he’s optimistic about this pretty day. 


03. Foals – “My Number”  
This song come firing out of the gates with infectious dance grooves that are nearly impossible to not move your feet to. The hypnotizing multi-guitar work is such a great complement to the vocals on this should-be hit single.


04. Jagwar Ma – “Come Save Me”
If the Beach Boys started to make electrified, psychedelic dance songs then I suspect it would sound a lot like this. These Australian rockers put together one hell of a dream-like track this year.


05. Superhuman Happiness – “Sentimental Pieces”
One of the most fun and creative songs I’ve heard in a long while. The way they combine dance grooves, hand claps, piano work, and some serious vocal harmonizing is quite impressive.

06. Holy Ghost! – “Dumb Disco Ideas”
07. Earl Sweatshirt – “Chum”
08. White Denim – “Pretty Green”
09. Sigur Rós – “Isjaki”
10. Phosphorescent – “Song for Zula”
11. Youth Lagoon – “Mute”
12. Savages – “She Will”
13. Anders Osborne – “Peace”
14. Ty Segall – “Sleeper”
15. Atoms for Peace – “Judge, Jury, and Executioner”
16. Jim James – “Know Til Now”
17. Deerhunter – “Back to the Middle”
18. Johnathon Wilson – “Moses Pain”
19. Bonobo –  “Cirrus”
20. Darkside – “Paper Trails”


Washed Out at First City Festival 8/24. Photo by Marc Fong.

Washed Out at First City Festival 8/24. Photo by Marc Fong.

Kevin Raos // Columnist // @Semirec

01. Vampire Weekend – “Hannah Hunt”
The best song, on perhaps the best album of the year, “Hannah Hunt” is an instant classic. Modern Vampires of the City is littered with tracks that will be considered amongst Vampire Weekend’s best, and “Hannah Hunt” leads the pack. Despite the lack of “quirkiness” that Vampire Weekend is sometimes known for, the track gently builds the listener up to one of the most jubilant climaxes found on any record this year.


02. Youth Lagoon – “Raspberry Cane”
Another song that builds you up and sweeps you off your feet, “Raspberry Cane” is a bright spot on Wondrous Bughouse, a sophomore effort that fell slightly short of expectations. Hauntingly fascinating and beautifully psychedelic, this song takes the listener on a musical journey.  


03. Arcade Fire – “Afterlife”
“Afterlife” is a song that took a few years to see the light of day. When it was released, Win Butler commented on the history of this song, saying it began “with a Haitian percussion loop we recorded way back at the end of the The Suburbs tour and “took a while to get the chorus right.” Enter producer James Murphy and the result is an extremely danceable synth-pop tune that is up there with the year’s pedigree.


04. Rhye – “Open”
Passion oozes from this song. Simple and pure love in it’s most basic form. Lyrics, musicianship and delivery make this track one of the most soothing songs of the year. Turn this on,  embrace those you love, and all will be right in the world if only for a couple minutes.


05. Washed Out – “It All Feels Right”
The title of this song says it best. Washed Out’s sunbathed reverb vibes can instantly transport you to a beach and put a beverage in your hand. Fact. Move aside “Get Lucky”, this was the summer anthem of 2013 on my stereo.

06. Major Lazer – “Get Free”
07. Wild Belle – “Keep You”
08. Holy Ghost! – “Dumb Disco Ideas”
09. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Sacrilege”
10. James Blake – “Retrograde”
11. Phosphorescent – “The Quotidian Beasts”
12. Daft Punk – “Instant Crush”
13. Boards of Canada – “Nothing is Real”
14. Mikal Cronin – “Weight”
15. Sigur Rós – “Brennisteinn”
16. Kurt Vile – “Wakin on a Pretty Day”
17. Phoenix – “Trying to Be Cool”
18. Foxygen – “San Francisco”
19. Junip – “Line of Fire”
20. Disclosure – “White Noise (feat. AlunaGeorge)”


Cut Copy at Fox Theater Oakland 11/02. Photo by James Nagel.

Cut Copy at Fox Theater Oakland 11/02. Photo by James Nagel.

Brooks Rocco // Columnist // @brooksrocco

01. Jagwar Ma – “Uncertainty”
In the wholly subjective exercise of selecting a favorite song of a year, one must consider one’s most notable experiences, focusing upon those driven by the most notable soundtracks. 2013’s best dance party, in my little sphere of dominion, was Jagwar Ma’s headlining set at Rickshaw Stop, and it was the song ‘Uncertainty’ that made me most notably lose control of my senses. Even upon sober reflection, the song (defining the tone of the album it appears on) is a sledgehammer of a good time, a song that revels in the Clichés that in an earlier year would have manifested in sardonic irony. It’s finally time to embrace what works, and in doing so, create the future that pushes towards the goal: a musical tribute to our ecstatic humanity, as we remain fueled by uncertainties.


02. Deafheaven – “Dream House”
In some ways, “Dream House” is the end of black metal. It’s been a long time coming though, with American kids raised on the stuff tilting their combo amps backward, screaming their fresh-faced idolatry for the legends that dared to not give a fuck. With the pink Pitchfork kiss of approval, black metal has become another texture in the tech-savvy hipster’s chest, to be yanked out when the time is appropriate (then and only then!). ‘Dream House’ is the black metal song that everyone can agree on. Euronymous is Dead. Long live Black Metal.


03. Cave – “Arrow’s Myth”
Shifting space, coagulating color, sound, motion; breaking barriers, and driving the motorized swirl ever farther, Cave returned in 2013 with some of their most funky and delicately harmonious hues yet. Once again they delivered just the right the stuff we all need—imbalance your chemicals (whatever that means to you), throw on “Arrow’s Myth”, and wrap your head around whatever comes natural. If it feels good, right?


04. Carcass – “A Congealed Clot of Blood”
I got a little worried when I found out Andy Sneap was producing the followup to Carcass’ swan song, Surgical Steel, as said producer is the type of surgeon to sterilize all his instruments thoroughly before performing his delicate incisions. Fortunately, this sublime return to force by the UK legends is necrotising death metal masterpiece; ‘A Congealed Clot of Blood’ worthy amongst their greatest.


05. my bloody valentine – “in another way”
I wasn’t listening to Loveless in the 90’s like it was my religion. In my erumpent musical debut, I was blasting stuff like Emperor, Dissection, Meshuggah; bands louder, noisier, and far, far more unsettling than My Bloody Valentine. But for a lot of people, MBV were the anti-music of their spheres. That said, the night m b v dropped, I got sucked into the tornado along with everyone else.  A cursory pirated listen and I was in. ‘in another way’ was the tune that made me whip out the plastic capital and order the wax. Full disclosure for Mr. Shields: it was that guitar.  How did you…

06. RP Boo – “Invisibu Boogie!”

07. Dispirit – “All Paths End The Same”

08. David Bowie – “Where Are We Now?”

09. Föllakzoid – “9”

10. Foals – “Late Night”

11. Thee Oh Sees – “No Spell”

12. Mikal Cronin – “Shout It Out”

13. The Five Eyes – “HEY HEY NSA (Tinfoil in Every Hat)”

14. The Knife – “Old Dreams Waiting to be Realized”

15. Kanye West – “On Sight”

16. Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats – “Desert Ceremony”

17. Parquet Courts – “Master of My Craft”

18. Cut Copy – “Free Your Mind”

19. Anthroprophh – “Hermit”

20. Telekinesis – “Power Lines”


MS MR at The Independent 6/16. Photo by James Nagel.

MS MR at The Independent 6/16. Photo by James Nagel.

Nikki De Martini // Columnist & Photographer // @SweetSoundBites

01. M.I.A. –  “Y.A.L.A.”
Seducingly rhythmic percussion loops, heavy dropping bass lines and a shining bratty-tude mock US society fads on this effortless dance track from my favorite Sri Lankan West-Londoner. M.I.A.’s signature ballsy Bollywood flavor minus the familiarity of foghorns will make you want to get up and dance before realizing what she’s singing about sets in and when it does, this track gets even better. “Y.A.L.A.” makes me wonder why Interscope Records repeatedly shelved her 4th album for not being “dark” or “controversial” enough.


 
02. RAC Featuring Kelle Okereke and MNDR – “Let Go”
As a fan of MNDR for years and a Bloc Party fan for even longer, this collaborative RAC track won me over since the very first time hearing it — the emotionally charged lyrics paired with it’s uplifting melody just melt into one so well.


 
03. MS MR – “Hurricane”
Easily one of my favorite tracks off of their breakthrough debut album, the first single “Hurricane” showcases the multitude of MS MR’s talents to a tee with rich, relatable lyrics and an underlying electro-pop essence wrapped up and delivered in a neat indie rock fashion.


 
04. Arctic Monkeys – “Do I Wanna Know?”
It’s heavy drums, low bass chords and dirty guitar licks reminiscent of The Black Keys are that draw me to this song. Then the lyrics hit and that was it. Every time I hear this song I turn it up and sing along.


 
05. Schoolboy Q Featuring Kendrick Lamar – “Collard Greens”
The catchy hooks and layered verses are a throw back to old school “dirty” rap yet remain fresh, leaving me hungry for more Kendrick Lamar!  


 
06. Lana Del Rey – “Summertime Sadness” (Cedric Gervais remix)
07. LORDE – “Team”
08. Cage the Elephant – “It’s Just Forever (featuring Alison Mosshart)”
09. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Wedding Song”
10. Queens of the Stone Age – “Sat by the Ocean”
11. Jay Z – “Tom Ford”
12. Little Boots – “Strangers”
13. Portugal the Man – “Purple Yellow Red and Blue”
14. VV Brown – “Apple”
15. Sleigh Bells – “Bitter Rivals”
16. Broken Bells – “Holding on for Life”
17. NONONO – “Pumping Blood”
18. CSS – “Hangover”
19. Atlas Genius – “Electric”
20. Smallpools – “Dreaming”


Atoms For Peace at Treasure Island Music Festival 10/19. Photo by Marc Fong.

Atoms For Peace at Treasure Island Music Festival 10/19. Photo by Marc Fong.

Pedro Paredes // Photographer // @pedropar

01. Atoms for Peace – “Before Your Very Eyes”
Every great album needs an opening song worthy of it, and “Before Your Very Eyes” gives just that to the supergroup formed by members of Radiohead (Thom Yorke, Nigel Godrich), Red Hot Chili Peppers (Flea), Beck (Joey Waronker) and Forro in The Dark (Mauro Refosco). With dense, steady percussions, electronic arrangements, a simple guitar section, and the soft sound of Thom Yorke’s voice, this song walks to the beat of life and death, joy and sorrow, and begins the path for one of the best albums of 2013.


02. Vampire Weekend – “Obvious Bicycle”
Vampire Weekend’s first song of their amazing Modern Vampires of the City sets the mood for an album that takes a different route from their previous work, with a warmer, more mature sound. A beautiful song for a beautiful album.   


03. James Blake – “Retrograde”
Melodic Bass Music are the words James Blake chose to describe his work, and “Retrograde” seems to fit that description quite well. It’s a love song for the future, coming from the darkness of the dawn.


03. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – “Jubilee Street”
Nick Cave is a natural storyteller that makes use of his musical talent to make any story come alive (his music scores for films like ‘The Assassination of Jesse James’ or ‘The Proposition’ are enough to prove my point)  Jubilee Street starts simple, growing in complexity in the subtlest of ways, beautifully contained under the spell of Nick Cave’s voice.


05. Blood Orange – “It is What it Is”
“It is What it Is” is exactly what it should be — Deliciously elegant, precise, presenting a new version of 80’s pop-reset. This song is the cherry on top of one of the best albums of 2013.

06. Mutual Benefit – “Golden Wake”
07. Arcade Fire – “Here Comes the Night Time”
08. Daft Punk – “Instant Crush”
09. Lorde – “Royals”
10. William Tyler – “Cadillac Dessert”
11. Kurt Vile – “Wakin on a Pretty Day”
12. Phosphorescent – “Ride On/Right On”
13. Deerhunter – “Back to the Middle”
14. Darkside – “Paper Trails”
15. Nine Inch Nails – “Copy of A”
16. Parquet Courts – “Stoned and Starving”
17. Low – “Plastic Cup”
18. Blue Hawaii – “Try To Be”
19. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Despair”
20. Foxygen – “No Destruction”

Showbams’ 40 best albums of 2013

Best-Albums-of-2013

“Best of” lists are always subjective, and this one is no anomaly. When it comes to the best albums of any given year, we can most likely agree that the best records are excellent from beginning to end — no “skip ahead” songs — and that groundbreaking new music can emerge from any genre.

At the same time, we imprint music on moments in our lives, and this will always influence personal taste. Combine these past influences with modern streaming capabilities in 2013, where new records are now accessible before an album release date, and our collective creation and criticism of music begins to transform, adapt and influence more rapidly.

Here are our most addictive albums of 2013, the records we couldn’t stop spinning.

01. Arcade FireReflektor
02. DisclosureSettle
03. Atoms For PeaceAmok
04. FoalsHoly Fire
05. Vampire WeekendModern Vampires of the City
06. Daft PunkRandom Access Memories
07. Kurt VileWakin On a Pretty Daze
08. James BlakeOvergrown
09. White DenimCorsicana Lemonade
10. Toro Y MoiAnything In Return

11. RhyeWoman
12. DarksidePsychic
13. Boards of CanadaTomorrow’s Harvest
14. The NationalTrouble Will Find Me
15. My Bloody Valentinem b v
16. Sigur RósKveikur
17. Parquet CourtsLight Up Gold
18. Danny BrownOld
19. Holy Ghost!Dynamics
20. Jagwar MaHowlin

21. Run the Jewels (El-P & Killer Mike) – Run the Jewels
22. Washed OutParacosm
23. ClassixxHanging Gardens
24. Hanni El KhatibHead In The Dirt
25. Queens of the Stone Age…Like Clockwork
26. The StrokesComedown Machine
27. Thee Oh SeesFloating Coffin
28. Volcano ChoirRepave
29. A$AP RockyLONG.LIVE.A$AP
30. Anders OsbornePeace

31. Jon HopkinsImmunity
32. Yeah Yeah YeahsMosquito
33. King Krule6 Feet Beneath The Moon
34. Kanye WestYeezus
35. Mount KimbieCold Spring Fault Less Youth
36. Superhuman Happiness – Hands
37. BonoboThe North Borders
38. Tyler, the CreatorWolf
39. PhoenixBankrupt!
40. PhosphorescentMuchacho


Vampire Weekend at Fox Theater Oakland 4/17. Photo by Marc Fong.


Vampire Weekend at Fox Theater Oakland 4/17. Photo by Marc Fong.

Mike Frash // Founder, Editor, Columnist // @MikeFrash

Vampire WeekendModern Vampires of the City
1The focus on larger themes of mortality and spirituality in Modern Vampires of the City have catapulted this indie group from angst-ridden collegians to mainstream players — and in the process Ezra Koenig and company crafted an American classic. Compulsively listenable, this record matured with age in 2013, just like the artistic path Vampire Weekend seem to be on. The album continuously waxes poetically about death and higher powers, and “Unbelievers” sums it up best: “Girl you and I will die unbelievers, bound to the tracks of the train.” The ambiguousness is biting, as it is tough to tell if the statement is earnest atheism or harsh criticism of Godless existence. In “Step”, we’re told, “Wisdom’s a gift but you’ll trade it for youth, age is an honor it’s still not the truth…we know the true death, the true way of all flesh. Everyone’s dying, but girl – you’re not old yet.” Even “Dianne Young” is a double entendre for ‘dying young’. Every track is filled with high-level substance lyrically, but sonically it’s multi-faceted as well, melding baroque sensibilities and African grooves at a wonderfully variant pace throughout. Ultimately, it’s a supremely empowering coming of age album from Vampire Weekend, one that stares mortality in the face while celebrating time’s finite quality.

Run the Jewels (El-P & Killer Mike)Run the Jewels
2Early in Run The Jewels, Killer Mike announces, “Producer gave me a beat, said it’s the ‘beat of the year’, I said ‘El-P didn’t do it, so get the fuck outa here.’ El-P, the sole producer of rap music’s most dynamic duo, bases his production in captivating weirdness, micro-sampling everything from classic organ to nintendo glitch sounds to electric guitar, building epic beats for Killer Mike & El-P to deliver clever rhymes, based both in reality and playful hyperbole. One of Run The Jewels’ greatest successes is that it can be both funny and deadly serious within the same song, and often within in the same flow or line at times. So motherfuckin’ grimy, “Job Well Done” highlights how successfully dolphin sounds can contrast with aggressive lyricism, for example. Killer Mike broaches serious topics, bringing up the “elephant in the room” whenever possible, and EL-P is hyperactive and light-hearted as he spits his ‘future shit’. Put these two together and you have the best hip hop album in years.

FoalsHoly Fire
3The beauty is in the build with Foals, and that is the case with Holy Fire more than prior album as the UK-based festival-headliners-in-the-making have largely abandoned their post-dance punk sound aesthetic for a more ballad-based approach. Sure, “My Number” and “Providence” continue the upbeat, math rock-dance-freak-outs, but overall Foals have centered their 2013 record around patient song development in order to establish more memorable, ecstatic moments. “Milk & Black Spiders” does just that, taking a full three minutes and forty five seconds to reach it’s blissful summit. “Late Night” is a harrowing slow burner, repeating the line, “Calling out your name,” asking for the subject of the song to “Stay with me.” Lead singer Yannis Philippakis’ impassioned vocals, paired with Foals’ guitar interplay and non-standard rhythms make Foals a unique force in the world of modern rock.

The NationalTrouble Will Find Me
4Matt Berninger has a way with words — who else could make the phrase “full of punks and cannonballers” sound eloquent and measured in the track “I Need My Girl”? The National thrives on non-literal lyricism, but the instrumental elements from The National in Trouble Will Find Me prop the singing up on a pedestal better than prior records. Void of any filler, this contemplative record easily allows the listener to take their own meaning from any given track, applying it internally. The first half impresses quickly with “I Should Live In Salt” through “Sea Of Love”, but it is the second half that solidifies the effort as The National’s best work to date. An album that also gets more addictive with subsequent listens, Trouble Will Find Me works well as both a “pick me up” record and one to embrace life’s good times, an odd duality indeed.

Volcano ChoirRepave
5Who needs Bon Iver when Justin Vernon is making music like he has with The Shouting Matches and Volcano Choir in 2013? Vernon, the creative centerpiece behind Bon Iver, announced while promoting Repave that Volcano Choir is his new band. Arguably, this is a genius move, as Vernon is exhibiting a higher level of confidence and innovation with this possibly permanent collaboration with members of Collections of Colonies of Bees. Repave traverses a path that balances grandiose and minimalism, choosing off-beat, unexpectedly contrasting moments to ‘drop the sound hammer’ in both “Comrade” and “Byegone”. “Drop the sound hammer” refers to the mesmerizing technique Volcano choir uses to quickly transition from falsetto-based minimalist intros into hard-hitting Philip Glass-like synth blasts and authoritative drums. I’m fine with Vernon considering himself a legend, as long as he continues creating music with cryptic, poetic lyrics and the progressive intermingling of intense and soothing sounds.

06. Darkside – Psychic
07. James Blake – Overgrown
08. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
09. Rhye – Woman
10. Disclosure – Settle
11. Kurt Vile – Wakin On a Pretty Daze
12. My Bloody Valentine – m b v
13. Atoms for Peace – Amok
14. Foxygen – We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
15. Washed Out – Paracosm
16. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
17. Bonobo – The North Borders
18. Phosphorescent – Muchacho
19. Jagwar Ma – Howlin
20. John Vanderslice – Dagger Beach


Atoms For Peace at Treasure Island Music Festival 10/19. Photo by Marc Fong.


Atoms for Peace at Treasure Island Music Festival 10/19. Photo by Marc Fong.

Molly Kish // Artist Relations Manager, Columnist // @MollyKish

Atoms For PeaceAmok
1Alternative Rock super group Atoms for Peace delivered one of the most evocative, skillfully executed and notable debuts of 2013, completely as expected. Bringing together some of the most innovative, iconic and artistically defining tastemakers of the past two decades (most notably Thom Yorke & Flea), Atoms for Peace composed a near-perfect representation of contemporary sound evolution. Touring this past year promoting Amok through intermittent concert dates and festival-headlining performances, Atoms for Peace captivated live audiences on a global scale while generating critical acclaim, and for good reason.

Toro Y MoiAnything in Return
2Drawing artistic influence from elements of 90s dance music while paying homage to the iconic hip hop sounds of the era, Chaz Bundick departed from his signature “chillwave” style to compose his third studio album, Anything in Return. Revisiting harder house elements from his 2010 debut Causers of This, Bundick taps into a funky soundscape filled with intensified vocals and hard hitting jam-based percussion. Paying homage to legendary producer J Dilla, Anything in Return touches upon intimate subject matter while remaining accessibly pop-driven, delivering Bundick’s “biggest sounding” album to date.

DisclosureSettle
3UK sibling duo Disclosure was one of the most successful breakout acts of the past year, largely in part to the global commercial appeal of their debut album, Settle. Mixing the perfect blend of R&B vocals, UK garage, two step and deep house cuts, Settle is a seamless composition of dance floor ready hits. Disclosure’s first full length succeeded in curating a sound both primed for the band’s spellbinding live improvisation and the album’s inevitable mainstream sampling and remixes.

Daft PunkRandom Access Memories
4Preceding its April release date with a show-stopping album trailer debut at Coachella (and nationally syndicated on Saturday Night Live) and a video website series presented by The Creators Project, Daft Punk set the bar early this year for the future of mainstream album promotional campaigns. Defying the expectations of their devoted fan base along with the speculatory opinions of many EDM counterparts, Random Access Memories marks the band’s groundbreaking introduction of live musicians into their otherwise strictly electronic body of work. Their most successful album to date, Random Access Memories is a definitive album that highlights the robots’ personal influence, and the effect is a lasting impact on popular music.

Arcade FireReflektor
5Arcade Fire’s Reflektor serves as a testament to their creative ingenuity as a modern art rock group. Its evolutionary sound was produced by nu-disco vanguard James Murphy and features collaborations with David Bowie, Kid Koala and an armada of additional percussionists and recording personnel. Promoted and released through an ingenious guerrilla marketing campaign, intriguing the attention of a frothing worldwide audience.

06. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
07. Kanye West – Yeezus
08. Washed Out – Paracosm
09. Holy Ghost – Dynamics
10. Phoenix – Bankrupt!
11. Devendra Banhart – Mala
12. Major Lazer – Free The Universe
13. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito
14. Starfucker – Miracle Mile
15. Cut Copy – Free Your Mind
16. Franz Ferdinand – Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action
17. Classixx – Hanging Gardens
18. The Strokes – Comedown Machine
19. St. Lucia – When The Night
20. Jay Z – Magna Carta


Thee Oh Sees at Phono Del Sol 7/13. Photo by Mike Frash.


Thee Oh Sees at Phono Del Sol 7/13. Photo by Mike Frash.

Kevin Quandt // Assistant Editor, Columnist // @KJQuandt

Parquet CourtsLight Up Gold
1In a year with many strong rookie efforts (Haim, Disclosure, Lorde, etc.), it was this Brooklyn quartet that rejuvenated garage-tinged, punk rock with a blisteringly fierce debut LP, Light Up Gold. Opening track “Master of My Craft” lets us know we are in for one helluva a ride and it doesn’t let up in the least as Andrew Savage belts out anthems full of modern tales of urban decay and the slacker lifestyle. This we do-whatever-the-fuck-we-want mentality was also clearly present on a recently released EP entitled Tally All the Things That You Broke, which was equally as impressive as the full length. Alas, all is not lost when it comes to irreverent rock music in a sea of shiny synths and EDM takeovers. 

My Bloody Valentinem b v
2If this album was a person, it could legally drink in this country. Now, after that fact settles in, we can concentrate on how impressive m b v actually is. Kevin Shields and cohorts took 22 years to deliver this baby and it is chock-full of all the aural beauty that made these shoegaze legends modern rock royalty a couple of decades ago. Standout final track “wonder 2” is a whirling dervish of otherworldly drums, guitars and distorted vocals, slowly building into one serious rapture. Attention to detail is not lost on this album as meticulous craftsmanship is ever-present, especially when listened to fully, or in the distinct ‘3 EP’ structure that m b v is recorded in. All I ask Kevin Shields is that I don’t have to wait till I’m almost 50 years old to hear another new release from My Bloody Valentine.

Arcade FireReflektor
3There’s little surprise that this ‘double’ release ended in my, and many others, top albums list. Why? Because Arcade Fire make great albums, and I enjoy great albums. The grab bag of influences on this album is truly startling and lends much to it’s overall success whether it be deep Haitian rhythms or the the electro-dance production of James Murphy. With so many standout tracks, it really makes you wonder what they are putting in the water up in Canada. “Joan of Arc”, “Normal Person”, “Afterlife” and so many others create something fully unique and fully Arcade Fire. 

Boards of CanadaTomorrow’s Harvest
4It was a bit of a long wait for fans of BoC, but well worth the interesting journey that was to become Tomorrow’s Harvest and it’s unique marketing campaign which precluded the June release. Not much has changed from the ambient electronic soundscapes that put these Scots on the map nearly two decades ago. What makes Boards so significant is their knowledge of analogue gear they use to transform sound into warm ambience that is loaded with emotion, complexity and cinematic themes. Songs like “Nothing Is Real” fully demonstrate their textbook mix of instrumentation and warm, vintage synths which gracefully paint a picture of the natural world which we live in. It’s albums like this which should make every listener wanna go out and spend four figures on some serious headphones, and Boards of Canada wouldn’t object.

Thee Oh SeesFloating Coffin
5It’s been a long time coming for the San Francisco garage titans that, most popularly, go by Thee Oh Sees. John Dwyer once used this moniker as his solo effort, but eventually became his primary effort, eventually growing from one man to a full blown band. Floating Coffin shows a shifting of the tide as the once tin-can recording sound has matured to a sonic boom of heavy guitar, driving rhythm and quintessential weirdo vocal. All these elements, and many more, equated to the most comprehensive sounding release in their extensive discography. “Come From the Mountain” opens this album with atomic bomb-shredding guitar and doesn’t really relent from this style till the soothing album closer, “Minotaur”. What’s most profound about Floating Coffin is that they have arrived with a permanent lineup, a better produced sound and a band mentality that creates a more unified front as opposed to it being solely Dwyer’s project. Oh yeah, they are also straight bananas on stage.

06. Disclosure – Settle
07. King Krule – 6 Feet Beneath the Moon
08. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
09. Atoms for Peace – Amok
10. Tyler, the Creator – Wolf
11. Jon Hopkins – Immunity
12. Kurt Vile – Wakin On a Pretty Daze
13. Rhye – Woman
14. Danny Brown – Old 
15. David Bowie – The Next Day
16. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires in the City
17. White Denim – Corsica Lemonade
18. Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork
19. Pickwick – Can’t Talk Medicine
20. Mount Kimbie – Cold Spring Fault Less Youth


White Denim at Bill Graham Civic Center 10/31. Photo by James Nagel.


White Denim at Bill Graham Civic Center 10/31. Photo by James Nagel.

Pete Mauch // Festival Manager & Columnist // @PeteMauch

Arcade FireReflektor
1All-star collaboration of these Canadian rockers and producer James Murphy proved a success with their fourth release. The album, filled with instant hits like “Reflektor” and “Here Comes the Night Time”, is heavily influenced by traditional Haitian music that adds a deep rhythm to the elongated grooves, but the real treat is how its all tied together. Arcade Fire let loose on Reflektor, finding comfort in initiating a party atmosphere while staying confident with a dash of weirdness.

Jagwar MaHowlin
2There seems to be a psychedelic air blowing in Australia these days, and Jagwar Ma’s debut album is filled with trippy yet danceable songs like the opening pair “What Love” and “Uncertainty”. “Come Save Me” evokes a dream land where the Beach Boys created acid-dance music. This album is gonna get a lot of play on Friday nights for many years to come.

White DenimCorsicana Lemonade
3These Texas rockers put out an intense album in 2013 filled with screaming guitar solos layered over intense time signatures and wailing vocals, but White Denim makes it all sound so simple. Songs like “Pretty Green” and “Cheer Up/Blues Ending” are straight up rocking songs, rooted in the genre’s past while offering a progressive take at where rock is heading. It never hurts to have Jeff Tweedy producing as well.

Daft PunkRandom Access Memories
4The instantly classic single “Get Lucky”, the summer anthem of 2013, is still hyper-catchy, but “Instant Crush”, “Lose Yourself to Dance” & “Doin’ It Right” succeed as pleasantly repetitious tunes that represent a variety of decades. What makes Random Access Memories work completely is all the mellow cuts, perfect for bedtime or a drive down the coast. The music lesson that is “Giorgio by Moroder” just takes off after the ballsy call to include an interview with Giorgio Morodor before launching into an exploratory space jam. 

Anders OsbornePeace 
5Underground New Orleans guitar slayer Anders Osborne released a very impressive long player, filled with deep personal songs that are truly outstanding. Title track “Sentimental Times” showcases Osbornes’ brilliant songwriting, and his guitar work is simply phenomenal and engrossing. Personal favorite “Sara Anne” begins with a reggae feel that builds into a great bouncy song that has me repeating it often.

06. Kurt Vile – Wakin On a Pretty Daze
07. Atoms For Peace – Amok
08. Sigur Rós – Kveikur
09. Superhuman Happiness – Hands
10. Foals – Holy Fire
11. Holy Ghost! – Dynamics
12. Jonathan Wilson – Fanfare
13. Youth Lagoon – Wondrous Bughouse
14. Darkside – Psychic
15. Bonobo – The North Borders
16. Phosphorescent – Muchacho
17. Savages – Silence Yourself
18. Deerhunter – Monomania
19. Ty Segall – Sleeper
20. Jim James – Regions of Light and Sound of God


Toro Y Moi at Fox Theater Oakland 11/15.


Toro Y Moi at Fox Theater Oakland 11/15. Photo by James Nagel.

Kevin Raos // Columnist // @Semirec

Toro Y MoiAnything in Return
1Toro Y Moi just keeps getting better and better with subsequent listens. Part dance, part melancholy electro, Anything in Return strikes many different chords. From feelings of longing and romance, to coming to terms with growing up, Anything in Return ranges the emotionally gamut. This album stood the test of time in 2013, being one the first albums of 2013 to make a dramatic impact, then remaining front of mind come Christmas time.

RhyeWoman
2Woman is the mellow album of the year — If you need to relax, fall asleep, or just chill out, this is the album for you. A go-to in the bedroom, Rhye’s Woman also has the uncanny ability to cradle and comfort you from start to finish. Equally as good in a live setting, Woman proves excellent musicianship can flourish in downtempo form. The record’s male vocalist, Milosh, also released an excellent solo record titled “Jetlag” in late 2013 that clicks at a slightly faster tempo.

White DenimCorsicana Lemonade
3Funky, fresh and just downright dirty, the guys from Austin can bring the heat. Corsicana Lemonade is an album that might not make many end of the year album lists, but it should not be overlooked. Cool and collected while still being rhythmically aggressive, Corsicana Lemonade pushes forward an innovative rock sound that should make The Black Keys nervous their throne is currently up for grabs.

Danny BrownOld
4Danny Brown’s Old creates a new genre of hip hop, one with an electronic psyche. Old may offend some and be lost on others, but Brown’s distinctive voice and tongue-flaunting rhymes constitute a “grower”. Here we have a rapper who isn’t afraid to talk about more than banging it out in the streets, and all together Brown breathes more fresh air into a hip hop landscape that has been seeing a resurgence the past few years.

Vampire WeekendModern Vampires of the City
5It’s tough to deny that indie kings Vampire Weekend are on top of their game right now. If you haven’t heard of these A-Punks that escaped from Cape Cod, you surely have been living under a rock. With Modern Vampires of the City, an already huge band has gotten huger, blasting off into new territory more than in previous efforts. Did I mention they shout out Oakland and Alameda, too?

06. Foals – Holy Fire
07. Sigur Rós – Kveikur
08. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
09. Atoms For Peace – Amok
10. Disclosure – Settle
11. James Blake – Overgrown
12. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
13. Darkside – Psychic
14. Kurt Vile – Wakin On a Pretty Daze
15. Jon Hopkins – Immunity
16. Camera Obscura – Desire Lines
17. Wild Belle – Idles
18. Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks
19. Blood Orange – Cupid Deluxe
20. Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle


Classixx at Fox Theater Oakland 11/15. Photo by James Nagel.


Classixx at Fox Theater Oakland 11/15. Photo by James Nagel.

Sean Little // Columnist // @Splittle

FoalsHoly Fire
1Foals have made their best album to date with Holy Fire. It’s a wall of sonic noise mixed with strong doses of angst that starts with “Prelude” and continues to pin listeners to their seats until the last track. The British quintet have produced my number one record of the year, and their live performance is one to see if you haven’t.

ClassixxHanging Gardens
2Classixx made a superb album here. Being a primarily electronic poduction group, their skills show something much deeper and diverse as they move from bouncey disco tracks to deeper, more evocative tracks like “Borderline” where they showcase their ability to craft a tune that hits heart strings and nods heads. Classixx are vastly underrated and should be given a serious listen, even by non-electronic fans.

DisclosureSettle
3What can be said that hasn’t already about this brotherly duo? They hit the scene hard and made a lot of people snap their heads in their direction. Their production quality and use of instruments in their sets has turned many notions of a “DJ” set on its head and opened the doors for a whole new type of set that calls to the crowd more. This album is full of gems that will surely go down in dance history as classics.

Hanni El KhatibHead In The Dirt
4Hanni grew up immensely since his last album and really fine-tuned his sound. This is a pure rock album with no pretense. If you arere tired of pop rock bands trying to make the next iPod commercial-worthy track and long for a record that slaps you in the face to wake you up while still being a tad gentle about it, this is the one for you.

A$AP RockyLONG.LIVE.A$AP
5Hip Hop has fallen to the wayside in years past as electronic has made its resurgence. Fans have grown weary of the over-produced, same old lyric songs that most artists offer. A$AP though brings in, what I consider to be the finest hip hop album of the year. Production by Skrillex, and cameos by Florence Welch, Drake, and Birdyman attest to his range not just as a rapper but as a producer and curator as well.

06. James Blake – Overgrown
07. Queens of the Stoneage – …Like Clockwork
08. The Strokes – Comedown Machine
09. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
10. DJ Koze – Amygdala
11. Atlas Genius – When It Was Now
12. Portugal. The Man – Evil Friends
13. Bass Drum of Death – S/T
14. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito
15. MS MR – Second Hand Rapture
16. Tesla Boy – The Universe Made of Darkness
17. Franz Ferdinand – Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action
18. Cut Copy – Free Your Mind
19. Ryan Hemsworth – Guilt Trips
20. The Weeknd – Kiss Land

Live music artists ignite the dawn of a smartphone backlash

Phones-at-Shows

By Mike Frash //

Mobile technology and social media have advanced exponentially the past five to ten years, connecting scores of individuals that would have never met a decade ago, enabling us to share narcissistic musings and photos at a moment’s notice. (Unsurprisingly, “Selfie” is the “Word of the Year”.) Bottom line — It’s mostly a glorious thing to live in the age of information and rapidly expanding technology.

But holy shit do we misuse it sometimes. Our social behaviors frankly haven’t caught up to our relatively newfangled devices that are always available in our pockets and purses.

The Pope’s inauguration at the Vatican, in 2005 & 2013.


It’s all changed so quickly, hasn’t it? Communication abilities, access to content & opinions, the structure of web-based writing itself and a pervasive social media mentality have all collided and intermingled magnificently since Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2007. Consequently a massive smartphone market has flourished, and a large majority of us have gotten a bit more ADHD.

Our collective focus and attention span have changed significantly, taking a turn for the horrible. It’s become second nature for many to plug-in to their smartphones while mentally checking out of their immediate surroundings, whether we’re riding the bus, enjoying drinks with friends or experiencing a concert.

Daniel Goleman, author of Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, recently said, “We have a world that’s been engineered to distract us.” This can’t be denied when a Facebook update, tweet or Instagram upload is always only a finger tap or two away.

One of the most contentious issues revolving around smartphones today is crowd-based photography and videography at shows. A continuous lack of technology awareness from just one individual can inhibit the live music experience for those around the bright screen being held just above eye level. Not only is the screen-addicted cinematographer distracted, but so is everyone else, including the artists on stage.

So is this the new normal, or is this a trend that can be addressed and changed? There are a handful of artists that have spoken out this year, igniting what might be the roots of a mainstream “be where you are” backlash in the world of live music.

Savages1

In the year that Arcade Fire’s Win Butler crooned, “We fell in love when I was nineteen / And I was staring at a screen,” many artists have fought back against concert camera phone use, putting their proverbial foot down explicitly, politely and absurdly.

UK-based Savages fired the loudest, most forceful warning shot of 2013. The all-female foursome released their debut album Silence Yourself to critical acclaim, taking the ethos of the record on the road with them by banning phones based on the idea of immersion. For every show, they put up signs that read:

Our goal is to discover better ways of living and experiencing music. We believe that the use of phones to film and take pictures during a gig prevents all of us from totally immersing ourselves. Let’s make this evening special. Silence your phones.

That show at the Independent in San Francisco was special because of Savages’ intense, smart use of contrast and due to the room’s communal, energetic focus. The phone ban helped, keeping most devices out of sight.

Savages haven’t been alone this past year shaming phones at shows. Prince threatened to boot any patrons caught playing director on his west coast club tour, and the Artist excluded all media photographers outright. Yeah Yeah Yeah’s phone ban sign was way more punk than Savages’ nuanced approach, advising that ticket holders “PUT THAT SHIT AWAY.” Neko Case stopped her show in Cincinnati multiple times October 22, threatening to end the show early because of flashing phone photos, finally saying “Just put away the cameras. It isn’t going to kill you, but it might kill me.” David Byrne & St. Vincent, She & Him, The Polyphonic Spree & Bjork all prohibited phone photography or asked for devices to be put away mid-show this year as well.

Ever the groundbreaker, Jack White was the one to get the ball rolling in the summer of 2012. Rumor spread that the young living legend demanded that fans avoid social media and not take photos during his show, and the public backlash was surprising brutal. White’s label Third Man Records later clarified, “the only thing that we’ve ever asked of the audience is to not take pictures or videos while holding up their camera phones, etc that block other peoples view or otherwise hinder other fans concert experiences.” The message continued, “Along with that, the bigger idea is for people to experience the event with their own eyes and not watch an entire show through a tiny screen in their hand.”

Father John Misty performed through a giant iPhone on his recently wrapped solo tour. Perhaps J. Tillman wanted to treat the audience to the same visual that has been thrown in his face the past two years. But Father John Misty gets bonus points for referring to himself as “content.”

Father-John-Misty

Some artists are using mobile technology to enhance their live performance. Dan Deacon told his fans to download his interactive app before his show via a projected message at the venue. Then during one song late in the set, he instructed the audience to pull phones out, launch the app, and dance with it. Deacon controlled the color blasts and strobe effects that emanated from scattered smartphones, using the devices to bring the collective attention of the crowd together. Pretty Lights followed suit this year at Outside Lands with a much bigger audience.

So the possibilities for using our pocket computers to enhance the live music experience are out there and will likely gain steam.

Author Daniel Goleman explains the phenomenon quite effectively:

We all are carrying technological devices, our phones, our iPads, and whatever it may be, and they are diabolically designed to take advantage of the weaknesses of our attention system and nab us, and keep us nabbed. And so we’re constantly fighting distractions. That’s why, I think focus is more important than ever.

Phones-at-Shows

Certainly there is a difference between popping out your Android for 10 seconds to snap off a couple shots versus literally shooting an entire concert on your smartphone with it’s shitty sound recording capabilities.

The Festival Lawyer explained this best in his Upgrade article:

Maybe you might want to record the whole show on your iPhone (or now iPads? seriously?) and just stand there and focus on getting the best video and pics. I’m not here to judge or scold you. Although I do feel the need to point out that you will NEVER watch that stupid motherfucking shaky video again and you are watching something through a tiny screen that is actually happening really big and loud RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU LIVE!!! (Umm…actually maybe I am judging you a tiny bit. Sorry.)

Ultimately, it’s about finding balance between capturing the moment and immersing in the moment.

When someone is shooting a song-long video during a show, staring through a screen version of their current reality, and thinking about their friends watching it on YouTube later, that person is simply not in the moment.

The musical moments that give us auditory pleasure and ingrain in our memories are significantly more powerful and important than anything that can be captured on a phone.

Just take a look at the Jimmy Kimmel crowd at their outdoor stage…

This is the new normal — we’re all photographers. (Granted, people that go to a free taping in Los Angeles don’t represent a typical concert crowd.)

We are moving toward a world where we are more connected to our phones than each other. Many of us (yes, including myself) are too damned dependent on digital devices.

It’s a bit scary to contemplate a generation born with Facebook accounts. A generation of kids that are given tablets to stop them from crying at a restaurant. A third generation that is routinely fed amphetamine-based drugs when focus is an issue, even though we don’t teach attention-based skill strategies (yet).

In his book, Goleman wrote, “Today’s children are growing up in a new reality, one where they are attuning more to machines and less to people than has ever been true in human history. That’s troubling for several reasons. For one, the social and emotional circuitry of a child’s brain learns from contact and conversation with everyone it encounters over the course of a day. These interactions mold brain circuitry; the fewer hours spent with people— and the more spent staring at a digitized screen— portends deficits.”

The problem here is way bigger than just experiencing a show through a smartphone.

Phone zombies can SnapChat all day if they want to, but it’s critical that we live in the moment as much as possible and enjoy who we are with. The key is to identify screen addiction, set new habits through cognitive control & repetition, and be where you are to the best of your ability in this distracting age of information.

Be-Where-You-Are


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Best live music venues in San Francisco // Bay Area

Photos by Sam Heller, Marc Fong, Maggie Corwin, James Nagel & Mike Frash

Photos by Sam Heller, Marc Fong, Maggie Corwin, James Nagel & Mike Frash

San Francisco is one of the best live music cities in the world — if an act is touring the western United States, they will most likely swing through SF. Packed into 7×7 square miles, the City by the Bay offers some kind of concert nightly. The East Bay, Oakland and Berkeley, respectively, is home to a growing number of live music options as more and more folks flee the City for better living costs.

Here are the best places to catch a show in or near San Francisco.

The-Independent

The Independent

628 Divisadero St. San Francisco, CA 94117
View Current Show Listings

What To Expect: The Independent boasts the best sound, artist curation and lighting in the Bay Area for any room close to it’s 500-person max capacity — and you can count on 3-5 shows per week. It’s a great venue to catch artists on the rise from virtually every music genre, and already-established groups such as Phoenix, Green Day, TV on the Radio and Band of Horses have performed at this intimate musical oasis.

Best Features: The general admission venue is a conveniently-shaped square; no matter where you watch the show, the sound is stellar and you can see what’s happening on the lifted stage. The staff is professional, friendly and drinks are easy to procure. The Independent is simple and perfect, an ideal platform to witness bands and DJs live before they get bigger.

Drawbacks: Bring earplugs and sunglasses if sensitive to sound and light. Arrive early to secure a parking spot if driving — if possible, take public transportation and grab a drink nearby before the show. Get there when doors open if you need a seat.

The-Fox

Fox Theater – Oakland

1807 Telegraph Ave. Oakland, CA 94612
View Current Show Listings

What To Expect: Fox Theater Oakland is a premium, large theater-style venue with a general admission floor and sizable, assigned-seated balcony overhead. The renovation of this historic site was masterfully achieved in 2009, conserving the stellar artwork and design features.

Best Features: No expense was spared in this renovation. Cool air rises from hundreds of vents in the floor, keeping attendees comfortable. The multitude of bars are fully staffed and efficient.

Drawbacks: In order to accommodate BART travelers, the venue has a pretty strict curfew, with shows ending well before midnight.

The-Fillmore

The Fillmore

1805 Geary Blvd. San Francisco, CA 94115
View Current Show Listings

What To Expect: The Fillmore is nondescript from the outside, but a classic gem once you enter and climb the stairs. Expect a warm welcome, a selection of free fresh apples in the tradition of Fillmore founder Bill Graham and a free poster of the evening’s show (if the event sold out three weeks in advance usually).

Best Features: A large general admission floor area (1,200 capacity), surrounded by adult-beverage facilitators, is overshadowed by the venue’s iconic chandeliers that add a touch of sophistication to any affair. There is an additional saloon upstairs with ample seating away from the stage, and live acts will perform here on occasion before and during the opening act. Also, be sure to head upstairs to view previous show posters.

Drawbacks: If having a seat is on the agenda, arrive early and head for the poster room. Snag a seat and cozy up to the balcony rail for the best view in the house, but the best sound can be found on the floor.

*Bonus Venue: The BooM BooM RooM across Geary Blvd. is an excellent place for a pre-show martini and to keep the party going once The Fillmore has wrapped for the evening. This room focuses on jamming into the late night, often until 4 a.m.

Great-American-Music-Hall

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell St. San Francisco, CA 94109
View Current Show Listings

What To Expect: This historic space has been a beloved jewel for live music for well over 100 years, able to house some 600 attendees on any given night. As SF’s oldest nightclub, the Great American Music Hall can transport music fans to a more elegant era with its ornate balconies, soaring marble columns and elaborate ceiling frescoes.

Best Features: The Great American features a great variety of acts over the year and offers something for everybody. The space, sound and staff are top-notch. Opt for dinner and a show (quick tip: the food is great) to secure a seat on the balcony rail upstairs.

Drawbacks: The location is rather central to many areas of the city, though it’s not the safest in the the City. The venue’s lights are rather basic, but they aren’t needed in a room with such grand decor.

The-Greek

The Greek Theatre – UC Berkeley

2001 Gayley Rd. Berkeley, CA 94720
View Current Show Listings

What To Expect: A seasonal venue from the Spring to the Fall at the top of the UC Berkeley campus, The Greek Theatre can pack 8,500 folks into their popular, yet infrequent concerts. Constructed after the ancient Greek theater of Epidaurus in 1903 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, this space often inspires magical performances.

Best Features: The sound from within the bowl provides incredible acoustics, but get there early for a spot in the seated steps or within the pit. If all seats are taken, get closer and stand in the general admission area as close as possible for a memorable live music experience.

Drawbacks: Don’t retreat to the grass — the magic is lost outside of the main bowl area. Getting to the venue (and back) requires walking up the campus, or driving to the top. Parking near the theater also means it will take forever to leave, and it will cost you $20 or more. Give yourself plenty of time and plan on walking. Shows won’t go past 11 p.m. due to the campus’ curfew, and be sure to head to the top of the grass for the quickest bathroom lines.

The-Warfield

The Warfield

982 Market St. San Francisco, CA 94102
View Current Show Listings

What To Expect: A 2,300-capacity theater located on Market Street, The Warfield beckons a near century-long history as a premier downtown music venue. Ornate gilding and details are found throughout this lovely space, and a recent renovation upgraded many areas in need of a little help.

Best Features: The tiered floor has become a staple for California mid-size venues like The Fox in Oakland and The Wiltern in Los Angeles, allowing an array of sight-lines for attendees. It’s in an easily accessible location with decent bars and restaurants within proximity.

Drawbacks: Mid-Market is trying to revive itself from a once-peppered history. Similar to many other “overhang” theater venues, the sound can leave a bit to be desired if in the middle or back of the general admission floor.

Bimbos 365 Club

Bimbo’s 365 Club

1025 Columbus Ave. San Francisco, CA 94133
View Current Show Listings

What To Expect: Bimbo’s 365 Club, located on the fringes of North Beach, offers one of the most unique live concert settings in SF. Red velour curtains and exquisite details lend to an entirely classy experience in this 685-capacity, theater-like live performance space.

Best Features: It’s not like any other venue in the City in regards to location and style — side rooms and bars create an ideal pre-show place to socialize and imbibe. The low stage creates an intimate atmosphere with the limited acts that grace the stage over the year.

Drawbacks: The North Beach location is not the easiest venue to reach in comparison to others, and the booking leaves much to be desired as folks love this space.

Rickshaw-Stop

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell St. San Francisco, CA 94102
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What To Expect: This recent hot-spot hosts many up-and-coming indie acts bursting onto the scene before they graduate to larger rooms. Expect a hip crowd sipping on strong drinks in a no-frills room, enjoying heat-seeking artists from across the globe. Shows start late, even on weekdays.

Best Features: Rickshaw Stop has very dynamic booking, bringing in all sorts of parties to utilize this Civic Center area venue. The bar is efficient for a small-ish room that can fill up nicely, but not overly.

Drawbacks: It’s basically a long narrow room with a small “balcony”, therefore sight-lines can be rough for those who are vertically challenged on the main floor.

Mezzanine

Mezzanine

444 Jessie St. San Francisco, CA 94103
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What To Expect: Mezzanine specializes in up-and-coming club scene shows, hosting DJs from all over the world and bands that incorporate electronic elements into their music. Expect young people ready to party in a rectangular room that can hold up to 1,000 people.

Best Features: DJs will perform on the ‘side stage’, cultivating a dance-centric environment before and after live acts. A great choice for birthdays, bachelor parties and other special occasions, secure a table and bottle service on the floor or in a private area upstairs.

Drawbacks: Ins and outs are not permitted, and it can get a bit crunchy near the front and in the smoking area. Getting drinks can be a challenge during peak times.

Brick and Mortar

Brick and Mortar Music Hall

1710 Mission St. San Francisco, CA 94103
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What To Expect: An intimate, square space for live music, Brick and Mortar Music Hall in the Mission hosts concerts almost nightly, and they are always affordable. Rock, bluegrass, funk, soul and many more types of shows go down here.

Best Features: Brick and Mortar has that “neighborhood rock/club” feel — if you are in the ‘front row’, then you are basically on the stage — and it just became the new home of outcast swine-house Bacon Bacon during lunchtime.

Drawbacks: Cash only at the box office. It can get a little tight during capacity shows unless you squiggle to your left against the wall.

The-Chapel

The Chapel

777 Valencia St. San Francisco, CA 94110
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What To Expect: The newest venue in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District, The Chapel opened in 2012 and includes an attached restaurant and bar. The building was originally built as a mortuary, so the funeral home’s Chapel was converted to the music room upon renovation. There is a mezzanine above the floor level of the Chapel for bird’s-eye view observing.

Best Features: The restaurant and bar is brand-new and swanky, and the high ceilings and beams in the formerly sacred space give it a unique, striking feel for live music. More acts are booked with each passing month, and bigger names becoming more frequent too. Artists usually have a rootsy and indie sound aesthetic, but The Chapel recently had their first DJ night.

Drawbacks: It’s a great location for nightlife, but not for parking. The stage is small, and it can be tough to secure a drink at peak moments.

The-New-Parish-why

The New Parish

579 18th St. Oakland, CA 94612
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What To Expect: This unique venue has recently sprouted up in the East Bay, and many are taking notice of their recent success. With a courtyard and large, wrap-around balcony, The New Parish offers many options for patrons to get down, watch the act or be social with friends.

Best Features: A plethora of national touring acts are opting to stay east of the bay and hold court in this ever-rising space. Securing a view of the stage isn’t terribly tough with a less traditional venue setup. Proximity to the Fox Theater makes it a popular place to keep the night going.

Drawbacks: The design of the space is unlike any other, and this has a few negatives regarding access to the bar or sound being optimal. It’s in Oakland and goes late, so not great for SF-bound BART riders.

Civic-Center

Bill Graham Civic Auditorium

99 Grove St. San Francisco, CA 94102
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What To Expect: As big an open, indoor floor space that exists in the Bay Area (not including arenas), the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium can fit 7,000 people into its vast confines.

Best Features: There’s plenty of floor space — and plenty of seats upstairs if you arrive early enough. The location adjacent to City Hall makes it easy to get to via public transportation. When the Civic Auditorium is packed and full of energy, it comes alive.

Drawbacks:
When the venue isn’t sold out, there’s an empty, hollow feel to live music here. The sound can seriously lack at times, especially from the sides. The best bet is to get in front of the large speaker banks (duh). Some acts, like Phish, bring additional sound equipment to fill out the copious space in the building.

Bottom-of-the-Hill

Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St. San Francisco, CA 94107
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What To Expect: This legendary little rock club at the foot of Potrero Hill has room for 350 partygoers of varying ages. It’s a well-oiled and well-regarded space that breeds lively shows by bands of all sizes and eras.

Best Features: Not exclusively a 21-and-over club, Bottom of the Hill allows patrons of all ages the chance to enjoy a high-energy show in this wacky space. Ample parking, a large smoking section and reasonably priced drinks as well as tickets make it an ideal spot to rock out.

Drawbacks: The booking doesn’t veer terribly far off the path of rock ‘n’ roll. The lights are simple, as one might expect from a venue like this.

Cafe-Du-Nord

Cafe Du Nord

2170 Market St. San Francisco, CA 94114
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What To Expect: Walking down the stairs into the main room lends the vibe of a classic speakeasy with red velour and classical seating in the back. It’s yet another historic space to enjoy some fresh artists of the 21st century in an intimate setting.

Best Features: Located rather conveniently on Market Street makes Cafe Du Nord both accessible and flush with pre-show drink options. Cafe du Nord is amazing for the fan hoping to engage with his or her favorite artists.

Drawbacks: The room has an odd shape with a bar, seating and even a pool table in the back, while the front is slightly sectioned off for live music.

Slim's

Slim’s

333 11th St. San Francisco, CA 94103
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What To Expect: Slim’s is located in a lively section of SOMA, and the venue hosts a vast array of lively acts for an all-ages crowd with a maximum capacity of 400. A high-ceiling room with few frills makes it a good option for dedicated fans.

Best Features: A large bar makes grabbing a beer or cocktail a snap, and they offer dinner with premium, upstairs seating if that’s your thing. The sound is just fine to accommodate either hardcore punk-rock or some of the Bay’s finest hip-hop.

Drawbacks: Oddly-placed pillars can obstruct attendees’ views and make a sold-out room that much more less appealing.

Public-Works

Public Works

161 Erie St. San Francisco, CA 94103
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What To Expect:
Expect two venues in one. Public Works offers a live music space and a separate room dedicated to dance music curated by some of the best DJs around. A separate ticket is needed for each option.

Best Features: The location is pretty central to most of the City. The live venue offers a balcony overhang — get there early for the best spot in the house. The staff is friendly.

Drawbacks: There are a few columns that make the live space a bit cumbersome at times, and the mobility at sold-out shows can be tough.

The-Recency

The Regency Ballroom

1290 Sutter St. San Francisco, CA 94109
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What To Expect: The large, well-worn ballroom with a horseshoe-shaped, wrap-around balcony and teardrop chandeliers can hold plenty of people at The Regency Ballroom. Most shows are general admission.

Best Features: There are plenty of seats to grab upstairs if sitting is a must.

Drawbacks: Shows here are infrequent, and the sound can get drowned out at times by the massive space of the ballroom, especially from the seats. Drinks are priced astronomically.

MIDTERM REPORT: Best Albums of 2013

BEST-ALBUMS-so-far-2013Photos by Marc Fong and Mike Frash

Is 2013 the year digital dance music makes the big leap, fully taking over the Top 40 but also ingraining itself into the hearts of critics? Daft Punk made all the noise as the year was young, but young EDM-upstarts Disclosure, Flume & Jagwar Ma have all made an impact on the Bam Team.

That stated, the musical output in 2013 so far is pretty damn strong overall. And just think, we will be hearing new LPs from Arcade Fire, Earl Sweatshirt, Washed Out, Ty Segall, Franz Ferdinand, Nine Inch Nails, Arctic Monkeys, Holy Ghost!, Chvrches, and many more still. Take a gander at our favorite albums of the year as of July 17, 2013 – What are we missing?

*Any album released in the US in the year 2013 is eligible for Best Albums of 2013.
**Check out all of our music reviews from 2013.

Vampire Weekend

Mike Frash
1. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
2. Disclosure – Settle
3. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
4. James Blake – Overgrown
5. Foals – Holy Fire
6. Flume – Flume
7. Foxygen – We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
8. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
9. Jagwar Ma – Howlin
10. Baths – Obsidian

Phoenix

Molly Kish
1. Atoms For Peace – AMOK
2. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
3. Disclosure – Settle
4. Toro Y Moi – Anything In Return
5. Phoenix – Bankrupt!
6. STRFKR – Miracle Mile
7. Devandra Banhart – Mala
8. Major Lazer – Free the Universe 
9. Cold War Kids – Dear Miss Lonelyhearts
10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito

Thee-oh-Sees

Kevin Quandt
1. my bloody valentine – m b v
2. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
3. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
4. Kurt Vile – Wakin on a Pretty Daze
5. Thee oh Sees – Floating Coffin
6. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
7. Disclosure – Settle
8. Rhye – Woman
9. Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
10. A$AP Rocky – Long Live A$AP

Sigur-Ros

Pete Mauch
1. Sigur Ros – Kveikur

2. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
3. Superhuman Happiness – Hands
4. Foals – Holy Fire
5. Boards of Canada – Tomorrows Harvest
6. Deerhunter – Monomania
7. Youth Lagoon – Wondrous Bughouse
8. Bonobo – The North Borders
9. Kurt Vile and The Violators – Walkin’ On A Pretty Daze
10. Disclosure – Settle

Toro Y Moi

Kevin Raos
1. Toro Y Moi – Anything In Return
2. Rhye – Woman
3. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
4. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
5. Sigur Ros – Kveikur
6. Foals – Holy Fire
7. Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
8. Camera Obscura – Camera Obscura
9. Atoms for Peace – AMOK
10. Portugal. The Man – Evil Friends

Classixx

Sean Little
1. Flume – Flume
2. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
3. Classixx – Hanging Gardens
4. Jessie Ware – Devotion
5. Hanni El Kattib – Head In The Dirt
6. Disclosure – Settle
7. Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork
8. Empire of the Sun – Ice on the Dune
9. Portugal. The Man – Evil Friends
10. DJ Koze – Amygdala

Starfucker5

Eric Shaden
1.  Jagwar Ma – Howlin
2.  James Blake – Overgrown
3.  Daft Punk – Random Access Memories  
4.  Starfucker – Miracle Mile
5.  Disclosure – Settle
6.  Phoenix – Bankrupt!
7.  Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
8.  Autre Ne Veut – Anxiety 
9.  Major Lazer – Free the Universe 
10. Thundercat – Apocalypse 

MS MR
Nikki De Martini
1. MS MR – Secondhand Rapture
2. Deap Vally – Sistrionix
3. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito
4: CSS – Planta 
5: Little Boots – Nocturnes
6. Portugal The Man – Evil Friends 
7. Cold War Kids – Dear Miss Lonelyhearts
8. Kanye West – Yeezus
9. Great Gatsby Soundtrack
10. Sigur Ros – Kveikur