Thirty-five years later, the Melvins are still rockin’ as hard & loud as they ever have

MelvinsPhotos by Mike Rosati // Written by Andrew Pohl //

Melvins with ModPods, Yen Yen //
Great American Music Hall – San Francisco
July 16th, 2018 //

For as many times as the Melvins have performed in the Bay Area over their extensive career, I just hadn’t gotten around to seeing them. Several friends of mine have praised them as one of, if not THE best band to catch live, and though I admittedly didn’t know their material beyond a few songs that I had heard on occasion, I was happy to have the chance to catch them. With the sold-out gig taking place at one of my favorite venues in SF, that made it all the better.

Arriving at the Great American Music Hall about 15 minutes before showtime, I ran into a few good friends that I hadn’t seen in a while, which made the whole experience that much better. Kicking things off were Yen Yen, a Swedish electronic duo whose ethereal, 25-minute set was a refreshingly different sound when comparing it to what was supposed to be a Monday night of sonic bombardment by the mighty Melvins. As one of the band’s members twisted and turned knobs to manipulate some swelling synth-pad samples, the other waved his hands over what looked like a theremin type synth. Twenty-five minutes was the perfect length for their set, as much more than that might have become long in the tooth, but I did enjoy what I heard and it was pretty impressive to see what they could do with sound.

Next up were the Los Angeles-based ModPods. The three-piece dance/electro outfit proved to be another nice addition to the show’s bill and offered those in attendance a chance to shake their ass a bit. Singer Myriad Slits held court onstage as she delivered some strong vocals that exuded both soul and style. Instrumentalists Mindee Jorgenson and Daniel Guzman switched between bass, guitar and drums, layering sounds over backing tracks to each song. Although they were minimalist in their approach, the songs kept the crowd wanting more and I would venture to say that the ModPods won over the crowd with ease. I foresee them making some big waves in the future.

Melvins

But the time had finally come for the legendary Melvins to hit the stage. Over the years, the group has undergone quite a few lineup changes, with lead vocalist/guitarist Buzz Osborne (aka “King Buzzo”) being the one constant member and drummer Dale Crover being a close second. For this roster, former Butthole Surfers bassist Jeff Pinkus and Redd Kross/Off! bass player Steven Shane McDonald signed on to be part of the equation, creating a rich, punchy and crunchy element to the already fuzz-heavy sound. This was one show, after all, that you definitely wanted to have earplugs for.

I’m far from an expert on this kind of thing (because I’m not), but I didn’t expect to see the Melvins perform with the amount of energy that they showcased. For a band that has been touring and putting out new material for the past 35 years, they performed as if everything depended on it. You weren’t going to catch “King Buzzo” standing in one place for too long, with his signature fro whipping in the wind from the fans that were on the stage, McDonald and Pinkus holding it down on their own instruments, and Crover beating the living hell out of his drums. Fans were ready to receive the band and responded to the various sonic blasts coming from the amplifiers. During the thrashy songs, they formed a brutal pit, and during the sludgier songs, they lit up joints and bobbed their heads to the music.

I, myself, was pleased see that the Melvins were thoroughly enjoying themselves and weren’t just going through the motions. Their 18-song set in SF included cuts from across their entire catalog, a handful of covers — including David Bowie’s “Saviour Machine”, Butthole Surfers’ “Moving to Florida” and The Rolling Stones’ “Sway” — and toward the end, “Don’t Forget to Breathe” from their most recent full-length album Pinkus Abortion Technician.

Setlist:
Sesame Street Meat
At a Crawl
The Kicking Machine
Saviour Machine (David Bowie cover)
What They Say (Redd Kross cover)
Anaconda
Stop (James Gang cover)
Moving to Florida (Butthole Surfers cover)
Edgar the Elephant
Sway (The Rolling Stones cover)
Let It All Be
Honey Bucket
The Bit
Don’t Forget to Breathe
Onions Make the Milk Taste Bad
The Talking Horse
Evil New War God
Eye Flys

Moby might think he’s old, but his 15th and newest album doesn’t sound it at Apogee Studio

MobyPhotos by Brian Feinzimer // Written by Josh Herwitt //

Moby //
Apogee Studio – Santa Monica, CA
March 26th, 2018 //

When Richard Melville Hall released his fifth album Play in 1999, probably much to many’s surprise now, it wasn’t an immediate success. Hall, after all, had hit a bit of a rough patch a few years earlier with his fourth LP Animal Rights, which saw him venturing into punk rock and straying far away from the eclecticism that delivered critical acclaim for its predecessor Everything Is Wrong in 1995.

But Play eventually propelled Hall — or “Moby” as his parents called him due to an ancestral tie to Moby Dick author Herman Melville — to mainstream status like his previous records had never before. Boasting eight singles (yes, you read that right) and selling more than 12 million copies worldwide at a point when music fans were still purchasing CDs, it became the biggest-selling electronica album of all time. Rolling Stone, in fact, has included Play as one of its 500 greatest albums on two different occasions. I don’t know about you, but it’s a masterful piece of work that immediately transports me back to the late 90’s, to a time when groove-oriented electronic music was actually starting to be considered “cool.”

Employing everything from early blues, African-American folk music and gospel to hip-hop, disco and techno on Play, Moby created sounds that our ears had never heard before. Today, he stands as one of electronic music’s, if not simply music’s, most important figures, having worked with David Bowie, Daft Punk, Brian Eno, Pet Shop Boys, Britney Spears, New Order, Public Enemy, Guns N’ Roses, Metallica and Soundgarden over a career that has spanned 40 years to date.

That’s a long time for anyone to be making music, but at the age of 52, Moby hasn’t let it catch up to him. Part of that could be related to his diet (he has been vegan for about three decades now), leaving his longtime home of New York City for sunny Los Angeles back in 2010 and an unwillingness to tour extensively anymore, though his latest studio material doesn’t offer any evidence that he has lost the ability to craft a well-conceived/produced song either.

Moby

On Monday night in Santa Monica, Hall took the stage for KCRW’s Apogee Sessions series in support of his 15th full length Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt, which arrived via Mute earlier this month. The record’s title serves as just another reminder of Moby’s passion for the late Kurt Vonnegut’s work, referencing Billy Pilgrim’s epitaph in Slaughterhouse-Five, but he isn’t the only literary influence who shines through on the 12-track album. The second single “Mere Anarchy” from Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt, in fact, was inspired by a quote from Irish poet W. B. Yeats, someone Moby has been a fan of for quite a while and even more in these chaotic, uncertain times under the Trump administration (as you can see from his Instagram account here, he is also very politically outspoken).

Still, despite all of the negativity that’s out there in the world at the moment, Moby appears to be in a relatively happy place on a personal level. He has been sober for about four years after being a self-proclaimed alcoholic and has owned his vegan restaurant Little Pine in LA’s ultra trendy Silver Lake neighborhood since 2015. And for the past two years, he has also found the time to organize his own Circle V festival as a way to celebrate music, vegan food and animal rights, the latter of which being another cause that Hall has dedicated his life to from an early age. Oh, and did we mention that he had a collaborative LP with The Void Pacific Choir come out last year? When you stack them all up, it’s pretty incredible to see Moby juggling so many projects simultaneously and juggling them all well (props to his manager, that’s for sure).

His guitar playing, meanwhile, may be just as impressive, if not surprising to some. Less than two weeks before Moby stepped into Bob Clearmountain’s diminutive recording studio, I was fortunate enough to catch him the final of his three shows at The Echo, and it was there as he performed a variety of songs from Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt, Play and a few other albums, that I fully realized just how talented he is with a black Gibson SG in his hands. He may be an electronic musician, but unlike a lot of them today, Moby is a musician in every sense of the word. While his vocals at times sound more like spoken word than actual singing, he has found more than capable sidekicks in Julie Mintz (keyboards, vocals) and Mindy Jones (vocals) to assist him in that department. Jones’ ranging voice, in particular, is one that suits his music well, and when you hear her sing, her pipes elevate the song to a whole new level.

Moby is no doubt a quirky guy. He’s not too insecure to make fun of himself, call some of his music “bad” or say what’s on his mind. Having been his friend for more than 25 years, KCRW Music Director Jason Bentley most certainly knew this, but as he traded questions for answers midway through his performance at Apogee Studio, you could tell even Bentley was surprised by how candid Moby was. The small crowd, of course, couldn’t help but laugh, as Moby made a point of telling us that he’s “old” and later on how the music video for his single “We Are All Made of Stars” was a $1 million disaster that never saw the light of day after being played only once on MTV. But as he juxtaposed the trip-hop that permeates throughout his newest album against the more old-school, ambient vibes of his past work, it was Moby who proved that his star, almost 20 years after Play dropped, continues to burn bright in 2018.

Setlist:
The Ceremony of Innocence
Falling Rain and Light
Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?
Porcelain
Like a Motherless Child
This Wild Darkness
The Tired and the Hurt
Extreme Ways
The Sorrow Tree
We Are All Made of Stars

PLANETARIUM send fans at Fox Theater Oakland on an emotional journey to the cosmos

PLANETARIUMBy Norm de Veyra //

PLANETARIUM with Thao Nguyen //
Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland
July 21st, 2017 //

Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sufjan Stevens, guitarist Bryce Dessner of The National, classical music composer Nico Muhly and drummer James McAlister brought the lush and eclectic sounds of their collaborative, celestial-themed project PLANETARIUM to a sold-out crowd of 2,800 fans at the Fox Theater Oakland last Friday on the final stop of their very brief tour that spanned only four dates.

PLANETARIUM’s music, which channels Stevens’ reflections on astronomy, science and even the intricacies of human consciousness, is a fusion of styles from all four band members that evokes feelings of unity. The group’s performance was accompanied by otherworldly visuals that filled the backdrop as it traversed the Solar System with quite a few emotionally charged songs inspired by the planets and other celestial bodies like “Neptune” and “Jupiter”.

PLANETARIUM

Stevens often spoke during the performance, charming the audience with his aforementioned reflections. The night closed out with a spirited tribute cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” that felt like an appropriate and poignant cap to the night as the audience contemplated the cosmos and its place within it.

Opening the evening was Thao Nguyen, sans her usual support from Thao & the Get Down Stay Down. Nguyen’s blistering performance was rife with experimentation and playfulness as it featured tracks such as “Astonished Man” and “Slash/Burn” off her latest album A Man Alive, which was recorded at SF’s Tiny Telephone Studios. Produced by tUnE-yArDs founder and bandleader Merill Garbus, the album was released back in March via Ribbon Music and explores some darker and more personal territory as it relates to Nguyen’s relationship with her estranged father, unlike her earlier songwriting.

The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Shows, Albums & Songs of 2016

Danny Brown


Danny Brown at The Regency Ballroom // Showbams’ Photo of the Year, by James Pawlish

Time flies when you’re having fun, right? Well, while we’re still wondering where the past 12 months have went, 2016 proved to be bittersweet for the entire music community. With David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Paul Kanter, Phife Dawg, Merle Haggard, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Sharon Jones and most recently George Michael all leaving us too soon, it’s been a rough ride to say the least. But amid all the heartbreak, we experienced plenty of amazing moments in music from January to December, and now it’s time for us to once again unveil our annual “Best of” lists just like we did in 2015.

So, without further ado, Showbams presents The Bam Team’s five favorite shows, albums and songs from 2016.

The 25 Best Live Music Acts of 2016

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2016:


Jim James at Orpheum Theatre


Jim James at Orpheum Theatre // Photo by Josh Herwitt

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2016
1. LCD Soundsystem at Coachella Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA – April 8th
When reports started swirling around this time last year that LCD Soundsystem would reunite to headline Coachella a few months later, it was a chance to relive that one time I saw them on the same polo field six years earlier — the only time I was lucky enough to see James Murphy and company in action before they called it quits way too early. And while band reunions at Coachella are starting to feel like a gimmick these days, LCD had already played a couple of warm-up shows back home in New York by the time they stepped foot on the main stage for their highly anticipated headlining set at the Empire Polo Club. They didn’t perform any new material like some fans may have hoped they would, but rather a setlist laced with hits that also included their live debut of David Bowie’s “Heroes” as well as a nod to fellow headliner Guns N’ Roses. And as the final words to “All My Friends” left Murphy’s mouth that night, I walked away still buzzing from what I had just witnessed.

2. Radiohead at Shrine Auditorium – Los Angeles, CA – August 8th
3. Jim James at Orpheum Theatre – Los Angeles, CA – December 9th
4. Temple of the Dog at The Forum – Inglewood, CA – November 14th
5. Pretty Lights (Live) at Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA – November 10th

Top 5 Albums of 2016
1. Moderat – III
With so many excellent albums being released each year, picking a favorite is never an easy task — but this year felt even more difficult than usual. And although I’ll admit I didn’t have time to hear every LP that dropped in 2016, it was hard not to choose Moderat’s latest studio effort after much thought and consideration. Time after time, I found myself coming back to III after countless listens. From the record’s opening track “Eating Hooks” to its initial single “Reminder”, the Berlin trio seems to get better and better with each release. As difficult as it can be to describe Moderat’s music, there’s something about the way Sascha Ring’s emotive vocals pair perfectly with the supergroup’s haunting melodies that makes III‘s repeatability incredibly strong. I guess the third time really is the charm for these three gents.

2. Jim James – Eternally Even
3. Anderson .Paak – Malibu
4. RadioheadA Moon Shaped Pool
5. Kendrick Lamar – untitled unmastered

Top 5 Songs of 2016
1. Jim James – “Here in Spirit”
My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James often receives praise for his unique singing style, but the Louisville native’s songwriting chops remain equally impressive. On his sophomore solo album Eternally Even, James takes a more political stance than what he devised for his 2013 debut Regions of Light and Sound of God. What results is some of James’ most poignant and inspiring material to date, including the soulfully psychedelic cut “Here in Spirit” that bats third in the LP’s nine-track lineup. With lines like “No compromise / But willing to sacrifice / Believe what you want / Go on and be who you are / Go out and get what you want” to open the song, James empowers his listeners to not sit on the sidelines and instead, speak up for what they believe in. He might not be able to solve the world’s problems, but “Yim Yames” knows how to make you think about the issues that matter.

2. Moderat – “Reminder”
3. Glass Animals – “Youth”
4. Tycho – “Division”
5. Run the Jewels – “Legend Has It”


Brainfeed at Fox Theater Oakland


Brainfeeder at Fox Theater Oakland // Photo by Marc Fong

Molly Kish // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2016
1. Brainfeeder at Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA – September 15th
This showcase featuring artists from Flying Lotus’ label, including himself, was an experience to behold. No matter who you went to see on this night, eyes were opened and brains were fed — so to speak — thanks to the sonic diversions that continue to make Brainfeeder one of the most important players in shaping the future of music.

2. Danny Brown at The Regency Ballroom – San Francisco, CA – October 11th
3. James Blake at Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA – October 17th
4. Erykah Badu at The Warfield – San Francisco, CA – November 15th
5. Black Madonna at Public Works SF – San Francisco, CA – November 18th

Top 5 Albums of 2016
1. Anderson .Paak – Malibu
Elevating the current state of hip-hop by ultimately bringing it back to its jazz roots, Malibu finally brought Anderson .Paak the credit he sorely deserved. The 16-track album boasts an intricately curated, eclectic roster of recording, production and songwriting talent. Easily the most important sophomore full-length release of the year, Malibu opened a brand-new door to a musical stratosphere that .Paak was born to commandeer.

2. Kendrick Lamar – untitled unmastered
3. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
4. The Avalanches – Wildflower
5. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service

Top 5 Songs of 2016
1. Solange – “Cranes in the Sky”
Another career-skyrocketing release of 2016 that was introduced to the world through this single, “Cranes in the Sky” helped bring attention to “the younger Knowles sister” as a force to be reckoned with. Amidst a track list of powerful ballads and political anthems, this song delivers a personal testimony of introspection that humanizes Solange in a way most artists are too afraid to convey. The track, which was delivered through a series of avant-garde music videos, shook the world of modern soul and R&B with one of 2016’s most influential power moves.

2. Chance the Rapper – “All Night”
3. Blood Orange – “Best to You”
4. Kaytranada – “LITE SPOTS”
5. Flume – “Never Be Like You” feat. Kai


YG at The Wiltern


YG at The Wiltern // Photo by Joseph Gray

Joseph Gray // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2016
1. Kanye West at The Forum – Inglewood, CA – November 1st
Prior to its bizarre, abrupt ending that included a long-winded tirade critical of Beyoncé and some outspoken support for President-elect Donald Trump, Kanye West’s “Saint Pablo Tour” was a once-in-a-lifetime party. Seriously. In LA, the show featured a floating, illuminated and spaceship-like stage that traveled back and forth — while raging youngsters moshed below — to give everybody a great view of their favorite contradiction and/or superhero, who was later hospitalized due to a reported “psychiatric emergency.” With the elevated platform, a smiling and dancing West manned through his conflicts, happiness and faith, reminding us of why he provides the unmistakable feel-good vibes that only he can bring.

2. Young Thug at The Fonda Theatre – Los Angeles, CA – May 16th
3. Isaiah Rashad at Echoplex – Los Angeles, CA – November 14th
4. Jhene Aiko at Avalon Hollywood – Los Angeles, CA – November 21st
5. YG at The Wiltern – Los Angeles, CA – November 29th

Top 5 Albums of 2016
1. Anderson .Paak – Malibu
The unearthed gem on rap legend Dr. Dre’s long-awaited Compton opus a year prior, Southern California rapper, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist (he really does it all) Anderson .Paak kicked open the door to his fully-formed world of warm, unbridled expressiveness and raspy soul with Malibu. Brilliantly combining funk and jazz-filled triumphs (“Come Down”) and hip-hop’s reflective grit (“The Season/Carry Me”) with distinct and sprawling elegance (“Room in Here”), .Paak unquestionably put his mark on 2016. A detailed dot (just like the one in .Paak’s moniker), you better not forget it because Malibu proved that you have to pay attention to everything his name is attached to.

2. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
3. Young Thug – Jeffery
4. NxWorries – Yes Lawd!
5. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo

Top 5 Songs of 2016
1. A Tribe Called Quest – “We the People…”
In a year drenched in political prejudices and panic for many citizens in the U.S., Q-Tip roared through the darkness over the funkiest of synths: “We don’t believe you ’cause we the people / Are still here in the rear / Yo, we don’t need you.” A message that echoed even louder after the presidential election, one of the standouts tracks from their celebrated final LP We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service invigorates a culture seemingly under attack more than ever.

2. Anderson .Paak – “Come Down”
3. Kanye West – “Real Friends”
4. Anderson .Paak – “Room in Here” feat. The Game & Sonyae Elise
5. Kendrick Lamar – “untitled 07 | 2014 – 2016”


Radiohead at Outside Lands 2016


Radiohead at Outside Lands 2016 // Photo by by James Pawlish

Brett Ruffenach // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2016
1. Kanye West at T-Mobile Arena – Las Vegas, NV – October 29th
In some ways, there’s an unspoken hierarchy to the live-concert experience. The structure is simple — the closer you are to the front of the stage, the better your experience is, the bigger the fan that you are. Only the “rail riders” are the truest fans. In my experience seeing Kanye West’s “Saint Pablo Tour” in Las Vegas — a performance that ended up being one of his last uninterrupted shows prior to a breakdown and a subsequent cancellation of several future dates — he not only completely destroyed the hierarchy, he reinvented what a concert can be. Under a floodlight-filled sky, he spent 90 minutes on a floating stage playing a nonstop show that brought out a level of hype in the crowd I’m not sure I’ve ever seen before. On the floor, underneath the stage, you are instantly a part of the performance. As the stage moved back and forth across the arena, West captured a sense of connection with fans, making it nearly impossible to not scream every damn word to every damn song. It was an emotional roller coaster filled with adrenaline (“Black Skinhead”, “Father Stretch My Hands”), joy (“Waves”, “Fade”), swagger (“Can’t Tell Me Nothing”, “Heartless”) and some transcendent moments so intense during reworked songs like “Only One” and “Ultralight Beam” that many in the crowd (myself included) couldn’t help but be brought to tears. I’ve never seen a concert like this one and will probably never see something like it again. But for those 90 minutes as I jumped and sang with my brothers and friends, there was no world outside of Kanye’s floating stage. It’s a memory that I will cherish for the rest of my life as Kanye proved to us there is no hip-hop artist in the world doing what he’s doing.

2. LCD Soundsystem at Coachella Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA – April 8th
3. Beyoncé at Levi’s Stadium – Santa Clara, CA – May 16th
4. Tame Impala at Greek Theatre Berkeley – Berkeley, CA – September 3rd
5. Air at Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival – San Francisco, CA – August 6th

Top 5 Albums of 2016
1. The Avalanches – Wildflower
I really enjoy albums that can be experienced as one cohesive piece. Twelve years in the making, The Avalanches’ Wildflower is best experienced in one listen from start to finish. Using a near-plethora of samples from both ends of the musical spectrum, the Australian plunderphonics pioneers wove together a soundscape that’s not only textured and groovy, but also just plain old fun. From “Because I’m Me” and “Frankie Sanatra” to “Subways” and “If I Was a Folkstar”, the feel and experience of listening to Wildflower simply fills me with joy. After a year like 2016, it’s something we all needed.

2. RadioheadA Moon Shaped Pool
3. Beyoncé – Lemonade
4. Anderson .Paak – Malibu
5. The Range – Potential

Top 5 Songs of 2016
1. Radiohead – “Present Tense”
In a serene moment watching Thom Yorke and Co. play a live rendition of “Present Tense” at Outside Lands, I first thought to myself that this may be one of Radiohead’s best tracks. Ever. Their stripped-down rendition featuring Johnny Greenwood solidified that thought. “Present Tense” seems to capture all of the things I find most appealing about Radiohead: complex and beautiful chord progressions, subtle and complimentary percussion, and melancholy lyrics and ambient sounds creating a sense of space that no other band I know is capable of producing in a studio or on a stage. It’s an introspective song that blooms into a plea for a return to what was once had with “in you I’m lost …” That melody gives me goosebumps every time.

2. Blood Orange – “Best to You”
3. Brian Eno – “Fickle Sun (iii) I’m Set Free”
4. Hundred Waters feat. Chance the Rapper – “Show Me Love”
5. DJ Shadow feat. Run the Jewels – “Nobody Speak”


Anderson .Paak at South by Southwest


Anderson .Paak at South by Southwest 2016 // Photo by Rochelle Shipman

Rochelle Shipman // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2016
1. Anderson .Paak & the Free Nationals at South by Southwest – Austin, TX – March 18th
Anderson .Paak played 13 shows in three or four days at SXSW this year. The Pandora show was one of his last ones, so he and his bandmates had their set down to blind perfection and played their hearts out to 150 new fans as the sun went down. Austin was falling in love with .Paak right in front of his eyes, electrifying his performance and even bringing him down into the audience to crowd surf. When he wasn’t behind the drums, he spent the rest of the show dancing on the monitors in between the barrier and the stage, seemingly as close to is fansh as possible. He was just grateful to be there, and it spilled from every ounce of his body. I’m going to be completely honest: I went to SXSW this year to see .Paak because I knew once he played it, tickets to his shows would be impossible to get. Six months later, $30 tickets to his show in San Francisco at The Fillmore resold for upwards of $400. If you didn’t have another way to get into that show or rent to pay, it was worth it. The energy that comes out of .Paak while he’s performing is charming, infectious and unmatched. He splits his time roaming every inch of the stage and behind his drum set, often singing and rapping without missing a beat. At .Paak’s December show at the Hollywood Palladium in LA, Stevie Wonder came out not to sing, but to tell the crowd what a big fan he is. So basically, Stevie Wonder dropped by. OK, Anderson … we see you.

2. Conor Oberst at The Cathedral Sanctuary at Immanuel Presbyterian Church – Los Angeles, CA – December 17th
3. Chance the Rapper at Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival – San Francisco, CA – August 7th
4. Islands at Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery – Los Angeles, CA – June 9th
5. Animal Collective at Scala – London, UK – September 8th

Top 5 Albums of 2016
1. Anderson .Paak – Malibu
Anderson .Paak has put out a lot of material, even before he was Anderson .Paak and went by Breezy Lovejoy. There are gems sprinkled throughout his early releases, but his latest studio album has a funky backbone that lets .Paak explore aspects of his range that he never shared before. It resulted in a rhythmic, emotional journey that’s flirty, genre-defiant and fun as fuck. Malibu nearly ruined music for me because nothing else is it.

2. Vince Staples – Prima Donna
3. Conor Oberst – Ruminations
4. Gallant – Ology
5. Noname – Telefone

Top 5 Songs of 2016
1. Childish Gambino – “Redbone”
I like Childish Gambino. I’ve always liked Childish Gambino. But the first time I heard his song “Redbone”, every hair on my body stood up and started grooving. It happened the second time and the third time, and even the 643rd time. And this dude is singing about peanut butter chocolate cake with Kool Aid, but because of how he’s singing about it, it’s somehow OK. I made a playlist with only this song on it 20 times over and it was still too short.

2. Anderson .Paak – “The Waters”
3. Sonder – “Too Fast”
4. Danny Brown – “Really Doe” feat. Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul & Earl Sweatshirt
5. Mac Miller – “Dang!” feat. Anderson .Paak


Tame Impala at Greek Theatre Berkeley


Tame Impala at Greek Theatre Berkeley // Photo by James Pawlish

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2016
1. The Cure at Shoreline Amphitheater – Mountain View, CA – May 26th
I saw a ton of amazing shows this year, but seeing The Cure for the first time on my birthday topped them all. For more than three hours I got to catch Robert Smith and company churn out hit after hit, and hanging out with some of my best mates only added to the splendor. A setlist that spanned their entire career on a beautiful evening was just what I needed for my 38th trip around the sun.

2. Tool at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco, CA – January 7th
3. At the Drive-In at The Warfield – San Francisco, CA – June 4th
4. Tame Impala at Greek Theatre Berkeley – Berkeley, CA – September 3rd
5. Temple of the Dog at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco, CA – November 11th

Top 5 Albums of 2016
1. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
This is the album that we needed, and it was delivered at the right time, in the right way. For a year that had taken so much away from the music world, ATCQ surprised everyone with an LP that delivered a vibrant, thoughtful and politically charged gift to the masses. No guys, thank YOU for your service (RIP Phife Dawg).

2. Mitski – Puberty 2
3. David Bowie – Black Star
4. Mall Walk – Funny Papers
5. Tycho – Epoch

Top 5 Songs of 2016
1. David Bowie – “Lazarus”
Oh, Bowie … even on the eve of your own passing, you knew how to pull out all of the stops and push your art to the limit. A true showman and artist to the end, this song encapsulates all that is raw, beautiful and bizarre about our beloved Ziggy Stardust. Its somber tone is met with a sexy, sinister groove, which leaves you with a sense of unease and is honestly perfect in my opinion. Thank you, sir. RIP.

2. Bob Moses – “Tearing Me Up”
3. Savages – “Evil”
4. Zack de la Rocha – “digging for windows”
5. Deep Sea Diver – “Secrets”

Showbams_Sticker_Rectangle2

BØRNS doesn’t need Taylor Swift’s help to prove he’s one of music’s fastest-rising stars

BØRNSBy Josh Herwitt //

BØRNS with Porches //
Santa Monica Pier – Santa Monica, CA
July 14th, 2016 //

When the Twilight Concert Series announced the artist lineup for its 32nd edition this spring, it was safe to say that KCRW had curated one of its best rosters to date. In the last few years, the NPR member station on the campus of Santa Monica College has undoubtedly upped its game, booking buzz-worthy acts from a wide variety of musical genres for 10 straight weeks starting in July. From reggae and soul to Latin and disco, live music at the Santa Monica Pier on Thursday nights has become a summer staple in Los Angeles.

But in all my years attending the Twilight Concert Series’ shows, never have I seen the Santa Monica Pier like it was last Thursday when I arrived with more than an hour to spare before BØRNS’ headlining set. The concert viewing area, for one, was already at maximum capacity, forcing security and local law enforcement to block the main entrance and not allow anyone else in. The problem for me was, the only way to reach the media check-in tent to receive my credentials was through the same entry point into the concert. I won’t get into the details of how I had to obtain my credentials for the show, but let’s just say it was far from ideal and required plenty of patience. After all, they say patience is a virtue, right?

On this night, that proverbial phrase seemingly rang true. It wasn’t just that BØRNS most likely amassed the largest attendance in the history of the Twilight Concert Series, but also the fact that it was easily one of the best shows I’ve ever witnessed at the Santa Monica Pier. One could certainly point to the opening of the Expo Line extension as a reason for the larger crowds so far this summer, which wasn’t all that noticeable during the series’ opening night with Mayer Hawthorne (read our review of the show here) just the week prior, but that would simply be underestimating the exponential rise of Garrett Borns’ eponymous project. Since he relocated to Los Angeles in 2013 and signed with Interscope Records, the Michigan native has gone from supporting modest indie bands like MisterWives to selling out shows as a headliner in a matter of a year.

BØRNS

While much of BØRNS’ ascent can be attributed to the commercial success of his 2015 debut studio album Dopamine, which peaked at No. 24 on the U.S. Billboard 200, he can also thank Taylor Swift for getting the word out there fairly early. The pop superstar gave his first single “Electric Love” a ringing endorsement on her Instagram account well over a year ago, and 723,000 likes later, the 24-year-old has continued to grow his fan base with subsequent hits like “The Emotion” and “10,000 Emerald Pools”.

At the Santa Monica Pier, BØRNS only performed the latter of those two songs while playing almost all of his 11-track LP from front to back. But it was the covers he doled out that really stole the show, winning the hearts of first-timers like myself and even more dedicated fans who knew what to expect from “Garrett the Great” as he once called himself. Starting with The Smith’s “Shoplifters of the World Unite” and taking things up a notch with Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets” minutes later, he did justice to both songs, hitting the high notes in the midst of Sir Elton’s chart-topping smash with relative ease. Yet, as part of a three-song encore that opened with Dopamine cut “Clouds”, it was the last two offerings of the night that proved to be just as thrilling to hear from a songwriter with plenty of promise.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more important indie-rock band over the past decade than Arcade Fire, and not many contemporary artists have been bold enough to cover their work (the most recent one that comes to mind is Father John Misty’s rendition of “The Suburbs”). BØRNS, nevertheless, wasn’t afraid to take on one of Win Butler and company’s earliest hits, pumping the crowd full of energy for the final hurrah during “Rebellion (Lies)”. Of course, just when I thought I couldn’t be any more surprised by what I had already heard from Mr. Borns, the long-haired, bare-chested Midwesterner dropped David Bowie’s “Heroes” on us and somehow managed to give LCD Soundsystem’s cover at Coachella a run for its money. With those kind of chops in your early 20’s, who needs T-Swift’s public approval anyway?

Setlist:
Seeing Stars
Dopamine
Dug My Heart
Shoplifters of the World Unite (The Smiths cover)
10,000 Emerald Pools
Holy Ghost
Bennie and the Jets (Elton John cover)
Past Lives
Overnight Sensation
American Money
Electric Love

Encore:
Clouds
Rebellion (Arcade Fire cover)
Heroes (David Bowie cover)

Albums you’ll want to hear in 2016

2016 albumsWritten by Josh Herwitt //

Now that we’ve said our goodbyes to 2015, it’s time to start looking ahead to 2016 and what lies ahead when it comes to new music. Although it’s still rather early and new albums are sure to be announced after this writing, there’s plenty of ear candy that’s already set to be released in 2016.

Here are 10 upcoming albums (in chronological order by release date) that you’ll want to hear and could very well end up being on some “Best of 2016” lists in another 12 months.


David Bowie – ★ (Blackstar)

David Bowie - Blackstar

Release date: January 8th
Record label: RCA/Columbia

The 20th studio album from Ziggy Stardust will be one of the first to hit stands in 2016, and although the 68-year-old legend has said that his touring days are over, Bowie is still capable of making an intriguing record, much like he did in 2013 with The Next Day. From what we’ve heard on ★, be it the 10-minute title track or in recent weeks “Lazarus” (the song that Bowie is also using in his off-Broadway musical by the same name), we’re eager to hear the rest.


Tortoise – The Catastrophist

Tortoise - The Catastrophist

Release date: January 22nd
Record label: Thrill Jockey

It’s been more than six years since Tortoise last released an album, but the Chicago post-rock outfit will unveil The Catastrophist, led by first single “Gesceap”, later this month. Featuring vocal contributions from Yo La Tengo’s Georgia Hubley and Todd Rittmann of Chicago bands U.S. Maple and Dead Rider, the new LP was inspired by music closely tied to Chicago’s jazz and improvised music scenes that the city commissioned the band to write back in 2010.


Ty Segall – Emotional Mugger

Ty Segall - Emotional Mugger

Release date: January 22nd
Record label: Drag City

Segall announced his eighth studio album by mailing a VHS tape to Pitchfork less than two months ago, and if that wasn’t eccentric enough, the prolific garage rocker followed it up with a dedicated website for the LP, which includes a hotline number to call and two videos — one that shows him and the band wearing baby masks and another that sees him playing a doctor while explaining what “emotional mugging” is. Despite Emotional Mugger not extending quite as long as Segall’s previous solo effort Manipulator did, many of the track names are worth a chuckle, from “Breakfast Eggs” to “Baby Big Man (I Want a Mommy)”.


Bloc Party – Hymns

Bloc Party - Hymns

Release date: January 29th
Record label: BMG

Long known for pioneering a sound that bridged the gap between indie rock and electronic music, Bloc Party return in early 2016 with their fifth studio album and their first with new members Justin Harris (bass, keyboards) and Louise Bartle (drums). Debuting material from Hymns, including newest single “The Good News” at FYF Fest (read our festival review here) in August, the British quartet will also offer a deluxe edition of the LP with four bonus tracks.


St. Lucia – Matter

St. Lucia - Matter

Release date: January 29th
Record label: Columbia

Jean-Philip Grobler released the debut LP for his Brooklyn-based, synthpop project St. Lucia toward the end of 2013, and late this month, the South African native will unveil his follow-up to When the Night. If you were curious as to how Matter will sound in comparison to his first full length, Grobler has a geographical analogy to describe both: “If the last album sounded like the tropics, this album is the desert.”


Black Moth Super Rainbow

Black Moth Super Rainbow - SeeFu Lilac

Release date: N/A
Record label: N/A

Thomas Fec has become well-regarded in indie-electronic circles for his work as Tobacco over the last several years, but for more than a decade, he has also served as the frontman of Black Moth Super Rainbow, the Pittsburgh psych-rock group that’s preparing to drop its sixth studio album later this year. As BMSR fans await the LP’s official release, the band surprised many in mid-November by streaming its new mini-album Seefu Lilac, which features “neon flavored outtakes from a 6th album that doesn’t yet exist.”


Animal Collective – Painting With

Animal Collective - Painting With

Release date: February 19th
Record label: Domino

After streaming new material on loop at Baltimore’s BWI Airport the day before Thanksgiving, Animal Collective are now just a few weeks away from the release of their 10th studio album. Taking some much-needed time off after its latest tour so that David Portner and Noah Lennox could focus on their own side projects, the band refined its songwriting approach for Painting With, removing the long, ambient passages that were often synonymous with their previous LPs and also collaborating with Welsh musician John Cale and multireedist Colin Stetson.


Wild Nothing – Life of Pause

Wild Nothing - Life of Pause

Release date: February 19th
Record label: Captured Tracks

Jack Tatum remains the brains behind his indie-rock/dream-pop project Wild Nothing, having been its founder and lone songwriter since 2009. Feeding off the success of 2012’s Nocturne, Tatum consciously wanted to reinvent himself as a musician while recording Life of Pause in Los Angeles and Stockholm with producer Thom Monahan, and if his double-sided single “To Know You”/”TV Queen” is any indication, we’re starting to see what he means.


Poliça – United Crushers

Poliça - United Crushers

Release date: March 4th
Record label: Mom + Pop

Poliça lead vocalist Channy Leaneagh may have been pregnant last year, but you wouldn’t have known it from the way this Minneapolis synthpop group has continued to work in the studio. In following up its successful sophomore effort Shulamith from 2013, the five-piece takes a more political approach on its third full-length album United Crushers, which boasts first single “Lime Habit”.


Charles Bradley – Changes

Charles Bradley - Changes

Release date: April 1st
Record label: Daptone Records

You have to wonder if Charles Bradley was a Black Sabbath fan growing up as a kid, because his new album Changes draws plenty of inspiration from the legendary heavy metal group’s Vol. 4. While his cover of the famous Sabbath hit serves as the LP’s title track, the “Screaming Eagle of Soul” continues to win us over with his rags-to-riches story (Bradley was at one time homeless before becoming a cook and working various odd jobs) and his undying charisma.


The following artists and bands are expected to release new albums in 2016 but have yet to confirm an official release date and/or an album title:

AlunaGeorge
ANTEMASQUE
Band of Horses
Beck
Blink-182
Chairlift – Moth
Chromatics – Dear Tommy
Crystal Castles
Death Grips – Bottomless Pit
Deftones
Diddy – No Way Out 2
DJ Premier – Last Session @ 320
Drake – Views From the 6
Frank Ocean
Gary Numan
Gorillaz
GZA – Dark Matter
Haim
James Blake – Radio Silence
Kanye West – SWISH
Kings of Leon
LCD Soundsystem
Lupe Fiasco – Drogas
M.I.A. – Matahdatah
M83
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Major Lazer – Music Is the Weapon
Mark Kozelek
Metallica
Metronomy
Modest Mouse
My Morning Jacket
No Doubt
Pete Yorn – Arranging Time
Radiohead
Rihanna – Anti
Spiritualized
The Jesus and Mary Chain
The Killers
The Strokes
Zeds Dead


The Jayhawks honor list of legends at The Fillmore

The JayhawksBy Mike Rosati //

The Jayhawks with Trapper Schoepp & The Shades //
The Fillmore – San Francisco
January 8th, 2015 //

American alt-country outfit The Jayhawks haven’t put out a studio album since 2011’s Mockingbird Time, but that hasn’t slowed them down roughly 30 years since they formed in the Twin Cities. While the Minneapolis-based band has gone through a number of lineup changes with and without founding member Mark Olson, the five on stage these days — featuring singer/guitarist Gary Louris, bassist Marc Perlman, keyboardist Karen Grotberg, drummer Tim O’Reagan and guitarist Kraig Johnson — have played together for quite a while.

Olson is once again doing his own thing as a solo artist, releasing Good-bye Lizelle just last year, but having Johnson and Grotberg back in the fold has helped maintain the sound that was so important to The Jayhawks when they were building momentum in the mid to early 90’s.

The Jayhawks

Mixing in a few Golden Smog covers, including “Until You Came Along” with opener Trapper Schoepp & The Shades to close out their four-song encore, The Jayhawks paid tribute to a variety of legends, from Elvis Presley to Billy Walker to Neil Young, over the course of their 27-song set at The Fillmore.

Setlist:
I’m Going To Make You Love Me
The Man Who Loved Life
All the Right Reasons
Real Light
Big Star
Trouble
Stumbling Through the Dark
Angelyne
Take Me With You (When You Go)
Looking Forward to Seeing You (Golden Smog cover)
Somewhere in Ohio
Smile
Tampa to Tulsa
Waiting for the Sun
Jennifer Save Me (Golden Smog cover)
Little Sister (Elvis Presley cover)
Space Oddity (David Bowie cover) (tease, incomplete, for David Bowie’s birthday)
Blue
I’m Down to My Last Cigarette (Billy Walker cover)
Bottomless Cup
Tailspin
Save It for a Rainy Day
I’d Run Away

Encore:
Sound of Lies
Settled Down Like Rain
Sedan Delivery (Neil Young cover)
Until You Came Along (Golden Smog cover with Trapper Schoepp & The Shades)

New Music Tuesday: David Bowie • Biffy Clyro • Devendra Banhart • Pickwick

David Bowie - The Next Day

Every Tuesday, we focus on new music releases by naming our top tracks, album highlights, lowlights and important takeaways for select albums.


David BowieThe Next Day

3.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“The Stars (Are Out Tonight)”
“I’d Rather Be High”
“If You Can See Me”

Album Highlights: Ten years since his last album, David Bowie has returned to the studio for his 24th studio album, The Next Day. Just when you thought you’d heard the last of the Thin White Duke, David Bowie, now 66, proves he can still write a solid rock album, and keep the whole project a secret for two years!

Bringing back much of the band from his last album, 2003’s Reality, The Next Day is an incredibly self-reflective and upbeat album, despite intense themes of death. In the opening and title-track, Bowie proclaims he is “not quite dying” and “just walking the dead.” These themes of death and dying are prevalent throughout the entire album, with tracks such as “Where Are We Now?,” “I’d Rather Be High” and “The Stars (Are Out Tonight).”

The Next Day is a rock album at heart. However there are several deviations from this, the first being “Dirty Boys,” which draws on brass band elements from the dirty south. Other deviations include the first single on the album, and by far the slowest song on the The Next Day, “Where Are We Now?” The most interesting song on the album is the TV on the Radio-sounding “If You Can See Me.”

Album Lowlight: In January, Bowie released the first single “Where Are We Now?”, completely unannounced to the surprise of the world. Incredibly slow and accompanied by a string arrangement, I felt like I was hearing the last whispering breaths of a former rock icon. Not only is this track a poor choice for the first single but it does not give an accurate preview of what The Next Day has to offer – a very upbeat rock album. Perhaps this was intentional? I can hear the critics praising this as “genius” now.

Takeaway: It is clear Bowie has been doing a lot of thinking in the last decade. On The Next Day it sounds as if Bowie is coming to terms with aging and the impending reality of death. Yet despite this ominous tone to some of the songs, there is a sense of satisfaction and enlightenment. Bowie has evolved and grown with age. The days of Ziggy Stardust are long gone, yet Bowie has found a way to stay relevant in today’s diverse musical landscape.

~Kevin Raos


Biffy ClyroOpposites

2-BamsTop Tracks:
“Modern Magic Formula”
“Different People”
“Biblical”

Album Highlights: For one of Britain’s most popular contemporary rock bands, the Scottish trio Biffy Clyro is relatively unknown this side of the pond. Opposites is their 6th long player, and it was originally mapped out as two separate records. Instead, Biffy Clyro’s new 20-track release presents metal-influenced power rock to the masses. This record is certainly ambitious, yet it’s predictable & formulaic, even though it teeters between old-school metal and newer rock and roll akin to Frightened Rabbit. The tempo changes frequently from track to track and within songs, offering ballads like “Opposite” and ecstatic Foo Fighter-esque riffs in “Modern Magic Formula.” They have some metal influenced tracks (“Stingin’ Belle”), yet Biffy Clyro will also include strings (“The Thaw”) or horns (“Spanish Radio”) to add an emotional layer. This is no one-trick pony when it comes to the energy and effort put into the diversity of sound.

Album Lowlight: Since finding mainstream success by ditching the noisy and decidedly un-pop nature of their early work and focusing more on cohesive song structure, Biffy Clyro’s music has become numbing. The third track of the LP “Sounds Like Balloons” is a prime example. The guitar riff is repetitive and annoying, and the track never attempts to search for auditory payoff. The tracks in Opposites lose emotion the more you replay the record; any meaning that was present at first listen retreats quickly. Simon Neil’s vocals are homogenous and consistently monotonous, and frequent harmonizing doesn’t make it much better. Most affronting, too many songs end up in cheesy chorus territory.

Takeaway: While they were known for being unpredictable in the early aughts, this Scottish trio is mostly churning out generic power rock now. Super fans of Biffy Clyro might see this album as genius material, but to the uninitiated, Opposites is spread too thin and mostly puzzling.

~Mike Frash


Devendra BanhartMala

4-BamsTop Tracks:
“Fur Hildegard von Bingen”
“Tauroboium”
“Golden Girls and a Gain”

Album Highlights: Devendra Banhart’s eighth album Mala was recorded with the help of longtime compadre Noah Georgeson, using borrowed equipment and playing most of the instruments themselves. Mala digs deep into the old bag of tricks to dust off the Devendra that we all fell in love with over a decade ago. We are not getting the album that squarely features Devendra’s whimsical voice and guitar that we all desire (see The Charles C. Leary & Oh Me Oh My). Though Mala has several nods to these beautiful nostalgic sounds with “A Gain,” “Won’t You Come Home,” and “Taurobolium,” adding to a refined, mature, and technologically advanced sound. Devendra’s warm vibrato voice, heavy treble bass runs, and bright guitar/synth riffs shine new light to a dance/electro genre hoping flow.

Album Lowlight: The sad, humorously dark love story lyrics, “If we ever make sweet love again, I’m sure that it will be quite disgusting, race to the end, race to the end,” are at least accompanied by one of the many fresh sounds on Mala, but these lyrics on “Never Seen Such Good Things” are just too jarring to take seriously. 

Takeaway: Mala sports newer electro/dance/pop influences that seem to fit into the current trend of reverb heavy dance music. These tracks like “Your Fine Petting Duck” don’t sit perfectly with the rest of the album, but we can’t be surprised Banhart has gone in this direction, for Devendra’s ability to blend genres with his musical niche is ever present. Mala is Devendra’s best album since 2005’s Cripple Crow and for that, we are thankful for Devendra, who is still quite the freak of folks.

~Sam Heller


PickwickCan’t Talk Medicine

4-BamsTop Tracks:
“Halls of Columbia”
“The Round”
“Lady Luck” feat. Sharon Van Etten
“Window Sill”

Album Highlights: The revamping of soul and R&B in rock music has taken the industry by storm, and the Seattle band Pickwick have added another layer of freshness to this cross-pollinated genre. These guys spent a great amount of time on their debut feature album, which is evident by their blistering production coupled with incredibly dynamic song writing, not to mention the musicianship. Opener “Halls of Columbia” fully demonstrates the power of Galen Disston’s vocals, which permeates their sound track after track. Use of the vibraphone on tracks like “Well, Well” is a rare, pleasant surprise in contemporary rock these days, and genuinely adds a warm, thick sound.

Album Lowlight: Honestly, the amount of time it took to release this effort is the only gripe I have with Can’t Talk Medicine, though a great portion of these songs have been released on EPs and singles over the past couple of years.

Takeaway: Can’t Talk Medicine is an album that truly has appeal to a wide range of listeners, and it beckons listen after listen as the songs have great depth. Melding of musical styles is always exciting, yet not always successful, so when it’s knocked out of the park, it becomes quite a thrill. One can’t help but look forward to pumping this album at warm summer BBQs and long nights ahead.

~Kevin Quandt

READ KEVIN’S LIVE MUSIC REVIEW OF THE PICKWICK SHOW LAST FRIDAY IN SF.

Impending Apocalypse Now: 21 Songs for the End of the World

Impending-Apocalypse-NOW-Subscribe to the “Impending Apocalypse Now” Spotify playlist.

So the world ends on Friday. That’s too bad, I was just getting used to Dubstep.
Here are 21 lucky tracks that somehow relate to the impending apocalypse. And they are pretty great songs too.

21. David Bowie“Five Years”

20. St. Vincent“The Apocalypse Song”

19. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds“I’ll Love You (Till The End Of The World”

18. STS9“When the Dust Settles”

17. Andrew Bird“Yawny At The Apocalypse”

16. Bright Eyes“Four Winds”

15. Creedence Clearwater Revival“Bad Moon Rising”

14. R.E.M. – “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

13. The Clash“London Calling”

12. The Rolling Stones“Gimme Shelter”

11. Muse“Apocalypse Please”

10. The Cure“The End of the World”

9. Medeski, Martin & Wood“End Of The World Party”

8. The Postal Service“We Will Become Silhouettes”

7. Radiohead“Ideoteque”

6. The Decemberists“Calamity Song”

5. Tom Waits“The Earth Died Screaming”

4. Morrissey“Everyday Is Like Sunday”

3. Metallica“Blackened”

2. Tame Impala“Apocalypse Dreams”

1. The Doors“The End”

Subscribe to the “Impending Apocalypse Now” Spotify playlist.