Empire of the Sun bring a festival-season sampler to Bill Graham Civic with St. Lucia, Holy Ghost!

Empire of the Sun


Empire of the Sun

Photos by Steve Carlson // Written by Molly Kish //

Empire of the Sun with St. Lucia, Holy Ghost! //
Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco
September 19th, 2015 //

The middle of September is a strange time in the Bay Area as the playa dust of Burning Man still lingers in the air and many attempt to keep up with the city’s limitless social calendar amidst the palpable intensity of visiting tech conferences and vacationing crowds. While the rest of the country is in a collective comedown, preparing to transition into fall and the impending holiday season, SF is hitting its fever pitch as festival season draws to a close.

Point in case: last Saturday’s bill of Holy Ghost!, St. Lucia and Empire of the Sun at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.

Holy Ghost!


Holy Ghost!

NYC’s nu-disco torchbearers Holy Ghost! brought the dance party early, opening the show with an unfortunately timed 7:30 p.m. slot. While die-hard fans cut their pregaming short to make the effort to catch their set, the 2015 festival circuit staples definitely had to work extra hard to get the early arrivals on their level. Making the most of the moment, Nick Millhiser and Alex Franke busted out a mini set of crowd favorites with their backing band, prompting the ascending audience members to literally dance their way through the entrance into the auditorium. They called out those unfamiliar with their tunes to start moving, and the band playfully broke up their set with ad libs directed at the crowd, including but not limited to “Let’s go San Francisco! It’s fucking 7 o’clock!”

St. Lucia


St. Lucia

St. Lucia took the stage second, amassing a large crowd of indie-pop enthusiasts who were ready to commit fully to a pivotal switch from club-heavy hits to over the top-pop eccentricity. Nothing shy of what you’d visualize while listening to the band’s breakthrough album When the Night, frontman Jean-Philip Grobler’s vocals washed over the venue in a sea of nostalgia-inducing synthpop. Drawing from Grobler’s South African upbringing, St. Lucia’s sound relies heavily on call-and-response choruses, percussion breakdowns and kaiso-calypso influences. Crowd participation was inevitable, which from the opening bars of the band’s set, was coerced by the vivacious frontman with fan-generated wind flowing through his perfectly coiffed hair. St. Lucia ramped it up a notch halfway through their set, delving into extended versions of their songs that mimicked electronic remixing via live instrumentation. The dance floor was at its peak during these moments as Grobler prompted the audience to get completely lost in St. Lucia’s “yacht pop” euphoria.

After a brief interlude and set change, Empire of the Sun took the stage. The anticipation had already been running high, physically manifesting itself as fans came together to represent the “Empyrean” elite with many of them donning homemade head dresses, face masks, body suits, theater make-up and more. Consequently, EOTS shows breed a certain level of spectacular that throughout the years has escalated from just a performance to a fully immersive audience experience.

Empire of the Sun


Empire of the Sun

Setting the bar extremely high with a near cinematic entrance, EOTS frontman Luke Steele emerged from center stage in his full stage regalia and was immediately surrounded by a chorus of Broadway-caliber back-up dancers. With only two full-length albums under their belt, EOTS have always heavily relied on bringing their rock-opera material to life through eccentric live shows and theatrics, all of which was still very much at the forefront, minus Steele’s partner Nick Littlemore.

Though the two have had years of well-documented disputes when it’s come to touring, it’s still disheartening as a longtime fan to only have ever seen a one-man version of EOTS live. Of course, leave it to Steele though to be an absolute professional and still put on an incredible performance even in Littlemore’s absence. While mentioning that they had been working on a brand-new program for this tour and he was beyond excited to perform it in such a place, those paying close attention couldn’t help but be distracted by his partner’s absence in this over-the-top production.

Empire of the Sun


Empire of the Sun

Steele, however, still rose above the occasion and pulled off an incredible show even with a few awkward filler moments and prolonged eccentricities. His vocals were unbelievable, his multi-instrument mastery was impeccable and his all-around stage presence was something that not many contemporaries can compete with. Even in the most difficult moments, I watched a new generation of EOTS fans collectively have their minds blown. Certain parts of the show thinned out the audience, whether it was due to the intrinsically odd nature of the performance or just a lack of familiarity with the material, but if you were amongst the fans who stayed until the very last note was played, you were undoubtedly treated to a strong finish.

As Steele belted out “Alive”, the hit single off the band’s sophomore studio album Ice on the Dune, to close things out, he brought the audience to a transcendent place of exhilaration. Crowd members embraced and danced amongst a like-minded family of people lost in the moment, even if it involved intergalactic creatures dancing in colored smoke and a crowned Emperor playing without his bandmate on stage. EOTS shows are a special kind of magic that regardless of the material’s absurd nature, translate into an experience unlike anything else.

Setlist:
Lux
Old Flavours
DNA
Half Mast
(Unknown) (Del Zamora spoken interlude 1)
We Are the People
Awakening
Concert Pitch
Celebrate
Ice on the Dune
(Unknown)
Surround Sound
Swordfish Hotkiss
I’ll Be Around
Breakdown
Walking on a Dream
Tiger by My Side
Standing on the Shore
(Unknown) (Del Zamora spoken interlude 2)
Alive

The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Shows, Albums & Songs of 2014

St. Vincent at Fox Theatre Oakland // Showbams' Photo of the Year, by Pedro


St. Vincent at Fox Theater Oakland // Showbams’ Photo of the Year, by Pedro Paredes

Ah, year-end lists — they’re an exercise in subjectivity and personal experience if there has ever been one. But what better way is there to learn from each other and discover some great new music while capping off the year and beginning anew?

So, without further ado, Showbams presents The Bam Team’s five favorite shows, albums and songs from 2014.

The 25 Best Live Music Acts of 2014
Showbams’ Top 50 Albums of 2014

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2014:


Darkside at The Fillmore

Darkside at The Fillmore // Photo by James Nagel

Mike Frash // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Darkside at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – January 24th
Looking at my top five shows list for 2014, it appears I favor the weird, ya know, the good weird. This Darkside performance, the only SF show ever (for now) since Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington have put the project on indefinite hold, had patrons at The Fillmore in SF breathing and moving in unison. There was a magical feeling in the air as the hybrid of electronic and organic played out wonderfully with the duo tipping their hat to the past and setting a new standard for the brave new future of live music.

2. Panda Bear at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – May 22nd
3. tUnE-yArDs at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – June 6th
4. Phish at MGM Grand – Las Vegas, NV – October 31st
5. Volcano Choir at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – January 21st

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. Run the JewelsRun the Jewels 2
Ever since Jamie and Mikey blew my mind performing Run the Jewels almost in its entirety at The Independent in August of 2013, I’ve been a loyal RTJ soldier. And without taking a break, El Producto and Killer Mike stepped it up to an even higher plateau with their production precision, an uncanny balance of fun and intense, while lyrically honing more on the important issues of our time. Sensing the unstoppable momentum, Run the Jewels are already heading back into the studio for Run the Jewels 3. When Mike was recently asked if they’d continue to name their albums numerically, he said “Why not?!? Zeppelin did it!” Exactly. Say it with me now: Festival headliners circa 2016?

2. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream
3. D’Angelo – Black Messiah
4. Aphex TwinSyro
5. The Antlers – Familiars

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Sturgill Simpson – “Turtles All the Way Down”
This is country music turned on its head, while staying mostly true to the hallmarks of the genre. Lyrically subversive while instrumentally emotive to the core, this song kept me coming back throughout 2014. It’s positive message of love winning over all else is certainly timeless, but when was the last time you heard a country tune tell a story of mind over matter transcendence? “There’s a gateway in our minds that leads somewhere out there, far beyond this place / Where reptile aliens made of light, cut you up and pull out all your pain.” Stirgill Simpson is as progressive as you can get within the realm of Americana, urging the listener to both think and feel.

2. St. Vincent – “Digital Witness”
3. Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting on You)”
4. FKA twigs – “Two Weeks”
5. Flying Lotus – “Never Catch Me” feat. Kendrick Lamar


Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails // Photo by Rob Sheridan for NIN.com

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Nine Inch Nails & Soundgarden at Red Rocks Amphitheatre – Morrison, CO – July 21st
What a dream come true. Having the opportunity to see two of my favorite childhood bands at one of the best venues in the country would be hard to beat any year, let alone in 2014. Sharing the bill with Soundgarden on this tour, Trent Reznor made the most of a minimalist stage setup and trimmed-down lineup of sidekicks. Of the four shows (Red Rocks, Chula Vista, Irvine and Hollywood) I saw on this tour, this one felt particularly special. If this was one of the last times I ever got to see Nine Inch Nails perform live, it was a night I will never forget.

2. Jack White at The Fonda Theatre – Los Angeles, CA – June 10th
3. Cinquanta featuring Puscifer, A Perfect Circle and Failure at The Greek Theatre – Los Angeles, CA – May 10th
4. Queens of the Stone Age at The Forum – Los Angeles, CA – October 31st
5. Tool at Valley View Casino Center – San Diego, CA – March 16th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. The Black KeysTurn Blue
Akron’s favorite rockers answered the call this year, following up their Grammy-winning album El Camino with arguably their most ambitious effort to date — especially when you consider the turmoil that surrounded Dan Auerbach’s life at the time of its recording. Over the last five years, the Keys have become one of rock’s biggest bands, but they haven’t stopped taking risks as a result. Turn Blue dabbles in a myriad of styles, from the psychedelic sound of Pink Floyd on its opening track “Weight of Love” to the hip-hop groove on “10 Lovers.” For as many critics as they have, Auerbach and Patrick Carney have come a long way since their early years as strictly a blues duo.

2. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream
3. Jack WhiteLazaretto
4. Aphex TwinSyro
5. Death from Above 1979The Physical World

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Jack White – “High Ball Stepper”
Jack White seems to be on another level these days. The former White Stripe has grown into one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most exciting talents, and this blues-heavy, instrumental track showcases that better than any other offering on Lazaretto. White’s ferocious guitar riffs dominate the tune, taking listeners on an emotional roller coaster from start to finish. And when he plays “High Ball Stepper” live, the song takes on a new whole life of its own.

2. Foo Fighters – “Something for Nothing”
3. Interpol – “All the Rage Back Home”
4. TV on the Radio – “Happy Idiot”
5. Tycho – “Awake”


Jack White at BGCA // Photo by

Jack White at Bill Graham Civic // Photo by David James Swanson

Steven Wandrey // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Jack White at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco, CA – August 22nd
From the dramatic curtain drop that slammed into high-octane rock, this show never let off the gas. Even with a bum ankle, Jack White stalked the stage and held power over the crowd. When the slowest moments of a show are White Stripes ballads that you’re giddy to hear and the other half of the show is headbanging, guitar-slinging rock, it’s easy to see how this show cemented itself as the best of 2014.

2. Atomic Bomb! The Music of William Onyeabor at The Warfield – San Francisco, CA – May 6th
3. The War on Drugs at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – April 1st
4. Run the Jewels at Mezzanine – San Francisco, CA – November 14th
5. Duck Sauce at Outside Lands Music Festival – August 9th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. Flying LotusYou’re Dead!
This album makes me feel like I’m actually traveling through the underworld to the land of the dead. From front to back, the first thing that caught me about this album was its consistent message. Steven Ellison has an inviting sense of storytelling that’s infused with hip-hop but touches on an array of different music styles, involving a star-studded cast of guests, including Kendrick Lamar, Thundercat and Snoop Dog. I have a feeling Flying Lotus is on the forefront of creative hip-hop and that this album will prove to be influential down the line. More importantly, I just love listening to it. Taking wild turns from frenetic to serene, listening to this album from start to finish is a journey.

2. Aphex TwinSyro
3. Run the JewelsRun the Jewels 2
4. Future IslandsSingles
5. Tweedy – Sukierae

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Run the Jewels – “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”
The minimalist production and deep, rumbling bass frequencies have helped this track become my No. 1 listened to on the album and also No. 1 for the year. The complimentary flow that El-P and Killer Mike have together is on display in this track. This cut has infected my brain like a virus (the good kind?), and I just can’t get enough.

2. Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting on You)”
3. Sam Smith – “I’m Not the Only One”
4. Flying Lotus – “Never Catch Me” (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
5. Perfume Genius – “Queen”


Future Islands at The Chapel // Photo by

Future Islands at The Chapel // Photo by Pedro Paredes

Kevin Quandt // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Future Islands at Coachella Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA – April 12th
It’s been a banner year for the Baltimore darlings we have grown to love as Future Islands. Breaking through the underground touring circuit to being a highly sought-after festival act was quick and clean as the passionate stage performance of Samuel Harrington could not be ignored by growing audiences. A packed Gobi Tent was eating from the frontman’s palm as Herrington poured himself out on stage, belting out a set heavy on new tracks and old favorites. It was a pivotal point where both the band and audience knew that Future Islands had arrived at the next stage of their career.

2. The Cure at BottleRock Napa Valley – Napa, CA – May 30th
3. Phish at MGM Grand Arena – Las Vegas, NV – October 31st
4. Connan Mockasin at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – May 15th
5. Deerhoof at Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA – November 18th 

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream 
Adam Granduciel had one helluva 2014 to brag about. His third studio album Lost in the Dream was an overwhelming success, and all for good reason as the lush waves of rock swell over the listener like a warm Christmas sweater, just less ugly than the one you wore to that one party. “Under the Pressure” opens this release in epic fashion and does not let up from there. Guitar rock is not dead!

2. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
3. Run the JewelsRun the Jewels 2
4. D’Angelo – Black Messiah 
5. White Fence – For the Recently Found Innocent  

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Flying Lotus – “Never Catch Me” (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
Steven Ellison’s left-field meditation on death, as demonstrated on 2014’s release You’re Dead!, is not for everyone and is more about the full album than the sum of its parts (tracks). However, there is one shining beacon of a collaboration that could not be cast aside in the form of “Never Catch Me”. The partnership of one of the hottest MCs with one of the most sought-after producers was meant to be a brutally infectious slice of off-kilter street music. 

2. Caribou – “Can’t Do Without You”
3. Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting on You)”
4. Beck – “Blue Moon”
5. Ariel Pink – “Put Your Number in My Phone”


Ryan Adams at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2014

Ryan Adams at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2014 // Photo by Pedro Paredes

Pete Mauch // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Phish at MGM Grand – Las Vegas, NV – October 31st
Phish has made the tradition of covering other artists albums on Halloween, and this year they completely outdid themselves by covering essentially an album of only narrative and spooky sounds. The Disney-produced album The Thrilling and Chilling Sounds of the Taunted House was turned into a rock opera of sorts as Trey and company worked through completely new songs based off just minimal sounds, but the night didn’t just end there. The band played this rock opera sandwiched between two very strong sets of original Phish songs that could have held its own alone.

2. Lettuce’s Late Night in Red Barn at Summer Camp Music Festival – Chillicothe, IL – May 22nd
3. Future Islands at Coachella Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA – April 12th
4. Ryan Adams at The Fox Theater Pomona – Pomona, CA – October 11th
5. Todd Terje at FYF Fest – Los Angeles – August 24th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams
When someone as prolific as Ryan Adams puts out a new record, you buy that record and you listen intently. The songs in his first self-titled album may seem simple at first listen, but they stay with you in the back of your mind until you just can’t take it and you re-listen again and again. This is exactly how what I’ve been doing the past few months since the release. Songs like “Gimme Something Good” and “Am I Safe” prove once again that Adams is still on top of his game.

2. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream
3. moe. – No Guts, No Glory
4. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
5. Greensky Bluegrass – If Sorrows Swim

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting on You)”
“People change / You know but some people never do / You know when people change, they gain a piece but they lose one too.” These lyrics are so uplifting and real, and the music to accompany these amazing lyrics ties the emotion perfectly together.

2. The War on Drugs – “Under the Pressure”
3. The Barr Brothers – “Come in the Water”
4. Temples – “Shelter Song”
5. Caribou – “Can’t Do Without You”


Old Crow Medicine Show at The Regency // Photo by Pedro Paredes

Old Crow Medicine Show at The Regency // Photo by Pedro Paredes

Pedro Paredes // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Darkside at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – January 24th
The album Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington put together in 2013 was a delight for the ears, but with the show they played at The Fillmore, they were going after every sense in your body. Jaar once said that Darkside’s music was more experiential rather than musical, and they surely succeeded in delivering one of the best musical experiences to all the lucky attendants on that cold January night.

2. Future Islands at The Chapel – San Francisco, CA – April 10th
3. St. Vincent at The Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA – March 22nd
4. James Blake at The Chapel – San Francisco, CA – December 7th
5. Old Crow Medicine Show at The Masonic – San Francisco, CA – September 20th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. BeckMorning Phase
Beck’s Morning Phase follows the same breezy style as Sea Change, but the latter’s serenity seems to come from darker places. Morning Phase is, as the title suggests, a bit brighter and sets the tone for all the good things yet to come.

2. Run the JewelsRun the Jewels 2
3. Real EstateAtlas
4. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream
5. Perfume Genius – Too Bright

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. alt-J – “Nara”
It is hard to isolate “Nara” as the best song of Alt-J’s latest album This is All Yours since the story told in it is not exclusive to that song and it comes back in different sections of the album (as well as in some of the musical arrangements). But “Nara”, a song about love, deserves to be listened again and again. The 2:58 mark is bliss to my ears.

2. tUnE-yArDs – “Water Fountain”
3. Run the Jewels – “Love Again”
4. Perfume Genius – “Fool”
5. Angel Olsen – “Hi-Five”


St. Vincent at Fox Theater Oakland // Photo by

St. Vincent at Fox Theater Oakland // Photo by Pedro Paredes

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Nine Inch Nails & Soundgarden at Shoreline Amphitheatre – Mountain View, CA – August 24th
I had never seen either band live before and based on my experience, it was like they had never broken up or aged since the ’90s. Amazing stage/light shows to go along with what was hands down my most eagerly anticipated show of the year.

2. Cibo Matto at Slim’s – San Francisco, CA – February 26th
3. American Football at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – December 12th
4. Failure at Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA – May 14th
5. Crosses at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – March 30th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. St. VincentSt. Vincent
This album comes off like a chameleon, with many shifts but always staying very characteristically St. Vincent. I feel that she is one of the more important artists to come around over the last few years, and I am excited to see what she does next.

2. Nothing – Guilty of Everything
3. BeckMorning Phase
4. Fugazi – First Demo
5. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Spoon – “Do You”
Spoon have a knack for throwing a good toe tapper in their albums. This song is short and sweet, and you cannot help but get caught up in its infectiousness.  

2. Ryan Adams – “Give Me Something Good”
3. St. Vincent – “Prince Johnny”
4. TV on the Radio – “Could You”
5. Nothing – “Bent Nail”


Arcade Fire at Shoreline Amphitheater // Photo by Justin Yee

Arcade Fire at Shoreline Amphitheater // Photo by Justin Yee

Justin Yee // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1) Future Islands at South by Southwest (Cheer Up Charlie’s) – Austin, TX – March 13th
2) Arcade Fire at Shoreline Amphitheatre – Mountain View, CA – July 30th
3) Chromeo at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – April 12th
4) James Blake at The Chapel – San Francisco, CA – December 7th
5) Outkast at Treasure Island Music Festival – San Francisco, CA – October 18th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1) Future IslandsSingles
2) The War on DrugsLost in the Dream
3) ODESZA – In Return
4) Flying LotusYou’re Dead!
5) CaribouOur Love

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1) Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting on You)”
2) Chromeo – “Come Alive” feat. Toro y Moi
3) Flying Lotus – “Never Catch Me” feat. Kendrick Lamar
4) Chet Faker – “1998”
5) Mac Demarco – “Let Her Go”


James Blake at The Chapel //

James Blake at The Chapel // Photo by Pedro Paredes

Eric Shaden // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. James Blake at The Chapel – San Francisco, CA – December 7th
I feel bad telling friends about how great this show was since so few people were able to get tickets. An intimate venue hosting such a phenomenal artist was a no-brainer for my top pick. James covered hits from his albums as well as debuted new tracks and an incredible interlude of house jams. I just wish more friends could have seen this!

2. Chromeo at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – April 12th
3. Todd Terje at FYF Fest – Los Angeles, CA – August 24th
4. tUnE-yArDs at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – June 6th
5. Holy Ghost! at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art – San Francisco, CA – April 30th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. Run the JewelsRun the Jewels 2
What else can be said about this album that hasn’t been covered already? An outstanding sequel to Run the Jewels that expands on the original with top-notch production and punishing delivery from El-P and Killer Mike. Without a doubt my top choice of the year.

2. Syd Arthur – A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble
3. D’Angelo – Black Messiah 
4. Sinkane – Mean Love
5. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. D’Angelo – “Sugah Daddy”
I imagine D’Angelo coming back with his long-awaited album in December showed which writers/blogs/etc. wrote their “Best of the Year” lists early. His style of soulful R&B is sorely needed, and “Sugah Daddy” is my favorite from the album. Looking forward to his tour in 2015!

2. Caribou – “Our Love”
3. Aphex Twin – “minipops 67 [120.2]”
4. Jungle – “Time”
5. Jamie xx – “Sleep Sound”


High Sierra Music Festival // Photo by Benjamin Wallen

High Sierra Music Festival // Photo by Benjamin Wallen

Benjamin Wallen // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. High Sierra Music Festival – Quincy, CA – July 2nd-5th
2. Paul McCartney at Candlestick Farewell – Candlestick Park – San Francisco, CA – August 14th
3. Jamestown Revival at Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA – November 28th
4. The String Cheese Incident at Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA – April 24th
5. Greensky Bluegrass at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – November 14th


Cali-Roots_fix

Scott Martin // San Jose

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. California Roots Music Festival at Monterey Fairgrounds – Monterey, CA – May 23rd-25th
2. Rival Sons, Soft White Sixties & Sir Madam at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – September 25th
3. The Pimps of Joytime at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – February 15th
4. Caravan Palace & Rosin Coven at The Regency Ballroom – San Francisco, CA – April 16th
5. Jackie Greene at The Catalyst Club – Santa Cruz, CA – March 26th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. Bears Den – Islands
2. Milky Chance – Sadnecessary
3. Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence
4. Mighty Oaks – Howl
5. Solstafir – Otta

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Bears Den – “Agape”
2. Bears Den – “Isaac”
3. Milky Chance – “Down by the River”
4. Mighty Oaks – “The Great Northwest”
5. Crosses – “Bitches Brew”


MIA at BFD // Photo by Marc Fong

MIA at BFD // Photo by Marc Fong

Nikki DeMartini // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. MIA at Shoreline Amphitheatre for BFD 2014 – Mountain View, CA – June 1st
It had been four years since I saw MIA live and even though I’d prefer to see her play her own show rather than a set at a music festival, I was super excited to see her at BFD last summer. It was the first time in nearly 10 years that my cousin and I went to LIFE105’s annual summer show together. We lucked out and upgraded our tickets just in time to see MIA’s performance. Both of us were out of our seats, singing and dancing along to every song as soon as her set started. I was beside myself as MIA herself made her way off the stage, up into the seats of the venue and stopped near our row to spit lyrics as fans gathered and danced around her, myself included. I still can’t believe I danced with MIA!

2. OK Go at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – July 16th
3. Die Antwoord at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – May 22nd
4. Sylvan Esso at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – June 6th
5. MS MR at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – April 15th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso
When I covered Sylvan Esso at The Fillmore earlier this year (when they opened for tUnE-yArDs), I had no idea who they were but ended up leaving the show a fan. Their self-titled debut album is an uplifting mix of danceable electropop tracks and indie rock that’s easy to lose yourself in. Their sparkly, layered and melodic sounds translate well whether you’re listening to the album or seeing them live. Sylvan Esso is one of three albums I bought in 2014, and it’s been on repeat ever since I picked it up.

2. Glass Animals – Zaba
3. Die Antwoord – Donker Mag
4. Iggy Azalea – The New Classic
5. First Aid Kit – Stay Gold

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Tove Lo – “Habits (Stay High)”
I really enjoy the simple percussion-driven melody and voluptuous vocals of Tove Lo’s hit single “Habits (Stay High)”. The subtle, yet engaging buildup to her belting, emotionally-charged lyrics has me singing along and turning it up every time I hear it on the radio. While it is very catchy, it’s not a super dancey song. However, it is a great go-to for karaoke. 

2. Die Antwoord – “Rat Trap 666”
3. Sylvan Esso – “Hey Mami”
4. First Aid Kit – “My Silver Lining”
5. The Dead Weather – “Buzzkill(er)”

Showbams_Sticker_Rectangle2

Outside Lands 2014 daily lineup highlights

Outside-Lands-2013

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival //
Golden Gate Park – San Francisco
August 8th-10th, 2014 //

So, three-day tickets for Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival sold out in record time. Now’s your chance to snag single-day passes for SF’s premier music festival. Get ready: tickets go on sale Thursday, April 17th at 10 a.m.

Still choosing which day might be best for you? Here’s our take on the headliner options, along with choice picks and reasons to get there early this August in Golden Gate Park.

OSL-2014

Friday, August 8th

HEADLINER OPTIONS: Kanye West Vs. Arctic Monkeys (or Disclosure)

Yeezus himself will handle headlining duties on day one, but the real question is whether or not Arctic Monkeys or Disclosure will helm Twin Peaks come nightfall. Both acts are worthy of a headlining slot — time will tell.

CHOICE PICKS:

Run the Jewels: El-P + Killer Mike , “Rap’s most dangerous Duo”, are returning to SF after their game changing shows last year at the Independent. Expect top notch beats over future-forward production. In a perfect world they would open for West.



Phosphorescent: Matthew Houck’s understated, twisted take on indie rock is refreshingly breathtaking, exemplified most strikingly by the majestic “Song for Zula”:

Holy Ghost!: Ready for a disco-dance party fed by instrumentals? Yes you are. One of our favorite acts from the last year will set Golden Gate park ablaze.



DIGGING DEEP: (reasons to get there early)

• Mikal Cronin
• Greensky Bluegrass
• Typhoon
• Bear Hands

THE VERDICT: Eclectic with as many rap options as dance choices.

OutsideLands

Saturday, August 9th

HEADLINER OPTIONS: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers vs. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

This one’s going to be a pretty simple choice for most folks — the classic rock singalongs versus the contemporary pop-rap anthems. These headliners starkly contrast from one another.

CHOICE PICKS:

SBTRKT: Known to perform with iconic tribal masks, Aaron Jerome fuses innovative electronic production with drums, synth, keys & live singing, usually with help from touring partner Sampha. SBTRKT’s new EP Transitions delves into icy-instrumental territory.



Atmosphere: Slug and Ant are back this year, and they’ve got a new song entitled “Kanye West”, which doesn’t go after the Day 1 headliner, but it does address hip-hop crowd interactions in a playful, positive way.



Tycho: Scott Hansen is as much a visual artist as he is a musician — his projected imagery melds simple geometry and super slow-mo romanticism and works in hand with his newly cemented band’s ambient, yet driving beats. This one deserves a night time slot, say closing down the Panhandle Stage?



DIGGING DEEP: (reasons to get there early)

• Woods
• Jagwar Ma
• Valerie June
• Trails and Ways

THE VERDICT: Save for a handful of rowdy spots (Macklemore, Duck Sauce, Capital Cities), the offerings are relatively mellow.

OutsideLands2

Sunday, August 10th

HEADLINER OPTIONS: The Killers vs. Tiësto (or The Flaming Lips)

These two options to end the weekend are, once again, clear cut. But here’s hoping Ranger Dave harkens back to the early years and offers a third headliner option in The Flaming Lips. Their drone-psyche spectacle of a freak out deserves darkness and would offer an incredible third option.

CHOICE PICKS:

Cut Copy: Every time these electronic-oriented Australians swing through the Bay Area, we’ll be there. Dan Whitford & Co. will make you dance and reach for the sky.



Lykke Li: The Swedish Songstress is returning to the touring circuit this year, and her first offerings from her forthcoming LP I Never Learn are more sedated than swirling. Li’s ownership of the stage and visceral passion request your attendance.



Flume: Skyrocketing electronic-music amalgamator Harley Streten creates big, bold beats centered by a chill tone. Since releasing his self-titled LP to worldwide acclaim in 2012, he’s brought in a host of top level rhymers to give the music new meaning and fresh life (listen below). We’re excited to see how this influences his live show.



DIGGING DEEP: (reasons to get there early)

• Gold Panda
• Courtney Barnett
• Jonathan Wilson
• Tumbleweed Wanderers

OVERALL VIBE: Sunday has a lot of high-decibel acts. A good day for dance enthusiasts.

Check out our Outside Lands 2014 playlist:

OL 2014 Daily Lineups

Holy Ghost! dance in the new year at the Independent

HolyGhost_post

Photos by Sam Heller // Written by Molly Kish //

The Independent was ablaze with nu disco vibes, kicking off 2014 with a back to back Holy Ghost! party on December 30th & 31st. Selling out both dates of the New Year’s double header, the DFA headliners threw down with a supporting cast of local dj’s and live talent each night. Pulsating party jams off of this past year’s dance manifesto Dynamics, along with fan favorites from their previous self-titled album and EP, kept the jam packed venue dancing into the early morning hours.

Celebrating in style, New Years Eve revelers got the added bonus of an open bar accompanying their ticket purchase, providing for a champagne soaked countdown into what undoubtedly will be a big year for the “local’s favorite” venue.



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

Treasure Island Music Festival 2013: Top sets

TIMF_postPhotos by Marc Fong

Treasure Island Music Festival delivered one its best artist lineups in recent years October 19 & 20, allowing fans to immerse themselves in some of the best progressive dance and indie rock today. The festival seemed louder this year (that’s a good thing), and a sold out Saturday raged harder than most other TIMF days in the past. Sunday featured many acts with a tendency to inspire dancing and earplug use more than past Treasure Island Sundays (that is also a good thing).

Thoughts of lovely Indian Summer evenings were washed away by cold evenings, something that was on the mind of many artists. In the world of live music, artists are forced to choose style over function in relation to the idea of look versus comfort. Brian King from Japandroids must wear his white t-shirt and Alexis Krauss from Sleigh Bells has to show some leg, but fest-goers can wrap themselves in emergency blankets, furry costumes and bundles of layers. So we had that going for us.

View our show reviews below, including eight performances named TOP SET, along with hundreds of artist and scene photos.

SATURDAY

Saturday ~ October 19, 2013

Atoms-For-Peace1
Atoms For Peace ~ TOP SET
Saturday • Bridge Stage • 9:25pm

Thom Yorke does not like “playing at sea”, so don’t hold your breath in regards to Atoms For Peace playing SS Coachella anytime soon. Thom might not win any new fans with his ‘witty banter’, but the infectious cacophony he produced with Flea, Nigel Godrich, Joey Waronker and Mauro Refosco was difficult to ignore, or stand still to. Barrage is one word that comes to mind as you are pummeled by bass and drums at almost every moment, and it’s evident Flea loves the challenge of bringing the most complex afro-funk bass lines he humanly can. Atoms can’t slow down, they go hard the whole show. Hell, even the originally sedate UNKLE track “Rabbit in Your Headlight” had a rousing pulse to it. This is where Yorke wants to be, this is the sound that he wants to produce, especially as he brings his hyper-rhythmic love over into his primary project. -Kevin Quandt


Phantogram
Phantogram
Saturday • Tunnel Stage • 8:35pm

Phantogram are back on the road, road testing new material from their new self-titled EP and a forthcoming long player, and they closed out the Tunnel Stage Saturday with a rocking psychedelic dance party. “Black Out Days” packs a punch as powerful as “Don’t Move”, which closed out the set. “Nothing But Trouble” and “Howling at the Moon” (song titles unconfirmed) were two tracks the band unveiled despite commenting that they probably should not be playing them. Despite a few technical glitches and unwanted feedback, Sarah Barthel’s voice was flawless and the new material received a big response, adding up to one of the many highlights Saturday night. -Kevin Raos


Little-Dragon
Little Dragon
Saturday • Bridge Stage • 7:40pm

Swedish electro-pop group Little Dragon continues to mature with age. Performing on the big stage towards the end of the night, they were certainly granted the respect that they deserve. Having just wrapped the recording of their fourth studio album due in the spring, Little Dragon was eager to demonstrate their evolved sound to the eager crowd, giving older songs a new, sonically swirling spin while debuting a new song or two. Fronted by the talented vocals of Yukimi Nagano, Little Dragon sounded as good as ever on the island. -KR


Holy-Ghost
Holy Ghost! ~ TOP SET
Saturday • Tunnel Stage • 6:50pm

The largest act off DFA Records to be part of the bill since LCD Soundsystem, Holy Ghost! kept the “dance bar” raised high during their Sunset shift on Saturday at the Tunnel stage. Predominately playing tracks off their recently released 2013 album Dynamics, the New York disco distributors started a dance party almost immediately as the first notes hit the audience’s ears. Electrifying the crowd with new sing along favorites “Dumb Disco Ideas” and “Dance a Little Closer,” the Bay Area got a taste of what these boys will have on deck for their just announced New Year’s Eve headlining show at The Independent. -Molly Kish


Major-Lazer
Major Lazer
Saturday • Bridge Stage • 5:55pm

For a festival act, it’s hard to top the energy that Diplo and the Major Lazer crew bring to the stage. Riding a tsunami of booty clapping trap music into the rest of the evening’s insane line up, the crowd lost their collective minds witnessing the onstage antics and bone shattering bass lines of Major Lazer’s early evening set. Vuvuzelas blared, sirens rang and between the acts’ revamped hype-man roster, twerk army and Diplo’s human hamster ball, the festival escalated quite rapidly into full-throttle rage mode. -MK


DJ-Falcon
DJ Falcon
Saturday • Tunnel Stage • 5:10pm

French DJ & producer Stéphane Quême, aka DJ Falcon, had a prime time slot on paper, but his audience was rather small. It looked like most folks were taking a breather or getting food between Disclosure and Major Lazer. While there was plenty of space at the Tunnel Stage for DJ Falcon, it was filled out by dance-heads that had to keep the train moving. The set ended with Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” into “Give Life Back to Music”, but the set would have had a bigger impact by ending with his own Random Access Memories cut “Contact”. -Mike Frash


Disclosure
Disclosure ~ TOP SET
Saturday • Bridge Stage • 4:20pm

The brothers Lawrence returned to the Bay Area for their second ever show, exemplifying how much things can change in the course of a year. Disclosure attracted the most dense and one of the most mentally immersed crowds of the weekend — it’s safe to say the UK duo are the most popular electronic act on the planet at the moment. From the moment these two fans set the tone of the show by sharing a lollipop, Guy and Howard Lawrence performed most of the tracks off their landmark first LP Settle, adding live drum and bass instrumentation. “Help Me Lose My Mind” was especially effective at slowing down the BPMs late in the set while keeping emotions high. If they could manage to bring along the likes of Jessie Ware, Aluna Francis, London Grammar & Sam Smith on tour with them to sing in the flesh, Disclosure would pack in arenas from Sydney to San Francisco. -MF


Poolside
Poolside
Saturday • Tunnel Stage • 3:35pm

Poolside curated a mellow, island vibe that suited the bright afternoon sun at the Tunnel stage. Ultra-catchy songs like “Why You Wanna”, “Do You Believe” and “Slow Down” deliver seductive mantras that are hypnotic, yet keep you swaying to the beat. A bonus Poolside highlight came for those that were lucky enough to stick around after Atoms for Peace had finished for an intimate Poolside DJ set on the way out. -KR


Danny-Brown
Danny Brown
Saturday • Bridge Stage • 2:45pm

This late addition to the lineup was embraced, even if we had to lose the UK rarity that is Tricky, and his early Saturday showcase allowed him to span his releases more fully, primarily with the release of Old. A long intro built hype nicely, and by the time Danny Brown sauntered onto stage, the youthful crowd was revved up and eating from the MCs hand for the remainder of a high-energy set. Highlights included “Radio Song” and “Monopoly” off XXX. The sky’s the limit for Brown as he settles into his newfound ‘King of Weird’ title. -KQ


Robert-DeLong
Robert DeLong
Saturday • Tunnel Stage • 2:00pm

21st century one man band Robert DeLong inspired early movement from the audience with his danceable, percussive beats. Equipped with an array of musical toys, DeLong demonstrated his ability to create deep layers of sound with only the use of his two hands. Robert DeLong is clearly a drummer at heart, however he takes his music to another level, synchronizing his beats through the tip of his drum stick. DeLong continues to build smart and innovative beats in a live environment, surpassing many of his ‘button-pushing’ peers in technique and output. -KR


ADULT.
Saturday • Bridge Stage • 1:15pm

Goth electro rockers ADULT. warmed up the main stage in a big way Saturday. Dressed in all black with a heavy dose of leather, singer Nicola Kuperus and beatmaker Adam Lee Miller, were battling the heat of the sun the entire set. Kuperus commented on her desire for the sun to go away and contemplated refuge under the stage. Kuperos, however, found relief from the sun during the final two songs when she jumped into the audience to perform at crowd level. Kuperos eventually found a patch of shade to the left of the stage under a tree to close out the set. -KR


SUNDAY
Sunday ~ October 20, 2013

Beck
Beck ~ TOP SET
SUNDAY • Bridge Stage • 9:25pm

Beck emerged for his Sunday headlining set about 25 minutes after the printed time, but he more than made up for it by playing a collection of upbeat material to help “keep us warm” well past 11pm. All in all, the set was a greatest hits showcase — the Bay Area weekend warriors still rocking on the island heard “Devil’s Haircut”, “Loser”, “E-Pro”, “Girl”, and to end the night “Where It’s At”. New songs like “I Won’t Be Long” and “Defriended” didn’t get played, but the final show of the fest did see one of the only guest appearances of the weekend. Beck treated the Bay to the live debut of “Let’s Get Lost” from the Twilight:Eclipse soundtrack, enlisting Alexis Krauss from Sleigh Bells for the wonderful duet. This surprise was only topped when Beck reminded us he was ‘bringing that quiet storm’ during “I Wanna Get With You (And Your Sister, Debra)”. Beck showed, yet again, that he is one of the coolest guys in music. -MF


Sleigh-Bells
Sleigh Bells
SUNDAY • Tunnel Stage • 8:30pm

Alexis Krauss and Derek E. Miller closed down the Tunnel Stage on a bitterly chilly Sunday evening. Though many in the crowd, and likely on stage, weren’t too cold for too long as the energy levels rose quickly as thick riffs and bombastic beats came rushing from off the Bay. “Comeback Kid” and “Tiger Kit” were early highlights in the set. Showbams contributors were commenting that Sleigh Bells has become a quintessentially solid festival band that all can enjoy and head-band along to. Even though it was the second to last set of the event, it would’t be the last time Alexis graced the stage on this night. -KQ


Animal-Collective
Animal Collective ~ TOP SET
SUNDAY • Bridge Stage • 7:40pm

Ramping up the “weird” during the festival’s most surreal performance, Animal Collective pulled out rare cuts and old classics for their Sunday night set on the Bridge Stage. Bringing along their all-consuming, giant mouth set design from the Centipede HZ tour this past year, the boys blew the minds of the early evening crowd with their intense visuals, spasmodic stage show and extended psychedelic jam session. Shying away from the radio hits, Animal Collective delved deep into their catalogue for a surprising set list with songs like “The Purple Bottle”, catering to an audience full of devoted fans and impressed noobs. A bold scheduling call for the traditionally more mellow of the two days, Animal Collective fulfilled the TIMF diversity quotient while properly mind-fucking the withstanding festival-weary crowd. -MK


Japandroids
Japandroids
SUNDAY • Tunnel Stage • 6:50pm

It’s hard to fathom how many miles on the road Brian Davis and David Prowse have racked up since the release of Celebration Rock. Treasure Island was their last show in the continent for a while, but they continue on to far off places before taking their well-earned break. In the meantime, the Canadian duo did their best to shake off the brisk wind by blazing through songs like “The Night of Wine and Roses” and “Fire’s Highway”. The enthusiastic crowd bopped along in a combination of adoration and warmth.  -KQ


James-Blake
James Blake ~ TOP SET
SUNDAY • Bridge Stage • 6:00pm

James Blake‘s sound fit the moment exquisitely as the sun began to disappear behind a long band of fog that threatened to take over Treasure Island. Blake now tours as a trio, wisely adding live percussion to enhance his dreamy soundscapes. Confident yet mostly stoic, Blake’s measured vocals hung in the brisk fall air to mostly pin-drop silence. The progressive nature of the 25-year old’s music suddenly feels so familiar since Blake blasted into the worldwide music scene four years ago. Maybe its a product of his influence, or just the fact that his heavenly voice, modulated or not, blends so well with his post-dubstep-based production. This set elicited gasps of joy from the throngs of female fans along the stage rail, and the ending of “Overgrown” had an orgasmic effect on a couple of people near me. Set placement of songs was ideal — “Retrograde” and “The Wilhelm Scream” bookended the performance perfectly, and “Voyeur” stole the show, igniting an extended dance session. James Blake is simply a legend in the making. -MF


Real-Estate
Real Estate
SUNDAY • Tunnel Stage • 5:10pm

Sunday afternoons don’t get much more ideal than sail boats as a backdrop, sun in our eyes and Real Estate churning out their breezy style of surfed-out indie rock. However, this set was not a showcase of previously released material, but rather a showcase of new material, and even a new touring keyboard player. Even with a few brand new songs filling their set, Real Estate still managed to represent both of their stellar releases. “Green Aisles” was especially strong as a large palm tree behind the stage swayed along with the crowd. -KQ


Starfucker
STRFKR
SUNDAY • Bridge Stage • 4:20pm

STRFKR sees you’re confetti cannons and giant hamster ball Diplo and ‘raises you’ a crowd surfing astronaut and an army of blow up dolls! STRFKR pulled out all of the stops for their over the top afternoon performance. Pulling from their four full length albums, the boys were out there to get the crowd moving. While catching the last glimpses of sunlight on the Bridge Stage, the band executed one of their most polished Bay Area performances to date amongst a complete shit show of on stage distractions and “hype animals.” Dancing furries, a sumo wrestling battle and simulated oral sex/bestiality provided humorous stage antics for the second half of the set. Depending on your mindset during this point in the weekend, the show either came off as unnecessary overcompensation or one of the best shows Sunday. -MK


HAIM
HAIM ~ TOP SET
SUNDAY • Tunnel Stage • 3:35pm

How is it possible that the spunky LA-based sister trio HAIM has never played a proper set in San Francisco until TIMF? Well, if life is about first impressions, the Bay Area is smitten. Part of HAIM’s success lies in their equal value and contributions to the group — Este, Danielle & Alana Haim share singing duties, adorable stage banter and the ability to play their instruments magnificently. Most of all though, it’s HAIM’s fearless and passionate approach to everything they do that is most memorable. They are all very comfortable on stage, as seen through their ‘in the moment’ mentality, responding to calls from the crowd and telling people to throw their food on stage for a mid-set snack. “Honey and I” got a stripped down treatment that worked well, something the ladies said they did specially for SF. Asking if we were ready to dance, HAIM launched into “Forever”, and TIMF obliged. This international sensation has finally played the other end of their home state, and HAIM is likely to play theater-sized venues next time they are back. -MF


15 things to expect at Treasure Island Music Festival

TIMF-2013-cover

Expect to see or experience these 15 things at Treasure Island Music Festival 2013:

1) Thom Yorke dancing like this:

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2) 27% of females in attendance will borrow their boyfriend/girlfriend’s jacket because they came ready for warmer weather, forgetting the festival takes place in the middle of San Francisco Bay.

14% of the boyfriend/girlfriends’ that gave up their layer will buy a TIMF hoodie.


3) A group of drunk British blokes and Palma Violets’ manager/hype-man/party-starter Harry Violent lead the pogo-pit charge at 1:30, proceeding to get much of the crowd to join them. Impressive for an early Sunday show.


4) Move over dubstep. Meet the most amazing bass-face in contemporary music:


5) Old and Young lose their shit to Disclosure’s breakout tracks like “Fire Starts to Burn” and “Latch” — Treasure Island will hence be dubbed “Dance Island”.


6) Danny Brown’sKush Coma” illustrates how wonderfully stoned the Bay Area is, soundtracking the scene with 27 weed references. And, that’s only the marijuana references!


7) You walk in early on Sunday, swear to yourself you’re hearing Beck, but it’s actually Cayucas.


8) Overheard at Holy Ghost! sunset show: 

‘Bridge and Tunnel’, that’s the name of the two stages!!!”
“Dude, this is this is the new LCD.”
“And my Dad said Disco was dead, pshhhh.”


9) As the ‘mad shuttle dash’ begins during the Atoms for Peace encore, the festival faithful will enjoy every last note, understanding that shuttle lines offer time to recap the day! Or you could plan your own exit route.


10) The one guy with the furry hat that never leaves Silent Disco.

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11) Diplo attempts to talk the crowd into breaking Big Freedia’s twerking world record during the Major Lazer set, but only 6 girls in the front row “express themselves” as Diplo takes a cell phone pic, then tweets it.


12) That adorable couple that stakes out a small spot between the Tunnel and Bridge stages and sees all 13 acts in one spot Sunday.

Youth-Lagoon


13) A beautiful James Blake sunset show moment confirms why you live in San Francisco or Oakland.


14) You swear you won’t wait in line for the ferris wheel, but end up giving in by the end of the night on Saturday or Sunday.

Sunset


15) Overheard from first time TIMF attendee:

“Wait, both stages are right here with no overlapping sets? Awesome. Pretty good view too…”

Treasure Island Music Festival: New music from 2013 artists

Treasure-Island-Music-Festival-2013Photo by Marc Fong // Written by Mike Frash

Treasure Island Music Festival serves as the exclamation point to festival season in the Bay Area, giving music lovers one more chance to live it up before winter. The festival, which takes place this year October 19 & 20 in the middle of the bay, is properly stacked this year, offering a pleasant mix of up-and-coming indie fare along with DJs that bring the rage and rock outfits that bring the noise. Really, there are at least 7 reasons to GO BIG.

The placement of this festival mid-Fall creates some interesting dynamics for artist tours — some groups have been touring relentlessly and will likely be wrapping up their current road trip in the fall (see STRFKR, James Blake, Palma Violets and Major Lazer).

Other groups are just getting started, releasing new music in the coming weeks before playing TIMF. Here are six artists to keep an eye on before heading to the island.

Holy Ghost!
Dynamics releases September 10, 2013
Best Tracks: “Dumb Disco Ideas”, “Okay”, “Bridge & Tunnel”

Holy Ghost! procured a retro-house disco sound through live instrumentation long before nouveau disco became the sound of 2013 thanks to Daft Punk, and now Arcade Fire. Arcade Fire has launched their new single, “Reflektor”, in a big way September 9 — And LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy is already garnering credit for helping to transform the group to a dance party catalyst with their forthcoming release. Before the Arcade Fire long player is available in full, James Murphy’s label DFA will release Holy Ghost!’s second LP Dynamics Tuesday, September 10.

While Holy Ghost!’s second full length doesn’t read as a raging dance party throughout, their live show sure does. The Brooklyn duo consists of a songwriting partnership between Nick Millhiser and Alex Frankel, but the touring group fills out to a thick porridge of seven people, including LCD System’s Nancy Whang at times. At FYF Music Festival August 25, the group set the crowd afire by playing songs faster, segueing them seamlessly and by curating a pleasing stage set-up (see “Dumb Disco Ideas” above). The sum of these parts is a pumped up, ass-shaking crowd that usually only happens with DJs these days — yet Holy Ghost! achieves this through instrumental layering that delivers a nuanced, deeper sound that isn’t found in the group’s studio work.

Whispers of “the new LCD Soundsystem” have been reverberating around the web and the water cooler, and it’s a fair comparison within the context of the live experience both groups create — LCD left a gaping hole in the world of live music by hanging it up, and it’s easy to envision Holy Ghost! filling this gap over the next year.

The group performed a live set on LA’s Morning Becomes Eclectic (KCRW) September 9, showing exactly why they are a group on the rise. When performing live they sound grittier, with faster BPMs, and they exhibit more control around build-ups and explosive moments. “Dumb Disco Ideas”, “Okay” and “Bridge and Tunnel” were all more intense than their clean, sanitized versions on Dynamics.

When asked about DFA, they said that the label is “somewhat responsible for the band’s existence,” and that they have been with Murphy’s label since the beginning. “DFA stuck with us for 4 years while we were figuring things out.” The morning show also announced Nancy Whang was performing with the group Monday. The inclusion of Whang on the full tour with Holy Ghost! would add yet another similarity between this musical metaphor.

Regarding the performance at FYF August 25, they called it the “Best show we’ve ever played in the United States,” saying the crowd was great and it was a memorable night. It seems distinctly possible that the party animals that populate Treasure Island October 19th will set the bar even higher.


HAIM
Days Are Gone releases September 30, 2013
Best Tracks (so far): “Forever”, “Falling” and “Don’t Save Me”

One of the fastest rising groups of 2013, Haim, have a not-so-obvious way of pronouncing their name. It rhymes with “time”, so if life were fair the spelling would be HIME. But, that’s the name these three talented sisters were given at birth.

Many of the tracks from their first long player, which officially drops September 30, have been trickling out for over a year. It’s apparent the premiere album from the LA sister trio will be well received, since about half the songs on the album track list are already out, and they are great. Songs like “Forever” and “Falling” are so well-regarded they’ve already received multi-artist remix treatment. And the group has been so productive the last couple years that some previously released songs like “Send Me Down” and “Better Off” didn’t make the final cut of Days Are Gone.

Este, Danielle & Alana HAIM have a unique relationship with rhythm & melody — their vocals often syncopate with rhythm over melody, especially with backing vocals. This unique vocal tactic circles around addictive hooks that twist and build while evolving past traditional verse/refrain/verse song structure.

Treasure Island Music Festival 2013 will somehow be the group’s first performance in the Bay Area, even though the LA-based group have played Southern California and in Europe dozens of times. Get there early Sunday for this one.


Sleigh Bells
Bitter Rivals releases October 8, 2013

Things have been evolving quickly for noise-rock duo Sleigh Bells. Their third album in three years, Bitter Rivals, will unleash in early October. Singer Alexis Krauss is now heavily involved in production — guitarist, songwriter and producer Derek Miller did all the heavy lifting on the groups’ 2010 breakthrough Treats.

Krauss & Miller have been planning a “cleaner, more melodic album” for their third record. Does this mean fuzzy guitar anthems are out in favor of easy to digest tracks like “Rill Rill”. Lead single “Bitter Rivals” hints that the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

Expect this set to be one of the loudest sets of the weekend, even though Sunday is usually a day reserved for more mellow indy fare like James Blake or Real Estate.


Beck
Two new albums to be released in late 2013, early 2014.

We’ve known for about nine months that Beck has had two albums in the works for this year — yet as we head toward the Fall we don’t have any official release dates for his acoustic album and the proper follow-up to 2008’s Modern Guilt.

What we do have are two new songs that are meant to be stand-alone tracks — Neither “Defriended” or “I Won’t Be Long” will be found on Beck’s forthcoming records. Although, both tracks would serve as excellent lead singles for any Beck record.

The most delicious part about these two new tracks are the 14+ minutes b-sides of the same songs. The extended version of “I Won’t Be Long” is an adventurous journey that begins in My Bloody Valentine territory, then it wallows blissfully in the refrain “I won’t be long” before grinding down into a feedback-based breakdown, then rebirthing where the song started.

Let’s hope Beck feels like extending these new tracks at Treasure Island to end the weekend.


Phantogram
New album, possibility titled Voices, to be released in late 2013, early 2014.

Phantogram haven’t released any new music from their second long player, which is due this fall, but expect to hear at least a couple new cuts before they hit up TIMF in six weeks. The group headlines a month-long tour in the fall and have been in the studio this summer. Phantogram’s recent teaser video (view it above) promises more of the same — an awesome amalgamation of dance, beats and indie rock.

There’s been a lot of hash tagging of #phantogramvoices lately on Phantogram’s social media — a new single and album release date seem imminent, maybe as early as this or next week.

UPDATE 9/12: Phantogram released a new song entitled “Black Out Days”:


Little Dragon
The group’s fourth LP to be released in late 2013, early 2014.

Much like Phantogram, Little Dragon are hard at work on a new album, and they’ve shared a video to prove it too. Little Dragon only have four shows lined up in October, including their appearance at Treasure Island Music Festival.

10 Reasons to say ‘Fuck Yeah’ at FYF Fest 2013

FYF-Fest-2013_postPhotos by Mike Frash // Written by Mike Frash & Kevin Quandt //

FYF Fest //
LA State Historic Park – Los Angeles
August 24th-25th, 2013 //

FYF Fest has earned a rare new title in the Southern California region as the “new Coachella.” Even though many attendees may balk at this tag, it is an endearing way of stating this is fresh, new territory for independent music.

In its 10th year of existence, the event has grown out of the former Echo Park venues to a multi-day romp across thrilling genres of alternative music held at Los Angeles Historic Park. This convenient, downtown-esque locale offers great skyline views and a manageable, if not slightly dusty, venue that allows attendees the opportunity to experience more acts than your average 10,000-plus event.

With a vast array of attractive, buzzed-about artists gracing the FYF’s four stages, here are 10 acts to focus your valuable concert time on for the fest’s 2013 edition.


My Bloody Valentine
Sunday • 10:45 • Carrie Stage

If there is one show where earplugs may be a good idea, it’s Kevin Shields and MBV. Spinal Tap “volume at 11” jokes aside, this will be a triumphant return to the stage and a region for the Irish alt-noise kings and queens. Even more thrilling than their live return to the US is the fact that they will be playing a ton of new music to longtime and new fans alike off this year’s magnificent release m b v. Expect some gems off of Loveless and Isn’t Anything mixed in for good measure. What a perfectly blistering manner to bring the festival to a close on Sunday, even if you hear ringing in your ears on Monday. -KQ



Death Grips
Saturday • 11:05 • Miranda Stage

After a head-scratching ‘performance’ surrounding Lollapalooza in past weeks, the only thing to expect is the unexpected from the Sacramento doom-hop act Death Grips. This line-blurring act featuring Zach Hill and Stefan “MC Ride” have been making waves for a couple of years, and have cemented themselves as a ground-breaking live act committed to off kilter beats and aggressive hip-hop vocals growled over the top. With some new music trickling out this week, it’s sure to create a ton of buzz among festival goers. Well, that is if they show. -KQ



TV on the Radio
Saturday • 9:15 • Carrie Stage

TV on the Radio have released one new song, “Mercy”, in late July, but there are no confirmed plans for a fifth studio album at the moment. In fact, it’s the first music TVOTR has created and shared since bassist Gerard Smith passed away in 2011, and it’s confirmed this excellent new cut and a second unreleased track titled “Million Miles” will be issued by David Sitek’s label Federal Prism. Sitek has grown to be one of the best producers in music over the past 10 years, helping to churn out gems from Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Liars, Foals, Santigold, Beady Eye and of course, TV on the Radio. Might the group produce their next record under Federal Prism? Let’s hope these new songs and this FYF set inspire the creative juices. FYF and its patrons are getting a one-off treat since this is the only performance on the group’s calendar, and it’s only their second performance since touring in support of Nine Types of Light. -MF



Flume  
Sunday • 7:25 • Samantha’s Tent

Harley Streten is an Australian electronic musician that is just about the fastest rising DJ on the planet. Performing under the moniker Flume, Streten’s meteoric rise began when his self titled LP dropped in late 2012, jumping to the top of the Australian charts. At 21 years old, Flume exudes cross-genre originality in his music, mashing together elements of dance, R&B and hip-hop. And on his forthcoming swing through the U.S. starting this weekend, Flume will introduce Americans to the “Prism Tour”. Streten calls it a “bigger, grander show”, and by the looks of it, the stage production is now fitting of his music. He DJs from atop a large prism that looks like it will blow minds live, while live visuals and stage lighting layer visuals appr