The 25 best live music acts of 2015

Best Live Acts of 2015

Around this time last year, we shared our 25 favorite live performers of 2014 after spending the past 12 months covering many excellent bands, musicians and DJs. So, with 2015 almost in the books, we thought we would give the same exercise another try, except this year, we made the call to exclude any artists we named in 2014. What fun would it really be to list them two years in a row anyway?

In the end, it wasn’t an easy task whittling down our list to 25, but some tough decisions had to be made. Those who didn’t make the cut but still deserve to be mentioned here include the following artists and bands (in alphabetical order) who we either covered at their own show and/or at a music festival this year:

AlunaGeorge, Ariel Pink, BADBADNOTGOOD, Bad Religion, Battles, Beirut, Belle and Sebastian, Big Grams, Billy Idol, Black Lips, The Black Keys, Blonde Redhead, BØRNS, BROODS, Built to Spill, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Chet Faker, Chromeo, City and Colour, Classixx, Cold War Kids, Dâm-Funk, Damien Rice, Death Cab for Cutie, Dengue Fever, Django Django, Dr. Dog, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Failure, The Flaming Lips, Flight Facilities, Goldroom, Glen Hansard, The Glitch Mob, Gorgon City, Holly Herndon, Interpol, Israel Nash, James Bay, Jeff Tweedy, Jenny Lewis, The Jesus and Mary Chain, JMSN, Jose Gonzalez, Jurassic 5, Kanye West, Kindness, King Tuff, Marina and the Diamonds, Miami Horror, Milky Chance, Modest Mouse, Morrissey, MS MR, Les Sins, Lotus, Natalie Prass, Neon Indian, ODESZA, Of Montreal, Oneohtrix Point Never, Panda Bear, Penguin Prison, Phantogram, Portugal. The Man, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Purity Ring, Ratatat, Royal Blood, San Fermin, Shlohmo, Slow Magic, SOHN, St. Paul and The Broken Bones, STRFKR, Surfer Blood, Talib Kweli, Tame Impala, Tennis, Toro y Moi, Tycho, Umphrey’s McGee, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Vintage Trouble, Vulfpeck, Widespread Panic, YACHT.

Now, without further ado, The Bam Team presents our 25 favorite live performers of 2015.

The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Shows, Albums & Songs of 2015

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2015:


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #25 - Lord Huron

25. Lord Huron

The audience reacted with just as much enthusiasm during classic Lord Huron tunes as they did in hearing brand-new material, especially during fan favorites like “She Lit a Fire” and back-to-back rockabilly-tinged jams “The World Ender” and “Fool for Love”. At this point, the crowd had not only warmed up to Lord Huron’s infectious stage presence, but also gave into their buoyant vibes as mini dance parties broke out throughout the venue. -Molly Kish, photo by Steve Carlson


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #24 - Puscifer

24. Puscifer

Maynard James Keenan and friends have established themselves as not just a group of musicians who play songs on stage, but rather an assemblage of entertainers that provide their viewers and fans with something they may not have ever seen before — a true experience. Paying homage to the likes of Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd and the glory days of the rock opera, Puscifer have a very special way of combining their music with a stage show that offers so much more than just music. -Scotland Miller, photo by Mike Rosati


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #23 - Viet Cong

23. Viet Cong

Once the appetizer had been digested, Viet Cong were taking the stage and beginning a theme of quirky banter that eased the crowd into the blistering set as opposed to bombardment. Within the first few chords, it was evident that continued time on the road found the band at the peak of perfection. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Diana Cordero


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #22 - Kate Tempest

22. Kate Tempest

This decade will likely be known for the death of “genre,” the end of how groups have been contained into categories like R&B or rap since the birth of record labels. And with dance music on the rise, digitized conventions are creeping into pop, rap and indie music on the regular. With music more accessible than ever and for free, listeners are willing to experiment with their auditory material — and amalgamation is the natural result. Tempest represents this change as much or more than anyone as we enter the smack-dab middle of this decade. And that includes Kanye West, Sylvan Esso or Run the Jewels. -Mike Frash, photo by James Nagel


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #21 - Deerhunter

21. Deerhunter

Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox talked about how he decided on the way over to the island that he wouldn’t play many songs, how he took ayahuasca on Saturday night in LA and he was surprised at how reserved the TIMF audience was. He said we were “polite like the Japanese.” Bradford, that’s what we call “respect” — and you’ve earned it. -Mike Frash, photo by Marc Fong


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #20 - Faith No More

20. Faith No More

It can be hard to know what to expect from a crew like Faith No More and their eccentric, yet prolific members. The entire stage was dressed in white, from the curtains to the amplifiers to the mic stands. Lining the entire length of the stage and any flat surface that would support them were thousands of dollars worth of beautiful, fresh flowers. The abundance of purples and pinks, reds and yellows created a very comfortable and soothing, yet incredibly eerie feeling as to what was about to happen next. Once the setup was complete and the lights dropped, the crowd was let in to the stark contrast that is the weird world of Faith No More. -Scotland Miller, photo by Greg Ramar


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #19 - Sufjan Stevens

19. Sufjan Stevens

Stevens spoke of the need for community in the throes of grief, and the audience ably did their part to help him through this very public grieving process. At the end of the main set, a young woman crashed the stage to offer a bemused Sufjan something (a hug? words of love and encouragement?), and it seemed wholly appropriate, as if the audience needed in some small way to collectively reach out to the man after he bared his soul so openly. -Steve Carlson, photo by Steve Carlson


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #18 - Allen Stone

18. Allen Stone

In many ways, Stone’s ideological stance on technology shapes not only his set as a performer but also his fan base. Watching an Allen Stone show, one can feel certain that all pretenses will be left at the door and those surrounding you will be committing their full attention to the music. Midway through Stone’s set, the venue was completely under his charismatic spell. The audience actively followed the Seattle-born frontman’s lead as he prompted a group participation “2-step” and rolled through crowd favorites from his self-titled LP and latest album Radius. -Molly Kish, photo by Tom Dellinger


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #17 - The Kills

17. The Kills

Mosshart, tall and slender, strutted her way through just about all of it, displaying a bravado that exudes both sex and confidence, while Hince handled his axe like a bona fide rock star, eventually playing some slide guitar during the gritty, blues-infused track “Pots and Pans” that got the crowd roaring after it was over. After all, it’s that blues/garage-rock overlap, along with the chemistry exhibited between Mosshart and Hince onstage, that makes The Kills such a captivating rock ‘n’ roll act to see live these days. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #16 - The Chemical Brothers

16. The Chemical Brothers

Directly following their dramatic entrance to a recording of Junior Parker’s epic “Tomorrow Never Knows”, the duo kicked off their career-spanning set with crowd favorite “Hey Boy, Hey Girl” from 1999’s Surrender. They launched into a full-blown frenzy from that moment on, and the UK dance legends went hard (no pun intended) throughout the rest of their two-hour performance, debuting live remixes of new material from their 2015 release Born in the Echoes while interspersing nostalgia-inducing EDM classics off their seven previous albums. -Molly Kish, photo by Justin Yee


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #15 - Eagles of Death Metal

15. Eagles of Death Metal

EODM have the perfect style as a rock band, one that takes itself just seriously enough. As a whole, they are a hard, fast and tightly-wound production, with their silly lyrics and even sillier frontman bringing a perfect balance to what you want to see at a rock show. Closing with “Speaking in Tongues”, EODM walked off the stage at the Great American Music Hall knowing that they had accomplished what they came to do — to prove that rock ain’t dead. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by Mike Rosati


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #14 - Florence + the Machine

14. Florence + the Machine

Welch lapped around the inside ring of the bowl, stopping briefly at the sound stage. What a cool moment. -James Nagel, photo by James Nagel


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #13 - Sturgill Simpson

13. Sturgill Simpson

Simpson has stage presence, that is without a doubt. The conviction of his voice bolsters his words as he describes a life of highs and lows, trials and tribulations. This was evident on renditions of songs like “Turtles All the Way Down”. If there is a song to capture your attention and convince you of Simpson’s talents as a songwriter, this is one of them. Just like that of his predecessors, he writes music that goes against the grain of popular country music. It may be defined as “outlaw country,” but I personally feel it is music that resonates with a wider audience than that of its counterparts. -Kory Thibeault, photo by Kory Thibeault


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #12 - alt-j

12. alt-J

The 2012 Mercury Prize winners echoed a semblance to that of Sigur Rós or Volcano Choir, leaving audience members entranced in a near-altered state while observing the foursome. The biggest fan responses erupted during the band’s singalong favorites “Breezeblocks”, “Fitzpleasure” and their token cover of Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day”. -Molly Kish, photo by Mike Rosati


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #11 - Hot Chip

11. Hot Chip

In recent years, only ever getting the chance to see the outfit in stripped-down DJ sets or as part of side projects/collaborations, the afternoon crowd full of die-hard, nu-disco fans were not disappointed as the UK dance veterans set the polo fields ablaze. Refraining from any slow builders, Hot Chip performed an hour-long set of career-spanning bangers, keeping the crowd moving with hit after hit, that seamlessly blended into one another. The set procured one of the most viral dance party moments of the festival, with the audience spiraling into a collective bliss as it came to a close. -Molly Kish, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #10 - Dan Deacon

10. Dan Deacon

One of the toughest things to do in the world of electronic music is to sound organic, to imbue a sense of heart into the digitized nature of ones and zeroes. The Baltimore native accomplishes this through his hilarious and improvisational free-form, stand-up comedy, which thrives on wandering non sequiturs. And he mirrors this by adapting his insane-train of sound to meet and exceed the energy in the room. The “America” suite finished off the show with an extended doom metal quality that gave a sense that no aesthetic boundaries can contain Deacon’s sense of musical exploration. -Mike Frash, photo by Pedro Paredes


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #9 - FKA twigs

9. FKA twigs

British singer-songwriter Tahliah Debrett Barnett, better known as FKA twigs, has been all the rage lately after performing at Coachella in April, and she closed out FYF in style, donning an elaborate burgundy- and gold-colored robe for her Sunday night set. Just the week before, the 27-year-old fiancée of actor/musician Robert Pattinson released her brand-new EP M3LL155X, and with it receiving high marks from a number of music outlets, there were quite a few fans who stuck around after 11:30 p.m. on a “school night” to watch her perform some of them, including the opening track “Figure 8”, “In Time” and “Glass & Patron”. FKA twigs might be one of the most compelling live acts out there right now, and after scheduling Purity Ring to close out The Lawn the night before, FYF seemed to make a point of letting women rule that stage in the late-night hours this year. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #8 - Empire of the Sun

8. Empire of the Sun

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. -Molly Kish, photo by Steve Carlson


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #7 - My Morning Jacket

7. My Morning Jacket

Though it was more than understandable to see the band play a large majority of The Waterfall for its first performance at the Santa Barbara Bowl in almost four years, there were plenty of other deep cuts mixed in over the next two hours, from “Bermuda Highway” to “Mahgeetah” to “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2”. After all, it’s no secret that My Morning Jacket have always been good to their most loyal and dedicated fans, and in once again taking song requests as part of their “Spontaneous Curation Series,” they made sure to dig up many of the classics from their seminal album Z, including “Wordless Chorus” and “Off the Record” one after the other in the middle of a loaded, four-song encore. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #6 - Jamie xx

6. Jamie xx

Throughout his tour, Smith has refused to compromise his individual style for the sake of appeasing either extreme of his now commercially hybrid audience. Whereas those familiar with his early XL Records mixtapes were satiated by his intermingling of Gil Scott-Heron and Idris Muhammad samples between hits, his newfound post-In Colour fans experienced equally breathtaking moments with the crowd hitting peak energy levels during the encore chorus of “Loud Places” amidst the glow of a warped-speed, neon-green strobe light. Other notable moments included the near-religious choral drop of “Gosh” that escalated the packed house to spiritual levels of enthusiasm, bathed in the glowing sparkle of Smith’s staggeringly iridescent ceiling to floor disco ball and stage lights. -Molly Kish, photo by James Nagel


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #5 - Elton John

5. Elton John

The star-spangled legend sat at his majestic piano as the sun went down on Sunday and moved the crowd with his brilliant playing. The adoring audience hung on every word and joined in singing his most popular hits. Walking off stage quickly after his last song, the audience demanded more and Elton happily obliged. With rumors of Lion King songs being played at past performances, some doting fans wanted a second encore to the tune of “Circle of Life”. While he didn’t indulge the Lion King fans, his stellar performance was a perfect ending to an amazing weekend at Outside Lands, leaving everyone’s festival tank full of love. -Nik Crossman, photo by James Nagel


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #4 - Father John Misty

4. Father John Misty

Father John (Sassypants) Misty has his festival game on point, and he has progressed his I Love You, Honeybear songs into epic plateaus since premiering them in the Santa Cruz mountains last February. He spewed banter like an Stephen Colbert-esque contrarian, saying, “Look at these suckers with their hair blowing all over the place.” And as he approached the mic for more improv-snark later on, Tillman paused to say, “Sorry, I have nothing to say. Ha.” FJM was speechless for once, but granted, it might have been set up for “Bored in the USA”, a song that should be considered an American classic at this point. -Mike Frash, photo by Pedro Paredes


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #3 - Kendrick Lamar

3. Kendrick Lamar

As Kendrick Lamar’s incredible performance began to wrap up with his newest single “Alright”, a group of fans in the crowd proceeded to lift someone up in a wheelchair, who, if I recall correctly, was the same guy who had his photo famously taken at Outside Lands in 2013. Kendrick took notice and called him out — his sense of sincere appreciation for a place like the Bay Area was written all over his face. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by Marc Fong


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #2 - Caribou

2. Caribou

Described by fellow musician Dan Deacon as “one of the most brilliant acts touring right now” just before their set, Caribou lived up to the hype. Starting with “Our Love”, the four-piece band led by Dan Snaith perfectly set the stage for the next hour — a series of tightly wound compositions that, as the song progresses, expand in rhythmic complexity before reaching a climax that will get even the most tired Sunday afternoon crowd moving. Heavily augmenting its live performances from its studio recordings, the band’s live rendition of “Jamelia” in particular was a highlight of the set. Caribou is a band not to be missed. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by Justin Yee


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 - D'Angelo & The Vanguard #1

1. D’Angelo & The Vanguard

One of the most anticipated sets of the entire weekend was none other than D’Angelo’s — and for good reason. The R&B/neo-soul singer-songwriter hadn’t put out an album in 14 years until he suddenly dropped his 2014 masterpiece Black Messiah last December, so you knew that getting the rare opportunity to see Michael Eugene Archer work a crowd at FYF would be something special. Sounding more like a youthful James Brown than a wannabe Prince (we still don’t totally understand where those comparisons are coming from), D’Angelo and his eight-piece backing band The Vanguard took the audience for a ride as they doled out new and old hits. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt

Outside Lands 2015 - Dan Deacon

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SF Show of the Week // GO4FREE to Surfer Blood at The Chapel 6/8 (MON)

Surfer BloodWritten by Molly Kish //

Surfer Blood //
The Chapel – San Francisco
June 8th, 2015 //

2015 has been an intense year for Surfer Blood. With a rigorous touring schedule in support of their brand-new album 1000 Palms, a new record deal with UK label Joyful Noise and guitarist Thomas Fekete’s ongoing battle against a very rare cancerous sarcoma, the last six months have provided their share of ups and downs for the Florida garage rock outfit.

Amidst the difficulties it has faced though, the band has continued to come out on top by stunning festival crowds with its live show and new material as well as having singles from the album premiere on BBC Radio 1 and Netflix original series “Daredevil”. Furthermore, Surfer Blood has also brought attention to and inspired a crowd-funding campaign for cancer research and treatment via their GoFundMe campaign.

One person particularly inspired by the band’s advocacy, Bay Area photographer Maggie Corwin, even decided to team up with The Chapel to soft launch her own non-profit entertainment company called Alternative Cure and further promote funding for rare cancer research. After losing her father in December 2014 to the exact same type of sarcoma that Fekete is currently battling, Corwin recognized the importance of living every day in the moment and has taken it upon herself to establish an organization to help others in similar situations.

“Alternative Cure hopes to create lasting memories through the gift of music and relieve stress that is associated with the fight against cancer,” Corwin says.

By providing free concert tickets and VIP experiences for cancer patients and their families through affiliated venues and production crews, Alternative Cure aims to offer cancer patients the opportunity to create lasting memories with loved ones through the gift of music.

Enter below for your chance to partake in the soft opening of Alternative Care at The Chapel with a live performance by Surfer Blood. All donations received will be transferred directly to Fekete for continued treatment and medical expenses.

Contest ends Monday, June 8th at 3 p.m.

Alternative Cure


Follow Showbams on Twitter for more contest giveaways throughout the week. Be the first to respond to our contest tweets to GO4FREE to these shows:

Hamilton Leithauser: Wednesday, June 10th at The Independent
Avid Dancer: Wednesday, June 10th at Brick & Mortar Music Hall
Gateway Drugs: Wednesday, June 10th at Leo’s Music Club
Midnight Magic (Summer Soul Roller Disco): Saturday, June 13th at Mezzanine
Delta Spirit: Sunday, June 14th at The Independent
Pure Bathing Culture: Sunday, June 14th at The Chapel


Win-2-Tickets

Enter your name (First and Last) along with your email below. If you win a contest, you’ll be notified on the day the contest ends (details above).

Like Showbams on Facebook, follow Showbams on Twitter and follow Showbams on Instagram. Subscribe to our social channels for a better chance to win!

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Help contribute to Surfer Blood guitarist Thomas Fekete’s GoFundMe campaign for cancer treatment

Surfer Blood - Thomas FeketeWritten by Molly Kish //

Ahhh, crowdfunding … the latest fad to sweep our great nation, offering an endless supply of business endeavors for us to cipher through and play philanthropist for the day. In an era desensitized by fabricated capitalism and questionable business ethics, many of us find ourselves more captivated by ironic campaigns of trivial nature as well as over-genuine causes in need of backing.

Conceived as a practice where a pool of investors can contribute to worthwhile projects, crowdfunding has made otherwise financially debilitating goals for entrepreneurs, small businesses and community-based ventures achievable. Websites such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo and RocketHub have been at the root of some of the most amazing triumphs of crowdfunding in addition to hosting some of the most hypocritical success stories to date.

For instance:

With the current content on crowdfunding sites becoming more or less lost in a sea of sensationalism, once in a while you come across a cause so genuine in its goal that you can’t help but be reminded of the idealism behind this type of practice.

And that cause is Surfer Blood guitarist Thomas Fekete’s GOFundMe campaign.

Recently diagnosed with a very rare, aggressive and cancerous sarcoma, Feteke is currently undergoing a rigorous and extremely costly treatment process in an attempt to keep his illness from further spreading past his lungs and spine. Feteke remains optimistic despite the limited amount of research done on his rare condition and has started an alternative treatment plan, along with chemotherapy, that unfortunately falls outside the parameters of his insurance coverage. Attempting to raise enough money to cover his medical bills, the 24-year-old has taken to GoFundMe for additional aid.

With Feteke less than $1,500 away from his goal as of this writing, we encourage everyone to help pitch in for a life-saving cause. Feteke released this statement recently:

Hey all,

A few months back I had a major surgery to remove a large tumor from my abdomen. I was diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive cancer (a sarcoma), which unfortunately has moved. A few days ago, my doctors informed me that it had spread to my lungs and my spine.

The lesion on my lower spine will be treated with radiation, and I’ll also start chemotherapy this week. Because my cancer is so rare, there is very little research on it (cancer treatment is a business after all), so going to a typical doctor and getting loaded with all types of drugs would probably kill me. However, I found a doctor who is on the cutting edge of cancer treatments, and we have assembled a team of brilliant doctors who all seem to be extremely confident in an alternative treatment plan, to complement the chemotherapy. Because these doctors are doing things a bit differently, insurance will only cover a portion of my treatment. I never in my life thought that I would be asking for money publicly, but the universe works in funny ways.

Any bit of help would be massive for me, as I’m no longer able to tour and make a living, and my wonderful wife/best friend whom I just married in November will now be leaving work to help me throughout my treatment. If you can’t help, no worries whatsoever, all I ask is that you spread the word. Any extra funds collected when this is all said and done will be donated to further my doctor’s alternative cancer research. I not only feel great, but I am in great spirits, and I know this will soon be over like a bad dream. Please take care of yourselves, enjoy every single day. Life is beautiful. Love and light always.

-Thom

Take action and lend your help to the cause by donating here or sharing this article and the campaign page via your social media channels. Remember, every bit counts and even the simplest share can make a lifetime of a difference.

Surfer Blood - Thomas Fekete

Noise Pop 2015: Who made the ‘most’ of SF’s 12-day indie fest?

Caribou


Caribou at The Fillmore // Photo by Justin Yee

Photos by Justin Yee, Pedro Paredes, Mike Rosati, Alfonso Solis & Nicole Alfaro // Written by Molly Kish //

Noise Pop //
Bay Area venues – San Francisco & Oakland
February 20th-March 1st, 2015 //

2015 marked the Bay Area’s 23rd annual celebration of independent music, art, film and more, affectionately known as Noise Pop. Running 12 full days and taking place at more than 20 different venues throughout SF and the East Bay, this marathon party is best described as the West Coast version of South by Southwest.

Each year, Noise Pop highlights both the biggest stars within the independent music and art industries as well as emerging artists performing at the peak of their games and has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to booking their acts — and this year was no exception. Curating a demographic of music fans with limitless knowledge, expectations and preferential ranges, this festival never fails to create some of the most memorable experiences in live entertainment throughout the Bay Area.

Noise Pop remains one of our favorite times of the year, not only for its amazing lineups and exceptional performances, but also for its genuine ability to bring music and lifestyle connoisseurs from across the globe to extrapolate, communicate and participate in the independent culture of the Bay Area.

Here are some of our favorite moments from Noise Pop 2015.


Most Likely to Have a Hospital Bill: Ben Gibbard

Gibbard enlisted Sun Kill Moon’s Mark Kozelek to play guitar for him after breaking his wrist before his big opening night performance at the Swedish American Music Hall. We’re still surprised the notorious shit talker (Kozelek) didn’t give Gibbard a harder time about it, considering the last song off Kozelek’s Benji is titled “Ben’s My Friend” and is about how Kozelek went to the Greek Theatre in Berkeley to watch Gibbard play with The Postal Service before proceeding to have a mental breakdown.

Runner-up: PPL MVR

This second-place honor goes to SNWBLL after the band had to cancel its performance at Bottom of the Hill due to some unfortunate bladder issues.


The Black Ryder

Most Likely to Inspire 2015 Festival Fashion: The Black Ryder

Dark, brooding and beautifully tragic. Beyond the torrid love affair story and musical diatribe to accompany the duo of Aimee Nash and Scott Van Ryper, the band embodies its self-proclaimed “Rhinestone Drone” sound into a wicked wardrobe, guaranteed to materialize on the proverbial polo fields across the nation this summer.

Runner-up: Bestie

The Vancouver outfit brought some creativity to the merch table with fun and functional band gear, such as koozies and friendship bracelets, as you can see here via Instagram.

https://instagram.com/p/zjwd2OJ5-G/


Kindness

Most Bar-Raising Performance of the Festival: Kindness

“(Adam) Bainbridge grabbed one audience member’s cell phone out of its hands and filmed himself as well as the crowd with it at one point, elevating the crowd-interaction a notch. He sang from on top of the bar at stage left, walked into the crowd with his mic and made a huge lap while singing to individuals in the audience to end the night.”

Read the full review here.


Dan Deacon

Act Most Likely to Prompt a Mind-Altering Freak Out: Dan Deacon

“Layer upon insane layer of sound interprets into harmonious infectiousness, a feat that hints at an intersection of mathematical and creative genius. The guy takes all sorts of frequencies and cross sections of genre elements and composes it all together into a crescendo of weird, atypical pop. And by weird, I mean the very good kind of weird.”

Read the full review here.


Holly Herndon

Runner-up: Holly Herndon

“People laughed nervously as a slow burn of glitch sounds began to emerge, and before you knew it, her browsing gave way to an interactive, virtual world featuring two-dimensional cutouts of people floating about while strategically-placed cameras around the room recorded and projected images of the crowd, usually catching them unexpectedly on their phones, on two adjacent screens.”

Read the full review here.


Surfer Blood

Most Entertaining Attempt at a Cover Song: Surfer Blood

These guys covered “Hey Sandy” by Polaris, aka the theme song for “The Adventures of Pete & Pete.”

Runner-up: Girrafage‘s rendition of Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA”


Caribou

Most Likely to Be Headlining Future Festivals: Caribou

Absolutely destroying two back-to-back, sold-out nights at The Fillmore, Caribou’s live show is currently on a world tour, hitting all of the largest festival stages in its wake. We unanimously believe that this act will be one of the biggest of 2015 and are keeping our fingers crossed that they will be filling the empty spot in their August tour schedule with a stop at this year’s Outside Lands Music Festival.


Flight Facilities

Runner-up: Flight Facilities

“… to consider booking this lineup on a ‘school night’ at a venue with a max capacity of 1,424 people was a pretty bold call. Subsequently though, it was also one that paid off in easily the largest dance party of the festival.”

Read the full review here.


Les Sins

Most Likely to Break the “Local Music” Barrier: Les Sins

“Intermingling his own material with disco classics, 90’s pop jams and dirty trap beats, Bundick had the crowd on fire and easily could have prolonged the party well into the after hours had there been the option to do so.”

Read the full review here.

Geographer

Runner-up: Geographer

With a doctored lineup and powerful new songwriting approach, Mike Deni has taken full reign of the band’s beloved history of material and is moving forward into bold, uncharted territory — a leap of faith that just might cover the extra ground needed to penetrate a mainstream audience.


10 takeaways from Shaun White’s first Air + Style on U.S. soil

Air + Style - Shaun WhitePhotos by Josh Herwitt, Melissa Hebeler & Matthew Nordman // Written by Josh Herwitt & Pete Mauch //

Shaun White Presents Air + Style //
Rose Bowl – Pasadena, CA
February 21st-22nd, 2015 //

Olympic gold medalist, X Games superstar and part-time actor/musician Shaun White brought the first-ever Air + Style contest to the States last weekend, taking over the Rose Bowl grounds for two days of extreme sports, music and art. Yes, in case you haven’t noticed, “The Flying Tomato” has become quite the renaissance man these days.

Air + Style officials, in fact, estimated that approximately 40,000 folks attended the event, but we’re a little skeptical of that number after a sparse turnout Sunday thanks to some unforgiving weather. While many attendees, including quite a few media members, only showed up for Saturday’s festivities, we made our way back to Pasadena to catch more live music and brave Sunday’s torrential downpour.

So, with plenty of highs and lows over the course of the weekend, here are 10 things we took away from two action-packed days at Air + Style.


Air + Style - Phantogram

10. These ph-ancy pants

OK, we know she’s dating Shaun White, but Phantogram lead singer Sarah Barthel undoubtedly took home the “Best Outfit” award, donning a pair of leopard sequin pants during the band’s hour-long set on Saturday. Unfortunately we couldn’t hear Barthel’s vocals all that well, but that wasn’t exactly her fault. That was for the sound guy to figure out — or not. More on that below.


Surfer Blood

9. Surf’s up

One of the few highlights on Sunday was a 45-minute set by alt-rock group Surfer Blood. Hailing from Florida, these four dudes brought a much-needed, high-energy set during the heaviest rainfall of the day. The band kept mentioning the rain and how much they appreciated everyone sticking around to see them. It seemed that the crowd didn’t mind — they just wanted to rock. Their big hit “Swim” was the perfect fit for the rain-soaked crowd, who could have swam around in the pit if they wanted.


Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros

8. Not so Sharpe

Edward Sharpe, aka Alex Ebert, made a big splash in 2009 with songs like “Janglin” and “Home” from Up From Below, but it’s been all downhill since then. Ebert broke up with then-girlfriend/vocalist Jade Castrinos, kicked her out of the band and is now resorting to using audiences to sing Castrinos’ parts. But when only a few hundred people show up to see your set, that doesn’t really work too well.


Air + Style - Craola & Jeff Soto

7. Getting colorful

One of the festival’s big positives were the live paintings on Saturday by three talented artists from the greater Los Angeles area. Craola, Jeff Soto and James Haunt each brought a unique graffiti style to their individual walls and were very gracious in answering questions from lots of drunken festivalgoers.


Cults

6. Cult following

We didn’t know much about Cults before their 4:45 p.m. set on Sunday, but the New York indie-pop outfit had the small, yet lively crowd at the Flood Magazine Stage cheering them on in the rain. Even with the band’s instruments getting soaked, forcing them to lay down towels over them when they weren’t being used, you could tell vocalist Madeline Follin and guitarist/keyboardist Brian Oblivion were having a good ol’ time — and it rubbed off on everyone else.


Air + Style - Big Air Jump

5. BIG air

Another obvious high point of the weekend was the gigantic, 16-story big air jump in the middle of the Rose Bowl fairgrounds. About 30 truly gifted athletes launched themselves into the dark grey sky on Saturday and the beginning part of Sunday, and it was quite fun to watch in between the musical acts. Sunday afternoon’s rainstorm put a damper on the ski final, which had to be canceled, but the few attendees who made it back for Day 2 didn’t seem to mind.


The Flaming Lips

4. Flaming hot

The last time we saw The Flaming Lips come through LA, they were sharing the bill with Tame Impala and Wayne Coyne was dressing up as “Carrie.” The Lips didn’t bring their “A” game that night at The Greek Theatre, but they sounded a whole lot cleaner and tighter on Sunday despite only getting to play for a total of 30 minutes (their set time was scheduled to be one hour and 15 minutes) due to weather-related equipment issues.


Air + Style - Crowd

3. First-time festival problems

The lines at all the concession stands and bathrooms were absolutely horrendous. If you were lucky enough to notice the makeshift beer stands next to each stage, then that saved you easily an hour for each beer purchase. We heard that people were waiting in line for a $10 PBR for over a hour! Those who came back on Sunday were rewarded with no lines anywhere, but that came with the price of getting completely drenched.


Air + Style - Portugal. The Man

2. These guys rocked

While Diplo had the majority of attendees fist-pumping their way through his hour-long set on the Main Stage, Portland-by-way-of-Alaska psych-rockers Portugal. The Man followed EDM’s most misogynistic DJ with one of the best sets of the weekend. The LCD projections, some of them featuring frontman John Gourley’s drawings, on the diminutive Flood Magazine Stage jived perfectly with a performance that was highlighted by covers of Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger” and Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.”


Air + Style - Kendrick Lamar

1. Kendrick Lame-ar

Compton native Kendrick Lamar’s headlining set on Saturday could have been amazing, but the volume was just too low. After constantly hounding the sound guy in between each barely-audible song, Lamar finally got the volume turned up, but it was only for one song — and he chose to redo “m.A.A.d city” again?!?! We can thank Pasadena’s noise ordinance laws for that one or the festival organizers for choosing to host the event outside the Rose Bowl.

Noise Pop 2015: Get the most out of San Francisco’s essential 12-day indie fest

np2015_header-imageWritten by Mike Frash & Molly Kish //

Noise Pop //
Bay Area venues – San Francisco & Oakland
February 20th-March 1st, 2015 //

Indie-minded music and culture will be taking over the San Francisco Bay Area with the 23rd iteration of Noise Pop beginning this week. Progressive and innovative music is the hallmark of Noise Pop Fest, and this year is no exception. Outside of the incredible musical lineup, Noise Pop has curated a wondrous series of events including film, photography & stage for the 2015 showcase.

Noise Pop headquarters has moved to renovated Swedish American Hall on Market Street where a bunch of free, fun & intriguing events will take place.

And when it comes to the music, get there early. Most shows have 2-3 openers before the headliner takes the stage, and one of the best aspects of Noise Pop is discovering the next great indie act before they blow up.

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1. Go to under-the-radar Noise Pop Shows that aren’t sold out (yet)

If you can’t spring for a badge, consider going to these yet to sell out shows:

Flight Facilities, Touch Sensitive — The Regency Ballroom
Tuesday, February 24th

At long last Aussie production & remix-ranglin’ duo Flight Facilities released their first full length of original material last year with Down To Earth. Arguably the most essential dance party of Noise Pop, fans of Poolside, Classixx & Flume should queue up to kick off a colossal week.


Jessica Pratt, Kevin Morby, Carroll, Two Sheds – The Chapel
Wednesday, February 25th

Introverted songwriting and minimalist instrumentation lay the foundation for Jessica Pratt’s beguiling voice — one that is on the road touting her second album, On Your Own Love Again. The former San Franciscan was discovered and initially promoted by White Fence’s Tim Presley, so it’s no surprise Pratt’s warm take on dream pop includes a dash of subversive psych.


Les Sins, DJ Cali, DJ Dials — The New Parish
Thursday, February 26th

Did you know Toro y Moi has a side project and dance alias, Les Sins, that incorporates elements of two step garage and dub into an electronic-based smorgasbord? Well he does, and Chaz Bundick is taking the project to The New Parish after blowing minds at his Song Exploder Live Podcast Recording earlier that day for Noise Pop Thursday at Swedish American Hall (more on that below).


No Joy, Devon Williams, Vaniish, Chasms — Bottom of the Hill
Friday, February 27th

It might be a bit obvious to summarize the band No Joy as a shoegazing indie/noise pop outfit with an ounce of doom, but the label suits them well. The Montreal based group have promised their third record this year, stating last week that they are “still not sure when exactly or what it’s called, but its definitely pretty fucked! Played a lot of shows and partied really hard every single night, hope you like the music because we’re completely insane now.”


Kindness, Pell — Mezzanine
Saturday, February 28th

Adam Bainbridge is Kindness, the musician that brought the gems “House” and “Swingin’ Party” to the world in 2012. Last year he released his second album Otherness with contributions from his Blood Orange bud Dev Hynes, Kelela & Robyn — you’ll want get south of Market for this exciting indie mash of R&B, disco and funk.


James Vincent McMorrow (Solo), Kevin Garrett, Avid Dancer — Swedish American Hall
Sunday, February 29th

Post Tropical may have been one of the most underrated albums from 2014 — the enveloping album from James Vincent McMorrow hits the sweet spot for those on stand by for Justin Vernon’s next effort. McMorrow is helping to wrap up Noise Pop 2015 with a solo performance that’s sure to sweep listeners away into pure, crescendo-induced bliss.


Deafheaven, Bosse-De-Nage, Mortal Bodies, Cloak – Rickshaw Stop
Sunday, February 29th

San Francisco’s Deafheaven made a mondo impact in 2013 with Sunbather, which reintroduced their experimental black metal way beyond the Bay Area. They’ve hinted that their third LP will come out this year, so get to Rickshaw Stop for the chance to preview some new material.


2. Get a Super Fan Badge and do it all

Super Fan BadgeSee any Noise Pop show or event of your choosing if you spring for the Super Fan Badge, which includes these shows that are sold the fuck out:

• Best Coast at Bottom of the Hill, 2/24
• Surfer Blood at Rickshaw Stop, 2/25
• Giraffage at The Independent, 2/26
• Cathedrals at The Independent, 2/27 & 2/28
• Grouper at Swedish American Hall, 2/27
• Dan Deacon at The Chapel, 2/28
• Caribou at The Fillmore, 3/1 & 3/2


Toro-Y-Moi

3. Observe Toro Y Moi & How to Dress Well deconstruct their music (then watch your head explode)

These unique events are partially seated shows/Song Exploder Live Podcast Recordings where the audience becomes immersed in a live podcast that allows musicians to break down their songs through storytelling and personal perspectives.This year’s festivities, taking place at the Noise Pop Festival headquarters at Swedish American Hall, will focus on the creation of material by:

•Toro y Moi @ Swedish American Music Hall, 2/26 at 5 p.m.
Chaz Bundick will be breaking down a song from his forthcoming album, What For?, dropping May 7th.
RSVP HERE and get there early…

• How to Dress Well @ Swedish American Hall, 2/27 at 1 p.m.
Tom Krell will deconstruct “Pour Cyril” from his 2014 LP, “What Is This Heart?”
RSVP HERE and get there early…


NP_film

4. Take in Independent Cinema with the Noise Pop Film Series

The films on deck this year offer a wide variety of musical subject matter. One that peaks our interest is Salad Days: The Birth of Punk In The Nation’s Capital, West Coast Premiere + special guest short film curation by NOWNESS @ Roxie Theater, 2/21 at 7 p.m.

This event will be accompanied by a Q&A session with director Scott Crawford and Mark Haggerty (Gray Matter) Meghan Adkins and Nicky Thomas (Fire Party).

Here are all film options during Noise Pop. What strikes your fancy?

Hardcore Devo Live @ Roxie Theater, 2/20 7 p.m.
Metropolis: Live Scoring by Chrome Canyon @ The Swedish American Music Hall, 2/20 7 p.m.
Ollies, Dollies & Drones: A Survey of Spike Jonze’s Skate Video’s @ Roxie Theater, 2/20 9:15 p.m.
The Case of the Three-Sided Dream @ Artists’ Television Access, 2/21 2 p.m.
Welcome to Deathfest + Heavy Metal @ Artists’ Television Access, 2/21 4 p.m.
Lance Bangs: Immortal Volume @ Swedish American Music Hall, 2/21 5 p.m.
Beautiful Noise @ Roxie Theater, 2/21 9:15 p.m.
The 78 Project @ Artists Television Access, 2/22 2 p.m.
Christopher Willits Presents Opening: Film + Live Scoring @ Swedish American Music Hall, 2/22 7 p.m.
Stop Making Sense @ The Independent, 2/23 8 p.m.
Life on the V: The Story of V66 @ Artists’ Television Access, 2/24 7 p.m.
Sound and Chaos @ Artists’ Television Access, 2/25 7 p.m.
I’ve Rambled This Country Both Early and Late: Alan Lomaz Centennial Project @ Swedish American Music Hall, 2/28 3:30 p.m.


primus_MIKE

5. Bathe in some of the best Bay Area photography from the past 23 years of Noise Pop

23 for 23: Celebrating Noisepop Rock Photograpahy in Year 23 @ Hotel Biron, 2/26 7 p.m.

This live music photography event will showcase the work of Showbams’ very own Michael Rosati alongside Bay Area photographers Paige Parsons, Deb Zeller, Peter Ellenby, Heather Bernard, John Hartsfield, Jeanne Ellenby, Tara Graves, Martin Lacey, Emily Anderson, Joey Pagliani and Daniel Kielman.


home-street-home-album

6. Watch a raucously entertaining musical created by NOFX’s Fat Mike, a professional dominatrix & the guy that made Avenue Q

Home Street Home: A Original Rock Musical @ Z Space, 2/22

Created by Fat Mike of NOFX, Jeff Marx creator of Avenue Q and professional dominatrix Goddess Soma, Home Street Home is a brand new, highly unconventional dark comedy/musical, glorifying the hedonistic exploration of sex work, drug use and BDSM culture. Written from the collective perspectives of the authors’ own life experiences, the story follows Sue a teenage runaway who encounters and assimilates into a tribe of street punks, whom through their wild adventures form an atypical bond, finding strength and happiness amongst their abstract lifestyles.

Making its debut in San Francisco at Noise Pop 2015, the staged theatrical production will only play 11 performances through March 7th. Listen to the full concept album featuring songs by NOFX and members of Descendents, Lagwagon, No Use for a Name, Alkaline Trio, Mad Caddies, Frank Turner, The Living End, Old Man Markley, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Dropkick Murphys, Bad Cop/Bad Cop, Dance Hall Crashers, The Aggrolites, Limp, The Real McKenzies, Mariachi El Bronx, R.K.L. and Hedwig & the Angry Inch here:

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WIN TICKETS: Surfer Blood at The Indy 10/22

Surfer-Blood

Enter your name and email address below for the chance to win.

It’s been a busy summer for Surfer Blood, mainly touring behind Pythons at a feverish pace, and they are bringing this intensity well into autumn. They’ve teamed up with buzzy act Team Spirit for this particular tour, and will be rolling into San Francisco for a night at the Independent on Tuesday. Shake off that mid-week slump with a revelrous night of surfed-out indie rock.

Buy tickets if you know you want to go!


Win 2 Free Tickets! Enter to win if you can attend this show Tuesday, October 22 at The Independent in San Francisco.

Submit your full name and email address below.
Contest ends Tuesday, October 22 at Noon. Winners will be picked at random & notified by email. Your email will be kept private – we will share your email with no one. 21+ only.

Like Showbams on Facebook and follow Showbams on twitter to be eligible to win.

2013 Outside Lands schedule announced!

Outside LandsPhotos by Mark Fong // Written by Mike Frash //

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival //
Golden Gate Park – San Francisco
August 9th-11th, 2013 //

The schedule has been released for the completely sold-out 2013 Outside Lands Music Festival, meaning the schedule conflict stress has already begun. Some folks have the misplaced assumption that they can see half, or even most of the artists on the OSL bill. They are wrong. With four stages and long walks from Lands End/Sutro to Twin Peaks/Panhandle (and back), you won’t see more than 1/4 of the performers on any given day.

So, now it’s time to start dealing with this first-world festival problem by making some tough choices. But remember, you don’t have to commit! Sometimes it’s best to choose shows while at the fest based on your mood.

Here are the biggest conflicts we see on the schedule — along with the sets we are most likely to attend in bold.

OutsideLands
FRIDAY SCHEDULE // AUGUST 9th

Paul McCartney vs. Yeasayer, Chromatics & Pretty Lights
*Macca has a two-hour, 45-minute set!

The National vs. Rhye vs. Zedd vs. Stanton Warriors
• Band of Horses vs. Jessie Ware vs. Twenty One Pilots vs.
• Surfer Blood vs. Wild Belle vs. Jeffrey Ross
Smith Westerns vs. Midi Matilda

OutsideLands
SATURDAY SCHEDULE // AUGUST 10th

Nine Inch Nails vs. Phoenix

Yeah Yeah Yeahs vs. The Head & the Heart vs. Grizzly Bear
Jurassic 5 vs. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down vs. Baauer
• Young the Giant vs. Youth Lagoon
Gary Glark Jr. vs. Milo Greene vs. Atlas Genius

OutsideLands1
SUNDAY SCHEDULE // AUGUST 11th

• Red Hot Chilli Peppers vs. Dillon Francis, Kaskade

Vampire Weekend vs. Willie Nelson & Family vs. Matt & Kim vs. MS MR
• Dawes vs. A-Trak
Hall & Oates vs. Trombone Shorty vs. King Tuff
*4:20 Hall & Oats set. Just sayin’
Foals vs. Kurt Vile & The Violators vs. Deap Vally
*Winner of worst conflict: Foals vs. Kurt Vile


Check out our previous Outside Lands articles:
Outside Lands 2013 Beer/Artist Pairings
Outside Lands 2013: Ten sets not to miss
Outside Lands Music Festival Lineup 2013: Rumors vs. Reality

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New Music Tuesday: Boards of Canada • Surfer Blood • CSS • Jagwar Ma • Gold Panda

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

Boards of CanadaTomorrow’s Harvest

3.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“Nothing is Real”
“Cold Earth”
“Palace Posy”

Album Highlights: Tomorrow’s Harvest is today’s feast as Boards of Canada return with their first album in 8 years. Scottish brothers Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin are just as good as ever, whether this record was 8 years in the making or they were on an 8 year vacation (or somewhere in between). Better? That is still up for debate.

Tomorrow’s Harvest is an “environmental” album, and if you’ve ever heard Boards of Canada, you understand this description. Their lo-fi, dreamy electronic beats are cinematic – the atmospheric flow evokes visual accompaniment. Their sound derives from 1970’s science fiction soundtracks, incorporating reverb heavy ambience and glitchy mechanical beats, sprinkled with thousands of samples and sounds. The more you listen, the more you hear. Songs like “Reach for the Dead,” “White Cyclosa” and “Split Your Infinities” sound like your hypothetical space vessel is being boarded by an aliens in the far reaches of the galaxy.

The songs on Tomorrow’s Harvest (and all Boards of Canada music, really) thrive in various environments for the listener. Your opinion and perception of a song, or the album, is heavily influenced by your surroundings, both physical and mental. There are an infinite number scenarios where Tomorrow’s Harvest will “click”, and when it does, it’s marvelous. A song might not work one context, but will work well in another. I got the most out of this record while driving at night or while sitting in bed with all of the lights off. It’s up to the listener.

I hear something new every time I listen to this record. To an extent, that is exactly what Boards of Canada was going for with this record. Giving a rare interview to the Guardian, Boards of Canada revealed some of the thought behind Tomorrow’s Harvest. This record could be much deeper than one might think with only a handful of listens, and we are just beginning to tap into what Board of Canada had in mind with this album. According to the artists themselves, Tomorrow’s Harvest is “loaded with patterns and messages” and “there’s actually more use of subliminals on this record than on any previous album we’ve done, so we’re interested to see what people will pick up on.” The patterns and messages were laid out early with the promotional scavenger hunt; the record store madness and impossible clues that led to the album reveal mirrors the concept in the record itself.

If I had to contextualize it, I would split most of Boards of Canada’s songs into two categories: beats and interludes. When creating an atmospheric ambient album laced with beats and samples, you simply cannot string one beat after another – You’ve got to connect them somehow. Reset the musical palette, if you will. Boards of Canada accomplishes that with this record. There are several beats on here that will be remembered as “classic” Boards when it’s all said and done. Beats like “Cold Earth”, “Nothing is Real” and “Palace Posy”, are connected together with spacey interludes such as “Telepath,” “Collapse” and “Uritual.”

Album Background: The story of this record might actually be more interesting than the record itself. Here we are, in 2013, not having heard from Boards of Canada since 2006, when along comes Record Store Day on April 20th and a mysterious unannounced Boards of Canada vinyl appears in a record store in New York. This vinyl record simply had the band’s name and “—— / —— / —— / XXXXXX / —— / ——“ as the title. The record contained a brief clip of music and a 6 digit code. What could this secret code mean? Several more codes were released through various media outlets such as NPR, Adult Swim and BBC. Eventually all 6 of the codes were discovered and when Boards of Canada launched a new website the codes were used to reveal information about the upcoming album. This guerrilla marketing campaign gave this record a mystique that fits right in Boards of Canada’s wheelhouse.

Takeaway: Boards of Canada have certainly not changed from its abstruse way of doing things. They seem to marvel in the mystery of their own creation. Tomorrow’s Harvest is an incredibly deep album, one that is an auditory journey that stimulates all of the senses. I can’t help but think about visual accompaniment to this record every time I listen to it. It is a record that is proving to be more complex and fascinating with every subsequent listening. Granted, Boards of Canada isn’t for everyone, and it takes a specific mood and environment for it to really shine.

~Kevin Raos


Surfer BloodPythons

3-BamsTop Tracks:
“Demon Dance”
“Slow Six”
“Blair Witch”

Album Highlights: The second album from Florida alt-rock outfit Surfer Blood, Pythons, is based in classic surf rock instrumentation and song structure, but the group laces this traditional sound with just enough sonic psychedelic undercurrents and punk-rock blasts. Power-pop refrains and catchy, singsongy lyrics dominate on the surface level throughout, but punk-rock screaming juxtaposes many of the early songs. In the first single and best track “Demon Dance”, punk-inspired group chanting pierces the track a third of the way through, signaling this isn’t your father’s surf rock. The modulated screaming shows up again in “Weird Shapes”, but here it’s so folded into the candy-coated melody that it’s hardly invasive. The psychedelic noodling is less obvious; for example, the droning high-pitched texture at the end of “Needles & Pins” and the reverbing alien helicopter sound in “Squeezing Blood” requires headphones and observant ears to notice. The subtle psychedelic layers and the in-your-face punk exclamations create a fairly unique sound aesthetic in Pythons.

Two other tracks left a lasting impression. “Slow Six” starts with fuzzy reverb, then feigns tame moments by building into a triumphant, banging wall of sound that peaks and melts into a warm guitar picking outro. “Blair Witch” is tame and soothing in it’s entirety, a tender introspective track, yet it’s also coo for love.

Album Lowlight: Pythons gets a bit repetitious – springy drums, tight-fisted acoustic guitar strumming, lyrics that linger, extended words with low toned Beach-Boy harmonies – it ultimately projects a uniform tone that smothers the record at times. This is especially true during the second half of the LP, where the punk-rock injections dry up and give way to pleasantness over chaos.

Takeaway: This was an odd “grower” of an album for me. Upon first listen it was hard to enjoy the contrasting sound of traditional rock versus the psychedelic/punk outliers. Then I grew to accept, then love, the throwback classic surf-rock sound mixed with the jarring punk-vocal interludes and psych layering. Upon even further listening, it’s a bit one-note. One of the biggest challenges a recording artist endures is creating a unified, cohesive album, but the individual songs need to stand out on their own as well. Pythons is certainly cohesive, yet song to song it is too homogenous.

~Mike Frash


CSSPlanta

4-BamsTop Tracks:
“Into the Sun”
“Teenage Tiger Cat”
“Hangover”

Album Highlights: CSS is back with Planta, a disco-laden new wave powerhouse of an album. Soldering out the rough edges of their three previous efforts, the Brazilian bevy continues to expand on their dance-pop success by introducing sci-fi synth loops and reggaeton hooks. A throwback to the dance halls of the late eighties, CSS utilizes the simplicity of drum machine beats and lazer cross-fades as a driving force behind this album. Especially evident in the songs “Into the Sun” and “Teenage Tiger Cat”, the influence of that era’s archetypes (New Order/Joy Division, etc.) is close to blatant.

Album Lowlight: Vocals remain at the forefront of Planta, per usual for CSS, but remain consistently in English as opposed to their normally bi-lingual recordings. Luísa Hanaê Matsushita undeniably delivers with her breathy semantics, yet the lack of Portuguese incorporation leaves Cansei de Ser Sexy fans craving a bit more of their Brazillian bravado.

Takeaway: Planta is a playfully crafted homage to an era of dance music that chose to look beyond the peripheral s of stale North American discos, branching out to the neighboring scenes across the pond and in South America. Although CSS tones down the riot-girl-rock this album, opting for a much more polished production, their infectious energy and pop tart personas remain consistent. A graduated effort resulting in a near perfect party album for the summer, Planta proves these ladies aren’t “tired of being sexy” just yet.

~Molly Kish


Jagwar MaHowlin

4-BamsTop Tracks:
“Four”
“Come Save Me”
“The Throw”

Album Highlights: The first album from Australian duo Jagwar Ma sounds as if the psychedelic rock and dance music genres had sex and made the perfect baby. The best example of the inter-coursing between psych-rock and dance can be found in the twelve minute, 2-song punch of “Come Save Me” into “Four”. The two tracks stitch together as one and take the listener on a journey through recent music history – and it works magnificently. “Come Save Me” begins as a lovely, 1960’s Brit-Rock jam until muted lazer sounds, layered clapping, synth and vocal dubbing overtake on a super-extended bridge. Then the track repeats “Found my love looking on the ground”, preparing the ear for pleasurable, repetitious sound. When the clean bass beat and vocal sounds kick in seamlessly at the inception of “Four”, it’s both shocking and awe-inspiring. “Four” is simply one of the most powerful dance tracks of the year, especially within the context of Howlin. The clean beat in “Four” is extra effective due to the psychedelic fuzz that dominates much of the record prior to the minimalist jungle beat.

The record notably begins with a tripped out dance loop that defies traditional song structure. “What Love” only builds – it never trades off between verse and refrain – then after putting the song to bed (or so you think), the song reprises with a cacophony of sound from the same opening song, but it’s all jumbled up in a new way. This tribal outro is similar to what fellow Aussies Tame Impala do night after night on stage – yet Jagwar Ma have the intestinal fortitude to incorporate it into the the first cut of their first album. The premiere track signifies the unconventional, groundbreaking music that is to come.

“Man I Need” is as close as Howlin gets to pop music, as it doesn’t break into extended dance territory and it’s terribly hooky, especially when you consider the Kings of Leon-esque howls. Two other stand-out jams on this LP that must be heard are “The Throw” and “Exercise”.

Album Lowlight: The record ends with a couple mellow tracks in “Did You Have To” and “Backwards Berlin” – and even though they lowered the tempo, the tracks are still infused with psychedelic sounds. My only harp here is Jagwar Ma could have sequenced the end of the album a bit stronger by going out with a higher BPM bang. Still, the mellow final track “Backwards Berlin” mirrors the looping nature and lyrical content of the opening track “What Love”, bookending this excellent record.

Takeaway: Jagwar Ma have created one of the most successful first albums any new act has released this year. Fans of Tame Impala, the Stone Roses, Cut Copy and Django Django take notice: Howlin is a record that should be listened to immediately. Jagwar Ma’s vocal effects & guitar work are similar to Kevin Parker’s innovative treatment in Tame Impala, but even more critical to their forthcoming indie-cred success is how well they incorporate electronic dance loops into psychedelic rock – the two distinctive genres never contrast inappropriately.

Tracks on Howlin conform to conventional song structure at times, but it’s really all about the psych-dance party. It’s not until the fourth track “That Loneliness” that any kind of refrain is discernible – and even then there is fast paced clapping to spice it up. But even on this seemingly conventional cut, the Aussies build a Django-Django-like tribal beat based around repetition to create a dance song with rock sounds. San Francisco – do yourself a favor and buy tickets for their October show at Rickshaw Stop before it’s sold out.

~Mike Frash


Gold PandaHalf of Where You Live

3.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“Brazil”
“We Work Nights”
“The Most Liveable City”

Album Highlights: Gold Panda’s newest album Half of Where You live takes the listener on a journey around the world with songs like “Brazil” that truly evoke the feeling that you’re at a nightclub in Sao Paulo. Songs like “Enoshima” take the listener to Japan and “The Most Liveable City”, which has bird calls throughout, sets us right in the heart of Australia. This album is a sonic soundscape to everyone’s traveling adventures.

Album Lowlight: “My Father In Hong Kong in 1961” and “S950” both just seem like transitional songs that the album could do without. I could see why the Gold Panda would want a couple songs like this on the album, but I think he could have spiced them up a bit more.

Takeaway: If you’re going on a long adventure to a faraway land that you’ve never been to before, than I highly recommend throwing on your earbuds and getting lost in this album. From the opening track of “Junk City II” to the last song “Reprise”, the listener is on a journey to the unknown, and I can’t wait to pack up my bags and have this album along for the ride.

~Pete Mauch