Noise Pop 2018: A Bay Area indie culture celebration

Noise Pop 2018Written by Jacqueline Moore //

Noise Pop //
Bay Area venues – San Francisco & Oakland
February 19th-25th, 2018 //

While it seems as if the rest of the world slept soundly over the holidays, putting their work aside to relax and unwind, the people at Noise Pop stayed wide awake, producing the most eclectic and unique celebration of Bay Area independent culture.

Starting next week, the 26th edition of Noise Pop invades all corners of the Bay (including the addition of shows in surrounding cities like San Jose, Santa Cruz and Sacramento this year) to honor everything we love about SF, Oakland and the greater Northern California region.

As a festival, Noise Pop is one in which you can jump from show to show while seeing plenty of big-name acts — tUnE-yArDs, Ty Dolla $ign and Built to Spill to name a few this year — on one night, then catch some of today’s most emerging artists, whether it’s Japanese Breakfast, Sudan Archives, Mount Eerie or another.

Throughout the week, make sure to explore everything that Noise Pop has to offer. Between film screenings, art galleries, happy hours and concerts happening all over SF and the East Bay, you’ll find that Noise Pop knows how to transform the area into your own playground.

Last year for its 25th anniversary, Noise Pop saw its largest attendance numbers, with nearly every show reaching capacity. In fact, more than 28,000 people came together for a week of events to commemorate what makes the Bay Area so damn special.

Names on the 2018 lineup are strong and not to be slept on. Between local shining star Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, well-known acts such as Bahamas and Geographer, besties Jay Som and Japanese Breakfast, and former Vampire Weekend keyboardist Rostam, the Noise Pop bill (which was announced in three phases) is stacked to the brim, making it tough to choose who to see each night.

However, there are only two ways to get in on the action: buy a badge and gain access to every show, or individually buy tickets to the ones that you’d like to attend.

The choice is yours, friend.


Download the Noise Pop mobile app to get special updates, including details on Noise Pop After Hours performances, and create your own customized schedule here. Super Fan Badges are still available for purchase here.

Noise Pop 2018 - Phase 3 lineup

Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals, Zhu, Griz & Fever Ray lead Lightning in a Bottle’s 2018 lineup

Lightning in a Bottle - 2018 lineup

Lightning in a Bottle //
San Antonio Recreation Area – Bradley, CA
May 23rd-28th, 2018 //

Lightning in a Bottle has been considered one of the country’s premier boutique festivals for quite a while now, although in more recent years it has arguably started to outgrow that label with rising attendance numbers and capacity crowds becoming the norm.

But after last year’s edition saw Bassnectar, Bonobo, RÜFÜS DU SOL and Kaytranada lead the way, the 13th year of The Do LaB’s signature event will be headlined by Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals, Zhu, Griz and Fever Ray this Memorial Day weekend. The news, which comes more than four months in advance of the festival, marks the first scheduled show on U.S. soil since 2010 for Fever Ray (aka Karin Dreijer), the former lead singer of The Knife who released her sophomore solo LP Plunge back in October.

Other names listed on what LIB is calling Phase 1 of its 2018 lineup include The Glitch Mob, SOFI TUKKER, tUnE-yArDs, NAO, Beats Antique, Tokimonsta, The Funk Hunters, Monolink, Dirtwire, Tipper, Modeselektor (DJ set), Emancipator, Sango, Giraffage, Bleep Bloop, CloZee, Random Rab, Alix Perez, Nu:Logic, Nicole Moudaber, The Black Madonna, MK and more.

While the “transformational festival” has become a great hangover cure for West Coast music fans suffering from a bad case of post-Coachella blues, it also marks the second straight year that LIB mainstays Lucent Dossier Experience and William Close & The Earth Harp Collective are missing from this year’s bill.

Lightning in a Bottle 2018 - Phase 2 lineup

UPDATE (February 8th): The Do LaB has dropped its Phase 2 lineup for LIB 2018, featuring performances by Beats Antique Lightning Orchestra, Too Many Zooz, Lyrics Born, Con Brio, Jamie N Commons, The California Honeydrops and more. Check out the poster above for the rest of the roster that will be dispersed across four stages.

Weekend passes to LIB can be purchased here for $305 starting this Thursday, January 18th at 10 a.m. PT. As attendees have come to expect over the years, The Do LaB will also continue to promote the ideals of sustainability, social cohesion, personal health and creative expression through its unique collection of art, yoga, workshops and speakers.

Yet, over the past few years, the festival has regularly sold out as the calendar turns to May, and 2018 will likely follow that trend with the lineup shaping up to be one of LIB’s best. So, don’t sleep on getting your tickets for what’s sure to be another memorable weekend at San Antonio Recreation Area.

Can’t wait for LIB? Look back at our past coverage here.

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

PLANETARIUMBy Norm de Veyra //

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

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

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

PLANETARIUM

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

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

A brash, confident homecoming for Thao & the Get Down Stay Down

Thao & the Get Down Stay DownBy Norm de Veyra //

Thao & the Get Down Stay Down //
The Fillmore – San Francisco
April 30th, 2016 //

Thao & the Get Down Stay Down kicked off their Fillmore show last Saturday by blasting English hip-hop artist M.I.A.’s anthem “Bad Girls” while Thao Nguyen and her bandmates sauntered onto a dark stage.

As the chorus (“Live fast, die young. Bad girls do it well.”) reverberated through the venue and then slowly faded, the stage lights went up and the SF-based band swung right into the opening groove of “This Evening”. It was a killer intro that set the mood right for a night of brash, funky alternative folk.

Touring since their fourth studio album A Man Alive dropped in early March, Nguyen and company were well at ease, loose and visibly excited to play for their home city. Especially during tracks like “Nobody Dies” and “Astonished Man”, Nguyen performed with such a swagger and attitude that elevated the atmosphere inside The Fillmore to new heights.

Thao & the Get Down Stay Down with Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs


Thao & the Get Down Stay Down with Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs

The vibe seemingly hit its apex when Nguyen invited A Man Alive producer Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs fame onstage to perform “Meticulous Bird”. The hometown fans didn’t hold back their appreciation, doling out several prolonged applause breaks that appeared to genuinely catch the charismatic Nguyen by surprise.

Kudos, as well, to the Seratones, who led by vocalist AJ Haynes, dropped a dizzyingly bold opening set of Louisiana punk-tinged soul and funk, laying the groundwork for Thao & the Get Down Stay Down’s headlining set.

tUnE-yArDs put an end to summer, close out 2015 Twilight Concert Series at the Santa Monica Pier

tUnE-yArDsBy Josh Herwitt //

tUnE-yArDs with Avid Dancer //
Santa Monica Pier – Santa Monica, CA
September 10th, 2015 //

Summer is officially over. Well, except for the fact that the weather in Southern California has been hovering in the high 90’s over the past two weeks.

So, what better way to escape the heat than to watch tUnE-yArDs play the last free concert of the summer at the beach?

With kids back in school and the tourist season dying down in Los Angeles, there weren’t quite as many bodies on the Santa Monica Pier or down on the sand last Thursday night as there had been in previous weeks.

tUnE-yArDs

But tUnE-yArDs, the musical project of New England native Merrill Garbus (drums, vocals, keyboards, ukulele), did their best to keep the small, but excited crowd entertained as the sun went down and the temperature cooled off. Playing one of the final shows with their current band lineup that features Dani Markham (percussion, vocals), Moira Smiley (vocals) and Haley Dekle (vocals), Garbus and Nate Brenner (bass, synths, vocals) ran through songs from their entire catalog, including their third and most recent full-length album Nikki Nack.

Opening the show was Avid Dancer, the indie-rock project of Jacob Dillan Summers, who grew up listening strictly to Christian music in a highly religious family before joining the United States Marine Corps and later moving to LA to play drums in a number of local bands. Now, with a guitar in hand, he’s leading his own band with his own stories to tell.

While the KCRW-sponsored performance marked the end of the 2015 Twilight Concert Series, signaling an end to summer, it also served as a reminder of how fun the past 10 weeks at the Santa Monica Pier have been for LA music fans.

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)”

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Showbams’ Top 50 albums of 2014

Best-albums-2014-coverBy Mike Frash, Josh Herwitt, Molly Kish, Steve Wandrey & Kevin Quandt //

Showbams presents the Top 50 albums released in 2014 (yes, all of 2014) that we just can’t stop listening to.

These are the albums that made us double-take upon first listen, while also being auditory art pieces that we continue to spin as we head into 2015. They are the bundles of songs that innovated and inspired us more than the rest, signifying musical progression, defining our time with a soundtrack that challenges traditional expectations, while boldly trekking into new frontiers of pop music.

Because as music continues to become more accessible, the bridge between independent and mainstream gets shorter each year.

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

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


1. Run the JewelsRun the Jewels 2

run-the-jewelsSo often sequels don’t deliver, but ascending hip-hop stars Killer Mike and El-P have simply progressed their brilliance as Run The Jewels one year removed from their first official collaboration. From the top of RTJ2, Michael Render manages to set a higher bar for pumped-up aggression, there’s more social activism laced throughout, more special guests that only add to the fuck boy-crushing populist mentality. And compared to RTJ1, there are more stand-alone gems that are primed for remixing and cultural integration. The sequencing is superb, and El and Mike are having more fun than ever as they tour the world and snowball momentum with their brand of hardcore, yet intricate rap that contains shades of weird. Like a championship baseball team, the songs in the two hole through cleanup hitter offer the biggest impact, wreaking instant classics upon us with masterful experimental production from El-P that emits new, subtle surprises the more you listen. As the album unfolds, tales of police brutality (“Early”), introspection and personal improvement (“Crown”), along with over the top raunch (“Love Again”) prove RTJ2 shines in every moment in a variety of ways through multiple lanes of success. -Mike Frash


2. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream

war-on-drugs-lost-in-dream-album-coverWhen a truly inspired artist borrows from the past while looking to the future, the outcome can be something fully new and exciting, which is what we have here. The brilliance of Adam Granduciel lies in his delivery, both musically and lyrically, crooning about the sometimes-not-so-simple intricacies of existence. Life, love and everything else in between can be tricky, yet Granduciel calmly assures us that things can work out.

Granduciel knows how to structure albums with the best of them — this acutely demonstrated via the nine-minute, sprawling opener “Under the Pressure”. First single “Red Eyes” keeps on a similar path as we sink deeper in, bobbing along to the pounding drum machine that has been a constant over the years for the Philly-based band. “Disappearing” takes us soaring above the clouds as we hear new, thrilling piano instrumentation with warm bass lines, creating a sense of weightlessness and flight. An extremely strong finishing track, “In Reverse” perfectly captures the fleeting minutes on this release before jarring us back into a slightly crueler reality. The long play of this record is so rewarding, and it grows with hopes that more can be brought into the light. Oh, and that the state rock ‘n’ roll is just fine. -Kevin Quandt


3. D’Angelo and the VanguardBlack Messiah

dangelo-black-messiahThere’s an intentional off-kilter spontaneity and cohesive force at the center of D’Angelo’s first album in 15 years, Black Messiah. The percussive and vocal syncopation here makes the off-beat feel natural — layered vocals get treated with filters and are multi-tracked to lend an unfamiliar presence to the back-and-forth vocal pitch shifts D’Angelo employs from line to line.

The end product is a record that possesses its own musical language, telling stories that are incredibly meaningful, but achieve balance between serious and playful, while always being sexy. The confusing, driving funk of the first two cuts give way to “The Charade”, which manages to hit a rare aural sweat spot of ultra-pleasurability. But then “Sugah Daddy” follows as an unplanned Sunday in the park, with vocal scats skipping along to the breezy song’s pacing. D’Angelo arguably can now join the ranks of the all-time great R&B/soul artists with the delivery of his long-awaited third record. -MF


4. Future IslandsSingles

Future IslandSingles jumps right out of the gates, showing its cards early, presenting the listener with Future Island’s trademark new-school, new-wave sound. Samuel Herring’s vocals are stunning as he pitches and growls through tales of the tougher side of love. It’s pretty, gripping and powerful while also holding certain pop sentiments, lending to an overall lightness while being arresting. “Seasons (Waiting On You)” is a quintessential slice of the emotion this band has become well known for both onstage and in the studio. “Doves” balances all the elements nicely, shining a light on the top-notch production featured on Singles. -KQ


5. Aphex TwinSyro

FINAL MASTER SYRO DIGIPAK.inddRichard D. James has been practically an enigma for the last decade plus, hiding out in a small Scottish village of 300 and releasing no new music as Aphex Twin since 2006. But the long layoff hasn’t changed the fact that he remains one of the most unique and influential electronic producers in the game today. Some of James’ best material on Syro comes early on, from his club-oriented mixes like “minipops 67 [120.2]” to the techno funk ­he crafts on the ensuing “XMAS_EVET10 [120]” and “produk 29 [101].” These aren’t beats designed to make you sweat your ass off — if anything, the cerebral nature of James’ work makes him the ultimate antithesis of the current EDM scene. -Josh Herwitt


6. Flying LotusYou’re Dead!

Flylo_youre_deadOn Flying Lotus’s latest record You’re Dead!, the Los Angeles producer forgoes the acid kool-aide test for a cyanide kool-aide dive straight into a fourth dimensional confrontation with the afterlife. You’re Dead masterfully trips through the journey of the soul into the next episode with sun-scorched psychedelia, 8-bit snapshots of g-funk and gorgeously redemptive jazz. The cold transition between the frantic jazz freak out of Kendrick Lamar featuring “Never Catch Me” and the cooled-out West Coast bounce of Snoop Dogg and FlyLo alter-ego Captain Murphy’s “Dead Man’s Tetris” highlights the producer’s prolific ability to craft varying hip-hop textures. FlyLo fully buries his new album’s death aesthetic through ecstatic, free-form layers of acid jazz and sprawling EDM planes of sound. -John Venanzi, Community Review


7. St. VincentSt. Vincent

St. VincentAnnie Clark ups the electronic ante on her fourth studio album. Branching out of her experimental indie-pop compositions, she embraces more cohesive arrangements that ironically focus her creativity on deconstructed production and sound obstruction. Both equally impressive in sound quality and sass, the opening tracks “Rattlesnake” and “Birth in Reverse” set the tone for the rest of the records’ exciting stylistic shifts and the intriguing unveiling of Clark’s gritty rock goddess persona. “Digital Witness” is a spot-on snapshot of our brave new 21st century day-to-day reality. Unapologetic, raw and sonically genius, St. Vincent is Clark’s breakthrough moment, and she appears to be doing it all with ease. -Molly Kish


8. Mac DeMarcoSalad Days

Mac DemarcoMac DeMarco’s signature style is here. It’s still fresh and in ways stronger than ever; it’s more pointed, focused and accessible. DeMarco is able to write in a way that allows the listener to easily empathize with him, as he turns his issues into ones that most of us have dealt with at some point. In “Chamber of Reflection”, it’s easy to really feel a sense of solitude. “Goodbye Weekend” sounds like a stoney Sunday afternoon coming to a soothing end. Every track has a personality of its own while holding up the overall ethos of the album. This album is lighthearted enough for multiples listens in a row with its breezy beach vibe, but also easily induces deep thoughts with its many lyrical gems. -Steve Wandrey


9. CaribouOur Love

our-loveWhat we have here is one of the most addictive albums of 2014. Our Love keeps deep house in its front pocket with steady beats per minute and an introspective mantra-centric lyrical conceit, but it’s also exploratory in nature, finding success in consistently building toward intense, euphoric plateaus. A steady flow of pleasant sounds ascend into impacting transcendence with “Can’t Do Without You”, “Silver” and “Your Love Will Set You Free”, and you must give Snaith extra credit for the masterful pacing and song-to-song flow — there is never a “skip ahead” moment. Like many classic albums, it opens up if you give it more time to radiate around your head, and listening to it becomes more pleasurable over time, even though it is mostly presented in poetic simplicity. -MF


10. Sun Kil MoonBenji

Sun Kil MoonBenji must be interpreted as a concept album about death, but more importantly, it’s about the importance details related to memory. For example, the title is taken from what seems like a throw-away line toward the end of the breathtaking “Micheline”. It’s powerful, visceral storytelling that is self-reflexive and biographical, yet so relatable that it compels personal introspection from the listener’s own experiences. Mark Kozelek’s lyrics are the centerpiece of the listening experience — they are so deep and resonant that the instrumentals and production are absorbed secondarily, although the stripped-down approach is intentional and noteworthy. Built around obsessing about the state of human demise — and the randomness of it — it’s easy to join Kozelek’s dire state of mind hours or days after listening. -MF


11. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
12. Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams
13. Sharon Van Etten – Are We There
14. Spoon – They Want My Soul
15. Ariel Pink – pom pom
16. Beck – Morning Phase
17. Jack White – Lazaretto
18. The Black Keys – Turn Blue
19. Tycho — Awake
20. TV on the Radio – Seeds

21. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
22. Tweedy – Sukierae
23. Jungle – Jungle
24. Temples – Sun Structures
25. tUnE-yArDs – Nikki Nack
26. Death from Above 1979 – The Physical World
27. Ty Segall – Manipulator
28. The Antlers – Familiars
29. Real Estate – Atlas
30. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness

31. Cold War Kids – Hold My Home
32. Interpol – El Pintor
33. Alt-J – This Is All Yours
34. Swans – To Be Kind
35. Strand of Oaks – HEAL
36. White Fence – For the Recently Found Innocent
37. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Piñata
38. Phantogram – Voices
39. Broken Bells – After the Disco
40. SOHN – Tremors

41. The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers
42. Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes
43. Karen O — Crush Songs
44. Chet Faker – Built on Glass
45. Woods – With Light and with Love
46. Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else
47. Kishi Bashi – Lighght
48. Mark McGuire – Along The Way
49. Courtney Barnett – The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas
50. Adult Jazz – Gist Is

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The-War-on-Drugs5

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4.st-vincent

12.Ryan Adams

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Spoon

Tycho

TVOTR

Temples

8.tune-yards

Real-Estate

Interpol

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The 25 best live music acts of 2014

Best-Live-Acts-2014_post

It’s that palpable sense of excitement in the crowd, how musicians can seize the moment and make you feel something unexpected or enlightening. Being able to connect with music through a collective experience is breathtaking when it happens, especially when you can tell fellow fans (and sometimes the artists themselves) are affected similarly. Nothing beats a transformative show that takes you to another place — or one that just fucking rocks.

Showbams covered many excellent bands, musicians and DJs throughout 2014 — the following 25 acts are our favorite live performers of the year.

Showbams’ Top 50 Albums of 2014
The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Shows, Albums & Songs of 2014

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


25.sylvan_esso

25. Sylvan Esso

Singer Amelia Meath’s voice sparkles with the tone of Feist and the intonation of Regina Spektor, while Nick Sanborn’s live production hits the sweat spot of trending sound in 2014 — the wobbles and looping vocals are somehow familiar and fresh all at once. -Mike Frash, photo by James Nagel


24.Fucked Up

24. Fucked Up

Now, it’s hard to not say that [Damian] Abraham is the show here. Not only because he is a musical madman who would rather be in the pit with his fans than on the stage with his longtime band, but also because frankly, the rest of the band seemed aloof at times. Sure, all but one help in the vocal department, but trying to compete for attention with Abraham would be a futile effort. The frontman, now shirtless (which is tradition), was cruising all over The Indy like a whirlwind. First, he was up in the seats on house right, and the next thing you know, he is having a full-blown mock-luchadore wrestling match with a fan in front of the stage. I kid you not. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Pedro Paredes


23.parquet-courts

23. Parquet Courts

Andrew Savage and his newly-grown Sideshow Bob-esque afro couldn’t help but remark on the younger members of the crowd having the time of their life; “Sure like watching you boys move around out there,” he stated with a smirk. “Stoned and Starving” was oddly missing from the night’s set, possibly a product of not being awarded the headlining set on this night. Whatever, Parquet Courts don’t give a fuck. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Kory Thibeault


22.disclosure

22. Disclosure

It was refreshing to witness intelligent dance music prospering, playing to an enthusiastic & packed Greek Theater Berkeley for the first ever “Wild Life”. Disclosure are revamping contemporary dance music by repurposing past elements into poppy, progressive packages, which is consequently influencing mainstream music in a meaningful way. -Mike Frash, photo by Sam Heller


21.Blood Orange

21. Blood Orange

Dev Hynes and company gifted us with a performance abundant in groove and energy. The crowd intensity quickly translated from the stage onto the entire venue, with the London-native acting as the master of ceremony, surrounded by talent. Samantha Urbani’s (Friends singer and Hynes’ girlfriend) vocals on “It is What It Is” were beautiful and hypnotic, and put the audience in a soothing stage that was only broken when Dev Hynes decided to bring the house down with an explosive version of “Uncle Ace”. -Pedro Paredes, photo by Pedro Paredes


20.deerhoof

20. Deerhoof

The ever evolving musical dialect that Deerhoof have created for them, and them alone is a big takeaway. The four members share a vernacular on stage that only they speak. Greg Saunier’ musical training allow him to ebb and flow with the other members on stage; never playing over Satomi’s dainty vocals while allowing Dietrich to expand on his freakish chords. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Greg RaMar


19.Rubblebucket

19. Rubblebucket

It should be stated that Kalmia Traver is one of the best frontwoman in the business. She truly is the full package as she sings with a rigorous passion, dances joyously, plays baritone sax and wins the adoration of nearly every member of the audience. Her dedication is refreshing and infectious. The group’s sound has evolved to a more varied palette as comparisons to Arcade Fire could begin to fester in one’s mind. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Kory Thibeault


18.Volcano Choir

18. Volcano Choir

It was the minimalist songs, complimented by reverent crowd silence and attention, that were the memorable highlights…attempts at discovering new sound spaces is an absolute success for Volcano Choir, making Bon Iver seem almost boring in retrospect. It’s understandable why Vernon said this might be his new band — Vernon’s claim to fame almost seems superfluous now. -Mike Frash, photo by Chaya Frash


17.connan-mockasin

17. Connan Mockasin

It’s about time that the US markets pay a little more attention to this dream-psych export that has made waves in a handful of international markets, and for good reason. Sure, the likes of Ariel Pink and Animal Collective are hailed as gods in the genre, but Connan has something a little more unique to offer us. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Pedro Paredes


16.Sun-Kil-Moon

16. Sun Kil Moon

Before launching into “I Watched the Film The Song Remains the Same”, something rather extraordinary happened. He looked at a young male fan in the front and asked why he had headphones on his head. Then Kozelek forcefully stated, “You look like a fucking douchebag”, filling the venue with tension and a bit of laughter. This happened right before playing a track about coming to terms with once bullying a kid on the playground in his youth. In the song he discusses the incident, “though I grinned, deep inside I was hurting.” It appears this whole incident was a creative, effective way to foreshadow and show his contradictory nature, as opposed to him being horribly passive aggressive. -Mike Frash, Photo Courtesy of Sun Kil Moon


15.sharon-van-etten

15. Sharon Van Etten

Despite her songs being so often daunting and bleak in nature, Van Etten was able to break up the heaviness with the levity of her between song banter. One crowd member shouted to Van Etten that she should do standup comedy, to which Van Etten responded, “So you’re saying my music career is over,” to even more laughter…Songs from her new release are much fuller in comparison to earlier Van Etten offerings and the benefit was instantly felt when performed with her talented band. -Mark E. Ortega, photo by Pedro Paredes


14.The National

14. The National

Grown to be more comfortable with themselves, poised and energetic with precise control, The National’s music is more accessible and impactful than ever before, and the group is pulling it off in front of the biggest audiences of their career. Slowly winning over fans for 15 years, The National have earned it. -Mike Frash, photo by James Nagel


13.Flume

13. Flume

In the past year, Flume’s set has become more sophisticated, led by a restrained approach that intermingles hip-hop, trap, R&B and rap. The drops are inverted in their intensity compared to traditional EDM, offering slight delays and unpredictable syncopation…his ability to curate a festival-sized mega party cannot be questioned at this point. Fortune favors the bold. -Mike Frash, photo by Josh Herwitt


12.Ryan Adams

12. Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams impressed this year with sets laced full of cuts from his remarkable self-titled album, his 14th and newest. At his headlining show at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, Adams transitioned his endearing goof-spaz stage banter into an impromptu gem of a song revolving around a someone holding balloons in the back of the show taking place in Golden Gate Park. -Mike Frash, photo by Pedro Paredes


11.Outkast

11. OutKast

OutKast was the reunion tour of the year, hitting a festival in nearly every region of the world. While Big Boi is the consistent, poised professional day after day, his partner André 3000 a bit of a wildcard, as we all witnessed as he turned his back on Coachella audience on opening night. But Dré’s rhymes were clean and on point as he sported a jumpsuit that told you how he really felt night to night. -Mike Frash, photo by Marc Fong


10.future-islands

10. Future Islands

Sam Herring is in no rush, and he takes it slow while the bass line marks a steady beat. He wants the people not just to feel, but to listen as well, and he takes time to give some context before commencing a new song.It became clear that Herring is all about making a connection with the audience…his style seems to draw inspiration from multiple sources, and I can’t help but to be reminded of the insane intensity of Ian Curtis, the shamanic charisma of Jim Morrison, and the storytelling skills of Johnny Cash. -Pedro Paredes, photo by Pedro Paredes


9.darkside

9. DARKSIDE

Simmering melodic-based atmosphere moved to dramatic slow-builds, and Nicolas Jaar would introduce a track along the way — all while creating tension. Then well-deserved bass drops revealed themselves in both sneaky and progressive ways, establishing a prolonged release in the form of the crowd losing their shit to four on the floor house beats and body-shaking bass…One of the most memorable transitions came deep into “Paper Trails” when the drop developed over four quick beats in a measure, from no bass to full on bass domination. It was a striking example of Jaar’s original, crafty abilities in the moment. -Mike Frash, Photo by James Nagel


8.tune-yards

8. tUnE-yArDs

Driven by percussion, vocals and ecstatic hyperactivity, tUnE-yArDs win with a lighthearted, quirky mentality that skewers conformity…this show had all the indications of an essential live performance; the music was thoroughly impacting, and the crowd was completely immersed and wide-eyed throughout, taking in tUnE-yArDs’ breathtaking sonic concoctions. -Mike Frash, photo by Pedro Paredes


7.mac-demarco2

7. Mac Demarco

DeMarco’s fans screamed in sheer delight as he transformed himself into some sort of pop-slacker, earning hoots and howls from a bevy of females in the crowd. His rise to King Weirdo status has been swift, and it’s been for good reason. His likeability, coupled with his unique playing style, is pretty damned infectious, after all. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Pedro Paredes


6.Arcade Fire

6. Arcade Fire

Throughout the Reflektor tour, Arcade Fire premiered a new cover each night. For example, halfway through their epic Coachella set, the band broke into the opening notes of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”, only to be joined by Debbie Harry of Blondie fame for this full rendition. Arcade Fire successfully cultivated a party atmosphere, adding to the high level of revelry already there. -Molly Kish, Photo courtesy of Arcade Fire.


5.run-the-jewels

5. Run the Jewels

Much like at a Phish or Die Antwoord audience, most everyone in the room at Run the Jewels was there in “full buy-in” mode, not worried about what someone might think of you by getting a bit too into the moment. Which, when you think about it, is pretty elusive for a rap act that is beloved by the indie blogosphere and its readers. Yet, there is a collective acceptance, a mentality that has bubbled up from impromptu social media memes, gifs and videos that are moving RTJ into mainstream mentality. -Mike Frash, photo by Alfonso Solis


4.st-vincent

4. St. Vincent

Captivating an audience has never been much of an issue for St. Vincent due to the incredible musical talent Annie Clark possesses. Her amazing skills as songwriter, lyricist and guitar-shredding icon are nearly unmatchable in contemporary pop. This tour however is incredibly unique, in that it finally showcases these undeniable aspects of Clark on a grand scale. From the production elements to various costume and instrument changes amidst an encapsulating set design, Clark has finally emerged as a true rock star. -Molly Kish, photo by Pedro Paredes


3.the-war-on-drugs

3. The War on Drugs

Adam Granduciel has arrived to the next level, as The War on Drugs have broken through the underground in a big way with their latest release entitled, Lost in a Dream. The subsequent, and long awaited, tour has been nothing short of fantastic as an expanded band has led to their most sonically pleasing tour to date. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Sterling Munksgard


2.atomic-bomb

2. ATOMIC BOMB! The Music of William Onyeabor

Luaka Bop founder and musical virtuoso David Byrne unearthed Onyeabor’s self-released eight album discography and organized a top secret live music project called “ATOMIC BOMB! The Music of William Onyeabor”, bringing it to life on stage at the Warfield Tuesday for the third time ever.

With an all-star cast of incredible artists, the Atomic Bomb! band took the stage in a handful of lucky cities to provide a near-religious experience (mock-secular program included), reviving the spirit of Onyeabor’s body of work. Lending their various talents to the incredible performance, Alexis Taylor (Hot Chip), Kele Okereke (Bloc Party), Pat Mahoney (LCD Soundsystem), Joshua Redman, Money Mark, The Lijadu Sisters and Sinkane (the musical director) were accompanied by Byrne (along with a full horn section and backing band). -Molly Kish, photo by Marc Fong


1.Jack White

1. Jack White

It’s been Jack White’s year on the live music circuit. His endless Bonnaroo headlining set this year is now a recognizable career milestone based on word of mouth alone. He severely twisted his ankle in SF and kept touring against the advice of his doctor. Jack seemed more focused and engaged than on prior tours, while also appearing authentic, positive, comfortable and likable. Labeled as grumpy, sad and controlling in the past, White embodied the ambassador of fun, and a sharp haircut seemingly signified the “new” Jack White further. The newest item of actual substance is that the man is in the prime of his career, playing truly epic shows, proving to be the biggest rock star in the world with grit night after night. Without question, Jack White is one of the best live artists of 2014 — and now with a humble, inclusive attitude, his stock should only rise further. -Mike Frash, photo by David James Swanson

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tUnE-yArDs eye nonconformity through a glorious lens in SF

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Photos by Pedro Paredes // Written by Mike Frash //

tUnE-yArDs with Sylvan Esso //
The Fillmore – San Francisco
June 6th, 2014 //

“It’s 2014 and we’re playing at the fucking Fillmore!” declared Merrill Garbus early in the set Friday as her eyes flickered with excitement. Known for her commanding gaze, the captivating centerpiece of tUnE-yArDs has fully embraced an eyeball motif in support of the incredibly addictive Nikki Nack. Garbus is surrounded by large eyes on stage, the show poster from the Fillmore features a piercing globular organ growing off a plant where a flower would normally be, and in the joyfully-insane video for “Water Fountain”, almost every shot contains artificial eyes or Garbus’ remarkable optical dexterity.

Accented makeup and glitter frame her sight, an innovative vision and expressive perspective that makes it difficult to take your eyes off her. tUnE-yArDs’ focus on eyes as a motif suitably reflects Garbus’ immaculate confidence and control amid pervasive themes of subverting conformity and growing paranoia, curating a transformative live music experience in the process — just don’t call her the “Real Thing”.

Sylvan-Esso

This night felt like a genuine two-for-one deal with fast-rising Sylvan Esso opening. Empowering female vocals and effective repetition was the connecting force between both duos this night, & the first act to perform inspired palpable crowd reactions with their minimalist-glitch approach. Singer Amelia Meath’s voice sparkles with the tone of Feist and the intonation of Regina Spektor, while Nick Sanborn’s live production hits the sweat spot of trending sound in 2014 — the wobbles and looping vocals are somehow familiar and fresh all at once. “H.S.K.T.” provided the most fun, upbeat action in the set, and “Coffee” was a strong example why this is a group to watch going forward.

Sylvan Esso’s engaging stage presence willed the audience to listen, and their expressive body language convinced most folks to move to the music instead of chat, a fate that befalls opening acts more than not. Often exhibiting mid-song patience, taking in each moment of downtempo ambiance, Sylvan Esso was an ideal pairing with tUnE-yArDs, further proven when Meath joined Merrill Garbus during tUnE-yArDs’ encore performance of the vocal-heavy “Rocking Chair”. Poised to break out much bigger in this viral music climate, Sylvan Esso should catapult upward as demand will likely dictate.

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The song selection for the tUnE-yArDs set unsurprisingly focused on cuts from Nikki Nack, as almost every track from the record got attention. Flanked by female backup singers, Garbus relies less on looping than in the past, yet this cathartic repetition is still the backbone of most songs. Bringing in additional vocal support allows for a more organic approach to live production than past tours, letting Garbus focus on her powerful stage presence.

Technical precision is one of tUnE-yArDs’ biggest strengths, yet there’s still room for exploratory, drawn out moments. “Powa” extended into incredibly chaotic territory for the song’s outro. “Stop That Man” went on a risky journey that easily paid off with its industrial beats and overwhelming reverb vocals. Many new songs, including “Water Fountain” and “Sink-O”, jump into the refrain right away, contorting traditional strong structure in a way that makes the songs feel like pop music from the future. So many of these new songs give an intended feeling of anxiety, as if you’re being watched.

Tune-Yards2

Driven by percussion, vocals and ecstatic hyperactivity, tUnE-yArDs win with a lighthearted, quirky mentality that skewers conformity. “Real Thing” blissfully critiques the notion of what a woman is supposed to look like while embracing true self. “Why are you afraid about pants size ten? Humadum, rumadum/ They’re chosen girls/ While you worry about chest size 6/ They’re winning the tricks…Ugly one be you, who you are.” Garbus goes out on the proverbial limb, bearing herself for all to see. It’s leadership like this that sets tUnE-yArDs apart.

This show had all the indications of an essential live performance; the music was thoroughly impacting, and the crowd was completely immersed and wide-eyed throughout, taking in tUnE-yArDs’ breathtaking sonic concoctions.

WKEND MIXTAPE V12: tUnE-yArDs • DJ Dan • DJ Food

WKEND-MIXTAPE12

We’re back with three new mixes from tUnE-yArDs, DJ Dan and DJ Food to get your weekend started right.

Tune-Yards

tUnE-yArDsAfrica In Your Earbuds



First up this week is a mix from tUnE-yArDs, who are playing two sold out shows at the Fillmore this weekend in San Francisco to support their latest release, Nikki Nak on 4AD. This mix for Okayafrica highlights vintage sounds from East Africa. Here is Merrill Garbus’s thoughts on her mix:

No doubt, I have a limited knowledge of African music, because, well, that’s an entire continent and thousands of years of music, and a girl from Connecticut only has so many hours in a day. So for this mix I delved into my old favorites, artists who have influenced what I do now, as well as some things I’ve been introduced to fairly recently.

While listening to this mix I can imagine the tUnE-yArDs catalog fitting in nicely with these tracks. With the constant release of mixtapes from DJs, producers, etc. lately, it is nice to hear something that stands out from the crowd.


DJ-Dan

DJ DanThump Mix 2014



Picking things up is a new mix from DJ Dan for Thump. As he has done for for the last two decades, Dan brings us a tight, funky mix of house tracks for our listening pleasure. Alongside his own tracks you will hear from Wise D, John Acquaviva, Sharam Jey, Schuhmacher, Dat Heathen, and Format:B. This, to me, is the sound of the weekend. DJ Dan will be performing at Monarch in SF Friday, June 13.


DJ-Food

DJ FoodChildren of the Sun Mix



Easing things back is our final mix from the UK’s DJ Food, who provides an eclectic mix about the sun and summer in general. This mix is tailor-made for relaxing and lying in the grass or sun. DJ Food takes music from a range of styles with all tracks tied to sun, summer, and the great outdoors. Artists highlighted include The KLF, The Orb, Boards of Canada, Three Dog Night, Diplo, The Dells, Isley Brothers, Roberta Flack, Dr Rubberfunk, and DJ Food himself.

New Music: tUnE-yArDs – Nikki Nack

Tune-Yards

tUnE-yArDsNikki Nack

4-BamsTop Tracks:
“Water Fountain”
“Real Thing”
“Hey Life”

Album Highlights: “Oh my God I use my lungs – soft and loud, anyway feels good.” Merrill Garbus returns with Nikki Nack, the third Tune-Yards album and follow-up to 2011’s critically-adored W H O K I L L, and it’s those lungs that are again the star of the show. Over 13 tracks of playful and percussive art-pop, Garbus wrestles with self-doubt & rootlessness, and engages her social conscience through the jubilant and explosive power of her voice.

Nikki Nack excels when Garbus is focused on personal inspiration – as on the meditative opening track “Find a New Way”, about getting herself out of a creative rut, and the buoyant “Hey Life”, where she struggles with feeling overextended and unable to slow down. In lesser hands this kind of subject matter could feel trite, but Garbus’ exuberant spirit and giddy talent for genre collages make the songs feel genuinely life-affirming. It’s exhilarating to hear her belt out lines such as “I’d like to smell the roses but I’m running running all of the time,” and “I come from the land of slaves, let’s go Redskins let’s go Braves” for the first time, a sensation that is then topped on successive listens when you’re singing along at the top of your lungs with her.

Garbus’ voice once again handles the lion’s share of the melodic elements on Nikki Nack, while bass, percussion and kitschy synths provide most of the rhythmic and harmonic support (her ukelele sits on the sideline for much of the duration). The crackling eclecticism of W H O K I L L has been reigned in ever so slightly on Nikki Nack, and while Tune-Yards’ music now sounds familiar in a way that it didn’t before, there are still moments that feel genuinely fresh for this project, as on the rousing “Time of Dark” and the serene, R&B-tinged “Wait for a Minute”.

But Garbus doesn’t have to surprise in order to dazzle. Lead single “Water Fountain” is quintessential Tune-Yards – the song marries a exuberant jump-rope rhyme with lyrics about dying cities and Haiti’s food crisis, and pulls it off with aplomb. She’s at her most sassy on “Real Thing, an afro/synthpop/doo-wop/hip-hop hybrid that plays with the inherent contradiction of trying to find our true selves. And then there’s “Why Do We Dine On the Tots?” a Swiftian interlude about food ethics that provides some twisted comic relief before the album’s home stretch.

Album Lowlight: When Garbus shifts her attention on Nikki Nack to social issues, the results are mixed. “Stop That Man” attempts to address white guilt in the aftermath of Treyvon Martin/George Zimmerman, but the plea in the song’s chorus falls strangely flat. Bouncy album closer “Manchild”, takes on date-rape with the memorable refrain “I mean it – don’t beat up on my body,” and although it’s a rallying cry worth supporting, the song ultimately feels like a missed opportunity. But the album’s single certifiable dud is “Sink-O”, a busy, sugary number that wouldn’t be out of place on an irritating children’s TV show, and is only redeemed by the fact that it provides greater appreciation for how often Tune-Yards does this kind of thing right.

Takeaway: The acrobatic physicality of Garbus’ voice is, once again, complimented on Nikki Nack by songs that fully inhabit the corporeal and spiritual worlds. “There will be always something to lean your weight into,” she sings on “Look Around”. It’s a declaration of loyalty and interconnection, and it’s an act of the body. Everywhere on Nikki Nack these two concerns meet in songs that feel therapeutic – both for the listening audience and, I’m sure, Garbus herself – because of the sense of spiritual innocence, wonder, optimism and love for life manifested through her voice (and the beating of her drums). Tune-Yards will likely still remain a cult favorite, as Garbus’ unconventional femininity and outsized personality can strike some as garish and off-putting. But for listeners who are able to tune in to her wacky frequency, Tune-Yards leaves one feeling stimulated and edified, and hopefully inspired. Nikki Nack is idiosyncratic soul music, and though not without its missteps, it’s alive in a way that little music today is.

~Karl Kukta