Posts Tagged ‘San Francisco’

Kelley Stoltz

This one slipped out so silently I almost did’t catch it. News came out via Kelley’s seldom-used personal Bandcamp and it’s a crushingly scant run. Last year’s My Regime had quite a few nuggets of garage-psych goodness stashed away between the grooves, but this one comes along and swings the Stoltz agenda in a new direction with superb results. Apparently inspired by power pop with a heavy pub tab, a $75 dollar Japanese guitar, and the Jedediah Smith (Jeanines, My Teenage Stride) side-hustle curiosity Mick Trouble — this is not quite the usual fare from the always mercurial Stoltz. He’s never been less than a harbinger of hooks, but usually there’s a debt to Ray Davies-draped ‘60s pop or in the case of the Willie Weird saga, something skewing hard into the R. Stevie Moore cut-out bin. This time he’s lacquered it all down tight, laying out a record that doesn’t dip into his usual wells.

Here the focus is on the elastic snap of power pop that’s just slightly sanded off from the pure punk formula. Think Advertising, The Quick, The Phones, or The Undertones goofing with undeniable effect on Hypnotised. I can see where the Mick Trouble tie-in crops up. Though this is under his own name, it does feel like Stoltz is pulling a persona here. There’s a power chord crimped slacker swagger. Yet, like The Apples in Stereo before him, he can slide on a power-pop pullover but his songwriting can’t help but inject the form with a certain quirkiness that perfects the formula while breaking a few of its boundaries in delightful ways. Stoltz has long been a legend among those sifting the spit-upon ranks of deep cut, skewed pop fodder, but he hasn’t sounded this wholly energized and invigorated for a few records. Front to back this one is possessed with the ‘70s third-set swagger — crumpled like a crudely drawn flyer and stinking of stickered bar bathrooms with no lock. It doesn’t miss a beat and I’m having a hard time keeping it off the speakers.




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The Reds, Pinks & Purples – “I’d Rather Astral Project”

I can’t resist a chance to post The Reds, Pinks & Purples and while the band’s upcoming new LP for Slumberland is still a ways off, they’ve worked up a nice animated vid for one of the myriad singles that have packed their Bandcamp over the last few months. The message in “I’d Rather Astral Project” seems a bit more prescient now with physical shows in indefinite hiatus it would seem more convenient to take up the astral plane as the new venue. As usual the band wraps their wry thoughts in the jangled melancholia that’s made them so steady on the speakers over here. Check out the Jem Fanvu directed vid above.



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Galore

Been really enjoying this scrappy, scruffy dose of post-punk from San Francisco’s Galore lately. The band’s hitting on the same intersection of influences as Aussie upstarts Primo!, Terry, and School Damage but they add a dose of sweetness that’s sometimes sanded away from those outfits, perhaps bringing them most in line with the windswept charm of Parsnip. The band employs an austerity that cuts through the fat of pop and hits straight onto the bone. Jangled and jostled, nervy, but emotionally raw, the band’s eponymous LP also draws a crooked line between Look Blue Go Purple, The Pastels, and Talulah Gosh. The songs are catchy without cloying, crafting hooks that knock around the brain but won’t latch completely due to the rough edges. Each go round with the album lets them stick in a different nook of consciousness and if feels just right.

They sweep from strums and the lilt of jangles that populate much of the album to the sonic shrapnel of “Cucaracha,” and the bent tin twist of “Lydia,” executing the switch without so much as a skid on the pavement. They make the juxtaposition feel natural like the flow of an 80’s college station. The songs crunch confessionally, detailing days spent lolling in the bed, creature comforts, dashed hopes, and sneaking suspicions. The bubble-wrap snap of drums skitters in the background and the bass feels like its just getting its land legs back on more than a few songs. The whole record comes together in a lovely slump on the bed — conflicted, content, confused, and catchy. It’s holding up a long tradition of jangle n’ bop that doesn’t quite fit into the boxes that folks want to try to stuff ‘em into and Galore comes out shining all the brighter for their refusal to take shape.


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Brigid Dawson & The Mothers Network

It feels like this album from Brigid Dawson & The Mothers Network has been sorely overlooked in the lead-up to its release. Its a damn shame because the ex-Oh See has put together an album that pushes her range far beyond the garage and psych roots attached to her. Within Oh Sees Dawson always provided the light to the rest of the band’s brooding dark — washing in areas of harmony and humility to the band’s rhythmic furor or blood-spattered psychedelics. On Ballet of Apes she’s filtering through the frames of folk and jazz, lounge and a hopeful strain of soul. Her songs crouch and coo, then open wide and soar. The album is bruised but resilient and its some of her best work in any context.

As for those lumped into her Mothers Network, Dawson has assembled a rather enviable crew. The backing musicians range far and wide, picking up friends from New York, San Francisco, and Melbourne. The Mothers Network are at any time Mikey Young (Total Control/Eddy Current Suppression Ring), Mike Donovan (Sic Alps), Shayde Sartin (Fresh & Onlys, Flying Canyon), Mike Shoun (Oh Sees, Peacers). Then as the album slides into its latter half Dawson pairs with RSTB faves Sunwatchers for a bout of jazz smolder that slips beyond the veil of light and into a space that’s inhabited by smoke and smudged by hot coal chemical interactions. The band and Dawson make a particularly potent pair and here’s hoping that they might make it more of a regular occurrence. Highly recommend digging further into this one again and again.




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The Telephone Numbers – “Pictures of Lee”

As I mentioned Friday was a hectic day with the feeds flying fast, but if you were looking in the right places there were plenty of gems to be had. This new single/digital EP from The Telephone Numbers is just such a gem, so let’s rewind and take a listen. The band’s popped up here before and its a new one from Glenn Donaldson (The Skygreen Leopards, The Reds Pinks and Purples) who’s hooked up with a few more SF janglers to create some pristine and perfect pop in this absolute shit year. Sometimes all you need is a crisp jangle, earnest harmonies, and a good dose of swoon and everything just melts away for 3 minutes or so. The title track off of the single garners this kind of appeal. Its a such a crystal clear moment in sound that everything relaxes for a moment and just soaks in the West Coast sun for a few suspended minutes. The rest of the tracks spar between the melancholy shuffle of “Curtains Close,” the late-afternoon sidle of “It’s Not All About Your Life,” and a cracking cover of Alec Bathgate’s “Run.” Just like their last single, there’s a lot to love here and the band’s poised to be one’s to keep tabs on as these singles sneak out.



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Galore – “Lydia”

One of the standouts from the recent comp from SFs Rocks in Your Head, Galore packs up what works when things are just barely hanging on. The band dredges up visions of Kleenex’ early days, Olympia upstarts, and NY No Wave luminaries (from whom the song takes its name). Gnarled, unpolished, and unapologetic, “Lydia” is an untethered careen through post-punk, loose-linked jangle, and garage pop that feels like even duct tape couldn’t keep it together and yet it works. The song is infectious even when it tears itself apart at the seams. Grit never sounded so good and the band has a full length of more of the same on the way June 1st. Definitely worth a couple of spins through the speakers.



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HITS – “Tried Bikinis”

Thanks to the tip from the best ears on the ground in pop, Glenn Donaldson, on this one. There are plenty of cuts on Hits that radiate with a faded pastel charm, but the perfect pop of “Tried Bikinis” is unstoppable. The band captures the ‘80s ideals of thriving outside of a system that’s not built for bands that don’t scrub clean and fit the video-ready rabble of pre-fab pop. Infected with the kind of wonky wobble that made Raincoats, Dolly Mixture, and Kleenex work wonders on the spools of a yellow sport Walkman, this cut from Hits comes with the built in feeling of having been passed from mixtape to mixtape before it hit the foam phones wrapped around your teenaged head. The bass is so thick and rubbery its practically tactile through the speakers and just as the hooks start to dig the band pulls the carpet from underneath the catchiness. Its a cacaphonic, saccharine bit of aural bliss and I want it to go on waaaaay longer than the bare minute that it gets. Thankfully there’s plenty else to love on this cassette from the band — downer drowned pop, scotch tap traps, fuzzed hooks and hi-bias jangles. If you haven’t gotten your hands on this yet, go. Don’t wait.



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Cool Ghouls – Live ’19

Its been a little while since I’ve heard a peep from one of San Francisco’s finest, Cool Ghouls and while news of a new album would be amazing, a live document recorded at the city’s great psychedelic epicenter, The Chapel isn’t a bad gift either. The band runs through a good portion of their best, fleshing them out in ways that thicken up their jangle with a good dose of guitar flash. There have been some pretty essential live albums coming down in the past year with Howlin’ Rain, Wooden Ships, and Mythic Sunship all turning in live wire workouts and this one stands poised to stand alongside of them .Check out a burning version of “Animal Races” from the upcoming set below.




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The Telephone Numbers – I Took A Walk

Been waiting for this one to land for some time, as rumblings and Instagram pics floated out of the Bay Area over the last year. The Telephone Numbers are a trio featuring Thomas Rubenstein, Charlie Ertola, and Glenn Donaldson (Skygreen Leopards, Art Museums) coming together for a classic jangle-pop tumble through the sunny streets. Akin to Donaldson’s latest work with The Reds Pinks and Purples, but cleaner, less solitary and somber. There’s still a bittersweet tinge to their first single and it shines through on the title track, bringing to mind The Field Mice and later-period Felt. “I Took A Walk” is yearning, wrestling with a heavy heart, and not always winning. The band caps the single nicely with the spare, but sweet “I Don’t Wanna Cry,” a cover by pre-Big Hat band The Keys. Very excited to have and hold something from these guys, though hoping something physical might be in the works somewhere further down the line. This was practically made for sitting on the floor, staring at the ceiling and stilling oneself only to push the needle back to the beginning once more.




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Kelley Stoltz

Just a quick jump after his last offering from Banana & Louie, SF one-man supergroup Kelley Stoltz returns with the even more enticing My Regime. The record is one of Stoltz’ most packed platters in a long time, absolutely awash in bittersweet New Wave touches and moments of pop perfection. He’s long since jettisoned the garage gears from his persona, but there were still some inklings on last years’ Natural Causes and 2015’s In Triangle Time. This one falls closer in spirit to the prismed perspective of 2017’s quiet gem Que Aura, his last for Castle Face. Crammed with strums, multi-part harmonies, and an ingrained melancholy that imprints these songs on the high registers of the listeners’ soul, this is exactly where Stoltz excels.

He’s been found cropping up behind the boards more often these days, with his name swirling about the inserts for Spiral Stairs, RAYS, The Love-Birds, and The Staches, but unless he’s in front of the mic, I always feel like he’s a bit underused. There’s been shades of his work as a sideman for Echo & The Bunnyman on the last album, but as his tenure ended with the band it seems he’s processed even more of the imprint the band had on his formative songwriting years. There’s a warmer aura about Stoltz than Ian McCulloch would often employ, but the insistent, and emotionally complex pop hallmarks line up quite nicely here – think more along the lines of Crocodiles rather than Porcupine. Speaking of ‘80s impressions, and (sadly) timely reminders, there’s also a pretty heavy Cars shadow on this one and, if anyone can make it work, Stoltz is up to the task. There’s a dense catalog of works when approaching Kelley’s work, but after a few spins through My Regime, I’d say this is as good a place to start as any. Among his very best, to be sure.



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