Cold Beat stays true to their synthy sound on new album "War Garden," composed over Zoom
Miko Marks covers CCR; East Oakland's Rayven Justice releases a new mixtape; plus a synthwave single from Tralala and a lesser known entry in the SF garage rock canon
The optimists among us hoped society would rev up to full speed with the vaccines. The pessimists assumed it would be short-lived, and we’d inevitably be caged in our houses like March 2020 all over again. And when the delta wave hit, it seemed like the pessimists were right. But the wave has already waned in the Bay Area at least, and now it’s more unclear than ever what comes next.
Live music venues, for example, are open for business. Even indoors—if you show proof of vaccination and agree to wear a mask the whole time. But how many people are ready to agree to these new terms, and aren’t afraid of the risks inherent in crowds, and actually even want to finally leave the comfort of their homes to be surrounded by strangers again, drinking overpriced drinks, watching the artist on stage sing us a song?
My hand is still raised.
Full of all sorts of antibodies, I felt a surge of emotion watching Bernal Heights-raised La Doña perform at the Great American Music Hall last Saturday. Though I had been to a few DJ events over the past few months, had seen the SF Symphony at Stern Grove, and of course have been practicing live with my own band, this was my first time seeing a group perform at an indoor venue. I could’ve cried. The fact that she was essentially playing with her family band made it all the more special. A few days later, I saw Miko Marks perform at Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse in Berkeley. Neither was a packed house, and neither felt like a “new normal,” but both were great shows featuring the best in local Bay Area music. And I’m here for it.
THAT NEW NEW
SF alt dance rock band Cold Beat released War Garden, a new 11-track collection of moody post-punk and synth pop. Arriving a year-and-a-half after the band’s debut on DFA (with Mother) and a few months after a song from that album (“Double Sided Mirror”) was remixed by several artists, most notably Stephen Mallinder of Cabaret Voltaire, Cold Beat continues to nestle into a synth-driven sound fit for lights off dancing alone at home. The album is being received well: Read the review on Bandcamp, where it was named album of the day this past Wednesday.
Well damn, here’s a groove. With roots in Nigeria but now based in the Bay, Big Klef released a live performance of feel-good R&B track “Rolling” on Good Compenny.
SF producer David D’Angelo mixed dreamy jazz piano with crisp beats for new hip hop track “Keep My Distance” featuring MayDay on the mic.
DRIVING WHILE BLACK, an experimental hip hop and ambient producer out of Oakland, released Live from the Basement, featuring wavy “raw jam sessions” recorded in the studio but cut with crowd sounds to give the feel of a live performance.
“Born in Baltimore, schooled at Julliard, played with Eric Dolphy, McCoy Tyner, Max Roach, Abbey Lincoln, and was a member of Charles Mingus' Jazz Workshop AND Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers all BEFORE he played with Miles.” Storied saxophonist Gary Bartz appears on “Samsara”, marking the 100th release in Funkwrench Blues’ “Need to Know Badass Blues Instrumentals Series.”
“San Francisco may be sucking up attention for its plethora of lo-fi-til-we-die groups making hazy, borderless guitar pop with their roommates; but over in Oakland, bands like Hits are making an altogether artier and more skeletal iteration of indie pop.” Following recent releases by local acts Flowertown and April Magazine, Paisley Shirt Records released Cielo Nublado (“Cloudy Sky”) by Oakland art pop trio Hits. Read more about why Bandcamp named the album one of this week’s essential releases.
Kehlani announced her next album Blue Water Road is slated for release this winter. Watch the video for the first single “Altar.”
This one gets triple credit for Bay Area representation. Backed by the Resurrectors (San Jose), Oakland country singer Miko Marks released a cover of “Long as I Can See the Light” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. (As much as we all grew up thinking CCR was a southern rock band, they can no longer hide the fact that they’re from El Cerrito.) At her show in Berkeley this past week, Marks also revealed that she will be releasing an album called Race Records, referencing the music marketed to African-Americans up to the 1940s.
“We’re far from one of the most popular bands. But after 25 years, we’re kind of a San Francisco institution.” Founded in 1996, psychedelic rockers Mushroom just released Songs of Dissent: Live at Make Out Room 8/9/19, which is just what it says. It also happens to be the band’s first album in over a decade. Read more on SF Weekly.
Showing off a sideshow paradise on the cover, R&BAY VOLUME 2 is the newest mixtape from East Oakland rapper Rayven Justice. Featured artists include Mistah F.A.B., Stunnaman02, Hitta Slim, Ally Cocaine, and more. Last week Rayven Justice appeared on Too $hort’s track “Raider Colors” and last month he joined Yhung T.O., J. Stalin, and BANG on “Hoop Dreams.”
This one goes out to all the loyal friends and fans of small bands and artists that haven’t made it big yet: “Did You Put Your Song Up Today?” b/w “Waiting on a Ghost to Haunt You” is the newest melancholic chamber pop song from Glenn Donaldson’s project the Reds, Pinks, and Purples.
Oakland’s seven-piece psychedelic cumbia group Ritmos Tropicosmos released “Cumbia en la Sierra” b/w Con Cuidado, their second single on local label Discos Más.
Thao and the Get Down Stay Down released a stringed rendition of “Marrow”, the closing track from the band’s fifth studio album Temple released last year.
The limited edition cassette already sold out but you can still listen to the fire breaks on A State of Flux via Ghost Reporter. All music produced by Oakland artist 4d. with the final edit done by Vallejo artist SELA.
24kGoldn is featured on “Spaceship”, the newest single from LA’s Drakeo the Ruler.
Personally, I’m super excited about this one. A year after LIGHT BEINGS #2, SMARTBOMB announced it’s releasing the third installment in its mixtape series on September 24. Watch a teaser for the release, featuring a new track by RITCHRD.
“Harrowing sonic scourge evoking realms of darkness and terror.” Oakland’s Sentient Ruin Laboratories released Anarchic Rapture of Withering by Dutch band Zaqqoem.
Manchester guitarist and engineer James Doviak, who currently works with ex-Smiths member Johnny Marr, helped fine-tune the post-punk-meets-synth-pop production on the second single from this emerging SF duo. Founded in April 2020, Tralala is made up of Drew Price (voice, guitar) and Chris Trewin (guitar, bass, synths), and this past March they released “Get Up (Just Don’t Lie to Me)”, featuring guest vocalist Whitney Miley Price. It’s a pretty, poignant track, reminiscent of Pet Shop Boys—and worth more than one listen.
The Flamin’ Groovies arose out of the San Francisco music scene of the mid-1960s, but they never attempted to be part of that city’s big psychedelic party.
Here’s another classic I discovered via 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, which all my friends are sick of hearing about. (I’m slowly working my way through the book, dedicating one week to each entry.) But unlike other big names with ties to the Bay, like Janis Joplin and the 13th Floor Elevators, the Flamin’ Groovies was a name I had never heard before. And perhaps, as a quote from the book above suggests, it’s because they didn’t fit into the mold of SF psychedelia.
Instead, as you hear throughout Teenage Head, the group dug into a bluesy garage rock sound that has been compared to the the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers, which also came out in 1971. In fact, Allmusic says that in the liner notes to the album’s 1999 reissue, Andy Kotowicz writes that Mick Jagger noticed the similarities too and “thought the Groovies did the better job.” I’m not sure about that, but it’s cool to know that SF’s garage rock roots go deeper than the 21st century.
If you ever want to press play on the growing list of artists covered on White Crate, follow this Spotify playlist. Shuffle and crossfade recommended!