Like the best poetry, Eternal engages from the start and expands with each pass. Built upon Smith's Eastern-influenced acoustic guitar and sparing contributions from four fellow instrumentalists, the disc explores both the form and sound of music through seven joyous, contemplative tracks.
Daddy Cool is one Charles Davis: studio wonk, songwriter, music instructor, and bassist-for-hire. This record finds Davis' friends returning the favor, as eight musicians in varying roles help flesh out his homage to funk lords James Brown, Bootsy Collins, and George Clinton.
There's a lot to like about Silence Is Safety's sound: a nice blend of pop- and old-school punk, a tight rhythm section, the ability to slow things down without stopping them dead. Unfortunately, showy vocals from frontwoman Red tend to overpower everything else.
San Francisco punk trio Creepy converts a collection of three new songs and two previously released EPs, one dating back to 2003, into a fine thirty-minute full-length. The group's effortless balance of aggression and melody could find itself a good home on the Warped Tour.
Featuring three brothers and a friend, San Francisco pop-rock act Hot Challenge has a leg up in the chemistry department. But this isn't enough to mask the fact that the ten-month-old band still needs time to mature and tighten up.
There's a hint of Fiona Apple in the way Grace Woods modulates her voice from high to low and sing to speak, though Woods' wide range causes her to sometimes drift past the sweet spot. Musically, the trio - piano, bass, and drums - explores dark pop from a jazz perspective.
Algerian born DJ Cheb i Sabbah is a world music fixture at clubs across San Francisco. His latest work treats the devotional music of some of India's top artists to electronica textures and beats, though the effect is predictable and not always complementary.
Hey Willpower, featuring members of Tussle and Imperial Teen, doesn't come off as sexy as it wants to be or as musically interesting as it needs to be. But if you can appreciate unabashed electro-pop (shame on you if you can't) you'll find something you like here - such as the slyly addictive lead single "Hundredaire."
Not quite riot grrl, not simply pop-punk: the Bruises load upbeat, dynamic pop songs with muscle and a bit of attitude, then smooth out the edges. Don't expect the menacing energy of Sleater-Kinney or the alt-rock nostalgia of Veruca Salt, rather something in the middle that works just as well.
With the state of the music industry the way it is, musicians increasingly are doing everything DIY, from releasing their own music to making their own videos. And thanks to OK Go's now-famous treadmill dance video and ensuing popularity, coupled with MTV's nearly video-free programming and the accessibility created by YouTube, MySpace, and Facebook, independent artists are putting more and more effort into their videos in hopes that stunning visuals will propel their music to a bigger audience. This being the Bay Area, home of artists and tech geeks galore, many local musicians are jumping on the bandwagon, with pretty cool results.
Here's San Francisco-based band Scrabbel and its video for "Emily, I":
And Goh Nakamura's video for "Embarcadero Blues":