Hang Jones' album-length ballad about outlaw William Bishop, broken down into twelve chapters, is about as close as you'll get to a folk opera. Storytelling takes a front seat in this 45-minute ride from the "Mexico Line" to "Hangman's Noose" (though he ends up "Alive"), as mandolin, upright bass, and fiddle keep things moving along nicely.
While Painted Bird's second EP is available for free on MySpace, it sounds best on the limited-edition extra-heavy vinyl the band issued to complement its all-analog recording by Tim Green's Louder Studios. The San Francisco duo plays sludgy math-punk songs with spoken lyrics - though at about 45 seconds each, they're more like demos.
Brian Kelly's piano-based instrumental music has a whiff of new age, but don't hold that against it. Throughout Afterplay, the swing and complexity of melodic jazz and the studio precision of Steely Dan counteract any inherent wishy-washiness. Sax, flute, trumpet, trombone, and more help Kelly's quiet compositions make a confident statement.
San Francisco's thriving electronic scene can seem out-of-reach to fans unwilling or unable to make a second home at the clubs. Progressive breaks innovators JD Moyer and Mark Musselman bridge the gap by complementing their weekly experimental breakbeat show with this headphone-worthy and pop-friendly collection of original songs.
How excellent indeed when experimental music is also entirely listenable. That's the beauty of Oakland electro-agitator Hawnay (née Vice Cooler) Troof's second album, which applies a left-field electronica sensibility to the sort of gritty, urban dance-pop that's made a resurgence around here recently. Although nothing short of cutting-edge, Islands sounds fantastic.
More banjo. More harmonica. Sure it sounds good, but folk revival has grown cliché in the Bay Area indie scene. Oakland's Feels Like Fire lands on the authentic side of the fence with a fiery, upbeat treatment from two musicians who can really play: Max Macfarlane on guitar and accordion; and Mike Oz, whose banjo more than earns its keep.
Pidgeon is heavy, like when Nick shrieks over Nirvana levels of distortion and punk levels of aggression; and soft, like when Micah coos over soft arpeggios. Yet more often, Pidgeon bounces back and forth. This is the album's greatest strength, for piece by piece it merely gets by, but as a whole it exhibits brilliant flexibility.
A few years after settling in San Francisco in 1987, Uruguayan vocalist, bandleader, and conga drummer Edgardo Cambón cut his first record with Candela. Today the nine-piece, jazz-inflected salsa band is one of the Bay Area's finest. This anniversary record proves Candela can still deliver the goods to dance floors and home stereos alike.
Welcome to the Bay/It's an independent game that we like to play, Jaedelle rushes out over a sterile beat in the leadoff track. This quasi-experimentalism doesn't gel with "Ride Yo Scraper," in which Jaedelle graciously describes in her native Australian accent the types of cars Bay Areans like to drive, yaddimean? Hyphy lives and dies again in 63 minutes.
Picture this: a hand-labeled CD-R inside a white paper sleeve decorated with one-of-a-kind splotches of red and black paint. The four Splinters created every copy of their debut EP out of devotion to the low-budget, DIY ethic that permeates their music, which resembles Beat Happening and early REM in its pop-inflected take on the ramshackle underground.