What's not to love about a little soul tub, Oakland's Honeydrops posit in their debut album's title track. The tub, to be precise, is a bass made from a bucket, and it's joined in this blues-soul quartet's arsenal of unusual instruments by a jug and a washboard. But what really matters is the band's sturdy songwriting and spectacular swing.
Nigerian-born troubadour Ka-Chi's guitar work is solid, but his vocals are another story. The feeling that I'm feeling is just so amazing is sweet, but hardly a paragon of confessional songwriting. His bright, multi-tracked acoustic guitar, sounding like a twelve-string, fills the spaces between his words with warmth and spirit.
Oakland all the way, the Violent High spent six months self-recording its debut at Soundwave Studios and shouts out in the liner notes to venerable institutions like the Stork Club and the Kona Club. The music is a bit less expected: the sort of yearning, melodic hard-rock that's easy to spoil yet here does surprisingly well.
Piedmont pop-rock band Dizzy Balloon took an unassailably goofy submission to Live 105's Not So Silent Night opening act contest and turned it into something awesome.
Sometimes I really want to hurt myself/Sometimes I really want to hurt someone else may not be the best opening for an album looking to reconcile soul vocals with rock instrumentation; it just feels contrived. But not everything is soul rock. There's also soul funk, soul psych, even a stab at soul cabaret. The concept is noble, but the execution uneven.
Tim Mooney left acclaimed San Francisco sadcore band the American Music Club a couple years ago (alas, frontman Mark Eitzel moved the group to LA). Now he combines his percussion, guitar, bass, and production talents in this mischievous rock band, whose sophomore album is modest yet enjoyable, full of subtly sweet melodies.
Horns run amok on this Balkan brass band's second effort, a menagerie of sax, clarinet, trumpet, truba, trombone, sousaphone, and much more fused with exotic melodies, a preponderance of energy and pep, and, on occasion, entrancing female vocals. A few songs wander a bit, but that's a minor blemish on an otherwise praiseworthy release.
A handful of Bay Area talents including "Welcome Matt" Langlois and Dan the Automator contributed to this self-styled indie collective's debut. Founded in 2004 as a side project by mosaic artist Kris Jensen and Rondo Brother Jim Greer, Hey! Brontosaurus dabbles in various styles but never strays far from clean, breezy pop.
The three ladies of Von Iva want to make you shake, and as good as this material sounds on record, it'll be ten times better live. Six tracks of dance-floor electro-rock summon both Annie Lennox, in Jillian Iva's powerful vocals, and Blondie, in the band's aggressive use of synth and drum machines. Girls on Film packs a punch and teases better things to come.
Tracks from this veteran San Francisco electronic group's last album found their way to Sex and the City, a couple of TV commercials, and Tokyo Disneyland's Tomorrowland. Tipsy's Ipecac debut seems bound for no less strange places with a slightly deranged, yet more just playful (although calculatingly so) blend of lounge, J-pop, krautrock, and novelty music.