Christopher Owens

A joyful noise


LEFT OF THE DIAL Christopher Owens, San Francisco resident, has a problem.

It’s one of those problems that maybe doesn’t sound like a problem to people who didn’t achieve critical darling status in the artistic industry of their choice by age 30, but it is a problem nonetheless. The problem is that Girls, his old band, was a very, very good band that wrote complex but catchy, rocking but intimate songs, drawing from ’80s power-pop and ’60s doo-wop and orchestral rock to talk about breakups and his escape from a deeply complicated childhood ensconced in the cult-like Children of God sect of Christianity. Girls was instantly, recognizably, good — in a way that seemed, on first listen, to stem from very little effort, though the depth of Owens’ confessional songwriting forced you to understand otherwise if you spent 30 seconds thinking about it.

The Christopher Owens problem is that after two albums of very good music by his very good band, the band broke up and he decided to go it alone, and not everyone was impressed with the result. Lysandre, Owens’ debut solo work, released in January of last year, was a concept album, full of proggy theatrical flair and flute solos. It had moments where it shined, but it was not the seamless work we’d come to expect from the songwriter; Owens himself later admitted he just sort of had to get it out of his system.

Fast-forward about 18 months, and the music press seems almost breathlessly relieved by his second go. A New Testament (Turnstile), released last week, is indeed easier on the ears. It’s a straight-up countrified Owens, an identity he’s hinted at previously but never fully embraced, with clear gospel influences and a renewed appreciation for pop structure and aesthetics; it allows Owens’ first-person lyrics to take center stage again. (He’ll play songs from the new record at Great American Music Hall Sat/11).

Is it a safer record than his previous effort? Sure. Does it follow more conventional Americana-pop rules? Yep. Does he sound like he’s having more fun actually making the music? Hell yes.

It’s that sense, actually, that seems to be confusing and alarming critics left and right (to an amusing degree, if you were to read, say, a dozen reviews in a row.) Christopher Owens seems happy. The Christopher Owens? He of the loaded religious upbringing, who made a name writing incredibly well-crafted songs about doomed relationships? How could he?

“That reaction has definitely surprised me,” the 35-year-old says with a laugh. He’s a little weary from doing press interviews all day from his home in SF when I catch up with him by phone about a week before the record comes out, but otherwise seems like he’s in good spirits.

“For one, the writing spans about four years, so it doesn’t make sense to paint it as a ‘Oh, he’s happy now,’ type of thing. Yes, I’m grateful for a lot in my life right now.” (One can’t help but think his stable, long-term relationship and relatively recent sobriety have played a part, though he doesn’t really want to discuss either topic.)

“I would never set out to make a ‘positive record,’ but I’m glad it’s having that effect on people.” He thinks a moment. “I also think that’s maybe just the sound of a lot of people working together who like each other very much, having fun.”

Those people include producer Doug Boehm, who produced Lysandre, as well as Girls’ acclaimed second record, Father, Son, Holy Ghost; the band also includes a keyboardist, drummer, and guitarist who played on that Girls album. Other people — like gospel singers Skyler Jordan, Traci Nelson, and Makeda Francisco, who provide backup on “Stephen,” a weighty, cathartic elegy of a song for Owens’ brother who died at age two — were instrumental in how Owens selected tracks once he decided this was going to be his country record. (He has hundreds of songs and half-songs to choose from, written and stored away on his computer at home.)

The overwhelming influence of gospel — not to mention the biblical record title — will likely come off as something of a wink to longtime Owens fans; his struggle to reconcile his ultra-religious upbringing and the tumultuous period of his life that followed his leaving the church at age 16 are both well-documented.

But the reference isn’t quite so straightforwardly tongue-in-cheek, says Owens. Gospel, in particular, has come full circle for him.

“I’ve had a long history with spiritual and religious music,” he says. “We weren’t Pentecostal, but it was still about asking God to take away your burdens. There’s a desperation to it, a genuineness and earnestness.

“If you talked to me about gospel music in my teens I would probably have been very disparaging, but as I got older and calmed down more in my 20s, I started appreciating it as music,” he says. “The fact of, we’re going to sit around and sing together, and what that does to the energy in the room.”

It was in his early 20s that someone gave him a record by the singer Mahalia Jackson, known as “the Queen of Gospel,” also known for her contributions to the Civil Rights movement. The gift was almost as a joke, says Owens.

“Knowing my history [with religion], it was ‘Here, Chris, you’ll like this,'” says the singer. “But I remember realizing, this woman is fantastic. So it’s been about coming to a place where I can see the value in the music itself, which I think is part of the point. ‘Let us make a joyful noise unto the Lord.’ And as I started to write and play music myself, it’s been about figuring out a way to do that with a non-religious quality, how to strip the music of its religious associations. I’ve listened to a lot of Elvis’ gospel albums…

“If you’re from the Ukraine and you walk into a gospel church, even if you don’t understand the language, you’re still going to get goosebumps,” he continues. “There’s still power in the sound.”

As for the Christopher Owens problem: Judging by early reviews, he’s appeased some Girls fans who were left cold by his first solo effort. Not that he puts too much stock in other peoples’ opinions of him. He’s happy with the record. And yeah, he admits, he is happy, in general, at the moment. And yet:

“It’s kind of funny that people are thinking of the record like that. Because even when you have these blessings, life always goes both ways. I think life is an uphill climb,” he says. “If you’re climbing the right way.”


With The Tyde and Carletta Sue Kay

Sat/11, 9pm, $21

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell, SF

(415) 885-0750

Locals only: Outside Lands edition


LEFT OF THE DIAL Can you smell it in the air? It’s that late-summer, chilled pinot grigio-tipsy, organic ice cream-sticky scent of Outside Lands, just around the corner.

Yes, it’s that time in our fair city’s annual trip around the sun when we get the chance to show Austin and Indio and those warm summer New York nights exactly what we here in San Francisco are made of when it comes to music festivals: Namely, expensive, gourmet food, wine, and beer stands, a commitment to slapping the word “green” in front of everything; and a beautiful, natural outdoor venue in which, should you forget to bring three extra layers in an oversized bag, you will absolutely freeze your ass off by nightfall.

All snark aside, one thing I’ve always appreciated about OSL in its six short summers is that, nestled amongst the sometimes overwhelmingly corporate feel of the thing — something that was maybe inevitable, as Another Planet Entertainment grew from little-promoter-offshoot-that-could into perhaps the most influential promotions company in the Bay Area music biz — is a commitment to bringing local bands along for the ride whenever possible.

Sure, everyone’s excited to see Kanye. I’m excited to see Kanye. Anyone who’s going to see Kanye and tries to say anything more intellectual about it than “I’m really fucking amused in advance and very excited to see Kanye” is lying. But nothing fills me with more hometown pride than watching a band I’ve been rooting for since they were playing living rooms or parklets take the stage in Golden Gate Park in front of thousands of paying, attentive potential new fans.

With that in mind, here’s your guide to a few of our favorite local folks representing the Bay Area at this year’s fest. Show up for ’em. In most cases, they’ve been working toward this for a long time. And if you don’t have the funds to make it to this year’s OSL? Lucky for us — unlike Kanye — these kids play around the Bay all year round.

Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers

The unofficial queen of Bay Area alt-folk has had a good year since August 2013, when her band’s debut LP took to the airwaves and then to the national stage, with Bluhm’s killer vocals and long, tall mishmash of Stevie/Janis appeal at the helm. Fri/8 at 4pm, Sutro Stage


SF’s own Scott Hansen has also been riding high this year, since the release of Awake in March propelled him from bedroom artist to something else entirely with its lush, ambitious landscapes of color and sound. We still think we prefer him in headphones to outdoor festival-style, but we’ll take it. Sat/9 at 3:40pm, Twin Peaks Stage

Mikal Cronin

If you don’t know his solo stuff (and you should; last year’s MCII was one of the best local records of the year), you probably know him as Ty Segall’s right-hand man. Either way, Cronin is one of the most authentic voices in the Bay Area’s indie scene right now, with just enough power-pop sweetness and strings coloring even his scratchiest garage-punk anthems. Fri/8 at 4:30pm, Panhandle Stage

Christopher Owens

Did you love Girls (the SF indie powerhouse, RIP, not the HBO show)? Of course you did. Did you love Christopher Owens’ solo debut, Lysandre? We did too. He’s giving us another one in September; now’s your chance for a sneak preview of some likely highly emotional and lushly orchestrated songs. Sat/9 at 2:30, Sutro Stage


This 27-year-old rapper and SF University High School graduate has been gaining attention with his whiplash-inducing flow, which he honed in his teens as a slam poetry champion. His most recent album, June’s All You Can Do, is poised to take him from Internet and Ellen-famous to just famous-famous. Sun/10, 2pm, Twin Peaks Stage

Trails & Ways

Bossa nova dream pop, Brazilian shoegaze, whatever you call it: This Oakland quartet (and Bay Guardian Band on the Rise from 2012) draws inspiration from all over the globe for its undeniably catchy, never predictable, harmony-drenched melodies. Sat/9 at 12:40pm, Twin Peaks Stage

Beso Negro

“This is not your father’s gypsy jazz,” warns Beso Negro’s bio, which — while we’re pretty sure our dad doesn’t have a kind of gypsy jazz — does a pretty good job of explaining the modern sounds infused into this Fairfax five-piece’s musical vocabulary. Hell Brew Revue Stage, all three days, check the website for details

Tumbleweed Wanderers

As if we didn’t have a big enough soft spot for this East Bay alt-soul-folk outfit already, there’s the fact that they got their start busking outside of festivals for their first few years — including Outside Lands. Seeing them on the inside will be sweet. Sat/9 at noon, Sutro Stage

El Radio Fantastique

With horns, theremin, and just about every kind of percussion you can think of, this Point Reyes-based eight-piece is a mish-mash of everything dark and dancey and nerdy and weird, describing themselves as “part rumba band in purgatory, part cinematic chamber group, part shipwrecked serenade.” Serious cult following here. Hell Brew Revue Stage, all three days

Slim Jenkins

Sultry, jazzy, rootsy — we’re excited to see what this mainstay of “voodoo blues” nights at small rooms like Amnesia can do on a bigger stage. Hell Brew Revue Stage, all three days

Marty O’Reilly & the Old Soul Orchestra

O’Reilly, a singer-songwriter who’s clearly done his Delta roots, gospel, and traditional folk homework, played OSL last year — well before putting out a debut studio album, the aptly titled Pray For Rain, in March of this year. This is a three-piece with arrangements that make the band seem much bigger. Hell Brew Revue Stage, all three days

Our Weekly Picks: March 20-26, 2013



Mr. Marina Competition

Why would you pay $50 for an hour of hosted Skyy vodka and Peronis? Why, when it’s preceding what may well be the most self-aware (we hope) SF bro moment of the year: the two-year-old Mr. Marina competition. The winner among 10 brah-ly contestants will become VIP at various Marina businesses for 2013 and will be proud that he slapped cancer, as goes the moniker for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society booster club through which this event’s proceeds are donated to fighting disease. Swimwear competition, talent portion, and impromptu question fielded in stereotypically “Marina” outfits will help judges pick a dude-gem. (Caitlin Donohue)

7pm-11pm, $50

Ruby Skye

420 Mason, SF


Chelsea Light Moving

Kim Gordon’s new band, Body/Head, was just here for a Noise pop show, so….let’s just get this out of the way: yes, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore is the guitarist-vocalist-songwriter behind Chelsea Light Moving. And no, Sonic Youth does not have plans to reunite. Chelsea Light Moving is now on its first official tour, in support of its self-titled debut album, which came out March 5 on Matador Records, and has the bloggers buzzing. The post-rock foursome, named for an actual moving company run by Philip Glass and Steve Reich, maintains Moore’s jagged guitar work and tendency towards the fuzz, but some tracks hold a quieter calm, and lean more toward pop than Sonic Youth ever did, which is an interesting departure. San Francisco’s harmonious post-punk trio Grass Widow opens. (Emily Savage)

With Grass Widow

8pm, $21

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell, SF


“Growing Pains: Business of Cannabis”

Where have the federal intervention of past years and the more recent steps forward in legalizing marijuana across the country left us in the fair city of San Francisco? At this talk, hear thoughts from long-haired news contributor to fellow SF Newspaper Company-owned publication SF Examiner, Chris Roberts, and ex-marijuana grower Heather Donahue who yes, also starred in the swervy shots of 1999’s Blair Witch Project. More relevant for the purpose of this blurb, Donahue wrote a book about her experience in small town NorCal weed country, and coupled with Roberts’ knowledge of Bay Area weed businesses, their thoughts should make interesting discussion. If you’ve already got a burning question for the duo, send it in advance of the event to (Donohue)

6:30-7:30pm, free

RSVP recommended at

San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR)

645 Mission, SF


Shen Wei Dance Arts: “Undivided Divided”

The Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics presented stunning artistic spectacles (minus that whole unfortunate thing with the lip-syncing scandal), and Shen Wei, their choreographer, played a large role. The Ceremonies offers a good example of the artist’s work, which is known for its bridging of cultures and melding of the traditions of dance with innovative contemporary techniques. Shen Wei comes to YBCA with a long list of credentials — including a MacArthur Award and Guggenheim Fellowship — and a spectacular performance, “Undivided Divided,” that involves dancers moving in grids of different mediums such as sculpture and paint. (Laura Kerry)

Through March 24

8pm, $25

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

701 Mission, SF

(415) 978-2700



“Chillwave” or “chill-vibe” music. Are those terms en vogue or just plain nauseating? Whatever your opinion, there’s no escaping the fact that this Mashi Mashi Presents show will be an evening of electronic, dream-pop, and synth. When Mohani (Oakland’s own Donghoon Han) unleashes his own brand of K-Pop meets Joe Meek’s version of outer space, the soundscape will in fact leave you mellowed out. (This is his album release show.) Deliciously, atmospheric synth blips will rule this night featuring some truly emerging artists, while a good hook for the sake of song structure will not be forgotten. Keep your ears tuned in between acts as the DJ interweaves some carefully selected tracks to keep things moody. (Andre Torrez)

With Li Xi, THEMAYS, DJ Mashi Mashi

9pm, $7 Knockout

3223 Mission, SF

(415) 550-6994



This ubiquitous LA-based rapper has eight solo albums out, one in the mix, and a hand in half a dozen side projects and collectives, often featuring in three or four different albums per year. Whether he’s going solo, rapping with Atmosphere’s Slug in their duo Felt, or getting indie-licious with Living Legends, Murs’ smart and surefooted rhymes stand out. He recently stirred up some controversy in the hip-hop community for featuring a gay kiss in one of his videos to highlight his support of marriage equality, a bold move both atypical of rappers and extremely fitting of Murs. He seems to have taken his own advice to heart when he raps on “Everything”, “Be original/Be different/Be the one to stand up and shock this system.” (Haley Zaremba)

With Prof, Fashawn, Black Cloud

9pm, $21


333 11th St, SF

(415) 255-0333



Ducktails produces summery rock. The band’s third album, The Flower Lane, released this past January, could span a lazy day at the beach; the low-key but bright album opener, “Ivy Covered House,” provides the soundtrack to a short drive with windows down, while the breezy love song, “Letter of Intent,” underscores the last embers of nighttime bonfire. The side project of Real Estate’s Matt Mondanile, what started as a solo act has developed into a tight band that performs upbeat pop songs to full audiences. Ducktails brings to these, along with a bit of premature summer, to the Chapel tonight. (Kerry)

With Mark McGuire

9pm, $15


777 Valencia, SF

(415) 551-5157


The Specials

Let’s begin with pick-it-up, pick-it-up songs “A Message to You, Rudy,” and “Nite Klub,” and upbeat haunter “Ghost Town” — British two-tone legends the Specials released now-classic ska gems early in their career, beginning in ’79 with their self-titled debut. The band inched up through the early ’80s with followup, More Specials and more danceable two-tone tracks like anti-work anthem “Rat Race” and foggy “Stereotype/Stereotypes, Pt. 2.” Over the decades the band has broken up, gotten back together, gained and lost members, experience shiny revival popularity, and remained that of checkerboard legend. See the Specials live now, while you still have the joint strength to skank in the pit. (Savage)

With Little Hurricane, DJ Harry Duncan


928 Market, SF

(415) 345-0900


Christopher Owens

For most singer-songwriters who break big, life becomes a wild ride. For Christopher Owens, the critical and commercial success of his band Girls was just another event in a lifetime of crazy trips. He’s been, among other things, a cult member, a drug addict, a knife salesman, and a punk rocker. With such experiences, he has enough material for a lifetime of therapeutic songwriting. But Owens only seems to be able to write about one thing — love. While Girls tried their hardest to perfect the indie love song, Owens’ new solo album Lysandre tries harder. The record itself is one huge love story about a girl he met while on tour with Girls in France, and the duo’s subsequent rise and fall. The music and the lyrics are earnest, simple, and heart-achingly relatable. While the loss of Girls is a blow to the San Francisco music scene, one listen to Lysandre certainly eases the pain. (Zaremba)

8pm, $25

Palace of Fine Arts

3301 Lyon, SF

(415) 567-6642


Half the Sky

Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s best-selling book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide inspired many of its readers to become activists. Its message has been further shared thanks to a four-hour PBS documentary highlighting international women’s rights issues, with a little celebrity help from Diane Lane, Meg Ryan, Gabrielle Union, and others. In honor of Women’s History Month, the Guardian’s own Caitlin Donohue hosts an abridged screening of this important film, followed by what’s sure to be a lively discussion about San Francisco’s role in advancing women’s rights worldwide. (Cheryl Eddy)

7pm, free

Artists’ Television Access

992 Valencia, SF



This band of young ruffians out of Copenhagen has had a whirlwind adolescence. After two albums and international acclaim, the gents in Iceage are still teenagers at 19-years-old. 2011’s New Brigade and this year’s You’re Nothing add up to one searing hour of punk rock fueled by the sort of unbridled, unfiltered fury that only coming of age can produce. Their particular sound mashes in elements of post-punk, hardcore, and industrial to create a delicious sonic mess. The group recently came under fire after a blogger posted a conspiracy theory-esque article about Iceage’s “chic racism.” Though the claims were unfounded and the research woefully incomplete, the allegations just won’t disappear. But hey, the rage and confusion stemming from this sort of injustice and abuse of modern forms of communication seems like a recipe for a great follow-up album. (Zaremba)

With Merchandise, Wet Hair, DJ Omar

8pm, $12

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell, SF

(415) 861-2011



It’s not just that Caveman’s music is dreamy, but it also shares qualities with dreams. The band’s first album, CoCo Beware (2011) simultaneously sounds close and ambiently distant. Caveman’s self-titled second album, released April 2, will build on these effects, which have produced compelling performances and earned the band impressive recognition in the past couple of years. With beautifully pure vocals and beats that are funkier than expected, the band plays folk-pop with a vividness of a daydream or the last images before waking. Get swept up in the momentum of Caveman’s reverie at the Independent. (Kerry)

With Pure Bathing Culture

8pm, $15


628 Divisadero, SF

(617) 771-1421

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YEAR IN MUSIC 2012: Top 10s Galore


YEAR IN MUSIC Local musicians, rappers, producers, and music writers sound off on the year’s best songs, album releases, shows, personal triumphs, and local acts.





TOP 10 OF 2012

1. Starting our own label HLR and releasing our own record (Internal Logic)

2. Total Control’s LP

3. Touring with the Raincoats and singing “Lola” with them every night

4. Getting obsessed with Silver Apples

5. Hollywood Nails

6. Wymond Miles LP

7. Scrapers (band)

8. Sacred Paws (band)

9. Making eight music videos and losing my mind

10. Wet Hair’s LP




TOP 10 2012 RAP JAMZ

1. DJ Nate, “Gucci Gogglez” 2. Chief Keef, “Ballin” 3. French Montana, “Shot Coller” 4. Chippy Nonstop, “Money Dance” DJ Two Stacks remix 5. Cash Out, “Cashin’ Out” 6. Future, “Turn on the Lights” 7. Gucci Mane, “Bussin Juggs” 8. Juicy J, “Drugged Out” 9. Lil Mouse, “Don’t Get Smoked” 10. Lil Reese, “Traffic” feat. Chief Keef







1. Les Sins/”Fetch”/12″ (Jiaolong)

Run, fall, catch your desire.

2. The Soft Moon/”Want”/Zeros (Captured Tracks)

Infinite want, can’t have it. O, ye of bad faith.

3. Frank Ocean/”Pyramids”/channel ORANGE (Def Jam)

Pimping Cleopatra, whoring the pyramids.

4. Daphni aka Caribou/”Ye ye”/Jiaolong (Jiaolong)

Affirmation on repeat.

5. Grimes/”Genesis”/Visions (4AD)

Whatever, you know you like it.

6. Todd Terje/”Inspector Norse”/It’s the Arps (Olsen/Smalltown Supersound)

Inspecting never felt so good.

7. Burial/”Kindred”/Kindred (Hyperdub)

Kindred outcasts, jealously desiring their solitude.

8.John Talabot/”Estiu”/Fin (Permanent Vacation)

If a permanent vacation wasn’t hell, this might be its soundtrack.

9. Purity Ring/”Obedear”/Shrines (4AD)

Nothing pure in this abject need.

10. Kendrick Lamar/”A.D.H.D.”/good kid m.A.A.d city (Interscope)

Crack babies: she says, distracted, endless desire.





1. Toro Y Moi 2. Christopher Willits 3. Blackbird Blackbird 4. Jessica Pratt 5. Sam Flax 6. Ty Segall 7. Yalls 8. Doombird 9. Little Foxes 10. Dusty Brown





1. Dawnbringer, Into the Lair of the Sun God (Profound Lore)

2. Asphyx, Deathhammer (Century Media)

3. Woods of Ypres, V: Grey Skies & Electric Light (Earache)

4. Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats, Blood Lust (Metal Blade)

5. Pallbearer, Sorrow And Extinction (Profound Lore)

6. Windhand, Windhand (Forcefield Records)

7. Omens EP

8. Hour of 13, 333 (Earache)

9. Gojira, L’enfant Sauvage (Roadrunner)

10. Lord Dying, Demo





1. The Shins, Port Of Morrow (Amazon — forgive me, I had a gift card.)

2. The Walkmen, Heaven (Urban Outfitters clearance — yeah, I know, but you can’t beat brand-new vinyl for $10.)

3. Various Artists, Death Might Be Your Santa Claus (Boo Boo Records, San Luis Obispo. My hometown record store.)

4. Ella Fitzgerald, Live at Montreaux (Boo Boo Records, San Luis Obispo)

5. Mahalia Jackson, Christmas With Mahalia (Abbot’s Thrift, Felton, CA — Great thrift store in the Santa Cruz Mountains.)

6. Benjamin Britten/Copenhagen Boys Choir, A Ceremony Of Carols (Abbot’s Thrift, Felton, Calif.)

7. Thurston Moore, Demolished Thoughts (Urban Outfitters clearance)

8. The Hunches, Exit Dreams (1234Go! Records, Oakland)

9. Various Artists/Angelo Badalamenti, Wild At Heart OST (Streetlight Records, Santa Cruz)

10. Tijuana Panthers, “Crew Cut” seven-inch (Picked up at show — Brick and Mortar Music Hall, San Francisco)





1. Sleepy Todd

2. Tommy McDonald of The Range of Light Wilderness

3. Emily Ritz of Yesway and DRMS (biased opinion, I know)

4. Kyle Field of Little Wings

5. Alexi Glickman of Sandy’s

6. Michael Musika

7. Bart Davenport

8. Indianna Hale

9. Jeffrey Manson

10. Sonya Cotton





1. El Ten Eleven at the New Parish

2. Good Old War at Slim’s

3. Girls at Bimbo’s

4. St Vincent and Tune-Yards at The Fox

5. Bomb the Music Industry! at Bottom of the Hill

6. Fucked Up at Slim’s

7. Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra at the Fillmore

8. Ariel Pink at Bimbo’s

9. Conor Oberst at the Fillmore

10. Titus Andronicus at the Great American Music Hall




BEST OF 2012

1. “See All Knows All,” A Thing By Sonny Smith at The Lost Church.

2. “Silent Music” music ephemera show at Vacation (651 Larkin) curated by Lee Reymore, opening party set by the Fresh and Onlys, after -party pot cookie monsters invade the Gangway.

3. Dusty Stax & The Bold Italic Present: “Summer Soul Friday Night”.

4. Wax Idol’s Hether Fortune fronting the Birthday Party cover band at Vacation.

5. Jessica Pratt’s debut LP (Birth Records).

6. Bambi Lake at the Museum of Living Art.

7. Pruno Truman, aka Heidi Alexander from the Sandwitches “Sleeping with the TV on” b/w Carletta Sue Kay “No, no” (Weird World).

8. Opening for Baby Dee at Brick & Mortar Music Hall.

9. Kelley Stoltz’s cover of “Sunday Morning” on Velvet Underground and Nico by Castle Face & Friends (Castle Face).

10. Christopher Owens premiers Lysandre live at the Lodge.

11. Mark Eitzel’s Don’t Be A Stranger (Merge) and its accompanying promo video series. Featuring Grace Zabriskie, Neil Hamburger, Parker Gibbs et al.





1. “Spinning Centers” Chelsea Wolfe: Unknown Rooms

2. “Who Needs Who” Dark Dark Dark: Who Needs Who

3. “Oblivion,” Grimes: Visions

4. “Old Magic” Mariee Sioux: Gift for the End

5. “Apostle” Marissa Nadler: The Sister

6. “In Your Nature” Zola Jesus: seven-inch (w/ David Lynch Re-Mix)

7. “Silent Machine” Cat Power: Sun

8. “Moon in My Mind,” Frankie Rose: Interstellar

9. “Serpents,” Sharon Van Etten: Tramp

10. “Video Games,” Lana Del Rey: Born to Die





1.Moons, Bloody Mouth

2.Patti Smith, Banga

3.Mykki Blanco, Cosmic Angel: The Illuminati Prince/ss Mixtape


5.Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid m.A.A.d city

6.Shady Hawkins, Dead to Me

7.Howth, Newkirk

8. Bikini Kill EP (reissue)

9. Sharky Coast, Pizza Dreamz demo

10. FIDLAR, No Waves/No Ass seven-inch





1. Air, Le voyage dans la lune

2. Naytronix, Dirty Glow

3. I Come To Shanghai, Eternal Life Vol. 2

4. Beak, >>

5. Steve Moore and Majeure, Brainstorm

6. Clipd Beaks, Wake

7. Brian Eno, LUX

8. Neurosis, Honor Found in Decay


1. Pulp at the Warfield: Think that was this year. Cocker sings sexy

2. Red Red Red: just saw this guy play at a warehouse in Oakland…live house music made with actual hardware!

3. Flying Lotus at the Fox was pretty epic….. insane visuals.

5. Lumerians at the Uptown

6. Neurosis at the Fox: Fuck!

7. Deerhoof at SXSW ….. maybe the best live band in the universe

8. Indian Jewelry at the Terminal …. strobe light universe





1. Feb. 14: Black Cobra, Walken, Yob at New Parish

2. Feb. 23: Budos Band and Allah-Lahs at the Independent

3. March 30: Hot Snakes at Bottom of the Hill

4. April 10: Jeff Mangum at the Fox Theater,

5. July 21: Fresh and Onlys and La Sera at Phono Del Sol Music Fest

6. July 28: Total Trash BBQ Weekend at the Continental Club

7. Aug. 11: Metallica at Outside Lands

8. Aug. 31: Eyehategod at Oakland Metro

9. Oct. 9: Saint Vitus at the Independent

10. Oct. 27: Coachwhips and Traditional Fools at Verdi Club



1. Grass Widow, Internal Logic (HLR)

2. Cloud Nothings, Attack on Memory (Carpark)

3. Ty Segall, Slaughterhouse (In the Red)

4. Dum Dum Girls, End of Daze EP (Sub Pop)

5. Frankie Rose, Interstellar (Slumberland)

6. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Alleluja! Don’t Bend! Ascend! (Constellation)

7. The Fresh and Onlys, Long Slow Dance (Mexican Summer)

8. THEESatisfaction, awE naturalE (Sub Pop)

9. Terry Malts, Killing Time (Slumberland)

10. Guantanamo Baywatch, Chest Crawl (Dirtnap Records)





1. Hiatus Kaiyote: Tawk Tomahawk (self-released) I could tell you that a bunch of white Australians somehow merged the sound-worlds of Erykah Badu, J Dilla, and Thundercat into a 30-minute, self-released debut LP that rivals the best work of any of those musicians, but you just might have to hear for yourself:

2. Lone: Galaxy Garden (R&S) This is the Lone album we’ve been waiting for. The British laptop producer’s past efforts, while exquisitely lush, were inhibited by a sense of hollow simplicity; Galaxy Garden, his danciest effort yet, shows improvement on nearly every front, from generously layered percussion, to a nuanced, bittersweet take on melody and harmony. A gorgeous fulfillment of Lone’s hedonistic vision.

3. Scott Walker: Bish Bosch (4AD) Difficult as it is to proclaim Bish Bosch 2012’s best album, (its hulking weight and unyielding grimness renders casual listening a difficult proposition) no LP this year has matched its gutsiness and sonic adventurousness, or consolidated so many ideas into a singular space. An array of musical possibilities as dense, thorny, and encyclopedic as a Pynchon novel, with Walker’s quivering, operatic baritone as its sole, anchoring force.

4. Zammuto: s/t (Temporary Residence) Former Books member Nick Zammuto’s solo debut impresses with its vitality and strength of purpose. Despite the heightened emphasis on conventional songwriting this time around, Zammuto strikes that divine balance between bewildering sound-collage and pop approachability that made the Books such an endearing project in the first place.

5. Tame Impala: Lonerism (Modular) Kevin Parker’s first LP as a lone, multitracking solo artist under the Tame Impala moniker, is a bubbly, golden pop album, despite its pervasive theme of existential dread. Its hooks achieve a weird form of transcendence, befitting the Beatles and Britney Spears in equal measure.

6. Laurel Halo: Quarantine (Hyperdub) Much like Oneohtrix Point Never’s Replica (2011), Quarantine is ideal soundtrack material for those late-night, marathon web-surfing sessions that seem to transcend time and space. Halo’s cold, glassy electronics are anchored by dry, straightforward vocals on an album that occupies a mysterious void between vocal pop and ambient electronica.

7. Field Music: Plumb (Memphis Industries) Less a song-cycle than a series of hooks, Field Music’s latest is the work of a band with a hundred wonderful ideas up its sleeve, and only 35 minutes to communicate them. Channeling the impulsive energy of Abbey Road‘s second half with proggy dexterity, Plumb cements this vastly underrated British outfit as one of the most visionary songwriting duos around.

8. THEESatisfaction: awE naturalE (Sub Pop) Splitting the difference between progressive hip-hop and neo-soul, this Seattle duo’s breakthrough record zips through its 30-minute run-time with remarkable tenacity and economy. Bearing the exhilarating energy of J Dilla’s rip-roaring beat-tapes, and shrewd lyricism that effortlessly balances the political, the personal, and the cosmic, awE naturalE feels urgently, confrontationally NOW.

9. Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin: Live (ECM) Not quite nu-jazz, math-rock, or classical minimalism, Swiss ensemble Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin is as compelling, and innovative, as any live band around, tackling Reichian time signatures with the borderline robotic technical ability of Juilliard grads, and the undeniable groove of an airtight funk band.

10. d’Eon: LP (Hippos In Tanks) Approaching the tongue-in-cheek meta-pop of James Ferraro’s Far Side Virtual with a twisted mythology of Christianity and Islam vs. iPhones and the Internet, and a bizarrely heavy dose of Phil Collins’ influence, d’Eon’s LP‘s totally dubious backstory is redeemed by solid songwriting, lush synths, killer keyboard solos, and a ’70s big-time art-rock sensibility. The most convoluted release to date from the prankish Hippos In Tanks imprint.

Honorable mention: Farrah Abraham: My Teenage Dream Ended (self-released) You can’t make this shit up: the year’s weirdest, most haunted and terrifying album wasn’t brought to us by Swans or Scott Walker, but the star of MTV’s Teen Mom. Trapped between the real world, and a web-based alter-reality, it’s the sound of an All American girl, brought up on The Notebook and Titanic, finding herself imprisoned in a Lynchian nightmare.


That special Christopher Owens show at the Lodge


The show was being filmed for a music video, and the crew told people in the front row that they might get photographed for reaction shots. When I mentioned to the couple next to me that a sure fire way to get on camera was to cry, the apparent director turned around from where he was kneeling near the stage and said, “I’ll pay $500 dollars if you do it,” before adding, “but I think you might cry anyway.” In his first performance since breaking up his former band, Girls, Christopher Owens was set to debut an entire album of new material, and it sounded like a tear-jerker.

Having never been to the room before – the “Lodge” at the Regency Ballroom – I arrived early, expecting a dark basement packed with 300 sweaty bodies jockeying for a spot up near the stage. Instead, what I found on the third floor was an experience similar to the Swedish American: a clean, well-lit room in which to listen to live music.

Seats were set out for the show, and on each one was a dated program for the evening, complete with a setlist and band credits, a special theatrical touch that invoked high-art rather than pop rock. Clearly, along with the taping, Owens meant for it to be a special – or at least different – occasion, and had special requirements of the crowd, which some people did not appreciate.

The stage was set with a large backdrop of a dusty road leading out between a forest. Lysandre is a concept album (which Owens has already explained) based around the first Girls tour in 2008. The backdrop signaled the travelogue aspect, as well as a classical element. It could have been a leftover from a community Shakespeare troupe, and when the show began with a theme that would repeat throughout, complete with Jethro Tull-esque flute from Vince Meghroni, there was a definite old world feel.

This theme alternated with roots rock Americana for the first half of the show, a rising energy that then mellowed out. On one track, Owens detailed the rush of arriving in NYC with the band, singing a chorus of “Here we are in New York City, everybody’s listened to me / Rock and roll in NYC” with a Banana Splits meet “New York, New York” upbeat simplicity.

As it switched over to one of the obviously sad songs, “A Broken Heart,” there was a definite comedown. On the first listen, Lysandre is beset with conflicting emotions, the highs of being on the road and meeting sudden popularity, compete with falling in love, and subsequent breakups occur with both. At times, it seems like personal issue ruined what should have been a great time.

On “Here We Go Again,” the album’s fight song, Owens warns, “Don’t try to get me down, don’t try to harsh my mellow” as the guitar player kicks the theme into its highest pitch, angrily stretching the notes out. But elsewhere, it’s the exact opposite: in closing the album, there are a succession of goodbyes, with the lament that there were always “a couple hundred people in the way.”

In the show’s encore, Owens resisted falling to his back catalogue, and instead played what seemed to be obvious influences on the sound and themes of Lysandre: into the great wide open of Cat Steven’s “Wild World,” the triumphant loneliness of NYC in Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer,” pining for love with “Let It Be Me,” and breaking up on Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.”

Against these songs, Lysandre at times risked seeming overly saccharine. (“Kissing and hugging is the air that I breathe/ I’ll always make time for love,” was pushing it in this regard.) But the sunken-eyed Owens – who spoke with an endearing twinge of nervousness between songs – seemed well aware of the risk.

“What if everyone thinks I’m a phony? What if no one gets it? What if everyone gets sick of love songs?” he asks midway through Lysandre. But with a shrug he continues on to the chorus, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, love is in the ear of the listener.”

Our Weekly Picks: November 7-13



Twin Sister

At times romantic and sultry but also plenty psychedelic, Twin Sister will bring its energetic, upbeat dream-pop back to San Francisco this week. Singer, Andrea Estella, an artist who also works in water color and sculpture, is decidedly nymph-like with her hypnotic voice and pixie features. And if that’s not entrancing enough, she’s backed by a collaboration of Brooklyn musicians who handle their instruments (keyboards, synths, and melodica to name a few) with thoughtful precision. If you’re lucky, they may throw in some acoustic versions, but you’ll have to come and find out for yourself. (Molly Champlin)

With Melted Toys, Some Ember, and Yalls (DJ set)

8pm, $10

Rickshaw Stop

115 Fell, SF

(415) 861-2011


San Francisco Transgender Film Festival

With Cloud Atlas co-director Lana Wachowski (and her fab pink hair) all over pop culture media these days, trans filmmakers have never enjoyed a higher profile. But the artists who’ve participated in the San Francisco Transgender Film Festival, now in its 11th year, don’t need Hollywood to assure them of their talent. The 2012 fest is the biggest ever, with three nights of globally-sourced short films (“enticing tales of defiance, bullying, relationships, sex, humor, enchantment, romance, and zombies”), plus a performance spectacular (with Sean Dorsey Dance, Eli Conley and the Transcendence Gospel Choir, and more). Previous fests have sold out lickety-split, so buy your tickets ASAP. (Cheryl Eddy)

Thu-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 7pm, $12–$15


1310 Mission, SF


Wet Paint

Contrary to popular belief, the Beats were not just an old boys’ club. Bay Area painter Jay DeFeo stands as a contradiction to the flat female characters you’ll encounter in a Kerouac novel. She pushes boundaries alongside all persuasions of painters. Her work lays the paint thick, looking at light, nature, and the body to find the abstract in the real and vice versa. In conjunction with her retrospective at SFMOMA will be a performance of Wet Paint by Kevin Killian (maybe you know him as a poet, editor, and award-winning author of gay erotic fiction). The play about DeFeo’s life will be performed by the Poets’ Theater and should be a great way to learn the background of her art and ties with the beat movement. (Champlin)

7pm, $10

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

151 Third St., SF

(415) 357-4000


Maya Jane Coles

If London producer and DJ Maya Jane Coles has made a statement in her so far short and rapid ascension in the dance music world, it was with the title of her 2011 EP, Don’t Put Me in Your Box. Whether under her own name, dubstep alias Nocturnal Sunshine, or as part of dub duo She Is Danger, Coles has resisted the contrived hooks and familiar samples that promise EDM success, instead forging a path through deep house, delivering independent productions with her personal stamp on everything from vocals to visual design. Noted in the press for being both a breakthrough artist and still quite young, Coles is worth paying attention to as she prepares her eagerly awaited full-length album. (Ryan Prendiville)

With Moniker, Brian Bejarano

9pm, $20


101 Sixth St., SF

(415) 284-9774


“Flamenco en Movimiento”

The emphatic swirl of voluminous skirts, the pounding of heels against the floorboards, the mesmerizing stop-start rhythms, the rose gripped in the teeth, the ache of tight pants … Spanish flamenco dancing and music, bursting with full-throated emotion and thrilling restraint, can be addictive. The Bay Area certainly loves it: flamenco has been eliciting hearty “olé!”s in a new wave of wine bars, beer halls, and Spanish restaurants over the last few years. We’re also home to some incredible flamenco troupes, especially Theatre Flamenco of San Francisco, led by brilliant director Carolyn Zertuche and celebrating its 46th year. Her company’s annual show (this year called “Flamenco in Motion” in English) blew me away last year: the passion, technique, and gorgeous live music emanating from the stage were spellbinding. And I’m no drama queen! If you need a shot of strings-free emotional beauty in these trying times, here’s your best bet. (Marke B.)

8pm (also Sat/10 at 8pm and Sun/11 at 2pm), $20–$40

Cowell Theater, Fort Mason

Marina Blvd, SF.

(415) 826-1305


Christopher Owens

It was only in July that with a few tweets Christopher Owens announced the break up of his breezy, garage rock infused pop band Girls. Owens cited personal reasons — as if there were any other kind — but promised that he would continue to make music in some other form. Just as quickly as that news came, the songwriter has turned around and scheduled a solo date, premiering an entirely new road-trip themed album called Lysandre, at an intimate performance above the Regency Ballroom. A special peek at the album due for release in January, this show will also be filmed for a music video. (Prendiville)

9pm, $20

The Lodge at the Regency Ballroom

1300 Van Ness, SF

(800) 745-3000


“Forever Natalie Wood”

Natalie Wood was a child star (1947’s Miracle on 34th Street) turned teenage Oscar nominee (1955’s Rebel Without a Cause) turned Hollywood legend (1961’s West Side Story; 1961’s Splendor in the Grass) turned celebrity tragedy (after her mysterious 1981 drowning death at age 43). Marc Huestis curates a special tribute to the gone-but-never-forgotten icon with three days of films (all of the above save Miracle, plus 1966’s This Property is Condemned; 1962’s Gypsy; 1963’s Love With the Proper Stranger; 1969’s Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice; and 1965’s Inside Daisy Clover), including an appearance by Natalie’s sister (and Bond girl) Lana Wood before the Saturday night centerpiece screening of Splendor. (Eddy)

Through Sun/11

Castro Theatre

429 Castro, SF


Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

Jon Spencer has been pushing the boundaries of modern rock for nearly 30 years now, first with Pussy Galore, which brought new meaning to the union of the words noise and art, and he has continued to light up stages with his electric live presence with several other projects, notably Boss Hog, Heavy Trash, and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. With its first new record in eight years, Meat and Bone, dropping earlier this year, Blues Explosion — which also features Judah Bauer and Russell Simins — is hitting the road once again to testify to the power of rock’n’roll. (Sean McCourt)

With Quasi.

9pm $21–$23

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell St., SF

(415) 885-0750


La Sera

These jangly, melancholic pop songs might sound a bit familiar to you. Brooklyn singer-songwriter Katy Goodman, the woman behind La Sera, is also “Kickball Katy,” one third of the indie rock band Vivian Girls. This year’s Sees the Light is Goodman’s second solo release under the La Sera moniker. It’s a rollicking break-up album that leaves you, after many powerfully emotional highs and lows, feeling not downtrodden, but empowered. Layers of distorted sound create a dreamy, escapist pop landscape, at times blurring the lines between pop and punk rock. La Sera is one of the first indie artists to perform at the Chapel, the Mission’s brand new music venue. (Haley Zaremba)

9:30pm, $10

Preservation Hall West at the Chapel

777 Valencia, SF


“Animating Dark Dreams: The Films of Jan Svankmajer”

Some of the creatures by Czech animator and puppeteer, Jan Svankmajer, seem like they were plucked out of David Bowie’s Labyrinth. If you were into the flying gremlins in Magic Dance and Escher-world ending, this double feature should be a no-brainer. Svankmajer’s films are a bit more gruesome than stealing someone’s baby, though, and are deepened with inspiration from classic stories. Lunacy (2000), based on several shorts by Edgar Allen Poe, goes for the philosophical horror while Little Otik (2005), based on a Czech folktale, shockingly captures the gore of child-rearing. A few things to look forward to: dancing slabs of meat, hair eating, and a devious tree-stump baby. (Champlin)

2pm, 4:30 p.m., $10 each

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

701 Mission, SF

(415) 978-2787


Titus Andronicus

Titus Andronicus stunned everyone in 2010 when The Monitor, a ridiculously ambitious civil war-themed concept album, turned out not to be meandering celebration of its own complexity, but a powerful, masterfully written opus. Now, with 2012’s Local Business, Titus Andronicus is eschewing high-brow theatrics and multi-instrumental recordings for a simple, down-and-dirty rock album, intended as a marriage of its recorded work and its remarkably energetic, guitar-heavy live sound. In Local Business singer and driving force Patrick Stickles howls about stigmatized subjects relevant to his own life, like deteriorating mental health, and male eating disorders. 2012’s Titus Andronicus may not be grandiose, but it’s definitely badass. (Zaremba)

With Ceremony

8pm, $19

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell, SF

(415) 885-0750


Napalm Death

Hailing from Birmingham, England — the same industrial city that gave birth to Black Sabbath — British grindcore pioneer Napalm Death has been pummeling listeners since the mid 1980s. Though the band has gone through a multitude of lineup changes over the years, key members, including Shane Embury and Mark Greenway, continue to lead the group to success. Returning to the US in support of its new album, Utilitarian, its 15th release, the quartet joins local rockers Municipal Waste, Exumed, Attitude Adjustment, and Impaled at what is guaranteed to be a most brutal night of extreme music.(McCourt)

7pm, $12–$16

Oakland Metro

630 Third St., Oakl.

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The She’s on Girls, Women’s Audio Mission, and soccer practice


The She’s have opened for Girls, played with Thao with the Get Down Stay Down, and this month, released an infectious, surfy garage-pop debut album, Then It Starts To Feel Like Summer (the record release show is this Saturday at Bottom of the Hill).

Oh, and the band members – bassist Samantha Perez, vocalist Hannah Valente, guitarist Eva Treadway, and drummer Sinclair Riley – are all juniors in high school. But don’t diminish their talent by seeing She’s as a novelty, “young, all-girl band.” They’ve got the chops. I got the lowdown from the Bay Area quartet after school this week, discussing playing against stereotypes, life with punk parents, dream shows (hint: they’ve already played theirs), and kindergarten enemies.

San Francisco Bay Guardian: What were the first concerts you attended?
Hannah Valente: One of the first concerts we attended as a group was Blondie at the Fillmore. It was really inspiring to see a woman with such a powerful voice.
Samantha Perez: For me, I went to a lot of punk shows with my parents growing up because they were in the punk scene. It inspired me to begin playing music because I love the atmosphere and energy at shows.
SFBG: When did you start playing music and what influenced that?
Eva Treadway: We all grew up with music around us, both from our parents and also from growing up in SF. I was raised on a mix of old country blues records from my dad and Grateful Dead jams from my mom, which, come to think of it, is an interesting mix. As a kid I was crazy about the Beatles, and that was what really sparked my interest in picking up a guitar. I asked my parents for lessons and I had my first few lessons when I was about 10. When I started songwriting with the other members of the band, making music got really exciting for me again. Because we all come from different musical backgrounds – there was by no means Grateful Dead in Sami’s household growing up – but we also share really similar ideas and tastes in music.
Sinclair Riley: I started playing piano when I was about seven, then a few other classical instruments, but I didn’t start playing drums until the beginning of The She’s. My dad had a Beach Boys CD that he would always play in the car when he was driving, and I always liked driving with him so that I could listen to it because it was so much more interesting to me, I loved it so much more than anything I was playing on piano.
SP: I started playing guitar when I was seven years old. I was really resistant to play guitar, but my dad bought me a pink daisy-shaped one, so I got into it. As the years went on, I liked it more and more and then I started to sing in the San Francisco Girls Chorus, but I really wanted to start writing songs and start preforming.
HV: I was really influenced by my dad. He always seemed to be playing guitar around the house, so I just started singing with him. When I was like, three, I would sing with him while I took baths. I always liked music because it helped me connect to people. I’m shy, so it’s nice to have another way to communicate.
SFBG: How did you meet?
SP: We all met in kindergarten, and we were really close friends except me and Eva. We were enemies. In fifth grade we started playing music together and through that we became closer friends. It all started one day after soccer practice when Hannah said she had learned to play the Aly & AJ version of “Walking on Sunshine.” Eventually, the whole soccer team was in the band, but in the end it came down to just us four.
SFBG: Can you tell me a little about the process of making Then it Starts to Feel Like Summer?
SR: It was a pretty long yet satisfying process. About half the songs we already had written, and the others we wrote during the process of recording. It was so wonderful to get the opportunity to record at Women’s Audio Mission. It was really fun being in the studio and getting to take our time on this one. On this album we tried to capture the sound of what we play live. The ladies there are so nice and also taught us a bout the engineering aspect as well.
SFBG: What influences your sound? Who influences you personally?
HV: We are said to be a cross between the Ramones and the Ronettes, we really like the Beach Boys and other ’60s garage music. We’re always listening to new types of music, like ’60s country, local bands, and of course, pop.
ET: We’re influenced by going places and walking around San Francisco.
From listening to great songs, Lennon/McCartney of course, Brian Wilson, George Harrison, Phil Spector, even Britney Spears. Pretty much everything Christopher Owens from Girls writes I find inspiring.
SFBG: Where do you write music? Is it a group effort?
SR: Normally what happens is someone will bring in a guitar part or a melody or some part of a song, and we’ll all work together in our practice area (Hannah’s basement) to finalize the song – add lyrics, harmonies.
SFBG:  What’s been the most surreal experience thus far in the band? The weirdest?
HV: Hand’s down the most surreal show was playing with Girls at the Fillmore. Not only did we get to play with one of our favorite bands to listen to, but we also got to play on a stage where so many inspirational artists have performed.
SP: Playing at such a historic venue was unbelievable. The audience was great, the sound was great, the food backstage was great…it just really couldn’t have turned out any better. On the other hand, the weirdest experience we’ve had was probably when we were asked to play on TV on an early news broadcasting at like, 5 a.m.. We stayed the night in San Jose on a school night so that we could get to the studio at 3 a.m. and still be on time for school. However, we just happened to be there the same day that the San Bruno pipelines exploded, which meant our segment was canceled. It was a long, sleepy ride to school that morning, but at least we looked TV ready for all our peers!
SFBG. Who would play your dream show?
HV: Our first dream show would be to play with Girls, but then that actually happened. Then I would say to play with Magic Kids, but that also happened. After that, it would be the Morning Benders, but yes, that happened, too.
SP: Perhaps now our dream show would be with the early Beach Boys, once we build a time traveling machine, maybe that will be possible.
SFBG: Is it difficult working as an underage band in the San Francisco music scene?
EV: I think the most difficult part about being an underage musician (apart from sometimes not being allowed into to our own shows) is being treated as some sort of novelty act. It seems like a lot of times people feel that it is enough to describe our band as a “young all-girl band”, which really says nothing about our music. When people write reviews I wish they would remember that our age and gender are facts, and it doesn’t really go much deeper than that. It is true that being teenagers in the SF music scene is exciting for us. We’ve gotten to meet and even perform with some of our idols, and I know that that is something most teenagers don’t have the opportunity to do. I am proud of what we’ve done at this point in our lives, both as a band and as individuals and I feel fortunate to know what I am passionate about early on. The way I see it, it only leaves us time to grow.
SFBG: Is the She’s an intentionally all-female band?
SR: Not really, it just happened. We formed the band at that age when boys have cooties, and it’s been no boys ever since. We get treated differently since we’re a young all-girl teenage band though, and it’s made us stronger. We can go against the stereotype that girls and teenagers aren’t as capable as others.
SFBG: Do you consider yourselves feminists?
HV: We want women to be taken more seriously in the whole music industry. Every step of the way, our album was made by women. We hope to inspire other girls to get involved in this industry because women are way underrepresented.

The She’s
With Tijuana Panthers, Melted Toys
Sat/3, 10 p.m., $10
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St., SF
(415) 621-4455




Di Doo Dah

(Light in the Attic)

Arriving in the wake of Light in the Attic’s reissue of the masterful L’Histoire de Melody Nelson, this, Birkin’s first proper — if such a word can be applied to anything involving Serge Gainsbourg — solo album, is a series of light delights. Jean-Claude Vannier trades his characteristic dark orchestration for a string sound that is agile and brighter. On the title track, Birkin revels — in a melancholy way — in her tomboyish characteristics, setting the stage for more pun-filled escapades in androgynous amorousness. Elsewhere, she’s a hitchhiker, a sidewalk cruiser, a hotel trick, a girl on a motorcycle, and other fantasy figurines. The most audacious song is “Les capotes anglaises,” which begins with her blowing up condoms and letting them float off a balcony. The special treat is “Le décadanse,” not so much a failed attempt at creating a dance craze as a successful erotic mockery of dance crazes. There, Gainsbourg appears for another classic duet.



Adolescent Funk

(Stones Throw)

The album’s name is apt, as these tracks, recorded between 1988 and 1992, capture Dâm-Funk’s sound and outlook in a teenage stage of sonic bumptiousness and lyrical lustiness. The content is spelled out in the titles: songs like “I Like Your Big Azz (Girl),” “Sexy Lady,” and “When I’m With U I Think of Her,” are a world away from the mystic leanings of more recent Dâm-Funk tracks like “Mirrors.” Equally direct are the album’s musings on existence, such as “I Love My Life.” The sound owes a debt to — or is a youthful outgrowth of — the early 1980s electro funk of Prince, Mandre, and others. Dâm-Funk has been honing his use of analog keyboards for a long time — when it comes to Korgs and Casios, he’s no new kid on the block, though he was back when these songs were captured on tape. The homecoming-dance cover art, selected by Peanut Butter Wolf from Dâm’s photo albums, captures the vintage feel perfectly.



The Secret Dub Life of the Flying Lizards


Flying Lizards are best known for creating possibly the cheapest British chart-topper in history, a pots-and-pans 1979 cover of “Money (That’s What I Want),” distinguished by Deborah Evans’ hilarious deadpan vocal. As the title hints, Evans isn’t present on The Secret Dub Life of the Flying Lizards, nor are any other traditional vocalists — instead, main Lizard David Cunningham remixes 1978 source material by Jah Lloyd. The catch was that Cunningham only had a mono master tape to work with, rather than the plethora of tracks usually associated with dub. A lost gem from the early days of reggae-punk fusions and collisions, this album — with loops built from tape-splicing — reveals the dub underpinnings of Cunningham’s brash and innovative work on “Money.” An irreverent vanguard producer, he uses ping-pong balls to create ricochet effects on one track, just as “Money” seems to throw everything but the kitchen sink at listeners.



Broken Dreams Club EP

(True Panther Sounds)

One of the things that makes Girls so special is Christopher Owens’ ability to write so directly about the unavoidable aspects of life without falling into cliché. So it is on “Heartbreaker,” which begins with the observation, “When I look in the mirror/ I’m not as young as I used to be/ I’m not quite as beautiful as when you were next to me.” A newer addition to Girls’ nascent greatness, as displayed on this six-song collection, is their facility at traversing various genres while always sounding like themselves. The reggae and early rock ‘n’ roll fusion “Oh So Fortunate One,” the bossa nova touches of “Heartbreaker,” and the country lament of the superb title track (complete with pedal steel) sound like … Girls. While the sonic palette shifts from song to song — and sometimes within them — more than one composition evokes the anthemic balladry of their 2009 debut album’s “Hellhole Ratrace.” That’s no small achievement. The outlook, though, is less hopeful and more disillusioned. Who knows what the future holds.



Lucky Shiner

(Ghostly International)

There should probably be a moratorium placed on the use of the word panda in group names, but the man known as Gold Panda can be forgiven, based on the sheer zinging energy of this album, which has nothing in common with any Beach Boys-flavored Animal Collective endeavors. One of Gold Panda’s trademarks is a sharply-edited, sped-up approach to vocal samples that makes Kanye West’s sound like screw. Instrumental tracks such as “Vanilla Minus,” “Snow & Taxis,” and the incandescent “Marriage” call the crackling warmth of the Field to mind, but their energy is more hyper, their outlook much more colorful. “Same Dream China” takes the glassy percussion of Pantha Du Prince’s “Stick to My Side” into out there realms — it’s one of a few tracks that maneuvers across a high wire just above exotica and Orientalism. A late contender for techno album of the year.



Pink Information

(Mexican Summer)

San Francisco’s the Mantles deliver great straightforward rock ‘n’ roll. Dressed in a cover by local artist Michelle Blade, this EP picks up where their debut album left off, as guitarist-singer Michael Olivares leads the charge with vocals that somehow manage to sneer and snarl and seem amiable at the same time. “Situations” is actually kind of harsh, taking a scenester or gold-digger to task for his or her shallow and failure-fated state of being. “Lily Never Married” is more reflective, a portrait of a spinster that opens into thoughts about family within a changing world. “Waiting Out the Storm” finds the group trying on its epic journey boots, and they fit just fine.



The Effective Disconnect


A disturbing subject yields mournful tone poems on this album by Stars of the Lid’s McBride, which collects elements of his soundtrack for Vanishing of the Bees, a 2009 documentary on colony collapse disorder. (Mercifully, voice over by Ellen Page is left off the album.) There’s no flight-of-the-bumblebee whimsy in McBride’s musical testimony to the spirit of the beehive. In the liner notes, he writes that filmmakers George Langworthy and Maryam Henein suggested he focus on “the gloriousness of the bees, the endurance and hardships of traditional beekeepers, pesticides, and the holistic nature of non-industrial agriculture.” These elements aren’t always clearly distinguished, but they are present in a manner that avoids cliché.



Ballad of the Lights

(Presspop Music)

“Ballad of the Lights” was performed by a friend at the late Arthur Russell’s funeral, which is as strong a proof as any that it is an important entry within his vast and diverse songbook. This two-song 10-inch vinyl release couples it with another recording from Russell’s many studio collaborations with Allen Ginsberg. Ginsberg’s recitals within “Ballad of the Lights” almost come off superfluous, except that they set the glory of the song’s resurrection-like structure in greater relief. The B-side, “Pacific High Studio Mantras,” is a Buddhist chant accompanied by instrumentation, and perhaps not intended for commercial release. (Ginsberg himself hinged back and forth about whether it should presented in this fashion.) Bob Dylan even figured briefly within Ginsberg’s and Russell’s endeavors, but with so few of them available, it’s hard to discern whether “Ballad of the Lights” is their best work. That it’s pretty great is clear, even if coupled with portraits by Archer Prewitt that play into the more cloying aspects of viewing artists as icons.



The Soft Moon

(Captured Tracks)

It’s no surprise that the debut album by Bay Area musician Luis Vasquez is dark and densely claustrophobic — nor is it a surprise that it’s excellent. It kicks off with one highlight from his earlier EPs, “Breathe the Fire,” where his whispered vocal — dancing over doom-laden bass and guitar worthy of Pornography-era Cure — manifests maximum sinuous menace. The death dance of “Circles” is more Sister of Mercy-like, but really, Vasquez transcends well-known goth and more obscure dark wave poses and influences through sheer intensity of focus. “Sewer Sickness” might be the album’s darkest and most compelling black pit, as Vasquez’s susurrant vocals take on the quality of a malevolent primal incantation.



She Was Coloured In

(Planet Mu)

Like Gold Panda, Solar Bears counter a dodgy name by delivering solid tunes. She Was Coloured In is more melodic than most recordings on Planet Mu. “Children of the Times” mixes Johnny Marr-caliber guitar shimmer with a Vocoder chorus that is sure to evoke comparisons to Air. Likewise, the title composition places Air-y elements up against Aphex Twin-like ambience. Enjoyably ham-fisted prog keyboard flourishes dive in and out of techno terrain on the title track. The chord changes and underpinnings of “Head Supernova” evoke Angelo Badalamenti’s scores for David Lynch. The riddle of Solar Bears is whether all these touchstones or influences add up to an act with its own identity or — perhaps no less an achievement in 2010 — a generically beautiful album.




(Light in the Attic)

When an excellent songwriter disappears, his or her voice remains. There is proof of this in the recent issuing of Connie Converse’s priceless previously-private recordings, and now in this reissue of the 1969 debut album by Jim Sullivan, a ten-song collection that fuses orchestral ornamentation and plainspoken brevity. Sullivan vanished into the New Mexico desert one day in 1975, but his musical legacy is being revived, and rightfully so, as the best moments here are reminiscent of better-known contemporaries such as Fred Neil and Tim Hardin. All the doomed young men: there’s something eerie about the funereal string intro of the opening track “Jerome,” yet Sullivan’s music also possesses vitality and good cheer. Best of all is “UFO,” a graceful piece of baroque pop (and quintessential example of a California paranormal mindset), adorned with echo-laden effects that Malibu kinfolk and relative survivor Linda Perhacs might appreciate.



Golden Haze EP

(Captured Tracks)

Captured Tracks is home to some of the most beautiful guitar sounds being made today, thanks to Beach Fossils and this group, who see no shame in sheer ’80s-ness. Wild Nothing hail from California, but England meets Australia (and gets along with it better than usual) on “Your Rabbit Feet,” as Slowdive-gone-fast guitar radiates around a vocal that’s equal parts Morrissey and Robert Forster in its offhand debonair delivery. “Take Me In” has another immediate, whirligig guitar melody, and a chorus as big as 100,000 violins. Gorgeous stuff.

8, 9 … 2010


1. SF garage rock goes pop This year saw Bay Area garage rock go pop in style and impact without losing its soul. I’m thinking of the Fresh and Onlys, and of Ty Segall’s second solo effort Lemons (Goner), a lovely one. I’m thinking of Girls’ Album (True Panther/Matador), which threw down the crossover-move gauntlet with no shame in its game: Christopher Owens’ interviews were as entertaining as his music and brasher — his real talk about sex and drugs made good headline fodder for the excitable British press, but contained the kind of truth that honors life over rules or boring definitions. The secret keeper, though, was the Mantles’ self-titled debut on Siltbreeze. Drew Cramer’s lead guitar and Michael Oliveras’ vocals were even better live, the mark of a band in bloom.

2. The AfroSurreal In May, D. Scot Miller helped put together a special AfroSurreal issue of the Guardian, a collection of words and visions journeying beyond the potential of Barack Obama’s presidency. The Kehinde Wiley piece on the cover wasn’t the only AfroSurreal image on this paper’s front pages — just last week, Conrad Ruiz’s Godzilla-size Yes We Can stomped around the city. Musically, AfroSurrealism manifested in the mind- and mirror-bending quality Dam-Funk’s Toeachizown (Stones Throw) and the rehab hallucinations and Dante-like funeral marches of Chelonis R. Jones’s Chatterton (Systematic). It floated in through cracks in the time warp as well: the ghetto opera of 24 Carat Black’s Gone: The Promises of Yesterday (Numero Group); the proto-punk of Death’s For the World to See (Drag City), especially “Politicians in My Eyes”; and weirdest of all, the gothic funk and skronk of Wicked Witch’s Chaos: 1978-1986 (E.M.).

3. 21st century goth From blackness to deathly whiteface — something gothic this way came in 2009, thanks to Cold Cave’s Cremations (Hospital Productions) and Love Comes Close (Matador). Both staked a claim that the genre is as applicable as death metal to a post-Bush presidency globe. But while those albums notched acclaim and attention, the similar yet more audacious Cure and Cabaret Volatire moves of Jones’ months-earlier Chatterton went ignored and unappreciated. Evidence of racism, proof that German techno only gets appreciated years after the fact, or both?

4. Hauntological mutations In 2009’s sonic mansion, ghosts haunted the hallways leading to and from the gothic banquet hall, and hauntology — a Derrida term applied to music by the critic Simon Reynolds — continued to morph, just as any self-respecting specter should, well beyond dubstep. The maze-like passages of Rooj’s The Transactional Dharma of Rooj (Ghost Box) and Broadcast and the Focus Group’s Broadcast and the Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age (Warp) both suggested that spirits have short attention spans, while Demdike Stare’s Symbiosis (Modern Love) traded seances on wet afternoons for retro-futurist meetings with medieval wicked witches.

5. Library music For evidence that the past resides in and fuels the present, go to the library. Specifically, to the abundant compilations and Web sites dedicated to library music — the scores of incidental music produced and recorded for soundtrack use on film, television, and radio. In the wake of his gorgeous book The Music Library (Fuel Publishing), Jonny Trunk released more albums devoted to library labels. The Parisian DJs Alexis Le-Tan and Jess put out a pair of Space Oddities library collections — one electronic, one psychedelic — on Permanent Vacation. Wax Poetics published a lengthy piece to the subject. In an interview, Trunk noted that his Scrapbook (Trunk) shares the same fast-change aesthetics of Broadcast and the Focus Group’s hauntological recordings, just one example of how library music of the past forms the music of now.

6. The new ambient The new ambient is not afraid of extreme melancholy, or long compositions — no longer only Kompact, it can be epic. One of the form’s peak representatives is San Francisco’s Brock Van Wey, whose White Clouds Drift On and On (Echospace) bravely strived for, and sometimes reached, sublime solitude. Another was Klimek, whose Movies is Magic (Anticipate), on which a track such as “pathetic and dangerous” lives up to its death-knell title. The last was Leyland Kirby. His three-CD contribution sums up the current moment in both its title and the name of its label: Sadly, the Future is No Longer What it Was (History Always Favours the Winners).

7. 2009=1989, synthpop and shoegaze I explored this theme in last week’s Decade in Music issue. See: Atlas Siund (in particular “Shelia,”), Crocodiles, Fuck Buttons, Loop, Night Control, Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Washed Out (responsible for two of this year’s most gorgeous tracks, “Belong” and “Hold Out”), Wavves, and the xx.

8. How old is now? As the music industry continues to fracture, reissues or uncovered old sounds were as vital and revelatory as new releases. In San Francisco, this meant new rereleases by San Francisco Express, the Units, and most excitingly, Honey Soundsystem’s work on behalf of Patrick Cowley and Jorge Socarras’ Catholic project. Beyond SF, it meant a one-of-a-kind treasure like Connie Converse’s How Sad, How Lovely (Lau derette): one woman, one guitar, one tape recorder, and perhaps the best music of this sad, lovely year.

The searchers


When there is no firm ground, the only sensible thing to do is to keep moving. Lester Bangs wrote that, but countless wandering souls have lived it since the first humans stumbled across the continents. Long after land bridges dissolved and the great cities of the world were mapped, San Francisco — the legendary land’s-end haven for dreamers, kooks, and hedonists — became a butterfly net for the world’s drifters. Prismatic crowds have come and gone through the decades, helping to grow one of the world’s great music scenes.

"There’s just a certain point where you realize that nothing is going to satisfy you all the time," muses Christopher Owens, one of two masterminds behind the SF band Girls. "The solution is to be a person who’s always looking for the next thing. Oscar Wilde said that the meaning of life is the search for meaning of life. But there is no meaning to life — it’s just never laying down and accepting your surroundings, even if they’re comfortable. It’s like the Rolling Stones song, "(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction." I think I’ve always felt like that, and always will be like that."

Girls, “Lust for Life”

Looking up from peeling the label off a kombucha bottle and blinking his big eyes, Chet "JR" White nonchalantly nods: "I’m really never content, hardly ever happy, but every once in a while I’m both. Everything’s about getting somewhere else, I think."

While most bands fade slowly or implode, ever so rarely one explodes into something transcendent because it’s hit a nerve or two and tapped into the human experience in a profound way. Girls is that kind of band. Owens and White have been around for years, playing raucous live shows while quietly perfecting their imminent debut LP, Album (True Panther/Matador). A collection of glam-pop with that genre’s flair for artifice, it also — unlike traditional glam pop — possesses an emotional authenticity absent from so much music being churned out today.

Owens and White first united as roommates in San Francisco, but their lives couldn’t have started out more differently. While White was playing in punk bands in his parents’ Santa Cruz garage and going to recording school, Owens was growing up as part of the Slovenian sect of the Children of God cult, where secular music was forbidden unless one of the cult’s adults decided to indulge the younger members’ desire to learn the occasional Beatles or 1960s folk tune.

Owens broke away from the Children of God at 16 to live with his sister in Amarillo, Texas. Everything the rest of us had heard a thousand times before we were teenagers was a revelation to him. "When I learned to play the guitar, I was still in the cult and I didn’t really know anything but their music," he says. "When I turned 16 and left the group, it was like the whole world was in front of me. I got the Cranberries, the Cure, Black Sabbath, Sinead O’Connor, Michael Jackson, and the Romeo + Juliet movie soundtrack, and I’d play them on my stereo in my room and learn them and play guitar. The next wave was pop music. When I turned 18, I had become an American teen."

Owens was quickly engulfed by the small town’s punk scene: "I threw away seven years of my life there. All I have is tattoos from Amarillo." He played in a few punk bands, the music drawing him in because it was "really angsty." But after a few years, he felt the itch to do something new. "There wasn’t really anything in particular that drew me to San Francisco," he says. "I made a commitment that I was gonna leave Amarillo on New Year’s Day in 2005. All my friends moved to Austin, which I thought was the lamest thing in the world. I wanted absolute change. I wanted to totally reinvent myself and leave all those people behind."

Shortly after he landed in the Bay Area, Owens was asked to join the L.A. band Holy Shit. "I only played in the band because I was totally obsessed with Ariel Pink and Matt Fishbeck," he says, referring to the band’s underground-hero founders. "I started to write these songs to impress them and to vent my feelings, but the main driving force was that I wanted to be like them so much. I kept thinking I’m gonna make something that’s gonna blow their minds. I wanted to make something really classic that everyone could say they liked."

And that’s what he did. Owens wrote dozens of songs inspired by his friends, ex-lovers, and San Francisco itself, and recorded them, guided by White’s keen ear for grandeur. After scrapping song takes recorded on a four-track, the pair spent money on a proper tape machine and used only a few microphones to keep Album crisp and clear.

"I like big, amazing sounding records," says engineering wizard and bassist White, who counts Wrecking Crew bassist Carol Kaye as an influence. "I hate lo-fi music. Early on, people would call us lo-fi and I would take it kind of hard. We were just attempting to make the best-sounding thing we could with what we had — as good as any big record that had a lot of money put into it. I always like records that are made under some sort of duress. I think those records are great, if you can hear it. When I hear ours, I can hear the moments that go along with the music."

With Album, Owens and White edge closer to timelessness than any of their San Francisco contemporaries. While much of the city’s rock scene is embroiled in a hot and noisy love affair with psychedelic garage music, the boys of Girls have come up with something different: classic melodic songs for a restless soul in search of freedom and purpose in this whirlwind world. It doesn’t hurt that behind Owens’ lyrical pearls one discovers lush and unadulterated arrangements and majestic Wall of Sound-esque moments.

Album‘s magnum opus, "Hellhole Ratrace," is a plaintive hymn about the urge to cut loose and live. It starts off with simple guitar strumming, which in turn is soon immersed in a mesmerizing swell of buried organ work, slow hand claps, and trilling guitars that elevates it into an anthem. "I don’t wanna die without shaking up a leg or two /I wanna do some dancin’ too," sings Owens. "I don’t wanna cry /my whole life through /Yeah I wanna do some laughin’ too / So come on, come on, come on, come on and dance with me."

This year has already been one hell of a ride for Girls, which now includes guitarist John Anderson ("He’s the best guitar player I’ve ever played with in my life," says Owens) and drummer Garett Godard. The group has been on tour nearly constantly for several months across America and Europe. For a pair of nomads like Owens and White, it seems like the perfect gig, at least for now. Both harbor dreams of being thrust into the canon with the rest of the greats, and that reality may not be so far off.

"I want to write a song that’s as good as "Let It Be" or "I Will Always Love You." I want to write a song that everybody in the world knows," says Owens, glancing at his bandmate.

"I just want to be one of those bands that becomes culturally ingrained, one of those bands that’s unavoidable," echoes White. "One of those bands that is larger than music itself."

Impassioned youth, existential wisdom, and stories of aching romance weave together to make Album a slice of true Californian pop that never stops hitting home. When you hear Owens’ voice, unshackled by fuzz or distortion, crooning about the fear of dying before ever accomplishing anything, you remember that you’ve felt the same way dozens of times too. And when he starts chirping, "I wish I had a suntan /I wish I had a pizza and a bottle of wine," on the sarcastic, ecstatic opener "Lust for Life," you want to drop everything and run through the streets to join him.


With Papercuts, Cass McCombs

Wed/9, 9 p.m., $14–$16

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell, SF

(888) 233-0449

Girls, Girls, Girls


› a&

On Feb. 15, the auspicious day after Valentine’s, Café Du Nord hosted Girls’ debut — a perfect night to showcase their music, which is full of heartache and romantic longing. I witnessed the birth of a pop sensation that night. I’ve never seen San Francisco rock kids so unhinged for a band that had never previously played out — they sang, in a state of unrestrained fervor, along with songs only available online.

Those of us giddy in the crowd that night haven’t been alone in feeling it. In three months, the SF outfit sold out all 500 copies of their recently released single on True Panther. In fact, 200 of those records were sold on pre-order, and the group has received notice on Pitchfork and various blogs and in Spin magazine.

The rapid and rapturous reception would turn anyone’s head. But the boys of Girls — JR White on bass, Christopher Owens on guitar and vocals, and an otherwise rotating lineup — are wary of overly speedy success. When I sat down with White and Owens at the Ferry Building last week, I asked White why he thinks listeners respond so keenly to their songs. "I think they’re honest," he replied. "It’s the first thing I noticed, and it’s the first thing a lot of people say." Girls’ music, he added, "lacks the pretension in a lot of pop music."

Girls emerged from a living-room recording project that Owens brought White, a recording engineer. Excited by Owens’ music, White suggested they form a band. A musician since age 15, the bassist confesses that this is the first time he feels no ambivalence about playing in a group. According to White, the project evolved as if by "divine intervention — a gift from everything that’s happened in your life."

I possess a reflexive Gen X cynicism and would normally respond to such an avowal with skepticism. However, there’s nothing contrived about Girls’ sincerity. In fact, the similarly charming Owens owned that descriptor, claiming, "Essentially I am just really an earnest, sincere person.

"I came to the realization at the last show that we would probably be the easiest band to make fun of," he continued. "You could read the lyrics and just mock it. So I feel super-vulnerable. I don’t think we get up there and right away, people are saying, ‘Yeah, this is the best thing ever.’ We kind of have to win them over, but it’s kind of a cool thing to go through from the beginning of the show to the end of the show. Every show has kind of been excruciating to play. The end is great."

In any case, Girls’ lyrical earnestness was treated to a skilled studio work-over on their recordings — a full-length is due this fall on True Panther. The songs shine with brilliant arrangements that layer echoed vocals and reverbed guitars. The touchstones for such massive sound swirls are Spiritualized and various shoegazer outfits, but Girls can’t be pigeonholed as a strictly genre band. For one thing, White rarely buries the vocals at the back of the mix, so we hear Owens’ supple voice upfront, albeit through the pleasant gauze of lo-fi tape hiss. They also have written several dazzling three-minute-or-so pop songs, brightly realized with major chords and handclaps.

According to a commenter on Girls’ MySpace page, the band’s music smells like summer. Laugh or no, it’s true. Their sound resembles all the parts of the season: the bright happy mornings, the long gorgeous days, the nostalgic end-of. "Morning Light" evokes that perfect buzz after a great night out and the walk home on a summer dawn. "Hellhole Rat Race" resembles the summer waxing in September, dusty and wistful. "Lust for Life" gives off the whiff of a perfect pop song: you’re cruising in a car maybe to the beach, in search of beers for breakfast, and your friends are all around.

I don’t know why this music triggers synesthesia in me. I suspect it’s because these gorgeous numbers make my skin literally tingle. The tunes are so classic and pure, yet churn so massively, and the language is so full of want. It’s an imperfect world, and boys and girls do each other harm. But, hey, sometimes a song can be your salvation.


With Master/Slave and Ty Segall

Fri/12, 9:30 p.m., $7

Hemlock Tavern

1131 Polk, SF