Snap Sounds

Snap Sounds: Kisses


“People Can Do the Most Amazing Things”
(This Is Music)

Kisses has become a Snap Sounds stalwart before even releasing a debut album, because the upcoming album’s songcraft is terrific.This follow-up single to “Bermuda” starts like a startling homage to Arthur Russell’s “The Platform On the Ocean” and improves from there. Jesse Kivel’s voice is in fine form and the guitar sound is superb. Lots of groups pay homage to ’80s pop romanticism, but to my ears, only Kisses manage to match or trump it.

Snap Sounds: Kurt Vile


By Irwin Swirnoff

Square Shells

Seven songs of drifter daydreams. There is something so beautifully lonely and core-hitting about the way Vile’s sprawling songs continue to evolve. He can’t be written off to any scene or fad — he’s one of the most poignant, affecting songwriters around. Check out one reason why after the jump.


Snap Sounds: H.U.N.X.


“The Locomotion”/”Can a Man Hear Me”/”I Vant to Suck Your Cock”

Kylie Minogue’s take on “The Locomotion” has been a highlight of Hunx’s DJ sets. It set the dancefloor afire at a Goldies party a few years back. His version is buoyed by Nick Weiss’ Hi-NRG-meets-happy-house production.

The wacky Drac attack “I Vant to Suck Your Cock” finds the two playing with haunted house dick shtick. “Can a Man Hear Me” is the highlight, its me-as-may vocals like Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy with a swagger. A different side of Hunx, and more proof that Teengirl Fantasy‘s Weiss is pretty brilliant.

Snap Sounds: Beach Fossils


Beach Fossils
(Captured Tracks)
Your pretty guitar — or in Beach Fossils’ case, your gorgeous guitars. Lyrics and vocals are virtually beside the point, considering how poetic the guitar sounds are on these songs. Beach Fossils is well-listened enough to admire McCarthy and the Go Team. On “Youth” and “Wide Awake,” the group comes up with something deeply emotive. You have to make the jump and join me on the other side to find out.

Snap Sounds: Kisses


To name a song “Midnight Lover” is ambitious, and perhaps dangerous. A song with a title so classically charged with sex and romance had better deliver. Luckily, this track from Kisses’ upcoming album Heart of the Nightlife (Surround Sound) possesses enough swoon-worthiness to compensate for its relative lack of lust. This duo is romantic, and has the disco credentials – love of Cerrone and Gino Soccio; tutelage under Alec R. Constandinos – to deliver the sleek seduction.

Vegans and vegetarians might not like a chorus come-on that hinges on the appeal of an invitation to a “nice steak dinner,” but Jesse Kivel’s Jens Lekmanesque croon makes the sentiment hard to resist. (It’s also timely, what with Tracey Thorn calling out Lekman by name on the first track of her new album and singing a duet with him later.) Of course, Lekman covered a song by the true tremulous source of the waves of indie-tinged electronic pop and electronic-tinged indie pop in recent years: namely, Arthur Russell. No one to date has matched Russell’s emotional purity, but Kisses might be my favorite of his children-in-waiting because of the way Kivel manages to at least approximate the simple tenderness of Russell’s lyricism. He zeroes in on the feeling of happiness that occurs when one realizes old friends aren’t lost, or that an affair is on the horizon. In this case, perhaps a vacation resort sunset horizon rather than a hazy one on Russell’s urban pier haunting and cruising grounds..

Kisses’ first release “Bermuda” is a strong contender for my favorite song of spring-into-summer, and with this one, the twosome has got another in the running. Inspired in part by Kivel’s past gig as a travel writer, the loneliness of a luxury vagabond life seems to be a theme of Kivel’s and Zinzi Edmundson’s album. I’m ready to dive into Heart of the Nightlife.


Snap Sounds: New Young Pony Club



The Optimist

(The Numbers)

New Young Pony Club really got me revved when they released their debut album Fantastic Playroom [Modular, 2007] and packed it with a whole ranch full of songs for hot gallops and rapid romping. Now that it’s been a good chunk of years, the London five-piece claims they’ve grown up and grown out of their label contracts– they’ve become totally self-produced, self-funded and their new album The Optimist (fresh on the shelves this week) is self-released. Is it self-improved? Neigh (as in a horse noise and symbolizing my uncertainty).

The Optimist is electronically endowed as expected and it’s creative synth melodies have definitely got the juice to make you whinny. Unfortunately a percentage of the new album seems a bit predictable and similar to NYPC songs of the past. Thankfully there are still a handful of Ladytron-esque tracks to chomp on, including hot dance numbers: “We Want To,” “Stone,” “Chaos,” and “Lost a Girl.” I always dig vocalist Tahita Bulmer’s stone-cold fox approach to singing sexy; she borders mono-tone during some songs and other times orgasms into some higher, less inhibited ranges. Not to mention, her horse-mane is totally hot: half buzzed, half long and blonde with ratty crimps.


No Bra makes topless creepy


Exposed breasts usually make my heart beat a little faster in a good, sexy sort of way. But when Susanne Oberbeck, front-woman of post- No Wave- techno band, No Bra, takes off her top, letting her frizzy red hair dangle past her puss and slightly cover her chest, my heart beats faster in a nervous sort of way.

It’s not that the lady is bad looking, it’s the music that inspires and therefore accompanies her shirt removal– industrial, tortured, plunky notes that sulk behind a low, groaning voice. No Bra’s music takes you straight out of your warm desk chair and places you in a dark alley… at 3 a.m…in East Oakland.

No Bra started up in 2003, after Oberbeck moved from her hometown in Germany, to London and then to New York. Her vocals come delivered in a deadpan spoken-word style over cracked-out, murky percussion, electric guitar strums and other combinations of mildew-covered sounds. The old-style German folk slowly churns below Oberbeck, playing the soundtrack to what could be a really rad horror movie from the ’30s. The lyrics about syphilis and anal-sex come off like secrets whispered by elderly, possibly senile men. Oberbeck has called her tracks “romantic.” 

Oberbeck’s intentions for singing minus brasserie seem aimed at disbanding gender norms and besides taking things off, she also puts on a fake mustache every once and awhile. (I’m guessing all of this reflects on her childhood in Germany, where Oberbeck has said she was mistaken for a boy until she was into her late teens). 

Even though No Bra totally creeps me out, I do think there’s something really wonderful and provoking about the music– Oberbeck’s physical nakedness pairs well with the exposed and disturbing musical content. I find its aloofness oddly compelling. 

The latest No Bra single, “Minger/New Hero“, came out in February, with remixes by TV Baby and These New Puritans. Unfortunately, her and her eerie tit show are not touring to San Francisco any time soon…

Snap Sounds: Dum Dum Girls



I Will Be

(Sup Pop)

Dee Dee. Jules. Bambi. Frankie Rose. Their names would be perfect for the pole and dollar-bill dances, but the only stage these four L.A. ladies take on is one with a mic. Together they are The Dum Dum Girls and today these bad-ass babes put out their first full-length record, I Will Be. Primarily dirty garage-pop with a shot of girl-group charm, the Dum Dum’s combination of sweet and ratty comes off with a second-wave feminist punch. Hot harmonies, lo-fi fuzz, sexy black outfits, and sassy melodies that stick like bubblegum. 

I Will Be recieved a little love and audible inspiration from industry vet Richard Gottehrer, who co-wrote “My Boyfriend’s Back” and produced albums by lovely legends Blondie and the Go-Go’s back in the day. Dee Dee (a.k.a. Kristin Gundred) runs the girl gang of musicians and says she grew up listening to sick chart toppers like Mariah Carey until her pops introduced her to the good stuff, like Jefferson Airplane and Grace Slick– thanks Dad! And props to her mom, whose baby face adorns the cover of the new album. 

Taking hints from the grand ol’ ’60s, while spicing things up with some grungy shoe-gazing guitar, The Dum Dum Girls are a sexier version of The Vivian Girls and a perfect upper to any downer. 

Dum Dum Girls – Jail La La from Sub Pop Records on Vimeo.

Snap Sounds: YACHT



The Afterlife


YACHT is to the river as an Oreo cookie is to a tall glass of milk– fully dunked and soggy. The newly released video for “The Afterlife” is alllll about the Portland electro-pop duo gettin’ baptized and cleansed. River baptisms, bathtub renditions, slow-mo and even reverse baptisms. Were they naughty?

I always thought this religious endeavor was all about regaining purity, but they look so innocent in their draping white robes, complete with fancy gold accents, water dripping down their thin noses. According to my trusty ol’ friend, Wikipedia, “Lutherans confess that baptism “works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation.” Regardless of what you think remains to be discovered in the afterlife, know that these two are soaked in preparation. 


Snap Sounds: The Consulate General



Person Number

(Circle Into Square)

We loved him when he was creating music under the moniker Boy In Static and I think a few tears may have been shed when Alexander Chen left the Bay and unpacked his instruments in Gothenburg, Sweden. Like anyone who has ever taken residency in that beautiful country, Chen’s creativity has flourished and his new solo project, The Consulate General, is a breath of fresh Nordic air. 


The debut album, Person Number, is set to release April 6, so until then, Chen is offering up track one, “What Time Is It Now,” as a beautiful teaser to what’s in store. Cheery and pleasant, this track makes me feel all nice about life, even when a hundred things around me are swirling out of place. Airy, ambient electronics mix and mingle with chimes and bells, while the harmonizing male vocals from Chen and guest vocalist Antoine Bedard (Montag) offer the perfect calm, brushing your hair and tickling your back— that or whatever else puts you at ease.

The Consulate General, “What Time Is It Now” by SFBG

Besides music, Chen has also been showing his interactive sound art in galleries around the world and to stop us from biting our lips until April, Chen has made a special musical toy for our screens. The playful piece was built using samples from the Person Number track, “On the Run” and is great for afternoons spent hiding under your desk. Just roll your mouse over the pigeons and play away at

Snap Sounds (and Q&A): Art Museums



Rough Frame


San Francisco’s Josh Alper and Glenn Donaldson lightly place these love songs within comic frameworks. The opening track describes a shy, lovelorn music fan too shy to twist and shout, peppering the scenario with observations such as, “He’s worn his pants like that / For a very long time.” It also mentions a Buggles record, but Television Personalities and Guided By Voices are better reference points to the Art Museums’ sound. In their world, a sculpture garden is a good place to discuss cinema. The Bay Area fey pop tradition carried on by Slumberland bands gets a wry twist here with couplets like “What’s this rain inside my eye / She’s always been a better man than me.” Want to know more? Donaldson was gracious enough to answer some questions about the Art Museums’ aesthetic.

SFBG What are some of your favorite museums? What do you like about them?
ART MUSEUMS Record stores. The records.

SF What sculpture gardens do you like? If you could design one, what would be in it?
AM I prefer arboretums.

SFBG You’re at a Paris cafe — what would you order, and what would you want to do there?
AM After cappuccino, I would take the train to Barcelona.

SFBG If you could bring only one book of poetry to the cafe, what would it be?
AM Anything by Johnny Rogan.

SFBG What are your favorite films about mods? Who do you enjoy discussing cinema with?
AM The Style Council — Far East and Far Out. Girls who wear glasses.

SFBG When the Art Museums hits the road, what do you pack in your suitcases?
AM Corduroy pants, vintage guitars, Roland electronic drums and Walgreens sunglasses.


Snap Sounds: Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba


Four ngonis — that’s a lot of ngonis! Bassekou Kouyate — Malian maestro of the stringed instrument which not only calls up the resounding Middle Eastern oud, the plucky Appalachian banjo, and the freewheelin’ Greek zither — has built a legendary sound around a quartet of ngonis (not as dirty as it sounds, but quite sexy), and has just released a bumptious and beguiling album, I Speak Fula (Sub Pop). He’ll be bringing his multitudinous band and joyfully haunting sound to Slim’s on Thu/11.

Expect high-spirited fingerplay and duelling ngonis aplenty, as Kouyate calls up visions of his Motherland and shows off the bonafide chops he’s honed while jamming with Bela Fleck, Bonnie Raitt, Vieux Farka Toure, and Bono.

For me, though, it’s the absolutely wondrous voice of his wife, Amy Sacko, that really tugs me by the ear into this music. Her bright tones sheer off into rasps or soar into rebellious calls at heart-stopping moments. What’s the word for wanting to smile through tears? That’s the word I’d describe her with, and yes I’m totally crushed out. Several times on the new album Kouyate and Sacko’s voices mesh in a playful interplay that shimmers with broad calm, the calm of true partners. Live, real sparks should fly, ngonis or no.

Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba
Thu/18, 7:30pm, $20 advance/$25
333 11th St., SF.

Snap Sounds: Rollercoaster Project


(Absolutely Kosher)

A Dickens quote culled from A Child’s History of England and the note, “All songs made with careful horror and loving attention” accompany the second album, Revenge, by The Rollercoaster Project (ne Johnny White). Spectral, spooked, and downright epic in its use of tweaked audio, cassette tapes, samples, synthesizers, and piano, it gently tags the film score work by Popul Vuh, sending a listener off on mind travel, far from petty retribution.

Then, just when you’re settling into a meditative reverie, it starts to rage — a splatter of vokills is tossed artfully across the silken tundra of synths — with faint echos of the White Zombie and Sepultura that play into its musician’s makeup, along with Black Flag, whose classic hardcore number partly inspired RP’s project. White claims that the Rollercoaster Project is “a vain attempt to make an audio version of the film Manhunter. ”Sans the “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” one presumes — and genre labels like post-rock or post-hardcore. Revenge or no, Rollercoaster Project wins.

Snap Sounds: Yeasayer


Odd Blood
(Secretly Canadian)

A creepy terminator-type robot dude rolls up to the hottest party in a cage you’ve never even been privileged enough to attend. Damn, I wish I could stumble upon a get-down like Yeasayer throws — swimming ninjas, neon martinis, laser orgies, and magical board games would definitely be something I could get into on a regular weekend basis.

It’s hard to remember you’re listening to “O.N.E.,” a track off the Brooklyn psychedelic band’s second release Odd Blood, put out earlier this year; the video is just that good. Odd Blood is lined with crazy beats, a melting pot of genres — “O.N.E.” is no different. African, disco, electro-tropix will squeeze your inner parts and beg you to groove alongside the web of lasers and glowing windbreakers featured in this stellar video.

Sat., April 17, 9pm
The Fillmore
1805 Geary, SF

Snap Sounds: Etienne Jaumet


Night Music

The idea of nocturnal sound is circulating at the moment, though maybe it always does where electronic music intersects with clubland. Overseen by none other than Carl Craig, Jaumet‘s trip into the dark has a smart structure.

Comprising the first half, the 20-minute “For Falling Asleep” escorts the listener to dreamland through seduction rather than boredom — its slinky synth melodies coil around one another like snakes moving forward at the speed of trains, before the music winds down into languorous sax, Goblin-like ominous throbbing sound waves and delicate acoustic melodies. Shorter and comparatively stripped down, the four tracks that follow either suggest or approximate different unconscious states.

Snap Sounds: ApSci



Best Crisis Ever

(Quannum Projects)

Kudos go out for the NYC-Australian ApSci for not so much keeping it real but plenty surreal. The hip-hop-electro duo takes it further out on their second Quannum full-length — and into a motor-mouthed, frantic future.

Collaborators Dana Diaz-Tutaan amd Raphael LaMotta dive into spastic wavo bop (“Under Control,” “Cubic Zirconia”), Lady Gaga-esque pop (“Crazy Crazy Insane,” “Let’s RIP the Town Up”), and broody raps (“Afford Me This Poetry”), with a brief sidetrip(-hop) to old-school REM (“Swan Swan H”). The overall effect equals banging fun, while retaining a palpable sense of the personal. And long may the drama continue at Camp ApSci.

Snap Sounds: Kammerflimmer Kollektief




(Staubgold, released March 2)

At first sonic glimmer, Germany’s Kammerflimmer Kollektief wax too softly, too New Agedly to stir many passions apart from recollections of browsing self-help bookstores and listening a mite too closely to the soundtrack of a massage.
But this gently unfolding, boldly meditative recording by Thomas Weber, Heike Aumuller, and Johannes Frisch (Weber’s initial bedroom-recording project, which later morphed into a sixpiece collective, has found its latest, likely most efficient incarnation as a threesome) manages to harness a quiet power — consolidated with mere piano, double bass, synthesizer, guitar, electronics, and harmonium — in service of something far much more insinuating than most music that purports to rock. Numbers like “There’s a Crack in Everything” build with a cunning care that seems designed to explode into some sort of shattered noise free-fall, yet that never quite happens in Kammerflimmer Kollektief’s universe — and Wildling is all the better for its makers’ lack of artifice.

Snap Sounds: Elephant9



Walk the Nile

(Rune Grammofon)

Norwegian power trio Elephant9 lays on the acid-laced, “wildly cavorting in fields of fusion” prog — light on the kraut and pop, more in tune with the jazz — on their second long-player, Walk the Nile.

The focus here is the Hammond organ, rising above the group’s furious improvisations and unpredictable tonal shifts. Keyboardist Stale Storlokken (Supersilent), drummer Torstein Lofthus (Shining), and bassist Nikolai Eilertsen (National Bank) rove through such varied jams as the manic, Melt Banana-eesh “Hardcore Orientale” and the more ruminative, slow-building “Habanera Rocket,” like it’s the most natural thing in their wild kingdom. Long may these Scandinavian powers roam.

Snap Sounds: The Bundles



The Bundles

(K, March 9 release)

“Don’t forget about your friends!” pleads Kimya Dawson from the thick of her new down-low supergroup of anti-folk pals and other rough ‘n’ ready types.

Raw rhymes and undercutting quips are the order of the day for Dawson, Jeffrey Lewis, Jack Lewis, and Anders Griffen when they gathered at the Dub Narcotic Studios in Olympia, Wash., last year under the watchful, playful eye of Karl Blau, who ended up joining in for the fun. “The cowboys and the punkers,” howls Dawson, “the fuckers that I conquered!” — all are welcome for these humble and hummable, rambunctious sing-alongs, which evoke both primitive skiffle and rockabilly combos as well as kindred K DIY-ers. The witty lyrics are the real joy here, though when the mellotron begins to wail and the tambourine, snare, and guitar starts to swirl, as they do on “Pirates Declare War,” you can see a long and fruitful coagulation, beyond easy quips and facile joke songs, ahead for the Bundles.

Snap Sounds: Myles Cooper (and High Fantasy)



“Gonna Find Boyfriends Today”



Yeah, 2010 needs some anthems, so thank Mr. Cooper for bringing one, dedicated to all those who want to “find guys to buy us drinks / And tell us that we’re young and funny.” The whimsical reggaeton touch, the yearning keyboard lines, Cooper’s friendly and understated vocal, and most of all the backing choir send this one over. It’s a shame the Passionistas aren’t releasing music, but if this and California Sunshine are what we get instead, it’s all good (and it’s ready to inspire fab YouTube vids). Gimme gimme more.


If you want to go out on a Tuesday night, you can’t do much better than High Fantasy, the new night Cooper puts on with Alexis Penney at Aunt Charlie’s. Rumor has it that a blitz of Boy George is on the agenda of this week’s edition.



Tuesdays, 9:30 p.m.

133 Turk, SF



Snap Sounds: Scene of Action



20 Minute Hourglass


San Francisco needs its own Stone Temple Pilots, no? One with a good dose of Killers sprightliness?

Scene of Action may satisfy. The second EP by the local group with a dullsville name shows off highly polished alt-rock replete with big guitars, boffo NIN-style beats, and loud orchestrations designed for major Evanescence-esque drama. The occasional tender harmony even surfaces on “What’s a Boy to Do.” Commercial, yes — with a dash of eccentricity that just might get them noticed beyond the 20-minute showcase set.


Snap Sounds: Blitz the Ambassador




(Embassy MVMT)

Loving the string-drenched, ecstatically brassy, flamenco-guitar-and-handclap flourishes of production on this Ghanaian rapper’s debut. (He’ll be performing Mon/15 at the Elbo Room.)

Inevitable comparisons to early Mos Def (the voice) and current Roots (the music) will follow — and he made me miss Guru‘s Jazzmatazz a bit — but the Brooklyn-based, Accra-born Blitz carves out a niche of his own between buoyant celebration and sharp-eyed narrative. Opener “Something to Believe” should be a peak-set dance floor staple, “Ghetto Plantation” shows a vision that takes in contemporary slavery worldwide, and the funk undertow never quits all the way through. And although Blitz is definitely on the politically outspoken tip on many of his songs, there’s nary a wince-worthy rhyme here and many fresh observations. This is some complex, soulful music — it should be really interesting to see if he can keep up his rapid-fire flow live (with a six-piece band, indeed). Check it out below:

Blitz the Ambassador

w/ The Park and Martin Luther

Mon/15, 9 p.m., $8/$10

Elbo Room

647 Valencia, SF

Snap Sounds: Lord Newborn and the Magic Skulls



Lord Newborn and the Magic Skulls


What sort of magical concoction do you get when you mix SF skater and musicmaker Tommy Guerrero with LA keyboard jock and Beastie Boys player Money Mark?

The extravagantly named Lord Newborn and the Magic Skulls, which gets an equal assist from Shawn Lee of Clutchy Hopkins. Sweet soul-dappled psychedelia is at the root of Lord Newborn’s fresh sound, awash with juicy jets of foggy prog and low-rider funk. No stupor-group they — I dug the moody meanderings chugging out of this disc long before I actually got a gander at the credits. Consider this the best album from all concerned of late — or just ignore the names and pretend this is a down-low, late-‘60s Latin rock-soul-jazz gem dug from grammy’s crate.

Check out the video for “A Phase Shifter I’m Going Through”

which is a bit of a slacker parody of Kutiman‘s still-mindbending “The Mother of All Funk Chords”


Snap Sounds: Richie Cunning


By Ben Hopfer

If you haven’t heard about Richie Cunning yet, take a peek at his new Ferris Bueller-inspired video.

This local SF rapper has been killing it lately with his mixtapes and brand new album Night Train (Routine Fly). Plus major bonus points for featuring a bear dancing on my street in the opening of the video.

You know, I think I feel a cold coming on right now. Anyone want to call in sick?