Johnny Ray Huston

Sounds of summer

Concert and music festival highlights from air guitar to Woodsist this season 

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arts@sfbg.com 

 Live music in the Bay Area this summer is bracketed by festivals, from the lowercase indoor venue indie pop of the San Francisco Pop Fest on Memorial Day weekend to the outdoor mid-August convergence of Outside Lands. The guide below aims to name some highlights from a wide variety of genres, with an emphasis on rare and first-time appearances in the Bay Area. 

 

MAY 25-29 Read more »

Soul sounds

The Weeknd and Hype Williams navigate music and identity in 2011

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arts@sfbg.com

Aaliyah has been an ephemeral touchstone for a number of different musical acts in recent years, with Gang Gang Dance citing her as an influence, James Blake sampling her voice, and The xx and Forest Swords covering "Hot Like Fire" and "If Your Girl Only Knew," respectively, from her 1996 album One in a Million. In the last year, small fragments of her song "Rock the Boat" have also figured in albums by a pair of acts — Hype Williams and The Weeknd — that reshape elements of commercial R&B.Read more »

Snap Sounds: Jessica 6

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JESSICA 6
"White Horse" and "Fun Girl"
(Peacefrog)

Siren of the dance floor Nomi Ruiz is looking and sounding even better outside of Hercules and Love Affair; in fact, depending on the petty commercial whims and deeper prejudices of the world, she could be the most alluring pop diva since Aaliyah. Washing in on peerless cymbal-sprays, "White Horse" comes on like the 21st-century answer to Shannon's "Let the Music Play" while also notching top spot in the current Madonna revival. Its video sashays through the kind of N.Y. nighttime sleaze that just about disappeared with the Gaiety, and does so with style. The older "Fun Girl" has traces of the Hercules sound as well as Janet Jackson's and Aaliyah's feline flirtations with guitar rock, and a warped horror-tinged sound that make sense when one considers Jessica 6's original name was Deep Red. Check out the flawless combo of windblown hair/keyboard at 1:14. Can't wait for the album. Videos after the jump. Read more »

Sinisterism and lost hills: The Slow Poisoner joins forces with Fantomas in San Francisco

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In conjunction with the continuing "Fantomas by the Bay" series presented by City Lights, the Cultural Services of the Consulate General of France, and the Mechanics' Institute Library, here's an interview with the Slow Poisoner, who may be casting a musical shadow over the Fri./8 event, “An Elegant Threat.” The man also known as Andrew Goldfarb holds forth on his Fantomas bonds, surrealist activity in San Francisco, and the Slow Poisoner's current and next moves. Read more »

First Thursday: Deathly portraits, cubic rams, smudgy painted mutts, and Aids 3-D

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April is usually one of the liveliest months for the make-your-own-maze blitz of art openings that is "first Thursday," and this year is no exception. One highlight is definitely the debut solo show by Dean Dempsey, who graced the cover of the 2010 Photo Issue of the Guardian, and was interviewed on the Pixel Vision blog. Dempsey has since relocated to New York, and "Selected Works" at Togonon Gallery offers a new glimpse into his idiosyncratic "pictorial sculpture" take on portraiture. Speaking of which, glitter painter Jamie Vasta invokes Caravaggio in a new show at Patricia Sweetow Gallery. More about hers and other openings after the jump. Read more »

Alexis Blair Penney, "Lonely Sea"

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See video

This past weekend Honey Soundsystem held a release party for the 7-inch single release of Alexis Blair Penney's "Lonely Sea." Now the video for "Lonely Sea," directed by Justin Kelly, is up for viewing. Read more »

Snap Sounds: Arnaud Fleurent-Didier

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ARNAUD FLEURENT-DIDIER
La Reproduction
(Columbia/Sony Music)

If you're a lover of chanson-tinged pop and you found Benjamin Biolay's recent double-LP a letdown, then there's bittersweet relief to be found in this song collection, which covers similarly vast instrumental terrain with an ease that the ostentatious Biolay didn't manage. Fleurent-Didier reminds me a bit of Gerard Manset, but not quite as brooding -- there's modernity and whimsy to his compositions and vocal delivery. The interplay between vulnerable voice, acoustic guitar, piano, electronics, and orchestration in "Reproductions" is flat-out gorgeous. The Contempt-inflected music video for that song is one of the best I've seen in quite a while. Totally, tenderly, tragically, after the jump. Read more »

Snap Sounds: Silk Flowers

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SILK FLOWERS
Ltd. Form
(PPM)

There's something endearingly ungainly about Aviram Cohen's singing, but Silk Flowers is most successful in instrumental mode, and the majority of Ltd. Form steers clear of the morbid imagery and Michael Gira-like or Andrew Ridgely-type baritone posturing that characterizes three of the album's tracks. The highlight is "Small Fortune" (which I keep wanting to call "Small Wonder"), an electric dream Phil Oakey would covet. It cries out for a dramatic pop vocal, yet likely is more resplendent without one. Listen in after the jump. Read more »

Smooth criminal: Fantomas slinks into San Francisco!

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Tonight is the kickoff of City Lights' "Fantomas By the Bay" series, with absinthe-soaked readings (by Brian Lucas, Andrew Joron, and others) and performances (including a collaboration between Daniel Handler and Jill Tracy). In honor of the festivities, the time is right to link to the opening passage of Guardian contributor Erik Morse's intense and extensive 2008 rendering of the shape-shifting Fantomas phenomenon for Arthur magazine, and to present scene-stealing Maggie Cheung in a stealing scene from Olivier Assayas's 1996 Fantomas-influenced movie Irma Vep. Look for more here on "Fantomas by the Bay," and check out Cheung and info about tonight's festivities after the jump. Read more »

Snap Sounds: Beach Fossils

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BEACH FOSSILS
What a Pleasure
(Captured Tracks)

Beach Fossils' music possesses a brisk energy that -- while sonically akin to great '80s records on labels such as Postcard and Sarah -- feels contemporary, or at least youthful. The group lost a guitarist after its debut album last year, yet its guitar sound remains its strong point: the jangly melodicism of this eight-song EP's title track is early Johnny Marr-caliber, and the harmonic momentum of "Fall Right In" results in maybe the best Beach Fossils track to date, a declaration of affection that's winning in its simplicity. Read more »