Music Features

Of Montreal exposed

The band's latest takes it darker
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By Michael Harkin

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As all English majors know, beginning a sentence with a prepositional phrase can be problematic. Of Montreal — the Athens, Ga., band headed by songwriter Kevin Barnes — proves an exception to this rule, and if it's a beginning you need, look to Barnes, because it's starting to look like his finesse in penning clever pop records is boundless. Read more »

Stand in the place where you live

Heartless Bastards put the heart in the heartland
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duncan@sfbg.com

I guess I'm a snob. It's not easy to admit, since I like to fancy myself a salt of the earth type, but there it is. I'd just assumed that after making two albums for Fat Possum, 2005's Stairs and Elevators and last year's amazing All This Time; opening shows for the Drive-By Truckers and Lucinda Williams; and touring clubs relentlessly in the headlining spot, the next logical step for Cincinnati's Heartless Bastards would be a change of geography.

I've never been to Cincinnati. Read more »

Follow that bird

Keeping house with the Finches
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By Max Goldberg

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With so many duos still adhering to the muddied-guitar-and-drums style years after the White Stripes broke, it's refreshing to see local twosome the Finches reaching back to an earlier, folksier model wherein melody and songwriting win out over bombast and swagger.

"We actually tried to have our friend Justin play drums at the practice space with us once, and none of us really knew what we wanted at that point," guitarist-vocalist Aaron Morgan muses over tea at a noisy café a few blocks west of t Read more »

Open mind music

Finding life after Deerhoof, Chris Cohen unveils the new Curtains
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Do you ever get the feeling you've been cheated? Not to misinterpret the question asked by a sneering Johnny Lydon of a San Francisco crowd as his band was self-destructing onstage at the now-defunct Winterland Ballroom almost 30 years ago, but seriously, folks, life seems unfair sometimes. In other words, here's a sensible afterthought for your musical mind: there are simply too many damn bands at our fingertips, and sometimes we're only lucky enough to encounter a handful of the really good ones. You might find yourself uttering regrets like "Fuck! Read more »

High tide

Wooden Shjips ride waves of blogoscopic acclaim with lo-fi psychedelia
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kimberly@sfbg.com

Let's face it: half the kick of discovering a little-known noodler or late-night four-tracker lies in the shock of the unknown. Jaded ears perk up at the sound of some never-was untouched by time, history, or, hell, pop itself — after all, musical obscuros like High Speed and the Afflicted Man, one of Wooden Shjips guitarist Ripley Johnson's favorites, were far from popular.

Wooden Shjips itself — give or take that copycat culture–jamming "j" — might have easily slipped past notice. Read more »

Kirby Dominant

Starr: The Contemplations of a Dominator
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KIRBY DOMINANT

Starr: The Contemplations of a Dominator

(Rapitalism)

In a moment when Bay Area hip-hop is synonymous with hyphy in most people's minds, it's radio-shock savvy of Kirby Dominant to throw down a solo effort that follows no trends while his Niggaz and White Girlz project with Chris Sinister continues to generate word of mouth. Read more »

New wave on the tracks

Kirb and Chris seduce all the Molly Ringwalds with the truth on Niggaz and White Girlz
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johnny@sfbg.com

Hip-hop's maze is infinite in size, shape, and perspective, but sometimes MCs get trapped at an impasse and start repeating each other like a gaggle of parrots. During times like that — times like now — it takes imaginative minds to break through and open new verbal doors. Read more »

Get in the Vans

The Pack are young, gifted, and black -- and have a hook on the "punk rock shoe"
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Not surprisingly, a sneaker store was the meeting place for two young members of the popular East Bay hip-hop quartet the Pack, whose slow and smoldering bass-heavy runaway rap hit "Vans," about the "punk rock shoe," has the infectious hook "Got my Vans on, but they look like sneakers."

"Me and Stunna went to the same school. So we knew each other," Lil Uno said. "But one day we just both happened to be in the same shoe store ... Read more »

Hanging on the 'Phone

Bay Area band Elephone evade the expected
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It's hard to take Elephone seriously — not just because of their whimsical name, but because with this San Francisco quintet, what you see definitely isn't what you get.

Witness vocalist Ryan Lambert and guitarist Terry Ashkinos out of what you might assume was their natural habitat. The duo looked strangely at home in the lobby bar at the Fairmont Hotel, where the soft tinkle of piano keys polluted the air and floor-length fur coats were as ubiquitous as they are politically incorrect. Read more »

I heart your dark side

Don't mix up the singer with her song, but do fall for Rykarda Parasol
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duncan@sfbg.com

I've got to admit — I was intimidated. I've done enough interviews that I don't usually get the jitters beforehand, but San Francisco songwriter Rykarda Parasol's sheer self-possession on last year's full-length Our Hearts First Meet (Three Ring) had me a little spooked. Yeah, I've sat through enough interminable creative-writing workshops to know not to confuse the author with the story, the narrator with the narrative, the singer with the song. Read more »