Music Features

The nu sincerity

If you prick ’em, they bleed
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James Taylor's early-’70s status as the king of sensitive male vocalists is mere VH1 countdown fodder now. Yet in 2006, more than a few male artists seemed to have recollected being reared in Taylor's soft rock FM heyday or at least had some of his sunny-voiced sincerity channeled down to them by sonic osmosis. Read more »

Frag the dinfo

Two imaginary islands in the torrent of streaming audio bits
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marke@sfbg.com
I.
Choices! You've got choices. And you better make them wisely. In cyberspace your tastes define you. It's your space, your tube, your shared pod. You're all your bandwidth allows. Be all you can feed. After that OCD-chosen primary photo, it's all "about me." But hit that select button carefully. Get those lists exactly right. Not too few favorites, not too many — just enough to embrace your current unique user's criteria, to pique his or her browsing interests. You're just one click away from rejection.
Eclecticism is the new aphrodisiac. And yet it's a tightrope. Read more »

Wholly noise

The Brutal Sound Effects Festival aims high at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
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Trying to fathom the arcane and somewhat frustrating demeanor that shrouds a Bay Area noisenik is like cross-examining Walt Disney on LSD. I've been at the mercy of Rubber O Cement's Bonnie Banks for the past week, meticulously querying the mumbo jumbo he (or she, as Banks likes to be referred to) sends in response to interview questions while nagging him for answers to my more dogged inquiries. One e-mail reply might yield a pensive thought, only to be followed by a farrago of chaotic imagery — swarms of schizo babble about vocal chord mulch, mosquito broccoli, and rabid zombie snowmen. Read more »

Our lady of the ivories

Imogen Heap has the keys to the kingdom
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One part an electric Venus in Furs and one part shipwrecking siren, the woman swirling around the stage has a three-ring circus in her head. There is no doubt about it. Imogen Heap does something to a room.
Captivating presence aside, it's her musicianship that leaves even the most adept of multi-instrumentalists unhinged in disbelief. The 28-year-old songwriter is classically trained on piano, cello, and clarinet; has honed her chops on the drums and guitar; and has even mastered the mbira, Zimbabwe’s thumb piano.
Perhaps most notably, the lady plays a mean Mac. Read more »

Failure, so thrive

Black metal, free jazz, and improv skronk — these are the things Ettrick are made of
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"Ever heard of Wisconsin Death Trip?" Jacob Heule asks. Ettrick's alto sax–playing half and I are in my living room discussing the rigors of life in the Midwest as they pertain to the metal-listening youth of today. Heule, a Wisconsin native, has jokingly — or maybe not so jokingly — cited Michael Lesy's book about the disintegration of the 19th-century town Black River Falls as we make loose connections between freezing cold weather, insanity, and locales that death metal and its fans call home. Read more »

The people's party

DJ Sake 1 finds a rare groove at Pacific Standard Time
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Sake 1 isn't your typical DJ. Holding a graduate degree in social work from UC Berkeley, he volunteers for Caduceus Outreach Services, providing aid to mentally ill homeless adults. He is in the middle of a year initiating as a priest of Elegua in the Lucumi faith (more commonly known as Santeria) and, among other restrictions, must wear white from head to toe, refrain from sex, alcohol, and drugs, and avoid physical contact with others. Read more »

Gimme back my Bone?

Pondering the ineffable sound of "classic rock that rocks"
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When pressed to define obscenity, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously opined, "I know it when I see it." For me, a more honest answer would go something like "I know it when I masturbate to it."
Rock music, like smut, offers an equally simple metric for discerning authenticity: if listening to a band inevitably leads to a stoned argument about the fighting prowess of Bruce Lee, then it is probably real rock. Read more »

The other home of Bay hip-hop

Move over, Oakland and exurbia hyphy — San Francisco's Fillmore District unleashes its own fresh wave of rappers
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If you don't know about the Filthy ’Moe
It's time I let real game unfold....
Messy Marv, "True to the Game"
I meet Big Rich on the corner of Laguna and Grove streets, near the heart of the Fillmore District according to its traditional boundaries of Van Ness and Fillmore, although the hood actually extends as far west as Divisadero. "Me personally," the 24-year-old rapper and lifelong ’Moe resident confesses, "I don't be sticking my head out too much. Read more »

Smart and dangerous

Twisted fun, too much sun, Stanford cool kids, and the Fucking Ocean
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The Fucking Ocean are seriously fucking refreshing: they've taken cues from Mark E. Smith and Ian MacKaye alike to produce biting, sincere post-punk that's nigh anomalous in American music. In band member John Nguyen's San Francisco home, the current three-piece talked about their politics, new record, playing under the stairs at the Edinburgh Castle, and a shared affinity for Mexican food and DC punk.
It was collegiate rock enthusiasm that initially helped bring about this ensemble. Read more »

Mod couple

Canadian producer Moonstarr and New Orleans rapper Voice cook up a tasty Gumbo
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One of the hottest hip-hop albums of the year comes from the unlikely combination of a six-foot-seven Canadian producer and a New Orleans mother of two. Read more »