Archives for posts with tag: San Francisco

Swell were a band (initially a duo) from San Francisco in the very late ’80s/ and ’90s with a unique and distinctive minimalist fusion of elements of post-punk, psychedelic rock and grunge played on acoustic + fuzzy electric guitars and funky motorik drumming thing going on. Here’s “Get High” from their first (1990) album.

(Much) more experimental than their peers Swell – initially just guitarist/ vocalist David Freel and drummer Sean Kirkpatrick on this album – found appreciation in the UK via regular plays on John Peel’s radio show, particularly this song and also “At Long Last” from their follow-up album “… well?”.

Thirty years on it’s still hard to work out where they fit in the grand parade of musical evolution. Maybe Swell were influenced in some way by early Pixies but maybe they weren’t, and maybe they subsequently influenced The Beta band and Gomez in some way, but maybe they didn’t.

Their first, self-titled, album was released on Freel’s own wonderfully-named label pSychoSpecificMusic before Freel and Kirkpatrick assembled a band. Their first show in the US after the album was released was support for Mazzy Star in San Francisco in 1990.

The even better follow-up “…well?” was released on PsychoSpecific before being re-released a year later on the Rick Rubin’s Def American label and on European labels, a part of the world the band toured extensively in the 1990s. Swell went on to release several more albums.

A band well worth exploring further if you weren’t aware of them before.

Seablite 2019Seablite are from San Francisco and have just released a melody-packed album called “Grass Stains and Novocaine” on Emotional Response Records. Here’s “Heart Mountain” to introduce you to the album:

Seablite describe themselves in their Bandcamp tags as fuzz-pop jangle-gaze. The combination of jangle-pop, shoegaze and fuzzy guitar pop sounds like a kind of obvious merging of related and sometimes overlapping styles, yet I’m struggling to think of another band who have pulled it all together with the aplomb shown by Seablite on this album, who get the stylistic mix and the variety in their songs right.

A distinctive feature is the bass playing which sits an octave above where you might usually expect the bassline to sit which gives the songs a strong clear pulse of rhythm and melody through the fuzz and jangle, tethering the weightless harmony vocals to earth.

Seablite are Lauren Matsui (vocals and guitar), Andy Pastalaniec (drums), Galine Tumasyan (bass and vocals), and Jen Mundy (guitar). The album will appeal to fans of Lush and Velocity Girl, among others, and, if you like Seablite, head over to the Emotional Response website to discover a treasure trove of other releases to explore.

Blades of Joy.jpgSan Francisco band Blades of Joy have a self-title album coming out on 21 September, and “Be Kind” is the spell-binding first song shared from it.

“Be Kind” is a perfect pop song with a hint of early Bangles and Rain Parade. It manages to evoke something of the spirit of both Paisley Underground era US guitar pop and a bit of British 80s ‘indie’ label guitar pop too.

Can’t find much about Blades of Joy other than that the band features members of a couple of other San Francisco bands SWANOX and DISSOLVE) and their self-titled first album is released on San Francisco label Melters Records on 21 September 2018.

Mermaidens 2016Wellington trio Mermaidens have just self-released their debut album of sinuous interwoven guitars and drums – fittingly titled “Undergrowth” – and here’s the glorious “Seed” from it:

Over the past few years Mermaidens have crafted their own distinctive sound from the interplay of Gussie (guitar/ vocals) and Lily (bass/vocals) weaving together interlocking melodic strands over drummer Abe’s rumbling polyrythmic patterns.

Mermaidens’ music here across the 8 songs on “Undergrowth” combines hypnotic patterned complexity with controlled dynamics. They use the space between notes and the tension between quiet reflective passages and full-on fury as a colourful frame for Gussie & Lily’s dark soulful voices and equally dark and uneasy lyrics.

Ultimately, while the album brushes with ‘post-rock’ forms at times, its heart and soul evokes a bittersweet blend of sometimes sinister autumnal psychedelia and nature-worshiping witchcraft. Let yourself fall under the spell completely by purchasing the album.