1.) “Unaware” by Allen Stone
It’s not every day a musician can sing a song about fiscal responsibility and make it catchy. Stone’s crystal clear voice and bluesy guitar make it sound more like a song about an abusive relationship, which, technically, overspending is.
2.) “Rise to the Sun” by Alabama Shakes
The crowd for this Alabama quartet at Outside Lands was massive. And they played at 3:50 on the Sutro stage. People rallied. Having been compared to the Black Keys, the Alabama Shakes effortlessly combine Southern rock, blues and garage, all of which blend beautifully in this song.
3.) “Augury” by Big Tree
The Berkeley duo recently released their newest music video for a song “about succumbing to forces so much bigger than you or me,” says singer Kaila McIntyre-Bader on the band’s website. “I like to imagine the augurs of Ancient Rome foretelling the future just by paying attention to things most people don’t notice today, like the flight of birds and interpretations of our dreams.” Make what you will of their explanation, but you can’t deny the power of their dissonant harmonies. The band will be back in town in October.
4.) “The Fields” by Apes & Horses
Simple guitar strumming gives the drums more weight, and when the chorus breaks you hear the haunting vocals and understand the full strength of the band’s escapism. Alas, the Parisian rock band has absolutely zero scheduled tour dates anywhere the States, let alone San Francisco. (But I’m on a not-so-covert mission to spread the word in the hopes that one day they will.)
5.) “Soft” by Washed Out
You know that song from Portlandia? Of course you do. This is that guy. Now, before you scoff and go off about hipster music, listen to this song, preferably while watching the fog roll in over the Golden Gate. See? Pretty good, right? Just don’t try and decipher what the lyrics are. The man just mumbles.
6.) “Black Hill Smoke” by Ponderosa
Pool Party, Ponderosa’s recently released sophomore album, is full of tracks that are part Southern soul, part psychedelia, with crooning vocals that sound straight out of the 50s. Which all makes sense, considering it was produced by Dave Fridmann whose worked with everyone from the Flaming Lips and Tame Impala to Mogwai and Weezer. Their current tour is only taking them around the south, but we can still enjoy them from a distance.
7.) “The Hill” by Ty Segall
The first single off Segall’s third album this year, Twins, due out in October. I warn you: It stars out relatively tranquil for typical Segall, but the guitar squeals come pretty quick and he’s back to the garage rock he’s known for. Catch him live at Treasure Island Music Festival.
8.) “Go Je Je” by Antibalas
Another great act at Outside Lands. Their afrobeat-meets-jam-band style is hypnotic, intoxicating, and you are bound to tap your foot if you’re not already wiggling your hips. “Go Je Je” is the perfect example of how they set it all up, building instrument upon instrument, giving each player his time to shine, and keeping you transfixed for a minimum of 6 minutes and 38 seconds.
9.) “Chained” by the XX
The second single off their upcoming album, “Chained” has the same wispy vocals, and heart-aching lyrics, but this time the underlying beat sounds like something from the Postal Service. Execution is key, and recorded it sounds pitch perfect, but will it be the same live? They’re headlining Treasure Island, so buy a ticket and judge it yourself.
10.) “Ever Since” by The Head and the Heart
Ah, the Head and the Heart. I’ve never met a person who doesn’t like them. And come October, I probably won’t know anyone who hasn’t seen them for free at Hardly Strictly. “Ever Since” exemplifies almost everything that is great about this band: beautiful, twangy harmonies, lyrics that carry a universal message, and the quiet acoustic guitar. I say almost, because we’re obviously missing the piano, fiddle, drums, etc., but all of that will be live in Hellman’s Hollow come October.