Anyone who has flipped through the music section of the Reader has seen the names of countless local acts listed under the banners of countless venues. In fact, there are so many bands in this town that sifting through them can seem like a neverending endeavor. So here’s our cheat sheet for local bands to add to your must-see list in 2015.
Let’s kick it off “ladies first”-style with a big shout-out to the all-girl supernova known as the Rosalyns. Featuring members of the Loons, the New Kinetics, and the Schitzophonics, the Rosalyns are a throwback to the beach-blanket glory of the ’60s with a garage-band twist. The group’s matching outfits are always a treat, as is their cover of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” — sung in German. Ya, das ist gut! Maybe Rosalyns vocalist Anja Stax will understand that last line, since I am pretty certain she is the only person in this city who actually speaks German.
Flaggs may not be all ladies, but they have just enough she stuff for a sellable segueway. Singer/guitarist Lindsay Matheson may be backed by guys now, but damn does she spill Kim Deal magical pixie dust all over the group’s songs. Track down their three-song EP Beach in Her Hair for further proof. Flaggs shares the garage-rock leanings of the Rosalyns as well as fellow notables the New Kinetics, who park on the more traditional side of the garage. Their songs owe a bit to Brits (Kinks) but still feature the mandatory all-American freak-outs that the genre demands.
Mommy told you not to stray too far and, and wouldn’t you know it, the moment you leave the garage you are greeted by Barbarian. But fear not, brave explorer, this Barbarian is the civilized type that makes memorable music along the lines of the National. It’s dark indie pop touched by Talking Heads rhythmn for good measure (and perhaps even for — God forbid — dancing). They were deemed good enough to grab the opening slot for the Arctic Monkeys show at SDSU, so you have no excuse to miss them in an intimate lil room like the Casbah. And speaking of indie pop, Itai Faierman (ex-Mashtis) is back in action with a new band named Speaker in Reverse. The band’s first single, “Natural,” is one catchy pop-rock song.
Fans of the San Diego pop-punk brand rejoice! Future Crooks are here to steal your pop-punk hearts, and they do the genre justice. Songs from their new album, Future Crooks in Paradise, are all over YouTube, and we recommend “Bright Red Hair” to start your day off with the appropriate bang or, in this case, pop, punk!
If it’s roots you dig, the band to plant in your ears is Ypsitucky. The group includes three-quarters of the remnants of El Monte Slim and a new fiddle player who goes by the name of Heather Vorwerck. Singer/guitarist Ian Trumbull has switched to playing a Telecaster for this outfit, so the songs have more of a rockin’ feel than the more acoustically oriented El Monte Slim delivery. But don’t worry, fans of trad country, the guitars are kep in check, and the fiddle she is a blazin’!
Ahhh, the nformals. Two years ago, we called them the shining jewel of the local indie-rock scene. But that was then and this is now. What have they done for us lately? The nformals disbanded, then regrouped around bassist Jerrica Ojeda and became Shady Francos. The Francos are a full-on blood-on-the-stage-catharsis raise-the-dead dose of rock sheer panic that, if they don’t derail, may be our next export to the majors. Yes, that good.
The Schitzophonics run a close second.
We recall the days when Pat Beers lived in an empty warehouse in Mission Valley with only his guitar and a large amplifier for comfort. There weren’t many musicians who could keep up with his psycho fuzz-rock blasts, but we all knew that he was destined for bigger things. Why? Because Beers really does go to another place during his one-handed voodoo guitar thrash-fests. The Schitzophonics are the husband-wife team of Pat and Letty Beers with bassist Tom Lord, and I’m told there’s new music on the way. Embrace your inner Blues Explosion.
Big Bad Buffalo: they can already shred better than you, and they’re still in high school. In all honesty, it was their band class teacher who first turned us on to the triple-B. He was impressed with the cunning of the songwriting and the mastery of their performances. So, now that you’ve gotten all this adult devotion, Alex Staninger, Silvio Damone, and Jordan Krimston — what do you plan to do with it? Come on, guys, dig deep and find that masterpiece you know you have locked away inside your collective abilities. Arenas — and turning 21 — await!
The buzz alone around Tolan Shaw demands a closer look under the hood. Shaw’s a master craftsman of the simple, clear, compact little stories within each song, and there’s a lot to be said for that lost art. A singer/songwriter with a power-pop band that’s hip enough for 91X, the high soul index within Shaw’s soaring vocals sets the hook.
Missy Andersen is looking to bring home some love from the Blues Music Awards later this year. The blues equivalent of the Grammys has included the former Juke Joint Jezebel in their Female Soul Blues Artist category hopefuls. Born in Detroit, Andersen grew up listening to all of the right records. You get a sense of that when you hear her sneak up on a blues standard with a voice that will make you turn off your TV.
Meanwhile, the drum-and-guitar storms generated by twin brothers Jared and Jonathan Mattson are making for new jazz music that is about as vital as it gets in a jazz scene that is otherwise stuck on an endless replay of the ’50s. The Mattson 2 released Agar last year and dialed some raga darkness into their surf-jazz-noise mix. Johnny Herndon from Tortoise liked what he heard, and he joined them onstage more than once last year up in L.A., and it cooked. Do I hear a Mattson 3, anyone?
On the subject of surf music, Rocket From the Crypt’s Swami John Reis is likewise riding that wave. He released Modern Surf Classics in January with the Blind Shake, a notable garage band from the Twin Cities area. Reis, who is suddenly on the comeback trail, was last seen in August with one of his old bands, Drive Like Jehu, at Balboa Park’s Spreckels Organ Pavilion, playing to an audience of better than 5000. It went well enough that Jehu finally said yes — to Coachella. “We’d already relearned five of our old songs,” Reis tells the Reader. “Learning five more suddenly doesn’t seem so daunting.”