Top Ten Stuff ‘n’ Things, 8/20/07: Bay Area Flavor

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Ah, San Francisco: cold, dirty, expensive, and impossible to get around in. But, our mayor is so dreamy! Take that, Boise! Also, lately, lots of good music is coming from all sides of the Bay, and some of it lands in my always-worldly Top Ten this week. I know you don’t need them because of the fog, but why not put your stunna shades on anyway, it’s for fun.

Talib Kweli10. Talib Kweli feat. Justin Timberlake – “The Nature” (from Eardrum, out 8/21 on Warner)
(grab an mp3 from The Scramble Network)
Kweli may not have qualified for MTV’s recent “Top 10 Hottest MCs” list (that controversially ranked Lil Wayne #1, and Kanye ahead of Fiddy!) but he’s a towering hip-hop figure nonetheless. This mellow, soulful track gets a little “Lite FM” when Trousersnake pops in for the chorus, but Kweli’s flow is perfectly calibrated, intense without shouting. Plus when the beat kicks back in at 4:23, wow.

Tarentel9. Tarentel – “Everybody F***s with Somebody” (from Ghetto Beats on the Surface of the Sun, CD version just released on Temporary Residence)
(stream at Aquarius Records’ site)
Boy, “Sunshine” could have been such an awesome movie, but it had to turn into “Zombies in Space” instead. Dammit! Anyway, San Francisco avant-rockers Tarentel aren’t fooling around with their title, and unlike some of their previous instrumental work, this isn’t dreamy: it’s dense, skittering, Krautrock-y, like Battles only less concerned with “songs,” if you can believe it.

Foreign Born8. Foreign Born – “Union Hall” (from On the Wing Now, out 8/21 on Dim Mak)
(grab an mp3 at BiBaBiDi)
This band originally came from San Francisco, although they’re in LA now, so I suppose I shouldn’t count them. Either way, the four-piece gain infinite points by prominently featuring an autoharp here. I love me some autoharp. The track starts off restrained, in Jesus & Mary Chain territory, and then erupts into a Band of Horses-style chorus. Check them out at a free show at the Echo in LA tomorrow night.

Nyles Lannon7. Nyles Lannon – “Slipping” (from Pressure, out 9/18 on Badman)
(listen on his MySpace)
Hey, just a few weeks ago I featured Bay Area band Film School in the top ten; now here’s a—chuckle!—Film School graduate. Har!!! Ahem… he used to be in Film School. Is this thing on? Sheesh. Well, where his former bandmates have moved into a swirlier, almost goth-y direction, Lannon’s reference points are more like The White Album, psychedelic and complex.

Modeselektor6. Modeselektor feat. Thom Yorke – “The White Flash” (From Happy Birthday out in September on BPitch Control)
(mp3 via Beep Beep Beep)
On Yorke’s solo LP, the electronic backing tracks seemed resistant to easy grooves—they were hypnotic, but you couldn’t really dance to them. Here, Berlin duo Modeselector retains the experimental vibe, but adds a solid, if dubby, beat. Yorke’s vocals devolve into a chant of “you have all the time in the world,” and even though this track clocks in at 7:30, you kind of wish you did.

Earworm5. DJ Earworm – “Believe Somebody” (Madonna vs. Cher vs. Whitney Houston vs. George Kranz) (mp3 on his site)
At what point can a mashup be so overwhelmingly gay that it actually turns straight again? Well, either way, San Francisco’s Earworm is known for intricately-woven pop tapestries, and in this mashup, the lyrics are re-edited to create new phrases that are both oddly natural and, with their rapid-fire back-and-forth, hilarious.

Slow Motion4. Shorter Boys – “Bama Getting Money”
(mp3 via Mad Decent)
Somewhere between Manheim Steamroller and the theme from “Twin Peaks” lies this slow motion backing track, and over the top, it’s Alabama hip-hop combo Shorter Boys demonstrating an Andre 3000-like verbal versatility. About as far from Skynyrd as possible.

Rogue Wave3. Rogue Wave – “Lake Michigan” (from Asleep at Heaven’s Gate, out 9/18 on Universal)
(mp3 from The Yellow Stereo)
“Publish My Love,” the 2005 single from this Oakland band, was a gorgeous, melancholy gem; in the interim, member Pat Spurgeon had life-threatening trouble with his one and only kidney. However, after a transplant earlier this year, he’s fully recovered. The band, appropriately, sounds full of life, coming out swinging with this joyous 6/8 number that tackles an environmental theme.

Oh La La2. Jacques Dutronc – “On Nous Cache Toute, On Nous Dit Rien” (from Jacques Dutronc on Vogue, 1966)
(mp3 via Aquarium Drunk)
The only place I’d ever heard of Jacques Dutronc was in the list of cool stuff in Cornershop’s 1997 hit “Brimful of Asha” (also the first place I’d heard of Asha Bhosle) but it’s funny what you run across randomly after you sign up for a French class. This is like a freakier Kinks, fast and furious; his lyrics are apparently extremely witty and contrarian, but I may need to get to Chapter 5 in my French book before I understand them.

In School Suspension1. Various Artists – In School Suspension (album on Channel ENT, listen on their MySpace)/ Mad Decent podcast #17
Hyphy, the Bay Area’s sillier answer to crunk, is, as Mad Decent puts it, a legitimate subculture, not just a pre-packaged style for MTV consumption, which is part of why it’s so phenomenally great: there’s a whole world of music being made, waiting for its chance to come up. Suspension features, um, “Yay Area” hip-hop by artists under 21 years old, and it’s as adventurous and energetic as you’d expect, and way better-produced. Highlights include Young Bari’s buzzy, driving “All That Black,” and Diligentz’ spooky “Punk Rock Remix.” Check out Diplo’s Mad Decent podcast for a quick 18-minute mix if you want a free sample. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must locate my grapes and engage in some ghostriding. Which, I’ve learned, can be tough on a motorcycle.


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