Tag Archives: Music

The Faces of Phono Del Sol

Phono Del Sol 2017 was a vibrant celebration of the Bay Area music scene. The Bay Bridged and Tiny Telephone put together a lineup of artists that truly reflected the pulse of local Bay Area music and the people in attendance were just as much a part of the festivities. For all of the energy that artists like Rayana Jay, Duckwrth, Bells Atlas, Oh Sees, Jay Som and others put forth, there was an equal amount of passion radiating right back from the crowd.

This was a true display of community positivity and well-being and I couldn’t help but feel compelled to capture the smiles, the vibes, the looks and the feel of a day that was totally enjoyed by all. Check out the portrait collection below of friends, acquaintances, artists, a dog, a burrito and a beautiful day. Cheers.

All photos by Adrian Spinelli (except #10 by Sabrina Mai)



























The 50 Best Albums of 2016

This is it. Year 10 of my Best Albums of the Year list is here, moments before we close a messy chapter on 2016. This year was filled with incredible music from new and established artists alike, but will likely best be remembered for the lives that we lost (David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Phife Dawg, Leonard Cohen, and sadly many more…) This year’s post is dedicated to their memory and will celebrate the best music of the year, much of which artists like them inspired in one way or another.

There’re hyperlinks everywhere (hyperlinks are fun…click em!) and there’s a full Spotify playlist (with two exceptions) at the bottom. You can check out the archives of my previous lists from 2006 – 2013 here, 2014 starting here and 2015 here. And now, welcome to Everything Ecstatic’s 50 Best Albums of 2016!

(If you dig what you read/hear, hit me on Twitter. Also, I host the Noise Pop podcast and share a lot of music every month throughout the year. Subscribe on iTunes. Cheers!)

50-41: Stellar Spins

50. Gold Panda – Good Luck And Do Your Best
49. Porches – Pool
48. Charles Bradley – Changes
47. Rapsody – Crown
46. Eleanor Friedberger – New View
45. Big Thief – Real Love
44. Jay Som – Turn Into
43. Allen Tate – Sleepwalker
42. Elujay – Jentrify
41. White Lung – Paradise

The Top 40: The Year’s Best Albums

40. Young Magic – Still Life


Like taking a trip to Bali without leaving your seat. Melati Melay churned out easily the best Young Magic album to date (read my full review for Paste here.)

39. NxWorries – Yes Lawd!


Not that I really needed another Anderson .Paak album in 2016, (more on him later) but Yes Lawd! built on the canvas that producer Knxwledge made for Paak on the groundbreaking single, “Suede.”

38. Hamilton Leithauser & Rostam – I Had A Dream That You Were Mine


After producing a couple of songs from Hamilton Leithauser’s solo album, Black Hours, (including the fantastic “Alexandra”) Rostam Batmanglij —formerly of Vampire Weekend— joined forces with one of my favorite singers in Leithauser, for the exceptional I Had  Dream That You Were Mine. 

37. Sunflower Bean – Human Ceremony


This young trio from New York toured harder than most bands this year. Their debut LP dropped early in the year and never seemed to leave my rotation. Love the dueling vocals from Nick Kivlen and Julia Cumming and Jacob Faber on the drums is a beast on stage.



This Florida duo reminds me of early Best Coast (when it was still good.) I spun the Sales EP ragged waiting for the full length to finally come out and it’s a pleasure.

(Note: I always make a point of highlighting my favorite EP’s of the year and the next three picks reflect that. Cheers.)

35. Forth Wanderers – Slop EP


These Father/Daughter Records signees are from Montclair, NJ (same town as Pinegrove, more on them later) and the moment I heard the title track, “Slop,” I fell into the discog rabbit hole. There’s not much material cause they’re young (lead singer Ava Trilling just finished high school!), but all of it is great and I like the potential here a lot.

34. Rayana Jay – Sorry About Last Night EP


Really sweet concept EP from a Bay Area artist and it was cool to see Oakland’s Rayana Jay come into focus this year. The best two tracks here are produced by SF’s Mikos Da Gawd, including “Sleepy Brown,” which is easily one of the best Bay Area songs of the year.

33. Kllo – Well Worn EP


Found this Aussie duo via the Ghostly International (my favorite label) newsletter and Well Worn marks their first Ghostly release. I profiled them immediately after I heard their music and from where I’m standing, this release bridges a five-year time gap in electronic music (Buy me a beer sometime and I’ll explain this.)

32. Andy Shauf – The Party


One of the later additions to this list, the Canadian Shauf’s third full-length has become a go to for relaxing at home. “Alexander All Alone” is one of my favorite songs of the year and Shauf’s sound has matured immensely.

31. Whitney – Light Upon The Lake


This is probably my favorite morning album of the year cause it’s so calm and approachable. Soft horns billowing alongside gentle guitars, without being too tame. It’s a good one.

30. Caleborate –1993


Nice punctuation mark on a solid two-year run for Berkeley rapper Caleborate. 1993 is his most polished work to-date and he’s drawing a lot of attention from big names in hip-hop. Stoked to see what the future holds for this dude.

(NOTE: I live in San Francisco and also dropped The 16 Best Bay Area Albums of 2016, where Caleborate’s 1993 checked in at #3. Bookmark it if you live in the Bay or are just plain interested in good music.)

29. Skepta – Konnichiwa


I first heard Skepta on Blood Orange’s “High Street” from 2012’s iconic Cupid Deluxe. Since then, he’s become England’s definitive grime MC and even won the UK’s coveted Mercury Prize (top album of the year from the UK.) He leads the grime movement with charisma and authority. Peep this amazing performance of “Shutdown” from the Mercury Prize gala.

28. The Range – Potential


One of my favorite electronic releases of the year, The Range’s James Hinton infuses his productions with trivial samples of people singing on Youtube. It can be odd, but it totally works. Seeing Hinton play the “Swimbyosis” stage on the Woodward Reservoir shore while I was floating in the water at Symbiosis festival, was one of my favorite live moments of the year.

27. Jessy Lanza – Oh No


This was easily one of my most anticipated albums of the year following Lanza’s breakthrough 2014 LP Pull My Hair Back.  On Oh No, she built on the aesthetic that she and co-producer Jeremy Greenspan of Junior Boys had previously established, while exploring her eclectic musical influences. Nods to footwork and 80’s pop abound and “VV Violence” was a killer single. Hear my April interview with her on the Noise Pop Podcast here. 

26. Kendrick Lamar – untitled unmastered.


Kendrick Lamar needs only the cutting room tracks from last year’s #1 Album of the Year, To Pimp A Butterfly, to churn out one of the best hip-hop releases of the year. Untitled unmastered., with it’s sputtering free jazz beats, is a welcome bridge for whatever comes next for perhaps the best MC in the game.

25. Robert Glasper/Miles Davis – Everything’s Beautiful


It takes incredible talent to re-interpret Miles Davis tracks in memorable fashion. Bill Laswell, King Britt, et al. did a fine job with 1999’s Panthalassa: The Remixes EP, and now Robert Glasper — “your favorite producer’s favorite producer” — uses Miles samples for this album, the Original Soundtrack to Don Cheadle’s Miles Ahead biopic. Glasper has features from Erykah Badu, Phonte, John Scofield, Stevie Wonder(!!) and Hiatus Kaiyote. But it’s Bilal along with Glasper and Davis on “Ghetto Walkin'” that steals the show.

24. Moderat – III


Berlin-based Moderat is Apparat and Modeselektor and damn it if the the whole isn’t better than the sum of its parts.  This is their third effort together (duh) and they’ve never sounded better. III is an IDM masterpiece and lead single, “Reminder,” is one of the year’s best tracks.

23. Kamaiyah – A Good Night In The Ghetto


Queen of the Bay. I’m gonna keep referring to Kamaiyah as that, because she stole the fucking show in Bay Area hip-hop this year. “How Does It Feel” is the anthem the Bay Area needed the most and she’s poised to kill the game nationally. A Good Night In The Ghetto checked in at #2 on my Best Bay Area Albums of 2016. 

22. Black Marble – It’s Immaterial


Ghostly International can do no wrong in my book. I was introduced to Black Marble this year and It’s Immaterial is a portrait in passing of life in a New York Loft. This is killer loner music and Chris Stewarts’ output sounds like the love child of New Order and Cold Cave.

21. Field Mouse – Episodic


Go ahead and file this as the most underrated album of the year. I’m miffed at how this Topshelf Records release didn’t garner the kind of critical praise that other Philadelphia artists featured on this album have. Episodic is engineered by Hop Along’s Joe Reinhart, features Cymbals Eat Guitars’ Joseph D’Agostino, Swearin’ and Waxahatchee’s Allison Crutchfield, as well as Sadie Dupuis (on the most excellent “Do You Believe Me Now?”) The music is awesome and is in the same vein as those aforementioned critically-acclaimed artists (“Over And Out” among other tracks, takes me back to some of my favorite 90’s alterna rock bands.) And that cover art? It’s done by none other than Hop Along’s Frances Quinlan. I love this record and it’s the definition of an underrated one. Don’t sleep on Field Mouse, they rock.

20. Twin Peaks – Down In Heaven


I had more fun seeing Twin Peaks live this year than just about anybody else. Caught ’em three times and hearing “My Boys” at Bonnaroo’s opening night was everything. These guys are in the zone and this is solid Chicago psych-folk rock.

19. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool


Radiohead might be the best band on the planet and A Moon Shaped Pool is a logical step in their story. Jonny Greenwood’s production is on point and this is yet another quality Radiohead release. Plus, they finally put “True Love Waits” on a record. Hell yes.

18. The Avalanches – Wildflower


16 years after their iconic Since I Left You, (One of my desert island discs) The Avalanches finally dropped a follow-up and it took me a while to get over what took them so long. They have Camp Lo opening the album up magnificently on “Because I’m Me,” Toro y Moi’s Chaz Bundick on “If I Was A Folkstar” and additional features from Danny Brown, MF Doom, Father John Misty and more…. Like Since I Left You, Wildflower shows how that The Avalanches are especially well-versed in a range of musical styles.

17. ANOHNI- Hopelessness


Not sure if there’s another artist who can fire shots at the Obama administration and their use of drone warfare in the Middle East, through gripping music that you want to listen to over and over again. ANOHNI (formerly Antony of Antony and the Johnsons) is joined by producers Hudson Mohawke and Daniel Lopatin of Oneohtrix Point Never for one of the most powerful releases of the year.

16. David Bowie – Blackstar


David Bowie is one of the most important artists of our lives and our parents lives and likely our children’s lives. He worked on Blackstar until he tragically left this world in January and this album will forever feel like Bowie’s ghost in our speakers, doing what he did best for decades.

15. Blood Orange – Freetown Sound


Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes has a firmer grip on pop music than just about anyone. Freetown Sound sees Hynes delving deeper into themes of love, sexuality, hate, politics and living in tumultuous times. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, he’s the closest thing we have to Prince.

14. Adrian Younge – SomeThing About April II


There’s just so much fucking silk on this record. Adrian Younge conducting his soul orchestra, Bilal and Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier (my favorite vocalist of all-time) all over the record and if that’s not enough, Rapahel Saadiq. Younge is a modern-master, who pushes the boundaries of soul music and delivers his music with a stylistic feel that is unparalleled.

13. Jamila Woods – HEAVN


Chicago stay eatin’…What a beautiful record from one of the best young voices in hip-hop. It’s a display of Chicago’s fearlessly emotional and political hip-hop style, featuring a lot of the figured who matter in that scene, with Woods front and center. (This is one of the two entries not on Spotify, but you can listen to HEAVN on soundcloud in full here.)

12. Pinegrove – Cardinal


This is why we don’t drop Best of The Year lists in November. I finally spun this album late in the year and I’ve listened to it more than anything since. From Montclair, NJ, Pinegrove’s is indie rock that just kicked emo to the curb and builds small-town nostalgia with a hint of a banjo — the kind that doesn’t hit you over the head. Pinegrove just makes you so fucking happy to listen to them…When “New Friends” came on earlier today,  it brought the biggest smile to my face and it always does.

11. Noname – Telefone


Chicago hip-hop comin’ atcha again and this album is proof of how dominant the Chi-town scene was this year. It feels like everything came together perfectly on this one. Noname (fka Noname Gypsy) was the vocalist on Chance The Rapper’s “Lost” (off of 2013’s Acid Rap) and now she’s brought in her own cadre of collaborators, like producers Cam Obi, Phoelix, Monte Booker and Saba. Start at “Diddy Bop” featuring Raury and Cam and then get lost in one of the best hip-hop releases of the year.

10. Beyonce – Lemonade


This is absolute ownage of pop music and pop culture. Beyonce is a fucking boss and the Lemonade visual album accompaniment is one  of the greatest pop culture productions I’ve ever seen. (This is the other album not available on Spotify, hence it’s not on the playlist. You can bootleg it, or get it on Apple Music —or Tidal?  — or e-mail bomb Jay-Z or something? Vinyl? Just do what you gotta do to get it.)

9. A Tribe Called Quest – We got it from Here…Thank You 4 Your service


This was a real treat for old school hip-hop heads. To hear Phife Dawg dropping posthumous bars making sports references like no other, Jarobi’s best flows, Q-Tip not totally stealing the limelight and features from Andre 3000 to Kendrick Lamar to Anderson .Paak…man, I just still can’t believe we got a new Tribe album in 2016. Bless up Tribe.

8. Låpsley – Long Way Home


This is my zen. I listen to this record religiously when I cook, which seems to be the only way I can absolutely unplug from the outside world. Last year’s Understudy EP made the list and shouts out to XL Recordings for quickly putting out Long Way Home. The 20 year old Brit is a most elegant singer, who pairs her vocals with her own nuanced electronic production featuring a resonating drop-vocal effect on most of her tracks. One of the most original projects I’ve heard in quite some time.

7. Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book


Give the man his credit, Coloring Book is the truth.  Man… I wish I could vote for Chance for president. I mean…the guy single-handedly started a rampant independent music movement by shunning record labels when others in his position never did. He’s on his way to becoming one of the biggest artists in America and there’s soooo many classics on this album: “Blessings,” “Angels,” “Summer Friends” for starters, but this album has so much damn energy. It has gospel undertones bursting at the seams, but it’s incredibly self-aware and a helluvalot of fun. One love to Chance (Also, I beat him at ping-pong once…facts only.)

6. Frank Ocean – Blonde


I had to first get over the many jukes and psych-outs Frank Ocean pulled before finally releasing this record; it was borderline ridiculous. But once I got over myself, Blonde wonderfully picks up where Channel Orange (my #1 album of 2012 ) leaves off and it’s just Frank doing his thing. This is an incredibly ambitious album that’s well-executed from start to finish with a lot of stellar moments….Feel like that last sentence is the ultimate cliche for a great album, but there you go. Also, “Solo” (Reprise) with Andre 3000?!?!?!?! Shiiiiiiit!

5. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial


This kid can write a fucking hook. Reminds me of when Cloud Nothings burst onto the scene and started making an album a year and quickly had this vast discog of rockin’ pop tracks. That’s where Will Toledo and Car Seat Headrest are at now. This album is catharsis for every angst-riddled, depressed, quasi-happy, lost, confused, anxious, stupid and blissfully ignorant kid…and whether that kid is a teenager or a thirty-something, Toledo speaks (screams) right into our souls, to find ways to say what we’ve always wanted to get out, but didn’t have the guts (or talent) to do so.

4. Solange – A Seat at The Table


This is absolute ownage of pop music and pop culture, while fully establishing your own identity as an artist, without pandering to, well…anyone. Solange affirmed that she is no longer living in her sister’s shadow with an amazing concept album. Her voice has never sounded this velvety and she got extremely creative in using Master P as the vessel to move the storyline of A Seat At The Table along; of being black and trying to become successful in America. The album’s production slate is also a who’s who in indie rock and soul-based hip-hop: Longstreth, Questlove, Saadiq, Welsh, Sitek, Sampha, Bainbridge, Q-Tip. Respect.

3. Kaytranada – 99.9%


My favorite electronic album of the year is from Canadian producer Kaytranada. Album opener, “TRACK UNO” was the best pure intro track of the year and from there, Kaytranada shows why he might be the best producer to match any vocalist’s flow. From Phonte  to Vic Mensa to Anderson .Paak to Craig David…wait, wait…hold up? He got Craig David back out?! For real, “Got It Good” is serious shit and it has a totally different feel from Paak’s “Glowed Up.” 99.9% induces movement at every turn, but with the utmost versatility. The instrumental tracks are likewise prime, especially “BUS RIDE” with Karriem Riggins on the drums. And just when you think he’s out of tricks, the album closes with “BULLETS” featuring Little Dragon’s Yuikimi Nagano. Feel me?

(Note: 99.9% won The 2016 Polaris Prize, awarded to the best Canadian album of the year.  I loooove watching the Gala on youtube every year. Watch it here with performances from Kaytranada, Jessy Lanza, Grimes, Andy Shauf, Carly Rae Jepsen, White Lung & more)

2. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – A Man Alive


Taken from my #1 Bay Area Album of 2016 entry:

What could easily be my overall album of the year, A Man Alive saw Thao opening herself up to her past and the intense emotions that came with living a life in the shadow of her estranged father. I had the pleasure of reviewing A Man Alive for Paste Mag earlier this year and it gave me an opportunity to dig into what I feel is the best lyrical album of the year. I remember on my final listen before I started writing, I lost my shit three times: On “Guts,” “Millionaire” and then “Hand To God.” These types of powerful music moments don’t come around too often and when they do, you’re probably staring an Album of The Year candidate in the face.

On Thao’s best record to date, she’s joined by producer Merrill Garbus of tune-yards, who helped Thao explore deep self-reflection and make music that spans far beyond her folk-leaning roots. I love this album, because it poked through the Bay, when hip-hop is really dominating the area for me in terms of quality and showed how good rock and roll can still be made here. It showed what an incredibly talented songwriter Thao is, who is still expanding her musical boundaries. But most of all, it showed how a San Francisco artist (Thao) and an Oakland artist (Garbus) can come together to create the best local album of the year, and it’s a microcosm for what we can all accomplish together if we bridge both sides of the Bay. This was the record that drove the point home of how we’re much stronger artistically if we look for ways to merge the creative hub that Oakland has become, with the inspirational beauty, infrastructure and musical history of San Francisco.

1. Anderson .Paak – Malibu


The best album of the year, also comes from this year’s most interesting artist. You couldn’t turn around without finding Anderson .Paak on a track somewhere in 2016. The man who finally blew up as the primary vocalist on Dr. Dre’s Compton record last year, is now a bonafide star. But this rise didn’t come without a decade-long struggle and Malibu tells the story of that.

What makes Paak so great, is that while his life — broken home, parents in jail/on drugs, marriage quickly annulled, career going nowhere — could easily be viewed as tragic, he never takes himself too seriously and always feels like he’s living in the moment that you’re listening to. In the end, he never stopped pushing forward and when he got a golden opportunity to make it to the top, he outworked everyone else to get there. And he still hasn’t stopped. I made a playlist of tracks Paak is featured on and I keep adding to it monthly, cause new tracks keep popping up. His NxWorries album is also on this list at #39. He’s been touring furiously, including 11 shows at SXSW en route to the prestigious Grulke Prize as the festival’s best performer.

Malibu is that album without a bad song. It’s the album that when one song ends, you’re sorta bummed, but then are quickly brought back to life when the next one starts. It’s the one where you go “Hey, that sounds like a 9th Wonder beat?” And it is. It’s the album that has songs about shitty exes that makes you laugh because you remember her/him. It’s hearing Paak talking about getting his first pair of Jordan’s and thinking about when you got your first pair of fly kicks. It’s the album with mounting  visual and interactive media and performances that just make you wanna keep paying closer attention (This low-key Marvin Gaye inspired performance takes the cake.)  And for me personally, it’s the album where I co-signed the dude a year ago, thinking he was gonna pick up steam quick, but had no idea just how much steam and how quick and incredibly inspiring his rise would be.

I’ll leave you with a lyric from my favorite song of the year, “The Waters” feat BJ The Chicago Kid and produced by Madlib. Where Paak, wearing a huge grin on the mic and knowing his career is about to explode, calls his shot in top form and lives to tell the tale:

I’m glad that you finally made it to the future but you’re late
And the price is through the muthafuckin’ roof
If you want you could wait outside the building
I ain’t takin’ no more meetings

The future is here and Anderson .Paak is a massive part of it. What an album, what an artist and here’s to the Best Album of 2016!

Cheers y’all and Happy 2017!

The 16 Best Bay Area Albums of 2016

By Adrian Spinelli

Despite what some people might lead you to believe, 2016 was NOT a “shitty year” for Bay Area Music. On the contrary, it was a brilliant one, that showcased a slew of talented artists who are finding ways to make music that pushes boundaries and doesn’t sound like it came from anywhere else in the country, besides the Bay.

The Bay Area music community came together  —again and again —in the wake of the tragic Oakland Ghost Ship fire that claimed 36 lives, to show support for each other regardless of what clique or subregion of the Bay they were from. Benefit shows for victims of the Ghost Ship Fire continue to be held (I recommend this upcoming show) and it’s a sign of this community’s unwavering support and care for each other and our art.  At the start of the APE/Noise Pop/Paradigm Ghost Ship benefit show at the Fox Theater, Geographer’s Mike Deni, who has seemingly been laying low, said it best: “There’s a reason I haven’t moved to Brooklyn or LA….because when something like this happens, this community is here for me and for us.” Preach.  This mixtape honors the artists who lost their lives in the Ghost Ship fire. Please listen to it. It’s beautiful.

I love living in the Bay and I love our local music scene. I love that there are just as many talented women making music in the Bay as men (my list reflects this big time.) I love that our artist-base is diverse (even if our SF crowds at shows aren’t always.) I couldn’t tell you how many times I felt proud to be a part of everything, even as a person who merely documents, reports and amplifies what local artists are creating.

With that, these are the sixteen Bay Area releases that moved me the most in 2016. One love.

Full Spotify playlist of all albums at the bottom of this post. 

15. E-40 – The D-Boy Diary Book 1& 2


Dude is relentless….not one, but TWO albums?! “I played my position and delivered a bangin’ ass album that slaps,” Earl told me earlier this year. These 42 tracks do exactly that and E-40 keeps giving back to the Bay featuring a slew of local up and comers and well-established artists all over this record.

14. Con Brio – Paradise


This is a soul record at it’s core, and the band fronted by vibrant singer Ziek McCarter really hit their stride this year. The SFers have been touring around the world, but still make time to play the Bay on the regular and totally put it down at Outside Lands this year. 

13. Fantastic Negrito – The Last Days of Oakland


Fantastic Negrito is worth every bit of hype that he’s gotten since winning NPR’s Tiny Desk contest two years ago. Xavier Dphrepaulezz bleeds Oakland and is one of the most unique talents to come out of the Bay in years (and is now Grammy nominated!)

12. Rexx Life Raj – Father Figure


Pay attention to this Berkeley MC if you haven’t yet. Dude is a solid rapper and pulled-in a feature from Nef The Pharoah and a crop of local producers for the fully-formed Father Figure. “Handheld GPS” was one of the year’s best tracks and the Mikos da Gawd & Julia Lewis remix is a fucking revelation.

11. Rituals of Mine – Devoted


Formerly known as Sister Crayon, the duo of Terra Lopez and Dani Fernandez laid their roots back in their hometown of Sacramento and delivered an incredible trip-hop album. They opened for Tricky at the Indy earlier this year, which is a helluva co-sign and the Warner signees can be filed under the most slept-on local acts of the year.

10. Tycho – Epoch


Shouts out to Scott Hansen and Tycho for their Best Electronic Album Grammy nomination. This is such a coup for the Bay and a testament to a well-established career for Hansen. Epoch doesn’t stray too far off the formula he built on Dive and Awake, but it doesn’t need to. We come to Tycho to chill-out and Epoch is perfect for that.

9. IAMSU – Kilt 3


IAMSU has crafted the blueprint for making it as a Bay Area rapper. He dropped countless mixtapes, but saved the best for his albums and Kilt 3 is some serious shit. The Trackademics produced “iPhone & a G-Mail” is a serious banger as is “Aura” produced by Mike Zombie. Local producer Cal-A and SU himself claim a couple production credits and the HBK CJ beat on “Up All Night” was one of the most recognizable Bay Area jams of the year.  After launching his own label Su recently announced that he’s moving to Atlanta, but says he’ll be splitting time in the Bay too. Get after it!

8. Young God – …but he who causes darkness


While atmospheric hip-hop/electronic production duo Blue Sky Black Death’s storied career is likely over, Oakland’s Young God (neé Ian Taggert; one half of BSBD) has been quietly releasing solo music on the regular. His Greenova South project with Main Attrakionz’s Squadda B and rapper Pepperboy was cool, but it’s  …but he who causes darkness — “a loose collection of beats and songs…”  — that channeled the magic  he created with BSBD for a decade. It’s an album to zone out to blissfully in the bedroom, on a plane or anywhere in your headphones. Here’s to Young God continuing a low-key prolific run in the Bay.

7. Xiomara – Seven Nineteen


This is some straight “Where the hell did this come from?!” shit. San Francisco’s Xiomara is an R&B songstress, whose Seven Nineteen — co-produced by SF’s Brycon and Xiomara— was one of the most complete local records of the year. She’s funky, but elegant. She’s emotional, but sharp-toothed. This is can’t miss stuff.

(Note – Shamelessly plugging a show I’m putting on at Rickshaw Stop on January 24th, with Xiomara opening for the wonderful Bells Atlas and a DJ set from Anthony Ferraro  of astronauts, etc. — The man behind my #1 Bay Area album of 2015. Full details here. Come hang!)

6. Elujay – Jentrify


The word “phenom” comes to mind when thinking about 20-year old Oakland rapper Elujay. I love this dude cause he can fucking sing. He’s clearly studied up on the R&B/hip-hop crossover classics and I see the same star rising in Elujay that I saw in Caleborate two years ago. “Google Maps” is velvety smooth and flat-out beautiful. Elujay will be the next big Bay Area hip-hop artist. I believe that shit with everything I got. Mark it down.

5. The EP’s – Rayana Jay – Sorry About Last Night/Day Wave – Hard To Read


Two for one  on this entry: First off, Rayana Jay’s excellent concept EP featured impeccable production from Mikos Da Gawd and showed Jay to be a controlled force on the mic. “Sleepy Brown” might be the Bay Area’s song of the year and there’s a bright future ahead here..

Day Wave’s Hard To Read is merely the precursor to Jackson Phillips’ upcoming album, due out in 2017 on Harvest Records. But he followed up on last year’s Headcase EP with 5 new tracks that build on his library of unique daydream-pop that’s soaring worldwide.

4. Jay Som – Turn Into


Melina Duterte is the auteur behind Jay Som and with Turn Into, she became a critical darling following its re-issue on Polyvinyl Records. The album harkens back to some of my favorite female-fronted 90’s acts like Mazzy Star, shades of Tonya Donnelly and beyond. Duterte is a clever songwriter and there’s a radiant flow to Turn Into that rallied a lot of people behind this record. More importantly, Jay Som is one of the acts who’s helping define the Bay Area’s transitional sound in the post-garage rock era.

3. Caleborate – 1993


I’m proud of this dude. Straight up. When I first met Caleborate two years ago, he had a distinct vision for his music and his career and he’s stuck to his word to a fucking tee. What’s always defined him for me, is what he continues to do, and that’s surrounding himself with talent that helps the whole succeed. 1993 is easily his most polished work to date and features production from some of the Bay’s best producers in The Julia Lewis, P-Lo, Cal-A and Mikos Da Gawd, Ian McKee and more. “Options” with Pell and Sylvan Lacue is fun as hell and one of my favorite songs of the year. On it, he sings: “Had to call my Pops and let him know his son’s about to blow.” True. Wishin’ Caleborate nothing but the best as his star deservedly continues to rise.

2. Kamaiyah – A Good Night In The Ghetto


Queen of the Bay. If there was ever any doubt, her second  set at the quasi-disastrous Treasure Island Music Festival in the pouring rain was the most powerful performance by a Bay Area artist in 2016. Her feature on YG’s “Why You Always Hatin” along with Drake raised Kamaiyah’s profile immensely and A Good Night In The Ghetto did a fine job of staying true to The Bay (“How Does It Feel” will be a Bay Area anthem for a loooong ass time) as well as it did showing an artist who’s ready for nationwide recognition. The Trackademics produced “Freaky Freaks” is a G-Funk era throwback, tailor made for Oakland’s post-hyphy era and shows that no matter how far Kamaiyah’s promising career goes, she’ll always be from the Bay.

Number One: Thao & The Get Down Stay Down- A Man Alive


What could easily be my overall album of the year, A Man Alive saw Thao opening herself up to her past and the intense emotions that came with living a life in the shadow of her estranged father. I had the pleasure of reviewing A Man Alive for Paste Mag earlier this year and it gave me an opportunity to dig into what I feel is the best lyrical album of the year. I remember on my final listen before I started writing, I lost my shit three times: On “Guts,” “Millionaire” and then “Hand To God.” These types of powerful music moments don’t come around too often and when they do, you’re probably staring an Album of The Year candidate in the face.

On Thao’s best record to date, she’s joined by producer Merrill Garbus of tune-yards, who helped Thao explore deep self-reflection and make music that spans far beyond her folk-leaning roots. I love this album, because it poked through the Bay, when hip-hop is really dominating the area for me in terms of quality and showed how good rock and roll can still be made here. It showed what an incredibly talented songwriter Thao is, who is still expanding her musical boundaries. But most of all, it showed how a San Francisco artist (Thao) and an Oakland artist (Garbus) can come together to create the best local album of the year, and it’s a microcosm for what we can all accomplish together if we bridge both sides of the Bay. This was the record that drove the point home of how we’re much stronger artistically if we look for ways to merge the creative hub that Oakland has become, with the inspirational beauty, infrastructure and musical history of San Francisco.

Can’t wait for 2017 y’all…much love and Bay Area stand up!!!

Best Music Video of 2016: Jamie XX’s “Gosh”

From the moment I first watched it, Jamie XX’s “Gosh” video directed by Romain Gavras grabbed me. It successfully depicted a world I never knew existed, but wanted to know everything about when the video came to a close. Watch the video and read my entry for Paste Magazine’s 20 Best Music Videos of 2016 feature from 12/15/16 below. 

Romain Gavras never takes the easy way out. The Greek-French music video director, who is most well-known for directing M.I.A.’s provocative “Born Free” and flamboyant “Bad Girls” videos, doesn’t just make music videos as much as he makes musical short films as his signature stamp on the video he conceptualizes and directs. Gavras often creates post-apocalyptic worlds like with “Born Free” and Kanye West and Jay-Z’s “No Church In The Wild” And on Jamie XX’s “Gosh” video, Gavras’s setting is a utopian ghost city, which in fact, isn’t a utopia at all, but rather the Tianducheng development in the Chinese city of Hangzhou, which was built to look like Paris and house 10,000 residents, but is now is sparsely inhabited (The story of Tianducheng itself is one of the internet’s most glorious rabbit holes by the way. Feel free to start here.)

The world of “Gosh” sees Hassan Kone — an albino of African descent — as its focal point, traversing the city amidst hundreds upon hundreds of Chinese boys, whose soldier-like choreography and visual and mechanized uniformity is masterfully portrayed by the Xiaolong Martial Arts School. Kone comes across as the last hope for the decrepit cesspool of Tianducheng, as he races through the film in a Subaru and ends it standing beneath the 300 foot tall Eiffel Tower replica, while the Xiaolong boys circle him in patternized movement. It’s what Busby Berkeley choreography would look like in the year 2100.

All the while, Jamie XX’s opus founded on elements of ragga drum and bass, is hypnotically in sync with the movements of the characters. Mattias Rudh’s drone cinematography pans out to show the sullen buildings of Tianducheng, creating a CGI feel, which adds to the eerie, futuristic vibe of the video.

Gavras tosses out his usual violent themes in favor of a different type of fear. The fear that this utopian city from the future is actually from the present. Kim Chapiron and Iconoclast’s “Behind The Scenes” mini-doc (watch it below) is a welcome companion to Gavras’s “Gosh” video and a look into the method behind the artistic madness of one of the most intriguing music video directors in the business and one of the best videos of the year.

Listen to Ser Mareas

New York City-based Ser Mareas is the brain child of producer and multi-instrumentalist Dustin Balint. His music is the kind of sublime soundtrack to daydreaming in your bedroom, window open…sun pouring in with a breeze by it’s side. It’s beautiful. From gorgeous guitars and sputtering cymbals to an ambient cello and a soft trumpet, it’s nothing short of mesmerizing.

His recent demo of “Ceiling View” was published to the Fat Cat Records’ Demo Site. They called it “a cohesive instrumental soundscape” and it’s rightfully turning heads. Listen here:

Go to sermareas.com to hear the whole You Above All album and lose yourself, if only for a short moment.

Ser Mareas is on Twitter and Facebook.

Follow @EcstaticBlog on Twitter.


3 New Vids: FlyLo, Cathedrals & TVOTR

Man…three REALLY dope videos just dropped within the last 36 hours. This post is dedicated to their overall awesomeness:

First up to bat, is the freshest pressed of the three, from Flying Lotus and King Kendrick Lamar. “Never Catch Me” is already one of the best singles of the year and FLyLo’s You’re Dead drops next Tuesday. The vid addresses death in the ghetto and a pair of youngsters arise from the dead and dance with remarkable cadence to the ever-fluctuating beat of the song. Check it:

Next up is San Francisco’s very own, Cathedrals. They just dropped their Cathedrals EP and the stunning video for “Unbound” is nothing short of an artistic accomplishment. It’s the result of a slew of SF-based artists coming together and you can read more about in my piece for The Bold Italic. Watch the video highlighted by a mesmerizing ballerina dancing in front of an equally-mesmerizing light sculpture:

Finally, we have TV on the Radio, who included Pee Wee Herman himself, Paul Reubens, as a Speed Racer-type character on their video for “Happy Idiot” off of Seeds, which drops November 18th. You’ll have to visit Funny Or Die to watch this one, cause they don’t wanna let anyone embed it [sneer].

Enjoy. Peace!



The Top 6 St. Vincent Songs

I remember the first time i encountered St. Vincent’s Annie Clark…Gracing what felt like an under 100 person crowd at Velvet Jones in Santa Barbara in 2007. I got dragged to the show by a friend who clued me in that Clark had worked with notable artists like Sufjan Stevens and The Polyphonic Spree and that now she was on her own…This beautifully fragile creature stepped out onto the small stage and proceeded to absolutely WAIL on the guitar, with comforting vocals that showed the slightest glimmer of pain and i thought to myself, “How can anyone hurt this precious and perfect being?” She was like Milla Jovovich’s Leeloo Dallas from The Fifth Element and i left that night in love. Music had done it to me again and little did i know that I’d be following St.Vincent all the way through to her now 4th album, the self-titled St.Vincent. She’s an artist that has evolved her style along the way, seemingly becoming more comfortable with unconventional expressionism on every incarnation of songs. (Particularly as of late, likely due to an influence of the great David Byrne, whom she collaborated with on 2012’s Love This Giant.)  This evolution is unique and notable, in that it’s been accompanied by an increasing grandeur in her output. Time to reflect on the 6 shiniest singular moments in her career:

6. “Now, Now” – The opening track from her first album Marry Me, was also the first track she played at that aforementioned Velvet Jones show. Her guitar is xylophonic and from the get-go, we’re introduced to precisely what she says she isn’t:

          “Im not.
          One small atomic bomb.

5. “Actor Out of Work” – On the first single from her 2nd album Actor, Clark comes into her own lyrically. A smug decry of a ruthless lover:

          “You’re a supplement, you’re a salve
           You’re a bandage, pull it off
           I think i love you, i think im mad
           You’re a cast signed broken arm
           You’re an actor out of work”

So many emotions with one hook and the entire time her tongue is pressed firmly against the inside of her cheek. But the song is truly made by one of her greatest guitar riffs.

4. “Regret” – Easily the standout off of her 4th album. It defines the new, evolved, post Love This Giant St. Vincent. Her music has ceased being something we’re used to hearing and has morphed into this dark and spooky performance art. Her body movements and emphatic guitar playing just pours from the speakers. On St.Vincent, she’s rounded out an already illustrious career and taken it to a whole new level. Watch this performance at Diane von Furstenberg’s 40th Anniversary and note the way she becomes one with the confines of her guitar and the body-rattling culmination of the track at the 2:40 mark:

3. “Cruel” – She builds a fully developed musical experience on her third record, Strange Mercy. On “Cruel”, she brings us a delicious guitar hook and high pitched coos, sputtering into an electric mezcla of sounds that build to perfection. Just listen and bounce:

2. “Surgeon” – If there was ever foreshadowing of her transformation to a complete performance act, this was it. On Strange Mercy, her third and arguably best all around LP, Clark takes a turn towards the electronic, even with the sounds that her signature guitar produces. And she literally begs to get further into the realm of her brain’s creative locker in the Marilyn Monroe inspired chorus:

         “Best finest surgeon.
         Come cut me open.”

This is an artist that’s not satisfied with great music. She’s an artist that wants to push her musical creation to levels she doesn’t even know yet, but that she knows are somewhere inside of her (We see this come full circle on St. Vincent.) Which brings us back to the beginning of the story arc………

1. Laughing With A Mouth of Blood – Her attention to atmospheres highlights this single from Marry Me. It’s a song about wanderlust…a thirst for life and to be great:

          “And i can’t see the future, but i know it’s got big plans for me.”

How did she know??! THIS is what makes her special. THIS is why she’s not just another singer songwriter, but rather one of the great contemporary artists of our time. Because she’s rested on the laurels of her own potential, without stopping to think about what limitations she has.  So pardon me if i’m the guy yelling “I love you Annie!” at her next show. Cause talent like this doesn’t come around too often.

I leave you with one of my favorite videos of all-time. Portlandia fans take note:


Top 18 Albums of 2012: #1 Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE

This is the pimpest shit i’ve heard since Voodoo changed the way everyone made love 10 years ago. This is an elegant hip-hop/R&B crossover album, without the flamboyance we’ve come to expect from some singers. Frank Ocean is a smooth and classy dude and channel ORANGE is Exhibit A.

How do we value expressions of love? What about loss? What about the accompanying nostalgia? From where i rank this album, you can surmise my valuation of the previous questions. A lot of music is about amorous expressions and the mastery of capturing these emotions…To be able to do so as vividly as Frank Ocean is sublime. This is an album for everyone’s love…Doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, or what you stand for. He speaks to the love, loss and games that every one of us knows all too well.

The album’s opening track and single is, ‘Thinkin Bout You’:

Tell me that shit doesn’t make you tingle? Tell me it doesn’t make you wanna think about whoever is on YOUR mind right now? Human beings are passionate lovers by their very nature and Ocean knows how to appeal to our carnal desires.

He shows off his whimsy in ‘Super Rich Kids’ w/ Earl Sweatshirt. Waxing about the ritzy-titzy well-to-dos and their careless extravagant ways:

Super rich kids with nothing but loose ends
Super rich kids with nothing but fake friends

and dropping triple entendres like it’s nothing:

The market’s down like 60 stories
And some don’t end the way they should

My silver spoon has fed me good
A million one, a million cash
Close my eyes and feel the crash

While it’s important to note Ocean’s versatility of being more than just another R&B artist, i ultimately digress. Where channel ORANGE makes it’s lasting mark, is on the back to back to back tracks, Crack Rock’ to ‘Pyramids’ to ‘Lost.’ One of the best three song streaks i’ve ever heard on an album.

‘Crack Rock’  starts off with a beat that creeps and makes you move the second it drops:

Ocean’s beautiful voice straddling the line between baritone and tenor guides us through a desolate tale of addiction and the subliminal question of what the “fix” is.

The album climaxes on ‘Pyramids’ where Ocean starts by giving us a history lesson of Egyptian proportions. Painting the picture of his “Cleopatra” who is the subject of this song:

Much like the Queen, Ocean’s Cleopatra is tragic and her beauty is corrupt.

“What good is a jewel that ain’t still precious?”

She’s taken a turn and fallen into the trap of the pyramids…and Ocean takes us through the mystique of these pyramids, personifying them as the palace of sin and she is trapped inside. Lyrically, this dude is amazing. He confidently articulates his disdain for this beautiful woman and what she’s become, a stripper….But she still gets to him and still rattles his cage…And he’s helpless against the sexual siren…

Finally, ‘Lost’ completes the trifecta and Ocean sings about how fleeting love is within the movement of the lives of its moving parts, people. Truly my favorite song on this record and this absolutely stunning video of ‘Lost’ played over a montage of Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited will blow your mind:

“Got on my buttercream… silk shirt and it’s Versace”

For real? That’s the moneyest line i’ve ever heard. Makes me wanna go buy designer clothes, just to feel the high-end slik.

As if he couldn’t be money enough, he employs Outkast’s Andre 3000 for ‘Pink Matter,’ and i love Big Boi too, but damnit if Andre isn’t the pimpest dude in that duo. John Mayer makes appearances as a guitarist (say what you will about his singing, dude destroys the guitar.) There are so many other epic moments on this album that i’ve glossed over too. It’s a complete work that you gotta hear.

Ocean’s conceptual everyman audience hit a peak the day before channel ORANGE came out…when he made a stunning announcement in an open letter on his tumblr page (beautifully captured in this piece by the SF Bay Guardian’s Daniel Alvarez). It was the biggest leap of faith one could take in hip-hop/R&B… genres shrouded in misogyny and alpha-males. It crumbled a wall, called out the fabric of humanity and what we’re willing to accept.

This is an album that is highly respectful to modern themes and issues. He doesn’t neglect taboos and presents himself to be a real human being. Gay, straight, black, white, whatever….we all find ourselves and our instincts in the moments of carnal passions and impulses inspired by and within this album. This is the album that one day, many of our children will be conceived to…

Groundbreaking, provocative, powerful, daring, passionate, compassionate and a part of us. This makes up my #1 Album of 2012. An album that hopefully allows people to embrace who we are, who we want to be, who we want to be with, express ourselves and act on our most basic instincts. One love.

#1 Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE









Top 18 Albums of 2012: #8 Beach House – Bloom

(I’ve embedded RapGenius links in the song title hyperlinks. Right click and open in another tab to listen to the songs and read the lyrics as you follow along to fully experience the depth of #8 Bloom)

[Press Play]

I’ll admit, I was a skeptic when this album came out. Maybe i just couldn’t accept the idea that something from Beach House could be as good as their previous release, Teen Dream (My #5 Album of 2010). Hence, it took me a while to immerse in Bloom and all that it had to offer…

I went to sleep…and had the same dream I had in 2010. The whole time in the dream, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally’s songs kept me in my comfortably numb alternate reality. I never wanted to wake up…and i floated…and kept floating, in a momentary bliss. Beach House is truly the soundtrack to my dreams. When I listen, i feel like i’m floating….it still feels like the “warm wood and cold marble” effect of 2010. Bloom is just as spectacular as Teen Dream and this pleases me greatly.

On ‘Other People’, Victoria sings about the fleeting nature of our friendships. We do our best to stay in touch, but in the end, much like our dreams, many of those that we’re close to inevitably come and go and follow their own life paths… Once you start to understand that Bloom is an album about how you live your life, the decisions you make, the people you meet and the different roads we all walk down, it really starts to reach the inner depths of your emotions and your psyche.

On ‘Lazuli’, Legrand compares the uniqueness of her subject to the qualities of a mystical, sapphire-like stone. You can’t pull this off without her beautiful siren song…her voice is what truly sets this band apart. It’s one of a kind…it’s angelic…it’s…well…it’s just about perfect…much like the collection of tracks on Bloom together encompass a near perfect follow-up to a perfect record; Both of which will surely stand the test of time.

I choose to end this post with ‘Irene’…the last song on the album and the first one that grabbed me:

“It’s a strange paradise” Legrand sings…..and i’m back in my dream. And i’m in an incarnation of paradise… But maybe it’s not a dream at all…Maybe the relationships that we forge with each other are the beauty of our reality….Are we living in our dreams? [puts headphones on]


Top 18 Albums of 2012: #9 Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory

Dylan Baldi is a musical genius. He dropped his 3rd Cloud Nothings studio album by the time he was 20. I’m not talking burned CD’s sold at shows for $5 here. These are good, well-produced fucking records. The 3rd of which is today’s topic, the brilliant Attack on Memory engineered by the legendary Steve Albini (don’t dare call him a producer, he’s an audio engineer).

Attack on Memory is a powerful rock album, with shades of grunge and post-punk themes throughout. This is Baldi’s first album recorded with a full band and the depth of sound is markedly different from previous efforts. The kid absolutely shreds on guitar. His soft gravelly voice always complementing the star, hanging on his neck. I struggle with where to start you on this band, because all 8 tracks on this LP have their own identity. But it seems only appropriate to show you this beautifully crafted homage to the days of Busby Berkeley in the video for ‘Fall In’:

They waste no time hitting you right from the get go. Albini beautifully engineers the layered vocals with Jayson Gerycz’s memorable fills on the drums and then it’s Baldi’s guitar. It’s always about Baldi’s guitar, as it damn well should be. Tell me you don’t wanna hear more after that?

On Stay Useless,’ we get Baldi’s youthful plea and understanding where’s he’s at in his life…and he sees himself moving up in the ranks, but is still just a kid inside and needs to kick back and chill on the regular…Surely we can all relate? Here’s the really cool video that looks like it came right outta Spike & Mike’s Sick and Twisted Animation show:

This might be the best guitar album of the year and no other band has as much promise and forceful delivery as these guys right now. What scares me/hypes me up, is the thought of what Baldi & Co. are capable of after this album? I leave you with ‘Wasted Days’, the spectacularly arranged 9-minute opus that’s just a big fucking show off act in my opinion, cause these guys are unreal:

Is Baldi gonna one day just morph into Albini and turn into this alterna-rock God? It’s certainly looking that way.