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SF Weekly Music Awards 2003

Americana DJ/Selector/Turntablist Electronic/Electro Hard Rock/

Metal Hip Hop/Rap Jazz Latin/

International Lifestyle Music New Genre/Beyond Pop Punk Rock/Indie Rock Soul/Funk/ R&B 

If music be the brandy of the damned, then we're drunk off our asses

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Page 10 of 11

The Cuts

Describing their sound as being influenced by the likes of Love, Television, the Kinks, the Who, the Zombies, and the Velvet Underground, the Cuts play R&B-heavy rock music that relies on everything from shakers, honky-tonk pianos, fuzzed-out guitar riffs and solos, plentiful drum fills, and funky, bouncing bass lines. Released in 2002, their latest full-length, 2 Over Ten, finds singer/guitarist Andy Jordan channeling Mick Jagger and Elvis Presley as he sings in spurts over music that sounds quintessentially Californian. Keyboardist Dan Aaberg, drummer Garett Goddard, and bassist Carlos Palacios paint psychedelic portraits behind him, music that, at times, floats, jazzes, folks, rocks, and just plain weirds out. It's not difficult to imagine neon go-go dancers shaking up a storm while the band plays. For that matter, it's hard to imagine anyone with a modern haircut attending one of its shows. Maybe that was a factor in choosing the band name. Who knows? Regardless of the retro vibe, however, the Cuts will appeal to anyone who likes his arrangements intricate, his textures trippy, and his lyrics earnest and well-delivered. This is music that replicates the sound of the past so well, you'll forget that it's even doing so.

Phantom Limbs

"Phantom limbs" is the phrase for the perceptual anomaly that many amputees experience in which their brains perceive pain and other sensations in limbs that no longer exist. Naming your band after this condition raises a number of questions. Are the Phantom Limbs trying to make music for war veterans? Have they themselves experienced the condition? Well, one thing everyone can agree on is that this phenomenon is a spooky one. Which fits nicely with the Phantom Limbs' spooky brand of ghost rock. Comprised of members who have done time in Circus Redickuless' Organ Grinders From Hell, the Boyscouts of Annihilation, Anal Kitties, Scurvy Dogs, and Black Ice, this quintet plays dissonant rock, the dramatic sound of which -- thanks to its ghastly organ component, the same kind of organ you hear in old horror flicks -- is seemingly inspired by another Phantom (of the Opera) altogether. The addition of this texture gives the Limbs an instantly recognizable signature that surely helps convey their addiction to Halloween-style emotion. Clearly well-rehearsed, singer Hopeless, organist Stevenson Sedgwick, bassist Sköt B, guitarist Jason Miller, and drummer Mike Klösoff churn out riff after dramatic riff of music that is as freaky as it is catchy. If you haven't yet donned your hockey mask or vampire teeth to attend one of their shows, you're probably the sort of meek person who's afraid of the dark to begin with.

Soul/Funk/R&B

Goapele

Twenty-six-year-old Goapele Mohlabane (pronounced KWA-pa-lay) has been a Bay Area activist since the tender age of 10, participating in peer support groups such as Be Present Inc. and the Bay Area Black Women's Health Project and honing her interest in singing by using her voice at local protests. She leads her life trying to be conscious of her impact on others and the world, and has successfully nurtured that philosophy in other young girls through her work and now her art. And thanks to increased national attention of late, her musical pursuits are quickly beginning to blossom into a promising future.

The Mohlabane family business ensures that Goapele doesn't have to compromise her integrity or creativity in building a lasting career: She released her debut album, Even Closer, through her mother and brother's own label, Skyblaze, last year. The record features the gorgeous single "Closer," a smoldering anthem (and one of the few local tunes to get commercial radio support). Goapele's sinewy melodies and full-bodied voice draw comparisons to Sade and Nina Simone, and her fusion of soul, jazz, hip hop, and world music is slowly but surely starting to grab the ears of legends from Ray Charles to Prince. She's also the undercover vocal weapon of notable local hip hop artists, appearing on standout songs off recent albums by E-40, Hieroglyphics, Zion I, and J-Boogie's Dubtronic Science. Indeed, this oft-dubbed "Bay Area's best-kept secret" is clearly not going to stay hidden for long.

Harold Ray Live in Concert

While its fans may sport ironic mustaches, wide neckties, and other kitschy affectations of hipsterdom, there's nothing sarcastic about Harold Ray's devotion to old-school soul. In fact, like the Godfather of Soul James Brown and the Rev. Al Green, the musicians who comprise Harold Ray Live in Concert have become sonic evangelists of sorts, espousing a devotion to vintage equipment, analog recording, live performance, and mostly forgotten catalogs of obscure soul pioneers. Sure, Harold Ray (real name: Jason Morgan) and his backing band, Live in Concert, play mostly covers, and the band's appearance -- somewhere between geek chic and just plain geek -- is a far cry from the flashy sophistication of its forebears. But none of that matters when the guys take the stage with their rollicking blend of sweaty melodies and over-the-top antics. As its name suggests, Harold Ray Live in Concert boasts a religious allegiance to live performance, even with its recently released self-titled debut for Alternative Tentacles. The album, recorded live in one night, is an aural embodiment of the band's onstage energy, where the sextet exudes such a feverish enthusiasm that onlookers might expect drum kits and mike stands to come hurtling toward them at any moment. Crowd-pleasers like the Showstoppers cover "Ain't Nothing But a House Party," James Brown's rough-hewn "Tell Me That You Love Me," and the foot-stompin' "Soul Dance No. 3" by Carl Holmes & the Commanders roil with strutting bass lines, brawny saxophones, and, of course, the band's bread and butter: the hollers and shrieks of Morgan, which the vocalist spreads on thick.

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