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Best Bay Area Songs 2016

Written by Guest Editor: Stefan Aronsen of SF Intercom and Balanced Breakfast Industry Meetup

As an avid concert-goer and music promoter, I listen to a lot of music from Bay Area bands. However, I don't find myself listening to very many albums! I realize my being a music enthusiast that doesn't listen to albums might be considered a contradiction. Shouldn't a promoter of bands also promote full albums? The problem is, most fans don't listen to full albums, why should I be any different? Thus, instead of promoting people to listen to music in a way that they are uncomfortable with, I am choosing to promote a system that works.

Full albums can be intimidating for bands to produce. I regularly advocate that bands release singles instead of waiting to release music until they have enough songs to fill an album. The following is a playlist from 10 bands that released awesome music in 2016.

Fantastic Negrito - In The Pines
Many people discovered Xavier Dphrepaulezz and his band Fantastic Negrito when he submitted his song Lost in A Crowd to NPR’s Tiny Desk Competition in 2015 and won. However, my first introduction to him was as a guest speaker at Creative Mornings. The way he talked about his life, his songs and his goals made me want to listen to his music. While Xavier has had his roadblocks in the past, it seems there is no stopping him now.

CON BRIO - Paradise
I hadn’t heard Ziek McCarter’s band Con Brio before I saw them live at the North Beach Festival in 2014. I was blocks away when I first heard the exciting sounds of his band. As I got closer I was drawn in by his energetic performance. Did you know he does flips on stage? I didn’t until I heard him speak at SF Music Expo about how he originally joined Con Brio. With this new found knowledge I can’t wait to see them live again.

HEARTWATCH - Never Let You Go
How long have you been listening to Claire George’s band HEARTWATCH? Perhaps you were a fan when they were called The Tropics? Either way … you know them now … so you must be aware of their exciting sound. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them perform live at BottleRock, The Independent and Claire solo at OB Music & Art Festival. Never heard of HEARTWATCH? Listen now and find their next show near you.

The Y Axes - Umbra
Do you love science, video games and nerdiness all wrapped up and delivered in an indie space rock style? Hopefully the answer is yes. If so, check out the high energy vocals of Alexi Belchere and her band The Y Axes. Since they formed in 2011, the band has come a long way in finding their sound and look. I was first introduced to the band in 2013 at a Balanced Breakfast meetup. The band’s guitarist Devin Nelson showed me a picture of his band, since then half of the faces in that picture have changed. With Devin and Alexi changing their bandmates they also created a more mature sound.

Kendra McKinley - Fine As A Vine
When Kendra arrived in San Francisco, a friend suggested she check out Balanced Breakfast. She quickly made many friends, played shows and recruited band mates. She managed to take her solo looped sound and progressed it to a full sound. She sounds amazing on the stage at The FIllmore or in the woods at DIO Fest.

Down and Outlaws - Lay Me Down
I’ve seen Peter Danzig and his band Down and Outlaws at a lot of theirs shows in San Francisco. I got their band patch at their show at Noise Pop 2016. I wear it proudly on my every day sweater. Though I’ve seen them plenty of times in San Francisco, my favorite experience is still spending time with them at SxSW 2016.

Panic is Perfect - Turn Back Into Stars
Managed by Guerilla Management, the same company that works with Con Brio, Mike Hoffman and his band have finally made it to the festival circuit. For many bands being selected to play major festivals like SxSW, Live 105 BFD Festival, and BottleRock is a major goal and a sign of success. Get ready for some more exciting shows from Panic is Perfect in 2017.

Dangermaker - I Won't Let You Down
I love spending time with the members of SF band Dangermaker. It doesn’t matter if it’s an intimate conversation at Mutiny Radio with lead singer Adam Brookes or being at a live show watching bass player Neko Fuzzmonk’s hair blow in the wind like a supermodel.

Battlehooch - EVERYDAY
If you haven’t met a member of Battlehooch, you must not like local music. With 6+ members in the band, they are larger than most Bay Area bands. Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of all the members of a band, thus my friends would often joke that they were in Battlehooch. Would you be able to know if they were telling the truth?

Abbot Kinney - It's the Middle of the Night
If you’ve been to LA you might know the landmark in Venice, California called Abbot Kinney Blvd. Hailing from Los Angeles, lead singer Jared Swanson has brought more than just a landmark name, he has also shared a lot of his industry knowledge with our San Francisco friends. Over the years a lot of bands have relocated from SF to LA. Abbot Kinney is a reminder to local bands that we have a scene and you can be discovered and experience a lot of success here in the Bay Area.

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Jump into the New Year with Chanti Darling and Jump Jack Sound Machine

Since we're all ready to long jump the hell into 2017, now's the time to sift through the various activities Portland offers for us to boozily ring the new year in to. One of these tipsy turn ups happens to come from the least crappy thing to come out of 2016 - Jump Jack Sound Machine.

The monthly dance party give us a slight peek into what Studio 54 must have been like, spinning funk, disco, boogie and almost every other genre that used to get rumps shaking. For their New Years Eve bash, some live performances will be added to their usual lineup of DJs, coming from integral starters of the Jump Jack Sound Machine glory. 

The soulful intonations that landed Chanti Darling as the best new artist of 2016 will be bellowing out of the Mississippi Studios speakers, with sexy sashays all along the stage. Natasha Kmeto, who often sings along with Chanti Darling but most definitely can rock the mic solo, will also be blessing us with that beautiful voice.

Unfortunately for most, tickets for this are sold out, but if you've got your hands on some or consider yourself close to a door guy, hit up Jump Jack Sound and sweat this toxic year out.

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Soul artist on the Rise: Lady Moon & The Eclipse play Brooklyn Bowl on 1/30

With 2016 reaching its end, it is only right to look back on the past year to see what fresh tunes and artists escaped our searches through New York's hectic music scene. One such gem is Lady Moon & The Eclipse, a dynamic multi-genre roots and world band that released their EP, Believe, back in February. As their astrological bandname might suggest, every track on the record is steeped in some kind of cosmic spirituality, but that mood is manifested in distinct ways throughout the project. Each tune has an instrumental that takes influence from different genres, such as the soulful slow-jam "Rollercoaster" (video below), or upbeat, funky "Travel the World." These differences create striking contrasts, while the lone staple on each track is Ngonda Badila's cool vocals and clairvoyant lyrics. This band is one to look out for in the new year, and you can see them live on 1/30 at the Brooklyn Bowl. — Henry Solotaroff-Webber

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Pulitzer Prize Fighter Prepares for Record Release at Great Scott 1/7

Boston quintet, Pulitzer Prize Fighter is gearing up to celebrate the release of their latest EP, Everything That Makes You Feel Tired.  Embracing the aptly named subgenre of "R&Bmo", their music seamlessly combines angsty guitar licks with danceable grooves and soulful vocals.  There's even a sexy saxophone solo or two.  Genre-bending and unpredictable, Pulitzer Prize Fighter has created a unique sound that simply works.  Check them out at their record release show on 1/7 at Great Scott.  Joining them are Jack Romanov, Split/Halves, and Dionysia. -Brian Varneke

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Aaron Abernathy serves up soulful R&B on new album "Monologues"

Aaron Abernathy could be the future of R&B. With soulful vocals, angular synths and soaring guitar leads that could have been snatched straight from a Prince album, the DC-based artist's latest album, Monologues, is a a funky R&B album that you don't want to skip over. The DC-based artist sets his compelling instrumentals against poignant, smart lyricism, yeilding songs that seem to honor past R&B sounds, but have their eyes set to the future. Check out Aaron Abernathy streaming below.-Olivia Sisinni 

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