Recap: I think G-Eazy and The HBK Gang are not nice and represent everything that makes the 21st century Bay Area the Third World of musical quality.

Spoiler: That doesn’t mean everyone else from around here has to hold that L.

Yes, this series does imply that “our scene sucks.” I truly believe it does suck, too, at least in comparison to the many pockets of creativity from around the Western world. East Coast and SoCal hip hop overflows with modern classics, the Midwest alternative community is alive with innovation, and Europe’s forests swarm with metal’s next big thing. Even Australia’s God-killing spiders aren’t enough to quell their booming hardcore scene, and here we are, fumbling with the adhesive on our peeling “93’ til.” window decals, still whispering thank you Based God like its 2012 because it’s all we have. As a result of this lack of major, laudable quality—our scene sucks.

However, as infertile as our musical soil is, a number of stubborn gems bearing the Bay Area brand can be found lurking on our sidewalks, scurrying from the New Parish to the DNA Lounge to the Catalyst, tacking on a tour poster to whichever telephone poles have space on them. Scraps of ingenuity exist among the Bay’s various corners and counties, garnering attention and praise from the underground and the Internet, providing this writer with the slightest taste of pride… and something for me to wave in my “outsider” friends’ faces.

It's only a matter of time before this isn't cool anymore.

It’s only a matter of time before this stops being cool.

I’ve focused on hip-hop when considering the Bay Area’s musical standing, but that’s mostly because thanks to throwback-indie rock legends Girls breaking up in 2012, our most popular modern alternative/rock act is Train, a band so outstandingly indistinct it took me two articles to even recall their existence. Also, The Dodos wrote a good album once. However, I don’t want to talk about either: I want to talk about San Francisco’s Deafheaven, who hold the distinction of being both fairly popular and very, very good. Their incorporation of shoegaze and black metal (yes, “blackgaze”) sits somewhere in the realm of bands like Lantlos and Alcest, though none of Deafheaven’s contemporaries have enjoyed such a level of mainstream outreach. It may seem odd to hail something as abstruse as a black metal band as the Bay Area’s leading alternative group, but a glance at their profile shows otherwise: Deafheaven has over 130,000 likes on Facebook, has reviews from acclaimed publications like Pitchfork and Rolling Stone, and this year they earned a spot on the COACHELLA stage. Think about that: a black metal band so big they’re playing at the most basic music fest of all time—it’s no wonder their album art was in an Apple keynote.

My logic behind calling Deafheaven our “best contemporary rock group” also applies to our hip hop, because Deafheaven is as similar to The Dodos as Main Attrakionz is to G-Eazy: they fall into the same category, but are absolutely nothing alike. Oakland hip-hop group Main Attrakionz seemingly ignore any and all Bay Area rap characteristics, opting instead for cloudy, tripped-out instrumentals, and sluggish delivery—a far cry from the upbeat and excited attributes of hyphy. Managing to snag names like A$AP Rocky and Gucci Mane to feature on their projects, the duo has garnered significant acclaim and a cult following for their 808’s and Dark Grapes album series, the latest entry being released in 2015. If you aren’t going to take my word for it, you should take Kreayshawn’s – ya girl has directed their music videos. Try and tell me a White Girl Mob cosign isn’t enough to make you check them out.

Despite my fondness for the heavy and virtuosic aspects of extreme music, technical death metal has rarely captured my interest. As sterile as a housecat and about half as inspired, the genre runneth over with overproduced 900bpm sweep picking Schuldiner/Suicmez enthusiasts without any desire to construct a well-written song. If that didn’t make sense, imagine the dude with the waist length hair and Origin tee from your humanities class trying to transcribe a Tech N9ne verse to a fretboard, except it’s the same verse for 40 minutes straight and about aliens. There are, however, exceptions to the stereotype, and I take pride in the fact that San Francisco’s Fallujah avoids it by miles. The tech death quintet has amassed an impressive following in recent years, with their brand of atmospheric progressive/technical metal snagging them almost 130,000 likes on Facebook, international tours, and a signing to heavy music giant Nuclear Blast. Well-implemented ambient effects alongside heavy reverb and synthesizers, as well as sparing use of soaring female vocals contribute a layer of emotion and soul that most of Fallujah’s contemporaries lack.

Also worth mentioning here are fellow Bay Area tech death groups Aethere and WRVTH, each of whom is gaining traction through the inclusion of metalcore, black metal, and progressive elements in their sound—hopefully, it won’t be too long before we can see them gaining mainstream attention.

I’m frequently of the opinion that Live 105 has drained contemporary lo-fi /post-punk of the little soul it ever had, but I still find myself intrigued by artists like Tony Molina. The San Francisco underground punk veteran (Ovens) holds a body of solo work consisting of concise, lean cuts of hardcore and pop, with full length debut Dissed and Dismissed (2013) capturing the attention of Pitchfork, Spin, and PopMatters. The 2013 release, like Molina’s other projects, delivers a handful of brilliant riffs, hooks, and Weezer-esque complaints, winding down when it feels like it—12 minutes in. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I think Molina is in any way changing the indie game or revitalizing lo-fi, but I can appreciate and applaud a guy who names his tracks “Sick Ass Riff” and “Bullshit Riff”.

Are you generally in a bad mood? Looking to add some patches to your denim vest? Loma Prieta is signed to Deathwish, so you should probably listen to them. The hardcore/screamo outfit, in their ~10 year existence, has yet to release a dud in their current five album collection, each record filled to the brim with feedback, jarring rhythms, and resonant emotion. For an additional helping of skramz, fellow locals State Faults and Leer are also prepared to fuel your angst, with both bands finding success in channeling frustration through an amp—pissed and loud. Additionally, while not in the same vein as the aforementioned groups, I feel the need to mention San Francisco post-hardcore/screamo-ish band ourfathers, whose debut EP Movements remains one of my favorite releases of 2015: look out for them in the near future.

There isn’t a whole lot to do in San Jose aside from sitting in your room and getting good at something, and it looks like Yvette Young of Covet decided to get good at guitar. The math rock 3-piece delivers elaborate, tranquil, and surprisingly emotional 7-string compositions that preserve their authenticity in a genre bereft of much variety—see them live, become a fan. If they aren’t enough, it’s worth your time to give some much-needed attention to San Francisco’s Floral, a guitar/drum duo playing animated Thomas Erak-inspired math rock, or as I like to call them, NorCal’s answer to SoCal’s CHON.

With a list like this, it could be hard to understand why I would insist on complaining about our music scene, much less join a school’s music magazine in order to write about how much I think it blows. But to be honest, it frustrates me that our presence is overwhelmingly established by second-rate club soundtracks and afterthought trunk rattle, causing these unique, talented artists to appeal solely to niche audiences and amass most of their popularity through the Internet. In the beginning of this article, I mentioned scenes like Southern California, the Midwest, and Europe—if their consistently vibrant musical breeding grounds are any indication, it’s clear that we’re missing out on what could make the Bay Area another recognized center of creative sonic output and influence.

Someone make Too $hort move back here, man.

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