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Mixtape: The Best in San Francisco Bay Area Indie-Pop

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Heartwatch. (Molly DeCoudreaux)

Indie-pop music — a wide-ranging label used to describe everything from jangling rock-pop to dreamy synth-pop — has been one of the Bay Area’s more successful musical exports in recent years. Groups like Geographer and Painted Palms are just some of the latest in a long line of acclaimed local indie-pop bands to break out nationally, joining Rogue Wave, the Dodos, Papercuts, Film School, the Aislers Set and many, many more.

As for the future of local indie-pop, this mixtape includes plenty of emerging local bands continuing to create catchy-as-hell music. Here follows 11 great acts from across the indie pop landscape, ranging from the sunny, upbeat bliss of Summer Peaks to the hazy beach-at-sunset sounds of Bobey. The tempos and textures may vary, but every song in this set packs a ton of melody.

About the Bands:

Summer Peaks – “Change”
Brentwood-based Summer Peaks has been making waves since early last year, when the group’s debut LP, Saturdays, first caught our ears. “Change” is a new song, and probably the trio’s best work yet.

Emily Afton – “Words From Your Tongue” (Starts at 4:23)
Singer-songwriter Emily Afton started blending folk, pop, and electronic influences upon arriving in Oakland five years ago. After impressing Stephan Jenkins of Third Eye Blind at a show both artists played, Jenkins invited Afton to open for his band on a recent tour.


Sandy’s – “Consolidated Identity” (10:10)
Led by frontman Alexi Glickman, this band crafts wonderfully lush, surf-inflected pop. Following 2014’s Fourth Dementia LP, the band’s latest EP Prom arrived earlier this year.

Try The Pie – “It’s Been Days” (14:12)
Bean Tupou of Sourpatch and San Jose’s Think and Die Thinking collective is also a solo artist under the name Try The Pie. “It’s Been Days” comes from Rest, a collection of raw songs self-recorded in Tupou’s San Francisco home between 2005 and 2008.

O – “Ireek” (16:52)
Psych and rock ‘n’ roll influences make O’s song one of the wilder ones included in this mix, but it’s anchored by a hell of a melody. You may have previously known O when they were called Black Cobra Vipers, but it’s their new (and almost entirely unsearchable) name that you’ll want to keep an eye out for.

Chillian Murphy – “Static” (21:55)
On Facebook, Oakland’s Adam Van Der Veer describes his recording project Chillian Murphy as “Gloom-pop you can feel good about feeling bad about,” and this song nails that catchy-sad dynamic quite well. According to the artist, “Static” is a reworking of Alkaline Trio’s “Radio,” turning it into a dense and atmosphere-rich pop song.

HEARTWATCH – “Faultlines” (26:16)
HEARTWATCH had quite a 2015, performing at festivals including Outside Lands and Phono del Sol, touring with MS MR, and changing their name (previously, they were known as the Tropics). “Faultlines” is a new single teasing an eagerly-awaited early 2016 album and a headlining gig during Noise Pop 2016.

Hot Flash Heat Wave – “Gutter Girl” (29:40)
Neapolitan, the debut LP from Hot Flash Heat Wave, arrived in September. The album was recorded at Different Fur Studios, and it followed two years of buzzed-about singles and live performances.

Future Shapes – “Feel” (33:25)
SF’s Future Shapes bills itself as “shitwave,” a descriptor that’s both hilarious and a not-entirely-ridiculous way to tag the band’s warped dream-pop. “Feel” comes from the forthcoming Microchasm EP, and it’s another winner from these “reverb-happy sad-boy fog dwellers” (again, their description).

A Yawn Worth Yelling – “Start Somewhere” (36:56)
A Yawn Worth Yelling hails from San Jose, and the band’s latest EP, Play Pretend, is full of tightly-wound melodic pop-rock songs. The EP is the group’s fifth release, with deeper and darker lyrical subject matter than the quartet’s bright music might suggest.

Bobey – “Honey Beestings” (40:58)
We don’t know much about Bay Area singer-songwriter Bobey, but this song, released on a compilation from the People Person Collective, is a pretty killer piece of dreamy indie-pop.

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