At the Bay Bridged, we always bristle at the prospect of attempting to sum up a full year of the local independent music scene in a single retrospective podcast mixtape. Such a challenge is especially difficult in a place like the Bay Area, where year in, year out, a wide variety of talented local musicians release compelling and impressive albums, a great many of which gain acclaim well beyond the Bay's borders.
Instead of trying to identify some objective list of the "ten best" albums released by Bay Area bands this year, we went exactly the opposite direction, asking our knowledgeable editors, writers and photographers to pick their personal favorite releases by local artists in 2015. As one might expect, our team's varied musical tastes meant that only a few people named the same artists; instead, it became clear that in 2015 Bay Area independent artists continued to push forward a variety of genres, including garage rock, hip-hop, indie pop, and hardcore.
This mixtape collects music from ten artists that were among the favorites of Bay Bridged staffers in 2015. The notes below offer some highlights from coverage they've received on The Bay Bridged's blog over the course of the year. By its nature, the mix is a musically diverse list that only barely scrapes the surface of Bay Area music in 2015, but it makes a compelling case that this year was another one packed with highlights.
About the Bands:
Ezra Furman - "Lousy Connection"
While Oakland-based Ezra Furman has already found fame in Europe, American audiences are starting to catch up, and this year's Perpetual Motion People provides every reason to jump on board. As Jody Amable explained in this profile, the new album, which followed after his relocation from Chicago to the Bay, marks another step forward for this talented songwriter:
On this record, he seems more self-assured than he’s ever been -- what was once a panicked stream of self-loathing asides now reads as a personal motto; a swaggering pride; a challenge. It’s the same subject matter -- insecurities; lover’s quarrels -- but backed by the the fuller band, the slicker production, and the slight serenity he's found since coming here, it sounds like it’s coming from a more confident place.
Sarah Bethe Nelson - "Uneasy"
Sarah Bethe Nelson's debut album was a strong consensus pick among Bay Bridged staffers, a testament to the killer pop hooks on Fast Moving Clouds. Formerly the frontwoman of Prairiedog, Nelson worked with Kelley Stoltz and a bunch of talented veteran locals to record the LP and her voice and words shine throughout. Russell Jelinek described Nelson's song "Paying" thusly:
Damn! Is that a breakup song or what?!? She's heartbroken and you get the feeling she hates to do what she's about to do, but dammit, she's gonna be strong. The vivid picture she paints and unique way to tell off of this no-good bum of an ex bring the story together just perfectly. And oh yeah, she and her band make some beautiful sounds in the process.
Cold Beat - "Cracks"
Arriving a little over a year after Cold Beat's debut LP, the group's latest, Into The Air, found them incorporating more electronics, with synths and drum machines featured more prominently throughout. There's a wonderful unpredictability to the band's punk, post-punk, experimental, and pop elements: you never know quite which direction the next song will go, but it's always a good one. We didn't cover Cold Beat nearly enough on the Bay Bridged this year -- here's to changing that in 2016.