September was a busy month for independent music in the Bay Area: "On the Regular" -- San Francisco producer Julia Lewis's soulful track with Elujay, Mr. Carmack, and Mikos Da Gawd -- made it to Spotify's Viral 50 playlist. Rayana Jay, a rising R&B star and one of KQED's Women to Watch, dropped her highly anticipated third EP, Morning After, and we still can't get enough. Hot off the release of August's Black Ken, Lil B gave us a rare live appearance at Hiero Day, where he gave his guitar and keyboard away to fans.
The local scene feels invigorated and active, and there's no shortage of good music. We didn't want anything to slip through the cracks, which is why we've rounded up our favorite new rap, pop, punk, and experimental releases.
DaBoii, Young Wild N-gga
(SOB x RBE)
While the smooth, soulful Yhung T.O. might have the most pop appeal in SOB x RBE, DaBoii’s firecracker persona is what makes the Vallejo rap group so riveting. On his solo project Young Wild N-gga, DaBoii is explosive and brash: He’s just as quick to make puns about the rounds in his clip as he is to call out police brutality. Production-wise, YWN contains some interesting stylistic choices. “Humble” samples the freestyle classic “Let The Music Play” by Shannon, and “Beast Mode” couples DaBoii and Yhung T.O.’s breathless, back-to-back flows with a whimsical, sparkly keyboard loop that contrasts with the rest of the project’s East Bay mobb-music feel. Listen here.
Pardoner, Uncontrollable Salvation (Father/Daughter)
Pardoner’s debut LP, Uncontrollable Salvation is an experiment in controlled chaos: Max Freeland and Trey Flanigan’s clanging guitars sound like they’re on the verge of spilling into unbridled noise, but despite the outward semblance of messiness, Pardoner’s compositions are tight and punchy with plenty of drive. The band’s name and album title hint at themes of redemption, but its lyrics are full of blasé humor that would make Daria, the dry-witted cartoon character, proud: “I belong in hell / It will be more fun there anyway, probably.” Listen here.
The Classical, Survival of the Softest
Even though it came out in August, the Classical’s Survival of the Softest made this list not only because it’s a phenomenal experimental pop project, but because, unfortunately, it’s the Oakland duo’s final album. The Classical was made up of former creative and romantic partners Juliet Gordon and Brett Ciampa, who have dissolved the band since their split. While their debut album, Diptych, indulged in theatrical vocals, suspenseful pauses, and challenging drum patterns, Survival of the Softest -- which doesn’t include percussionist Ciampa in its credits -- is a smoother, more danceable project with R&B undertones. Listen here.
Flesh World, Into the Shroud
Flesh World’s Into the Shroud is a bright, sunny album with a tempestuous energy -- a result befitting of a collaboration between an indie-pop vocalist and a hardcore guitarist. (Bandleader Jess Scott started out in shoegaze outfit Brilliant Colors and guitarist Scott Moore came from legendary queer hardcore band Limp Wrist.) On Into the Shroud, Flesh World’s instrumentation is robust and frenzied yet beautiful and delicate, with the rhythm section welling up underneath the warm, reverb-laden guitars like a gathering storm. Listen here.
Harris the KnowItAll, Stargazzer (self-released)
Oakland rapper-producer Harris the KnowItAll’s new EP, Stargazzer, is a veritable constellation of psychedelic sounds. Processed vocals call to mind Kanye’s 808s & Heartbreak, only trippier. Twinkling, jazzy keys channel Flying Lotus and Afrofuturist predecessors like Alice Coltrane. Sci-fi lyrical themes stem from the otherworldly lineage of Shabbazz Palaces. KnowItAll gives these elements an East Oakland spin, with features from 1-O.A.K., K.E.L.L.S., and other East Bay artists including Berkeley’s Marty Grimes.