Hella jams, church, and music as therapy

SN&R music writers on 2013's best sounds, shows and trends

Hip-hop icons Hieroglyphics collaborated with the Sacramento deejay crew Sleeprockers on <i>The Kitchen</i>, the former act’s first album in 20 years.

Hip-hop icons Hieroglyphics collaborated with the Sacramento deejay crew Sleeprockers on The Kitchen, the former act’s first album in 20 years.

photos by william leung

Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, One Direction, Robin Thicke and The Voice may have dominated mainstream music this year, but as SN&R’s music writers prove, there was more to 2013 than tongues and twerking, airbrushed bombshells and boy bands, creepy “blurred” intentions and singing competitions.

Shout-outs, aw yeah

1. Variety shows. How can you go wrong? Mix in some music with some comedy, add maybe a poet or a dancer, throw in a juggler or a magician, what’s not to like? Shout-outs to Flow and Fringe!, both at Assembly Music Hall, and RetroCrush Variety Show at Blue Lamp.

2. New (and old) venues. It’s always great to have another good spot to see music. Assembly is hella nice. Harlow’s has been around forever, but the new owners have definitely done a great job of sprucing up the joint.

3. Music festivals. Last summer it was possible to hit some sort of fest every weekend. Launch, Coachella, BottleRock (OK, maybe not BottleRock), you get my drift. I hit all the Hempfests on the West Coast. Aw yeah.

4. Sunday Night Soul Party at The Press Club with DJ Larry Rodriguez. They call it “church” for a reason. DJ Larry gets it going.

5. Seeing Red Fang and Marco Benevento (not at the same time). I had never heard of either of them. They were both devastatingly good.


More high-hat!

1. Chuuwee, Thrill: Sacramento rap prodigy Chuuwee took us to the trap with Thrill. Bass-heavy with a Southern feel to make UGK proud, Chuuwee doesn’t dumb it down here. It is the same brand of lyrical talent and wit, just in a different package. With a lot more high-hat.

2. JustKristofer, Love Over Judgment: A brave record, conscious without being preachy or pretentious, it drips with the kind of fearless honesty that cats like Lupe Fiasco, Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar brought to the rap world.

3. Midtown Marauders, Midtown Marauders: Midtown Marauders is Century Got Bars and Bru Lei’s take on the classic Midnight Marauders album by A Tribe Called Quest. This plays like a tourist guide to the downtown Sacramento grid as the two trade verses about life, love and Pieces Pizza by the Slice.

4. Hieroglyphics with Sleeprockers, The Kitchen: Hip-hop legends Hieroglyphics caught wind of the Sacramento deejay crew and asked them to Sleeprock (yes, it’s a verb, too) the first Hieroglyphics album in 20 years, and the rest is history.

5. Jo Vegas, ID.1: It’s packed with innovative production, and the dude’s flow is nice. Vegas’ style sounds like Rick Ross if he picked up a book or two.


Honesty is totes adorbs

1. P.O.S. at the Launch festival: Music festivals tend to be the last place you’ll have memorable band interaction, but P.O.S. at Launch in September was the exception. The rapper spent most of his set on the ground amid the crowd going harder than any Sacramento native beneath the triple-digit sun.

2. Blonde Redhead at Launch: The New York City psych rockers also played this festival, filling Cesar Chavez Plaza with powerful sonic ambience.

3. Damien Jurado at Sophia’s Thai Kitchen: The Seattle singer-songwriter played a stripped-down set nearly straight through to a sold-out Davis crowd, only breaking the flow toward the very end to explain that he was exhausted, pissed off and hated everyone. His honesty was adorable.

4. Zavalaz at Ace of Spades: Though Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s new incarnation sounds nothing like his legendary ’90s post-punk outfit At the Drive-In, it was enough to stand there and pretend they were the same.

5. Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub: Comprising Animal Collective’s Avey Tare, ex-Dirty Projector’s Angel Deradoorian and ex-Ponytail’s Jeremy Hyman, the trio lived up to their indie-blog hype, delivering a dense onslaught of experimental pop.


Props and salvation

1. To every deejay, rapper, singer, band, business owner and promoter that didn’t give up on Sacramento in 2013, cheers to another year of not waving the white flag.

2. Whenever moody days bring shut-in evenings, turn to Screature’s self-titled debut. A Grace Slick-esque vocalist fronts a dementedly psychedelic goth-punk band, and the whole shebang is engineered by Chris Woodhouse? That’s called salvation, kiddos.

3. Kris Anaya killed Kris Anaya of An Angle and was reborn Kris Anaya of Contra and Doombird. He was a better man for it.

4. Bogged by white noise but tastefully booked, Le Twist Tuesdays thrived in its new home at LowBrau. I saw Troller, SSleeperhold, Soft Metals, Deastro and members of Chk Chk Chk (a.k.a. !!!) deejay.

5. Our lack of a local record label continues to harm Sacramento records, namely Young Aundee’s Fear in the Fold. There’s just no home for a progressive R&B-electronica record. No label, no scene, no venue and no hype machine. Not enough love for an incredible record.


Rants, reaffirmations and regrets

1. Onstage: Be they touring acts (Tele Novella, Jeff Tweedy, Morrissey, Jennifer O’Connor, Yo La Tengo) or locals (the Ancient Sons, the Knockoffs, the Decibels, Paper Pistols, Nacho Business), all reaffirmed faith in the live experience.

2. Press play and repeat: It’s music as therapy (as usual) with records by Best Coast, Joanna Gruesome, Grass Widow, the Julie Ruin and Devendra Banhart.

3. Everly everything: This year gave us not one but two Everly Brothers tributes—Will Oldham’s What the Brothers Sang, and Foreverly, a collaboration between Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones.

4. The Replacements: 2013 will stand as the year that I chose not to rack up more credit-card debt to catch their reunion at shows in Denver, Chicago and Toronto. Responsible? Sure. Crazy-stupid, sad and regrettable? Oh, yes.

5. Noel Gallagher: In a Rolling Stone interview, the Oasis singer-songwriter railed—wonderfully—against the overly pretentious (on Lady Gaga: “She’s probably doing a shit on top of a boiled egg right now. And somebody will fucking freeze it and call it art”), the overtly sexualized (on Miley Cyrus: “There’s a trend … of girls desperately trying to be provocative or desperately trying to ’start the debate’ about some old shit”) and the overhyped (on Arcade Fire: “shit disco”). Amen.


Dance, dance revolution

1. Daft Punk, Random Access Memories: The funky rhythm guitar of Nile Rodgers and Pharrell Williams inviting you to “Lose Yourself to Dance” gets even the most introverted wallflowers onto the dance floor (I would know). “Get Lucky,” another Rodgers, Williams and Daft Punk collaboration, was another important dance jam this year, and it got even better when Girl Talk mashed it up with Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time.” Seriously, Google it.

2. M.I.A., Matangi: My favorite on this dance record is probably “Double Bubble Trouble,” with its next-level beats and blend of trap music, reggae and Indian rhythms—all in one awesome song.

3. Capital Cities, In a Tidal Wave of Mystery: I probably wouldn’t like “Safe and Sound” as much if I hadn’t seen the original music video, which is unforgettable: scenes of different American dance styles throughout the last century, blended with scenes of American military destruction throughout the last century. Add the lyrics, and now it’s a chilling visual statement about U.S. foreign policy rather than a banal dance-pop tune.

4. Michael Franti, All People: Davis native Michael Franti started a dance party at Sacramento State University during his October concert there. His latest album, All People, is his most danceable yet. “Gangsta Girl” is probably the best example of that: ska grooves with an incredible catchy chorus about not wanting to leave the dance hall.

5. Beyoncé, Beyoncé: Each song off Beyonce’s new self-titled album has a corresponding video. Everyone’s calling it the most innovative release of the year. Not really, though. Hip-hop duo Blue Scholars did the music-video-album thing two years ago with Cinemétropolis. But still, the co-lead single “Drunk in Love” is hella danceable.