Craft Spells Return With the Lush, Ambitious "Breaking the Angle Against the Tide"

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Craft Spells' Justin Vallesteros. Photo by Cameron Getty.
Remember Craft Spells? The project of Stockton/S.F. songwriter Justin Vallesteros made a few waves here in Northern California back in 2010-2011 with his debut album, Idle Labor, and an EP called Gallery -- as well as live dates opening for people like the Soft Moon. Well he's back, sort of. After a disappointing stint in S.F., Vallesteros holed up in his parents' house in Lathrop, Calif., (outside of Manteca) and went quiet for two years, studying piano and unplugging from the Internet. Then, with a handful of demos, he went to Seattle to record an album with a full band that included plenty of strings. The result is Nausea, a new album whose first single, "Breaking the Angle Against the Tide," shows the kind of maturity and leap in development that isolation can sometimes bring. Its a sighing, wistful pop tune led by an arching electric guitar riff, but with gorgeous flurries of (real!) strings in there -- melodies and counter-melodies that linger happily in your head.

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Hear This: Maus Haus' Slow-Rumbling "Hey Jean"

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Dark-hued S.F. electro-rockers Maus Haus are back with Light Noise, a brand-new record on brand-new local indie-electronic imprint Lavis Habits. And today we're premiering the song "Hey Jean," a slow-boil of monolithic bass, streaking guitar lines, and Maus Haus' eerie multitracked vocals. Oh, and tambourine. Tambourine is key.

See also:
* Om Records Celebrates New Lavish Habits Imprint with Maus Haus and Blackbird Blackbird


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S.F.'s Eux Autres: '60s Pop-Rock with Love to France

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Ray Gordon
Eux Autres

By J POET

For most of the past 20 years, indie bands pretended the '60s never happened. Today the sounds of the Summer of Love are back in a big way, albeit with a modern spin that will keep old hippies from getting too wistful. San Francisco trio Eux Autres (say ooz-oh-tra) has been playing retro-pop since brother and sister Nicholas and Heather Larimer started performing together in Portland in 2002. (They added drummer Yoshi Nakamoto to the line up in 2008.) Their take on the past includes nods to the usual rockers, surf bands, and girl groups but, as their name implies, they also love French Yé-Yé artists like Jacques Dutronc, Claude François, and Serge Gainsbourg. The doleful Gallic attitude that seeps into the band's lyrics sets them apart from other bands and infuses the tunes on their Sun Is Sunk EP with a decidedly adult outlook. Heather and Nicholas spoke to us just before today's official release of the new mini-album. (Stream it on AOL Spinner and find two new MP3s after the jump.)

You grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. Did you play in bands there, either together or separately?

Nicholas: We hated each other for most of our childhood, so we never played music together. We started Eux Autres when I moved to Portland. I had played in a band for a while in college, but that's about it. I remember dancing to Matthew Wilder's "Break My Stride" in kindergarten and buying my first cassette (A-Ha). It was hearing Superchunk in eighth grade that made music cross the line from something other people do, to something people like me could do.

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Colleen Green's "Goldmine" Has a Cheap, Musty Charm

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Thee Colleen Green

No, Colleen Green is not Oakland's* Best Coast. Well, maybe she is, kind of. "Goldmine," the lead single off today's Milo Goes to Compton, is two-and-a-half-minutes of rough-hewn bedroom guitar pop built on a cheesy drum machine and draped with an even cheesier synth melody. There are about three layers of Green's sweet, smooth voice on top, singing in hazy melodies about a person she can't help but like. Between the sunglasses, the three chords and three chords only, and the stoner references (hey, @ColleenGreen420), this is starting to sound kind of familiar, isn't it? All we need is a cleverly named cat...


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Alexander Spit's Mansions: Lose Yourself in 28 Tracks of Spooky Beats and Samples

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That ethereal vibe you get from the above image? It's appropriate.

Last fall, we told you about These Long Strange Nights, a then-new mixtape/album from S.F.-born, L.A.-based rapper-producer Alexander Spit. That was good stuff. But Spit came back yesterday with Mansions, a funky, spooky, mind-bending instrumental mixtape that's pretty damn engrossing. It shows Spit to be at least as talented at assembling soundscapes as he is at rapping -- and with no rhymes to mind, Mansions lets you focus on its ever-shifting textures and rhythms.

Spit himself bills Mansions as "a wide array of drugged-out 4 a.m. vibes to sample-heavy neck crampers," which is putting it pretty well. Some of the tracks here are wispy and ethereal, barely announcing their presence before they disappear; others are built on big, funky beats that beg for a huge car to bang out of. There's no rapping per se, but there are plenty of vocal samples: Slowed-down, pitch-lowered utterances, hilarious clips from television, and, on "DMT," one lengthy explanation (endorsement, really) of the psychedelic powers of the naturally occurring drug dimethyltryptamine. That track is lots of fun on its own, but this is whole mixtape is probably something you should hear:

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Take a Fuzzed-Out 'Tumble Down' With S.F.'s Terry Malts

Categories: MP3 of the Day

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Terry Malts

Terry Malts is among the local rock bands whose full-length debuts we're most excited about in 2012, and the album's first single, "Tumble Down" oughta show why: With sizzling guitars playing atop a molten bassline and Phil Benson's distantly crackling vocals, the song is textbook indie rock turned into a casual mess of pop catchiness. All its offending grit is balanced by the insistent merseybeat and "bop-baa"-ing in the chorus, making this upbeat song sound like it's suspended inside a swimming pool of mud. That's a good, good thing, though. Check out "Tumble Down" after the jump.

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The Well-Named Heart Break Gang Wants To Steal Your Woman with 'She Ready'

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"Your girl, she ready," goes the titular refrain here, and after hearing this new track from the Bay Area's Heart Break Gang, well, yours may not be the only lady running out to grind (or worse) with these boys. Over a confidently laid-back bassline made by local producer/rapper Iamsu!, the gang woos the lasses of lesser men with various smoothly delivered boasts and leers. The whole thing feels comfortably smug -- "bet you found my number in your bitch's cellphone" -- and pretty much deserves to be. This is the first single off the Heart Break Gang's upcoming street album/mixtape, which doesn't yet have a set date for release. Play it for your 2012 conquests.


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Hear This: Los Rakas' Raka Rich Wants You to 'Check Yo B*tch'

Categories: MP3 of the Day

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Raka Rich.
Panama-born, Oakland-raised Raka Rich is best known as one-half of the rap group Los Rakas (with cousin Raka Dun), but he's also a solo artist who is planning to drop a new EP sometime in 2012. Today we have a taste of that release with a new single called "Check Yo B*tch." With its gentle, R&B- reminiscent backing track, and lyrics that portray some cocksure macking, the bilingual song harkens back to the player era of '90s Bay Area rap, when artists like Rappin 4-Tay and Dru Down parlayed coldly addictive anthems to international attention. Check the tune after the jump.


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Hear Alexander Spit's Expansive, Satisfying New Mixtape, These Long Strange Nights

Categories: MP3 of the Day

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Brick Stowell
Alexander Spit

S.F.-and-L.A.-based rapper Alexander Spit has a new mixtape out. It's called These Long Strange Nights, it's this up-and-coming rapper's biggest release so far, and it's worth your time. The 11 tracks on Long Strange Nights wander from blunt swagger to mellow musing: "Strange and Unusual" starts things off watery and laid-back, but by the time you get to "Real RSWD Pt. 2," you're in full industrial-banger territory. "Posse Up" is a balls-out track made to blast when you're hitting the town -- it isn't shy about that specific purpose -- and "El Camino" is a panoramic rap anthem. But there are plenty of moodier, more introspective moments along the way, too. Spit seems better suited to technical, imagery-laden rhyming than forceful bluster, but he makes a strong case for himself on most of these tracks. Download the full mixtape -- along with art for each and every track -- after the jump.


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S.F. Rappers the Jealous Guys Issue the Icy, Ethereal Audiobook EP

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The Jealous Guys

Here's yet another promising release from rising S.F. rappers the Jealous Guys: It's the Audiobook EP, a four-track collection of dimly ethereal beats capped with some of the more vivid rhymes we've heard -- especially from an S.F. outfit: "Headed to Pier 39/ Start an Arcade Fire that turn Tron into Phoenix ash/ My soul rise fuck a gravity overcast/ In sync with graffiti crying me a river/ Under the overpass, at last," goes a verse on "Genesis."

This collection of songs is what we might call cinematic -- a step or two more abstract than the hoes-and-blunts street hip-hop we get a lot around here. (Although its lyrics deal a lot with S.F. -- there's even a song called "Miss San Francisco.") The EP seems to sprout more dimensions with repeated listens, too; check it out after the jump.


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