Hyphy’s Not the Whole Story: The Bay Area’s Best Bands Right Now

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By Will Butler

There are plenty of images associated with the San Francisco Bay Area, but it’s worth noting how totally diffuse the region really is. The place, so often looked at as a whole, is extraordinary and contradictory. It’s integrally connected, by bridges and mass transit, but its cities all have totally different personalities. Its got some of the nation’s grandest natural beauty along with the most abject aspects of inner city life. There are just as many artists, baristas, and bus drivers as there are Google employees, and there’s plenty of overlap among those categories too. There’s government housing, soccer moms, and house-boats all parked within a couple miles of one other. If it’s sunny on the shores of Oakland, you’re just as likely to find pea soup fog a few miles away, encircling San Francisco’s Outside Lands. But such contradictions also spur excitement and activity, constantly pushing boundaries and reexamining classic forms.

It’s easy to situate music scenes in a waxing or waning narrative, and in doing so forget how much talent is constantly coming out of a region like the Bay Area. Short of a "scene," there are a few distinct going on in this list, at least. First, there’s a lot of garage rock; which, if you haven’t heard, is kind of our bread and butter out in the Bay. But each of these rock bands has it’s own unique angle—an era, geography, or aesthetic, that contrasts it from the others. In addition to the rawk, there’s a few lone songwriters, all solitary folks in their own right, all employing totally different processes. Finally there’s a handful of like-minded groups making worldly, eclectic pop—dreamy, not due to excessive reverb or droney software instruments, but through multi-faceted influence, strong female voices, and deft, exacting musicianship. Listen to the next fifteen bands and see if you can parse what we’re talking about—the Bay's got a sound of its own.

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