The concentration of musical ability that runs through the Bay never ceases to astound. A dazzling array of musical expression keeps our ears buzzing 24/7 as we listen to projects from large and small labels, and self-released sounds. We decided to start a column featuring the SF Bay Area’s vast assemblage of talent; here’s Local Listen.
LA DOÑA’S BASS POWER
Cecilia Cassandra Pena-Govea is a San Francisco Mission District native, who blends Caribbean beats, reggaeton, and hip-hop styles into compositions that explore her radical brown femininity. As she told NPR in March, “femmeton” a term she coined to describe her feminist reggaeton, is the corrective voice “La Doña” writes and records with. That’s quite far away from her musical upbringing, which included performing in her family’s mariachi band at age 7, in which she played the trumpet. Her community involvement grew while teaching traditional Mexican and Latin American music at an after-school program in San Francisco. And as her musical sphere evolved, so did her aesthetic—as evidenced by the caption under her 2018 video for “Algo Nuevo,” which reads, “ A Frisco slapper about boss shit and desire.”
Life comes at cha fast.
La Doña will be a featured artist on the 2020 edition of Red Bull’s Estados Unidos de Bass, broadcasting online Fri/4 + Sat/5. The series grew from a 2019 Red Bull Presents event which showcased the bicultural sounds of Latin-inspired American bass music in Miami. Expanding its focus to be a three-week celebration of Latinx music across the US, the live stream will showcase Latinx artists and producers across five key cities: Austin, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and San Francisco.
KELLY FINNIGAN’S YEARNING SANTA
Kelly Finnigan—lead singer of the Bay Area-based Monophonics—made a drum-heavy, distorted and fuzzy soul record in 2019. The Tales People Tell immediately featured his flair for the curated analog aesthetic.
“Santa’s Watching You,” his recent single, is a holiday take by the singer on a stone-cold gospel burner by The Sacred Four, from the Numero Group catalog. (Kelly’s got a deep-crate record IQ and has no shame in flaunting it. We like that type of cocky vinyl swag.) And true to the nature of his A Joyful Sound LP, out now digitally and set for physical release on 12/11, this track is truly a (socially distanced) family affair: drums and bass in Ohio by Terry Cole and Henry Allen; guitar by Jimmy James in Seattle; organ, percussion and vocals in California by Kelly, with some additional background vocals by The Harlem Gospel Travelers in New York. Only Finnegan could make a cover work that makes you feel like Santa is a creeper. With production tweaks that dip in and out of the non-formulaic lane of retro-soul releases, “Santa’s Watching You” is gritty back-beat soul salvation.
ROUTINE’S JOSHUA TREE TALES
Routine is the musical collaboration of Annie Truscott of Chastity Belt and Melina Duterte of Jay Som, which just dropped the five-song EP “And Other Things.” According to Duterte, in November of 2017, seeking a new environment, she left her home base of Oakland for Los Angeles. Reckoning with the relative instability of musicianhood, she turned inward, tuning ever deeper into her own emotions and desires as a way of staying centered through huge changes. Coming off her 2017 breakout record Everybody Works, which fused dream-pop, shoegaze, acoustic-folk, and slinky r&b leanings into critical acclaim and non-stop touring—Duterte sought out ambient environs to catch her bearings.
Duterte and Truscott wrote and recorded And Other Things in a month in Joshua Tree, California last year. Truscott sings lead and wrote most of the EP, while Duterte served as an accompanist, producer, and engineer. “In Annie’s songs I hear a yearning for something just out of reach, something unachievable,” Duterte said in a press release. “She’s such a great singer, so it felt good to just layer instruments to make her vision for it feel fully fleshed out.”
ZACH WATERS BAND’S GOOD OL’ ROCK ‘N ROLL
The Zach Waters Band is a rock ‘n roll band from Sacramento.
Lemme repeat that.
A sweat in your brow, dirt in your chonies, beer and a shot, get the friggin lead out, rawk band.
This power trio consists of drummer Steve Pires, bassist Grayson Roberts, and is fronted by guitarist-vocalist Zach Waters. Taking inspiration from classic artists such as Jimi Hendrix, ACDC, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Led Zeppelin, and more, this outfit is putting their own twist on the classic rock, blues-driven genre. Screaming guitars are always to be expected at a ZWB show, they tell us. Here’s a note from the band on the official music video for “Lookin’ To Play,” which melds classic metal sincerity to NorCal sensibility.
“We worked very hard on this song and video, and we hope that our message is clear to our fans. This year has been a tough one for everyone, especially musicians, and we tried to capture the emotion of wanting to rock again; we know that every rock n roll band out there is lookin’ to play.”