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Happy Birthday Amoeba Music San Francisco!

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, November 15, 2012 11:23pm | Post a Comment
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Today Amoeba Music San Francisco turns fifteen years old! Fifteen, that awkward age where all associations with mom make for endless trials of embarrassment and your kid sister's crack attempts at one-upping your status as "family favorite" are just, ya know, not cute.

To celebrate the occasion tributes were made and obligatory pizza pies and butter creme sheet cakes were enjoyed by staff and regulars, not a small number of whom contributed to an immensely successful pot luck style lunch comprised of porchetta sandwiches with cole slaw, eggplant mango sushi, wild rice and mushroom pilaf, vegetable curry, savory meatballs, chips and homemade salsa, cinnamon-y apple crisp, coconut milk rice pudding, ginger snaps, and succulent peanutbutter fudge. Although we refrained from transforming the info counter into a champagne fountain (there's always next year kids!) we managed to keep it classy and sassy for the greater good with plenty of good fellowship and cheer. Happy 15th Amoeba SF! Keep on truckin'!

7" Fix: Violent Change - Suck on the Gun EP

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, November 14, 2012 10:32pm | Post a Comment
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Say what you will about the confluence of punk and pop music, the truth is it doesn't suck.

Well, okay, so what even if most of it does suck eggs, local SF punkers Violent Change straddle the void between the punk as fuck and the pop rocks with adroit elan. In an as yet unpublished interview, Violent Change frontman and brainchild "Gladys" describes the VC sonic experience as the Sex Pistols meets the Bee Gees. And, after taking their Suck on the Gun EP for a spin, I'd have to say I agree though I'd map the distance between the Pistols and the brothers Gibb assessment with a little Revolver era Beatles, especially that "I'm only Sleeping" song, doused with the studio version of "Alcohol" by G.B.H.. Add to that some classic Damned jams plus a hint of Vic Godard & the Subway Sect a la "Make Me Sad" and you've got some good-ass, never-say-die punk rock stock.That Violent Change is obviously informed by highly commendable musical tastes and a natural inclination toward the aural obtuseness that comes with the whole basement/bedroom recording routine is a ultimately good thing, all of this ultimately evidenced by the record. Thus (duh!) it's my current favorite new four-song 45. I talked to a guy who bought this on sight the other day because "the safety pin letters look cool" -- don't they though? In any case, bands with an eponymous theme songs pretty much always totally rule.

For the Love of Halloween Mixtapes!

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, October 29, 2012 11:37am | Post a Comment
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One of the many reasons I look forward to Halloween each year is that it truly is the holiday what inspires the best mix tapes. Also they're usually the most fun sort of mix to compile as the novelty encourages limitless experimentation. For the last thirteen years I have made and exchanged Halloween mix tapes with a dear friend and kindred spirit thus becoming a Halloween tradition that means as much to me as pumpkin carving, inventing the best costume for the day, and impaling candy corn on my canines.

Naturally, we here at Amoeba Music make the most of live-mixing music for our Halloween festivities (see DJ Teen Wolf, pictured right) and this year shall surely be no different so, by all means, do come out and join us! Remember to dress to distress, bring your little dogs too and, since we close early at 7pm so that we may all celebrate Halloween right frightfully, feel free to consider ours a warm up to your Halloween party plans -- I know i do! In fact, I'll be manning the decks this year!

Now, if you're into making a Halloween mix but as yet haven't attempted your own here follows some seasonably solid Halloween mixtape advice from some reasonably seasoned compilation enthusiasts, highlighting some of the content that made the cut for my own mixer this year. What the heck, let's call it seven hot tips for Halloween mixtape success -- it's been a while since I've listed anything.

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Halloween mixtape hot tip #1
: When culling content for a Halloween mix never discount an entire genre as seasonally inappropriate as fear knows no formal bounds. I'm talking about Country, y'all. Famed Country and Western convoy outlaw C.W. McCall's "Night Rider" from the recently reissued Wolf Creek Pass (on Omni) is some great C&W for Halloween what with its odd moog-a-delic reverberations and badass Rap-esque delivery droning on and on about driving at night and stuff. While not as frightening and perfectly Halloweeny as, say, Porter Wagoner's "The Rubber Room" it is an entirely appropriate track for a diverse, genre-spanning Halloween compilation in that it provides a departure from the more standard, obvious fare. That, and the fact that most songs about driving at night are cool.

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The Nature Boy and The Island-aire: Digging Exotica's Wild Roving Mystics

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, October 10, 2012 03:32pm | Post a Comment
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If there's one thing an appreciation of music micro-genres has taught me it's this: work in a record store long enough and you'll eventually get into everything. Being predisposed to an appreciation of all things nautical by nature and developing a fondness for "theme" restaurants during my formative years it was only a matter of time before I would incur an full-on addiction to Exotica. At first I admit I mostly overlooked the jazz elements inherent to the genre, however pleasantly tropical, but obsession has a funny way of broadening ones taste for the far flung and curiously obscure. While I cannot trace my collection back to one single acquisition I can proclaim without a doubt that this squaw has stalked the warpath for Exotica, in all it's varied and as-yet-unconfirmed aspects, for quite some time. I'm so hot for it I'm on fire and, with that admonition out of the way, I'm pleased to report that a vinyl reissue of Eden Ahbez's seminal contribution to the genre, Eden's Island: The Music of an Enchanted Isle (out on Moi J'Connais/Black Sweat via Mississippi Records), is once again gracing the selections in Amoeba Music's Lounge section at long last!

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A beach-bummin' beatnik guru by nature, Eden Ahbez was famous for three things: penning the pop/jazz standard "Nature Boy" (made famous by one Nat King Cole), looking a lot like Jesus (both on the original Eden's Island cover art, circa 1960 above on the left, as well as the updated screen-printed jacket housing the current reissue pictured above right), and thriving on a diet consisting of  raw fruit and vegetables, living outdoors with his family beneath the first L of the Hollywood sign in the grassy Los Angeles wilderness. His music is a strange arrangement of piano, flute, and exotic percussion instruments fused with nature sounds (rolling surf, the creak of a wood-masted sailboat, squawking birds, breezy gusts of wind), and features a mixed chorus or Ahbez's own cheesy vocal musings, waxing poetic about a snake-chasing mongoose, living in an old shack by the sea, fires on the beach, and knowing "the thrill of loneliness" -- charming, to the last.

Eden Ahbez - "Full Moon"


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Of Sound and Vision: An Interview with Hannah Lew of Grass Widow

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, September 26, 2012 12:25pm | Post a Comment
A few years back I fell for San Francisco trio Grass Widow pretty hard. Charmed by the inviting warmth of the "cosy practice space" image on the cover of their debut album I was primed to plunge headfirst into the rabbithole of Grass Widow's homespun, post-punk wonderland. Digging deeper I found bassist/vocalist Hannah Lew's contribution to the band to be greater than merely a sewing of sonic lines and hemmed-in harmonies. A true visionary, Hannah is dishes a triple threat of aesthetic ingenuity evident in her work as a a filmmaker, visual artist, and musician, whether playing solo or with an ensemble. She's just the coolest!

Hannah was gracious enough to answer some of my questions recently, for the interview read on below.

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How did you come to be a musician, filmmaker, and visual artist? Did you naturally lean one way before the other? 

Hannah Lew: I have many useless talents and envy people that have the tunnel vision to be excellent at one or two things. I lean many ways and consider myself mediocre at many things. I came to these specific three mediums in very different ways. I always drew and painted as a child and actually went to college for fine art. I always felt frustrated with visual art because its very culturally exclusive whereas music and film are assessable to everyone and I've always felt like I can express myself better through these mediums. I actually lived in New York during 9/11 and totally freaked out about what I was doing with creative energy. It sounds cheesy, but those events had a profound effect on how I decided to spend my energy. Two days before 9/11 I had dresses on a runway at NY Fashion Week and was on my way to pursuing a career as a visual artist. 9/11 just kind of made me reassess what really mattered to me and I decided to find a more satisfying way to reach people with my ideas. The fashion and art world just suddenly felt very superficial and meaningless.
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Later that year I moved to Philadelphia and started a band, but I just jumped around and sang and played Moog. Then, in 2003, I moved back to SF and my friend Frankie and I decided to start a band even though we didn't know how to play any instruments. We basically got in a room with our friends Wu and Raven and everyone casually picked an instrument. Our band was called Shitstorm mostly because we all thought is was a joke band. But then we ended up playing for five years and touring a lot and though we tried to change our name we just couldn't shake it. We really sucked at first, but it was in that band that we all learned how to play the instruments that we would go on to play for the next decade. I feel like I came into my style as a musician through the bass. 

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