Barbarian - “Night Blooms”
This San Diego quintet recorded their self-produced debut LP at the mythical Rancho de Luna in Joshua Tree. Some of that weird desert magic definitely rubbed off on the band, as evidenced by the low-key, sax-ified funk of “Pheremoans,” and the carefree careening of “Last Call Withdrawl,” the latter of which sounds like the bastard love child of The Walkmen and The Horrors. Not to mention, the rest of the album’s nine tracks are solid as well.
Shady Francos - “Shady Francos EP”
Born from the ashes of alt-rockers The Nformals, Josh Kmak reinvented his new trio (alongside bassist Jerrica Ojeda and drummer Cameron Sisti) in the vein of similar frenetic frontmen Ty Segall and John Dwyer. Clocking in at just over 10 minutes, this four-song banger makes an impressive (albeit quick) debut, and proves that Kmak’s new garage rock three-piece is definitely one to keep your eyes on.
1019 The Numberman - “Natalie Rose EP”
In an age of parceled-out, cookie-cutter hip-hop designed for $1.29 iTunes sales or inclusion in the next Taco Bell commercial, 1019 (aka Jay Smith of Parker and The Numberman) brings the real deal on his latest endeavor. This four-song cassette is steeped in organic beats, spacey backdrops and thoughtful lyrics, some carefully penned after the loss of his grandmother. Eschewing any and all trappings of over-produced, disposable, modern hip-hop, Smith adeptly moves things forward without losing any head-nodding goodness.
The Darrows - “Division Street EP”
Building on the foundation of their 2011 debut, “Parlour Music,” the San Diego quartet decided to ditch strings in favor of synths on their new six-song EP, giving their sound a textural punch while successfully expanding their sonic palette - I mean, it’s practically impossible not to bounce along with the EP’s title track. Once again produced by Louis XIV’s Jason Hill in his infamous L.A. studio, “Division Street” bodes well for the band’s next full length.
Swami John Reis & The Blind Shake - “Surf Classics”
The man responsible for legendary San Diego bands like Rocket From The Crypt, Drive Like Jehu, and The Night Marchers has does it once again. Reis teamed with Minneapolis punk trio The Blind Shake to put a modern spin on the entire gamut of surf music from The Trashmen to Dick Dale. Partially recorded on San Diego beaches, “Surf Classics” lives up to the promise of its title.
Scott McDonald is a writer, on-air personality and consultant with 15 years of experience in the San Diego music scene. He has interviewed hundreds of artists, from the legendary to the underground, for print and television. Follow McDonald and his melodic musings on Twitter @eight24_ or Instagram @scotteight24. Send your music musts to firstname.lastname@example.org.