Some of My Best Friends Are Records

SF Weekly writers pick their favorite Bay Area records of all time

Sean Hayes

Alabama Chicken

(Snail Blue)

This folkie doesn't do anything fancy -- no giant harp, no weird animal imagery, no out-there playing -- which is probably what makes his songs so good in the long run. His third album, from 2003, is full of heartbreak sung (and played) the way it should be: miserable and confused and a little bit beautiful.

Jolie Holland

Escondida

(Anti-)

Holland's first studio album (from 2004) perfectly captures what makes the Texas native such a unique performer: haunting playing, otherworldly songwriting, and a voice that shivers and purrs. Few people can do bucolic folk, boozy blues, spooky country, or Irish jigs as well; even fewer can do all of the above.

Van Morrison

Saint Dominic's Preview

(Warner Bros.)

Van the Man's fifth LP (from 1972) found him splitting time between euphoric R&B and, um, mystical shit. Some of it sounds as '70s Mill Valley as Morrison's bell-bottom trousers, but it's worth it for the 10-plus minutes of transcendental Irish-ish folk of "Independence Day." If this disc doesn't make you a believer, there is no God. Even if there really isn't.

Pavement

Slanted and Enchanted

(Matador)

Sure, Stockton is stretching the bay a bit, but Pavement always seemed very much of the area. Besides, this 1992 debut LP is so good it's impossible not to have on here. Like Lou Reed making Sonic Youth play British post-punk: oddball refrains, gnarly riffs, recorder grime, fantastically enthusiastic suburban angst.


Hello, My Name Is: Mike Rowell

After plowing through my music collection and trashing my apartment in the process, I've settled on these Bay Area classics. While there are scads of artists, from Blue Cheer to Six Organs of Admittance, that are list-worthy, these best represent San Francisco for me; this is the kind of stuff that compelled me to move here in the first place.

Fifty Foot Hose

Cauldron

(Mercury/Weasel Disc)

Back in the heady hippie days, Cork Marcheschi and crew included homemade instruments and electronics on this amazing amalgam of sci-fi sound-effects experimentalism and flower-power psychedelia. It took decades for the world to catch up with Fifty Foot Hose, and the CD reissue of Cauldronis well worth seeking out.

Flipper

Generic Flipper

(Subterranean)

Pre-eminent guitar squall. People used to argue passionately over this record's validity. Was it genius or trash? Both actually, which makes it so essential. "Sex Bomb" is a big punk mile-marker, but existential anthems like "Life Is Cheap" and "Way of the World" still provide an apropos soundtrack to the urban experience.

The Residents

Duck Stab/Buster and Glen

(Ralph)

While an argument could be made for, say, the warped pop deconstructivism of Third Reich 'n' Roll [Editor's note: Which it is above, incidentally], this expansion of an earlier EP is a Residents benchmark, featuring a cornucopia of classics like "Constantinople," "Blue Rosebuds," "Bach Is Dead," and every other track on the album. A fortuitous masterpiece.

Negativland

Escape From Noise

(SST/Seeland)

These culture jammers have put out a lot of smart, important recordings over the years, but Escape From Noiseis their archetypal album. From clever collage and silly snippets to such classic tracks as "Christianity Is Stupid" and "Time Zones," this is the linchpin from which all later Negativland springs forth.

Dead Kennedys

Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables

(Alternative Tentacles)

Despite the tinny production, this snide, surf-tinged masterwork galvanized an entire generation of West Coast punks. Songs like "Kill the Poor," "Let's Lynch the Landlord," "California Über Alles," and "Holiday in Cambodia" are crucial punk classics, but let's not forget that the whole thing makes for a fun listen. Still.

Thinking Fellers Union Local 282

Strangers From the Universe

(Matador)

There are no real dogs in the discography of this innovative quintet, but this release on Matador is oft acknowledged as the high point. Ingeniously compelling, from "My Pal the Tortoise" to "Noble Experiment," Strangers is TFUL282's most satisfying start-to-finish listen. While it's sadly out of print, used copies aren't too hard to find locally.

Caroliner Rainbow Hernia Milk Queen

Rear End Hernia Puppet Show

(Subterranean)

Choosing the best of the many Caroliner offerings is a challenge, but this first album set the standard and still sounds dementedly great. It came in a box of weird detritus, and laid down an influential template of DIY hallucinatory freakiness that would inspire many a noise band in subsequent years.

Chrome

Alien Soundtracks

(Siren)

Rarely has an album title been so on-target; this effects-slathered oddity sure didn't sound like it came from this planet. The bizarre, random atmospherics of Soundtrackstrump later, more rocking Chrome albums, plus the disc was originally conceived as mood music for the newly established Ultra Room at the Mitchell Brothers O'Farrell Theatre. Weirdest sex music ever.

Factrix

Scheintot

(Adolescent)

A haunting, beautifully brooding album similar to early Cabaret Voltaire, full of scrabbling guitar, distorto-bass, metronomic drum machine, and half-spoken vocals, all drenched in reverb. Hell, the term "industrial music" was coined by sometime Factrix collaborator Monte Cazazza. Scheintotwas included on the recent German double-CD anthology Artifact, but now that's out of print.

Spot 1019

Self-titled

(Pitch-a-Tent)

Camper Van Beethoven was vital, but someone needs to throw a bone to this truly fun and criminally underrated band. While musically solid, what made Spot run was the hilarious free verse of charismatic vocalist Joe Sloan, singing about things like space-traveling cats, gnarly little surf machines, and "Dinky Dog the Demon Master."

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