But now that my broken Spanish is mercifully limited to taqueria visits, it's time to delve into that nagging pile of local discs. April's lousy with marquee giants touring north from Coachella, but that's no reason to overlook the home team. My picks listed below.
This really should've been Vue's decade. Back in the early '00s, the San Francisco garage-glam act was poised for magazine spreads. Sonic peers like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club caught fire using reverb-stewed songs thick with sullen romance. Interpol was just about to break. Stylish lads and lassies lapped up the '90s allure of guitar-petal ambush and sultry attitudes. Indie lynchpin Sub Pop embraced Vue's sonic theatrics, releasing its self-titled LP and, in 2001, the excellent Find Your Home. Despite the latter record's winning combo of loose Stones swagger and Gun Club seething-heart frustration, Vue's Reading Fest invites somehow got lost in the mail. The group toured with notable peers from the Faint to Franz Ferdinand yet never quite made it to money-raking headliner. Years later I got a promo copy of Vue's full-length for RCA, only to see the release date pushed back ... and back ... and dropped. In 2004 Vue went R.I.P.
Take two: A decade after Vue formed, its members (three of them at least frontman Rex Shelverton, bassist Jeremy Bringetto, and final drummer Cary LaScala) have morphed into Bellavista. Their new CD is evidence of not just a new band name, but a reminder of just what gave Vue such promise. Shelverton croons for burning-core crushes in passionate songs that shift temperamentally from sly ballads to booming rave-up anthems.
Abandoning the more familiar Vue brand name comes at a cost. Instead of sharing roster ranks with, say, the Shins on Sub Pop or Kings of Leon on RCA, Bellavista debuts on Take Root Records, a new local label hosting a coming-out party at the band's CD-release show (Wednesday, April 25, at Rickshaw Stop). But the label-changing doesn't affect the music. After all, these aren't novice musicians struggling for a sound. Shelverton's still obsessed with tragedy and temptation, and his bandmates boost that angst beyond the gray skies on songs like "Carve Our World." "Hospital Hill" is an unusual instrumental of bent guitar chords and shimmery echoes, but Bellavista's real highlights come with quicker tempos. "Divided We Suffer" carries a backbeat that could crowd Popscene's dance floor. Throughout, the group steers clear of shoegazer's quicksand: no navel-staring middle-ground here.
Other notable new local releases: Yao (aka Yaosers, aka James Acey) takes a Ginsu to tropical pop, lounge-hop, and the like on Plantain Is Public. Sticking to a loose hip-hop formula, Yao's smooth sample-delic mix is crammed with quirky loops. He repeats the odd, languid guitar lick for multiple rounds before spiking it with squirrelly sound effects (bells, whistles, B-movie snippets) and chunks of funk. Key tracks: "Vaulte" melts KRS-One quips into synth 'n' horn grooves, while "Bound" is a mash of jungle dementia. At 2 1/2 minutes max per track, though, these tidbits close out before the sample-censors know what hit 'em.
For that matter, Little Teeth's songs don't keep your stopwatch ticking long.
But there's plenty cluttered into those precious seconds on the local trio's lively eponymous LP. You're either gonna love or loathe the vocals, depending on your ear for, say, Joanna Newsom and Kristin Hersh. I find the yelps and coos jubilant. The group's excitable delivery is at odds with much of freak folk's more precious contemporaries. Add to that insistent cello-string scratching and Spartan banjo melodies, and you have a playful offering to really, um, sink those choppers into.