In times of great financial crisis, it's best to do like the Monty Python folks and "always look on the bright side of life." So, while it's true that some cool touring bands are staying home and counting their pennies in 2009, that just leaves more Noise Pop slots available to worthy local groups this year. (The original festival was created to help foster the hometown scene anyway.) Here, then, are 14 examples, in alphabetical order, of Bay Area Noise Pop acts who deserve your economic stimulation.
Combine Built for the Sea's angsty girl singing, minor-key piano tinkling, and molasses-thick guitar, and somewhere a mopey teenager has found her new favorite band (Bottom of the Hill, Feb. 26). Psychedelic, piano-driven soft-rock sounds like a huge no-no, but it's actually a Colossal Yes, thanks to the drummer from Comets on Fire and a bunch of guys from Drunk Horse and Salem Lights (Swedish American Hall, Feb. 26). Crown City Rockers prove that you can be a live rap group and not devolve into cheesy R&B and slick acid jazz (Mezzanine, Feb. 26). Dizzy Balloon is the closest we've got to our own Vampire Weekend — an upbeat pop band offering both serious hooks and bubble-blowing machines (Bottom of the Hill, Feb. 28). Girls make a shimmering, gloriously lo-fi mess, sounding like TV Personalities being paved over by Phil Spector (Café Du Nord, Feb. 28). The Lumerians take Krautrock in dichotomous directions, approximating both the pounding noise of Amon Düül and the ethereal whoosh of Harmonia (Bottom of the Hill, Feb. 25). Maus Haus recalls the '60s cult ensemble United States of America both in spirit and in sound, ably experimenting with wheezing synths, fluttery flutes, and multipart harmonies (Bender's, Feb. 27). Goh Nakamura could be the next Elliott Smith if he weren't so happy, the next Elvis Costello if he weren't so sweet-hearted, the next Sam Phillips if he weren't so male (Great American Music Hall, Feb. 25). Just because Thee Oh Sees are John Dwyer's most accessible band yet doesn't make the quartet soft. Instead, the band approximates a demented dentist drilling away in some garage(-rock) office, alternating between painful injections and sweet laughing gas (Café Du Nord, Feb. 26). Donovan Quinn cut his teeth with the Skygreen Leopards, and his solo material hews close to that group's ethereal oddness. He concocts hazy folk-rock that seems emitted from a macramehookah (Swedish American Hall, Feb. 28). Sholi is equally comfortable covering folk chanteuse Joanna Newsom and legendary Iranian songstress Googoosh as it is concocting complicated, mid-'90s Touch & Go–style art-rock (Bottom of the Hill, Feb. 28). Someday, pop aficionados will hold Kelley Stoltz in the same regard as such '60s geniuses as Arthur Lee, Roger McGuinn, and Curtis Mayfield (Great American Music Hall, Feb. 25). Long before they moved to the Bay Area or helped found art-rap group Subtle, Doseone and Jel tried out experimental, twisty-turny hip-hop as Themselves, here making a rare appearance at a free Terrorbird/XLR8R party (Apple Store, Feb. 28). Two Sheds' brand of codeine country recalls Mazzy Star or a girlier Acetone — bands that understood that the blues were that much bluer with a fuzzed-out guitar part behind the pretty vocals (Slim's, Feb. 25).