Tag Archives: San Francisco bands

San Francisco’s New Spell Delivers Spellbinding Dark Indie Synth-pop

16 May

New Spell is a San Francisco-based duo consisting of songwriter Leanne Kelly on lead vocals and keyboards and Jacob Frautschi on drums. The two have been together for awhile as New Spell has progressed through several evolutions, arriving today at a sound the band describes as dark indie synth-pop.

On New Spell’s Of Time – Part I, Kelly creates swirling soundscapes with her layered synths and spellbinding vocals — with a sense of mystery and edginess to a number of the tracks. The arrangements are intricate, with precision production. Lyrics are cerebral and thought-provoking.

Of Time is a four-song EP that will be followed at some point by a full album. If the songs on this EP are any indication, that should be a very exciting release to look forward to.

Track highlights: “Rain” is a propulsive track that opens Of Time with skittering synths accompanied by Kelly’s strong, slightly ominous vocals. There’s also an awesome rhythm-driven bridge.

“The Space Between” features a bouncing, pumping rhythm mixed with a fuzzy synth bass and piano. The vocals are lightly tripping, with distortion added at times and rich harmonies in the chorus.

“Never Change” slows the pace with sustained synth chords, a deliberate tom-tom beat and airy vocals that soar into lush harmonies. Brass-like synth accents are added at times. The entire track is reminiscent of a Naked and Famous song, with a lead break by Kelly near the end that could be Keith Emerson’s keys from legendary Emerson Lake & Palmer.

The final track on Of Time is “Familiar Tune,” and this is definitely lighter and more delicate overall with playful keys and fragile, warm crystalline vocals. Synth orchestration envelops the melody.

New Spell is a local band that’s definitely worth your time. By the way, they’re currently touring and will be in Sacramento, Mountain View and Los Angeles in upcoming weeks. Check out New Spell’s Facebook page for details.



“Before the Storm” Offers Great Psych-Rock and Psych-Folk

18 Sep

San Francisco’s Jesse Cafiero is a very talented artist. As a musician, he’s a multi-instrumentalist, accomplished in both conventional and lap steel guitar, bass, keyboards of all types and descriptions, and even Autoharp. He’s an exceptional composer, who wrote all the songs on his latest album. He sings lead vocals. And as the cherry on the cake, he created the really cool artwork for the new album. Wouldn’t you just love to live in that house atop one of the Bay Area’s mountains or foothills?

In the past, Jesse was focused on making music pretty much by himself. But with the release of Before the Storm under the band name, Split Screens, Jesse decided to call on some friends and associates such as drummer and organist, Rory O’Connor — who also played the drums on Scott Hansen’s new Tycho CD — to help. The result is a very strong album full of great indie psych-rock and psych-folk songs.

The opening track, “Stand Alone,” is sprawling, airy, folk-rock with slightly soulful vocals. A pulsing organ and rat-a-tat drums give the song an uplifting energy and pace, while the moaning lap steel guitar hints at the loneliness of that mountaintop pictured on the cover art.

While there’s just a taste of horns in the first track, “Home” is a fun, funky song that is all about horns. It’s very reminiscent of a classic Van Morrison song, with the horns providing musical punctuation and vocals that sound a lot like Jack Johnson.

On “I Will Never Know,” Before the Storm becomes jangly, with a mix of reverbed guitar and lap steel. The keyboards sparkle and glisten in creating a ballad that could be right out of the early 1970s.

Track 10 is an up-tempo folk-rock romp that further demonstrates how much variety Cafiero captured on this 11-song set. This is definitely not one of those albums that feature the same sound all the way through. The preceding track, “Back and Forth,” is also worth noting. It starts with fingerpicked guitar, then adds layers of synth, electric guitar, and even backwards music to create an unmistakable connection with the psych-rock of yesteryear.

If you’re looking for a really creative, indie psych-rock or psych-folk album to add to your collection, check out Before the Storm from Split Screens.