Two spectacular birthday presents are the inspiration behind my 2021 end of year list. My husband surprised me by commissioning Jen Lemasters to create Trish Keenan and Laetitia Sadier action figures. These thoughtful, one-of-a-kind gifts are the highlight of a year otherwise filled with tedious monotony. I began the pandemic channeling my stress into genuine productivity. I flourished for a spell, however the one note feeling of chronic emptiness crept in late summer and stayed. I realized only recently that I have been quietly grieving for the death of our collective loss of life. Not just the very real people who have passed away during the pandemic, but for all of our own lives that evaporated in March of 2020. In truth, this year was hard.
Miraculously, music has continued to offer me a meaningful connection to the world at large and create a bridge to my prepandemic self. Music and friendships forged over the past two years, remind me that there is still plenty of good in this world. This has made a hard year, gratefully much softer.
Circling back to my end of year theme, I wanted to share 10 artists (in no particular order plus a playlist of even more music) that I as a fan of Broadcast and Stereolab, have really enjoyed this year. Opalescent with their rainbow array of influences from around the world and multiple decades, 2021 was a VERY good year for fans of retro-futuristic pop. Wishing you all love, joy, kindness, great music, and good health in this year.
Since we couldn’t play this year or go to hardly any shows, we watched a lot of late night music documentaries to get our fix. These were our favorites, unranked.
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND (2021) Heather: Todd Haynes made something so exuberantly creative here. It hits the head and the heart simultaneously. It’s fascinating to me that Lou Reed knew he wasn’t naturally a great player or singer but was sure he was born a rock star. And he kept making great records long after he won the argument. Brian: I love art, and I love artists. Sometimes artists can be too arty doing art for art’s sake. I appreciate some of VU’s droney soundscapes and simple & rough pop songs but for the most part this documentary reminded me that this band is pretty terrible and Lou Reed seems like a snob.
STEELY DAN – AJA: CLASSIC ALBUM SERIES (1999) Brian: This is a master class on how to nitpick and tweak until something is absolutely perfect. This goes against what many rock bands believe is the proper approach to recording and writing but Steely Dan proves that being mind blowingly anal and fighting for a vision can produce something sexy and brilliant. Heather: This blew my mind. Michael McDonald’s weird backing vocals on “Peg” (“foreign moo-vee!!”), all the wildly different parts they auditioned for each song. Fagen and Becker muttering commentary over each other like an old married couple. The weird celeste in “Deacon Blues.” I don’t think there’s a song that captures the wiry feeling of a 6AM solo cab ride into New York better.
AIR STUDIOS – UNDER THE VOLCANO (2021) Heather: The ambition of AIR Studios was crazy. It was supposed to be on a moving sailboat but alas George Martin settled for a remote island and they had to roll the massive console in on logs. Recording there seems like the most immersive studio experience ever–and Duran Duran hated it, which says a lot about them. And then the Earth swallowed the studio with back-to-back natural disasters–it’s pretty biblical. Brian: This satisfied my itch for more behind-the-scenes footage of studio work in remote tropical places. I’ve always fantasized about being locked up in a faraway place with nothing to do but record. One thing that stuck out was how much writing was done in the studio by many of these bands. Ah, the lost art of slowly creating new material while the studio racks up a massive bill that the label will pay, then take out of your royalties.
BEATLES – GET BACK (2021) Heather: We just finished this the other night, and it took us 6 viewings, but it was edifying, a balm for my black and withered heart. The love between John and Paul is so palpable. I wept through the final rooftop concert because Double Fantasy era John was my first love. Brian: I loved this so much. It was too short!!! Now I want so badly to see detailed footage of bands recording my favorite records. Let it Be is my least favorite Beatles record, yet I gained so much respect for every member of the band. The working relationship, brotherly love, and work ethic these guys had, all while eating toast. They were sloppy when they were allowed to be and perfect when they needed to be. And I’m happy to know that so much of the drama between Yoko and them was just hype.
PINK FLOYD – LIVE AT POMPEII (1972) Heather: My whole life, I could never sit through this–instant narcolepsy!–but it is in fact awesome and so weird. David Gilmour is an angel; he exudes a steady grace. Roger Waters strikes me as the kind of guy who’d come up to you at a bar just to mock your shoes. Brian: I’ve seen this many, many times since my first viewing as a 16 year-old peaking on some stuff I tried for the first time. It was a religious experience. The scene of David singing at the end of “A Saucerful of Secrets” brings tears and chills to this day–I think this is the most perfect male vocal ever recorded, as well as the most amazing video of a male vocal performance. I love this part so much I completely stole it for a song in 1999, two years after Radiohead stole it for “Exit Music (For a Film)”.
BEE GEES – HOW CAN YOU MEND A BROKEN HEART? (2020) Heather: I do not know what celestial channel Barry Gibb’s spiritual radio is tuned to, but it is the rarest of talent. Also Robin’s voice–what is that? I love Idea or 1st era BeeGees but this made me reconsider Main Course as a pretty cool inflection point. Plus I love watching stuff about sibling bands because I was in one for a long time; it can be painful to make art together when you have the exact same wounds. Brian: I liked learning much more about the early Bee Gees and how they got sucked into the world of disco. I feel the film tried to overhype their place in disco, but I walked away not thinking that they helped create a movement, but rather appropriated it and sold it out. It makes me wonder what they would sound like under the influences of today’s popular music. Ugh.
ZZTOP – THAT LITTLE ‘OL BAND FROM TEXAS (2019) Heather: I always thought ZZTop was what happened when three pervy unwashed uncles formed a band. But I was wrong. They are unwashed pervs who also are singular musicians. It gives me great pleasure to imagine them playing a small bar in Texas way back when and the crowd realizing how fucking good they are after about 3 minutes and just losing it. Brian: It’s so satisfying to see this band perform and learn about their beginnings. They’re much more artistic and weird than people give them credit for. One of the best live bands on earth, and one I still listen to on cassette in my old Chevy van whenever I’m making a run to the dump.
THE SWEET – ALL THAT GLITTERS (1974) Brian: These guys are simply amazing. In some ways one of the best rock bands ever. Each player was immensely talented and could sing. They put on incredible shows and took control of their management and trajectory. Very underrated. Watch clips of their old stuff! Heather: I was surprised to learn that the Sweet started as a boy band. I remember reading years ago that Motley Crue idolized them–and it really showed in their early bubblegum Satanism.
WOODSTOCK ’99 – PEACE, LOVE AND RAGE (2021) Heather: Neither of us could sleep after watching this, it was so dark. The Korn Era totally defiled “alternative” music. This movie was mostly just watching shitty people be inspired to be way shittier, to a very shitty soundtrack. Happy New Year everybody!!!!! Brian: I really believe that the rage Fred Durst tapped into with the crowd was the seeds of the Trump presidency. Only instead of burning food carts and port-a-potties, they grew up and lit America on fire.
JUDAS PRIEST – BRITISH STEEL: CLASSIC ALBUM SERIES (2001) Brian: My favorite album by one of my favorite bands of all time. Yes, I grew out of heavy metal when I was 16 but I will always love this band and album. Rob Halford is perhaps the best rock singer of all time and the production on this record is astounding. I love that they recorded in Ringo’s house and used his cutlery to create the clanking “metal” sound on one song. Every single song is great and this doc, though cheesy and slow, gives much insight into that. Heather: I cried a LOT because I can’t watch Rob Halford without projectile crying. He is incandescent with Love– for his audience and the world. Our friend got us great seats at a Priest show a couple years ago and Rob changed outfits like 8 times. He truly loves what he does!
Leftover flank steak, fried eggs, homemade tortillas, Air BnB, Napa CA
5-minute egg, rye toast, off-season strawberries, home in SF
Peanut butter toast, my sister’s car after various ocean swims*
Clare Wadd’s Books I Read in 2021: the ones I loved and the ones that will stay with me 1. Dreamland, Rosa Rankin-Gee 2. I Belong Here: A Journey Along the Backbone of Britain, Anita Sethi 3. Small Pleasures, Clare Chambers 4. The Doll Factory, Elizabeth Macneal 5. My Rock ’n’ Roll Friend, Tracey Thorn 6. Skint Estate: A Memoir of Poverty, Motherhood and Survival, Cash Carraway 7. Fake Accounts, Lauren Oyler 8. The Pursuit of Love, Nancy Mitford 9. Mort Sur La Lande (Vera), Ann Cleaves/Claire Breton 10. Pirenesi, Susanna Clarke With apologies to the boys as none of them made the cut
Beth Arzy’s Top 13 Records The Shop Window, The State of Being Human Lancashire Bombers, Into the Sun Wild Billy Childish & CTMF, Where the Wild Purple Iris Grows The Umbrellas, The Umbrellas Massage, Still Life Hadda Be, Another Life Reds, Pinks and Purples, Uncommon Weather Swansea Sound, Live at the Rum Puncheon The Jazz Butcher, The Highest in the Land The Catenary Wires, Birling Gap Durand Jones & the Indications, Private Space Chime School, Chime School Shoestrings, Expectations Beth plays in The Luxembourg Signal, Jetstream Pony, Lightning in a Twilight Hour
Michael Azerrad’s Ten Best Vegetables and Fruits of 2021 1. Snap peas 2. Peaches 3. Ramps 4. Borlotti beans 5. Corn 6. Small russet potatoes* 7. Heirloom tomatoes 8. Golden Russet apples 9. Lion’s mane mushrooms** 10. Red Boston lettuce * Higher skin-to-flesh ratio ** Yes, I know they’re technically not a vegetable or fruit.
Gilmore Tamny’s Chronicle of Things of Note 2021 List. 1. I started talking to myself more, drinking my coffee black, painting in earnest, eating lots of wavy potato chips, wearing eye makeup (per resolution 2021), and getting up at 5:30 a.m. 2. Turns out, I like ambient/ASMR video. There are a lot of crackling fireplaces and candles. Are the auteurs morally obligated to show responsible fire safety? I found this question more central to ethical code than I would have thought. 3. I drank coffee and made a to-do list at about 6:00 a.m. while watching a pre-recorded video of myself drinking coffee and making a to-do list about 6:00 a.m. on youtube as part of the Non-Event TV 24-Hour Fundraiser 4. I decided I wanted to grow my hair long at least once before I croak, whether it is flattering or not. 5. I enjoyed hearing Mero (of Desus and Mero) describe watching the Jan. 6 insurrection. 6. My tomato plant grew and grew and grew and finally produced one single chestnut-sized tomato. 7. Cottagecore? Hmmm. 8. I need a soap dish and discovered in resulting search I have a fairly narrow and inflexible idea of the soap dish I want. 9. Was on the receiving end of possibly the dirtiest look someone’s ever given me. No threat, –just weary disgust. 10. After watching and reading about secret societies in history, I tried to figure out a way to talk about secret societies without sounding credulous. Harder than I might have thought. 11. I found a good gingerbread recipe. Works very well with substitutes to make it vegan. 12. I discovered a friend was named after the Hawthorne story “The Old Stone Face.” 13. Learned: always close the door – car door, outside door to your building, your own apt./condo door – and lock it behind you (watch enough true crime—you’ll take my point). Stalin was involved in a bank robbery. My cat doesn’t just want me to throw any toy—but a specific toy—bouncy ball not wool ball, rattle mousekins not stuffed mousekins, etc. Hull isn’t where I thought it was. Lenin and Trotsky were Freemasons. 14. Sciatica. 15. While practicing genuine gratitude for having a roof overhead, union job, good human friends, and cat friend, I stopped smothering my distress to death with gratitude. 16. Miriam Toews’ book Fight Night is great. Gilmore Tamny lives and works and frets in Boston, MA.
Mike Slumberland: The list nobody wants… my top new jazz/jazz-adjacent records of 2021 1. Nat Birchall – Ancient Africa (Ancient Archive of Sound) 2. Tara Clerkin Trio – In Spring (World of Echo) 3. Emanative & Liz Elensky – The Volume Of The Light (Home Planet) 4. Sam Gendel – Fresh Bread (Leaving) 5. Makaya McCraven – Deciphering The Message (Blue Note) 6. Natural Information Society – Descension (Eremite) 7. Sons of Kemet – Black To The Future (Impulse!) 8. Emma-Jean Thackray – Yellow (Movementt) 9. Rosie Turton – Expansions and Transformations: Part I & II (no label) 10. Wildflower – Better Times (Tropic of Love)
Angelina Capodanno’s 2021 lists (Team CF, also Sony Music / Legacy Creative + Packaging, Brooklynite, Destroyer’s #1 fan)
My favorite 2021 albums: 1. Hand Habits – Fun House 2. Bachelor – Dooming Sun 3. Cory Hanson – Pale Horse Rider 4. Wednesday – Twin Plagues 5. Colleen – The Tunnel and the Clearing 6. The Mountain Movers – World What World 7. ANIKA – Change 8. Dry Cleaning – New Long Leg 9. Dummy – Mandatory Enjoyment 10. Painted Shrines – Heaven & Holy
Plus 13 more albums I liked a lot: Nightshift – Zoe The Goon Sax – Mirror II Pip Blom – Welcome Break Lewsberg – In Your Hands Kiwi Jr – Cooler Returns Mdou Moctar – Afrique Victime Jane Weaver – Flock John Andrews and the Yawns – Cookbook Caleb Landry Jones – Gadzooks Vol 1 Snapped Ankles – Forest of Your Problems Weak Signal – Bianca Goat Girl – On All Fours Circuit does Yeux –io
Favorite Concerts Yo La Tengo Hanukkah + Low + Fred Armisen @Bowery Ballroom Yo La Tengo Hanukkah + 11th Dream Day + Joe Pera @Bowery Ballroom Young Guv @ Cat’s Cradle Back Room Sweeping Promises @ Cat’s Cradle Back Room Wet Leg @ Baby’s All Right Mdou Moctar @Motorco Music Hall
Favorite things I watched: PEN15 The Velvet Underground The Wire The White Lotus Syracuse’s surprise Sweet 16 run in the 2021 NCAA tourney The Card Counter Insecure Curb Your Enthusiasm Breaking Bad
Favorite things I read: But You Seemed So Happy – Kimberly Harrington Love and Trouble – Claire Dederer Empty: A Memoir – Susan Burton Blow Your House Down – Gina Frangello Somebody’s Daughter – Ashley C Ford Sleepovers – Ashleigh Bryant Phillips Detransition, Baby – Torrey Peters
Favorite Podcasts The Experiment Let’s Talk to Lucy The Devil’s Candy: The Plot Thickens Radiolab – Mixtape Ali on The Run Running Rouge Shattered
The very existence of Mike Nesmith inspired me my entire life, whether I was aware of it or not, from the time I first heard “Different Drum” until I took an early retirement from PBS.
Mike Nesmith was a fearless visionary. He was not afraid to follow his whims, and he was not afraid to defend himself. If all he had done was compose “Different Drum,” he’d still be lauded, but for decades after writing the song that would put Linda Ronstadt on all our radar, he continued to experiment and invent delightful escapes into storytelling, whether through book, song, or visuals.
Little did I know in 1966, when I was 8 years old, I was completely swept up in boy-band-mania because of the excellent job NBC-TV’s PR team did when they launched The Monkees television show. TV Guide first introduced me to The Monkees and in short order, a magazine called Tiger Beat appeared out of nowhere and featured them all the time. I also didn’t realize that the publishers of Tiger Beat had a stranglehold on the teen “consumer” market and worked in lockstep with the television networks and record companies for mutual benefit. It makes sense now, and it also doesn’t matter because it was through the pop culture mill that I discovered the Monkees, the Brill Building songwriters, and Mike Nesmith, who passed away on December 10, 2021, just 20 days shy of his 79th birthday.
The TV Guide introduction to The Monkees set them up as a parallel to The Beatles, whose own image was turned into a cartoon series debuting on television one year earlier. The story had brief bios on each band member/actor, and to this kid, they all seemed bonafide. Clearly, the TV Guide writer and editor were copying the NBC press releases as they identified Nesmith as “Wool Hat,” which was not only a stupid nickname, but never caught on. Again, I realize this 50+ years later.
During my childhood and adolescence, all things Mike Nesmith slowly seeped into my consciousness and formed my artistic preferences. It was no mystery why I liked his Monkees songs the best. He wrote “Different Drum,” a hit song for the Stone Poneys that I cranked whenever it came on the radio. When I bought Monkees’ singles, I always preferred the Nesmith-penned B-sides, particularly “The Girl I Knew Somewhere” over the hit A-side, Neil Diamond’s “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You.” And from this, I also learned about songwriters and the Brill Building, for in addition to Neil Diamond, Carole King and Gerry Goffin were supplying songs for The Monkees.
In the situation comedy itself, while we’ll never know if the screenwriters crafted the TV Monkees’ personalities to match the real-life Monkees’ personalities, Mike always came across as the normal one and the one true musician. Mike Nesmith set the bar for 8-year-old me and how I would evaluate musicians in the future.
During the year I started working at PBS, the organization made a deal with Nesmith’s prescient video production and distribution company, Pacific Arts, to distribute PBS produced programs (most notably Ken Burns’ The Civil War, as well as a slew of other less noteworthy bulk). At a point in the relationship, things soured, and my employer was so clearly in the wrong. When you work in law firms or corporate legal departments, you work to develop a clear separation of how you feel versus the job you must do. But this one was impossible to rationalize. My relationship with PBS lasted as long as Nesmith’s. While his relationship was filled with lawsuits and trials (in which he prevailed, and gloriously), mine was an easy exit. As a government-funded entity that must have its operating budget reauthorized by Congress every three years, many of the stations made attractive early retirement packages for employees. I took one the year that the Pacific Arts relationship crashed. Although I was a member of the legal department, I was not involved in the Pacific Arts deal. But due to my membership on this team, I was peripherally part of the ruination of Mike Nesmith – my childhood idol – and his pioneering media company.
However, by also seeing peripherally into what Mike Nesmith had forged in the media landscape brought me back to punk rock and DIY. Mike didn’t invent punk rock, but he most certainly took DIY to new heights at a parallel time. I’m sorry I never saw a Monkees reunion show, but I cherish my old 7-inch singles and will continue to travel to the beat of a different drum. I thank Mike Nesmith for putting a name on it.
It is December 30, 2021, but it feels like just yesterday, and also a decade ago that the Years of the Pandemic began dividing our time into manipulated managed segments with the end result being that I have no idea what day, month, year, or decade it is. I had to verify that the following entries on my list were all from 2021. I could have sworn I’ve seen many more movies, but that was 2020, when I was still a film fest juror and screened perhaps 200 films in 6 weeks, and then never “attended” the festival (online) because by October, after 7 months at home, in front of the computer, I longed to be watching films from anywhere but there.
In 2020, I strived to maintain some semblance of emotional normalcy during the lockdown and post-tornado recovery, and invited people over on Sundays during the summer for cookouts and listening to music in the backyard. But in 2021, I embraced the solitude and devoted my leisure time to headphone listening and viewing. The records and movies I took in were for comfort more than entertainment. Comfort AND familiarity (I’ve watched TWISTER a half dozen times this year, on cable; HARRY POTTER too) were the criteria. In some cases, confirmation bias just made me feel better regardless of the quality of the programming. I attended maybe 5 concerts in person but enjoyed countless live-streamed shows.
The theme for my 2021 in life and culture was “swaddle self in comfort; believe the women; support POC and science.”
Aimee Mann- Queens of the Summer Hotel
Sleater-Kinney – Path of Wellness
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – Georgia Blue
Nick Cave & Warren Ellis – Carnage
Reigning Sound – A Little More Time With Reigning Sound
Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Barn
Summer of Soul – documentary, director: Questlove
Movie theatres can get away with selling fewer seats to maintain a safe distance between viewers, but concert promoters cannot. I took few chances with congregate settings this year. I chose iconoclasts and I believe I chose well.
Elvis Costello & the Imposters – Atlanta, GA
Bob Dylan – Rough & Rowdy Ways tour – Beacon Theatre, NYC
Squirrel Nut Zippers Holiday Show – City Winery, Nashville, TN
Mondays – Instragram to Table – Alice Carbone Tench (Instagram Live)
Wednesdays – Sweet Home Quarantine /Live From Tubby’s – Robyn Hitchcock & Emma Swift (Mandoline)
Thursdays – Post-Apocalyptic Malone – Bryan Malone (FB and YouTube)
Dracula – Bram Stoker with illustrations by Edward Gorey (Sterling)
Crime & Punishment – new (2014) translation by Oliver Ready (Penguin Classics)
SMUG CONFIRMATION BIAS CONSUMPTION FOR PASSING THE TIME
Don’t Look Up – director Adam McKay
Being the Ricardos – director Aaron Sorkin (watched on Prime, not in theatre)
State of Terror – novel by Hillary Clinton & Louise Penny
Learn more about Theresa Kereakeshere in our 2020 interview with her.
The most exciting thing for me in 2021 was that Amelia and I started a record label (SkepWax). We first talked about it 30 years ago, so it’s had quite a long gestation.
I guess lockdown is to blame. Prior to this we’d never had enough spare time, and suddenly we had loads of it. We only released our own records to start with, partly because we couldn’t face the idea of messing up other people’s. But it’s gone pretty well, so in 2022 we will be ‘expanding our roster’.
Anyway, I thought I’d share my ten best things about starting a label.
The local post office. Despite the Tories’ best efforts, there are still elements of the state’s architecture that still function. The postal service is one of them. Things arrive on time. You don’t worry about your item being chucked around. The couple who run our local post office are really friendly. Occasionally other customers can get irked – it probably is annoying trying to collect your pension if the person in front is mailing fifty cassette singles to various parts of the world. But the British like queueing, and even more than that they like grumbling about the people in front of them in the queue, so this isn’t such a massive problem.
Having a song played on the radio. This was always the most exciting thing about being in a band, but it’s doubly exciting now, especially as DJs tend to be quite good about naming the record label.
Seeing your record in a shop. Again, this was always exciting but now it’s even better. There’s the thing that you have made, waiting patiently in the rack for someone to fall in love with it.
Getting to know the community of writers, bloggers, online DJs. Just under the radar of the mainstream, there are hundreds of people keeping the independent music scene alive by sharing their enthusiasm. There’s some really good writing out there too. It’s a good gang to be part of.
Getting to know people who run cool record stores. Those places were the conduit to a better world when I was a teenager (in my case, Revolver Records in Bristol) and I’m probably still a bit starstruck when I go into them. Now that we are adults and have records to sell, it’s like getting permission to go behind the scenes at the theatre. You’ve been in the audience for years, wondering who’s doing the lighting, putting the props on stage, directing the actors – and now you are backstage chatting with those people. They are immensely knowledgeable and generally very supportive.
Rubber stamps. We’ve got a ‘Skep Wax’ rubber stamp that gets applied to the envelopes for the records we mail out personally. It’s the most analogue object in the world and creates a pleasingly imperfect image every time.
Co-releasing with other indie labels. There is a very strong sense of solidarity amongst people who are working really hard to do something good without any expectation of making a lot of money.
Being local and global at the same time. Everything we do happens on the dining table, or in the spare room (with occasional trips up the road to the post office). And then, a few months later, people in Brazil, Indonesia and America get to hear the results.
Choosing which medium to release on. There are so many options – cassette, CD, vinyl, download, streaming. You don’t have to do all of them. You can choose the one that’s best for the release in question. If you want to do a 3” CD, you can. If you want to do a one-sided 7” single with a 50-page book, you can.
‘Expanding our roster…’ The fact that other bands are prepared to trust us with their art is a good feeling, if a little nerve-wracking. But it does mean that 2022 won’t be boring.
Skep Wax will soon announce Under the Bridge, a compilation album that will be very exciting for anyone who liked Sarah Records.
1) La Corneta As 3/4th of the members of The Umbrellas are vegetarians, our criteria stems from the quality of: the beans, rice, salsa & tortilla (chip quality is also taken into account). The rice in a La Corneta burrito is what really elevates this place to the top; two ingredients unseen in any other SF Taqueria: peas & carrots. The Glen Park location is walking distance from where Morgan lives, and we’ve had so many fond memories eating there before and after gigs.
2) El Burrito Express Both the Divisadero location and the Taraval location are great (and anyone who thinks the quality differs from one location to another has their head up their ass). They by far have the largest selection of veggie burritos, and an option to add french fries to any of them. All members of The Umbrellas have lived within walking distance to the Taraval location and would eat here on a regular basis. Matt and Nick in particular ate here every Thursday from 2016-2018.
3) El Buen Sabor Located on 18th and Valencia, this is the spot of choice for employees of the Chapel (where Keith works). Partially due to convenience, partially due to quality… but overall, just a consistent option. They have a great “Veg. California Burrito” chock full of vegetables.
4) El Pancho Villa Hands down one of the finest salsa bars the city has to offer (the chipotle salsa being a favorite of ours). The employees are always super accommodating (and have the spiffiest uniforms of any taqueria). When you’re on the main strip of Mission and 16th, this would be our pick.
5) Mi Familia Once known as Zona Rosa, this Haight Street staple has maintained their quality even after a branding change. This is the closest burrito spot to where Morgan and Nick work and has been a great option when hungover on the clock. Some of the absolute sweetest folks own this establishment and are nothing but kind. The real kicker is their salsas (which they used to have squeeze bottles of on their tables pre-covid).
6) Taqueria Los Mayas This Richmond taqueria is the go-to spot of your favorite fog rockers (members of The Telephone Numbers, April Magazine & The Reds, Pinks & Purples all live a few blocks away). Their focus is on Mayan fare, so they have quite unique options you can’t find elsewhere. They have a wonderful plantain burrito and excellent tortas that are both highly recommended. Their mango salsa is also some of the best in the city. Make sure to get the burrito “Dorado Style” when you stop in… You won’t regret it.
7) Taqueria Cancun How many times have we played or gone to a show at the Knockout and stopped at El Cancun as well? Too many times to count… You can never go wrong with this beloved taqueria. Their bright yellow sign and interior attracts burrito-lovers like bees to a flower. While their chips and salsa are subpar, they are free. You can never go wrong getting a little something in your stomach before a night of drinking Hamm’s next door at the KO.
8) Los Coyotes This is another taqueria on that main strip of 16th Street between Mission and Valencia. Sometimes this taqueria feels more in the vein of fast food, as they have french fries that closely resemble that of McDonald’s fries. They have an incredible Veggie-California burrito, which incorporates these McDonald’s-esque fries. They have a stunning selection of salsa and El Yucateco hot sauce bottles on every table! There are lots of extra accoutrements like: grilled poblano chiles and onions, pickled carrots, and extra spicy peppers. This is probably the most fun you’ll have at a taqueria, given the amount of space their restaurant has and all of their options.
9) El Farolito Often cited as the best and most popular taqueria in San Francisco, there is a reason there are five locations throughout SF and South SF… The burritos are GOOD. El Farolito embodies what every taqueria should aspire to be: filling, cheapish & consistent burritos. They are the least stingy when it comes to stuffing a burrito to the brim (this is especially appreciated with the amount of avocado they manage to pack in). Most of their locations are open until the wee hours of the morning and is a must before catching the OWL bus home. Many folks have their opinion of El Farolito, but we felt we couldn’t have a list of “Best San Francisco Taquerias” without at least mentioning El Farolito.
10) Taqueria Zorro (Voted Worst) For fun, we included our most despised burrito of San Francisco… Zorro’s burritos should not be consumed under ANY circumstances. Even if we were stuck on a desert island and it was the only viable option for sustenance, we STILL would not go anywhere near one! Located in the heart of North Beach, right next door to The Hungry I gentlemen’s club, we don’t know why we were expecting a decent burrito from a neighborhood that’s known for its exceptional Italian fare. The burrito was dry, the atmosphere was strange, and we were lamenting on the fact that Golden Boy Pizza was right up the road. Next time you’re in North Beach, please don’t be adventurous… Just go get pizza and eat it at Vesuvio like a normal person.
We are two grown up English punk girls. We write a blog and make a print zine called punkgirldiaries, so people often assume that we’re forever harking back to 1976 with Siouxsie and Poly Styrene. But that’s only part of it; we try to trace a line of women in innovative rock-based music that probably starts with Suzi Quatro and Fanny and continues through punk, no-wave, indie-pop, shoegaze, riot grrrl, pop-punk and we also love to promote some of the music that women and girls are making now.
So here’s our list of a few great 2021 songs, with links to the videos — mostly women musicians — that caught our attention and that will live on in punkgirldiaries playlists:
All-female trio Peaness are great musicians who got together at uni. Their most recent song has that melodic stop-start thing, the gorgeous harmonies and a wiseness beyond their years. It was really fun interviewing Peaness for our Blogzine 8.
1994 was a pivotal year: The art and music community on the East Coast was rocking and filmmakers Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley made a film called Half-Cocked, which featured many band people including Rodan, Slint, Freakwater and the Grifters. Now they have curated, along with Tony Kapel, a new art show called Shooting Blanks: The Art of Half-Cocked, opening Nov. 29 the Seven Seas Motel during Art Basel Miami that pulls together art, photography and ephemera related to the film and the broader community. Some call it nostalgia; others call it historic documentation. We spoke to Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley about their work and the exhibition. Photographs by Michael Galinsky
Chickfactor: How did the art show “Shooting Blanks: The Art of Half-Cocked” come about? Michael Galinsky: About this time last year Tony asked me to be on his radio show that airs in Miami and online. He wanted to discuss Half-Cocked and my mall photos. We had a great conversation, and he also had several other people involved in the film on the show in the following weeks. Part of our discussion had to do with his surprise that the film wasn’t more widely known, so it was his idea to build an event around it during Art Basel. He suggested showing my photos and the film. Since Half-Cocked was such a collaborative project, and everyone involved with the making of the film is an artist we decided to make it more of a celebration of the kind of creativity that the film was meant to document. We also wanted to loop in others who documented that world, and people like Theresa Kereakes who helped inspire that kind of documentation.
CF: Who is Tony Kapel and how is he involved? Suki Hawley: Tony is a musician/artist who does curation and puts out records and cassettes. This made it a very easy collaborative effort. The other day he mentioned that he started telling everyone about this event right after we decided to do it, but that no one really believed we’d pull it off. I laughed when he said this because this was part of the secret of getting Half-Cocked made. I kind of knew that if you told people you were doing something you kind of had to do it. At the very least it puts a fire under your ass.
CF: Please describe Half-Cocked the film. MG: Suki was in graduate film school and was frustrated and annoyed because it wasn’t nearly as useful as her undergraduate program had been. I was a photographer who wanted to make films. We met at her roommate Cynthia’s birthday party, and shortly after, she started to book a tour for Cynthia’s band Ruby Falls, and she used all of the contacts I’d developed in booking Sleepyhead’s first tours. So that summer, she went on the same route that we often took and met many of the people we knew. That summer she also shot listed the film Party Girl because she was the director’s assistant and the director came from theater. So, she realized she kind of knew enough to make a film. We understood that it’s best to write what you know, and since we knew all of these amazing musicians in the South, we wrote about that. We did a lot of brainstorming with our roommates Cynthia Nelson and Steve Thornton respectively and then Suki and I would write for days at a time. We got a rough script together in a month. I sent it to my dad, who panned it. “Where the fuck’s the conflict?” he scrawled on the title page. We made another pass and sent it to everyone we hoped to have in it. Jon Cook had ideas for a crazy subplot that involved murdering a pizza delivery guy. It kind of exploded what was there. I mentioned this to Sean Meadows the other day, who was also in the movie, saying there wasn’t a way to incorporate it. He asked why not? I guess he was right, we could have done that. However, we really wanted to make something that could get seen. Even in my band we weren’t exploding the boundaries of expectation, just gently pushing them a bit. I loved work that exploded them, but it wasn’t my impulse to do so. SH:Half-Cocked is about a bunch of kids who steal a van full of gear and pretend to be a band in order to stay out on the road. The stakes are not as high as Some Like it Hot, but it does borrow some of that kind of slapstick at times. The other inspiration was teen riot films like Over the Edge and Suburbia. There were a lot of other more serious film influences as well; The Last Picture Show and Stranger than Paradise come to mind. The idea was to write a skeleton script and have everyone fill in their roles. We wanted to document the world we were a part of without making a “documentary.”
CF: Who are the artists involved with the show? Tell us about a few pieces in it. MG: We tried to be as inclusive as possible, both directly inviting people and making it known that we wanted people to contribute. We focused on the creative community in Louisville and Chattanooga, where Rodan and Boondoggle were from; bands we met on our first tours. However, we also pulled in people like Ron Liberti, from bands like Pipe, Small 23, and Clok Lock—as well as a brilliant poster artist. We have videos from [the late] Letha Rodman (from Ruby Falls), her sitcom Apartment 6, as well as a few of her collages, and a short film we made about her work. She was a huge supporter of all of our efforts. We will also be showing a film made by Ian Svenonius and Alexandra Cabral, The Lost Record. Ian brought a great deal of wit and panache to Half-Cocked as the owner of the van that gets stolen. We have photos from Pat Graham, Theresa Kereakes, Allison Wolfe and others. We have just a growing body of art and documentation and hope to take the show on the road to other locations, and maybe make some kind of book.
CF: We’ve talked a lot about community and documentation. Are those central themes here? What else were you hoping to achieve by wrangling these artists together? MG: The most exciting thing to come from this effort is a short film that Suki cut from Andrew Bordwin’s video footage of the Ruby Falls tour. I’d never seen this stuff and it’s really funny because there’s one section where Ruby Falls has their show in Chattanooga canceled and they find out in John Moses’ record shop. Almost the same scene takes place in the film and I had no idea that it had happened on their tour. So, in the short we cut in several scenes from the film that mirror what’s going in their footage. It adds so much to the idea of documentation. There’s a performative aspect to Half-Cocked that’s different in the color video footage. Together, the short video and the film capture something so much deeper than the individual pieces do. SH: There’s not much wrangling going on. Everything has fallen together pretty organically. Not everyone could get their shit together to send stuff, and a lot of people don’t have much of their older stuff. However, everyone is still involved in making art in some way. I think it’s all very inspiring to look at and sit with. It’s like mini museum show and hopefully the beginning of a much larger project.
CF: Michael, when did you start taking photographs? MG: I started making pictures in high school in a photo class. I took to it like a duck to developer bath. Really, I was the only one in the class who was obsessed right off the bat. I spent many a lunch hour in the darkroom discovering the magic of images forming in the developer tray.
CF: What was your first camera? MG: My first, and really my only 35 mm SLR camera was a Nikon FG 20 with a shit sigma 3.5 lens. I ran that thing into the ground. The lens was kind of soft, but that gave the work something of a distinctive slightly out-of-focus look, LOL.
CF: Tell us about some of the books you’ve published. MG: My first book was Scraps, and it was put out by David Simkins on his Sugar Free Records label. He was a music fan I met in Chicago I think and when he moved to NY he offered to put out a book. I had another book that is still not published, of my early music and tour photos. Scraps is a reference to what was left after I made that book, but it’s also about the scrappiness of the underground DIY world. After that I made a couple of books of my mall work. All the books are out-of-print, but I want to make some new ones. I want to make a book that combines Scraps with the unpublished one Lost. I want to make another one largely based on what I have pulled together for this show. I also want to get to work on the color stuff I shot after 1995 when I got a point-and-shoot camera.
CF: How many films have you made together? SH: Michael and I have made nine feature films and countless shorts (many of which will be playing in the gallery). We have three or four long-term doc projects in various states of disrepair. CF: What are some of the biggest challenges facing creative artists these days? MG: There is just a veritable flood of content of all types. I can see how overwhelming it is for my daughter. Everyone is competing for our eyes and ears and so much of that work is overly slick and produced, even the stuff that’s meant to be messy and fucked up. No one wants to pay for creativity or “content.” It’s a shit show.
CF: How would you describe the Half-Cocked era compared with 2021? MG: What we wanted to document in Half-Cocked was a world that was unconcerned with the expectations of the larger world. It wanted to be separate and disconnected. Now that’s happening in a million different ways in small groups—but also wildly connected through social media, and with so much intention. I’m glad we got to do what we did then. CF: Half-Cocked came out around the time the internet truly took over our lives. What was better before personal technology changed everything? Everything. And nothing.
CF: Explain what the Soundwave Art app is and how it will be used in the show. SH: Soundwave basically turns each image into a QR code. So when you point your phone it can bring up whatever reference we want. It makes the show so much more interactive. Michael has a lot of spoken word and music that goes with his photos. It just makes the whole thing much more interactive. We can link to videos by band, or sound pieces etc. It adds a great deal. CF: What are your future plans? MG: I really want to tour with the film again so that we can see the world but also celebrate the art that went into it. So many of the acts are still making work, and hopefully this will help them get more attention SH: me too!
Shooting Blanks : The Art of Half-Cocked will feature work by the filmmakers Suki Hawley & Michael Galinsky (RUMUR), as well as past and current work from the cast, crew and artists connected to the scene documented in the film:
Akeo Ihara / Allison Wolfe / Amy Davis / Andrew Bordwin / Barbara Johnson / Brian Lynch / Bob Fay / Cynthia Nelson / Catherine Irwin / David Pajo / Erin Smith / Gail O’Hara / Greg King / Ian Svenonius /Janet Beveridge Bean / Jason Noble / Jon Brumit / Jon Moritsugu / Jon Moses / Kevin Corrigan / Leslie Gomez-Gonzalez / Letha Rodman Melchior / Luis Collazos / Jeff Mueller / Jennifer Rogers-Anderson / Maitejosune Urrechaga / Michael Galinsky / Ron Liberti / Pat Graham / Sean Meadows / Suki Hawley /Tara Jane O’Neil / Tara Key / Theresa Kereakes / Tim Furnish / Tim Foljahn / Thom Snively
Half-Cocked is a 1995 film that documented the DIY underground music scene in and around Louisville, Kentucky, in the early ’90s. It was a vibrant, creative community that had a powerful impact on musicians around the world. This show will celebrate the art and the artists associated with that scene, then and now.
The exhibition will include screenings of Half-Cocked, other Rumur films, and a slideshow + Q&A on Galinsky’s photo book Decline of Mall Civilization. In 1995, the Half-Cocked soundtrack was released on Matador Records. The cast included members of the bands Rodan, The Sonora Pine, June of 44, Ruby Falls, LungFish, Slint, Nation of Ulysses, Shipping News, Boondoggle, The Grifters, Sleepyhead, Freakwater and Crain.
PUBLIC HOURS Tuesday, November 30 – Saturday, Dec 4 / 11 am — 6 pm Sunday, Dec 5 / 11 am — 5 pm
IN THE COMMON SPACE SATURDAY Dec. 4, 2021
4pm The Decline of Mall Civilization Book slide show and Q&A with Michael Galinsky
6:30 pm Half-Cocked Film Screening and Q&A with Suki Hawley & Michael Galinsky
8PM Live Music Gown BORRI Rat Bastard Nightly Closures Pocket of Lollipops KC Jankem
I first met Mike Schulman when he was recommending spot-on records (such as Juvenilia and “100,000 Fireflies”) to me at Vinyl Ink Records in Silver Spring and the other folks who were involved with early Slumberland were Pam Berry (chickfactor’s cofounder and Black Tambourine singer), Archie Moore, Brian Nelson, Kelly Young, Rob Goldrick, Berny Grindel, Bridget Cross, Dan Searing (of Black Tambourine, Velocity Girl, Whorl and other bands). I wrote a story about the label for Washington City Paper 30 years ago! before our zine was formed. They’ve been a prolific and excellent label ever since and we did a label spotlight on them even though everyone reading cf already knows all about them! Meet Mike Slumberland…
What year did you start a label? Where? Why? We started Slumberland in 1989 around Washington, DC/suburban MD. A small group of us knew each other from high school, U of MD and the MD radio station (WMUC) and were into a lot of the same music—Postcard, Creation, K, Rough Trade, C86, shoegaze, lower east side NYC noise rock, the Mary Chain, etc.—and decided to start some bands in that vein. Eventually we decided to put out a few records to document what we were doing and it just grew from there.
What has been the most fun bit about running a label? It’s the absolute best feeling to hear some new music that you like and being able to help get it out there. It’s why we do this. Of course it’s *especially* fun when a record resonates a bit and reaches a wider audience, but even so there’s nothing like that moment when you open the box of a new album, send some to the band, send out the first mail orders… It’s great.
What have been the biggest challenges? The biggest challenges are rather connected: a) the financial side of keeping it all going, and b) getting enough visibility for the records to create enough demand to drive enough sales to satisfy a). It’s always been hard to get press for the kind of records we put out, and without press it’s equally hard to get into the shops. While internet sales and the demise of traditional print music magazines/zine have leveled the playing field a bit for the really small labels, it’s also meant the overall sales are down which just makes everything harder. And of course we take no pleasure at all in the challenges that have beset traditional music press and record retail—in a lot of ways I wish it was 1995 again, but with the press actually liking what we do, ha ha.
How have things changed over time in terms of marketing and distribution? The rise of digital media—downloads/streaming, online zines/blogs and social media—has changed a lot of the specifics of how we get the music out there. While it’s great that music production and distribution has been demystified and democratized by platforms like Bandcamp, it’s also true that there is more music than ever and it becomes harder and harder to capture a little bit of attention for any given band or release. There is a tangible desire for the new and novel, and albums seem to have a much shorter shelf-life now. Catalog sales are barely a fraction of what they were before downloads and the retail apocalypse, so one feels compelled to push even harder during those few weeks before and just after an album release, and we’re increasingly resigned to the fact that we’ll need to let more records go out of print sooner.
What new stuff are you working on now/soon? We have a new album by SF project Chime School (totally classic Rickenbacker-fueled jangle) along with a new pressing of the East Village singles comp. Farther in the future we’ve got new records by The Reds, Pinks & Purples, Artsick, Kids On a Crime Spree and Jeanines all in production, plus some *super* cool reissues we’ve been working on for ages.
What other merch do you sell? Every now and then I do a batch of shirts, but TBH I’d rather spend the label’s money on new releases than merch.
What labels have inspired you? Creation, Postcard, Bus Stop, K, Sarah, Rough Trade, Factory, Fast, Subway.
How do you find new records (not on your label)? I keep an eye on Twitter and Instagram to see what people are talking about. Sometimes if I have a bit of time I’ll check out the Bandcamp profile pages for people who have bought SLR stuff and see what else they’re listening to. I listen to a bit of online radio, mostly BBC 1Xtra while I’m getting Prince SLR ready for school in the AM. I’m sure I’m missing a lot of new bands that I’d like but I’m also still buying loads of jazz, soul, techno, etc. and there’s just not enough time to listen to everything.
Can people get your releases outside the U.S.? We have worldwide distribution, but of course the records are more expensive outside the US and it’s even harder to get stores to commit some money and rack space. Unfortunately overseas postage rates skyrocketed several years ago, which all but eliminated what was until then a pretty consistent overseas mail order biz. We’ve recently been experimenting with having our friend Alvaro at the excellent Meritorio label in Spain fulfill mail orders in Europe, which helps with costs and delivery times, but since it costs a LOT to get records over to him it really only works for records that we press in Europe. Still, it’s something.
What would you like to say to Louis DeJoy? We see you.
What bands/records are you really excited about? There’s been so much terrific music coming out of the bay area over the past few years—The Umbrellas, The Reds, Pinks & Purples, Cindy, Tony Jay, Chime School, Blue Ocean, April Magazine, Seablite and on and on. If it wasn’t for COVID, we’d have amazing gigs to go to every week! I quite like the US Highball albums, the new Ducks Ltd album is amazing, The Boys With The Perpetual Nervousness, the new Massage LP, the Dummy LP, the new Saint Etienne LP!!
What are you drinking, eating, listening to, reading, watching these days? Somewhat surprisingly my alcohol & food intake seemed to actually go down during lockdown, and we’ve gone mostly vegetarian at the urging of Prince SLR. I’ve always got a few books on the go—usually non-fiction science writing or political theory, but I’ve been adding in some fiction now and again too. We have a hard time scheduling blocks of time for movies so we watch a fair amount of TV. We’re watching Back To Life and Pen15 right now, recently watched and liked Don’t Forget The Driver, Motherland, The Detectorists (finally). There’s just too much to watch, I don’t know how some people seems to get through all of the prestige TV happening today!
Has the vinyl supply-chain bottleneck affected you? YES, and it’s an ongoing nightmare. Albums are being delayed over a year, planning and budgeting is almost impossible. Getting represses in a timely fashion is impossible, so we can’t respond to demand if a record does well. It’s just a mess and TBH it could be fatal for some small labels. I’m still trying to get my head around how to make it work.
Do you have a day job? Are you in a band? Do tell. I’m between day jobs right now, which was actually pretty helpful during lockdown and home schooling. I’m the shouter in a punk band called Hard Left that is intermittently active; we released an album in 2015 bookended by a handful of singles, and we’re (VERY) slowly working on our long-awaited (ha ha!) follow-up.
Hobbies? Interests? Pets? Kids? Fave record stores? Leftist politics, tinkering with computer tech stuff, our two cats, my lovely family, record collecting.
Anything else you would like to add? When SLR started over 30 years ago, I couldn’t really imagine getting past the first few releases and now we have over 250 and are still counting. Running a small label is awfully challenging right now and the rewards are quite scant, but I still love to hear new bands and help them get their music out there. Now more than ever we need beautiful music and art in our lives!