Aug. 22 2012 04:26 PM

10 San Diego bands we love

Hot Snakes isn’t just for angry, socially alienated men.
Photo by O Photo

This city’s had plenty of great bands over the years, and picking favorites feels about as cruel as picking out your most-loved child. But that’s exactly what three CityBeat music editors—two former, one current—decided to do. In no particular order, we give you the artists we couldn’t stop listening to from 2002 to 2012.

1. The Black Heart Procession: Tough call between The Black Heart Procession and Pinback. They’re both intensely great and intensely pleasing to white people. But Black Heart had a sense of stage theatrics (gothic humor) that Pinback never showed much interest in. Pall Jenkins’ high, lonesome voice sounds like a dejected angel chain-smoking his way through purgatory.

2. Hot Snakes: The reunion of Drive Like Jehu pals Rick Froberg and John Reis produced an arsenal of noise. But it wasn’t merely an ear-splitter that helped angry men socially alienate themselves. Reis (ex-Rocket from the Crypt) has serious boogie and threw it under Froberg’s maniacal, tuneful, wail. Makes you want to grab a hammer in each hand and dance your ass off.

3. Berkley Hart: Wreck ’N Sow remains one of the best folk albums that’s ever come out of this city. Granted, it was released in 2001, before SLAMM became CityBeat. But Jeff Berkley and Calman Hart did not start sucking after the paper changed owners. Hearing them always makes us want to make moonshine in our place of residence.

4. The Locust: Prying minds wide open for nearly two decades, sci-fi grind merchants The Locust cram more innovation, style and humor into 60-second-or-less bursts than most bands do in their entire discographies. Though they’ve been on hiatus, you can’t help but wonder what’ll happen the next time they descend upon our unsuspecting ears.

5. Greg Laswell: Relational despondency rarely gets a voice as awesome as Laswell’s. He doesn’t come off like an emotionally stunted man-child weeping into a Frappuccino. He sounds like a regular guy in the backyard with a beer, a smoke and some bunny slippers, grilling up fajitas made from the meat of his formerly useful heart.

6. The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower: If you believe all the legends of this noise-punk band, then you probably believe the following: that they wore (some would say) Nazi-inspired arm-bands; that they often made out with each other onstage when frontman Brandon Welchez wasn’t molesting the audience; that they were banned from playing in Baltimore and Paris and caused a near riot in Salt Lake City. And while they broke up in 2006, at what many thought was their creative peak, many still talk about their incendiary live shows even while watching one of the great bands the members went on to form (The Prayers, Crocodiles and The Soft Pack).

7. The Sess: Just before the new wave of lo-fi indie garage bands stormed the blogosphere, The Sess already had that sound in spades. They were louder, faster and more unruly than just about any band on the scene in 2008. Their sole album, Agendumb, still sounds fresh, and even if they were too volatile to last, there’s not-so-quiet consolation in that they splintered off into Beaters and Ale Mania, both of which continue to amaze.

8. Rafter: It takes a special kind of genius to produce a jingle advertising Uncle Ben’s parboiled rice and, at the same time, write an intimate album inspired by Norwegian blackmetal. Rafter Roberts has done all this and more, and that’s part of what makes him an inspiration. The other part, of course, are timeless pop jams like “No Fucking Around.”

9. Joel P West: Whenever you meet someone whose idea of a San Diego singer-songwriter is some Jack Johnson-ish douche singing around a bonfire, make them a Joel P West mix. Whether it’s the starting-over anthem “28th & NE Davis,” the paranoid introspection of “Dreams Where I am Sleeping” or the breathtaking climax of “Wore it Deep,” West and his band, The Tree Ring, create something truly original and artful.

10. Jamuel Saxon: While brothers Keith and Jackson Milgaten have played in plenty of notable bands (The Vision of a Dying World, Cuckoo Chaos, etc.), the local scene wouldn’t be the same without Keith’s project, Jamuel Saxon. With his complex beats, Auto-Tuned vocals and trademark Goofy hat, Keith and his bandmates have made some truly captivating electro-pop—and thrown some of the most delirious, joyful, unforgettable-if-not-for-the-fact-that-we-were-tripping-the-whole-time dance parties, too.

Email or follow him on Twitter at @peterholslin.

Follow Seth on Twitter at @combsseth.