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The Year in Local Music: Covet, The Gentle Cycle, Fritz Montana, Vector Hold, Chow Mane

In Music
MUSICAL MOMENTS: Clockwise from top left: Fritz Montana, The Gentle Cycle, Vector Hold, Yvette Young. Photos by Greg Ramar (top right), Harry Who (bottom left).

MUSICAL MOMENTS: Clockwise from top left: Fritz Montana, The Gentle Cycle, Vector Hold, Yvette Young. Photos by Greg Ramar (top right), Harry Who (bottom left).

Welp. Another year has flown by. This one seemed particularly hectic—what with the Trump-dominated news cycle, all the natural disasters and the #MeToo movement. But this is the music section. So, let’s set aside all of the insanity of 2017 and focus on the insanely great local music that we saw over the last 365 days.

Covet
‘Aries’
Back when Metro first began looking into Covet, the band fronted by Saratoga guitar heroine Yvette Young, they were still putting the finishing touches on the music video for “Aries.” It’s the only official 2017 release from the band this year, but it demonstrates the musical dexterity and songwriting abilities of Young and her bandmates. It also is proof that they’re ready to become full-blown rock stars. In the clip, which they posted on YouTube back in February, Covet completely trash a room—which they built specifically for the shoot in Young’s parents’ garage. In some ways it’s a fitting visual for the song, but there’s also a bit of a juxtaposition going on: while it’s true that Young, bassist David Adamiak and drummer Keith Grimshaw are totally shredding on the track, the song is far more serene than many of Covet’s peers on the proggy, guitar-driven instrumental music scene.

The Gentle Cycle
The Gentle Cycle
Though Derek See and Maxwell Borkenhagen—guitarists behind the local psych rock project The Gentle Cycle—share many interests, it seems that location was the chief bonding agent in their music’s winding lysergic chain. The group, which was rounded out by bassist Todd Flanagan and drummer Craig Heitkam, was composed entirely of veteran San Jose musicians. The self-titled record was tracked mostly live in a studio overlooking the SoFA District. The band used See’s analog, reel-to-reel recording console, which when paired with the album’s vinyl release makes for an especially warm-sounding product. But it wasn’t just vintage gear and good chemistry that made the album work. The energy of the room is palpable. “It’s instant vibe when we’re here,” See says of the band’s rehearsal space and recording studio.

Fritz Montana
Father Mother Sister Brother
Fritz Montana had a good summer. The locally brewed indie blues trio released their first full-length. Father Mother Sister Brother is a catchy, bare-bones, nine-song collection. The band released the LP on June 30 and celebrated the very next day by headlining San Francisco venue The Independent for the very first time. Recorded at Different Fur Studios in San Francisco, the new collection is the culmination of years of work for the band, which started in 2013 but consider the record their first official statement. “We started off wanting very much to be something along the lines of the Black Keys,” drummer Matthew Hagarty says, noting that the Keys album Brothers, and Sound & Color by the Alabama Shakes, were both early influences for the group. It shows—but not in a bad way. Album opener “Everyday” is built around two repeating guitar riffs, verse and chorus, each of which evokes that same sense of distant familiarity that The Black Keys aim for—simple and homey, but not quite nostalgic.

Vector Hold
A Tribute to Rush
Anyone who was pumped about the second season of Stranger Things would do well to check out Vector Hold. The latest two-song set by Pete Rice—a.k.a. the one man band known as Vector Hold—not only channels the buzzy analog sounds of John Carpenter and Survive (who famously composed the title music for Stranger Things). It is also a tribute to Rush. The Canadian prog-rock trio weren’t one of the many ’80s needle drops on the show, though they probably should have been. Sure Billy Hargrove was more of a hair metal dude, but it’s impossible to believe that he didn’t also own a copy of Signals, the 1982 record containing Rush’s epic critique of post-war sprawl, “Subdivisions.” The Vector Hold homage takes care of that, reimagining “Subdivisions” as a crunchy 16-bit instrumental.

Chow Mane
Mooncakes EP
Ask Charles Yan—a.k.a. Chow Mane—where he comes from and he won’t start with his birth. For him, it all goes back to China’s Cultural Revolution, which was the impetus for his family fleeing China. Hard times and family history form the foundation of Yan’s deeply personal, lyrical storytelling. On Mooncakes, the excellent EP Yan released at the beginning of October, he revisits the struggles he experienced growing up the child of immigrants in Salinas and East Side San Jose. But he also drops hard-stunting bars about just how dope his grandmother’s cooking is. On “Dumplings,” Chow Mane fuses the pride he has in his heritage with a trap music trope. The result is this euphoria-inducing line: “Grandma steaming dumplings up on the stove,” Yan raps, before an overdubbed callback cuts in. “Whip it up, Grandma!”

Mike Huguenor and André Jaquez contributed to this story.

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