The Come Up’s favorite SJ sounds of 2021 (so far)

While the pandemic is very much still raging on, the state of California has decided to fully open up businesses and public spaces. This Summer will mark the first time in almost two years where it is socially acceptable to visit friends, travel, shop, and party. With this new change, venues have been announcing shows slated for the beginning of fall.

The chasm between a Spring of covid restrictions and a Fall of festivals and concerts means that the Summer has and will consist of DIY local shows that did not have to await the bureaucratic limbo that official venues have to navigate. But with the economic recession, mass unemployment, evictions, moves, self-actualization, and protests, the local music scene has transformed drastically and part of the Summer answers existential questions about the shape of local shows to come. The only way to navigate and consider the evolving music scene is to explore the artists who will most likely take to the stages in the coming months and years.

That being said, we thought it would be fun to spotlight our favorite releases so far in 2021. These releases are made up of the younger end of musicians that The Come Up historically caters to. We hope to see these artists on future lineups of backyard gigs, temporary pop-up spaces, and park shows.

And for those of you who regularly read and follow us online, we are going to focus on musicians who haven’t played a gig with us in the past. As The Come Up reaches our- *gasp*- mid-to-late twenties, we want to focus on the Gen Z artists who will eat our flesh and use it to rebuild the SJ art scene post-pandemic when we begin to gray and consider whether we should go to Outside Lands or buy property in the midwest.

Let’s get into it.

Barefoot Gen – .Wav Club Zen

Notable Tracks: Zen, Wav, Asia, Chevy Chase, Red Euros

Listening to Barefoot Gen feels a lot like observing a bunch of young, aspiring chefs make pasta, except they forgo classic techniques and opt to throw noodles against the wall to see if the pasta sticks. You ask yourself ‘why’ often with their music. Why does the single Zen begin with a Shiloh Dynasty-esque acoustic guitar and pitched vocal and delve into a DJ Screw style verse that reminds me of a Hollow Squad release? And why does it work so well?

Managing to float above the curve of the predictably homogenous landscape of South Bay Area hip-hop, Barefoot Gen’s hotly anticipated album challenges its listeners with a Pollock splattering of genres and sounds that feels like an homage to alternative hip hop’s past and it’s future. The collage on the album cover perfectly encapsulates the feel of the album; an overstimulating hodgepodge of instrumentals and flows that borrow from electronic, hyperpop, 90s Memphis trap, and industrial rap. One track will have a catchy hook that is an existential metaphor about the impermanence of California waves, then jump to a verse about heavy drug and alcohol abuse. In contrast, their use of melodic, lovesick vocals complements their dynamic bars and acts as a reprieve from Barefoot’s calling card of chaos

Previous releases from the collective and it’s individual members tend to be a bit hit-or-miss, a by-product of Frankensteining equal parts Don Tolliver, Suicide Boy$, and Death Grips. While their lyrics about sex and drugs can be fairly shallow and redundant, the self aware and poetic bars interlaced throughout the project remind you that each verse, feature, beat-switch, and sample is intentional.

Chine Slender – Worlds Away from Limbo97

Notable Tracks: CVNT KALL ME BRO +, Complicated, Worldz Away

“I call it demons and you call it trauma. The difference between it is my demons are brothers”

For a project that seemingly sounds like the rest of the landscape of trap-inspired SoundCloud rap, Chine Slender demonstrates with lyrics like the one above that there is more going on with his artistry than what it seems. Chine provides his generation with a young, more accessible 2Chainz. He never takes himself too seriously, but is aware of his own talent — his bars are punchy and witty, and his flow is more oriented around making music with bounce to it. Worldz Away from Limbo 97 is very much Chine delving into the subgenre of SoundCloud rap that is following the footsteps of Juice WRLD and Trippie Redd, but still staying fairly authentic to what makes Chine Chine. Known for creating fun, rage anthems — with the single Cvn’t Call me Bro being the standout track- Chine focuses this project on making more accessible, cloudy rap.

If we’re being honest, the notable tracks are the only ones that I recommend to people who find most Soundcloud rap pretty homogenous. If your listening rotation doesn’t have Comethazine, Juice WRLD, Lil Tecca, or Polo G, you’re not going to get much out of the project as a whole. That being said, Chine Slender demonstrates himself as the smartest and most ambitious rapper among his South Bay contemporaries. 

Chine is still figuring his sound as he gets older and steps into his career- as he should. We have high hopes his next stellar release is not worlds away.

holographic lover- Spirits EP

Standout Tracks: blackrose.exe photographs

You have probably noticed that most of the list here so far is made up of rap. And if we’re keeping it 100, everything is hip hop inspired these days. Because streaming makes it hard for listeners and artists alike not to be intimately familiar with multiple categories of musical stylings, the concept of a distinct “genre” is fairly dead. This blurring of categorizing lines is also amplified by young folks’ increasing access to music making software.  But with all of the lush production and lyrics that are just clamoring to become the key ingredient to a TikTok trend, it’s nice listening to some cool funky ambient instrumentals that most likely occupy an entirely different world of TikTok videos.

Holographic Lover made an EP that feels like the Waterworld level of Super Mario 64; effervescent, yet haunting at points. The luring synths accompanied by keys that creep throughout the track give a retro 2000s sound that reminds you of early PC screensavers. The music is an immersive calming experience, so when photographs kicks off with a trap inspired beat you’ll go “Damn it, hip hop literally is everywhere!” to “this track works so well because of the established atmosphere by the slow build-up of the project as a whole”. Holographic Lover releases feel like someone who is committing to building ambient sound that creates a through-line from Vaporwave to the modern cloud trap sound. We’re looking forward to seeing this artist get more attention for taking on such a feat.

AnotherMay- Self-Titled Ep and Right Next Door (Single)

Standout Tracks: Marigold, Los Pinguinos, and You Can Tell Me

If you’re someone who wants to vibe to songs that remind you of your failed romantic life? Well AnotherMay has you covered with an EP released by Paper House Records, San Jose’s resident alternative rock label. AnotherMay released seven songs that came out in 2020 and followed up with the single Right Next Door, which is on rotation and will make an appearance on our upcoming SJ mix.

AnotherMay (AM) is an indie shoegaze outfit that has just enough pep in their step to groove to. San Jose could use more mature indie rock acts and it is clear the band is made of seasoned musicians who are up for the challenge. AnotherMay has as a bit of a feel of moroseness that reminds me of a minimalist version of acts like Jay Som, Real Estate or Cigarettes After Sex without the trademark saturated, reverb production that makes shoegaze feel like music you dreamt up. Conversely, AnotherMay at times can feel lucid- and I’m still not sure if that works for or against their music. The vocalist gives the same sultry calm that Kings of Convenience or Helado Negro provide, which may conflict at times with the instrumentation in the songs. But at times when it sounds dreamy, it becomes less shoegaze and more like bedroom pop such as Gus Dapperton or the late great band Her’s. Early releases such as Sarah’s Room, are mostly in Spanish and have the same youthful indie rock stylings that reminds me of the now-defunct Cultbusters. While the 2020 and 2021 releases stand on their own as contemplative tepid tracks, access to the earlier discography makes you appreciate just how much this band explores the sounds- and languages- they decide to use.

But much like the love interest that clearly inspires the lyrics, there are times when the tracks can struggle to keep your attention. There are times when the drums sit in the mix in a weird way where you notice how uninspired it can sound. Or there are moments where the vocals miss the mark of being melancholy and just sound tired. While Sarah’s Room feels like a confident EP of friends in their garage making hits, their recent work ends up feeling stiff as the band works through a more tepid sound. But the sound textures such as pop synths or guitar solos like in You Can Tell Me or a beautiful track sung in Spanish like Los Pinguinos makes up for the lulls through their tracks. The single Right Next Door, with a music video which reminds me of the Chef Boyardee commercial from my childhood, remedies a lot of these issues. It feels more alive, with the use of more cymbals and harmonies to make the songs feel much fuller.

I think that if you’re someone who is into indie rock like Beach House, Helado Negro or enjoy classic acts like Nick Drake and Devandra Burnhart, this EP is worth having on your driving playlist. Looking forward to seeing more from these folks. Support Paper House Records!

Nava Onti- 1033 PROGRAM_1997 (single)

If I were to tell you about a young artist making “conscious rap” that borrows from the 80s and 90s sound, you may conjure up an image of an artist who emulates Lauryn Hill, De La Soul, or A Tribe Called Quest. SJ based artist Nava Onti instead goes for a frenzied, electro-funk that shares more in common with 90s Baile Funk or rap acts like Afrika Bambaataa or Run D.M.C. Who knew a track about police state violence and how it shapes the identity of non-white youth in the United States could slap? It’s heavy subject matter is accompanied by retro instrumentation with a Brazilian drum sample that makes it feel more like an innovation to funk carioca than an imitation of it.

This list was an attempt at covering albums and EPs, but considering the effort that came behind the video and song, this is a track that is worth spotlighting. With Nava Onti, Keida Bordeaux, and Barefoot Gen, San Jose is developing an alternative hip hop sound that seems to modernize a local scene of rappers who basically are just replicating E-40 for the umpteenth time. 1033 PROGRAM_1997 is sporadic, the lyrics are poignant, the flow is catchy, and it comes across as a raw artist who is resistant to becoming marketable or accessible. As far as ethos and sound, this is the most punk thing to come out of San Jose in a minute. We are looking forward to the follow up of this.

Do you want us to check out your music? Submit your work to us here or DM us on Instagram and you may end up on a playlist!

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