Best SJ Releases of 2018




written by Isaiah Wilson

edited by Riley McShane

San Jose has had an astounding year of local music, shows, and performances. There are several artists to list- some of which will have their own spotlight pieces in future Come Up wrtie-ups. For now, the following makes up the most original music to come out this year and the songs, EP’s, and albums I found myself listening to over and over again this year.


Bedroom Tapes EP


The creative love child of singer and multi-musician Austin Avila, Swells is the coalescing of modern lofi hip hop and the current shape of the indie sound brought on by genre heavy-hitters Connan Mockasin, King Krule and Ariel Pink. Swells’ take on indie pop is a dreamy project that has the feeling of a sultry indie pop song on a worn cassette tape. The guitar is sexy and coaxes the track with reverb that is akin to surf rock, and his breathy ethereal vocals mesh well with the hip hop grooves brought on my the drums and bass. The live variation of Austin’s solo project, Swells and The Lunatics, comprises of several great solo acts and takes the down-tempo of Swells’ solo work and adds a surf-rock-meets-rockabilly excitement to it. I have had the pleasure of seeing the talents of Swells first hand and I have no idea what his next project is going the sound like. And that is the excitement of it.



For production “You Ain’t Loyal” , “Highs & Lows”, and “Rage”



In the shifting landscape of modern hip-hop, there is a revitalization of the importance of the producer within the genre. Acts such as Zaythoven, 40, Metro Boomin, and Knxwledge are becoming household names, even releasing commercial and critically successful projects themselves such as Not All Heroes Wear Capes and NxWorries. Because of this dynamic shift in the genre, and the greater accessibility of music producing software and midis, producers are attempting to distinguish themselves from the other beatmakers by their unique style and the artists they choose to collaborate with. Dreamawake has stood out among the South Bay producers by being the mastermind behind some of best local releases of the year. He excels in creating slick production, instrumentation, and samples, for an array of rappers and performers from Young Tsukune, Kylah Symone, Dima, and more. Dreamawake’s mastery is his ability to make content that is dark and emotionally potent, and collaborating with artists who bring his production to life. 

Young Tsukune

“Hollow” and “Weed & Shorty” Singles



A tricky aspect of looking at the SJ music scene is recognizing the artist’s performing are still in the early phases of their musical creation. As a result, a lot of artist’s influences are apparent to point that is distracting.Young Tsukune has crafted his own sound that cannot be found anywhere else, not to say you cannot hear contemporary acts that influence him, but he has made his sound uniquely his. His singing voice is incredible, but his years developing his rapping abilities has created a synthesis of triplet style rapping with a r&b. Tsukune’s choices of instrumentals, use of autotune, are deliberate, because he has a self-awareness of his sound and how to best utilize. “Weed and Shorty” “For The Love” are examples of his diverse sound. Tsukune has the kind of voice and vocal range and control that some of the most successful hip hop artists in the game do not possess and it’s why in every conversation about the SJ music scene, Tsukune is brought up. His music is melancholy usually discussing love, struggling to become a success, and the growing pains of adulthood. Even his more bubbly lofi instrumentals cannot mask a deeper longing that is present in a lot of his tracks. 


Mild Monk

Kindness and Here’s To You singles





Mild Monk’s “Kindness” and “Here’s To You” is fairly stripped down from his typical layered, quirky bedroom-pop influenced production. Mild Monk offers laidback textures akin to Homeshake, while embodying a fun-loving indie rock sound that’s part Mac DeMarco, part George Harrison. Monk isn’t tied to any particular sound, providing a smorgasbord of sonic diversity from adding synths, acoustic guitars, trumpets, all over his whimsical vocals. A peak inside his downtown studio apartments reveals a music studio set up with keyboards, drums, guitars, bass, and software to satisfy his appetite for experimenting sounds. He seems primarily focused on creating music, taking down his social media presence, and utilizing Funnybone Records to promote his releases.


“Kindness” and “Here’s To You” act as two halves of the same creative coin. They both sound like a moment of creative clarity, Monk’s choice using more subtle synths and allowing the guitar and a sparse drum and bass that feels like demo from The White Album. The songs are full of gratitude, the beauty of existence, and a choice to pursue a greater self. It feels like when your face catches a moment of sunlight in an otherwise cloudy winter day. These tracks are a fascinating indicator of where Mild Monk is headed; be sure to watch for the sunlight when it arrives. 


Natasha Sandworms

Single Celled


Natasha Sandworms’ Single-Celled is a proper first album from the local indie rock artist: like a coming-of-age project themed around isolation, self-reflection, love, and loss. I wouldn’t be surprised if the lyrics and concepts that made up Single-Celled have been written over the course of years. The guitars are droning and melancholy on the majority of the album, only occasionally opening the door to more bedroom pop sensibilities. Natasha’s writing, singing, and guitar talents are on full display, but also her restraints; she allows the guitars to carry the songs at points to establish a tone, sometimes using her voice sparingly but effectively such in tracks like “Talent Show”. The aggressive self-deprecating track “My Partner” is the standout track: a raw lamentation of a broken romance carried through harsh vocals and a acoustic guitar. It’s the one moment where she does not pull a punch and it works. The closing track “Single-Celled” which feels most like the album’s lead single is a beautiful finale to a project that feels like Natasha’s story.


This may be my favorite local project of the year. It was released in July and it feels like something you listen to in the quiets moment of the Summer. I am glad we were able to catch up with Natasha so far, I’m looking forward to hearing more stories from her. 



Highs and Lows single


Dima’s music occupies two worlds; in her live performances, she plays with a full band where she hones in a r&b, neo-soul sound. The second world Dima occupies is where her studio work mirrors a contemporary pop that covers the ground of modern r&b and hip-hop. Her live performances, discography, and circle of artists she chooses to collaborate with, prompted The Come Up to book her for a show and interview her. From “Coffee” to “Sick and Tired” she carries a unique vocal style and confidence behind her style, even in tracks that showcase her insecurities. However, it is her Dreamawake produced track “Highs and Lows” that is a high for her and SJ music. It indicates a more mature tone, combining lyrics of a distant lover, dark moody well mixed production, and utilizing autotone and pitched vocals to add another a layer to the final product. It is composed with sonic highs and lows, which complements the content of the song itself. I do not think Dima is going develop ‘one’ distinct sound. The through line for Dima’s sonically diverse output is Dima herself. 



Canned Worms EP


A succession of hard rock demos from SJ based artist Mitchell caught our attention this year with a indie rock sound with an almost California rockabilly swagger to it. Then Mitchell surprised folks with his Canned Worms EP, an fitting title of his condensed four song project with aggressive chords, straightforward lyricism as unchained as early Fidlar. Canned Worms is short, sweet, aggressive fun that makes you want to skate through back alleys downing tallboys with your homies. Mitchell channels the spirit of a lot of talented contemporaries- The Growlers, Wavves, with a smattering of The Descendants and Cherry Glazerr. This revival of a skate punk sound comes from an artist who has concentrated all of his various talents into a cohesive project. Alongside Austin Avila in Swells and the Lunatics, the two acts on this list create a whole unique sound of their own. Mitchell is poised to be a significant presence in the SJ music scene, and we’re excited to see where he goes after such a big year. 



6 Months of Grind


I am not sure if any artist can compete with Normtronic’s output this year. Releasing about 160 songs this year alone, the New Jersey born artist creates immersive beats that blend together elements of house music, jazz, and new age lofi that follows the veins of fellow New Jersian producer Knxwledge. While a lot of beat tapes nowadays can feel a bit stale, confined by formulaic techniques meant to create a rhythm to study-slash-chill to, Normtronics demands attention by melding synths, smooth bass lines, unique and hard-hitting drum patterns, and samples that move him into the realm of of DJ Shadow or RJD2 or as far as complexity and execution is concerned. Currently residing in Oakland, he has pulled in influences from several genres of music, making his work a sonic kaleidoscope of sounds that have no business melding together . All of his tapes are worth listening to, but a standout for me is 6 Months of Grind, a compilation of 6 months of work over this past year. The tape provides the listener a look into how much heart and work ethic is molded into a cohesive project. 6 Months of Grind is a modest title, years of musical training, studying, beat making, and appreciation for several genres make this project. I’m assuming Normtronics will be on to bigger and bolder works come 2019. Favorite tracks: “Experiment 3” and “Can’t.Take.It.Anymore[Love Ain’t Coming]”.  





Any self-proclaimed lover of lofi hip hop who has not come across the work of SJ based artist Knowmadic needs to stop what they are doing and queue it up this second. Providing his instrumentals for various labels, being part of countless instrumental and lofi playlists, and contribution to compilations such as acclaimed behemoth beat tapes BLESS Vol 1. and Vol 2., Knowmadic has made a name for himself as one of the most prominent beat makers in the game right now. A standout project for me was Hydrangea, a beat tape that is textured with low pitched kicks and snares, samples that are dreamy with a vinyl analog touch, and basslines that balance all of the parts that make up each track. Hydrangea feels vintage with the care and attention to detail and overall originality propel this tape from the saturated “lofi” genre. It is a treat to hear the tape in its entirety. 

Honorable Mentions:

These are great notable works that are worth your time and attention. Who knows, some might end up being a piece later.

Reign-  Days Before Winter EP

Sam Ruckus- The Dedicated 

Quigs- My Feelings

Mahlleh- Dysfunktional 

Kamiko ft. Vudaje- Underwater 

Craig White & BcGot Bars- Real Player Hours 

Bird and Willow- Cloth 

Chine Slender- Know Who

Matinee – Breathe

Cultbusters – Stop Being So Dumb 

DJ EMz and Nate

Pink + Flourish Mix


DJ Emz has been the resident DJ for a lot of Come Up events for the better half of this year. One of her best projects is a collaborative mix she made with producer and artist Nate. The ability to curate and mix various artist into a cohesive project is a skill. There is a unique talent in mixing and properly curating a decent collection of songs to invoke an emotion and to create a vibe. From remixes from Frank Ocean, Thugga, Kevin Abstract, Travis Scott, MGMT, and much more this is a love letter. Notably this mix creates a through-line for multiple artists who have no business existing on the same mix. It is a noteworthy mix and one of many from both artists, which is worth checking out. 


So that is our list! Want to be on our next ‘best of’ list? Be sure to submit your work to us and tell your friends about The Come Up. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook to stay updated on our upcoming shows. You may end up playing for one of our shows in 2019! Thanks for an amazing year everyone, be safe, and good to each other!

-Bless Up

Culture in Our Backyard: 363 House

written by Isaiah Wilson


A part of DIY shows has been the idea that any space can be used as a music venue as long as you have musicians, an audience, and some ingenuity.  It is a necessity in a city like San Jose, with a shortage of music venues- especially all-age ones. An unspoken vision of The Come Up is that every space is a venue; from breweries, to food halls, to coffee shops, Peace and Justice Centers, and art museums. And just as we are a collective of creative who re-imagine spaces for putting on shows and bringing the young art community, other creatives are making those spaces for the art community to utilize.




We found that at 363, a house made up of creatives located in downtown San Jose that has been hosting a myriad of gallery events, parties, open mics, and Come Up shows. I think it is important that musicians understand that their city is their platform and being inventive is how a scene develops. But when creatives like the Baxter Bros. at 363, who converted their backyard and basements into spaces for performances, galleries, and movie showings, it allows those artist to thrive. Over the course of six months, it has become San Jose’s best kept secret.

Since the inception of the The Come Up, the guys and I have talked about doing a backyard show. Something about the free structure of a backyard show is just something that is fitting for a collective that is about creating new spaces within a music scene. It’s also something that is already a essential part of the SJ music scene, especially the hardcore punk scene on the Eastside. So for the Summer, we decided to regroup and adjust ourselves before returning for A Come Up show at Uproar back in August.


Our photographer and creative director Leo had the idea of having a cookout BBQ show. His idea was a simple barbecue cookout with people who have either performed, is a local artists, or part of the community that regular supports local acts. My friend Wyatt had a similar idea in mind for his place, and over the course of about two weeks him, his brother Steve, and so many other people built a stage, a deck, lattices, collected furniture, hung up lights to begin developing this art house. We had the pleasure of kicking off the first event with the new digs set up.


Our first backyard show called The Come Up Cookout. It was a backyard show featuring five live acts, tacos, beer, spike ball, soul cycling, a bus with henna tattoos, and a downstairs speakeasy. Beyond being a fun time, it was an inclusive event and the 363 encouraged people to be themselves, have a good time, and spread good vibes. And that message has stuck, thanks mostly by the warm people who live in this amazing space.


We kept this momentum going and had a pure Backyard show on the 18th of August. And The Come Up with 363 hosted a giant Halloween on October 27th show that had tons of great artist, spooky themed drinks. We had three unique showcases thanks to 363. Catch the video below of our backyard show this past Summer in a video by our Creative Director Leo.

Beyond large parties and backyard shows, 363 has also hosted smaller intimate showcases in their Speakeasy space in the basement of the house. It was a longtime project of Wyatt and Steve’s turning a basement into a rustic space that allows young artist to thrive and perform.


Be sure to check out Lavish Buds, a show featuring live music, an art gallery, and a magazine release of the event organizer. It happens on December 15th at 363!


And if you haven’t yet, follow us on Instagram and Facebook to stay updated on the events The Come Up and our friends are throwing in 2019.


photos were taken by Leopoldo Macaya and Matthew Van Cleave

Slade Introduces Us To “Trap-Folk” on From My Room

Screen Shot 2018-11-30 at 10.51.10 AMCredit: @maxtslade
By Riley McShane

“At this point in my life, this is how my emotions, experiences, and stories all sound.”

A potent, about-to-leave-town type of melancholy lives at the heart of San Jose-raised Max T. Slade’s debut album, From My Room, self-released on November 20th. The 18-year old Slade started his recording process, as you might guess from the title, in the bedroom of his childhood home in San Jose. It was finished however, in a dorm room in Seattle, where he now resides. In the literal sense, the project spans a great distance – the 800 or so miles from the Bay Area to the Puget sound. But much more impressively it spans a major emotional journey: that of moving away from home and, as Slade puts it, “starting over in a way.”

Slade sees a major influence of From My Room in Justin Vernon’s enigmatic, ever-evolving project, Bon Iver. In the 8 years between Bon Iver’s debut, For Emma, Forever Ago, and 2016’s barrier-challenging 22, A Million, Vernon’s enigmatic project became a symbol for reinvention and a touch point for the evolution of “folk” music. Slade admires Bon Iver for “getting his audience to think differently about the genre of music he makes,” adding, “I wanted to attempt this…so I worked toward making what appears to be a stripped down acoustic album, adding unorthodox production into the mix.” Slade found an unlikely influence in his production: trap music, “[it’s] something I enjoy making separately from what I actually release.” While trap and folk certainly seem like strange bedfellows, the subtle electronic drum and bass on tracks like “Cactus” and “Offroading” demonstrate Slade’s ability to weave the two into something unique. It’s still folk, and in some ways very traditional, but put into a bag and shaken up a bit – the contents that spill out in the form of From My Room have a distinct and irresistibly modern edge.

fullsizeoutput_31Credit: @kxsuseattle

The list of prefixes attached to “folk” is now seemingly endless, and we’re certainly not helping with the addition (and perhaps coining?) of “trap-folk.” The genre is not diluted by its diversity, however, but strengthened by it. As many great, contemporary folk artists have proven – the form can always use a little tampering and distorting. It doesn’t have to stay within the boundaries laid by Greenwich Village in the 1960s. “Folk” music is defined by the artist writing about the experiences, emotions, people and events that are most real to them – and presenting these ideas in a way that feels handmade. In this, Slade has certainly succeeded. We are excited to see how he continues to evolve his sound – check out From My Room in the embed below, and on all major music streaming services.

10 Bay Area Artists You Should Listen To (Right Now!)

The Bay Area is currently exploding with new and interesting musical talent. We put together a list of 10 of our favorites: some you may have heard of, some you probably haven’t!



Photo Credit: Michael Rubio (@auxchordpapi)

Led by San Jose music veteran Mitchell Luján and a cast of accomplished musicians, Vudajé (a play on déjà vu) have nailed down a smooth and clean R&B sound in the 4-song EP, recorded primarily by Luján. It’s one of the best-produced albums to come out of San José in quite some time. Never ones to sleep on success, Vudajé has followed it up with two stellar singles, a power-pop throwback “Roleplay” and a sinewy, sultry number, “Nosedive.” Already in 2018, the band has been tearing it up in their hometown and beyond, with recent shows at Local Color in SJ and The Depot in SF, not to mention winning the Southwest Airlines – Coca Cola co-sponsored Eats & Beats contest! We were lucky enough to host Vudajé for our very first every Come Up show back in February, and we can’t wait to see what they’ll do next. 

Boy Scouts

Taylor Vick 2018

Photo Credit: Rachel McCord Creative (@rachelmccordcreative)

Boy Scouts is the performing moniker for SF-based singer-songwriter Taylor Vick, who has crafted beautiful and haunting bedroom-folk for the last several years. Vick’s first official boy scouts release was “Homeroom Breakfast” (see link above) in 2016. Having broken down traditional folk song structures and eschewed rhythm section in favor of vocal harmonies and samples, her songs are immediately captivating in their uniqueness. A follow-up 7-song release entitled “Hobby Limit” appeared in September 2017, and most recently a batch of 4 re-worked older songs, “Mood Rings.” Vick has a special talent for taking mundane subject matter: parks, fountains, her plants, etc. and injecting them with a palpable beauty. She will be an exciting artist to watch as boy scouts (now with a full live band) continues to pick up steam. See her at Silver Sprocket Bicycle Club on August 9th. 

The Seshen


Photo Credit: Afropunk (@afropunk)

It’s almost impossible to call The Seshen up-and-coming at this point, but if you aren’t familiar with this powerhouse six-piece, you owe yourself the education. Led by singer/lyricist Lalin St. Juste and bassist/producer Akiyoshi Ehara, The Seshen carries on the bay area music tradition of building a sound that defies genre by fusing elements of R&B and synth-pop, among others. We got our first introduction to The Seshen at last summer’s San Jose Jazz Summerfest, with their rousing performance at Café Stritch. The group’s popularity has exploded since, having supported acts such as Thundercat, tUnE-yArDs, and Petite Noir, on their way to a headlining date at The Independent on September 1st. Buy a ticket, don’t look back.

Jay Som


Photo Credit: The Bay Bridged (@thebaybridged)

Walnut Creek-born Melina Duterte picked up her performing moniker, Jay Som, from the same Wu-Tang Name Generator that bestowed “Childish Gambino” on Donald Glover. While their music is considerably different, Jay Som and Gambino share one thing in common: they are busy as hell. Since first turning heads with 2016’s Turn Into (Polyvinly) the band has been on the road A LOT, playing major festivals (including this year’s Panorama in NYC) and supporting everyone from The National to Mitski. Jay Som’s 2017 release, Everybody Works (Polyvinyl), was one of the best of 2017. Period. Spanning intensely intimate (see “(BedHead)”) to youthfully bombastic, (“Everybody Works”), it’s a modern indie masterpiece. We at The Come Up were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Jay Som back in February. The proof was there: Jay Som is on their way to big things!

The Saxophones


Photo Credit: The Saxophones Bandcamp

Emerging from relative obscurity, this Oakland-based husband/wife duo (Alexi Erenkov and Alison Alderdice) put out a 3-song EP in early 2017, each song a dark slow-burn beauty, particularly the standout “If You’re On The Water” which explores a personal tragedy from Erenkov’s own life. It’s quite remarkable for a group to make such an impression in today’s age by crafting ballads. The duo quickly followed up on their first release with a series of singles, leading to their debut LP Songs of the Saxophones, a gorgeous and timeless collection, flush with woodwinds and Erenkov’s softly heartbreaking vocals front and center. The Saxophones play Peach House Presents’ Daydream Festival in Sacramento August 5th.



Photo Credit: EaSWay Twitter (@EaSWay)

Born in San Francisco, Easweh Harrison has been making music for an impressively long time considering he’s still only 23. After moving to Los Angeles to attend USC and grow his music career, Easweh became more involved in visual arts, crafting a distinctive style through digital painting and design. According to his self-written Spotify bio, EaSWay’s art, be it musical or visual, “attempts to spark constructive dialogue about about things that go on in the world that may not be discussed in such public spaces.” EaSWay is a socially-engaged emcee, displaying a fully-formed vision on 2017’s The Panther in the Room. In the very opening lines of “Blue Skies”, EaSWay proclaims, “this is a story about a boy, about a quest, for respect and nothing less.” EaSWay certainly has our respect, and our attention.

Dick Stusso


Photo Credit: Harldy Art Records (@hardlyartrecords)

Who would’ve guessed that such a swaggering, hot-blooded Americana sound would come out of Oakland? Even after his solid debut, “Nashville Dreams/Sings the Blues” on Vacant Stare Records, Stusso hadn’t received much notoriety outside of the Bay. But that is already starting to change, thanks in large part to his powerful and surprisingly moving LP, “In Heaven,” released this time around by Hardly Art Records. The album traipses over the darkened territory of disillusionment, and settling into adulthood, but maintains a half-drunken smirk the whole way through. As a songwriter and storyteller, Stusso now stands next to Sonny Smith as a fixture in the Bay Area scene, and is sauntering into a grander spotlight – catch him at Outside Lands 2018!


Screen Shot 2018-07-30 at 1.40.18 PM.png

Photo Credit: Spellling Bandcamp

Arguably one of the lesser-known artists on this list, Spellling (aka Oakland-based Chrystia Cabral) describes her sound as “Freak Faith Folk” and it could not be more accurate. We have a hard time describing Spellling without simply saying that they are different. Cabral’s first full-length release, Pantheon of Me, was written, performed and produced in her Berkeley apartment, and landed at #4 on Bandcamp’s top albums of 2017. Interestingly enough, Pantheon of Me reminds us of the #1 album from that list, Moses Sumney’s insta-classic Aromanticism. Not to box Cabral and Sumney together, as they each have plenty of distinguishing characteristics, but the music of both artists strikes directly to the listener’s soul thanks to their otherworldly voices and production. Legendary indie label Sacred Bones has noticed Cabral’s undeniable talents, and recently released her 7” Hard to Please b/w My Other Voice. We predict Spellling will soon be in the national music conversation, and we will be all the better for it.



Photo Credit: Bandcamp Daily

It wouldn’t be a Bay Area music list without the local post-punk band of the moment. And for our money, that is Pardoner. Formed shortly after a hardcore band called “Moms” burned out in 2014, the San Francisco four-piece have forged a remarkable messy-but-it-works sound bolstered by their natural chemistry and a certain jagged sense of humor. Pardoner had been at it for a couple years, playing shows out and around the Bay when they captured the attention of Father/Daughter Records, who released 2017’s Uncontrollable Salvation, cementing Pardoner as a real-deal Bay Area band and garnering them some national attention. See them play alongside Oakland DIY vets Club Night, and Vancouver, BC rockers Jo Passed at Oakland.Secret, September 6th.  



Photo Credit: Knowmadic Bandcamp

Prolific San Jose-based beatmaker Knowmadic rounds out our list, having quietly amassed himself quite the online following (his song “Fade” just cracked 8 million streams on Spotify.) A master of the lush lofi sound, Knowmadic has been uber-busy in 2018, with five releases only halfway through the year. This includes Spring Loops, which was produced entirely in one day, and Hydrangea EP, put out earlier this month. We can’t stop listening to the latter, a brilliantly crafted piece of work. We know that Knowmadic is not going to be slowing down anytime soon, so while we’re waiting for the next track or tape to come out, feel free to dive into his already impressive library.


Think we missed anybody? Of course we did, but that’s because there’s so much music in the Bay. Please feel free to share your favorite local artist with us via email ( or DM (@sjcomeup)













The Best Summer Releases from the SJ Scene

song of the summer

This has been an amazing Summer of musical releases- from both household names to local acts playing around The Bay. Due to global warming a decent part of my Summer has been indoors listening to local songs from some of my favorite acts until the murderous yellow star of our solar systems takes it’s rest on the horizon on our side of the equator to terrorize China. And seeing how I listen to a lot of local music, here is my current Summer playlist of music coming from SJ.


Lena Nelson

Track: Fireworks

Release: Fourth of July

As much as I enjoy the more breathy, inventive style of singing brought on by the age of social media artists, there is something refreshing about hearing a track from a strong vocalist who is not perched behind their production or lofi engineering. The first single from Lena Nelson’s Fourth of July is entitled, “Fireworks”. It is a strong r&b number with a smooth jazzy keys over a fast-paced track all produced by Nebulous.

As on the nose as a track entitled, “Fireworks” released on the 4th of July is, Nelson has delivered a very solid R&B performance, which is included on this list only shortly after my first listen. It mirrors a Kehlani song in terms of the final product; its confident, sexy, and easy on the ears. It seems that she performs with a neo soul band, so I’m curious what her other tracks will sound like. It will be exciting to see what direction Nelson decides to venture into.

jay summer.JPG

Jay Summer

Track: Mania

Release Date: July

I couldn’t have a piece on SJ’s summer of music without the aptly named Jay Summer, the sleeping giant of the San Jose music scene. He has expertly crafted a string of releases starting with February’s excellent, “Clutch Burning” and now, the pulsing fever-dream of “Mania.” Summer’s sound exhibits strong influence from artists such as Frank Ocean, Kali Uchis, and Rex Orange County. His songs have a freshly-painted quality that matches his dreamy West-Coast-Livin’ aesthetic, but he also carries some surprisingly weighty social criticism in his sharp lyrics, often musing on the predicament of growing up a small-town New England kid, finding himself in the shiny excess of Silicon Valley.

His first few releases uses motifs of cars and has a cynical take on modern consumerism over summery instrumentals that radiate Channel Orange vibes. Like his influences, he has great vocal range that goes well with his inventive production choices- it is refreshing in a landscape of dreary anti-pop. His r&b takes a more indie rock feel, chords ring through his songs and he uses vocal pitching to deceive the listeners.

The Come Up has enjoyed his releases, even using one of them for our last video bump for a show.

His newest single Mania is probably his most promising release- and I think he knows it. A droning vocal plays throughout that sounds like Thom Yorke’s end to “Daydreaming”. It seems that he is tapping into a abstract sound with his r&b, edging into Jame’s Blake quirky-engineering territory. Mania feels like a down spiral- a song of decadent brand-laden lifestyle, combined with religious allusions to lands of milk and honey and praises to the most high. It seems Jay Summer has found his sound just in time for July.

I’m not sure of the end result of these releases- whether he is going to drop a full ep, album or visual component- but we’re enjoying this series of songs.

kylah symone

Kylah Symone

Track: How does that sound

Release: July

Kylah Symone is probably one of the most promising rappers in the city, even standing out among her peers of SJ Hip-Hop collective, TankShit. She has proven it over the past years under her former alias KB Howard. Her flow is dope, her writing and handling of any instrumental is impressive. She varies from classical hip-hop, emotionally heartbroken tracks, to tracks “How does that sound” which is less about the lyrics and more so showing her ability to flow on a beat.

Dreamawake’s production on the track is great as always. A booming bass plays over a bombastic trap beat. “I had to work on my worth” Symone raps over the production, her flow fast paced and hungry. The song feels like a triumphant return to form and the SJ rap commnity is hype about it. It seems like Symone is reinventing her style under this new name. I’m excited to see if this solid start leads to new releases of the same style, or if Symone decides to surprise us…again.

young tsukune.jpg

Young Tsukune

Track: Weed and Shorty

Release: July

Young Tsukune played for The Come Up 3 show and he enthralled our entire audience that night. Seeing his incredibly soft voice come from such a quiet and timid person reminded me of watching my first Spooky Black video. His music tends to be bubbly and fun, even when it centers around heartbreak and headaches. This track serves as a balance of his handling of cadence and flow and demonstrates how his voice can make a crowd melt.

Because artists love being compared to contemporaries, I would say Tsukune combines the new age trap pop sound of Lil Yatchy or Uzi, with lofi beats and cloud pop vocals similar to Shiloh Dynasty. Because he has been performing for a long time as a rapper, Tsukune has a better grasp of his breath and delivery, giving him one of the most unique sounds in San Jose. This puts him ahead of the curve of a new genre of rap associated with less- how to say- production-dependent acts. While producer, Dream awake and Young Tsukune are a match made in heaven, his androgynous voice blends well with this guitar laden lofi track.



Track: Every Devil’s Got His Angel

Release: July

Riley introduced us to Mitchell over the weekend. Hailing from San Jose, Mitchell’s demo releases a garage rock sound that coalesces blues with the modern garage rock sound. It has the feel of a new-age lofi rock, but if you were to strip the psychedelic effects and production. San Francisco Bay Area and Orange County have a kinship of this sound molded from acts like Sic Alps, Ty Segall, and The Oh Sees. Mitchell takes these garage rock sounds and adds a more bluesy feel to tracks. It feels a bit cinematic because he lets the instrumentals fill the song versus layering them with pedals and vocal effects.

For demos, these feel like fully realized songs, especially “Devil Feels Like An Angel”. It bounces to slow burn and hits a chorus that reminds the listener of Mitchell’s more pop sensibilities.  I have a feeling Mitchell and others will help grow the garage rock sound to the SJ music scene. And eventually they will be performing at shows that will attract all sorts of fans- aging hipsters who drink quadruple IPAs and 15 years old who wear cuffed mom jeans and smoke Marlboro Reds.

Artist: Matinee Global

matinee global

Track: Adna Kaw

Released: June

Adna Kaw feels like a colossal project, it could be the various genre blending, it could be the pacing, or the credits on the song. A bit of recent trend for reasons I don’t know, but people are into having large teams of people to create projects. This is important for reasons I will cover in my next piece. But Adna Kaw -Which is Wakanda backwards- is a well versed ride that goes into dark alt-hip hop production to a slower alternative rock break. The execution seems a bit forced at points, but the racially tense vibes over percussion that have an African trap feel make up for the change switch ups that occur.

It feels like Matinee Global plans on making waves in San Jose- possibly by the end of Summer time. We will see what comes of this.

Like our list? Good, go follow the links and support these SJ artists. Hate our list? Well what are you doing here then?

Do you feel like your friend or loved has been wrongly robbed from their spot on the playlist? Submit your work, so we can give it a listen. Riley is writing a list of some of his favorite bands, so be on the lookout for that. Until then, keep your ear local.

And be sure to see our show August 4th at Uproar Brewing.

Of Self and Faith: A Talk with Dima and The Good Company


written by Isaiah Wilson

photography by Leopoldo Macaya 

Memorial Park has sort of an abandoned vibe to it. A beautiful park, spacious and covered with arid canals and pools without a pool. Once again for an interview, I am pleasantly in the midst of a full band setting up to perform when I was expecting just a photo shoot and conversation. It’s the opposite of Eastern Western’s performance- which was in a confined space between racks of kitchenware and tools. We interviewed and shot Dima and The Good Company in the center of a park, on what appears to be a stage with exposed outlets pushed off into the foliage and wood chips. The band mates are ordering pizza before they decide to perform, debating on what to order. They felt like the only source of life in an arid park.

It’s a unique space for a musical performances and has a charm to it even for the windy, unloving evening we decided to shoot and interview. I had to assume someone in the band had some type of warm connection to the park. Vocalist Dima tells me that drummer Shawn and keyboardist Matei use to post up and jam out playing jazz music for fun.  Pursuing her studies as a Psychics major, Dima mentioned how she would spend breaks hanging at the park on the hill. “I was just spend my time just reflecting,” she says, “asking ‘what the fuck am I doing here?’” Apprehensive about what she wanted to do, she took a break from school and doubled down on her pursuit of music. Through connecting with drummer Shawn Tran, Dima began performing shows with a group of fellow talented, young musicians named The Good Company.



Dima and the Good Company are a local r&b/jazz band based in San Jose. She performs vocals with guitarist Thomas, drummer Shawn, bassist Matteo, and keyboardist Matei. Dima is the oldest, turning 20 today, and the rest of the band is 19 with the exception of Matteo, who is 17. They are heavily influenced by r&b and soul, which seems to be a synthesis of lo-fi, contemporary jazz, and r&b. A kind of youthful re imagining of modern jazz and hip hop rooted instrumentals that is akin to BADBADNOTGOOD or Robert Glasper’s project, combined with vocals from an artist whose domain consists of new wave r&b.

Dima’s solo work has a lo-fi nature to it that crashes uniquely into The Good Company’s own playing, forged from years of playing together. There is no fat to be trimmed, every member of the quartet offer there own important compontent; Notably Thomas as the guitarist adds an almost psychedelic touch to the solid jazz sound. He notes that he doesn’t have one of his pedals on him, which he seemed a bit bummed about. Though they are in the beginning phase of crafting their signature sound as a group as a full band, there seems to a be a connection once they perform together.



This was my second time getting to see the collective perform. I was fascinated by the mix of musical styling that all converged when they played at  a backyard show “Still Here”- a collaboration between Snaughty San Jose and Word is Bond. Sometimes a group of musicians have intangible underpinnings that make them work. They stood out as a band, even among the more seasoned local talent that day like Jawstruck and Barely Funktional.

Something is impelling about the band, they just seem to have a intagible bond with or without their instruments. As Leo photographed them, he mentioned how funny they are all and good natured. It could be a combination of their youth and the relationships they developed whilst creating their sound. Despite their raw talent, no one in the group takes themselves too seriously. Mateo and Matei bring up how Shawn got hurt during the Jawstruck’s performance at the Still Here show. “I got smacked in the face,” drummer Shawn Tran tells me. Shawn got cracked in the head against a rock during the show. He seems to attract misfortunes like that. When they were performing, Shawn fell off his chair in the midst of drumming. He fits the role of the energy and comedic relief of a drummer, but he seemed to turn it off and be pretty stoic when discussing music.


Shawn comes off as the adhesive of The Good Company. He has known Dima the longest and seems to be the link that brought the band about. As both a classically trained drummer and hip hop producer, he seems to be the bridge between his old musical colleague’s jazz and Dima’s lofi influences. During the interview, he came by a bit later to close up at the coffee shop he works at. Shawn seemed the most excited to start performing, probably as means of release. But he was the most open about discussing the local scene. Shawn shares the sentiment of a need to create collectives and building more foundation on the bedrock of seemingly endless local talent. “There is no cohesion,” Shawn tells me solemnly. His call for cohesion, probably explains why he comes off as savvy about the scene. He continues by giving shout-outs to all of the local organizations and collectives that nurture young creatives such as MACLA, LITD, and other groups.


Each of them have a sense of maturity, as if they’re lucid of their youth and potential. This trait seems explain their willingness to create movement in empty locales, such as Memorial Park. Whether it’s unique covers, jazz-inspired renditions of Dima’s solo work, or the decision to randomly show up at a park and put on a full performance for a photographer and writer. They seem to be persistent to uplift the Bay Area music scene and the fellow local musicians by keeping at DIY. Dima has a bit of a qualm of people who drone on about boring San Jose is without contributing to make things happen, “People wait to be entertained” Dima says. It is a sentiment she recognizes, telling me she is just now learning about San Jose and the Bay area music scene. Now she performs with good company and even writes about local acts. Part of her arc about her perceptions of San Jose and the music scene seems to align with her own identity.

Dima’s brand of lofi indie r&b that gives the intimate feeling of live performances from a bedroom, especially tracks like “voicemail”. I want to use ‘brand’ loosely. Dima seems to have a disregard for ideas of branding. She less concerned about a grandiose end goal of fame or acclaim, and more so about her development of her voice and delivery. Her energies seem to be preoccupied with the infinite possibilities of the human voice.


She would record her music using actual voicemails on Motorola touch phone. Sometimes when you just create music despite the circumstances and lack of resources, those lack of resources become as essential to the composition as. Contemporary acts like Teen Suicide, Steve Lacy, Cyberbully Mom, Castlebeat, and even acts closer to home like Mild Monk and Riley McShane implement that DIY aesthetic in their music as opposed to using it as a crutch. Dima utilizes that and it creates a strange synthesis between unpolished production for a genre of music that usually is dependent on strong production and engineering.


But she isn’t a stranger to duality. Born in Jordan, she comes from a Muslim upbringing, both her parents practice Islam, her Filipino mother converted. Her family immigrated to the United States when she was an infant, giving her the weakest connection to her Jordanian side of the family. She talks about how she a bright kid, talented writer, which explains the pleasure she seems to get from communicating and exchanging ideas. She is talkative, sometimes getting lost in her own trade of thought. It makes sense she would spend her free time alone in a park thinking.

This kind of passion of communication, developed her interest in mathematics and music. Dima subtly implies both are byproducts of her Muslim upbringing. “I have a love for math and music because you know, they’re universal languages.” Dima says. Communication is also a thematic element that is in her musical lyrics. As a daughter of a immigrant, she struggled with connecting with her family. “Being the most American out of all them…I had like an accent when I spoke Arabic.” she says.

“It was just kind of hard going back home every single time, so I used music to impress them. Show something about myself where I didn’t have to communicate it.” When she explained it, it sounded more like a communicative crutch for her more than a creative outlet. She felt there was a limit to how her family on her father’s side viewed music, which inadvertently effected her view.

“They [her family] don’t think there’s anything in the arts,” Dima said. This is to say her family did not see a future in her pursuing a stable career as an artist, not the arts itself. This is a sentiment I’ve heard echoed among some of my closest friends who come from immigrant backgrounds. She talked about an expectation of pursuing medicine of mathematics, something practical. Dima seemed to understand this and recognize the mentality of pursuing a path that leads to the most opportunity.

Beyond a cultural and language gap, there is certainty a divide between immigrant parents’ pursuit of economic stability and growth and their children searching for self-actualization. Songs such as “sick and tired” allude to these issue.

As a student, she would be the first to recite from the Koran because it was the equivalent of singing. She described Arabic as having a “flow” to it, almost melodic. And such examples are apparent in the Koran itself. “If you ever heard somebody recite out the Koran, it sounds they are singing.” She further explained the distinction, one that is based of ego. “It’s not looked at as music, because it’s an expression of faith and not an expression of yourself.”


Her perception of music evolved when she visited her mom’s side of the family in The Philippines, “I saw the love for music there,” Dima said, “There a rich culture and they’re super supportive. It was a really great balance because I didn’t have the greatest support in Jordan with music. I got exposed [to music] by my uncle who was super good at playing guitar, when I was like 9.”

“Every morning when we were there, he’d just whip out the guitar and we would just do a bunch of karoke songs,” she tells me. “I fell in love with doing that everyday.” Dima talked about how she would sneak in her brother’s room and to play his guitar, after he found a liking to guitar after his trip to The Philippines. “I didn’t not even know what the fuck I was doing. I just wanted to play it…it’s like a kid in a candy store. I was thought music was cool I wanted to do it so bad”

She admits that her musical influences in her upbringing were not especially unique. She grew up loving Beyonce, Paramore, and a lot of radio alternative rock. As she got a bit older, Lorde also played a role in her confidence in her own voice and The Love Club EP seemed to invoke her confidence in pursuing music beyond a bedroom hobby. “I really didn’t like my voice because it was different,” she says. Describing that Lorde inspired her to hone in on her unique vocal styles rather than suppress them. “She doesn’t have the greatest voice,” Dima says as she mimics Lorde’s droning delivery and starts laughing.

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To continue my point of her duality, Dima’s music has a contrast of being self-aggrandizing to spiraling to self-depreciation. In her more pop styling tracks like “Poppin” or “Let’s Ride” there’s the recently prominent genre of braggadocio style to r&b one that is more honest candor of being a young woman. When she showed her friend “Let’s Ride” a good pop style song, she asked Dima whether or not she would actually right something real. It’s a self-awareness to her own youth, growing pains, and her enjoyment in figuring out identity, something that can be echoed in a lot of contemporary acts.

In the same breath, she releases tracks like “Sick and Tired” sort of delve into the darker subjects of isolation and depression. She describes a sense of loneliness, what seemed like deep seated issues combined with the angst of becoming a young adult and attempting to nurture a state of peace and comfort. And even tracks like “Crazy” explores topics of her insecurities and relationships manifesting into anxious, intrusive thoughts in her head.

That state of peace seems to come from the therapeutic process of creating music. Her writing process is playing lofi instrumentals and writing lyrics over them, akin to what a lot of hip hop artists do. Dima definitely cascades a line between just singing and rapping in some of her more pop-laden tracks. She writes songs in short bursts, about a half hour. A point hits for her when she feels like the lyrics become muddled in overthinking. I had an impression that she is attempting to write more instinctual and the ‘overthinking’ and imagery of feeling stuck is letting her own anxieties and insecurities impede her music.

“I just wasn’t in the greatest mindset,” Dima describes her head space roughly a year ago “I never really had an outlet to express myself until I turned to music. Because it was something I didn’t want to take seriously.”


She released her first track on Soundcloud hesitantly, knowing it would be a commitment from then on out. At this point, Dima did not share her musical content with too many people. Her esteem seems to be sort of the center of her internal conflict that reflects in her music. Throughout the interviews she downplays her own talent, not for self-pity, but more so because she is lucid of her potential and her promise. Also because like her music, her concern is about the introspective and personal progression, not so much the audience. She tells me that The Good Company comes from the idiom that you are only as good as the company you surround yourself with. It seems she put herself in a sink or swim scenario with her band, so that she can continue this commitment.

Any good band has a solid camaraderie. It could be the fact that these artists’   When I get to talk with them, they’re all eating pizza and messing around with their respective instruments.  They have all known each other since high school, with their bassist Matteo being the youngest, a 17 year old recent high school graduate. Each of them are talented musicians, all preoccupying themselves with different bands and projects.


“We were jamming intermittently throughout high school. Then we linked up with Dima through the drummer [Shawn].” Matteo says. He notes Bootsy Collins and Thundercat as his influences, along with classical jazz. Matteo has an earnestness about him, a combination of honest candor and youthful appreciate for music. As a fellow bass guitarist, I noticed how much he grooved during live performances.  He will be joining band mate Matei at prestigious Oberlin college after the summer.



It is interesting to see a fully formed band with such understanding and respect for classical and contemporary music. Thomas mentions his love for Andy Jones and Oscar Peterson. He and the rest of The Good Company praise the work of Woo Park, Hiatus Kaiyote, Christian Scott, Robert Glasper, which makes much more sense. Matteo has the hopes of finding a larger scale circle of musicians once he leaves for college “It was the community of people that are very support, very high-functioning, very supportive.” Matteo says. It may have been because he was the youngest, but he had an earnest nature about him. While the band performed I noticed how intently he would bob his head to the bass groove. As a fellow bass player, I identified with his love for just performing with people of equal interest in music. And I sensed that with the rest of the group; their diligent practice and passion shows.

Matei described his college experience so far as being somewhat isolated, but within a circle of fellow artists. It came off as almost nomadic. “Kind of a utopia, kind of a kung-fu temple,” Matei adds “Ridiculous talent everywhere you look…People just working together in non competitive environment.”


Matei has the desire to return to The Bay after school and build the same art environment that is cultivating his talents at Oberlin, possibly in San Jose. It seems each member of the band are searching for creating a world  or musicians and artists to have a sense of autonomy and cooperation. While The Come Up is more about a platform, Dima and The Good Company seem like they are in search for a deeper community.



There is a juxtaposition between Dima and her good company. Shawn recently got accepted into USC’s School of Music and Matteo and Matei will be pursuing music at Oberlin’s prestigious college. There was an implication Dima secondary education would be in the realm of STEM while most of the Good Company all spent their time in school pursuing music and doing pretty damn well considering. But it seems they find solace in their desires to create. And Good Company seem to really have developed kinship with other musicians and vocalists in other projects like Zero Creek, making a small scene of younger artists.

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The Good Company is performing covers, and recreations Dima’s song for a live setting (and possibly recording some of her future studio work), whose production varies pretty greatly on her tracks. And the access to talent like Good Company has only expanded Dima’s options with what she could perform and write. She opened up about her thoughts of singing in Arabic in some her songs. Her phone is filled with tons of unreleased demos and lyrics, “When I saw all I do is make music, I mean all I do is make music” she says.

When listening to her music for research I picked up on her songs covering love- and anything but love- sometimes refer to women. When she performed a song live she mentioned it was a song about her sexuality. Identifying as bi-sexual, she struggles revealing this truth about of herself to her parents. She is more nervous revealing this to her father, assuming her mom probably has figured it out already.  “Moms know,” she laughs. “I wanted to show it [her upcoming album] to them as a way to come out”. This aspect of her life adds layers to what inspires her lyrics.

I only got four years until they get fed up with me…I’m disappointing them and everything they believe. I’m suffocating in a house I’m supposed to find peace” she says in the song “Sick and Tired”


Even in moments of true frustration, she still continues to be her true self in her music. What’s refreshing with acts like Sza, Kali Uchis, Cardi B, and Kehlani’s, all of which she quotes as contemporary influences, is that it offers a need for musical narratives of young woman of color who deal with issues of mental health, sexuality, and carrying generations of social issues that have either appropriated or cast aside. Dima is humble, but it seems she adapted a musical persona where she is unapologetic about her identity as a queer WOC who can be haughty and insecure in the same track. And ironically, while the subjects she delves into our at the center of social discussion, her music is as introspective as it gets.


After the interview, I was hesitant to discuss her sexuality on the off-off chance that more than three people actual visit The Come Up website and this reaches to her parents. She mentions she is actually nervous of her parents reading this or delving into her music, but also thought it was more important I tell the story I believe was the most crucial about her. She messages me “There’s a lot of influence that goes towards my art and not mentioning all of that seemed incomplete to me low key.” Dima is concerned about honest, complete creation above anything else. At this point of her life, it seems that what she prioritizes in creativity and in her interactions with people.

Her creative playground has grown with her collaborations with The Good Company as well as the connections she has made performing and knowing local acts. They are playing plenty of shows and garnering word of mouth, both as separate entities and collectively. “I’m getting there with them,” Dima says, referring to how close she feels with them. For Dima, music is beyond just an outlet and a means of creation. It is her means of language. She mentions the friendships she’s built and the talks she can have with fellow creatives. She mentions how she influences and inspired by her contemporaries like Young Tsukune, a talented young local musician and Come Up alumn, as a source of local inspiration as well dreamawake and Ritty Bo.

“I have a lot to learn and that’s something I’m proud of. I look for new opportunities for me to grow.” Dima was raised with the belief that music was somewhat of an expression of ego and religion was a expression of faith. As a young adult, it seems her music and her lyrics is an expression of faith in herself. The band are all figuring it out, but they’re in each other’s company.



Come Up Episode IV: A New Hope Recap

A shoutout to everyone who supported the show and made another unforgettable night with The Come Up IV: A New Hope.

Our opener  IPA (an acronym for band members Ian, Pablo, and Angelo) provided smooth hip hop inspired jazz music as well as great inventive improvisation. They created amazing renditions of hip hop and music that brought the crowd together.

After introductions and IPA’s performance, Co-hosts Riley and Isaiah discovered that the fish-netted lamp leg- a precious centerpiece to The Come Up stage- was missing! It turns out it was stolen by our neighbors and show rivals from Tournamentertainment, who host their own show the same time we do across the street. (They also donate to the National Association of Baby Seal Clubbing*). Isaiah ran across the street, lightsaber in hand, to face the culprits of this crime.


In the meantime, Riley continued on with the show, giving away lightsabers to those in the crowd who proved themselves worthy by answering lightsaber trivia.


Cohost of Tournamentertainment and alt-right blogger* Adira Sharkey showed up with our precious leg lamp in hand that her show stole from our stage. Riley, believing the hatchet was buried, foolishly handed her a lightsaber. While Riley turned his attention to the crowd, like a good host, Adira literally stabbed him in the back. Adira slayed Riley in front of the younglings in the crowd. She then preceded to rant about her inferior show across the street.

We continued on with Ryan Sudhakaran, who had a hilarious bit that ranged from Americans appropriating cuisine, role playing with his girlfriend, and the modern dating scene for Indians.


Alan Frenz took the stage soon after to dominate with an amazing entertaining hip hop performance. It was the first rap group to come to the stage, replacing a DJ with a full band with guitars, keyboards, bass, guitar, and Al acting as the lead vocalist. The crowd and The Come Up crew loved the performance by the band.



San Jose powerhouse Socorra gave a pure rock and roll performance with her immense vocals and equally impressive guitars. Socorra has been a supporter of The Come Up and she is part of a lot of great work in San Jose, including the SJ Songrwriters, which provides a space for songwriters to share their work.

IPA returned to stage with Come Up with Riley McShane to perform together, making the band Rye IPA (get it?). And after Riley exited the stage, IPA played us off into the warm Spring night.

It was a night with great beer provided by Uproar Brewing, warm weather, Star Wars music, lightsabers, more kids than usual, and great creatives both on and off stage. Thank you for Uproar Brewing, Exhibition District, and the artists for making such a great night. We will see you on May 17th, as well as the rest of the summer. Let’s keep making it happen.

*Some of the fact regarding that horrible show across the street have not yet been confirmed, but the statements are back by reputable people who definitely are not just Isaiah and Riley.