Tehee: Five not-to-miss local music releases

August 7, 2013 

Niilo Smeds is the talent behind Dim Peaks and new release "Time of Joy."


I've always admired the hard-core music fans, the ones who seriously try to keep up with the onslaught of music released every week.

You know the type, constantly asking whether you've heard the new single from the obscure band du jour. Or creating Spotify playlists that have you asking, "Who is this?" after every song (or every other, at least).

Is it annoying? Slightly. But listening to that much new music is commendable and an oddity for casual listeners, who stop discovering new bands at age 16.

And there has been a wealth of releases locally as of late. Every band (it seems) has an album or single out. Those that don't all seem to be "in the studio." Blues-rock duo Strange Vine have been up in San Francisco recording, which should excite fans who have been waiting for new material from the band since the "Ghosts" EP was released in 2010.

Poor Mans Poison (which seemed to drop off the radar for a while) is in Shaver Lake working on its fourth album — at least according to the band's pictures on Facebook. They have a few local shows coming up, FYI.

I may not be on top of every new release, but I do know about the local stuff. Here is a rundown of five local releases that are worth your attention.

Dim Peaks: "Time of Joy" (Gold Robot Records)

Dim Peaks is the new project from singer-songwriter Niilo Smeds, who plays wordy, poetic folk rock in the vein of Leonard Cohen.

Or Bill Callahan, to be more contemporary.

Smeds likes to change names with every new project. This lineup — at least for the record — features Russell Higbee (from the Philly band Man Man), Dylan Tidyman-Jones (from The Mallard) and Tomas Galvan (who played drums for local indie-darling Fierce Creatures). For live shows, Smeds has been playing with Galvan and local writer/artist Ronald Dzerigian.

The album was recorded in Oakland over the course of a year and will be available Sept. 3 as a limited-edition vinyl.

Mane Horse: "Emo Side Project/Mane Horse" split

This four-song album was released online in July (as a free download, no less) and is a split release with Lawrence, Kan., band Emo Side Project.

Each band does two songs. While Mane Horse's contributions are outside the band's typical style (they're acoustic, for one), they manage to keep an angsty, emotive power that comes from being young and in a band.

It's a good thing.

Physical copies (7-inch records are usually how these "splits" are done) should be available soon.

Sahab: "elevenfiftynine"

Electronic indie hip-hop act Sahab is in full-on promo mode for his new album, "elevenfiftynine," which will be available Aug. 27. The performer is reaching out to fans via Instagram, with a project/contest that has them posting pictures of their clocks, phones or other time-keeping devices at exactly 11:59. He's also done a series of web videos in conjunction with Windsong Productions, the last of which will be released at 11:59 (though he's not saying a.m. or p.m.) on Tuesday, over at iamsahab.com.

If the publicity is any indication of the final product, the album is going to be eerie.

Sparklejet: "Phonovella No. V"

Sparklejet may be Fresno's last straight-up rock band. That's hyperbole, but deservedly so. After all, the band's last album was recorded in Chicago by uber producer Steve Albini. He's the one who recorded Nirvana's "In Utero" and the Pixies' "Surfer Rosa," among others.

On "Phonovella No. V," the band is toned down some. Or at least turned down from its typical roaring "11." The album is slated for release in September.

Werebear: "Devil's Deal"

I first caught Werebear playing in the back room of Joe's Steakhouse at the Fresno Urban Sound Experience, and I thought, "Here's something worth seeing."

The band played joyously furious (or furiously joyful) garage rock, full of guitar distortion and Casio keyboard whine. The set was interrupted (or punctuated, depending on your view) by a dancing bear.

OK, it was a guy dressed in a bear suit, but still cool.

Since then, the Orosi-based band has self-released two EPs and built a reputation for its sweat-inducing live shows. The album "Devil's Deal" will be available online Aug. 16. A single by the same name is available now as a free download at bearwere.bandcamp.com.

The columnist can be reached at (559) 441-6479, jtehee@fresnobee.com or @joshuatehee on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.

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