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Arts & Culture

5 Songs To Discover In San Diego In September

The album cover for Belladon's "Dreading" EP, released in July 2020.
Belladon
The album cover for Belladon's "Dreading" EP, released in July 2020.

We're listening to new music from Belladon, Puerto, AC Braxton, Soft Kill and the Beirut-based Postcards.

A new month means new music. When I first started making these monthly playlists in January, my goal was to spotlight great and lesser-known bands touring through town that month, and I'd also toss in the occasional local band if someone put out some notable work or was opening for a good show. But, obviously, nobody is touring through any town these days, and it has been a bit of a silver lining. It's made me take a much closer look at the excellent work coming out of San Diego. This month we have surf rock, synth pop, hip hop and shoegaze, as well as a fantastic selection from someone in our KPBS/Arts community.

'Haisa' by Belladon

San Diego synth pop band Belladon is on a roll. This summer, they've put out a long-awaited double EP — "Dreaming" was released in May, and "Dreading," the latest, just came out in late July. "Haisa," from "Dreading," features gorgeous and powerful layered vocals and harmonies from keyboardist Aimee Jacobs (also of the Strawberry Moons) and guitarist Heather Nation. It's a lightning-quick, sharp-edged pop gem. The repeated question, "how am I still alive?" gets in your head and under your skin.

'Lineas' by Puerto

WATCH: 'Lineas' Official Video by Puerto

Local dreamy surf-rockers Puerto just put out their debut album, "Portugal" in August — they just performed a livestreamed set on stage at the Casbah — and it's a diverse and fantastic album start to finish. Instrumental tracks don't usually catch my attention, but "Lineas" absolutely did. It feels equal parts lilting and anthemic, and the official video from filmmaker Kyle Buthman features some transfixing footage of four women surfers, Tessa Timmons, Candra Jordan, Leahi Johsens and Bianca Dootson.

'A Message to the Blackman' by AC Braxton

Just released in late August, AC Braxton's album "The Rise and Demise of Anthony Braxton" showcases local hip hop artist Braxton's broad stylistic range and his ability to blend big issues seamlessly with his music, plus an impressive list of guest appearances — including Miki Vale and several others from the local Spookygang hip hop collective. It's almost impossible to pick a single track, but I keep landing on "A Message to the Blackman," the album's center point. It pairs a chill, synth-laden vibe with a desperate plea.

'True Lies' by Soft Kill

Portland-based Soft Kill got their start right here in San Diego. I spoke to frontperson Tobias Grave several years ago for a San Diego CityBeat profile and I still think about the way Grave — who is incredibly honest and forthcoming about his battles with addiction and grief — said that San Diego is a city he can come back to, and that isn't something he takes for granted. As the dark and contemplative shoegaze band awaits their newest album, "Dead Kids, R.I.P. City," they've just released a set of demos that didn't quite make it onto the full-length. The demos are pretty dazzling (but in a gloomy sort of way), which makes me excited for "Dead Kids, R.I.P. City." My favorite is "True Lies," the opener. Full of clangy guitar grooves, driving beats and wistfulness.

From our KPBS/Arts community: 'Fossilized' by Beirut-based Postcards

WATCH: 'Fossilized' Official Video by Postcards

Each month, I ask our KPBS/Arts Facebook Group what they're listening to, and I always love scrolling through the replies to find new music. Last month, several days after the devastating explosion in Beirut, Edward Wilensky, the media relations director for the San Diego Opera (it's safe to assume he knows a thing or two about music) had this to offer: "Been doing a deep dive into the music scene of Beirut these past few days which is pretty amazing. Of note is the shoegazey dreampop of Postcards."

Check out these tracks as a playlist on KPBS' Spotify here. You can join the conversation in our KPBS/Arts Facebook group here.