5 Songs To Discover In San Diego In February
Tracks from Chauncey Maynor, Alan Lili, Sammy Bel Mar, The Elephants in the Room and a remembrance of Eléa Tenuta of Heavy Vegetable.
This month we’re going all local. Here are five tracks to see you through February, including new music from Chauncey Maynor, the first solo release from Alan Lili, dreamy pop from Sammy Bel Mar and a recent work from hip hop duo Elephants in the Room. Plus, news of the January death of Eléa Tenuta brought me back to the mid-90s work of San Diego bands Heavy Vegetable and Thingy.
You can find a Spotify playlist of many of the tracks mentioned in this story here.
'Need Love (Feat. Klaye Creation)' By Chauncey Maynor
Local performer and songwriter Chauncey Maynor recently released the full-length "It's a Vibe" on Christmas Day so you're forgiven if you missed it. The album is packed with great tracks — some of which we've heard throughout the last year as they were dropped, like "Black Mona Lisa" or "Fashion Nova." Another standout track is the soulful "Need Love," which features San Diego-based Klaye Creation on a poetic and tender rap interlude. It's a bit political, a bit spiritual, and I hung on every word.
'Soft Plans' By Alan Lili
We're quite partial to Alan Lilienthal — host of our border podcast Port of Entry — and his band Tulengua. And he's just started releasing some solo work as Alan Lili, since being unable to connect with his band. The first track called "Soft Plans" just dropped in late January, and while to Lili it has deeper meanings of embracing big changes and tackling an unknown future, the track has a gorgeous and psychedelic groove to it that stands alone. It almost feels like a love song, too — maybe to the future, maybe to the self, maybe to someone else, and Lili makes all those feel like they could coexist. The tune mixes pop, Latin and electronic sounds, and I hope it's a sign of more on the horizon.
'Confession' By Sammy Bel Mar
San Diego pop singer Sammy Bel Mar has a penchant for dreamy scene-setting. She's been putting out steady singles since her 2018 EP, "Horizon," and the latest is "Confession." Her voice has a really modern sweetness to it but sometimes she'll hit a high note that shows off her vocal range. Sonically, the track is beachy and relaxed, and with a subtle vibraphone in the background I can scientifically say it has good vibes. Betraying all this is a sort of desperation and urgency in the lyrics. Bel Mar is looking to release a new album by this summer.
'Exit Strategy' By The Elephants In The Room
The Elephants in the Room is a project of DJ GarGar and Parker Edison — host of the forthcoming KPBS podcast "The Parker Edison Project." Their full-length, "E Motion Pictures," just came out late last year and the collection is lively, and also smart in a literary, relevant way. A standout for me is the closer, "Exit Strategy," which is a little melodically enchanting but has an edgy fun to it (or maybe it's a funny edge?) You can hear Edison say things like "Gar told me don't talk over this part," for example. The album is a really great, propulsive listen, and "Exit Strategy" is a solid way to wrap it up.
'Still Moving' / 'Going Steady With The Limes' By Heavy Vegetable
In January, the San Diego music world said goodbye to Eléa Tenuta. The former Heavy Vegetable vocalist passed away after a long battle with breast cancer. Heavy Vegetable — and later, the band Thingy — featured Rob Crow and Tenuta on vocals, and both bands really solidified the landscape for San Diego's robust indie scene in the mid-1990s. Tenuta's voice added a layer of softness to the mathy undertones of their sound, but she could also deliver an edge, too. Heavy Vegetable albums in particular are like linked collections of shorts — most tracks are barely a minute, and they run seamlessly together in a way that precedes the limits of digital streaming platforms.
"Frisbee," their 1995 sophomore album, is a great listen start-to-finish, but the album's start is where Tenuta shined. The opening track, 'Still Moving," is a short and bittersweet Tenuta solo, barely a handful of words.
For a little more of a kick, and a taste of how Tenuta's and Crow's vocals played together, check out the longer closing track, "Going Steady With The Limes."
A special Thingy EP, "Two Covers And A Sequel" is set to be released on Bandcamp Feb. 5, with proceeds going to Tenuta's family, according to a recent tweet from Rob Crow. That's also the first Friday of the month, AKA "Bandcamp Fridays," where the platform waives its cut of any revenue that day, sending more to the artist, or in this case, Tenuta's family.
What are you listening to this month? Join the conversation in the KPBS/Arts Facebook group.