When someone mentions the San Francisco psychedelic scene, it’s easy to think: Ty Segall. I mean, the guy is basically a scene all to himself. Releasing about a million albums a year, he does his best to flood the market. Spend all your time soaking in Ty’s seemingly endless material, though, and you’ll certainly miss out on some of the best the Bay Area has to offer. Wooden Shjips, with their most recent release, Back to Land, really took me by surprise. When I heard San Francisco garage, I heard fuzzy bang-up guitars and big melodies. This band is something else.
Okay, so the guitars are fuzzy. But it’s not a punch-in-the-face fuzzy. The tone is flanged out, maybe a little out of it. The rhythms are endless, and cyclical in a Neu! kind of way. The keys pin the whole thing down with a Modern Lovers cool. But that voice. Ripley Johnson always sounds both a step behind and a step ahead of the music, laid back but urgent, his voice run through enough filters to put it on the brink between human and machine: a beautiful brink. This record is an addition to my year’s top 10 list that I never saw coming.