Across the turbulent seas of the Atlantic the busy lights of the East coast encourage a raw punk sound. The Bible belt’s rich musical history leads to the folds of country and blues and, just beyond that, DIY ethics and motivations enjoy regular exposure on the enviable scenes of Phoenix and Austin. Further still the glossy hew of Hollywood beckons a generation of wannabe pop stars and actors, but above lays the heart and soul of the West coast’s legacy. Popular culture tells us San Francisco is an anything-goes city where musicians become addicted to leather, convertibles and half smoked cigarettes quicker than they learn how to play a guitar. An unyielding pessimism for love, life and the music industry in general prevails and it can only be broken by the whiff of a chill wave tune or illegal substances sold out the boot of Anton Newcombe’s car. Most men sport the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club look and if you’re a woman you’re probably dressed like you fell into your Mother’s vintage drawer and emerged a full year later.
It goes without saying that amongst its billion mile road signs and abandoned water-towers, the Unites States of America contains thousands upon thousands of bands deserving of encouragement and publicity; and the West coast is renowned for its input to rock’n’roll synoptic to laid back aspirations and cannabis.
One band that continues to proves San Francisco’s bounty a trove worth foraging are five piece Social Studies. Unrepresented in the UK and un-Google-able to the eager explorer, theirs is a sound that has been largely ignored by our kinfolk in Europe. Not that a band of a meagre six years existence are want to complain - their debut Wind Up Wooden Heart made a big enough impact on their local scene to dim anguish over not breaking the UK - but us laymen still under the rule of Queen Liz, her insufferable government and Marks & Spencer’s fashion policy... We should be embarrassed. Social Studies are a superior force to be reckoned with, and one whose unabashed talent and work ethic puts silly misconceptions of San Francisco’s music scene to shame. They can and should be taken as seriously as the cornflakes you pour yourself every morning.
Sophomore album Developer is just one Audrey Hepburn poster away from being a modernist pop sensation, breeding sultry throwbacks and lush, sweeping guitar noodles like the continuation of post-punk depends on it. Fronted by the sophisticated tones of Natalia Rogovin, songs like opener “Delicate Hands” and “Western Addition” bring ample bite and pull the band away from First Aid Kit comparisons and a territory marked ‘A Little Bit Boring (Sorry)’. Elsewhere “Terracur” and “You Still Laughing” flounder in the hidden recipe of spice and melancholy that made Rilo Kiley so great.
Developer may not break free of human convention, but Social Studies are definitely an ‘it’ band; the kind you find at a crucial stage in your life and never, ever leave behind, through all the mini-fads, obsessions and genre changes. Theirs is the music you’ll gush over and reach for again when you’re looking for something comfortable and reliable. Most important of all Developer puts Social Studies, and San Francisco back on the map - a stunning album from a band us Brits can only pray to hear more from in the future.
Release: 13th November 2012, Antenna Farm Records