The first installment of OIM Records’ compilation series, released almost exactly a year ago, cast a wide and ambitious net over the Bay Area’s indie rock community, embracing elements of Afrobeat, synth-pop and baroque string arrangements along the way. But for the follow-up, label head and local tastemaker Sarah Sexton has streamlined her approach, largely zeroing in on straight-ahead rock bands that represent both sides of the Bay.
The emphasis on rock plays well into the hands of returning producer Jeff Saltzman, whose past credits include the Killers’ sugary Hot Fuss and Blondie’s Panic of Girls. Saltzman recorded all of these songs in the Oakland-based Skyline Studios, and his seasoned pop sensibilities add a healthy dash of glimmer and sheen throughout. The opening one-two punch of Hot Flash Heat Wave and the Tambo Rays, for instance, nails the stadium-sized glam of early 00’s bands like the Hives to giddy effect, and later, Be Calm Honcho’s “Kid Go Hard” gracefully balances power ballad sentimentality with punching momentum. On standout track “Mrs. John,” San Francisco’s Spooky Mansion offers a more hi-fi (but no less fun) alternative to their freewheeling self-titled EP as front man Grayson Converse’s manic vocals soar above his band mates’ cacophonous blasts of lurching surf-rock.
In a time when everyone and their grandma seems to be bemoaning the dissolution of the Bay Area’s music community, OIM Records has assembled an unpretentious collection of caffeine-rush rock that provides a refreshing alternative to the malaise. Doubly, it’s a reminder to the naysayers that in San Francisco, even as countless musicians hit the road, rock and roll ain’t dead yet.
—Max Savage Levenson