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Liner notes: Neil Young shares ‘Toast’—his decades-old, SF-tracked breakup album

Neil Young in September 2019. | Gary Miller / Getty Images

From the smoky jazz clubs of the 1950s Fillmore District to the hazy hippie gatherings of the Summer of Love to the foggy, psych-pop sounds of today, San Francisco has long been a hotbed for musical creativity.

While there has been plenty of hand-wringing in recent years about local musicians decamping to Los Angeles, Portland or Austin in search of a more affordable cost of living, the Bay Area harbors many talented producers, performers, singers and songwriters—all of whom continue to record and release music.

Read on for a rundown of three new local releases dropping in July.

Luke Baće and Dan Pirello of Svvarms. | Ginger Fierstein


Adaleena (EP) | July 8
Pre-Order on Bandcamp

Luke Baće and Dan Pirello have a long history of casual musical collaboration. However, it wasn’t until a fateful night in 2019—when the pair had a little time to kill at Baće’s studio—that they wrote their first song as Svvarms.

The impromptu session inspired Baće and Pirello to begin meeting weekly. Within a few months they’d captured an EP’s worth of refreshingly upbeat music. The seven songs collected on Adaleena are often reminiscent of brighter cuts from the Montreal indie-pop duo Stars, while the group’s vocal dynamics at times recall Ben Bridwell, lead singer of Band of Horses

The latter is especially apparent on the EP’s opening track, “A Dollar And A River,” when Pirello layers a burning falsetto atop shimmering guitars and a rousing backbeat. Recorded just two weeks’ prior to the start of the Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020, title track “Adaleena” is a slow burn—beginning with a sample of Pirello’s four-year-old niece, the song builds from a bed of smoldering bass and synth to a roaring crescendo of cathartic trumpets.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Toast | July 8
Pre-Order on Rough Trade

In the winter of 2000-2001, Canadian folk-rocker and longtime Peninsula denizen Neil Young took up residence at Toast—a storied Mission District recording studio—to track a breakup album with his longtime backing band, Crazy Horse. The material captured during the sessions was promptly tucked away and mostly forgotten.

Explaining his rationale for shelving the recordings, Young said that the record “was so sad that I couldn’t put it out. … I couldn’t handle it.”

But time heals all wounds, as they say. And earlier this year, Young announced plans to release the seven-song set. He’s calling it Toast and the cover of the album features a curbside photograph of 1340 Mission St.—the address of the studio where he and Crazy Horse laid it all down more than two decades ago.

In this way, Toast, which will be available on vinyl, CD and streaming on July 8, is a time capsule of sorts. 

You can get a preview of two songs from the album in “Standing In The Light of Love” and “Timberline.” The tunes offer a glimpse of the dark lyrical content and heavy rocking refrains that serve as Toast’s creative ballast. 

Spring Summer

T.E.A.R.S. | July 15
Follow Spring Summer on Spotify

After a whirlwind run playing with acts like Cass McCombs, Coconut Records and Ben Lee in the early aughts, San Francisco’s Jennifer Furches took a decade off from music to raise her three children… sort of…

Jennifer Furches, a.k.a. Spring Summer. | Mia Kirby / Special to The Standard

It turns out Furches never fully stepped away from writing and recording. Now, several years of private demos have evolved into her debut album as Spring Summer. Made in collaboration with producers Jenny Lee Lindberg (Warpaint) and Coconut Records’ Jason Schwartzman (yes, Max from Rushmore), the tracks on T.E.A.R.S. build on a tradition of earnest indie-pop—recalling the work of Alvvays.

Spring Summer’s latest single, “Show Yourself Out”—co-written with none other than Smashing Pumpkins’ guitarist James Iha—marries a fluttering piano line and bubbling bass to offer a kiss-off to a relationship gone sour. Meanwhile, “Mountaineer” finds Furches reclaiming her strength.

“I’m tough as nails,” she defiantly declares on the brooding, reverb-drenched chorus. Be sure not to miss the song’s miniature-filled music video, directed by Jon Sortland and keep an ear out for Schwartzman, who did the drumming for the majority of the album. If these first few tracks are any indication, it may indeed be Spring Summer’s season to shine.