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Your Ultimate Guide to Noise Pop 2014

Synth-rock/pop group Cold Cave plays Slim's at Friday. Photo courtesy of Cold Cave.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for Bay Area underground music junkies. Noise Pop, San Francisco’s pared-down version of SXSW, returns for its 22nd installment with its most ambitious program of under-to-slightly-over the radar bands to date. The list of next-best-thing bands and multimedia options is expansive and increasingly intriguing each year.

But perhaps the most important development for the festival is that it now has an actual physical home, a design warehouse space in the Mission complete with a bar and lounge area where Noise Pop will host film screenings and visiting artists. 7x7 will represent with a Sunday marketplace featuring local vendors (more on that later).

Below are your 7x7 certifiable best bets:

Tuesday: Lord Huron at The Fillmore

Music is only a part of the intrigue with Lord Huron. As the New York Times recently noted, the band goes to great lengths to build an elaborate virtual persona and presence for a fictional character, George Ranger Johnson. Check their YouTube channel and you’ll find a series of “trailers” featuring this protagonist, who ventures far and wide in search of adventure and trouble. The band channels this narrative in their main artistic endeavor -- ya know, the music-making, which is wildly imaginative, in the same vein of lush soundscape-engineers Fleet Foxes and Local Natives.  

Wednesday: Papercuts at The Chapel

San Francisco dream pop outfit Papercuts are four albums deep into a promising career, but the band has lately been on a run of firsts. The band’s latest album, Fading Parade, is the first album produced on the watch of a new record label, indie rock institution Sub Pop. The band left its SF comfort recording digs, Pan American Recording, where they recorded their first three albums, for more spacious pastures in Sacramento to record the album at The Hangar with Thom Monahan (Au Revoire Simone, Beachwood Sparks, fellow Noise Poppers Vetiver, etc.). The fresh circumstances are reflected in their sound, which continues to evolve at rapid pace.

Also on Wednesday: The Fresh & Onlys at Brick & Mortar Music Hall

Thursday: Social Studies at The New Parish

San Francisco quintet Social Studies recently won the buzzband blogosphere over with Developer, its second LP to date, and rightfully so. The increasingly influential Paste Magazine was especially impressed: “this is some of the most warmly recorded indie-related music to saunter along in ages.” The time to see these guys is now, before they (inevitably) take off.

Thursday: Com Truise at the Mezzanine

Nu-disco/chillwave imagineer Seth Haley has been making music for about a decade, and he’s still hovering right under the radar, right where he prefers. His debut album Galactic Melt is must-listen material for any synth-wave aficionado, and after extensive touring and remix project endeavoring Haley is back with a proper EP. The latest entry to the Com Truise catalogue is Wave 1, a brilliant pastiche of VHS synth loops and playful, bleached-out twists.

Also on Thursday: Shabazz Palaces at Slim's and Bob Mould at Great American Music Hall

Friday: Cold Cave at Slim's

Deep breaths. New Cold Cave songs are here. The intoxicating nu-new wave band has released its third studio album, Cremations, and it's really, really, really good. Fingers crossed we’ll get some new songs when they play what figures to be one of the toughest tickets at this year’s Noise Pop. Bandleader Wesley Eisold has said the new album is a "mix between some of the bigger sounds on Cherish and more minimal stuff I'm interested in now, like Suicide or 39 Clocks." He's absolutely right.

Also on Friday: El Ten Eleven at The New Parish and Bleached at Rickshaw Stop

Friday: No Age at Bottom of the Hill

Saturday: No Age at Brick & Mortar Music Hall

LA art punks No Age aren’t as punk-oriented or as LA-based as they once were around the time they released the breakthrough 2008 masterpiece Nouns. Somehow that was six years ago, and the band has since grown up, married up, moved out to the limits of the LA sprawl, and evolved. Their latest album An Object veers into melody and more traditional song structures, and the feeling is eerie and jarring. But the noise, ethos and edge are still very much present, and still the key to No Age's thrill factor.

Friday: Real Estate at The Independent

Saturday: Real Estate at The Independent

San Francisco gets first dibs on Real Estate's 2014 North American tour, and consequently will get first crack at some new material from the band. The New Jersey hazy-Sunday-afternoons-on-a-porch rockers are about to release a new album titled Atlas, and initial reviews from some of the already-leaked tracks are overwhelmingly promising. The first single, “Talking Backwards" sounds like vintage Real Estate, but tightened up around the edges.

Also Saturday: Mikal Cronin at The Chapel

Sunday: Sunday Market at Noise Pop HQ

7x7 is teaming up with Square Market to bring you the 7x7 Sunday Market happening 11am-4pm @ The NWBLK . It'll be a fashionable afternoon full of hand-selected vendors selling fabulous men's and women's clothing, jewelry, and accessories, along with hair and nail love.

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