Naming their sophomore album Developer is a gutsy move for the still-young band Social Studies. But it is as apt a descriptor as you're likely to find for how the sound of this San Francisco-based five-piece has flourished, matured, and, yes, developed over the past two years.
The band - led by Natalia Rogovin (vocals, keys) and Michael Jirkovsky (drums), who were joined in 2009 by bassist Jesse Hudson and guitarist Tom Smith and this year by second guitarist Ben McClintock - has already won a loyal fan base thanks to their arch take on modernist pop as heard on 2010 release Wind Up Wooden Heart. Social Studies has become a force to be reckoned with in concert as well, transfixing audiences at the CMJ Music Festival, SXSW, and Noise Pop, and bringing their unique energy and spirit to stages shared with TuneYards, Wye Oak, Lotus Plaza, Thee Oh Sees, Dodos, Ramona Falls and many more
Now, on their new album, the goal was to strip things down to the basics, straighten out some of the more jagged lines of their previous work, and put the focus more on texture and mood.
"Before, we were rebellious. We fucked with things just because we wanted to push limits and boundaries," says Rogovin. "Developer is a more adult record. We tried to explore sounds and draw out parts to write more moving and focused songs."
They enlisted the able ears and hands of engineer and co-producer Eli Crews (Tune-Yards, Deerhoof, Thao & Mirah) who helped hone this new barebones attack as well as reflecting the excitement of their stage show.
On Developer, all the pieces have come together perfectly. The clear-eyed production helps bring out the dark, sexy heart of these ruminations on life, love, pain, and pleasure. The themes of the album are as complex as the songs are streamlined.
"The album is about art, but it's also a cinematic exploration of those turning points in life that you didn't see coming and didn't realize were important until much later," says Rogovin.
Lead single "Terracur" calls the bluff of a headstrong friend threatening to leave, while "Away For the Weekend" turns the tables to justify a departure: “Ever discover another that makes you feel good, you always feel right/ the notion of fleeing the corporeal being/Just run to your other life.”
In Developer, Social Studies has succeeded in evoking a set of feelings and emotions that will linger with listeners long after the last notes have faded away. Warm, cold, or downright chilling, there is a connection between the personal and universal that the band taps into through a set of fearless and gripping songs.
Natalia Rogovin - Vocals, keyboards
Michael Jirkovsky - Drums, Percussion
Tom Smith - Guitar
Jesse Hudson - Bass, Backing Vocals
Ben McClintock - Guitar
Wind Up Wooden Heart, LP, 2010, Radio Play
This is the World's Biggest Hammer, 2006, Radio Play
The Hourglass, Single, 2009
Top Ten MP3s
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California never ceases to produce great new music. Here we’ve got indie-pop-rock band Social Studie...California never ceases to produce great new music. Here we’ve got indie-pop-rock band Social Studies from San Francisco. Their album Wind Up Wooden Heart, including this infectiously catchy number, hits stores at the end of July. And don’t worry, unlike social studies class, this is actually fun.
PREMIERE: Social Studies - Holler Boys + Time Bandit
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San Fran fruit-jugglers Social Studies make twee sound brawny. Who else does that? “Holler Boys,” l...San Fran fruit-jugglers Social Studies make twee sound brawny. Who else does that? “Holler Boys,” layers background bleeps, twiddling guitar, soft percussion and radiant female vocals into a shape-shifter—there is no pure verse chorus verse, and each swell breaks in a new direction. Next, indie-pop croon-tune “Time Bandit” is another pretty surprise. Social Studies’ excellent Wind Up Wooden Heart will drop on Antenna Farm on July 27.
Social Studies Free Mp3 of the Day
Weathered White is free mp3 of the day
EXCLUSIVE: SOCIAL STUDIES MP3
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We are super excited to present you with an exclusive download from San Fransisco’s Social Studies o...We are super excited to present you with an exclusive download from San Fransisco’s Social Studies of their latest track, "Weathered White." Somehow that town has kept them a secret from the rest of us, but I don’t see that happening for much longer. They have a full length coming out in 2010, and this song is the sort of thing that will get you very, very excited for it to arrive. Keep in mind though that this isn’t for you to listen to as you frown your way home on the subway. Save it for the soundtrack to your first snowball fight of the season. If you are tired of sitting around and waiting for Broadcast to write a new record like I am, then this one is for you.
A Human Condition Whipping Ahead
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Where does a band like San Francisco's Social Studies come from and why has it stayed so well hidden...Where does a band like San Francisco's Social Studies come from and why has it stayed so well hidden? It's probably a mystery that has very little answer, but the sinewy and rich verve that seems to snake through its confident and affected sound is ripe for easy exploration and fanfare. It's a band that believes in great heights and believes that those heights are somewhat scary, but still it leaps off from them without double-checking to see if it's packed a chute. There's not a net below it, but the wind whipping through its head in the fall is enough to make whatever happens next - whether that's the natural progression of growing older or a succinct end to a short existence - just what happens next and nothing to be too worked up over. The wind is glorious enough for it. It's as if we're able to hear salty sea swells in their every movement and we're able to feel the buzz of a good getting' drunk night in Natalia Rogouin's rainy wet singing and the quaint whispers of the passage of time in the melodies and stories. The back story that the band provides for "Mad Decent," a brand new song that is debuting in recorded form here, is a glimpse at the towering thoughts and ideas that she's pressed with when she writes, giving us more than just pithy and sleepy sentiments that offer little depth or meaningfulness. She says of the song, "It's about the American ideology of manifest destiny, and the goals of the first European settlers here. I think it's creepy the way America is so sure of itself, unwilling to admit mistakes, and unwilling to admit we don't know everything. It's even creepier that we have built this entire western way of life on the graves of all the people who lived here before us, and we still refuse to fully acknowledge or take responsibility for this sordid part of our past, even as the legacy of our genocide still exists. I've been very obsessed with time, and the inevitability of repeating the same mistakes over and over as part of the human condition." Within it the song, which carries a pesky synth progression, a gloomy bass line that seems to be looking out over a landscape of broken herds, homes torn to shreds and wooly carcasses lying there rotting after a needless kill, is a line about progress and where we've come as a country, with Rogouin singing, "These dreams are built on old bones." It's a frank reminder of then and now and it's the observational aspect of her unassuming words that showcases the true power of this band - giving us so much substance and a mood to enjoy it within. It feels like a version of the 1960s mod world, slick and handsome, but rebellious and steeped in more contextual graces than is normal. It pulls us to explore further and it pulls us into leaping from great heights as well, liking the trip downward, to land in a crystal blue lake with little splash and hardly any dangerous shock to the system. It all just feels right and exhilarating. Then we towel off and head back up to the cliff and press play before the next fall.
Social Studies - Time Bandit
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I don't know why, but I kind of assumed I had missed out on the Social Studies full length. And, as...I don't know why, but I kind of assumed I had missed out on the Social Studies full length. And, as if that wasn't enough, I didn't even really try to find out if I had. Shame on me, right? Anyhow, an email yesterday notified me that their LP actually isn't out yet. It's due next month on Antenna Farm, and below is a new tune to help convince you (and me) to pick it up. Enjoy.
:Social Studies - Holler Boys: The band's art pop leanings were fairly obvious in the track I shared last year (it was called We Choose Our Own Adventures), so I'm not too surprised to hear that style further explored here. With that being said, don't expect some bizarro piece of music that you'll only understand if you have 12 music-based art theory degrees. Nope! Social Studies are about as accessible as can be.
The People Parade at the Silverlake Jubilee
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Social Studies came from San Francisco, the only band not living in our ZIP code to play the Jubilee...Social Studies came from San Francisco, the only band not living in our ZIP code to play the Jubilee, and they were so smooth they should have been singing in French.
song of the Day
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this san francisco quartet has been receiving rave review after rave review and for good reason, the...this san francisco quartet has been receiving rave review after rave review and for good reason, they are indie pop at its best. artful and poppy in the most endearing way, this song is catchy in its own special right. they’ve got a new record coming out next month and it’s sure to be gem. spend your sunday hollahin at the boys.
Social Studies - Library-Style Indie
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It's helped that they've opened for some of our old favorites, including Birds & Batteries and the M...It's helped that they've opened for some of our old favorites, including Birds & Batteries and the Morning Benders, but indie-rockers Social Studies have now earned themselves a solid spot on our office playlist rotation. The band, comprised of Natalia Rogovin, Jason Kick, Tyler McCauley, and Mike Jirkovsky skillfully skirt the line between pop and the cerebral. Their music is catchy and smart. Which is a combo we're all about.
“Our music is left-field pop. It’s about writing a great pop song and turning it sideways to defy expectations,” says McCauley. “Natalia is a very intuitive writer melodically and the rest of us are like huge nerds. It’s a matter of nerding out the material until we’re all happy as cerebral musicians and as people who simply love music.”
To the "nerding out," we couldn't have put it better ourselves. Social Studies truly has an anomalous creativity that spawns from their quirky intellects. Casio driven melodies give way to raw guitar riffs that are pure rock n’ roll. Add to that lyrics rooted in academia and you've got a full blown nerd pop-fest to tantalize your neurons.
Plus, Rogovin's got a femme fatale vibe going - and gives the band a fiery, defiant presence. It comes through particularly on songs like "Pack of Cards" and "Dante & Corey War."
Newer tracks are taking Social Studies’ sound from “rebellious teenager to classy undergrad who spends time at the library,” says Rogovin. “It has a lot more depth in some ways." We’re definitely excited to see what’s in store for Social Studies, and keeping our fingers crossed it’s in the form of a full-length release.
In the meantime, we’ll satisfy ourselves with their live shows, which are as thoughtfully "structured" as their sound. “We have three duties on stage,” jokes McCauley about their show dynamic, “First, play the songs well. Second, we have to be very entertaining and high energy. And third, we have to make Natalia look good from the outfit to the stage presence.” Jirkovsky adds, “Natalia is the regal aristocrat while the rest of us are just spazzing out." On stage, their playfulness definitely translates. The foursome emit a confidence that sizzles with youthful excitement making their live performances highly charged and even “wildly theatrical.” As an added bonus, they often pass out rainbow tambourines to let show-goers play along.
Pick up their EP This Is The World’s Biggest Hammer at Amoeba and let their unparalleled indie-pop electrify your body and your mind.
Social Studies + New Ruins + The Burning Hotels + Honest Engines
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San Francisco's peppy Social Studies picked up a staple of Chi-town indie-pop in former Office guita...San Francisco's peppy Social Studies picked up a staple of Chi-town indie-pop in former Office guitarist Tom Smith. The group's new Wind Up Wooden Heart lights up with singer Natalia Rogovin's saccharin-sweet melodies.
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After receiving an increasing amount of hometown buzz in the Bay Area press, Social Studies makes th...After receiving an increasing amount of hometown buzz in the Bay Area press, Social Studies makes their way to a Williamsburg loft, the place where indie-rock dreams come true. Tonight, we hope they do for the sweet-voiced Natalia Rogovin and her baroque-leaning band. You guys know the Shins, right? How they put melody front and center and don't get hung up on much else? Social Studies does that too.
C.D. Singles Club #31 – Social Studies – The Hourglass
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Here’s what I like about Social Studies: They release a digital single titled The Hourglass, yet nei...Here’s what I like about Social Studies: They release a digital single titled The Hourglass, yet neither song on the single is actually titled “The Hourglass.” Makes you think. Or, rather, it makes me think. You probably wouldn’t stumble so easily on something so small. My metaphorical feet are dainty, I guess, and my similitic balance is poor.
Also, I’m not being totally honest here. The mysterious name thing mentioned previously is not the only thing I like about the new-on-the-scene San Francisco indie pop troupe; I like a lot about them. I like the chair-dancing, torso-bopping enthusiasm of their instrumentals, I like the not-exactly-twee, not-exactly-Swedish, but something just as sweet vocals of head crooner Natalia Rogovin, I like the simplicity and humility of their approach. I like the band, period. Recurring comparisons to Fiery Furnaces are apt, as would – maybe – be Lichtenstein. Regardless of the names chosen to drop, these guys are good, confection and substance in a cool and kind package.
Social Studies plays TONIGHT in Citizen Dick hometown Cleveland with a FREE show at the B-Side Lounge (beneath the inimitable Grog Shop) and then continues eastward with gigs to come in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Brooklyn (x3), and Philly before wrapping up the tour with a Daytrotter Session and a triumphant return to the bougie-boho climes of San Fran. If any of these cities happen to be the one where you lay your head, be sure to check this promising pop outfit out. If you can’t or happen to live elsewhere, keep an eye out for the band’s full-length, Wind-Up Wooden Heart, set to drop in 2010. Most certainly they’ll be back east of the Mississippi then as they ply their trade and sell the album.
Social Studies [feature]
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Imagine the pre-Islands band The Unicorns in all their glory; that album, Who Will Cut Our Hair When...Imagine the pre-Islands band The Unicorns in all their glory; that album, Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone. Now think of their triumphant return, matured a decade and now female-fronted. The songs are no longer bizarre and there’s been a complete turnaround when it comes to their accessibility to the general public. Imagine that, added with a newfound influence by, say, Fiery Furnaces, and you’ll have Social Studies. It’s somewhere in that general realm, with casio keyboards backed by bouncy pop bass – all of it, enjoyable.
Natalia Rogovin and Michael Jirkovsky, the key original members of Social Studies, are preparing to give us a new full-length (Wind-Up Wooden Heart) next year and as a teaser have released The Hourglass EP. Though called an EP, it’s really a single, featuring two tracks, “Time Bandit” and “We Choose Our Own Adventures”, both of which you can find below.
POP BEAT - Indie Rock Perfection
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Social Studies is my new favorite band. Granted, I have a new favorite band every few days or so. Bu...Social Studies is my new favorite band. Granted, I have a new favorite band every few days or so. But when you consider the amount of new music that I have to listen to each week, it's a big deal when any band, particularly a local one, manages to end up on top of the huge stack.
I'm a little behind, I must admit. Since its late-fall release, the band's debut EP, "This Is the World's Biggest Hammer," has earned Social Studies its share of well-deserved ink in the local weeklies. Even so, I feel compelled to add my two cents to the growing pile of critical praise. So here goes: Social Studies is indie-rock perfection. There, I said it. Listen to tracks from "This Is the World's Biggest Hammer" at www.myspace.com/socialstudies101
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On their debut EP, This Is the World's Biggest Hammer, San Francisco's Social Studies excel in arden...On their debut EP, This Is the World's Biggest Hammer, San Francisco's Social Studies excel in ardent electropunk and get high marks for their cheerful blend of Casiotone-charged melodies and stripped-down tempos. Rivaling Young Marble Giants and a Legend of Zelda soundtrack with their catchy retrofuturism, the quartet knows how to rock a dance floor by playfully weaving a nostalgic arcade hook between flushed bursts of guitar and disco drums. The bubbly intro that chimes in and out on "Casanova Part I and II," for instance, sounds as if the band plugged an eight-bit Nintendo into an amplifier.
Vocalist-keyboardist Natalia Rogovin's sassy bark is one part Deborah Harry and another Georgia Hubley — her knack for shifting from aggro-tuned temptress to elegant-sounding crooner provides an essential balance to the songs' mutable rhythms. On the ukulele-cooked ballad "Cardioid" she mimes the latter while rolling out some clever math speak: "We divided by a factor of an integer dependent on the order of a cardioid, the sign of which is negative." But don't close the book on these musical geeks just yet — thanks to their infectious sound, they'll likely be graduating to pop stardom in no time.
Class is in Session
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Social Studies is one of those acts that stuffs enough ideas for three songs into one track, shiftin...Social Studies is one of those acts that stuffs enough ideas for three songs into one track, shifting gears repeatedly until your head is spinning and your toes are tapping. Start with Rogovin's Casio, which flits from sweet, twee melodies à la Pram to thick, bristling noise (re: Broadcast or Silver Apples). Add in Aaron Weiss' jittery guitar, which moves from post-punk janka-jank to primo '90s indie riffage. Multiply by Darren Henry's dubby bass playing, and factor in Mike Jirkovsky's drumming, which manages to move from busy math-rock fills to fluid funk beats. Finish it all off with Rogovin's vocals (and the band's three- and four-part harmonies), which swing from neo-rap speak-singing to sweet Björk-ian crooning, and you have one complex sound.
NOISE - Peerless pop
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I used to have this ridiculous tendency to annually denounce everything I was into and hurl myself i...I used to have this ridiculous tendency to annually denounce everything I was into and hurl myself into a new persona. This resulted in a confusing metamorphosis from punk to hippie to goth to indie rocker to grunge fan to glam kid. It was entirely exhausting - what with all the costume changes and makeovers to my album collection. It takes a bit of growing up - and a touch of laziness - to realize that it's really those standby good friends and classic tunes that really get your heart pumping. Like Social Studies.
On Saturday, Jan. 31, I found myself praising Social Studies once again for its commitment to just plain excellent pop music. During its set at the Hemlock Tavern, the outfit revitalized my love for its 2006 release, This Is the World's Biggest Hammer, drumming out the songs perfectly. The show included all your old favorites, including the epic "Sparrow," which twists and turns for minutes without losing any of its innovation and heat.
To be honest, though I am still patiently awaiting the release of their next full-length, I don't even care if it takes them a decade to get it out there. Their performance was reminiscent of the time I saw the great Dolly Parton live. She too serenaded me with classic, perfectly manicured, and sweetly sung songs that came out exactly the way you hear them in your head. Natalia Rogovin is the only other lady aside from Parton who has gotten up onstage and done exactly what I suddenly wish I had been doing all along. The result is a dreamy jealousy that manifests itself later in your shower where you sound really awesome doing soapy renditions of the songs.
On a sadder note, the Jan. 31 show was apparently bassist Jason Kick's last. I'm sad to see that talented person leave Social Studies because it's hard to imagine them improving or changing. Thankfully the group seemingly suffered little injury when they brought in their newish guitarist Tyler McCauley. Needless to say, I'm going to keep faith.
Top 10 from 2008
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"Social Studies is another band we love. Every time we see them, their audience seems bigger and mo..."Social Studies is another band we love. Every time we see them, their audience seems bigger and more energetic than before, a testament to this band's ability to win new fans and still entertain the converted."
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"What truly makes This is the World's Biggest Hammer a knockout is its diverse songs that often take..."What truly makes This is the World's Biggest Hammer a knockout is its diverse songs that often take unexpected directions...this album is a thrill ride from start to finish."
Typical Set List:
2. Run with Fever
3. We Choose Our Own Adventures
4. Drag a Rake
5. Time Bandit
6. Trapdoor Spider (I grew 8 legs)
7. Holler Boys
8. The Good Book
Usually 6-8 songs lasting 35-45 minutes. All originals.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.