What a name for the debut of four white musicians playing a unique hybrid of Latin, African, and American music. Like San Francisco Afrobeat troupe Albino!, Antioquia doesn't seek to transcend its identity so much as transport it, then share the results through music. At that the group succeeds, with interesting grooves and songs alike.
Anyone seeking top-rate local indie-folk with country soul and no hipster hangers-on should turn to Harris' debut. The Santa Rosa resident's alto possesses certain magic, while her impeccably matched acoustic guitar is always warm and comforting, whether softly picked or strummed with spirit. The entire record is simply beautiful.
You ain't half-way creative, a sideshow oddity, raps Opio in "Stop the Press," a diss directed at pencil-neck geeks and pip squeaks. Contemporary backpacker rappers, his presumed target, might reply: What are you doing that's so innovative? In his trademark laid-back flow, the Souls of Mischief vet delivers fourteen tracks of classic mid-'90s hip-hop.
With five full-length albums, one EP, and a track on the Into the Wild soundtrack under its belt, San Francisco's Crooked Jades is no fly-by-night folk outfit. In fact, the band's done a bit too much: at nineteen tracks and 58 minutes, Shining Darkness' bountiful heapings of fiddle, banjo, harmonium, and ukulele are tough to handle all at once.
The first thing you should know about "Stuck on a Boat" and "Fisherman's Son": they are true stories. Lead singer Van Pierszalowski really is a fisherman's son - in fact a part-time Alaskan fisherman himself - hence the seafaring imagery that pervades Port O'Brien's studio debut. Musically, the folk-meets-Pavement approach works flawlessly.
Andalou's five-song debut offers much to recommend it. The San Francisco band's four members certainly know how to play their instruments - namely electric cello, guitar, bass, synth, and drums - and feel their way along tense alt-rock contours with remarkable chemistry and professional polish, especially for a group barely a year old.
Dancing never goes out of style, only the grooves that get us there. DJ/producer Fred Everything specializes in house music that relies as much on the humanity of soul and funk as it does on cold, electronic beats. He employs vintage sounds to keep the aging house genre fresh. After working the Montreal and London scenes for years, he's now a San Franciscan.
Whether or not the spoken word scene has real longevity remains a point of contention. But in the three decades since it started catching on, spoken word has produced some truly compelling young artists, all of whom bring their own slangy, street-wise, hip-hop slant on the literary canon. Some have gone on to be novelists. Some have advanced from slam poetry to staged monologues or solo shows (in the Danny Hoch or Sarah Jones vein). And some, like celebrated Oakland poet Ise Lyfe, have found their voice in hip-hop.
At this point, Lyfe's closest analogue in mainstream rap would be Nas. Lyfe has the same elaborate, wordy phrasing and weird intonation (he might clip the last consonant off a word, or put his accents where you wouldn't expect them: I go becomes I go). He's detail-oriented; he makes rich descriptions; he might rap over a straight-ahead 4/4 beat but he's constantly trying to free up the time. He uses hip-hop slang but retains the formal qualities of spoken word (the repetitions, the vivid metaphors, the poetic enjambment, the occasional lapses into straight, unmetric prose). Lyfe's 2006 release SpreadtheWORD was an ambitious crossover album, but this year's The Prince Cometh with its melodic, horn-laden beats and R&B hooks is even more daring, since it ventures much farther into hip-hop territory.
Lyfe performs tonight at Shattuck Down Low alongside the Kev Choice Ensemble, another band that is changing the face of hip-hop by incorporating live instrumentation. Led by infectious Oakland emcee (and Skyline High School alum) Kev Choice, this ten-piece band features two of the best jazz horn players in the East Bay (saxophonist Howard Wiley and trumpeter Geechi Taylor), supported by a gritty funk rhythm section and by rising vocalist (and Berklee School of Music alum) Viveca Hawkins. Kev Choice is a charismatic rapper with a gift for political oratory (his Obama song, "A Change Is Gonna Come" features a series of rhyming couplets about how Obama will overhaul the current health care system). He's coming up at exactly the right time for his choice of material: hip-hop is getting nostalgic for its political past, and fans are starting to demand musical sophistication in addition to substantive content. Luckily, Kev Choice is also a trained jazz pianist. 9 p.m. $10
Ise Lyfe music video for "Beautiful":
Releasing a series of EPs has its benefits, such as inundating the marketplace with new product and allowing for reinvention with every installment. The drawback, especially for a young band like this, is the splintering of identity. The List sounds great, but doesn't answer the question of what combination of punk, garage, metal, and Latin the May Fire prefers.