This five-song teaser of Velarde's upcoming debut does just what it should: establish her as an artist in her own right. The frequent Quannum Projects collaborator (and wife of rapper Lyrics Born) can carry a song on her own, and does with aplomb. Much credit is due to Born's slick hip-hop-meets-R&B production, but Velarde's clear, melodic voice is supremely endearing.
At Sigmund Stern Grove (19th Ave. and Sloat Blvd., San Francisco) on July 26. 2 p.m., free
We are more than what we say/We are peaceful people who are oppressed by a system/We are labeled to grow up as they expect us. Wise words from the mouths of babes, or teens at least. Youth Roots is 25 Oakland high school students under the guidance of community nonprofit Oakland Leaf, and their third record features 21 mostly hip-hop songs - some of which are surprisingly good.
A ten-year member of Santana's touring band (he landed the gig after performing on Carlos' 1999 smash single "Smooth"), San Francisco trumpeter Ortiz steps out on his own with this sultry solo debut. Despite the Santana connection, there's no Latin to be found among Ortiz's thirteen originals; he dabbles instead in smooth jazz, soul, R&B, and even reggae, mastering each language as he goes.
For the Latin music lover who's heard it all. Alonso's music is hardly flamenco, at least as we're used to hearing it - more a digestible medley of jazz, Latin, classical, and avant-garde, with flute and piano as lead instruments. The record doesn't return to overt flamenco until the last of twenty tracks, and even then it begins slowed-down and sparse, more for thinking than dancing.
Who among us can resist that sweet spot between synthesized electro-pop and hooky indie rock - that fertile, eminently familiar territory mined by modern outfits like Mates of State and Matt and Kim? Not San Francisco group My First Earthquake, whose debut blends those bands' pop might and indie cool with strong, irreverent female vocals to varying degrees of success.
At the Knockout (3223 Mission St., San Francisco) on Wednesday, July 15. 9 p.m., $7
Oakland musicians Carv Tefft (vocals) and Tony Morosini (guitar, drums, bass), awkwardly known as Trez Rek 500, rock like no one's watching - which is to say they give their all, but don't always pull it off. Thankfully, the rough patches don't fester, and the successful songs suggest at least a passing mastery of Cheap Trick, Queen, and Kiss.
Both pragmatic and sad-sacked, a line like I like to drink by myself, the alcohol lasts longer is quintessential country, even if Hancock's voice lacks twang. That's okay - Dave Zirbel's pedal steel fills in the gaps. Across two discs and seventeen songs, Hancock and friends' mastery of melancholy country-rock gets a little tired, unless of course you're down in the dumps, too.
At the Starry Plough (3101 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley) on July 10. 9 p.m., $8
This San Francisco artist doesn't do anything that hasn't been done a hundred times before, but generally makes it work. His straightforward hard-rock style feels like a cross between Heart and Fuel, and what that approach lacks in edge Bray makes up for with confidence and attitude. The record sounds good, the songs feel good, and sometimes good is plenty good enough.
At the Independent (628 Divisadero St., San Francisco) on July 11. 9 p.m., $15
Despite its best intentions, opener "Run Wild" never recovers from its uneasy resemblance to a mash-up of the Steve Miller Band's "Wide River" and Rush's "Limelight." An impotent cover of Muddy Waters' "Baby, Please Don't Go" fails to cleanse the palate, and overabundant food metaphors burn innuendo to a crisp in blues-rock jam "Special Sauce."
There's perhaps no better way to begin a punk album by six dudes dressed in glam-rock grandma garb than with a song called "My Little Finger Says You're Wrong." Still, the Grannies aren't all novelty; their old-school punk-rock tunes can be mighty catchy, and the ten-year-old band seems to get tighter with every release.
At the Uptown (1928 Telegraph Ave., Oakland) on July 10. 9 p.m., $10