Critic's Choice for the week of April 27 - March 3, 2005 

Our writers tell you what's hot this week.

CANADIAN DIVAS

She's been called a "queen of trip-hop" with a "cool, languorous voice," described as a cross between Chuck D. and PJ Harvey, and compared to an alt.electronica version of India.Arie or Sade. And she's from Vancouver, where evidently the early '90s left a stylistic imprint still being felt to this day. But such epithets don't completely do Kinnie Starr justice. The multifaceted vocalist -- currently touring behind her latest album, Sun Again -- is poised for a mainstream breakthrough on the strength of having six of her songs recently showcased on Showtime's The L Word. And in her case, the L stands for 'Lightful to listen to, especially because you can do just that in the comfy environs of the Starry Plough Thursday night for only six ducats. StarryPloughPub.com (Eric K. Arnold)

MODERN STRINGS

Two of the most acclaimed acts in contemporary string music -- Kronos Quartet and Chinese pipa master Wu Man -- join talents Sunday in UC Berkeley's Hertz Hall for the world premiere of Terry Riley's The Cusp of Magic, celebrating the composer's 70th birthday. Wu Man's years of virtuoso performance championing the pipa (lute) have led to collaborations with Yo-Yo Ma and performances with major orchestras. The evening also offers new string music commissioned by Kronos, including the Bay Area premiere of South African composer Kevin Volans' String Quartet No. 8 (Black Woman Rising). $42, 7 p.m. 510-642-9988. (Larry Kelp)

SINGER/SONGWRITER

The Bills are a five-piece acoustic band from British Columbia able to jump between Eastern-European Gypsy swing, St. Louis honky-tonk ragtime, smoky cabaret jazz, and Celtic folk without breaking a sweat. The group's impressive original tunes and high-energy shows are making it this year's buzz band on the folk circuit. Friday at Berkeley's Freight & Salvage. $17.50-$18.50, 8 p.m. 510-548-1761 or TheFreight.org (j. poet)

CLASSICAL

The sonorous Tar School Orchestra, composed of students from the Bay Area's four-year-old cultural center for the study and performance of Persian classical and folk music, presents its authentic instrument debut concert Saturday night in Danville's Peace Lutheran Church. $30; 7 p.m. TarSchool.com (Jason Victor Serinus)

LULLABIES

Dimmer, the new album from the Zincs, is great to fall asleep to, and we mean that as a compliment -- these sleepy-dreamy songs could warm any room and guide any soul into a dream state. The vocals (a cross between Calvin Johnson and Morrissey) are sexy and sophisticated in a low, masculine kind of way, while strings, keys, and horns add a lush intricacy and intimacy to the traditional guitar/bass/drums lineup. Let's just hope you find a seat at the band's Friday night Bottom of the Hill show, as the Zincs' mesmerizing downbeat jangle rock is sure to weaken your knees right into submission. With Monade. $12, 10 p.m. BottomOfTheHill.com (Jenny Tatone)

TRADITIONAl ROOTS

Local legends Jody Stecher and Kate Brislin capture the true spirit of folk music with their impressive yet understated picking, superb close harmony singing, and repertoire spanning centuries of British, Irish, and American folk music. They also shed new light on the work of contemporary writers Friday at Berkeley's Freight & Salvage. $17.50-$18.50, 8 p.m. 510-548-1761 or TheFreight.org (j.p.)

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