Critic's Choice for the week of August 15-22, 2007 

We recommend Magic Numbers, Los Lonely Boys, ALBINO!, Lamplighters Music Theater, Son de Madera, and Robert Glasper.

Pop Romantics

In the indie-rock world, Magic Numbers are the starry-eyed romantics who somehow end up getting the short end of the love stick on a regular basis. Made up of two brother-sister pairings, the Numbers follow their buzzworthy self-titled 2005 debut with Those the Brokes, another collection of songs soaked in soft-rock nuances redolent of Laurel Canyon circa 1968. Lyricist and frontman Romeo Stodart continues to use heartbreak as a campground in which to pitch his songwriting tent, all the while basting his creations with wooh-woohing choruses, unobtrusive string arrangements (provided by Nick Drake arranger Robert Kirby), and jangly guitar. And while a tendency toward excessive length proves a stumbling block, there are still enough well-crafted layers to luxuriate in. Wednesday, August 15 at the Great American Music Hall in SF. 8 p.m., $15. MusicHallSF.comDave Gil de Rubio

Tasty Tex-Mex

Rock en español's future was never brighter thanks to Willie Nelson's discovery of Los Lonely Boys. If you look past the tattooed biker image this sibling threesome sports, what most stands out is guitarist Henry Garza's Stevie Ray Vaughan/Jimi Hendrix-influenced rhythmic style that defined the group's breakthrough single, "Heaven." Even Carlos Santana was impressed enough to take them on tour as a support act, as he's done with so many other young bands. Meanwhile, the accolades kept coming for Los Lonely Boys, culminating with their Grammy for 2005 Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for "Heaven." The brothers Garza have continued their road-dog ways, stopping long enough to lay down some more of that good-time, head-bobbing Tex-Mex for their 2006 sophomore follow-up, Sacred. Thursday, August 16 at Wente Vineyards, Livermore. 8:15 p.m., $119, $69. WenteVineyards.comD.G. de R.

Albino Afrobeat

Afrobeat is an unassuming, almost happy-go-lucky name for a genre so intimate with protest and political activism. Conceived in the early '60s and practiced almost exclusively by Nigerian star Fela Kuti over the next two decades, Afrobeat became as defined by its funky low-end and boisterous jazz horns as by Kuti's radical messages. Berkeley Afrobeat ensemble ALBINO! makes no secret of striving for Kuti's footsteps, although its twelve members are mostly white and face a new set of challenges. Instead of railing against an exploitative Nigerian government, the group calls out media saturation and dysfunctional democracy through music that's aptly rousing. The band's CD release party for debut studio record Rhino happens Friday, August 17 at the Shattuck Down Low in Berkeley. 9 p.m., $10, $5 with student ID. ShattuckDownLow.comNate Seltenrich

Setting Sail

Vocal music comes to the rescue during the sparse days of August, as Lamplighters Music Theatre balances the new of Festival Opera's production of Ned Rorem's Our Town with the tried and true of Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore. This 129-year-old tale of incompetence in high places manages to make jolly good fun of what, in modern times, is seldom a laughing matter. Friday, August 17-Sunday, August 19 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, plus 2 p.m. matinees Saturday and Sunday. $34-$44. 415-978-2787. Lamplighters.orgJason Victor Serinus

Swinging Forties

The Puppini Sisters are the brainchild of London-based, Bologna-born fashionista Marcella Puppini, who fell in love with the big-band close-harmony singing and the clothing of the '30s and '40s while watching the French animated film The Triplets of Belleville. Enlisting like-minded pals Stephanie O'Brien and Kate Mullins, and naming her group in honor of the Andrews Sisters, Puppini began her crusade to bring back the music, style, and red lipstick of the big-band era. Their repertoire includes the expected classics as well as new wave and postpunk tunes, dressed up in snappy retro style. Sunday, August 19 at Bimbo's in SF. 8 p.m., $18 advance, $20 door. 415-474-0365 or Bimbos365Club.comj. poet

Indigenous Dance

Playing the sensuous folk dance music (son jarocho) of Veracruz and eastern Mexico, the acclaimed band Son de Madera brings its lively style and indigenous instruments, including the Veracruz harp and requinto (small plucked guitar), to La Peña on Monday. While it's great listening music, Son de Madera also plays for dancers; all five members are experts in zapateado dancing. The group was formed in 1992 to take this style to the rest of the world, and has performed in Europe and Canada as well as across the United States, releasing three CDs of its infectious music. 8 p.m., $15, $12. LaPena.orgLarry Kelp

Vamp Man

The new hot stars on Blue Note aren't content to sit with traditional jazz album formulas — a couple standards, a couple originals, some long-distance improvisations, and a trio version of some well-known pop tune. Instead, they're finding ways to meld a well-honed jazz pedigree with contemporary influences, with mixed results. Meshell Ndegeocello's use of hip-hop DJ Jahi Sundance enhanced her concept-driven Spirit Music tour in 2005, while Christian McBride's idea of substituting the same DJ for an actual drummer seemed, well, unfortunate. Meanwhile, Blue Note pianist Robert Glasper found a unique way to blend old-school and modern styles in this year's In My Element, which includes sampled voicemail "drops" and a tune based on a vamp from Radiohead. Glasper's idea of writing piano arrangements for beats from the late hip-hop producer J-Dilla showed that he's not just a hipster with a passing interest in the genre, and won him respect from heads. He'll perform Wednesday, August 22 at Yoshi's, with shows at 8 p.m. ($16) and 10 p.m. ($10). or RobertGlasper.comRachel Swan


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