Critic's Choice for the week of June 13-20, 2007 

Express reviewers recommend the Slyless Family Stone, Alameda Cajun chaos, some kind of electric ladybug, and more.

Slinky Scores

Any critic who didn't take a prurient interest in Spike Lee's 2004 battle of the sexes, She Hate Me — in which the super-svelte actor Anthony Mackie is down on his luck until he scores a gig, uh, impregnating lesbians — would surely concede that the film's plot pales in comparison to its slinky jazz soundtrack, scored by New Orleans trumpeter Terence Blanchard. Best known as one of the players in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers from 1982 to 1986, Blanchard actually composed music for several Spike Lee films, among them 25th Hour, Malcolm X, and the new Hurricane Katrina documentary, When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts. As Quincy Troupe points out in the liner notes to Blanchard's 1986 album Nascence — which he cut with alto sax player Donald Harrison — we're predisposed to think of New Orleans jazz as a combination of Dixieland washboard music and the music of traditional second-line funeral processions. But once you listen to Blanchard and Harrison's cryptic rendition of John Coltrane's "Alabama," or the weird "Chong Chong" — which sets different time signatures against each other — you'll realize that's not the case at all. Blanchard performs Thursday through Saturday at Yoshi's, with shows at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. $12-$22. (Rachel Swan)

Native Cajun

The five members of the Pine Leaf Boys hail from the backwater farms and villages of Cajun country, raised — nay, saturated — in the tradition of local music. Today, in their early twenties, they live together in a shotgun house in downtown Lafayette, Louisiana. The New York Times visited them there a few months ago for Mardi Gras, but this week their raucous Cajun-Creole revival arrives at Alameda's Eagles Hall. Expect dance hall standards dating back to the '30s, plus the band's signature song, "Pine Leaf Boy Two-Step." Friday, June 15. 9 p.m., $15. (415) 285-6285 (Nate Seltenrich)

Elelctric Insects

There are certain bands in our time that aren't quite of our time. I'm not referring to bands like the Detroit Cobras or Fleshtones, who are obviously in a garage/R&B time warp (not that there's anything wrong with that). Bands whose approach is more 1967 or 1972 than 2007 yet carry no overt retro/nostalgic baggage are Scotland's Belle & Sebastian and Camera Obscura and Brooklyn's Ladybug Transistor. Ladybug T has an approach paralleling that of those venerable Scots, projecting an aura of autumnal melancholia and production and arrangements evoking Burt Bacharach circa his Dionne Warwick glory daze or Jeff Lynne circa ELO's On the Third Day, albeit having only one-fifth their budget to work with. Gary Olson's smooth, introspective with-a-wee-touch-of-tartness baritone appeals to the anxious, yearning tenth grader lurking deep within us all, and the band's guitars twang as crisply as did those on Fleetwood Mac and Beach Boys' Surf's Up. Pull on a coat of fog and get cozy with Ladybug Transistor 10 p.m. Friday, June 15 at Bottom of the Hill in SF. Bright Lights and Papercuts also perform. $10, all ages. (Mark Keresman)

Sly Stoned

If you've seen the YouTube clips of famed soul singer Sly — the exiled former frontman of Oakland band the Family Stone — featured on the Dick Cavett Show, you probably know why he's no longer listed among the group's personnel. In one interview he appears in a velvet coat, frilly ascot, and felt hat with a feather, and explains that he arrived late because, uh, he cut himself breaking into his own house. Then there was the 2006 Grammy Awards tribute, in which a mohawked Sly came out for a surprise performance, which vaporized about three minutes into "I Want to Take You Higher," when he inexplicably quit the stage. For better or worse, the rest of the family has managed to get on without him. Friday, they'll perform all their gritty funk hits for an audience comprising, at least in part, people who probably first heard the tunes sampled in the music of various Top 40 hip-hop artists. Sponsored by the Ambassadors of American Culture, the show starts at 8 p.m. at Oakland's Historic Sweet's Ballroom. $25-35. or (R.S.)

Operatic Adventure

Oakland Opera Theater excels in the new. In an enticing evening titled "Great Moments in American History Set to Music," the company takes advantage of its intimate home in the Oakland Metro Operahouse to stage scenes from two operas-in-the-making: The Panthers by Clark Suprynowicz and Lynne Morrow, which explores the black revolutionary movement in Oakland in the 1960s; and Dark River by Mary Watkins, which explores the early civil rights movement. Friday, June 15, 8 p.m., and Sunday, June 17, 2 p.m. $24-$20. 510-763-1146, (Jason Victor Serinus)

Chantez-vous Anglais?

With Bastille Day just around the corner, the French have been planting small flags on the cultural map, be they the releases of 5:55 — the adult debut by Charlotte Gainsbourg, daughter of Gallic icon Serge — or La Vie en Rose, a biopic about iconic songbird Edith Piaf, starring Marion Cotillard and Gérard Depardieu. The Tel Aviv-born, Paris-raised Keren Ann (Zeidel) is the latest to join this list thanks to a new self-titled album of original, English-language songs. Infused with a gauzy, ethereal ambiance that manages to embrace the dream-pop of Mazzy Star and the minimalism of Philip Glass, these nine songs benefit immensely from Keren Ann's delicate yet smoky vocals. Whether she's wrapping these gorgeous pipes around the string-kissed invitation that is "Lay Your Head Down," defiantly deflecting romantic attachment in the guitar dirge "It Ain't No Crime," or channeling Nico on the VU-flavored psychedelia of "It's All a Lie," Keren Ann is a French import best sampled in an intimate setting. Saturday, June 16 at the Great American Music Hall. 9 p.m., $ (Dave Gil de Rubio)

Folksy Americana

Along with fellow folk troubadour Utah Phillips, Rosalie Sorrels is one of the few links we have with a fast-vanishing sense of America as a land of real people connected to the places where they live. Her songs and stories are filled with the usual stuff — love, struggle, loss — where not everything is perfect, but there is a real sense of hand-carved life, aided by wisdom gained from more than four decades of performing folk music. Her most recent recording, My Last Go Round, featured guest fans from Peggy Seeger to Loudon Wainwright III. A national folk treasure, Sorrels returns to the Freight on Sunday, June 17. 8 p.m. $21.50. (Larry Kelp)


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