Critic's Choice for the week of May 16-22, 2007 

Björk, costless jazz, and a Stork Club bro-down.

Icelandic Twee

Perhaps no other women these days are making more artistically ambitious music — and receiving mainstream praise — than Björk and Joanna Newsom. So it's a no-brainer that the former would ask the latter to open two dates on her world tour in support of her just-released album, Volta. On Björk's ninth album since Debut, the Icelandic singer collaborates with Timbaland, Malian kora player Toumani Diabaté, Antony and the Johnsons singer Antony Hegarty, Lightning Bolt drummer Brian Chippendale, and an all-female Icelandic choir. The result is jumpy, punchy electronica. Though more polarizing, Newsom, meanwhile, followed up her critically-praised Ys with the three-song EP Joanna Newsom & the Ys Street Band. If the two join forces, look out. Saturday, May 19 at the Shoreline Amphitheatre. 7:30 p.m., $26.50-$70.50. (Kathleen Richards)

Soggy Dessert

Chicago's the Sea and Cake has always flirted dangerously close to the precipice of too-jazzy lounge and jam-band pretentiousness. But in the four years since their last release, Sam Prekop and crew purposefully chose a new direction for their latest, Everybody, declaring it's (relatively speaking) "a rock album." While the songs do take a more straightforward approach (thanks to the focus on creating a "live sound"), they don't stray far from the dreamy, jazzy-pop aesthetic that made us like the band in the first place. It plays with Robbers on High Street and the Zincs on Friday, May 18 at Bimbo's in SF. 9 p.m., $20. (K.R.)

Let Free Jazz Reign

Not only is it a fabulous start to the outdoor event season, but also Sunday's eleventh annual Jazz on Fourth festival is free. One block of Berkeley's Fourth Street is closed off between Hearst and Virginia. Food, drink, and other merchants line the way, and two stages are filled with homegrown talent, culminating in the finale's big-band pyrotechnics of award-winning, globe-trotting Berkeley High School Jazz Ensemble. With the school's small combos providing warm-ups, this year's acts are R&B great Sugar Pie DeSanto, jazz bassist Marcus Shelby's Quartet, and trombonist Wayne Wallace's Latin Jazz Quintet. The whole event is free, but is also a fund-raiser to help send the Berkeley High band to Japan this summer. Noon. (Larry Kelp)

Quintuple Composer Tribute

Ten years after the death of Chanticleer's founder countertenor Louis Botto, the famed men's choral ensemble celebrates his life by performing "And on Earth, Peace: A Chanticleer Mass." It comprises five movements by five composers, celebrating the memory of special San Franciscans: Herb Caen, Frances Cassidy, Harvey Milk, James H. Schwabacher, and Alfred S. Wilsey. The West Coast premiere, which also celebrates the release of Chanticleer's recording, takes place in Berkeley's First Congregational Church Sunday, May 20. 7 p.m., $25-$44. (Jason Victor Serinus)

Bro Pop

El Cerrito's Moore Brothers' high, aching harmonies make their songs sound both inviting and ominous. Their swooning pop melodies and perplexing lyrics create a riveting tension that's perfectly complemented by their minimal guitar playing, but it's their stunning vocals that will knock you out. Shotwell and the Reaction complete the bill. Saturday, May 19, at the Stork Club in Oakland. 9:30 p.m., $5. (j. poet)

Hardest Metal Ever. Ever.

In the world of extreme music propagation, PR can get pretty amusing. By definition, every gut-punching, balls-ripping metaphor must be conjured to convince the reader how much heavier this band is than any other you've ever heard. In your entire life! Often times, this philosophy tends to hinder bands, rather than help them. "A hostile explosion of hideously impure American metal which emanates an eerie and unsettling vibe," declares Relapse's press release about Arkansas metal band Rwake. True. But what really sets the band apart is its progressive brand of doom (especially with fourth album Voices of Omens) — drawing comparisons to Mastodon and Neurosis while simultaneously forging its own Southern-influenced sound. But don't take my word for it. Catch Rwake with Black Cobra, the River Runs Black, and One in the Chamber at the Uptown on Sunday, May 20. 9 p.m., $8. (K.R.)


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