Under the Stars is a quasi-weekly column that presents new music releases, upcoming shows, opinions, and a number of other adjacent items. We keep moving with the changes, thinking outside the margins. We’re keeping an ear out for the new jams today, and the big shows in the near future. Let’s go!
IKONIKA, “BUBBLE UP” EP (HYPERDUB)
The dubby, percolating, not-quite-pop but unquestionably-accessible phase of Ikonika aka Sara Chen’s career has begun. Ring the alarm.
On her upcoming “Bubble Up” EP, there is a punchy assertiveness brewing, alongside those synth-y streaks and fog machine atmospheres. When listening to two churning tracks, “Bubble Up” and “When You Look At Me,” I dare you to try and keep your neck still to her self-described queer love anthems.
See, you can’t. That contact high, cooking up from those peak-time house music accents, keeps recycling thin air amidst dense vibes, making the whole space levitate.
ZG, “JUNGLE TIMES” (SCISSOR AND THREAD)
Zansika Lachhani and Grant (also known as Anthony Collins a.k.a. the Tony in Frank & Tony), crank up a late ’90s slab of kick drum soul on their first single of 2022. “Jungle Times,” with its in-and-out ambient style, draws moods from opulent broken beats, seductive strings, and jazz aesthetics a la 4Hero.
Imagine the warm early morning sun greeting your jaw, face, and shoes after exiting Ben Watt’s now-defunct deep house party Lazy Dog. That’s how elegantly this seven-song self-titled LP hits.
All vibes and stuff.
LOS BITCHOS, LET THE FESTIVITIES BEGIN! (LOS CHRISMOS EDITION) (CITY SLANG RECORDS)
Only the residents of Los Bitchos could break out a holiday joint and make that jammer the fun you really want as we approach the Santa season. This is the aural equivalent of adding just a tiny bit of ghost pepper to your holiday music playlist. In “Los Chrismos,” the all-female instrumental four-piece from Australia, Uruguay, Sweden, and the United Kingdom has created a standout three-minute-and-20-second Christmas romp. It’s prepared to snag the Xmas song belt from Khruangbin (whose version of Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time Is Here” kinda bumps hard.)
With retro-futuristic blends of Turkish psychedelia from the 1970s, Argentine cumbia, Peruvian chicha, and surf guitars, Los Bitchos’ track, with its sing-along mid-section “Christmas time/sexy time/Christmas time/sexy time,” reps the bombastic nature of the band. This is precise execution coupled with a winking smile energy that doles out joy no matter the season.
“‘Los Chrismos’ is our ‘80s nostalgic Christmas dreamland,” according to a statement from Los Bitchos. “Shoop-shopping down the slopes into a cozy chalet strewn with fairy lights, join us for a glass of bubbly and a cozy Christmas party full of festivities! We can’t wait to get dressed up and play this song on our Christmas tour.”
This is how you want to do holiday time.
ESG AT GREAT AMERICAN MUSIC HALL, JANUARY 14
Anyone who loves post-punk, hip hop, and this priceless thing we sometimes take for granted called LIFE is encouraged to buy their tickets now for what is being billed as ESG’s farewell, as in their last-ever performance for San Francisco.
This concert is a fantastic way to start off 2023 in the right spirit, with local favorites Fake Fruit providing post-punk support as the opening act. A fave of the UK band Dry Cleaning (they’ve opened for the band twice), the Oakland-based Fake Fruit deserves all the exposure they’ve attained in The Bay over the past two years.
The woman-fronted, no wave pioneer ESG was founded in 1978, when the group began to fuse street sounds, punk energy, and grooves that hip hop DJs would play endlessly for breakdancers. Numerous artists have sampled their songs—so many that if you’re using your own Google machine to create any type of music and haven’t repurposed the group, you may be doing it wrong. ESG destroys dance floors with music that can be played at any kind of party.
For example, when the evergreen “Moody” fires up, people walk through bathroom walls. I’ve seen it firsthand, and it leaves an impression. When “UFO” starts with those opening sirens, hardcore beat heads start to run and freak out, melting with that “aw sh*t” smile. Too many times, when their songs were playing at risqué house parties, or venues like Madrone, Laszlo, and The Attic (RIP), I got to witness all the sorcery.
Treat your brain and your booty. Buy tickets here.