It’s Under The Stars, babe. 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. First up, our Bandcamp Friday pick:
THE SESHEN, “NOWHERE”
When you see this band live, it’s the crowd that lets you know—even before they hit the stage—that you are in for a sweaty, dance-y, post-punky electronic music show accentuated by Afrobeats. It’s a trip, one you want to take. The Seshen’s upcoming album Nowhere showcases their unique ability to synthesize electronic music, R&B, and indie-pop into a cohesive sound. Led by the powerful vocals of Lalin St. Juste, this Bay Area-based sextet is known for presenting polar opposites side by side, creating a sound that is difficult to replicate. Nowhere, set to release in October, explores themes of endings and beginnings within the band, making it the grou’s most exposed and unguarded project to date. The Seshen’s willingness to venture into mysterious musical places sets them apart from other local outfits and makes them one of the most daring Bay Area bands to date.
Pre-order Nowhere here.
DJ SHADOW, “OZONE SCRAPER”
“Billion” is the buzzword in 2023. Think I’m joking? Barbie reached the nine-digit figure in ticket sales dollars just 17 days after its release, making it the fastest Warner Bros. cinematic release (and the eighth in the studio’s 100-year history) to join the $1 billion club. Taylor Swift’s Eras tour is likely to exceed $2 billion in North American ticket sales alone.
DJ Shadow, who has been releasing music for over three decades, dropped his landmark debut Endtroducing… in 1996, which was praised as one of the finest albums of the ’90s. It bridges the gap between hip-hop junkies, record nerd swag, and all the places that wax—vinyl, or any other term you want to use. Sure, “physical media” will do just fine—can take you if you keep digging in dusty Berkeley record store bins. His remix from 2002 featuring Mos Def aka Yasiin Bey, called “Six Days,” has amassed over 152,000,000 million streams on Spotify—if you’re still willing to talk that spicy numbers-type speak.
Can Shadow, aka San Jose-born Josh Davis, cash in on those figures for a hot cup of coffee?
It doesn’t matter.
Endtroducing... forever changed the musical and cultural landscape, something that a Spotify stream will never be able to surpass.
Shadow’s new single “Ozone Scraper,” which comes with a video directed by Stefano Ottaviano, is from his eighth studio LP Action Adventure. The track has a weirdly ’80s synth-pop vibe with a heavy rhythmic component.
The first sampled words heard on the new album, completed solely by Davis himself, are, “all my records and tapes.” These are some of the only words heard on the mostl-instrumental release. “This is about my relationship to music,” stated Davis in a press release. “My life as a collector and curator. All my records and tapes, and no one else’s.”
Pre-order the album, due out in October, here.
SEABLITE, “MELANCHOLY MOLLY”
I am unsure if our fave Bay Area band, who describe themselves as “SF odd-pop jangle-gaze,” is referring to a friend or a substance with the title of its new single, but it is clear that change is a-happening. Seablite, who will be releasing its first official album since 2019 titled Lemon Lights on the Sacramento-based label Mt. St. Mtn., has slightly moved away from past patterns and embraced a ’90s alternative rock sound with pop subtlety. Enjoy the pivot of the album’s lead single “Melancholy Molly” (which does channel early Lush in a luscious way) and its music video, and save the date for the album release party at Make-Out Room on September 29, which will also celebrate Cool As Fuck’s 10-year anniversary.
Stay informed on all Seablite things here.
SPELLLING AT CHILDRENS FAIRYLAND, SEPTEMBER 16
Whenever Chrystia Cabral, who records under the moniker SPELLLING, decides to release an album, EP, encyclopedia, or Italian restaurant menu, pay attention. She always delivers a fastball full of various sounds, influences, and textures that make you feel like you’ve time-traveled. As to where? Well, that depends on what day of the week it is.
Her newest album SPELLLING & The Mystery School is comprised of richly envisioned new versions of songs from throughout her critically acclaimed discography, as per its liner notes. These songs may have been written earlier, but this is a living, breathing new record that challenges listeners and takes them on a prog-rock, synthy ’80s, time-tripping fever dream.
And she’s performing at Fairyland in Oakland to boot? This Bay Area experimental pop-intellect refuses to stop exploring, and we are the beneficiaries of her ongoing study. SPELLLING & The Mystery School is sold out on Bandcamp, so hit up a record store with the other mouth-breathing music lovers.
Get your tickets for the show here.
JONI MITCHELL, ARCHIVES VOL. 3: THE ASYLUM YEARS (1972-1975) (RHINO)
Affairs of the heart are always a coin’s flip away from disaster. Love, like “funk,” is a four-letter word. But where one of those two will save your life, love will kill you.
The Hissing of Summer Lawns is a masterpiece of a 1975 album from the master of reviewing choices, perspectives, and faulty gender roles—the sequencing alone … you can hear the inspiration behind Q-Tip and Prince stealing their ideas from Mitchell.
Joni made the coolest and slickest-sounding jazz-rock arrangements of the ’70s. She also had The Crusaders, four members of Tom Scott’s L.A. Express, David Crosby, Graham Nash, and most of LA’s finest session musicians (including unnamed Steely Dan members) on her call sheet. All it took was a phone call to get them to come in and play.
She had it like that.
“Edith and The Kingpin” is so dewy, awash in Laurel Canyon bliss, while its lyrics speak of a different neighborhood. So many stories, teaching moments abound, just head-nodding about. These gentle alerts come with a sonic groove—maybe you miss the warning signs the first couple of times, but they are there. Take heed of the heart of the record, “Harry’s House/Centerpiece,” which time-shifts from what once was into the now, an era that just wasn’t quite doing it for our female protagonist.
The song is so talky and prosaic that it went over most white male rock critics’ heads when it was released in ’75. It was later reappraised and hailed by a different generation of diverse music critics as Mitchell’s best work. Funny how that keeps happening.
The album was another one of my classic vinyl purchases at Thrifttown in the ’90s for about a buck. It stayed with me longer than the so-called “hot” records on which I spent 20 times more, and was done with quicker than a Mission Street burrito.
Outtakes and special versions of these songs are on Archives, Vol. 3: The Asylum Years (1972-1975), which is out October 6 via Rhino. The collection also features early demos and alternate versions of tracks from the sessions for 1972’s For the Roses and 1974’s Court and Spark; several live recordings, including a 1972 performance at Carnegie Hall; and tracks from sessions with James Taylor, Graham Nash, and Neil Young.
As Joni Mitchell turns 80 this year, it’s only prudent she be hailed as the American Master that she is.
TALKING HEADS Q&A MODERATED BY SPIKE LEE AT THE TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL, SEPTEMBER 11
David Byrne has been on an apology world tour this summer, regarding the way he broke up the Talking Heads back in the day. Chris Franz, Tina Weymouth, and Jerry Harrison found out that the band was over through an interview they read in the Los Angeles Times.
The wounds may have been reopened as the 40th anniversary approaches of the iconic concert film Stop Making Sense, on which the band collaborated with director Jonathan Demme. A24 will release a newly restored 4K version of the film on September 22. In conjunction with the film’s return to the big screen, band members will reunite for this special event. Although the band won’t perform, all four members of the classic lineup—David Byrne, Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz, and Jerry Harrison—will participate in a September 11 Q&A moderated by Spike Lee about the concert film at the Toronto International Film Festival, which runs from September 7-17.
That’s the “chef’s kiss” of what could be a really cold hot mess.
This performance was mentioned in the forward to Chris Franz’s book Remain In Love, which details his and wife Tina Weymouth’s early days in Talking Heads. Tom Tom Club, the critical and commercial off-shoot band created by Chris and Tina, performed “Wordy Rappinghood” and “Genius of Love” live on “Soul Train” on a December morning in Hollywood. It was a dream come true for the couple. They then rushed over to the Pantages Theater to shoot Stop Making Sense in the afternoon, along with Demme, Byrne, and the rest of the Talking Heads. That day’s expanded lineup included Parliament Funkadelic keyboardist Bernie Worrell and Brothers Johnson guitarist Alex Weir, among others. It’s Worrell’s psychedelic squelches from the keyboard, distilling sheets of funk-weird goodness, that elevate the alien comfort of Byrne’s big suit.
More info here.