It’s Under The Stars, babe. A quasi-weekly column that presents new music releases, upcoming shows, opinions, and other adjacent items. We keep moving with the changes and thinking outside the margins.
Gobble gobble. Let’s go!
L’RAIN AT BOTTOM OF THE HILL, DECEMBER 2
When multi-instrumentalist L’Rain, also known as Taja Cheek, played at Outside Lands a couple of years ago in an early time slot (like 12:55pm, I believe), it was evident that the crowd who had gathered for her performance was not “her audience.” Let me be clear, these younglings, dressed in attire that would soon be shed, and under the influence of whatever substances were available within the commercial checkpoints, were very polite. But they were not connecting with L’Rain.
Cheek gazed deeply into this crowd while performing songs from her 2017 debut eponymous album and her last release from 2021, Fatigue. She was aware that these younglings were passing time in eager anticipation for the headlining act that would involve crowd surfing, whoever that may be.
As she returns to the Bay for a show on December 2 at Bottom of The Hill, she will be performing selections from the astonishing album I Killed Your Dog, released earlier this year.
Described by Cheek as an “anti-break-up” record, it combines elements of indie rock, dream pop, and neo-soul, all while speaking to her younger self. It’s received critical acclaim, making its way onto many “best of 2023” lists. Even King Britt heavily co-signed—and when that dood endorses a project, it’s worth listening to. Although it may not be an easy record to fully grasp on the first listen, its cohesion between different moods, attention to detail, and the artist’s ability to confidently pursue her unique vision is truly remarkable. I highly recommend attending this show, and I can guarantee that there will be no naked crowd surfing.
NICK ANDRE AND JOYO VELARDE, “FEVER DREAM” EP (BASTARD JAZZ RECORDINGS)
Bay Area creatives Nick Andre and Joyo Velarde met while coordinating projects, and teamed up through an introduction made by a Bay Area legend. Today, they stay in demand. Upcoming EP “Fever Dream” is the result of their connection. Set to be released on Bastard Jazz Records, its first single “Blur The Lines” showcases the pair’s unique talent for creating distinctive arrangements that embody the Bay’s inventiveness, with a concurrent sonic underwater R&B vibe.
The duo were initially introduced by dear mutual friend Timothy Parker, also known as Gift Of Gab from Blackalicious, during the production of his album Finding Inspiration Somehow, which was produced by Andre. Gab invited Velarde to contribute vocals to his track “Enter The Dragon.” Following this collaboration, Velarde and Andre stayed in touch and began exchanging tracks, eventually leading to the creation of “Fever Dream.” As evident from the lead track, this work in progress, works.
Joyo and Nick have dedicated this EP to the memory of Parker—without him, this record would have never existed.
Pick up the EP here.
LAETITIA SADIER AT THE CHAPEL, MARCH 2
As if we didn’t have enough to celebrate in the winter/spring quarter of 2024, word is that Laetitia Sadier, co-founder and singer for the legendary band Stereolab, will release her new album Rooting For Love on February 23 via Drag City, her first since 2016’s Find Me Finding You. This show is part of the 2024 edition of Noise Pop, along with her performance at The Chapel on March 2. Talk about a multitude of blessings for the Bay Area! Christmas just came early.
MAHAWAN, “EGO DEATH” (MOLLY HOUSE RECORDS)
Ramping with a string of winter singles for their long-awaited follow-up EP “Hot Pressed,” slated to drop in late February of 2024, Oakland Afrofuturist Mahawam returns with the piercing clarion of word-owning “Ego-Death.” This cut-no-corners single features aggressive verb play built for a tough love ride of self-reflection while 808s, whistles, and trap mechanics provide that bed of surging earnestness—until the final word, “Jesus,” escapes like air fleeing an overpumped tire.
Umm, jeah. Mahawam is back.
Pick it up here.
PEGGY GOU AND LENNY KRAVITZ, “I BELIEVE IN LOVE AGAIN” (XL RECORDINGS)
Peggy Gou is methodical with a capital M, yet still very punk rock. As the first South Korean woman to DJ at Berlin’s techno institution Berghain, record in the !K7’s DJ-Kicks series, and play over 200 shows in 2018 alone— all by the age of 28—she’s clearly putting serious thought behind every execution. Her DJ-Kicks mix began with “Fluorescence,” a chill declaration from 1993 by Spacetime Continuum, also known around these parts as The Gawd, Jonah Sharp.
As for her collaboration with Lenny? I get it. Her four million fans on Instagram, the advert campaigns, the Paris Fashion Week exploits … essentially all forms of “Gou-mania.” And the music? None too bad.
There is a pitched-down “Show Me Love” melody to it, with Lenny blowing in that recognizable higher register. It’s athleisure-house, if you will. Cool, dope, and kinda cheesy. Low pressure cardio. Perfect for that Sunday brunch get-down in The Mission where those Ray-Bans stayed glued to your front plate until Monday morning espresso time.
I root for Gou. She brought swag to Berlin, breaking down walls, and making her way amongst a throng of doods who looked and sounded like Dieter.
You can enjoy her easy-clubbing manifesto by purchasing it here.