I don’t know if we’ve discussed this before, so I’ll state it here, possibly again. Amoeba Music’s “What’s In My Bag” series is a wonderful metric that gives you that little something extra when trying to peek at bands and artists.
Beyond the obvious “do these suckers have good taste” immediate question clicking on the link.
The recent, as in last week, session with Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker of legendary Sleater-Kinney turns into almost 15 minutes of unexpected choices.
I’ll try not to ruin it, but let me say it involves Mark Knopfler, a white bathing suit, and Neil Young trying desperately to get out of an ’80s contract. And, oh yeah, big love for Bad Brains.
Finally, I get to understand, maybe y’all knew it but I didn’t, that Brownstein is naturally just that funny. Every day. “Portlandia” was not a stretch, more of a release.
But in the meantime, 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.
Maybe Niners, can we start Sunday by not giving KC 21 points off the top in the first half?
OK. Let’s go get it!
NUBYA GARCIA, “FORTIFY” (CONCORD JAZZ)
Mang. It’s been almost half a decade already since UK vanguard tenor sax player Nubya Garcia released her gangbusters debut full-length record Source. Sure, there have been remix projects, side-hustle loosies, and even a live album with Khruangbin (who don’t they record with, eh), but not a full banger of a project like before. Lucky for us, the leaves seem to be rustling.
She just put out a new song last week called “Fortify,” made with Daniel Casimir on double bass, Deschanel Gordon on keys, and Sam Jones on drums.
It feels classic and modern in that Nubya-centric way. That specific swirl of influence—Caribbean accents running through soul, dub, and a club music prism. Just the teeming bouillabaisse we needed.
The official word from Garcia: “This tune is about searching and seeking ways to protect and strengthen yourself within the disruption and chaos of life sometimes. It’s about working out what you are trying to protect in your worlds; about creating safe spaces and practices to let go of your stresses, and to elevate the joy within those spaces and practices.”
Pick it up here.
DJ HARRISON, “LIL BIRDIE”
Stones Throw Records, which was established in 1996 by “The Wolf”—Peanut Butter Wolf, a native of San Jose—releases music that he, the head of the label, likes. Not what he considers to be in style, trendy, or just safe. It’s developed its own distinct culture.
Post-punk, disco, hip-hop, and electronic music all fall under this umbrella genre that was created on sound rather than on superficial trends. The Wolf, aka Chris Manak, makes each release decision based on instinct. With its audacity and boldness, the label consistently unearths fresh and established artists that many companies would never consider.
Shades of Yesterday, the new covers album by DJ Harrison, a sought-after collaborator, two-time Grammy-nominated musician, and artist, is yet another spectral find by the imprint. Playing in the funk-jazz fusion outfit Butcher Brown and collaborating with Pink Siifuu amongst other artists, Harrison, who calls Richmond, Virginia his home, is one helluva talent who follows his mind, not trends. Shades of Yesterday includes a Donald Fagen cover, I believe a cover of the Stevie Wonder fusion masterpiece “Contusion,” and the funky animated all-timer “Little Birdie” originally done by Vince Guaraldi. WHEW, this is gonna be a special record.
Order it here.
ASHA WELLS, “THE CAROUSEL”
Oakland artist Asha Wells conjures up poignant lyrics that are delivered and sung with haunting, subdued intonations. You will also be captivated by their straightforward yet non-confrontational songwriting, as seen in the lyrics: “I put all of my coins in the carousel / I’m not sure if you’re coming back or if you’re here still,” in the arrangement titled “The Carousel,” which explores the question “what are we doing here.”
Wells’ music resides somewhere between twang-infused folk and mellowed-out experimental pop, carving out a space that is both unfamiliar and recognizable within relationships where someone must take charge.
KAHIL EL’ZABAR’S ETHNIC HERITAGE ENSEMBLE AT BIRD & BECKETT, FEBRUARY 28
This February, Kahil El’Zabar’s Ethnic Heritage Ensemble — El’Zabar (vocals/percussion), Alex Harding (bass), and Corey Wilkes (trumpet) — will embark on their 50th annual February North American Tour in honor of Black History Month. It will be in support of their Open Me, A Higher Consciousness of Sound and Spirit release, out March 8 on Spiritmuse Records.
Back in December, we noted that they will be performing at The Chapel on February 26. That remains accurate. But we are overjoyed that such a historic trio will be performing at Bird & Beckett Books & Records, a bedrock, communal space, and legacy business in The City of San Francisco. Mark your calendar for this historic night. More info here.
DANDEE, ROZ (KOMOS RECORDS)
The Komos imprint, straight out of Paris, is a jazz label that resides at the historic Studio Pigalle in the 9th Arrondissement. The band Dandee, a lovely swirling outfit, makes house music forged by live instrumentation. That combination of on-the-fly funk, the energetic vocals of Galawesh Héril, and a pulsating center in the arrangements is a throwback of sorts. What some choose to make on a computer, Dandee floodlights with instruments, sweat, and in-the-moment WTF energy from a live audience. Those good vibes, that type of heartbeat, you can’t replicate with AI technology. These 4 friends formed the band for a club residency at Les Disquaires in Paris on Thursday nights in Spring 2023, and in return found organic house music with “Superpowers”, the stuff that makes dance music human.
Pick it up here.