Love is blind

This past year and a half has felt like a new dawn for extreme vocal histrionics, as indie acts like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Spinto Band showcase frontmen tweaking and torturing their knotted throats with the precision of an evil Bond agent. Baltimore's Wilderness offers no less lyrical drama on its latest release, Vessel States, a tense record that holds razors to its wrists. Here gothic Joy Division textures map bleak post-punk terrain, over which singer James Johnson howls as if severe angst would be a welcome respite from the depths in which his haunted wail resonates. If you can stomach Johnson's artful pretensions, the music is thick with melodic goodness, even if the moods presented range only from gray to kohl black. Wilderness performs Thursday, April 27, at Bottom of the Hill at 9 p.m. Admission is $8; call 621-4455 or visit www.bottomofthehill.com for more info. Jennifer Maerz


Though most modern beats originate in Africa, rare is the artist who conveys the full body of the continent — its hypnotic bass lines, reggae-driven keyboards and horn sections, its emergent hip-hop scene, desert-inflected blues, mellowed-down Cape Verde and Ivory Coast soul, and infiltrations of Cape Town gospel. On Amadou & Mariam's vital 2005 release Dimanche Bamako, the essence of Afro pop has been redefined from droning regional dance lines to all-encompassing global rhythm. The duo, a blind married couple, is trained in Malian blues and folk, though its revolving sound has been fashioned by pilgrimages to France, Burkini Faso, and the Ivory Coast, where colonialism is historically thwarted by the entrancing power of dance music. Even more hypnotic is the group's live show — in hearing desert blues riffs trade with hip-hop songs like last year's "Sénégal Fast Food," one can appreciate the dexterous achievement of creating this language. It's the essence of centuries of Africa becoming a singular voice — and vision. Amadou & Mariam perform on Friday, April 28, at Bimbo's at 9 p.m. Admission is $25; call 474.0365 or visit www.bimbos365club.com for more info. Chris Coomey


Coming from an entirely different angle than 99 percent of the electroclash movement, Ladytron comprises four slick-sounding British sexbots, who lure partygoers onto the dance floor with crafty beats, compelling hooks, and aloof lyrics. Its debut record, 604, is one of the great dance hits of the '00s, while the latest and most sophisticated release, The Witching Hour, sees the group forging beyond its new-wave origins into the tomorrowland of the distant future. Singer Helen Marnie's vocals are both classy and ice-cold, never delving into camp or cheese. Ladytron should be dazzling on Friday, April 28, at Mezzanine at 9 p.m. Admission is $18; Call 625.8880 or visit www.mezzaninesf.com for more info. Adam Bregman


On The Sounds' 2002 debut, Living in America, they stood apart from fellow Swede sensations like The Hives and Sahara Hotnights by dousing punky guitar riffs with danceable synths, drawing countless comparisons to Blondie (as much for lead singer Maja Ivarsson's platinum-haired good looks as for the band's '80s pop radio vibe). Now with their just-released sophomore effort, Dying to Say This to You, the band has really nailed its aesthetic: catchy keyboard squiggles, a steady dancefloor thump, and decadent guitar underpinnings to counter Ivarsson's petulant woman-child vocals, sort of like Nena driving The Cars. The Sounds perform Monday, May 1, at Slim's at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $13-$15; call or visit www.slims-sf.com for more info.Michele Laudig

 
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