Critics might mistake the vulnerability in Jaymes Young’s debut album Feel Something as fragile or melodramatic. This mistake is their loss. Feel Something merges alternative pop and dreamy neo-soul into an engaging, poignant record, one whose potent emotional expression is part of its strength, not weakness.
Young’s voice is emphatic and sincere, and his tender intonations create a sense of intimacy, as if he were singing directly into his listeners’ ears. Lush guitar and synth melodies accompany the vocals, enhancing the atmosphere of familiar closeness and pulling listeners into his brooding confessions. Young’s dark ballads often gravitate toward lyrical themes of unhealthy love, like in “Tied Down” or “We Won’t,” his popular and incredibly melancholy duet with Phoebe Ryan. However, in songs such as “Black Magic” and “Stoned on You,” Young ditches moody pessimism and experiments with songs about love’s exhilarating thrill.
Describing the inspiration for his music in a recent Billboard interview, Young says,“I think a lot of people, especially from the younger generations, are experiencing sort of a disconnect emotionally for whatever reason. I wanted to reach out to listeners and share the sentiment that people want to experience emotions no matter what those emotions are — the negative ones and the positive ones.” It is safe to say that with Feel Something, Jaymes Young has accomplished his goal of reaching out, sharing and connecting. AL
At 8 p.m., Thursday, July 13, at Rickshaw Stop. $15-$17; rickshawstop.com
Almost 30 years ago, high-school classmates Ahmir Thomson and Tariq Trotter — or, as they’re more commonly known today, Questlove and Black Thought — began performing hip-hop together. With Questlove on the drums and Black Thought rapping over the beats, the two found an audience on Philadelphia street corners and in high-school talent shows.
Fast-forward to present day, and Questlove and Black Thought’s project has grown into The Roots, the ensemble hip-hop act hailed for their award-winning, genre-defying albums, collaborations with artists such as Erykah Badu and John Legend, and most recently, their gig as the in-house band for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
Despite the band’s numerous commercial successes and years in the spotlight, it’s still a challenge to lock down The Roots’ sound into a single genre. Listeners hear “The Next Movement” — a song whose sincere promise of change is supplemented by crooning R&B vocals — and swear that The Roots are A Tribe Called Quest reincarnated. Other people listen to their version of “Who Tells Your Story,” a musical number from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, and celebrate the unlikely fusion of classic hip-hop with Broadway ballads. And still others hear “Come Together” — The Roots’ rap song sampling the Beatles’ song of the same name — and are flummoxed by the sound of John Lennon singing over Questlove’s bass-heavy beat. You’ll hear a little bit of everything in The Roots’ music — jazz, rap, funk, soul, and psychedelic rock — as they continue to push the boundaries of hip-hop artistry into new creative frontiers. AL
With W. Kamau Bell at 8 p.m., Friday, July 14, at the Fox Theater. $59.50-$79.50; thefoxoakland.com
Some artists prefer to separate the professional from the personal, keeping their private lives private, and their past lives in, well, the past. For Logic, that’s impossible. Throughout his five mixtapes and three studio album releases, his rap overflows with personal narration, covering everything from his parents’ struggle with crack addiction to his conflicted feelings as a half-Black, half-white man. That’s not to say that his music is solipsistic. Rather, the way Logic completely bares himself in his songs is what makes his music worth listening to, and what makes his latest album Everybody resonate as both Logic’s autobiography and his message to the world.
Like Logic’s previous albums, Everybody is a concept record intended to be listened to from start to finish. Skip any tracks, ignore certain interludes, and part of the narrative is lost. Everybody tells the story of a man named Adam who, at the beginning of the album, has just died. The album takes place in the afterlife, where Adam and God (who, oddly enough, is voiced by Neil deGrasse Tyson) discuss the struggle and beauty of human existence, before God sends Adam back to Earth to be reincarnated and start life all over again.
Admittedly, this fantastical, sci-fi premise may seem bizarre and alienating at first. However, the narrative allows Logic to explore questions that are universal to the human condition: Is God real? If so, why is there suffering, particularly suffering due to violent racial division? What does it mean to live a successful life, to be a good person? Logic, alternating between an aggressively fast flow and a restrained, more gentle delivery, ruminates on these topics over kicking beats and catchy but unadorned melodies. Though Logic does not explicitly answer the questions he raises, Everybody nevertheless guides listeners through their own journeys of personal identity and the larger human experience. AL
With Joey Bada$$ and Big Lenbo at 8 p.m., Saturday, July 15, and Sunday, July 16, at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. $53.50; billgrahamcivicauditorium.com
Hodor, the simple-minded, kind-hearted giant in Game of Thrones is probably the last character in the series you’d expect to be a DJ, but he is. Well, at least the six-foot 11-inch tall actor who plays him is, and has been for the last two decades. A longtime fixture and resident DJ at a gay club in Belfast called Kremlin, Kristian Nairn makes trancey, dance music laced with soulful female vocals and slow-building instrumentals. His tunes veer more toward soulful or progressive house, and have the same pulsing, chugging energy as other deep house artists like Shiba San or Kill Frenzy. In recent years, Nairn — who has never released an album — has amped up his musical endeavors, going on tour in the U.S. and Australia, and DJing larger events like video game conventions. He’s currently on “Rave of Thrones,” another U.S.-wide tour that oddly enough ends in Warszaw, Poland. Jessie Schiewe
At 9 p.m., Wednesday, July 19, at Mezzanine. $20-$25; mezzaninesf.com