Approaching the 10-year mark since its last album, Exotic Creatures of the Deep, Sparks has returned with Hippopotamus, a polished record smothered in satirical lyrics and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band-style piano. With a discography that spans more than 40 years, brothers Russell and Ron Mael continue to produce albums that do not diverge from rock-solid falsetto vocals paired with stealthy guitar and synthetic beats. What has also not deviated is the Charlie Chaplin meets Jim Morrison vibe that the band made popular during the era of Bowie and Morrissey. Sparks rose in the early ’70s with its hit “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us,” and never looked back. Accents of staccato-like piano accompanied by distorted electric guitar are sprinkled throughout tracks like “What the Hell Is It This Time?” and “Scandinavian Design.” The brothers bring back glam-rock on “I Wish You Were Fun,” which is more-or-less an anthem for anyone who’s downright tired of people sucking the life out of every situation. As Russell Mael remarks, “You know she’s from somewhere where / Authority ruled supreme / No would ever dream / Dream of just letting off some steam.” In other words, lighten up.
11:30 p.m., Friday Oct. 20, at The Chapel. $15-$30; thechapelsf.com
On A Seat at the Table, Solange Knowles does not deviate from her drive to create one of the most socially aware and sonically rich albums in recent memory. It serves as an ode to Black women everywhere, identifying the struggles of being female and African-American in the mid-2010s. Undoubtedly Solange’s most substantial record to date, she has her critics and fans in awe of her lyrical odysseys. Tracks like “Don’t Touch My Hair” and “Mad” showcase the tribulations of being Black and proud, eliminating the notion that Black culture is a “sideshow for white commentary, judgment, entertainment, or amusement.” The importance of self-expression and not allowing white people to minimize Black culture are most prominent on “Don’t Touch My Hair,” when Solange sings, “They don’t understand / What it means to me / Where we chose to go / Where we’ve been to know.” She not only addresses the problem, but weaves it with stripped down vocals and funky synthetic beats. Much as how Solange sings for a world of unregulated and liberated Black culture, this album itself is an embodiment of Black people breaking free from the chains of having to assimilate to the regulations of white culture — and Solange does it in the most necessary, beautiful fashion.
7:30 p.m., Friday Oct. 20, at The Greek Theatre. $35-$75; thegreekberkeley.com
Tash Sultana’s EP Notion speaks for itself in how topically tumultuous, yet instrumentally sexy it is. Six tracks make up the release — all of them methodically layered tunes of guitar, vocals, beats, and god-sent rhythm. Best-known for her hit “Jungle,” which consists of massive reverbed vocals looped with an insane guitar she often refers to as her “third arm,” the lyrically heavy track begins with, “I see the way you move / It’s so fluid / Be here by my side / Got nothing to hide,” and floats on with a meticulously curated instrumental that has captured the attention of rock fans everywhere. The Australia native has been selling out shows internationally, surprising herself with new-found notoriety. In a recent interview with Billboard, Sultana says, “I’m honestly confused where everyone knows me from,” she never expected to sell out shows in the U.S. on her first run here. A singer-songwriter who doubles as a multi-faceted musician — Sultana taught herself how to beatbox and live-loop her own tracks — she has taken the internet by storm. We are witnessing the beginning of a legacy for Tash Sultana.
9:00 p.m., Saturday Oct. 21, at The Fillmore. $25-$50; thefillmore.com