(with Andy Shauf) 7 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 4, at Starline Social Club. $20; starlinesocialclub.com
Raised by a devout Baptist family in rural southern Illinois, rising singer-songwriter Sarah Beth Tomberlin turned to music at a young age as a place to reflect on faith and identity. Songwriting allowed Tomberlin to grapple with the moral dilemmas she could not otherwise articulate during her teens and early 20s, which resulted in her stunning debut album, At Weddings, released in August. It’s an intimate, emotionally sweeping diary of atmospheric folk, exploring complex religious themes and subtly revealing peeks inside one’s hidden vulnerabilities in a head-on manner that’s rare on an artist’s debut, evoking similar emotions one would feel with early Sufjan Stevens material. “Self-Help” best exemplifies the album’s beautifully haunting atmosphere, as Tomberlin’s angelic voice rings amid a background of wailing, effects-laden guitars. Even through the album’s darkest moments, there is a light breeze of optimism and empowerment that is felt, succinctly summed up in the closing lines of “Seventeen,” when Tomberlin sings, “You always say that I look so tough / But it’s because I’m tough.”
Vancouver Sleep Clinic
(with KASBO) 6 p.m., Friday, Nov. 30, at Mezzanine. $30; mezzaninesf.com
Vancouver Sleep Clinic, contrary to its moniker, is actually the brainchild of Australia’s Tim Bettinson, whose brand of cinematic R&B makes him unique among rising singer-producers today. The 22-year-old grew up influenced by his father’s Fleetwood Mac and Eagles records, but it was his self-discovery of artists like Bon Iver and Sigur Rós that inspired Bettinson to write his own music, and those influences helped shape Vancouver Sleep Clinic’s ethereal and at-times cinematic style. The 2014 debut EP Winter introduced listeners to Bettinson’s keen sense of emotional resonance, between his soundscapes and a shining falsetto that eases the sense of heartbreak heard in his lyricism. Winter’s success led Vancouver Sleep Clinic to collaborate with the likes of ZHU and Madeon, and in 2017, Bettinson released his debut studio album, Revival, which explores similar themes heard on Winter only with grander production and anthemic pop tendencies. October saw the release of Bettinson’s third EP Therapy Phase 02, the second iteration of a multi-part project that started with March’s Therapy Phase 01, and hears Bettinson exorcising personal demons in what is his most optimistic and forward-thinking work to date.
Jay Som & Justus Proffit
8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 30, at Starline Social Club. $14; starlinesocialclub.com
The Bay Area’s own rapidly ascending singer-songwriter Jay Som, born Melina Duterte, wowed the music world last year with her acclaimed sophomore album, Everybody Works, although she has not had much of a chance to catch a break with her highly in-demand tour schedule. Yet Duterte had a chance to regroup creatively in her new home of Los Angeles. Upon meeting and briefly jamming with fellow musician Justus Proffit, the two quickly discovered a musical chemistry and decided to capitalize on this creative energy, recording new material together that eventually turned into their collaborative EP Nothing’s Changed, which was released in September via Polyvinyl. The EP has a warm, lo-fi aesthetic coupled with power-pop melodies and jangly guitars, reminiscent of Elliott Smith’s knack for exposing beautiful melancholy between the cracks of the song’s surface. The duo challenge each other’s comfort zones on each song, which works in the EP’s favor, as Duterte and Proffit complement each other in unexpected ways.