This week, our music critics have picked everything from poet-turned-rapper Noname to the paranormal mini music festival Look Up Fest: Underwater to Umphrey's McGee. Follow the links below for ticket links and music clips for all of their picks, and find even more shows on our complete music calendar. Plus, check out arts arts critics' picks for the 58 best things to do this week.
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Albert Castiglia describes his latest album Up All Night simply as "heavy." If you're in the mood to feel like the sexy, brooding lead character in a bluesy bar scene, or if you just have an appreciation for seasoned jammers doing what they do best, you'll be satisfied.
Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio
Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio: Definitely old-school Hammond B-3 funk! Rediscover the world through the surprisingly varied palette offered by the grand machine itself, complete with its gently psychedelic rotating Leslie speakers. ANDREW HAMLIN
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Ladysmith Black Mambazo have a whole bunch of guys singing bass. That’s the secret to their success. Okay, Paul Simon “found” them, and that’s been the secret to their success in what we loosely term “the West.” By 1986, though, when Ladysmith Black Mambazo recorded and performed with Simon, they already had more than 20 albums in their native South Africa. Now they have more than 50 albums. They never stop touring, and they’ve outlasted the racist apartheid system under which the older members grew up. They’re still ambassadors to South African culture. And they make people happy—boldly, unironically, and enthusiastically. I just finished hearing more terrible news about you-know-who, ugh. We need happy like we need fucking food and air right now. Respect. ANDREW HAMLIN
Marissa Nadler, Hilary Woods
While she kept it low-key, Marissa Nadler was one of the more interesting and unpredictable of the Pitchfork-approved “freak-folk” artists. While Joanna Newsom tried to weaponize her rasp and Andrew Bird tried to make everything he touched sound like a Disney soundtrack, Nadler collaborated with black-metal artist Xasthur and mined some deep pathos for her songs. JOSEPH SCHAFER
Billy Idol & Steve Stevens
Relive the best punk-made-pop of the '80s with Billy Idol and Steve Stevens as they tear through classics like "Dancing With Myself," "White Wedding," "Rebel Yell," "Mony Mony," "Eyes Without A Face," and "Flesh For Fantasy."
Ceramic Animal, Spendtime Palace
Ceramic Animal is a young band (their first album dropped in 2016) that pushes psychedelic indie rock with synthy-sci fi vibes and a weirdo soulfulness as creatively driven by Philly area Regan brothers Warren (vox/guitar), Elliott (keys/vox), and Erik (drums); I hear subtle post-Beatles George Harrison and Pink Floyd influences along with the more modern flavors—fast-paced post-punk revival à la Arctic Monkeys. Apparently they wear full “handsome boy” suits on stage. Costa Mesa-spawned tourmates Spendtime Palace have a looser, laid-back indie trip-rock feel, their headiness more Zombies-informed and twangy roots rock-hinting. Their video for the dramatic, well-charged “Sonora” stars Stranger Things actor Finn Wolfhard and Iris (daughter of Judd) Apatow. It’s very good stuff. LEILANI POLK
The Monochrome Set, The Purrs
For a certain strain of Anglophile, the Monochrome Set should’ve been at least as big as the Smiths—but they didn’t even achieve the modest heights of Orange Juice, whom they somewhat resembled. The Monochrome Set surfaced 41 years ago, and instantly proved their mettle with intelligently written and composed songs replete with tart, jangly guitars, twitchy yet elegant rhythms, and a fey, arch vocalist (the Indian-born Bid) whose voice went down easier and moped less melodramatically than Morrissey’s. A box set of the group’s initial six-year burst of creativity, 1979-1985: Complete Recordings, dropped this month, but the Monochrome Set have sporadically continued making suave, literate rock up to the present. They’ll likely bestow a career-highlight reel for this Seattle debut. Here’s hoping they include the brilliant anomaly, “Viva Death Row.” DAVE SEGAL
Neal Morse Band
Legendary Angeleno prog-rocker Neal Morse has revamped and regathered his band for a night of power-psych exploration.
Empress Of, Salt Cathedral
It was on the fourth listen that a lyric made me pause: "I feel like I'm on the outside looking in / When I'm with him." And then another: "I don't know how to love now, I pretend / When I'm with him." An out-of-love song unspooled before me. I'd mistaken entrapment for care. The music of Los Angeles-based producer-musician Lorely Rodriguez, aka Empress Of, does this expertly, this balancing of the light and heavy. A first-generation Honduran-American, Rodriguez seamlessly weaves together lyrics in both English and Spanish, the two languages nimble in their own respective ways, one supporting the song when the other can't. In "Trust Me Baby," her notes scrape great heights and settle back down into a near sing-talk rhythm, darting in and out of Spanish: "Confía en mí / Trust me baby." On her latest record, Us, the beats are eminently danceable. Synth-driven melodies are airy and bright and remind me of that favorite spot on the back of my neck where the sun hits just so. The production often includes dense, wonky, pulsating percussion that can be felt in your body and makes you want to move. Don't believe me? Turn on "Just the Same." JASMYNE KEIMIG
Julia Holter, Tess Roby
Julia Holter’s 12-year career has been an ambitious attempt to meld conservatory-bred compositional techniques with pop music’s concessions to hummable melodies, while sneaking allusive, literary lyrics into the mix. The plan’s working well so far, helped in part by Holter’s poised, expressive singing that nonetheless retains an enigmatic patina. You sense there may be a few Kate Bush records in Holter’s collection, but she tempers the vocal theatrics, maintaining a passionate yet moderate art-history-professor delivery, like Laurie Anderson with more range. Holter will be touring with a six-piece band to support her latest album, Aviary, a gorgeous, chamber-orchestral opus that she describes as an exploration of “the cacophony of the mind in a melting world.” Relatable! DAVE SEGAL
Parcels, Penthouse Boys
The Australian-bred, Berlin-based Parcels trade almost exclusively in nostalgia. Nostalgia specifically for ’70s-era soft rock. Not only do they dress the part, but they sound like it, too. With a story forged in the annals of music history (their 2017 single “Overnight” was produced by the elusive Daft Punk), their music recalls both the sweaty German electro dancefloor and the discotheques of the days of yore. Though a fair chunk of their 2018 self-titled debut sounds like groovy filler, their records are anchored by catchy, danceable singles. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Herb Alpert and Lani Hall
Wild trumpeter Herb Alpert will play his legendary brass for three nights of hits from his classic album Whipped Cream & Other Delights and later projects for an evening of Latin-inspired instrumental jazz and pop, with retro tracks and '60s soundtrack notes, and support from his wife, Grammy-winning vocalist Lani Hall.
The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs
Contemporary opera probably isn't the most intuitive delivery system for the life story of the CEO of the world's largest tech company, but in some ways it kinda makes sense. Jobs was a major mythical figure for geeks, a reportedly tyrannical boss who basically wore a costume all the time, and a literary enthusiast! Regardless, the opera, which was written by Mason Bates and librettist Mark Campbell, has been getting great reviews since its premiere in Santa Fe last year, thanks largely to its state-of-the-art, "visually stunning" projection sequences. RICH SMITH
No performance on Thursday
Laura Veirs, Brenda Xu
Portland singer-songwriter Laura Veirs sits most comfortably in the indie-folk camp, but her songs' breezy, forward movement suggests her appreciation for good old four-four pop. She'll come to Seattle in support of her latest album, The Lookout, after an opening set from Seattle's Brenda Xu.
Action Bronson, Roc Marciano, Meyhem Lauren
Action Bronson's towering concoctions, whether they're meals or songs, only seem over-the-top once he tells you so. The best part of his music isn't necessarily what he says as much as how he says it. You can pick any Bronson song and find some of his favorite references: '80s wrestlers, '90s athletes, his hometown of Queens, New York, and yes, food, all expertly arranged and distorted. JACKSON HATHORN
Action Potential Presents Alex Zhang Hungtai
Under the alias Dirty Beaches, Taiwan-born musician Alex Zhang Hungtai approximated the murky menace and lo-fi minimalism of synth-punk innovators Suicide, but with muted jitteriness. If you’re a sucker for anything remotely sounding like Alan Vega and Martin Rev, you’ll dig. Now under his own name, AZH has transitioned into improv, free jazz, and experimentation, both on his own and with Portuguese musicians David Maranha and Gabriel Ferrandini. Hungtai’s latest solo release, Divine Weight, spawned from saxophone compositions gone awry, which he then contoured into eerie drones of spectral beauty. Listening to it, you can understand how AZH is making inroads into the soundtrack world. DAVE SEGAL
With his Indian classical roots, singer-songwriter/producer Sid Sriram blends spirited pop and soul with lilting ambient sounds. His voice sounds kind of like a perfectly-tuned piano.
Dolphin Midwives, Josh Medina, mmuumm, Crystal Quartez
A four-act bill is usually cause for concern, but the artists here deserve your reluctant patience. Portland dreamweaver Dolphin Midwives is becoming one of America’s most interesting harpists. Her latest album, Liminal Garden (Beacon Sound), finds her electronically processing glistening strums into otherworldly tonalities and gleaming glitches while singing like an angelic ice queen. Josh Medina’s best known for his intriguing folk- and rock-guitar peregrinations in the groups Medina/Walsh and somesurprises; this will be a rare solo set from him, and it could get Fripp-y. Mmuumm (aka Seattle musician/vocalist Brit Ruggirello) generates hypnogogic hums and hymns via warped loops and treated vocal wisps. Crystal Quartez creates placid, enigmatic soundscapes that suggest an underworld paradise. DAVE SEGAL
Moon Hooch are a Brooklyn trio with a rather distinctive instrumental lineup and a sound that they’ve dubbed “cave music,” like house music but “more wild, more jagged, more free, more natural to live in.” (There are also some post-jazz, alt-rock, and indietronic influences in there, too.) James Muschler keeps the driving, mostly danceable beats steady while his bandmates juggle horns, trading off on experimental support and John Zorn–like solos. Mike Wilbur (tenor sax, synths, occasional vocals) and Wenzl McGowen (tenor and baritone sax, contrabass clarinet, tubes, electronic wind instrument synthesizer) are pretty epic showman, too; they don’t just play, they writhe and rage across the stage, and have a knack for wringing unrecognizable noises from their respective instruments. LEILANI POLK
Cherry Glazerr, Palehound
I first encountered Cherry Glazerr during my sophomore year of college. My best friend had to create a portrait of herself for an on-campus job she was applying to. She made a webpage composed of a picture of her with her tongue out and a cheesy sandwich gif, with Cherry Glazerr’s melty, punky, fuzzy “Grilled Cheese” playing in the background. It was internet art as fuck. The Los Angeles band just dropped their third album, Stuffed & Ready, which has a darker, angrier sound than past efforts. They’ve got a chip on their shoulder and are looking for a fight—indulge them. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Joshua Bell — Mendelssohn Violin Concerto
Renowned violinist Joshua Bell will perform Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto and Haydn’s Symphony No. 102 with the understated skill accumulated throughout his 30-plus-year career as a soloist, chamber musician, recording artist, and conductor.
At the Showbox, the hook-laden British dance-pop group Jungle will bless their dedicated fan base with more exotic-hypnotic soul than this city is used to. The smooth and lean athleticism of their enjoyable 2014 eponymous debut combines Massive Attack’s warped perceptions, D’Angelo’s seduction, and Hot Chip’s dance-floor charm to keep your heart full and legs limber to jogger-friendly tempos. The common thread is a retro-UK-groove that keeps the songs moving to motivational, ecstatic heights, while inlayed textures and stylistic treatments keep them interesting and moving forward. Catch the fever. TRAVIS RITTER
It's prom all over again, this time with significantly more roller skates, ice cream, butts, and live bands. Wear something bedazzled and twirl around to live sets on the mainstage by Portland's Rain Cult, groove-punks Dead Obvious, ambient bedroom rockers Power Strip, dark synth-pop artist Beatrix Sky, dream-pop darlings Sundae Crush, surf-rockers Baywitch, and pop-punks Rat Queen. Over at the bar stage, find Velvet Q, Tourist Activities, and Sweet Creature.
Spirit Award, Sloucher, Oliver Elf Army
A triple header of high-quality local bands, as led by the darkly driving post-punk and old wave-charged music makers of Spirit Award, from the low-key grooves of songs like “Wasting Time,” to the heady echoing Bunnymen appeal of “Seven Sisters,” both off fine 2018 sophomore LP, Muted Crowd. Sloucher has that indie rock grunginess that only a Seattle-bred band can do just right. And Everett’s Oliver Elf Army plies self-styled “sinister pop” with plenty of post-punk jangle and garage punchiness and some sugary femme vocals from drummer Mary Adams. LEILANI POLK
Lit Jam: A Night of Words & Music
Most fusions of music and poetry are, um, bad. Especially when they involve a jazz flute. But this ensemble of writerly musicians is an exception, mostly because it includes the poet Gary Copeland Lilley. Lilley plays a fine blues guitar and writes incredibly vivid narrative poetry so rhythmic, you can tap your foot to it. Kim Addonizio, a conversational poet who writes a lot of good poems about sex and the body, leads the band on vox, blues harmonica, and jazz flute. Crack Seattle journalist and novelist Kristen Millares Young will add her considerable vocal talents, along with Spokane novelist Sam Ligon on guitar and Kate Lebo on cowbell. RICH SMITH
Denim & Diamonds
Join members of Tacocat and Votiv for a night of line-dancing and honky tonkin'. Go all out with your outfit for the chance to win a prize.
Oh boy—Neumos is doing a hyphy night? "Tell Me When to Go," sort of the mainstream-hit-that-was-the-death-knell of what is commonly thought of as the hyphy movement, did come out over a decade ago. It used to be 20 years before the generational nostalgia cash-in started, but seeing as we passed the event horizon of this black-hole-to-hell-itself some time ago, everything is strictly get-it-while-you-can. Now, I tend to think of hyphy less as a particular slice of time and set of songs than an evolving dimension of the Bay Area rap scene, one known for fierce innovation and trendsetting originality. Something tells me that this is going to be more of a Bay Area rap night rather than an exclusively stunna-shaded, cereal-mascot-tee'd-up hyphy night. Which is great, because the Yay has created one of the world's all-time greatest musical subcultures, from Short to HBK. (Play some fucking Turf Talk!) Just, please, no G-Eazy. Have some fuckin' respect. LARRY MIZELL JR.
ManDate, Matriarch, Deep Creep
Seattle post-punk band ManDate (who count Torrey Pines director Clyde Petersen among its three members) will break its three-year hiatus with an album release show. Don't miss a chance to dance around with these local celebs, plus punk quartet Matriarch and rockers Deep Creep.
The Chills, Cotillon, Greenwave Beth
This show will quench a long-unslaked thirst among area Kiwi-philes for a Chills live appearance. Many such fans wore out the New Zealand rock group’s Kaleidoscope World comp of early singles and EP cuts, a perfect crystallization of the ’80s Flying Nun Records sound: understated vocals, refulgent keyboards, jangly guitars, moods that, no matter how jubilant, always retained traces of melancholy, and melodies that insinuated themselves with the salutary pressure of a new lover’s first kiss. It’s some of the greatest music ever, especially “Pink Frost,” which never fails to induce… chills. Led by guitarist/vocalist and sole constant Martin Phillipps, the Chills have gone on to release dozens of albums, EPs, and singles that refine that trademark sublime sound. It’s a damning indictment that only one Chills song—the aptly titled “Heavenly Pop Hit”—has punctured America’s obtuse consciousness in the band’s 39 years. No matter. After a 19-year hiatus, the Chills are now touring behind 2018’s gleaming Snow Bound. Phillipps remains the consummate songsmith, his tunes as emotionally resonant as ever. DAVE SEGAL
JD Souther, Lizzie Weber
JD Souther’s name probably won’t be recognized by anyone younger than 40, but to many of y’all older folks, his songs are well-known. See, he’s a country/soft-rock singer-songwriter notable for writing a handful of your FAVORITE Eagles songs, he once partnered with Buffalo Springfield’s Richie Furay and the Byrds’ Chris Hillman as the Souther Hillman Furay Band, and he produced/wrote songs for Linda Ronstadt. So, like, yeah, he’s kind of a big deal. BUT if them deets don’t ring any bells, you might recognize him via his appearances on TV’s Nashville! MIKE NIPPER
Jukebox The Ghost, The Mowgli's
Dance to vibrant, bombastic piano pop with D.C. trio Jukebox the Ghost as they pass through Seattle on their Making Friends Tour. They'll be joined by Los Angeles indie-folk band the Mowgli's.
Look Up Fest: Underwater
For a long evening of "high strangeness," this paranormal mini music festival and art exhibition will feature local psychedelic dream and electro-pop bands, plenty of beer on tap, and multimedia art displays inspired by aquatic paranormal encounters, with lighting installations by Blazinspace.
Umphrey's McGee, Ghost-Note
Umphrey’s McGee purvey a heady, percussive-fleshed synthesis of jazz, funk, electro, metal, prog, and rock informed by both classic and modern influences, and salted with reggae, yacht-rock, pop, and blues. They also have a way of genre-jumping from one song to the next, or multiple times within the same song, while still remaining tight and focused. These guys don’t “jam,” but practice calculated improvisation, with pre-determined key changes and a series of hand gestures and signals they employ while on stage to communicate their next move. This is the sort of band that’s as likely to play covers of Talking Heads or Radiohead as King Crimson or Frank Zappa in a two-set show (they also do cover mash-ups), and though they’re 11 LPs deep—the latest is it’s not us—you must experience the Chicago sextet live to appreciate their full awe factor. LEILANI POLK
Noname artfully blends rap, R&B, and jazz in a clever and engaging way. The poet-turned-rapper, who reps Chicago and is associated with Chance the Rapper, steals the spotlight on whatever song she’s on. Her voice is effervescent (when I close my eyes and think of it right now, I just taste the strongest, bubbliest of soda), and her cadence is quick. Debut album Room 25 is a document of her move from the Windy City to Los Angeles, a mellow meditation on growing up and into yourself. JASMYNE KEIMIG
An ambient R&B-fused electronic artist from England who’s broken into the mainstream in the past few years via collabs with big name artists like Kendrick Lamar (“ELEMENT” off DAMN.), Vince Staples (“Stop Trying to Be God” and “War Ready” included), and Beyoncé (he wrote the lyrics and sang on Lemonade’s “Forward”), among many others. His fourth and latest, this year’s Assume Form, features his delicately velvety, finely-spun falsetto both solo and soulfully paired with guests that include Scott, Andre 3000, and Moses Sumney. LEILANI POLK