If concept albums are a dicey proposition in the age of digital singles, then a thematic mini-rock opera built from cover tunes may seem the height of commercial folly. Try telling that to Rare Futures & Gavin Castleton when they team up to perform FutureCastle at Soda Bar on May 20. Castleton, best known as keyboardist/backing vocalist for the Dear Hunter, is no stranger to oddball covers and comedy rock (his 2016 EP The Punchline includes a song about President Trump being hunted by the Predator). For FutureCastle, he’s backed by alt-rockers Rare Futures (formerly known as Happy Body Slow Brain) for reinterpretations of songs by Sade, Chicago, Hall and Oats, and Tears for Fears, mashed into a space-age boudoir-themed narrative. Think Rush’s 2112 as if performed by Chumbawamba.
Australian quartet San Cisco cites Flaming Lips and Vampire Weekend as main influences, but their reliance on keyboards (sometimes played by three of the four members at once) can sometimes make them sound like Kraftwerk with a backbeat. They’re coming to the Irenic on August 30 with a new album, The Water, which shows marked growth, both musically and thematically, since their down-under debut as the teen-angst mongers behind “Awkward,” a track that got them branded by some as the Australian Blink-182. The first single from the new LP “SloMo” includes a flipside called “B Side” that shows traces of soul, disco, and hip-hop, albeit from a couple of decades back. Must sound new to the vegemite munchers, though, seeing as how the number-three album on the ARIA/Australian Recording Industry Association chart right now is a tribute to mid-20th-century crooner Mario Lanza.
When Against Me! and Bleached play Observatory North Park on September 16, opening act the Dirty Nil will be trying hard to convince you that they’re not really a punk band. The Canadian trio debuted with their Higher Power album early last year on the mostly-punk Fat Wreck Chords label, though all they knew about owner Fat Mike of NOFX was that he did music for a Tony Hawk game. However, the Dirty Nil seems to have won over a lot of converts and emerged unscathed from the last Warped Tour, where fakers are regularly pelted with unspeakable debris. Florida’s Against Me! will be plugging a new album, Shape Shift with Me, while L.A. pop-punkers Bleached will be hoping to wring a few more downloads and merch sales from their 2016 full-length Welcome the Worms.
Jimmy Buffett surely doesn’t need alt-weekly press to bring the Parrotheads out to Mattress Firm on October 21, but this year does mark the 40th anniversary of his 1977 album Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes, which featured his signature track “Margaritaville.” Given the world premiere at the La Jolla Playhouse this month of a related stage play called Escape to Margaritaville, ours would seem a particularly Buffett-friendly city, and Mattress Firm would appear as good a place as any to absorb a couple-to-ten fruity drinks, some island earworms, and a late-afternoon suntan.
Straddling a dreamy (some would say sleepy) line somewhere between new age, jazz, and mildly flamenco-flavored Muzak, acoustic guitarist and ordained Zen monk Ottmar Liebert has been known to both enrage and enlighten listeners. Just the title of his 1990 debut Nouveau Flamenco (eventually a platinum seller) pissed off guitar legend Paco de Lucia enough to call it “a degeneration, a caricature” of actual flamenco music. Around 25 albums later, Liebert arrives at the Music Box on September 12 with his band Luna Negra, along with a catalog of music that has earned him nearly 40 additional gold and platinum certifications in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere. Not to mention countless spins on new-age radio stations and playlists with names like the Breeze, the Wave, the Sky, the Ocean, the Wind, Zen, Calm, Smooth, Waterfalls, Hearts of Space, and Quick Turn on Metallica Before You Fall Asleep and Drive Off a Cliff.
The penultimate date of modfather Paul Weller’s Autumn tour visits House of Blues on October 25, promoting his 13th solo full-length, A Kind Revolution, featuring contributions from Robert Wyatt and soul legend PP Arnold. The 59-year-old’s newest is yet another collaboration with mixer Jan “Stan” Kybert (Oasis, Björk, Massive Attack), who for several albums has added a welcome honing edge to Weller’s thick soulful singing and chord-y harmonic guitar. Weller originally made his mark with the Jam (1976–1982) and the Style Council (1983–1989), quickly becoming famous enough in his native England to be stalked by paparazzi, even suing one tabloid for publishing photos of his family. As he wraps up his monthlong tour, he could probably still walk around the Gaslamp Quarter sampling the bistros and be mistaken for a condo salesman or a boutique hotel clerk on a lunch break.
Frequently underdressed chart-topper Halsey will command most of the press attention in advance of her November 5 appearance at Viejas Arena, with a few nods to opening songstress Charli XCX, but what keeps the evening from being a total estrogen huff is the inclusion of Canadian rapper Jahron Anthony Brathwaite, aka PartyNextDoor. Though not well known in America, he has sterling songwriter cred as the writer of Rihanna’s hit “Work,” as well as collaborating with Drake (who signed Brathwaite to his OVO Sound label), Jeremih, Big Sean, and others. British singer and actress Charli XCX is expected to debut music from her upcoming third studio album, and headliner Halsey has already earned over 34 million Spotify streams for her newest track “Now or Never,” from her upcoming second full-length Hopeless Fountain Kingdom.
The lineup for Coronado’s Spreckels Park concert series, running through early September, mainly features local acts covering jazz (Gilbert Castellanos), soul (Sully & the Blue-Eyed Soul Band), standards (Marine Band San Diego), and the like. Even the one touring headliner, Asleep at the Wheel (coming up on June 4), has an area connection, with drummer David Sanger being a former resident of the land between the strand and the bridge. At this writing, their appearance is still a secret (Coronado’s website only says “Concerts in the Park celebrates the music of an accomplished Coronado native”), but the Wheelers let slip the news with their own website announcement, so best take your place on the grass as close to 3 p.m. on the fourth as you can. No lineups allowed earlier and, if you try to stake out a spot in advance with a blanket or cooler, “Unattended personal property in Spreckels Park may be removed.” Leave the pets, bottles, and ciggies at home, too. It’s a family concert, not a velvet painting of dogs playing poker.