BRAZILIAN CHARMERSFronted by female Brazilian singer Juju Stulbach, who is backed by a pair of American dudes--singer/guitarist Chris Root and keyboardist/sampler Jon Marshall Smith--Mosquitos make a second local appearance this week in support of their second album, Sunshine Barato (Bar/None, 2004). The album's title is a co-mingling of English and Portuguese that means "cheap sunshine," and that should clue you in to what Mosquitos are all about: laptop bossa nova rhythms crossed with an indie pop aesthetic that reminds of an Unrest 45 played at 33, with Root and Stulbach's breezy vocals floating on top. As you might expect, the song lyrics themselves also alternate between English and Portuguese, and are full of references to sleeping, dreaming, rainbows, waterfalls, sunshine, hearts, rain, holding hands and kissing.
They're lilting, lightweight pop tunes that are surprisingly uncloying, and the trio's appearance a year ago at Solar Culture charmed the knickers off just about everyone in the room. If Astrud Gilberto, Stereolab and Os Mutantes shared a cab on their way to the K Records office, this is what they'd all settle on listening to on their ride.
Mosquitos perform at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Monday, June 20. Tucson's La Cerca open the show at 9:30 p.m. Advance tickets are available for $8 at www.virtuous.com. For more information, call 798-1298 or log on to www.plushtucson.com.
MOURNFUL RESTRAINTFor a long time, I was convinced that my love for Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter was such a personal affair that I dare not get anyone else involved. After all, the music of Sykes and her band, which is abetted by the virtuosic but tasteful guitar playing of Phil Wandscher (ex-Whiskeytown), isn't exactly the most uplifting stuff in the world. ("Could you grow a new heart? / And could you run the distance / in the time that it takes / before it all fell apart?" is a typically melancholic snippet of lyrics.) But if you're not afraid of sad, beautiful, high lonesome countryish songs that are crafted to shred your late-night heart into tatters, I hereby urge you to investigate Sykes further.
Her fine debut album, Reckless Burning (Burn Burn Burn, 2002) and 2004's brilliant follow-up, Oh, My Girl (Barsuk), are exercises in mournful restraint that showcase Sykes' smoky, sultry and almost-gothic voice. As great as Sykes and her band are on record, they're even better live, with Wandscher given more elbow room to subtly impress without trying.
If you've ever gone through a Cowboy Junkies phase, do yourself a favor and head to Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Wednesday, June 22. The show begins at 9 p.m. with opening sets from Inara George, the daughter of the late, great Little Feat bandleader Lowell George, and Cyril Barrett. Cover is $6. For further details, call 622-8848 or head to www.hotelcongress.com.
KEEN TEXANContinuing the tradition of great Texan country-folk songwriters that came before him, Robert Earl Keen splits his time between literate thought-pieces on life's big issues and humorous story-songs. A fine songwriter whose voice is somewhat an acquired taste, he'll appeal to fans of John Prine and his ilk.
Keen takes the stage of the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., at 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 18. All tickets are $26, available in advance at www.luckymanproductions.net and the Rialto Box Office. For more info, call 740-1000.
BACK IN THE SWINGYou've got to admire a band that performs a style of music that was once trendy, and now has all but fallen off the map. (Shout-out to the last remaining swing band, wherever you are.) NYC's The Slackers were one of the better bands of the third-wave ska movement of the '90s, and god bless 'em, they're still at it. They made their name by paying homage to the second-wave bands of the late '70s and early '80s, but seeing how traditional ska isn't really in high demand these days, they've since incorporated other elements, such as country, swamp-boogie, pop, and dub.
Witness the torch-bearing Slackers on Friday, June 17 at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. Captains of Industry open the show at 9:45 p.m. Tickets are $8, available in advance at www.virtuous.com. Questions? Poke at the following numbers on your telephone: 798-1298.