Unity, Audio VeVe Pt. 1
Oakland rapper Unity Lewis — aka Young Precise — raps about slavery, racism, scuffles with the police, Panther politics, et cetera. Audio VeVe is not exactly a beautiful dark twisted fantasy, but it's eminently likeable — especially when coupled with the gurgly snare beat and sax sample on "Let's Ride." And there's an implied sequel. Ooh. (SoundVise Records)
Mister Loveless , Nineties Children
If you ever wondered what would become of all those high school prodigy bands from Walnut Creek, check out Mister Loveless. "Nineties Children" tells what it's like to be an apathetic, over-educated, possibly over-medicated teenager during the era of grunge. The song's form, with its hooky melody and bellowed-out lyrics, resembles that of a perfect rock song from 1995. There's even that peal of distortion at the beginning. (self-released)
At Bottom of the Hill (1233 17th St. San Francisco) on Saturday, July 23. 9 p.m., $10.
Castles in Spain, Reminiscing Chapter 5
The arrangements on this new album by local quartet Castles in Spain are pretty involved. In addition to guitar-bass-drums, they feature exotic instruments like mellotron, cello, and electric sitar. The band tries a richly textured cover of Neil Young's "Old Man," a tune that's just narrow enough to accommodate Biachi Notaro's vocal range. (Rat Attack Music)
At Red Devil Lounge (1655 Polk St., San Francisco) on Saturday, July 23. 9 p.m., $10.
Ed Reed, Born to Be Blue
Few singers have as much blues steeped in them as Ed Reed, who launched his career in San Quentin and Folsom prisons, and cut his first album at age 78. By now his voice is slightly weathered, but he's still able to convey the sentiment of each love ballad on this thoroughly affecting album. Reed's passions are particularly tangible on "In a Silent Tear," a standard by Blossom Dearie. (Blue Shorts Records)
At Yoshi's (510 Embarcadero, Oakland) on Monday, July 25. 8 p.m., $14. Yoshis.com