“I was lying in a burned-out basement with the full moon in my eyes,” Neil Young sang in this same arena, almost exactly 30 years ago to the day, as his old Malibu home was burning to the ground just a few miles up the coast. Like rust, ashes never sleep, and it will be interesting to see what memories Young stirs up from our collective wreckage at this once-fabulous Forum. Of course, the prolific and unpredictable singer-guitarist might not even bother looking backward, especially since he’s still riding on the high of Chrome Dreams II, the 2007 sequel to his semi-mythical unreleased ’70s album that, with its quintessential blend of mellow ballads and rambling rockers, already stands as one of his most satisfying works (so far). The last time Young came through town, at Nokia Theatre in November 2007, he dug deeply into the new album’s disparate moods (which reflect the breadth and restless journeying of his overall musical career), ranging from non-ironic, pure-pop idealism (“The Believer”) to ironic, heavy-trudging blue-collar anthems (“Dirty Old Man”). And while he didn’t break into the 18-minute-long “Ordinary People” (the latest in a long line of ambivalent songs about the common man), Young did stretch out on the instant classic “Spirit Road,” sending out sizzling, streaking flares of green light with his crackling guitar. Even better, he built to a stunning climax with “No Hidden Path,” wringing out ectoplasmically glowing shivers with his tremelo wand and clawing piercingly heartbreaking note combinations that summed up everything with a lighthouse-beckoning loveliness. With the recent death of Love’s Arthur Lee, young Neil — along with Bob Dylan and Dead Moon’s Fred Cole — remains one of the last of the ’60s Sunset Strip survivors who’s still making vital new music. With Death Cab for Cutie and Everest. (Falling James)
Ane Brun may hail from Norway, but her gentle, introspective music holds a pan-Atlantic feel, connecting the dots between Joni Mitchell, Dolly Parton, Kate Bush, Nick Drake and even Björk (with whom she shares engineer/producer Valgeir Sigurdsson). Her lilting, fluttery vocals lend a haunting quality to her spare, soul-baring songs on her new disc, Changing of the Seasons. Early on, she sings, “I walked into love/I walked into a minefield I never heard of,” and she walks this emotional minefield throughout this disc. The near-sprightly “The Treehouse Song” details a relationship that has fallen apart, while “Armour” (which sports a Jeannette McDonald–like warble) examines a fight’s aftermath. Even her shout-out to Gillian Welch (“Gillian”) deals with Brun taking emotional solace in Welch’s songs. For all of her romantic melancholia, Brun’s alluring voice draws in listeners as she delicately balances the ethereal and the organic. Joining her for this Hotel Café set is fellow Scandinavian singer-songwriter Tobias Fröberg, whose pop craftsmanship make him something of the Swedish Ron Sexsmith. (Michael Berick)
With her second solo album, Acid Tongue (Warner Bros.), Jenny Lewis expands her private musical universe just a little bit further past the boundaries of her band Rilo Kiley. Oh, there are still some lovely indie-rock songs and the occasional country-laced ballad (“Pretty Bird”) that evoke Rilo Kiley, but the former child actor stretches out even more adventurously (to paraphrase the title of R.K.’s 2004 album) than she did on her first solo CD, 2006’s Rabbit Fur Coat. The strange eight-minute epic “The Next Messiah” is initially anchored to a firm blues groove with woozy slide guitar, then segues into a primal hard-rock stomp, where she lowers her voice solemnly to blend with the murmuring of the Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson. About five minutes in, the track flicks its tail and switches rhythms again, with rings of reverb guitar coiling around the blended bedroom-voice exchanges of Lewis, Robinson and guest singers Benji Hughes, Zooey Deschanel, Johnathan Wilson, Vanesa Corbala, Farmer Dave Scher and Morgan Nagler. Lewis searches for her inner Dusty Springfield on “Jack Killed Mom,” whose matricidal lyrics culminate in an unexpected gospel rave-up. Always intriguing, she drops acid on the title track, tries to lasso the sun on “See Fernando” and sweetens Elvis Costello’s typically clotted, nasal moaning with sunny harmonies on their power-pop duet “Carpetbaggers.” (Falling James)
Also playing Thursday:
RAY LAMONTAGNE, LEONA NAESS at the Wiltern; CARLOS GUITARLOS at Eastside Luv; THE HEAVY, POP LEVI, GRAY KID at the Echo; COBRA STARSHIP at House of Blues; SECRET MACHINES, THE DEARS at the Key Club; THE MIGHTY UNDERDOGS, ZION-I at Knitting Factory; HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD, CIVET at Sam’s at the Regent; LISTING SHIP, UKEFINK at Hyperion Tavern; ANNY CELSI at Cinema Bar.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 31
Something kind of wicked this way comes. The Orphics are stranger and more exotic than most of the careerist bands clotting up the Sunset Strip these days, with songs that are more like epic journeys than bland, well-behaved pop tunes that can be neatly contained in a jukebox. Singer/accordionist Matt Roth aspires to the vaguely mystical, rambling classic rock of bands like the Doors, Led Zeppelin and Jane’s Addiction, and he layers the tracks on the Orphics’ recent CD, Purity, with violins, sitars, cellos, “psychedelic echoes, magic . . . and Middle Eastern scales.” The album’s centerpiece is “The Queen of the 7 Seas,” a febrile waltz where Roth croons with the world-weary voice of a lost sailor, sounding a lot like Cat Stevens or Richard Butler as he walks the plank, spellbound by an ocean muse. He finds himself spinning around on “The Carousel” at a macabre circus and is bound up in a swirling vortex of wah-wah guitar, sitars and his own seasick accordion on the somewhat pretentious “Horse Latitudes”–style intro to “Deliverance.” Although Roth’s grandiose ambitions fall flat on generic songs like “Pleasure Fucked Pain,” there are still enough hints of darkness and mystery here to make the Orphics’ “Midnight Freak Show” (which will include Porno for Pyros journeyman Peter DiStefano) one of the evening’s more weirdly unsettling Halloween events. (Falling James)