THURSDAY, DECEMBER 11
Murs at El Rey Theatre
Nicholas “Murs” Carter titled his latest solo album Murs for President, which would be a righteous slogan in almost any other election year. However, the freethinking, free-rapping former member of Living Legends had much tougher competition in November than the usual white-establishment figureheads who inspire such protest candidacies. But Murs is certainly more socially farsighted, historically aware and grounded than, say, your average governor from Alaska, and his lyrics go far beyond typical narcissistic, gang-glorifying rap. “You do what you can to make it out the trap/and that right there is the origin of rap,” he announces on the new CD’s philosophical centerpiece, “The Science,” which works both as a succinct history lesson and as an individual statement of purpose and determination. “It wasn’t always played on every radio station/It was us making the best out of a bad situation . . . We took turntables and start flipping it/Stole electricity from the streetlights.” He’s not always as high-minded, whether he’s confessing to lustful distractions (“Road Is My Religion”) or trying to chill out and avoid road rage (“Sooo Comfortable”). Romantic disappointment hits him hard on the archly titled “Break Up (The OJ Song),” which is countered by the uplifting immediacy of “Time Is Now,” where Murs exchanges verses with guest star Snoop Dogg. (Falling James)
Also playing Thursday:
CSS, NATALIE PORTMAN’S SHAVED HEAD at the Echoplex; MIRANDA LEE RICHARDS at the Hotel Café; PO’ GIRL at the Mint; ZAPPA PLAYS ZAPPA at the Roxy; NEW ROME QUARTET, SWORDS OF FATIMA at Taix.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 12
Von Iva at the Echo
“You can’t control me,” Von Iva diva Jillian Iva confides on “Birds of Prey,” from the San Francisco trio’s new EP, Girls on Film. And it’s true, no one can corral the exhibitionist singer, especially when she’s crawling around onstage or perching precariously in steep high heels atop Kelly Harris’ bass drum. Jillian’s already become something of a gay icon for fans of all genders, and Von Iva should gain some mainstream attention when they perform as Zooey Deschanel’s backup band in the upcoming Jim Carrey film Yes Man. The trio’s shimmering electro-pop is firmly based on funky, sleek disco rhythms, reintroducing jaded hipsters to that carnally cathartic activity known as dancing. Becky Kupersmith pumps out evocative sheets of sound with her keyboards, giving these dance workouts an eerily post-punk sheen and even a hint of Joy Division melancholy. The nonstop dance action occasionally pauses for spacy ballads like “Emerald Eyes,” where Jillian wails soulfully into the vortex of Kupersmith’s churchy organ swells. (Falling James)
J.D. Souther at McCabe’s
J.D. Souther might not have achieved Eagles/Linda Ronstadt–style superstar status or become a Hall of Famer like Chris Hillman and Richie Furay, but he ranks among the important players in Southern California’s ’70s country-rock and singer-songwriter scenes. His résumé highlights include co-writing several huge Eagles hits (including “Best of My Love” and “Heartache Tonight”) and writing for, singing with and producing Ronstadt during her heyday. He also was part of the would-be supergroup Souther Hillman Furay Band and scored a solo hit with “You’re Only Lonely” in 1979. After pursuing acting (mostly notably a stint on Thirtysomething), Souther decamped to Nashville. Earlier this year, he released his first album in nearly 25 years, If the World Was You. Showing no rustiness, Souther displays a sagely touch, smoothly blending pop, jazz, country, soul and Latin rock on lovely ballads (“In My Arms Tonight”), observational tales (the rousing “House of Pride”) and personal epics (the 13-minute closer, “The Secret Handshake of Fate”). These shows mark his welcome L.A. return. With April Smith. Also at Largo, Tues. (Michael Berick)
Also playing Friday:
MIKE NESS at El Rey Theatre; LEON RUSSELL at Brixton South Bay; BLACK FAG at 14 Below; LOS LOBOS, THE BLASTERS at House of Blues; JON BRION at Largo; CHARLIE HUNTER TRIO at the Mint; ZAPPA PLAYS ZAPPA at the Roxy (see Music feature); THE DICKIES, M.I.A, PLAIN WRAP, DECRY at Sam’s at the Regent; BABYLAND at the Smell; RADARS TO THE SKY at Spaceland; PHANTOM PLANET, THE LIKE at the Troubadour; URINALS, THE THINGZ at Buccaneer Lounge.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 13
The Dagons at American Legion Post 206
For several years, we’ve tried to describe the Dagons, but it’s like trying to put smoke back into a bottle. Guitarist Karie Jacobson and drummer-sitarist Drew Kowalski are a bass-free duo, but they aren’t engaged in any fishy roots-rock-revival silliness or faux-bluesy White Stripes imitations. Instead, they whip up strangely exotic, heavily dreamy moods that can range from the churning Stooges-style riffery of “It Flies Out” to the art-rock of “In Gingham,” which sounds like the clanging chains/cymbals of the Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs” falling into a bottomless elevator shaft of onrushing Sonic Youth guitars. Stranger still are such experimental soundscapes as “Urdoguzes,” where Kowalski draws upon his Hungarian roots to layer Jacobson’s ghostly fairy-tale vocals in a psychedelic haze of backwards sound effects. And yet, for all of their rampant trippiness, the Dagons have their straightforward side, punking it up on uptempo bursts like “How to Get Through Glass” and “Planchettes Half-Apes,” and slowing things down on such perfectly pretty ballads as “On This Bed Forever.” 227 N. Avenue 55, Highland Park. (Falling James)