By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
At least 171 Los Angeles–area acts will represent at the South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas, next week, and they range from metal (Ancestors, Metallica, Black Math Horseman), acoustic (Jim Bianco, Tom Brosseau, Tori Amos) and punk (Japanese Motors, the Mae Shi, DEVO) to hip-hop (Blu, U-N-I, Busdriver), guitar rock (Red Cortez, Mika Miko, Silversun Pickups) and beyond (Crystal Antlers, Pocahaunted, Magic Lantern, Sun Araw). To look at the list in its entirety is to at least partially understand the depth of music emanating from LA.
Here are 10 fantastic Los Angeles bands or solo artists playing the annual party this year. Some are a little bigger than others, some signed, some unsigned, all no doubt ready and willing to accept your money in any way, shape or form. So if you’re headed to Austin looking to license or otherwise contractually obligate some musicians, searching for the perfect breakup song to augment the closing credits of your nighttime hospital drama, or simply want to see some great live music in Texas, here’s a shortlist. (We’ve included a few useful tips for the music supervisors among you.)
MySpace-profile views: 77,446
L.A.’s best new band? Probably. Fol Chen’s beguiling, witty synth-pop with guitar, funky keyboards and West Coastian harmonies comes from a semimysterious unit that, according to its bio, sounds like “that mysterious black object that the creepy family is staring at on the cover of Led Zeppelin’s Presence album.” Featuring principal Samuel Bing, who may not be either a relation to or impersonator of the visionary early-20th-century Parisian art dealer, the band even has a plot line: “We are using secret powers and the guidance of legendary DJ Donna Donna to combat our nemesis, John Shade. We are cryptic and joyful and we would like you to dance.” Fol Chen’s debut, Part 1: John Shade, Your Fortune’s Made, just came out on Sufjan Stevens’ Asthmatic Kitty label.
Commercial-placement idea: “Cable TV” is a latent hit, for sure — and perfect for a Holiday Inn ad: “Won’t you come away with me?/I’m not rich but the first night is on me/You know I just got paid baby/I know a place and they got cable TV.”
MySpace-profile views: 785,217
One listen to “No Dope,” Whispertown 2000’s melancholy ode to lost love and hard drugs, should pull any first-timer into the magnetic orbit of this smart, tight and thoughtful country-rock band. A viewing of their “Old Times” video will only draw you in further. Singer Morgan Nadler is a natural. She’s got the vocal talent, wit and charisma to carry the songs, and she’s got connections — Whispertown came up with the Rilo Kiley posse, and she counts Gillian Welch among her admirers. The band, comprised of some of L.A.’s most solid and efficient players, beautifully augments her voice.
Commercial-placement idea: Their “103” could be used in a Sunday AIG insurance ad during Meet the Press: “When I’m 102/will the sky be blue/Will the night be long?/When I’m 103/will you still like me/when my body is gone?”
MySpace-profile views: 213,830
Emily Wells is a wonder to behold, a multi-instrumentalist who moves from violin to sampler with the greatest of ease, who cites Outkast, Aphex Twin and Matmos among her influences, but who doesn’t mimic, overdo or overproduce. She makes funky beats using analog reverb and, as a string player, understands and appreciates the art of arranging better than most guitarists. Her self-released The Symphonies: Dreams Memories & Parties is a humble affair that’s crafted with just enough ornamentation to offer a hint at what Wells might accomplish in more grandiose surroundings.
Commercial-placement idea: “Juicy,” a riff on MTume’s soft funk classic “Juicy Fruit,” is perfect for a chewing-gum spot.
MySpace-Profile Views: 104,161
Nothing like a chubby, shirtless drummer to confirm that a band isn’t messing around, and when said rocker, Ashton, is coupled with scrawny, bespectacled, yowling younger brother Caleb, the result is the fraternal freak show that is Tweak Bird. The two-piece delivers deep sludge rock à la Melvins, Karp and Black Sabbath, but through brains, brawn and Caleb’s sinister falsetto, has carved out its own little nook.
Commercial-placement idea: “Whorses” — Ford Mustang cruising along PCH through the fog as the waves splat against the rocks: “Leaving all the space behind/everyone’s amazed!”
MySpace-profile views: 201,691
If you’re an indie-guitar fan, you’ve probably heard of Foreign Born, which has been one of L.A.’s most promising guitar bands for almost too long now. The band released its debut full-length, On the Wing Now, in 2007 on Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak imprint. But despite the grand, epic scope of its songs, the record didn’t really catch on. The good news is that Foreign Born has finally found a perfect home on the Secretly Canadian label, and is preparing release of its follow-up. The better news is that the first single, “Vacationing People,” has just been released, and sounds at once like the Flying Burrito Brothers, Neil Young and early R.E.M., but with more asymmetrical tonalities.
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