Rock Picks: Iron & Wine, Mika Miko, the Vaselines, Extra Golden | Music | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly

Rock Picks: Iron & Wine, Mika Miko, the Vaselines, Extra Golden 

Leslie & the Badgers, Scout Niblett, Theresa Andersson, Meat Puppets and others

Wednesday, May 6 2009



Sam Beam, former math teacher, beard-rock innovator, soft harmonizer with an edge, sings in a half-whisper, fills his songs to the brim with many competing acoustical flourishes and writes mysterious, meandering lyrics that wander from idea to idea without much regard for literal messaging (“Love was a father’s flag/and sung like a shank/In a cake on our leather boots” — wha?). It’s a beautiful approach, one that draws from the least annoying aspects of the jam-band scene — love for pure, clean sonics and search for joy in improvisation — to create something that suggests classic Paul McCartney, Elliott Smith, Brian Wilson (harmonies) and Topanga-era Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. This show should be amazing: It’s outside at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, which will add a layer of context when Beam sings, in “Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car” (from his most recent full-length, The Shepherd’s Dog), “I was still a beggar shaking out my stolen coat/Among the angry cemetery leaves.” All he has to do is replace “leaves” with “palm fronds” and we’re right there with him. (Randall Roberts)

click to flip through (3) Carrie Rodriguez
  • Carrie Rodriguez

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Early in her career, Carrie Rodriguez was content to play second fiddle while playing fiddle for such folks as Alejandro Escovedo and, especially, legendary songwriter Chip Taylor (“Wild Thing”), who more or less discovered her in Austin back in 2001. After a long series of tours and collaborations with Taylor, she finally broke out on her own with her 2006 solo debut, Seven Angels on a Bicycle, which featured the luridly sexy blues-rocker “’50s French Movie.” “The possibilities endless/You could render me helpless,” she confessed, as if waking up after being knocked out, while seductively sidewinding riffs wrapped themselves tightly around her: “What kind of part is this?/When do we get to kiss?/When do I take my clothes off/What kind of movie is this?” She followed up with another excellent CD, She Ain’t Me, where her rootsy songs were enlivened by her eloquently fiery violin. Rodriguez builds on that momentum with her new live album, Live in Louisville, which was recorded on a 2007 tour, when she opened for Lucinda Williams. Whether she’s unlocking her heart on glassy ballads like “Big Kiss,” heading up into the country on “I Don’t Want to Play House Anymore” or sawing her fiddle in half on such frantic roots-rockers as “Never Gonna Be Your Bride,” she’s always captivating, and completely at home as the star of the show. Also at McCabe’s, Sun. (Falling James)



Leslie & the Badgers are quietly turning into one of the city’s best quiet bands. There’s a gently glowing country-rock intimacy to the songs from their self-titled 2007 debut CD and 2008 iTunes EP, Greetings From Leslie & the Badgers, but they’re not some corny, cornpone revival outfit. Instead, tunes like “Old Timers” and “Air Force One” have intelligently heartfelt, evocative lyrics and are adorned with dreamy embellishments, such as Glenn Oyabe’s lap-steel guitar, which playfully quotes Santo & Johnny’s classic instrumental “Sleep Walk.” Singer-guitarist Leslie Stevens coos with a Neko Case–style passion on the relatively epic six-minute idyll “Black Rose Window,” where she declares, “Now the road is what takes you to brand-new places/and I’m taking myself and the radio station.” Such countrified ballads place them roughly in the same universe as fellow locals the Whispertown 2000, but the Badgers also reveal a jazzy side on “The Torture,” and they rock convincingly on uptempo barn-burners like “That’d Be Fine.” They’re about to release a new album, Roomful of Smoke, and head out on a national tour in June, so catch ’em now before they return as conquering heroes. Also at the Silverlake Lounge, Wed., May 20. (Falling James)




Like the Urinals and Minutemen before them, Mika Miko are miniaturists, crafting compact one- to two-minute bursts of punkness as concise as a haiku but which offer a door into Proustian contemplation. An entire volume could be written about “Turkey Sandwich,” the better-be classic from We Be Xuxa, Mika Miko’s new 12-song full-length. The gem starts with roughly the same riff as the Undertones’ “Teenage Kicks,” but abruptly moves down the guitar neck where the Scotsmen moved up, getting low as singer Jenna Thornhill declares to either a preacher or a teacher (we think, she’s an expert mumble-screamer, inspiring many code-cracking listens) in no uncertain terms, “I’m gonna be someone, preacher (?),” repeating it, then declaring either “I’m one turkey sandwich” or “I want a turkey sandwich.” Which reading you give the line dictates vastly different translations of the song. Is she declaring said foodthing to be the ultimate Socratic ideal? Is her goal to be the turkey sandwich of her domain? Or is it that her desire to be “someone” dictates a craving for turkey sandwiches (as fuel? as a display of hearty appetite? as argument against vegetarianism?)? What we do know is that after volunteering that she either wants or is a turkey sandwich, the preacher/teacher — co-vocalist Jennifer Clavin, in deep man-voice — responds: “Jenna, I’ll miss you when you go/but don’t think I don’t know/We’ll go in different directions/yeah, I listened to them.” What does the preacher/teacher know? Who is the “them,” and what did they say? (Was it a recipe?) There follows an itsy hook, a tiny fuzz-guitar curlicue, then Jenna starts chanting something that even after dozens of listens is absolutely impenetrable. It’s a great “Louie Louie” labyrinth of a song, one that could be about a conversation at a deli or in a confessional booth, or the hope of a better future. The song’s so great they included two versions of it, the second being “Turkey Barnyard Mix.” It’s four seconds longer, contains awesome washboard beat, and features a dude in the left channel chanting, “Turkey sandwich.” (Note: We got an advance of We Be Xuxa. For all we know the full-art version comes with a lyric sheet that clarifies all this — but we hope not.) (Randall Roberts)

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