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Rock Picks: Tinariwen, Lucy Schwartz, Brendan Benson, Free Energy, P.O.S. 

Also, Randy Newman, Meshell Ndegeocello, Useless Keys and others

Thursday, Feb 18 2010
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Friday/February/19

Randy Newman at Royce Hall
Real talk: Randy Newman does characteristically great work in The Princess and the Frog; truly, no one's better suited to write tunes for an animated flick set in Jazz Age New Orleans. But handing the dude two Oscar noms for best original song seems kind of lazy, doesn't it? (Karen O and her Wild Things were robbed, y'all!) That said, "An Evening With Randy Newman" — as the folks at UCLA Live are billing this show — is not a thing to be missed. As he demonstrated the last time I saw him perform, at Largo in 2008, shortly before the release of that year's excellent Harps and Angels, Newman is no less entertaining while giving his songs the VH1 Storytellers treatment than he is while playing them. Particularly interested to hear his current thoughts regarding A Few Words in Defense of Our Country, his trenchant Bush-era look at the end of an empire. (Mikael Wood)

P.O.S., Grieves & Budo, Dessa at the Troubadour
On "Purexed," the fourth single from P.O.S.'s Never Better, the Minneapolis rapper/musician makes a telling name-drop: "Them rappers got the 'itis'/Catch me bumpin' Isis in a crisis." Stefon Alexander — as P.O.S. is otherwise known — got his start as a punk-rocker in the late '90s, went on to found alt-rap crew Doomtree in the aughts and rose to prominence by way of his solo work, which has long displayed a dueling affinity for heady hip-hop and hard rock. But like the post-metal band that P.O.S. listens to in times of need (Isis, that is), his approach to the heavy arts is nuanced. Never Better is chock-full of songs that know how to grind — thanks to the MC's mastery of guitar, bass and drums — but which do so without pummeling the listener into a confused mush or, worse, slipping into hybridized genre cheese. Opener Dessa also hails from Doomtree, and offers a jazz-steeped female perspective on the kind of thoughtful, diarist rap that Minneapolis seems to have in spades. (Chris Martins)

click to flip through (3) Tinariwen bring their tangled Saharan guitar sound to Royce Hall on Saturday.
  • Tinariwen bring their tangled Saharan guitar sound to Royce Hall on Saturday.
   
 

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Ancestors, Intronaut, Black Math Horseman at Spaceland
Los Angeles doom-dealers Ancestors are undoubtedly heavy, but then they're a lot of things, in the way, say, Pink Floyd and King Crimson were back in the early '70s, a time when bands could toss anything they wanted into their cauldrons, stir it up and watch it explode — often right in their faces. A concept album of sorts, the band's recent eight-part gloom epic, Of Sound Mind (Teepee), is an ungodly hash of Black Sabbath–thick stereo-distorto guitar riffage, ambient electronic interludes and soaringly melodic gambits, plus a lot of interesting stuff residing somewhere in between. It's real broody, rainy-day-holed-up atmospheric sludgehammer that takes you places and suggests that you use your mind along the way. Co-headliners Intronaut are metal monsters, and create fire-breathing, hypertricky song-shapes, with skull-skratch guitar and a truly scary bass & drums assault. Ladled out with terse economy, craft and loads of dark charisma, the arcane rituals of openers Black Math Horseman are heard to psychotically tasty effect on their new Teepee album, Wyllt. (John Payne)

Also playing Friday:

ASYLUM STREET SPANKERS at Molly Malone's; KRS-ONE at the Roxy; VITALIC, MIRA AROYO, LADYTRON (DJ SET), ACID GIRLS at Avalon; FITZ & THE TANTRUMS, POP NOIR at the Echo; BRAD PAISLEY, JUSTIN MOORE, MIRANDA LAMBERT at the Staples Center; JON BRION & FRIENDS at Largo at the Coronet; TERA MELOS, ALL LEATHER, FNA, WET DREAMS at the Smell; RADARS TO THE SKY, ONE TRICK PONY, MISSISSIPPI MAN, RADEMACHER at the Echoplex; THE DAN BAND at Club Nokia; OLD TOY TRAINS, JUBILEE SINGERS, SUBTLE SELVES at Pehrspace; THE DAMNED, JAY ASTON'S GENE LOVES JEZEBEL at House of Blues; JORMA KAUKONEN & G.E. SMITH at McCabe's; HARLEM, AUDACITY, BLUE JUNGLE, COSMONAUT at L'Keg Gallery.

 

Saturday/February/20

Tinariwen at Royce Hall
The ever-evolving transgenerational Saharan musicians Tinariwen conjure a distinctively mesmerizing style of music that's just as soulful and timeless as the blues, with which it shares a certain simpatico, inexorable heartbeat groove. But whereas most modern blues songs are so predictable that you can hear every lick and lyrical lament coming from a mile away, Tinariwen's music is constantly surprising, with whorls of intricately gnarled/gnarly guitars spun 'round dreamy voices chanting restless, surreal poetry. "The revolution is a long thread/Easily twisted, hard to stretch/I patch up the desert, the great desert," sings Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, the band's patriarch and one of several singer-guitarists, on Tinariwen's fourth album, Imidiwan (World Village). The inexplicably manifested, almost backward-sounding riffs by Ibrahim, Elaga Ag Hamid, Le Lion, Diara, Intidao and others would be trippy enough, but they become even more iconic and emotionally resonant when blended with incantational stories about life in the desert, romance, family and the literal fight for freedom by the Kel Tamashek nomads (sometimes referred to as the Tuareg). "It's often said that every Tuareg from Tamanrasset to Niamey and from Timbuktu to Ghat is a member of Tinariwen, so widely are their songs known and treasured," explains the band's manager, Andy Morgan. "They are more of a social movement than a desert rock & roll band." Hear, hear. (Falling James)

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