Music Picks: Amy Kuney, Whispertown, the Civil Wars, Jake Bellows, Plan B 

Also, Thom Bresh, Pictureplane, James Intveld and others

Thursday, Jan 6 2011



Although the club formerly known as Spaceland has new management and now is called the Satellite, there's still a handful of upcoming shows scheduled at the venue by the old bookers, Spaceland Productions. The company appears determined to end its 15-year run at the Silver Lake bar with a smashing finale, including this January residency by stoner-grunge icons the Melvins. The influential Washington band has expanded from a trio to a quartet in recent years, but founding members Buzz Osborne and drummer Dale Crover still lay down torturously slow punk-metal dirges that are convulsively cathartic and impressively sludgy. Every Friday this month, they'll perform one of their old albums; tonight they plan to pummel through their 1992 release Lysol as well as a reworking of their synth-heavy 2001 experiment, Colossus of Destiny. The following week, they'll rummage through the carcass of their 1993 major-label debut, Houdini, before closing out the residency with exhumations of Bullhead and Stoner Witch. Bring earplugs. (Falling James)

click to flip through (2) Whispertown. See Wednesday.
  • Whispertown. See Wednesday.

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If your battle strategy is being in the right place at the right time, your ammunition better be talent. In 2005, while still in high school, Detroit rapper Big Sean maneuvered his way into the local radio station where Kanye West was promoting his latest album. West gave Sean 16 bars' worth of his time, and within a year, a recording contract with his label, G.O.O.D. Music. Big Sean's first album, Finally Famous, will drop this year at last, and when it does, expect production and guest appearances from every branch of West's expansive musical family tree. Big Sean's been busy in the meantime, though, posing in the lookbook for Billionaire Boys Club, the clothing line of Pharrell Williams and Nigo (of A Bathing Ape); and hopping on a handful of Kanye's supersavvy G.O.O.D. Friday weekly music giveaways. He also has released three mixtapes, the latest of which featured big guns like Bun B, Curren$y and Drake. Speaking of Drake, he and the entire Young Money crew borrowed (and credited) Sean's signature one-word-punch-line rapping style for their huge radio hits "Forever" and "BedRock." Imitation is, after all, the sincerest form of flattery. (Rebecca Haithcoat)


In Tha Dogg Pound's g-funkdified beginning, there were Daz Dillinger, Kurupt Tha Kingpin, Nate Dogg, Snoop Dogg and Soopafly — until Snoop's 1993 Doggystyle, and then there were two, Daz and Kurupt. But the Wild West's most gangsta'd-up collective is loyal: Despite a web of rifts that rivals any soap opera's, Daz and Kurupt are back together, and Snoop, Soop and Nate all make frequent appearances on their projects. Daz and Kurupt have stayed faithful to the sound that made Los Angeles famous — funked-up, banging bass lines laced with just enough blunt-blown vocals to mesmerize both your drive and the dance floor. And though their last few albums were largely overlooked both critically and commercially and some dismiss Tha Dogg Pound as a throwback act, they proved they still know how to get the crowd going at this year's Paid Dues and Rock the Bells festivals with lyrics about Chevys, sex and chronic. (Rebecca Haithcoat)


The Smell is one venue that seems more like a living organism than merely a stylish hole that happens to put on shows. It isn't that outlandish to think of the Smell's 13th anniversary as the bar mitzvah of someone you've witnessed growing up and whom you wouldn't miss for the world. Over two days, you'll experience new bands and old favorites: Veterans Sir David Scott Stone and cyber-dance punkers Laco$te highlight the first night, playing with Thrill Jockey rising stars High Places, Manimal's Ghost Animal and Pit er Pat drummer Butchy Fuego. The following night you get Smell stalwarts Captain Ahab, Deathbomb Arc superstars I.E. and soulful glitch architects Nero's Day at Disneyland, along with Canadian breakcore band Square Root of Evil. As always, there will be surprises and the people you always see at the Smell (perhaps the next Bethanies Cosentino?), interspersed with the friends you haven't seen in forever, walking through the door as though they were drifting back home at last. (Also Sat.) (David Cotner)

Also playing Friday: LITTLE DRAGON at the NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM (see Music feature); BILLYGOAT at the Bootleg.




Little Dragon's Machine Dreams on the Peace Frog label is a spacey slice of electronicized eclectica, whose coolly eccentric marriage of R&B, classic soul and dance hall is a futuristic flight from the pumping pop of their critically praised eponymous debut, released in 2007. The Gothenburg, Sweden, band's hefty album sales and ballooning fan base were aided immeasurably when fan David Sitek of TV on the Radio invited the band to open shows on his 2009 U.S. dates; getting the track "Twice" played on ABC hit Grey's Anatomy didn't hurt, either. Little Dragon's tireless roadwork included an appearance at last year's Coachella fest with Gorillaz, with whom they'll be collaborating on an upcoming European tour. They've got a third album coming in June. Opener Billygoat is the duo of David Klein and Nick Woolley, who make a captivatingly strange stop-motion animation that will be projected onto a wall-sized screen as the duo play their equally charming arrangements for harp, keyboards, accordion, glockenspiel and electric guitar. (See Music feature.) (John Payne)


Tonight's lineup of mellow singer-songwriters isn't likely to cause a riot on the Sunset Strip, but there should be some charming moments by these potential pop stars. Tulsa singer Amy Kuney was kidnapped by rebels when she was a teenage tourist in Guatemala, but she has seemingly recovered from that ordeal with few traces of tragedy or terror in her gentle piano-pop tunes. Her musical backing is quite mainstream, but there are hints of depth and soulfulness in power ballads like "Hope a Little Harder." She even reveals a social conscience in "Gasoline Rainbows," which shares lyrical imagery with Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger's recent "Rainbows in Gasoline" but is actually about last year's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. One Tree Hill star Kate Voegele is less lyrically ambitious, but songs like "99 Times" have more of a punchy pop-rock appeal, although they're not quite weird enough yet to qualify as guilty pleasures. (Falling James)


James Intveld is a tireless country music crusader, an artist whose own passionate devotion to the idiom is matched only by his remarkable talent as vocalist, songwriter and guitarist. Onstage, Intveld's steely, cool sincerity and effortless command guarantee that every performance is fraught with both on-the-spot spontaneity and taut technical control. This unusual mix is no small trick to pull off and, in his hands, never fails to incite passions, pack the dance floor and ensure that everyone has a helluva good time. Intveld, who now divides his time between Hollywood and Nashville, has long since ascended to undisputed status as this town's premier honky-tonk idol, and it seems likely that Music City soon will be compelled to follow suit. (Jonny Whiteside)

Also playing Saturday: THE SMELL'S 13TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION at the Smell; EXENE CERVENKA at McCabe's; BIZZART, W.H.I.T.E., LSD EXPERIENCE at Midnight Picnic; ANDY CLOCKWISE at El Rey; THE SLACKERS at Key Club.




Time yet again for this remarkable three-ring celebration of early January's very own rock & roll red-letter day, the birth of Elvis Aron Presley. Organized by local hepcats Art Fein and Ronnie Mack, with all proceeds going to the Union Rescue Mission, the annual Presley nativity tribal ritual is never lacking in big-beat voltage, surprise big-name drop-ins and unpredictable bonus thrills. Tonight's bill of fare runs the gamut, from Presley contemporaries (rockabilly originator Ray Campi) to the superb, semi-avant-torch sizzler Lisa Finnie, from Bakersfield's stomping Dusk Devils to King Cotton's orgiastic blues wrangling, honky-tonk mayhem mavens the Groovy Rednecks and the magnificently indescribable primitivism of the South Bay Surfers. Expect a kaleidoscopic cornucopia of kicks, all served up in hot and avid honor of rock's fallen-but-never-to-be-forgotten King. As Elvis himself once said, "Flippy. Real Flippy." (Jonny Whiteside)

Also playing Sunday: LOVE GRENADES at the Echo; JOHN THILL, COMFORT SLACKS at the Smell; MICHAEL DAVIS (FEATURING DAWES) at the Bootleg.




The Civil Wars' John Paul White and Joy Williams are the South's answer to She & Him. He's tall, dark and guitar-toting; she's small, demure and adorable. They're solo artists in their own right, and as a pair they breach an emotive space otherwise unreached by either. But while She & Him specialize in lilting Laurel Canyon folk, their sub–Mason-Dixon doppelgangers trade in the viscous, country-fried kind. White hails from Muscle Shoals, Ala., and Williams lives in Nashville. They made waves with the Poison & Wine EP in late 2009, but early 2011 will see the release of an extremely promising LP debut, Barton Hollow, which looks to strike a keen balance between bold production and backwater soul. The Civil Wars' star is rightly rising, but we're mainly going to see White Sea, the band fronted by M83 vocalist Morgan Kibby. The L.A. quintet is responsible for a broad experimental pop encompassing big '80s drumming, spooky synths, burbling bass lines and vocals that soar and swoon. (Chris Martins)

Also playing Monday: GROUPLOVE, WHITE ARROWS at the Bootleg; PICTUREPLANE, TEENGIRL FANTASY at Central Social Aid & Pleasure Club.




Local DJ, scenester, porkpie enthusiast and party promoter Franki Chan is back in action. November saw him revive his influential, formerly electro-centric club night in sequel form — Check Yo Ponytail 2 — and January sees him proving that decision's merit in spades. This night's bill is extremely well curated: L.A.-based opener Terminal Twilight makes a sleazy, icy sort of creeping minimal disco buttressed by bewitching female vocals. Next up is Oberlin, Ohio's Teengirl Fantasy. This duo leans toward the more psychedelic side of the chillwave movement, preferring soulful R&B vocals (sometimes live, sometimes sampled), soupy synthesizer play and four-on-the-floor bass kicks. Denver's Pictureplane, aka Travis Egedy, headlines. Egedy initially made a name for himself throwing warehouse parties in his hometown, so it's fitting that his music maintains a dingy danceability. Influenced by house and trance, he slings a unique brand of industrial-tinged beat often accompanied by snippets of pop vocals. Darkwave enthusiasts Killing Spree DJs will spin throughout. (Chris Martins)


Wales dynamos Super Furry Animals are the most advanced, most joy-inspiring and most consistently addictive proggy-pop/electronic/eclectic unit on this soggy, bleak planet. Their prodigiously gifted frontman, Gruff Rhys, has issued slightly less aurally dense solo albums in recent times, like the brisk bright box of delights Candylion, folky rock replete with gurgling analog synths, lovely twining flutes, a seriously carefree air and approximately three tons of hooks freshly warped and dusted off. Rhys also collaborates with L.A. DJ/electronics fella Boom Bip as Neon Neon, whose Stainless Style told the torrid tale of John DeLorean's rise and fall with spot-on hits of electro-pop goodness and stunningly authentic '80s-era instrumental textures. [Ed.'s note: Neon Neon's is a criminally underrated album. Go get it now — superb L.A. night-driving music.] But wait, there's more: Rhys has spent the past five years crafting his first film, Separado!, which documents Rhys' search for a long-lost Patagonian uncle in Wales, Brazil and the Argentine Andes; the film's premiere last July coincided with the release of The Terror of Cosmic Loneliness (OVNI/Turnstile), a collaborative album between Rhys and Brazilian industrial man Tony Da Gatorra. And now, Rhys has a new album coming out in early 2011, Hotel Shampoo, selections from which he'll purvey tonight in a solo acoustic set. The Hardest Working Man in Welsh NeoProg, without question. (John Payne)

Also playing Tuesday: MONTE NEGRO at the Roxy; OLIN & THE MOON at the Echo.




Playful popster Ceci Bastida got her start singing ska in Tijuana as the frontwoman of the politically charged Tijuana No! Bastida's done well on her own since that band's breakup in 2002, releasing her debut EP four years ago (Ya Me Voy, which features a collaboration with L.A. underground-rap beacon Pigeon John), and stoking the growing buzz since with tour stops and radio spots. Her sound occasionally does incorporate the familiar horns, but she's mostly left the skanking behind for a chart-friendly bounce, cut with percussive samples and bright instrumentation. The always awesome Very Be Careful opens. The local five-piece plays a traditional Colombian style of cumbia called vallenato, which means they're big on accordion, and experts on instruments like the guacharaca, the campana and the caja vallenata. Pick up their latest album, Escape Room, while you're there. It's laid-back and celebratory, just as this night should be. (Chris Martins)


The accordion might not seem like the most obvious instrument with which to crank out fiery punk rock, but Piñata Protest use the traditional squeeze box in unexpected ways on their debut album, Plethora (released on the Hickoids' Saustex label). The San Antonio band fuses together punk tempos with Tejano and conjunto styles, proving once again that polka and punk rhythms are essentially the same. Singing in English and Spanish, Alvaro Del Norte manipulates his accordion and chants fast, nonstop rants like "Suckcess" and "Maquilapolis," combining blue-collar lyrical laments with festively energetic music. "Jackeee" and "Denied Rights" may be tales of desperation and social alienation, evoking the manic ska-punk rebellion of Gogol Bordello and Mano Negra, but Piñata Protest also show a goofily romantic side on sillier tracks like "Love Taco" and "Cold Fries." Also at Alex's Bar, Thurs. (Falling James)


Whispertown 2000 singer Morgan Nagler has downsized in the past year, performing solo under the shorter name Whispertown, but her easygoing pop-country tunes are just as beguiling in a stripped-down format. Songs like "Old Times" evoke old times without sounding corny or artificially hokey, perhaps because Nagler's melodies are so jauntily inviting and un-self-consciously warm and personal. Heather Porcaro & the Heartstring Symphony conjure a relatively sleeker and more modern pop-rock sound, but there are moments of dreaminess in strange idylls like "Just a Ghost." Meanwhile, Neva Dinova frontman Jake Bellows headlines with a solo set of hazy, dazed alt-folk ballads like "Spring Cleaning" and "Will the Ladies Send You Flowers," which split the difference between Neil Young moodiness and Gram Parsons rustication. First, though, Dan Crane (Nous Non Plus, Bjorn Turoque) debuts his new project, the Quick Hellos, which reportedly involves blood and ukuleles. (Falling James)


Fingerpicker Thom Bresh is a certifiable guitaristic monster, one whose playing exhibits a luminous, syncopated strut that reaches deep within any listener and flat refuses to let go. Arresting, high-flying, elegantly funky, Bresh's distinctive style springs from the blood: He is the one and only son of legendary picker Merle Travis, and his out-of-wedlock origin became the worst-kept secret in Tinseltown once Bresh picked up an ax and began his musical career. At the tender age of 15, he replaced Roy Clark — which gives a pretty clear picture of the level at which the teenager already operated — in Hank Penny's band, and came of age on bandstands from Hollywood to Las Vegas. Bresh, who was raised at the historic Corriganville Movie Ranch and worked as a child actor and stunt artist, is the ultimate poster child for L.A. acountry: a progressive, freewheeling talent whose life is ineluctably bound to both music and the silver screen. Fortunately, he's placed the former ahead of the latter, and this rare visit is an opportunity not to be squandered. (Jonny Whiteside)

Also playing Wednesday: KAZAI REX, LA FONT, FUTURE GHOST at Silverlake Lounge.




Coachella steampunk hippie types the Do Lab throw this event, which moves to a far heavier beat than one might expect. Headliner Kraddy calls Venice home, and used to punch buttons with Glitch Mob. He broke away, however, to pursue a grittier, more hip-hop-influenced instrumental beat, and he sounds far fresher than his former bandmates on multimovement bangers like "Android Porn," distortion-led terrorizers like "Freakshow" and dubby epics like "Steppin' Razor." He'll be favoring songs from his new Alpha Pup Records release, Labyrinth, which is a glitch-riddled must-own as far as we're concerned. Bay Area–based An-Ten-Nae works with a more bare-bones style that he calls acid crunk. It's heavy on break beats and odd effects — not exactly the stuff of raves, but great for navel-gazing and head-nodding. L.A.'s own Ruff Hauser bridges the difference between the two, delivering mellow dubstep and minimal techno to those interested in grimy bass and melodic textures. (Chris Martins)


Remembering that Plan B's debut album, 2006's Who Needs Actions When You Got Words, was a grimy, foulmouthed bid to become the Brit Eminem, it's a real shocker that this year's follow-up, The Defamation of Strickland Banks, is a swaggering soul masterpiece. But considering Amy Winehouse's recent(ish) neo-soul success (and the occasional crooning amidst Actions' hip-hop hoodie-isms), not so much. The Defamation of Strickland Banks, a concept album tracing the tale of the jail-bound Banks (an alter ego of Plan B, aka Ben Drew), already sold triple-platinum in the U.K. Drew's Smokey Robinson–ian high tenor runs its fragile fingers through triumphant northern soul ("Stay Too Long"); anxious, slinky Motown ("Prayin"); and supple late-night pop ("She Said") with barely a whiff of self-consciousness. Maybe this is the album Paul Weller's been trying to make for two decades. (Paul Rogers)


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