Music Picks: Breakestra, Slang Chickens, the Muffs, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson | Music | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly

Music Picks: Breakestra, Slang Chickens, the Muffs, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson 

Also Meth Leppard, Tennis With Lord Huron, Kid Infinity and others

Thursday, Feb 3 2011



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click to enlarge PHOTO BY LISA ROZE - Olafur Arnalds. See Friday.
  • Olafur Arnalds. See Friday.

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Based on the mellow solo albums Ólafur Arnalds has released during the past four years, you'd never guess that he used to play drums in punk and metal bands like Celestine and Fighting Shit. The Icelandic keyboardist composes gentle, exceedingly delicate instrumental passages on his most recent album, last year's And They Have Escaped the Weight of Darkness. On such languorous tracks as "Kjurrt" and "Undan Hulu," beautiful slivers of violin well up over his spare crumbles of piano like fading sunlight reflecting from glacial ice. The tempos also are glacial, as if Arnalds were writing a soundtrack to accompany long winter nights in the Arctic Circle. The slow, sentimental melodies veer a bit too close to soothing new age ear wash at times, but in his better moments Arnalds creates poignantly sad soundscapes that evoke the solemnity of the album's ponderous title. Think of his music as the instrumental equivalent to the Swell Season's laid-back lullabies. (Falling James)


Miguel Atwood-Ferguson's résumé doesn't look like it belongs to a classically trained violinist. He's played with Outkast on Nickelodeon, with Christina Aguilera on MTV and with Kirk Franklin on BET. He backed surprise sensation Susan Boyle on America's Got Talent and has been a studio musician for Dr. Dre. Then again, his résumé also includes work with jazz icons Wayne Shorter and widely respected flutist Hubert Laws. Listen to Ferguson's music and you'll hear subtle nuances that could have been gained only from such vast and varied musical tastes. Weaving hip-hop and pop just as nimbly as jazz into his classical compositions, the multi-instrumentalist produces avant-garde arrangements that are at turns warm and lush, or suddenly sparse and spacey. No surprise, then, that last July he directed artists Bilal, Aloe Blacc and Flying Lotus in a staging that included a tribute to the mother of late, great Detroit producer J Dilla. (Rebecca Haithcoat)


Tennis is husband-and-wife duo Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley, and if they aren't your new favorite band yet, they should be. Their newly released first full-length, Cape Dory, is named after the manufacturer of their boat and was written during a months-long sailing trip along the Eastern Seaboard. Appropriately, the songs record their experiences at sea with lyrics about travel, adventure, exploration and relaxation. "Marathon," the B-side of a self-titled 7-inch, went over particularly well with tastemakers at such sites as Stereogum and Gorilla vs. Bear over the summer. Their album repeats those tracks and adds seven more. Moore and Riley mix beachy melodies and sirenlike vocals — think '60s girl group meets the Primitives with a little Don Ho for good measure. The result is a sound as sweet as cotton candy, befitting an afternoon bobbing along in wistful contemplation with a cocktail in one hand and a ukulele in the other. Pretend for a moment it's July (not too hard in L.A.) and bathe in saccharine, summery doo-wahs as your cares drift away. (Kristina Benson)


Without a doubt one of the stranger residencies CFKAS (i.e., the Club Formerly Known as Spaceland) has hosted — minus a month of Melvins, of course — this one features a would-be pop icon who bears a striking resemblance to porn star Ron Jeremy and an odd supergroup hailing from the Midwest. The former, of course, is L.A.'s own Har Mar Superstar, who celebrates his birthday on this opening night. That means that in addition to the usual spectacle — him stripping to his leopard-print skivvies and humping various objects and people — he should be belting out his Top 40–aiming, electro-tinged sex jams with extra aplomb. He also will be joining Marijuana Deathsquads, the Minneapolis eight-piece populated by members of indie-revered nü-R&B group Gayngs [Ed.'s note: Purveyors of one of the best records of 2010 — highly recommended], weirdo hardcore outfit Building Better Bombs, abrasive Rhymesayers rapper P.O.S. and defunct '90s cult blues-punk band Cows. Expect multiple drum kits, improvised electronics and a whole lot of lovely noise. (Chris Martins)


Salvation comes in all forms, and on Circe Link's latest album, California Kid, it arrives in the guise of the sassy, country-rocking opening track. "Save me from salvation," the local singer declares defiantly, turning a typical cry for help into something more delightfully surprising, as her guitarist-partner Christian Nesmith (son of the Monkees' Michael) buries her pleas in a wash of woozy slide guitar. Link may traffic in familiar pop, rock and country music settings — she comes off like a sweeter-voiced Bonnie Raitt — but she's too slyly subversive to settle for the usual mainstream songwriting clichés. She could be describing her own music when she writes, "Mysterious and grand unknowable and fathomless/Yet common like the green of this fruited thicket." The versatile singer is working simultaneously on two separate jazz and neo-folk projects, as well as a rock musical with Nesmith. Tonight, Link strums a low-key acoustic set. (Falling James)

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