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Music Picks: Robert Glasper, Nick Waterhouse, Omar Rodriguez Lopez 

Thursday, Oct 18 2012
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fri 10/19

Tift Merritt, Amy Cook

THE MINT

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DANIELLE DE PICCIOTTO - Crime and the City Solution: See Thursday.
  • PHOTO BY DANIELLE DE PICCIOTTO
  • Crime and the City Solution: See Thursday.

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In a pop music scene populated with brassy divas, each attempting to outdo the other with increasing flamboyancy, Tift Merritt lingers in the shadows, quietly amassing an impressive body of gently engrossing ballads. The North Carolina native and New York City resident isn't exactly a shrinking violet; she often lets her voice soar in a radiant manner, much like her mentor, Emmylou Harris (whom Merritt has interviewed on her monthly NPR radio show, The Spark). But the singer-guitarist's contemplative folk-pop-country tunes are more restrained than showy on her fifth and latest album, Traveling Alone. Merritt isn't exactly traveling alone on the new recording; she's joined by guest singer Andrew Bird and such ace sidemen as guitarist Marc Ribot, Jay Brown and Calexico drummer John Convertino. But she still imbues these songs of wanderlust with a heartrending intimacy. Merritt's billed with the similarly low-key West Texas songwriter Amy Cook, whose austere melodies on her recent CD, Summer Skin, are anointed with insightfully poetic lyrics. Also Saturday at McCabe's. —Falling James

Nosaj Thing

LURE PATIO

Nosaj Thing's 2009 album, Drift, was arguably the first in the trio of holy-shit records that made Low End Theory regulars — and by extension, Los Angeles electronic music — a global phenomenon. (The other two? Gaslamp Killer and Gonjasufi's A Sufi and a Killer and Flying Lotus' Cosmogramma.) But since then, Nosaj has spent the time mostly on merciless gigging instead of new material, which is why this month's long-awaited release of Eclipse/Blue is so tantalizing. With vocals from Blonde Redhead's Kazu Makino, this debut single from his coming album rewards everyone who's been patiently waiting. Nosaj reveals himself as a preternaturally sophisticated producer, building a deeply detailed and textured song around Mikino's otherworldly vocals. (It'll make you miss Broadcast, that's for sure.) As a teaser for what's next ... well, it definitely teases. — Chris Ziegler

The Foreign Exchange

Key Club

This divine musical marriage might never have occurred if not for technology. Dutch producer Nicolay and American emcee/vocalist Phonte (Little Brother) cyber-met in an Okayplayer discussion forum about a decade ago. Their highly praised 2004 debut, Connected, was conceptualized and completed via numerous file swaps over instant messenger. Fast-forward to 2008, and the duo's savory synthesis of electronica/hip-hop/R&B (endorsed by the likes of Questlove, DJ Spinna and King Britt, among others) resulted in a Grammy nomination for Best Urban Alternative Performance. To the good fortune of their die-hard fans in L.A., tonight's set on the world-famous Key Club stage also features longtime collaborators-turned–imprint mates Zo!, Sy Smith and Jeanne Jolly. —Jacqueline Michael Whatley

sat 10/20

Shattered Faith, D.I., Symbol Six

THE VEX

With all the nostalgia about Hollywood's influential late-'70s punk scene, it's sometimes forgotten that East Los Angeles also was a hotbed of manic inspiration and florid creativity, with such diverse bands as The Brat, Odd Squad, Thee Undertakers, The Stains and Los Illegals. (Scene matriarch Alice Bag's recent memoir, Violence Girl, vibrantly depicts the contradictions of being both Chicana and punk, and what it felt like crossing the vast cultural divide between Hollywood and East L.A.) Joe Vex's self-titled establishment the Vex was an all-ages club that had several incarnations, including a stint at Self Help Graphics; for the first time since the 1980s, he's bringing the venue back, albeit at a new location in Alhambra. At this grand reopening, the bill could be straight outta 1982, with crusty punk survivors D.I. (a spinoff of The Adolescents who still cheerfully crank out the lurid anthem "Richard Hung Himself" on a nightly basis), recently reunited hard-punk assassins Symbol Six and proto-hardcore iconoclasts Shattered Faith. —Falling James

Crocodiles, The Soft Pack

ECHOPLEX

Crocodiles are punk like the early Psychedelic Furs (Like "Flowers"? You'll like their latest album, Endless Flowers, too!) and pop like Jesus and Mary Chain when they were feeling pretty sweet — and they're just bristling with overprocessed guitar and are happy to put phaser on anything that moves. Their work has the feel of an album recorded live at an awesome house party ... in space. Some bands write singles, but these guys write summertimes: gigantic songs that fit all the amped-up confusion and impulse and all-caps INTENSITY of a certain kind of rock & roll teenagehood into not two but four minutes of fuzz and feeling. With The Soft Pack, whose new LP, Strapped, reassembles their Feelies/Clean guitar pop into something happily and unexpectedly ambitious — it's one more step in a very good direction. —Chris Ziegler

Lionel Loueke

VITELLO'S

Benin-born guitarist Lionel Loueke grew up poor in Africa. After struggling to buy his first guitar as a teen, at one point, he even used bicycle brake cables as strings. Loueke's talent soon was considerable enough to earn him a scholarship to Boston's Berklee College of Music, followed by a stint at USC beginning in 2001. Shortly thereafter, Loueke became an in-demand sideman for the likes of Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Sting, Gretchen Parlato and many more. Loueke's own music combines African pop, jazz and other world music that is rhythmically complex yet accessible. Robert Glasper co-produced Loueke's latest album, Heritage, which is the primary focus of his current American tour with bassist Michael Olatuja and drummer Mark Guiliana, landing tonight at Vitello's in Studio City. —Tom Meek

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