Music Picks: Chino XL, Marissa Nadler, As Blood Runs Black 

Thursday, Dec 13 2012

fri 12/21

Zola Jesus


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Much like Declan MacManus declaring to the world that he's the new Elvis, or a young Minnesota folkie born Robert Zimmerman taking on the name of Dylan Thomas, calling yourself Zola Jesus sets you up for seriously high expectations. But Nika Danilova isn't trying to be shocking or profane. If anything, the Phoenix-born singer's invocation of sacred names echoes the purposeful intensity and serious manner of her electronic-pop incantation-lamentations. Her reverb-laden, arty-dreamy-witchy vocals have often been compared to Kate Bush and Elizabeth Fraser, but on her latest album, Conatus, she also approaches the desolate, aching soul of Sinéad O'Connor. "I'm the only one that sticks around when they call your name out of the crowd," Ms. Jesus wails in the canyon spaces of a lonely piano against a sea of shimmering synths, on the solemnly romantic (and strangely titled) "Lick the Palm of the Burning Handshake." —Falling James

Miki Howard

Catalina Bar & Grill

One of R&B's unsung heroines, Miki Howard returns to her jazz roots for this highly anticipated performance. Spawn of gospel artists, the Chicago-born Howard honed her craft as a youth in Los Angeles under the influence of the music of jazz legends like Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington. After working as a backup singer in the early '80s, she scored a deal with Atlantic Records in 1985. Her chops, comfortably coalescing gospel and jazz genres, yielded the memorable No. 1 hits "Ain't Nobody Like You" and "Ain't Nothin' in the World." Drug addiction disrupted her promising career in the mid-'90s, but in 2008, a resilient Howard released her ninth studio effort, The Private Collection. —Jacqueline Michael Whatley

"Christmas 101" with Rufus and Martha Wainwright, Van Dyke Parks, Emmylou Harris, Carrie Fisher


Rufus and Martha Wainwright's late mother, Canadian folk singer Kate McGarrigle, created the annual "Christmas 101" holiday event, which features carols from around the world performed in French and English by the Wainwrights, their glittering friends and a stageful of grandchildren, nieces and nephews. This year's shows include guests Van Dyke Parks, Emmylou Harris and actress Carrie Fisher. Bighearted, deep-pocketed types can shell out a bit more for their tickets ($101, to be exact) and gain entry to the postshow reception with food, drink and fun with the evening's stars; 100 percent of these gala tickets will benefit the Kate McGarrigle Foundation, which McGarrigle formed to raise funds for sarcoma research before her death from the disease in January 2010. —John Payne

As Blood Runs Black


Though they celebrate a decade as a band next year, these Angeleno deathcore stalwarts sound as youthful and on-point as ever, in spite of (or perhaps thanks to) a ludicrous number of personnel changes. Now a relatively stable quintet built around founding drummer Hector "Lech" De Santiago (no one has quit or been booted in a couple of years), As Blood Runs Black have the chance to create a distinct sonic niche within a suffocatingly congested genre. Last year's sophomore full-length, Instinct, augers well, with detailed, dexterous and disciplined song structures and instrumental performances propelled out of the studio and into the streets by Sonik Garcia's bruising bellow and mocking, possessed screech. Ten years in, this band might just be getting started. —Paul Rogers

sat 12/22



There's a certain romance to cult bands like local crossover thrashers Hirax: Their neighbors probably have no clue what they do, yet they can command rabid crowds from Poland to Peru. This Cypress crew shared the stage with the likes of Metallica and Slayer back in the mid-'80s, but as those bands broke big, Hirax broke up. Since reuniting the band in 2000, imposing frontman and sole original member Katon W. De Pena (who's been dubbed "the black Rob Halford") has remained true to his vision of gritty, battering metal with worldly-wise lyrics and air raid–siren vocals. Despite seemingly perpetual lineup changes, De Pena and Co. have never left the world of pointy guitars, bullet belts and studded wristbands. There's savage comfort in their resolute, fist-in-the-air continuity. —Paul Rogers

Marissa Nadler, Guy Blakeslee


Boston folk-pop chanteuse Marissa Nadler spins entrancing webs of sound with little more than a soft acoustic backing, some subtle sound effects and her fragile, ethereal voice. "You said you need a wrecking ball to break the cement 'round the heart/A company of mad machines would take the walls, crumble them apart," she murmurs on her sixth album, The Sister. Nadler's airy-eerie vocals glide coolly over the patient ticking of her acoustic guitar, slowly melting said concrete and filling the hollow space with a spectral glow that evokes the starkly intimate delivery of Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval. "Your Heart Is a Twisted Vine" is similarly mesmerizing, with Nadler's romantic entreaties wrapped engagingly in a cocoon of cottony guitars. There's something curiously timeless and innocently childlike about the way her sweetly pure singing unlocks the door to such boundless pastoral reveries. Meanwhile, the Entrance Band's Guy Blakeslee waves his freak flag high in his folk-rock guise. —Falling James

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