Music Picks: Shuggie Otis, The Rolling Stones, Juvenile 

Thursday, Apr 25 2013

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Carla Olson


She's got a voice like a clarion call, plays guitar like a mother, and — besides writing her own memorable blues-rock anthems — is one of the few people who can cover classics by Dylan and The Stones and truly make them her own. So why isn't Carla Olson headlining her own basketball arenas by now? She should have made it big with late-'70s power-pop band The Textones, especially after moving in a more soulfully rootsy direction when bandmate Kathy Valentine ran off to join The Go-Go's. But Olson has been even more impressive in her consistently remarkable solo career and notably empathic collaborations with The Byrds' Gene Clark and Stones guitarist Mick Taylor. Many of her interests and influences intersect at the crossroads of her new album of duets and covers, Have Harmony, Will Travel, where Olson is country enough to exchange tears with Juice Newton while also punk enough to rip it up with The Dictators' Scott Kempner. —Falling James

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mon 4/29



If dub spelunker Keith Hudson had gotten hold of synth-punks like Suicide or The Screamers, or if Chrome and PiL had been melted together by cosmic rays into one shrieking hunk of post-punk man-machine, not only would music history be far more fascinating but there'd also be a quick and easy shorthand for the music of Merx. Since none of that happened, however, this L.A.-area band — made up of members, tremblers, movers and shakers from The Pope, Bi-Polar Bear, The Spits and more — must exist in a realm of mystery, making albums that sound like they were recorded at an abandoned Soviet numbers station and proving that paranoia is less a state of mind and more a state of being. Some bands write songs for radio hits, but Merx make music for last known transmissions. —Chris Ziegler

tue 4/30

Masaki Batoh's Brain Pulse Music


"Human beings lie, but their brain waves never lie." So says Masaki Batoh, whose "Brain Pulse Music" is a live installation and performance featuring his custom-built Brain Pulse Music machine, which uses electronic and musical processes to "reconcile the spirit and the body." Batoh is the frontman of Tokyo prog/psych/art-rock band Ghost, and an acupuncturist by trade, and his research into the bio-electric functions of the human brain was partially inspired by the after-effects of Japan's recent earthquake/nuclear meltdown. You can try this aural therapy at home by checking out Batoh's recent Brain Pulse Music album, which features additional songs based on traditional Japanese folk music. (Proceeds from the sales of the album directly aid the disaster victims through Japan Red Cross.) Brain Pulse Music is a powerful and genuinely healing experience — and couldn't we all use a little healing right about now? I think so. —John Payne

Marnie Stern, Qui


Each Marnie Stern song sounds like a hundred record stores at once, so densely are the tracks packed with ideas. On her fourth album, The Chronicles of Marnia, the New York guitarist refines her unique form of bubble-gum prog, contrasting insane, finger-tapping flurries and loopy and looped layers of guitars with sweetly contrary vocals. "You don't need a sledgehammer to walk in my shoes," she advises cryptically on "Nothing Is Easy," as halos of light spiral around her head like caffeinated fireflies. The prophetically titled "You Don't Turn Down" slams with aggressively intricate grunge riffs before downshifting into gauzy pop interludes of ethereal cooing. With its flickering guitar signals and breezy vocals, "Still Moving" is a pop song for smart people with short attention spans. Speaking of short attention spans, arty noise-rockers Qui should provide an exalted distraction from boredom via the manic gyrations and gesticulations of frontman David Yow (The Jesus Lizard, Scratch Acid). —Falling James



Just when occult metal seemed safely confined to Scandinavia's snowy forests, mysterious Texas trio Absu bring this dark art disturbingly close to home. After two decades of cult-classic releases, a slew of band members and a mid-aughts hiatus, drummer-vocalist Proscriptor McGovern is leading his latest lineup on its first full North American tour behind the ongoing trilogy of albums (2009's Absu, 2011's Abzu and the imminent Apsu). Hell, the black-clad lads even began the trek with a hard-to-picture record-store meet-and-greet. Absu assault their conceptual, breathless 'n' restless, black-hearted death metal with somber fury, plague-swarm guitars and blur-speed beats made sinister by McGovern's eternally damned poltergeist yap. Current performances are divided into a career-spanning first act and a second section devoted to the phase-two section of Absu's 2001 watershed album, Tara. —Paul Rogers

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