Music Picks

THURSDAY, April 13 Thomas Dolby at the Key Club

Ever pop’s contradictory Luddite — with his vintage Jaguars, synth-pop dictated through evolved British accents, and Freudian couch confessions even while his polyphonic ringtones pay his upkeep — Thomas Dolby descends gently upon Los Angeles precisely as YouTube–fueled nostalgia is on the upswing and catchy melodies are on the decline. Little doubt remains that he’ll play the hits — “She Blinded Me With Science,” “Airhead,” the criminally underrated “Hyperactive” and possibly even selections from his work with Lene Lovich and George Clinton on the film Howard the Duck. He launches his springtime Sole Inhabitant Tour with neither the gentle farting deflation of postmodern irony nor the arch humoring of one-time Durannies or New Romantics. He brings something to the fore that remains vital yet elusive to 1980s pop stalwarts: a sense of hew-mah. (David Cotner)

THURSDAY, APRIL 20

Leela James at El Rey Theater

This young L.A. native for sure buys into neo-soul’s reliance on technique and taste: She titled last year’s A Change Is Gonna Come after the Sam Cooke gem, and on a recent live EP (recorded in a pre-Katrina New Orleans) she engages in the sort of vocal pyrotechnics old-timers often use as a means of differentiating themselves from callow studio creations. Yet James is a child of hip-hop, too, so in making A Change she had the good sense to hire beatmakers including Kanye West, Wyclef Jean and Raphael Saadiq — guys capable of preventing a layer of dust from collecting on her sound. James’ performance deserves the spotlight, but refreshingly in this age of American Idol overdrive, she gets that records are about more than pipes. Tonight, expect pipes. 5515 Wilshire Blvd. (Mikael Wood)

Billy Childish at Spaceland

The crackered gene-yuss of one Englishman named Billy Childish has been available in copious form — records, paintings, poetry, novels — since 1977, when one of his first bands, the Milkshakes, made its romping, stomping pub-punk debut; Thee Mighty Caesars, the Blackhands and Thee Headcoats followed, on down the line to his newest full-flowering in the Buff Medways. Childish has been given “the nod” by your Becks, Mudhoneys, Nirvanas and White Stripeses (and had a lover’s spat with Jack White, who adores Childish but dissed him after Childish said the White Stripes had a crappy sound and that he, Childish, possessed a far superior sense of humor). Billy describes his new album as “a smoking chimney stack that falls over and crushes your wife and kids.” Tonight he’ll do some spoken-word and music-type stuff; please attend, listen, laugh and learn. (John Payne)