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J.ROCC, THE THRONES, BAND OF SKULLS, THE SLITS AND BRETT DENNEN

FRIDAY DECEMBER 11


BAND OF SKULLS AT THE TROUBADOUR
This young English trio is perhaps the smallest-time act on the million-selling New Moon soundtrack, where it rubs elbows with the A-list likes of Thom Yorke, Muse and Death Cab for Cutie. Yet Band of Skulls’ sound is anything but little: On their excellently titled debut, Baby Darling Doll Face Honey (issued in the U.S. by Steve Bing’s Santa Monica-based Shangri-La Music), singer-guitarist Russell Marsden, singer-bassist Emma Richardson and drummer Matt Hayward bring an expansive postshoegaze sensibility to the sort of raw-garage stylings we’ve heard lately from the White Stripes and the Kills; the name of one tune, “Death by Diamonds and Pearls,” goes a long way in describing the band’s sexy-threatening appeal. Catch them now before more of the Twilight nation catches on. Also Saturday with Passion Pit at the Fox Theatre in Pomona. (Mikael Wood)

FLAVORS 1990s PARTY FEATURING DJ SPINNA, J.ROCC, DJ SCRATCH AT THE ECHOPLEX
With so much anticipation building toward the next decade, it’s good that a handful of superstar DJs is getting together to remind us that’s it’s okay to look back. The “Flavors 1990s Party” aims to celebrate the best hip-hop and R&B of that goldmine of a period, which was perhaps most notable for blurring the lines between those two previously distinct genres — New Jack Swing, anybody? You should already know J.Rocc for his work on the Stones Throw label and for founding the local, legendary Beat Junkies crew back in 1992. DJ Spinna is a house and hip-hop luminary who’s produced tracks for everyone from Mos Def to Motown, not to mention contributed cuts to Spike Lee’s Bamboozled. But even in such exceptional company, it’s hard to beat DJ Scratch’s résumé. In 1988, he won the But even in such exceptional company, it’s hard to beat DJ Scratch’s résumé. In 1988, he won the scratch “Battle For World Supremacy.” He was EPMD’s DJ, and even schooled Run DMC’s Jam Master Jay on technique. Ever had your jaw drop whilst listening to a Babyface track? Perhaps it’s time. (Chris Martins)

SATURDAY DECEMBER 12


ESPERS AT THE CHURCH IN OCEAN PARK
There’s a certain kind of hazy, luminous winter morning that’ll suit well your tea stirring as you put the needle down on the new Espers III (Drag City). Not quite as hard-edged, trippy and genre-spanning as their previous II, the new collection finds the Philadelphia band attempting drowsy focus on those evanescent flickers of last night’s dreams, conjured with a bewitchingly vague but acidic folk-rock adorned with proggy touches of odd time signature and extended structure. The band features singer Meg Baird’s earthy/unearthly vocals, a pleasingly round-toned drum thockery, and a choice fuzz-sustain lead guitar that suggests the spidery stuff in the neglected corners of your heart or head. There is something subdued and sad coursing its way through Espers, but hear how they shake the blanket of sonic satisfaction; the sun will always find a way to seep through the mist. (John Payne)

BRETT DENNEN, GRACE POTTER & THE NOCTURNALS AT THE WILTERN
There’s no getting around the fact that Grace Potter & the Nocturnals remain the guiltiest of pleasures. Despite being lumped in with the jam-band scene, the Vermont group actually have more of a bluesy (albeit stubbornly retro) classic-rock sound. The Nocturnals can easily stretch it out on extended rambles, such as their glowing remake of Neil Young’s “Down by the River,” but their tasteful lead guitarist, Scott Tournet, generally plays with more melodic flair and restrained eloquence than your usual aimlessly soft-plucking jam-band noodler. Potter is a fiery keyboardist and passionately soulful singer, but her otherwise enjoyable original songs are considerably hamstrung — at least so far — by cringe-inducing lyrical clichés. (There’s also an unintentionally hilarious bit of Spinal Tap awkwardness in the group’s dispute with recently departed bassist Bryan Dondero, who claimed in a blog post that Potter told him she didn’t approve of the clothes he wore and “some of the things you do, like putting your foot on the monitor or [jumping] on the riser at really inappropriate moments.” Oh, the horror!) Headliner Brett Dennen is a marginally better lyricist, but his sleepy, easy-listening tunes and jivey, mush-mouthed delivery combine to make him less interesting than the harder-rocking Nocturnals, who should have far more commercial (and musical) potential once Potter finds her own lyrical voice. (Falling James)

NICOLETTE LARSON TRIBUTE AT THE TALKING STICK
The pop-country singer Nicolette Larson died too young, at the age of 45, in 1997, as a result of cerebral edema. While she’s most often remembered for her hit version of Neil Young’s “Lotta Love” in 1978, she also worked with Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, the Doobie Brothers, Carlene Carter and even Van Halen. Her friends and family are determined to keep her memory alive. with the latest installment in a series of benefits for the Nicolette Larson Pediatric Endowment at Mattel Children’s Hospital/UCLA. (Admission is free tonight, but all donations go to the endowment.) While the announced lineup doesn’t include Larson’s more famous colleagues, it does feature her former producer, Andrew Gold (best known for the soft-rock hit “Lonely Boy”), her daughter Elsie May Larson-Kunkel, and such veteran singer-songwriters as Paul Zollo, Lisa Nemzo, Randy Sacks, Mark Pocket Goldberg, Jeff Kossack, Debra Davis, Freebo, Lois Blaisch, Lisa Turner, Severin Browne, Rosemary Butler, Mare Lennon and host Mark Islam. The show starts at 7 p.m. (Falling James)

SUNDAY DECEMBER 13

 


THRONES, EVANGELISTA AT THE ECHOPLEX
If you’re looking for peppy, cheery, Monkees-style melodies that will put a smile on your face, keep looking. If, however, you need massive chunks of atonal noise and jaggedly beautiful, terrifying soundscapes that will leave you with an unsettling feeling of anxiety and dread in the pit of your stomach, then you’ve come to the right place. Joe Preston’s Oregon project Thrones churn out lumbering, ominous riffs that are full of doom and gloom, like the heaviest of metals, as gruff vocals bellow like awakened monsters. But amid all of that slow carnage come moments of unexpected loveliness, such as the way the sunlight will reflect off the face of a calving iceberg — just as it’s about to collapse on top of you. Don’t hope for any respite or sympathy from Evangelista. Although leader Carla Bozulich sang real purty-like in her country-rock band the Geraldine Fibbers, she’s much less sonically polite amid the soul-twisting chaos of Evangelista, where she veers from breathy, hushed confessions to harrowingly feverish wailing. “I can’t remember anything,” Bozulich cries, a welcome confession during this era of seemingly permanent nostalgia, as rusty satellites collide and fall out of orbit, landing and melting down in ever-expanding pools of malevolent lava. (Falling James)

THE SLITS AT THE ECHO
The maternal priestesses of British punk and dub are tired of being men’s servants and maids. “To pick up shit after men, repeatedly time and time again/I refuse/They’re not helpless,” singer Ari Up declares on “Ask Ma,” the opening track on Trapped Animal (Narnack Records), the Slits’ first full-length album in more than a quarter century. Although Ari Up and bassist Tessa Pollitt are the only remaining members from the classic Slits lineup that released the sublime dub-pop 1979 album Cut (which featured a daft, arty remake of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and such proto-riot-grrl originals as “Typical Girls”), the current incarnation works up a cheekily subversive funky reggae party on Trapped Animal. Keeping it all in the family, the new lineup includes keyboardist Hollie Cook, the daughter of Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook, who guest-starred on the Slits’ 2006 three-song comeback EP, Revenge of the Killer Slits. (The Pistols’ Johnny Rotten, meanwhile, is married to Ari Up’s mother, Nora Forster.) Apart from the frantic punk track “Reject,” much of Trapped Animal sways with dreamily lilting reggae interludes like “Partner From Hell” and “Babylon.” (Falling James)

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 15


THE RURAL ALBERTA ADVANTAGE AT THE BOOTLEG THEATRE
In Nils Edenloff’s voice, there’s a longing that makes you hope he finds his way back to his hometown in Alberta, Canada, even if it’s only in the romantic yet disturbed memory of his old haunts. But the singer of The Rural Alberta Advantage also knew the locale’s disadvantages, like not having much of an indie-rock scene. So he went to Toronto, where Paul Banwatt and Amy Cole not only joined his trio but also agreed to be in one of those bands whose name comes with a geography lesson. They also bought into his Cinemascope-like vision and ability to write songs that sprawl beyond emotions and places (even Canada). In fact, Hometowns (the debut album they initially put out themselves but have just rereleased on Saddle Creek) could very well be Main Street U.S.A., Denton U.S.A., Centerville, or even Lidsville, because in the end, Edenloff isn’t just singing of days gone by, he’s singing about any place that has a bar, an ATM and a broken heart. (Daniel Siwek)

WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 16


ZERO 7 AT THE ORPHEUM
Given the departure of onetime front woman Sia to a successful solo career — not to mention the overall atomization of the once-sprawling chill-out scene that birthed them — you can’t really blame the electro-soul knob-twiddlers of Zero 7 for upping the tempo on Yeah Ghost, their surprisingly spirited fourth full-length. After all, slow-and-low no longer guarantees the sort of shoe-store ubiquity it once did — and shoe-store ubiquity, of course, no longer guarantees much of a living. The group’s shift from after-hours atmosphere to prime-time pulse isn’t always successful; occasionally, in their haste to get where they’re going, they forget to pack a memorable melody. At its best, though — as in “Mr. McGee,” a Basement Jaxx–ish disco-funk jam — Yeah Ghost suggests that Zero 7’s creative palette might extend in more directions than once appeared. (Mikael Wood)

THURSDAY DECEMBER 17

 


MIA DOI TODD AT THE HAMMER MUSEUM
The quarterly Flux Screening Series at the Hammer is only in its second year, but already it’s racked up an impressive array of music video–centered events, from a 3-D premiere of Björk’s “Wanderlust” short to directorial chats and DJed mixers. For its final installment of 2009, Flux is treating Angelenos to an evening of particular local significance. The Hammer courtyard will debut Mia Doi Todd’s new Michel Gondry–directed video (which is news in and of itself) for the as-yet unreleased song “Open Your Heart.” We’re told the clip was shot at various recognizable locations around the city (and that Dublab founder Frosty makes an appearance), and if the still photo on the museum’s site is any indication, expect lots and lots of color. For those unfamiliar with cult folky Todd, she has 13 years of music and nine albums under her belt. She’ll perform after the screening, offering latecomers the opportunity to bask in her autumnal poetry and dulcet, ’60s-inspired acoustic tunes. (Chris Martins)

Mitchell Brown, Lucky Dragons, Daedalus at Mountain Bar
In 1998, a few local artist and musicians got together at Angel’s Gate gallery to just hang out, show some projections and make music. Players as diverse as Mike Watt, Jim Shaw, Liz Larner and Marina Rosenfeld brought in keyboards, Theremins, and half-working amplifiers in what they called “forced improvisation”: musicians producing the way artists do — curated like an art show. The Society for the Activation of Social Space through Art and Sound (SASSAS) began soon after, as an offshoot from that evening. Now, SASSAS is celebrating a decade of experimental music in unconventional locations with a 10th anniversary fund-raiser party. The lineup features Mitchell Brown and his sonic formulas (created from magnetic tape loops, amplified objects and percussion), the consistently stellar turntablism of Daedalus, the group-participatory love-in noise of Lucky Dragons and loads of others who’re guaranteed to serve up sick, ass-moving grooves and complex musical fun for a very good local cause. (Wendy Gilmartin)


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