Music Picks: Aesop Rock, Azealia Banks, Toots & the Maytals
EL REY THEATRE
A heavy hitter in the early-aughts' onslaught of brainy indie-rap word-slingers, Aesop Rock now is 15 years into a nearly blemishless career. This New York native and San Fran transplant is celebrated for his nearly unmatched ability to braid colorful verbiage into delightfully euphonic lyrical daisy chains. He's an absolute master of alliteration and assonance blessed with Lewis Carroll's ability to turn nonsense phrases into poetic fodder. ("Who am I? Jabberwocky superfly," he declares on 2001's classic Labor Days.) Aes is also a moody, blessed beat-maker, and has spent the past five years lurking on collaborative projects (e.g., Hail Mary Mallon with tonight's support, Rob Sonic). Thankfully, his brand-new LP, Skelethon, makes up for lost time, delivering a full monty of noisy head-knockers, tastefully scrambled verse and, fans will be happy to hear, his most personal, poignant writing in a decade. —Chris Martins
Back in the '90s, NYC's Codeine fairly invented slo-core, a slow-moving, high-decibel genre that was solidified when bands like Low and Bedhead and others got a little more acclaim for it. Codeine's Sub-Pop records Frigid Stars, Barely Real and The White Birch were, actually, unclassifiable works of generally very spare and disciplined-sounding music, with an emphasis on space-between-notes and a masterful use of dynamics. With fuzz/distortion and a brutal drum thump, they made a supremely heavy impact not just for the sheer loudness but also for the towering majesty of it all. The trio is doing select dates to call attention to the three double-disc vinyl reissues and box set the Numero Group label is putting out. Check the merch table, cultists, it's beautiful stuff. —John Payne
Props to this Friday summer series for programming an adventurous band predictably unknown to the swarms of mainstream jazz fans who normally attend. The L.A.-based group recently generated some buzz both locally and nationally, using collaborations with vocalist Dwight Trible and pianist Art Lande to help it escape the hive of jazz anonymity. Trumpeter Hugh Ragin is the guest here, having stung audiences with his brilliance as a worker bee in the bands of free-jazz pioneers Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell and David Murray. Alternately groovy or crazy-free, Slumgum's sound could be unpalatable for some, but there's just enough sweetness to help it go down easy. Considering the band's name comes from the crap that remains on the honeycomb after the honey is extracted, their music really is the shit. —Gary Fukushima
CATALINA BAR & GRILL
India Adams doesn't appear in even one frame of The Band Wagon and Torch Song, and her name is nowhere to be found in the credits, but neither of these beloved MGM musicals would feel as classic without the key participation of the California native. Cyd Charisse and Joan Crawford were the respective stars of these early-1950s flicks, but their singing parts were secretly dubbed by Adams, who belted out memorable renditions of "New Sun in the Sky" and, with Fred Astaire, "That's Entertainment." Now 86 years old, this longtime Valley girl has a pure, radiant voice that purrs with a sultry and soulful jazziness on tunes like "Comfort Me With Apples." In recent interviews, she has described herself as "a walking, talking, singing antique," but she's far more than just one of the last remaining connections to MGM's heyday — Adams still has it. Also Sat. —Falling James
Sonny and the Sunsets
Sonny Smith is a very prolific, Bay Area–based singer-songwriter and a playwright, too. He's got this swinging folk-pop-rock combo, Sonny & the Sunsets, and they've made records like Hit After Hit, where you get to hear Sonny croon melodically on a bunch of '50s- and early '60s–flavored rock & roll that swoons and rocks and tears the roof off the sucka, etc. Basically, fella writes great songs, he performs them with inspired, fresh zest and unjaded uncoolness, and none of it's corny or dumb. And that's the case with Sonny's new Longtime Companion record, too, in which Sonny, having recently suffered a broken heart, decided to deal with the most appropriate musical approach, which would be, of course, country & western. It's lonesome, moany stuff, a Burrito Bros./J. Cash world, where soaking in the misery feels pretty good. And it still sounds like Sonny. —John Payne
VAN EXEL at Pehrspace; HOWARD JONES at Canyon Club.
Listen, Nicki Minaj can rap circles around most of the boys even without mesmerizing them with her blowup-doll image, and we respect that. But the badass-Barbie act feels a little manufactured, which is why Azealia Banks, another rapper from Harlem, has us giddy. First, she shocked the blogosphere by chanting, "I guess that cunt getting eaten," all of 30 seconds into the song "212." Then, she proceeded to rumble with a couple big dogs in the rap game before she'd paid her dues and without making even the slightest attempt to sex up the feistiness. The gall! And thank God for it. It was about time a young firecracker who doesn't give a fuck and isn't interested in flirting stormed the boys' club that is hip-hop. Oh, and did we mention she's ripped every track she's released? Tonight, she's throwing a "Mermaid Ball" with fellow spitfire Maluca, Oakland one-to-watch Gita and dark pop diva Charli XCX. Be on your best behavior, boys. —Rebecca Haithcoat
Mariachi El Bronx, L.A. Vampires, Peanut Butter Wolf
Highland Park's new vinyl-centric record shop is celebrating its opening with what essentially amounts to a festival: eight performances and at least as many DJ sets from an exciting lineup of local stars. Topping the live list are Mariachi El Bronx, the impassioned SoCal punks who traded their electric guitars (mostly) for the classical type — plus horns, violins, accordions and congas — in order to play their own roughed-up take on traditional Mexican music. Stones Throw CEO and long-revered rap producer Peanut Butter Wolf will contribute a beat-based set, while electronically inclined noiseniks David Scott Stone and John Wiese do their highly experimental thing. Pop psychonauts Peaking Lights are guaranteed to spin some rare left-field gems, but best of all might be LA Vampires, who play a goopy godsend of '80s etherea, crunchy bumps and opium-soaked vocals. Food trucks and free refreshments will be on hand. —Chris Martins
THE GLASS HOUSE
Pomona comes alive with a deep and diverse bill headlined by La Sera, aka Katy Goodman. As La Sera, she moves beyond the jangling girl-group garage rock of her old band, the Vivian Girls, into a more lavish and lush brand of elegantly bittersweet pop. In her recent double video for the songs "Real Boy" and "Drive On," Goodman morphs convincingly from a whip-cracking circus performer into a pulpy kidnap victim who's haunted by a scalpel-wielding evil twin. Whatever role she's playing, La Sera always comes off as a serenely charismatic singer who's just beginning to dig into her rich potential. This early-evening bill isn't just stacked with such adventurous new bands as Dirt Dress, So Many Wizards and, especially, Grass Widow, whose poppy femme harmonies are buttressed by swirling post-punk riffs; the night also includes a visit from art-rock legends the Urinals, who practically invented SoCal post-punk in the late '70s with their elliptical lyrics and unusual, lo-fi chord changes. —Falling James
KENNY CHESNEY & TIM MCGRAW at Angel Stadium; RED SIMPSON at Viva.
Toots & the Maytals, Ziggy Marley, Freddie McGregor, Maxi Priest
All year long, but especially in the summer, something much like reggae can be heard pumping out of various South Bay bars as various local pretenders attempt to evoke the hazy days of reggae's worldwide breakthrough in the mid-1970s. Of course, the only thing missing is authenticity, as well as the urgent desperation and spirituality that buoyed classics by Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. The cover bands' riddims might sound roughly the same, but there's something crucial missing from today's casual beachside troubadours. For one night at least, the Hollywood Bowl banishes all attempts at imitation by booking certified reggae legends Toots & the Maytals, whose influential tracks "Pressure Drop" and "Funky Kingston" are infused with just as much hard-won soul as lilting reggae. The bill comes fully loaded with sets by Bob's son Ziggy Marley; Jamaican veteran and eternal Big Ship captain Freddie McGregor; and British-Jamaican singer Maxi Priest, who judiciously mixes dancehall and R&B into his reggae. —Falling James
LEVITT PAVILION (pasadena)
Trombonist Phil Ranelin has been a fixture on the L.A. jazz scene for decades. Before coming to Southern Califonia 35 years ago, Ranelin helped found Detroit independent jazz label Tribe Records, and he has chosen this concert to celebrate its 40th anniversary. Ranelin's credits include working in the bands of Freddie Hubbard, the Luckman Jazz Orchestra, Horace Tapscott's Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra and many others. Ranelin's quintet here includes notables Pablo Calogero on reeds, Mahesh Balasooriya on piano, James Leary on bass and Kenny Elliott on drums. Tonight's show features three acts in all, with Gaby Hernandez opening, followed by a set from DJ Carlos Nino. Expect another fine evening of both weather and music from this free summer concert series. —Tom Meek
SCREECHING WEASEL at the Fonda; SIMON JOYNER at Bootleg Bar; SHEARWATER, HUSKY at the Echo.
By day, Paul Prado is one of the brevity-obsessed comic geniuses at L.A.'s own 5 Second Films. He's their in-house Method actor — a guy who takes what he does so seriously, he'll shave his head clean for a five-second spoof of Citizen Kane. He can occupy a character like nobody's business, so it should come as no surprise that Prado by night takes on an entirely different guise. Donning a full-body bear suit and usually ending up bare-chested, a more primal Prado unspools raw rhymes and coos Auto-Tuned come-ons as Animal Raps. Taking cues from indie-hop diarists like Sage Francis and Atmosphere, he makes songs that drip with emotion and swagger with personal empowerment — they just happen to be animal-themed (see "Beautiful Bear" and "Jump Like a Rabbit"). Is it gimmickry? Perhaps, but Prado is talented and driven enough to pull it off. —Chris Martins
PRINCETON at the El Rey Theatre.
What a difference a year makes. Last spring, this Miami rapper-producer was posting hypnotic tracks on a barely viewed YouTube page that sounded cranked out of a broken Jack-in-the-box or a twinkling merry-go-round from The Twilight Zone. They were creepy and haunting, the work of a '90s baby influenced in equal parts by the Cartoon Network and grimy lo-fi rap. We found him lurking there, but before long, Syd the Kid was spinning his 2011 anthem "Suck a Dick" at Odd Future shows, and blogs quickly picked up the scent. Now, Purrp has collaborated with his hero from Three 6 Mafia, Juicy J, has produced for Wiz Khalifa and is headlining shows. He has managed both to cozy up to and already cut ties with the rap darling du jour, A$AP Rocky, but not before gathering a sizable following for his own crew, the Raider Klan. (In case you're wondering, we're Team Purrp.) Backed tonight by the hardcore punks from Sacramento, Trash Talk, who will be the first act not from Odd Future to release an album on the notoriously insular collective's imprint. —Rebecca Haithcoat
It's not all that surprising that legendary '90s recluse D'Angelo has recently resurfaced — thanks to Frank Ocean's arrival, the guy finally has some competition. That's not to say that L.A.'s rising star has much in common with neo-soul but that he's the most interestingly idiosyncratic and eerily talented R&B singer-songwriter to emerge since Brown Sugar blew minds back in 1995. Though Ocean is affiliated with Odd Future, he eschews the puerile for the poignant and the ADHD-addled energy for intense focus. The resulting songs are gorgeously crafted, with music that pulls liberally from across the pop spectrum (he sampled Coldplay, MGMT, the Eagles and Eyes Wide Shut for last year's Nostalgia, ULTRA. mixtape), and lyrics lovingly seeded with intimate narrative detail. And, of course, there's that voice: yearning but warm, adept but never showy, making Ocean's sound an endlessly inviting proposition with promise to spare. —Chris Martins
THE YOUNG, LAMPS, ZIG ZAGS at the Echo.
Awol One comes from the dark end of the street; as a member of the Shape Shifters, he was the guy dredging up the rhymes man was not meant to know. It's strong stuff: desolate, debased and somewhere between autobiographical and autodestructive, with bleaked-out beats and deadpan delivery and grisly Herschell Gordon Lewis imagery for texture. Ever wish the human race didn't exist ... and then realize you're one, too? Awol One as well. His newest release, Shockra, however, is Awol as producer only. Lyrics gotta come from someone and somewhere else, but there's plenty of space between Awol's ghostly, dubbed-out beats, crumpled-up melody lines and tones and drones lifted from the dark side of a Rahsaan Roland Kirk album. It's another worthy experiment from a man willing to try anything. —Chris Ziegler
Amanda Palmer & the Grand Theft Orchestra
Life isn't a cabaret for Amanda Palmer so much as it's an ongoing, sprawling, endless carnival. From her early work with the Dresden Dolls to her upcoming album with her latest collaborators, the Grand Theft Orchestra, the madcap singer-pianist always dressed up her carny pop songs with plenty of extracurricular theatrics, garish makeup and stilt-walking sideshow performers. The circus elements are not so much distractions as they are amplifications and virtual re-enactments of the sometimes messy psychodramas that lie within Palmer's lyrics. If new songs like "Do It With a Rockstar" and the orchestra's covers of overplayed songs by Radiohead and Nirvana seem initially less quirky and inventive than her freaky Dresden Doll period, keep listening, because eventually the weirder and stranger elements of her persona will seep through the cracks. —Falling James
DEMI LOVATO at the Greek Theatre; FERRABY LIONHEART at Bootleg Bar.
Talking on the phone a few years ago about Lay It Down, his then-fresh collaboration with ?uestlove of the Roots, Al Green asked us after about four minutes if we'd gotten everything we needed. In fact, we had: What could this R&B great possibly say about his music that the music itself hasn't already expressed more eloquently? Green may pepper his set tonight with a few tunes from Lay It Down, much of which lives up to his legendary Hi Records high point. But showgoers should expect no shortage of the old stuff: "Tired of Being Alone," "Love and Happiness" and, of course, "Let's Stay Together." Last time we caught the good reverend at the Greek, he threw in some gospel, too. With Allen Stone. —Mikael Wood
Ras_G, Shabazz Palaces, Gonjasufi
Ras_G is a crusher among crushers, a reality soldier of the highest order and a vessel for bass and philosophy so dense and heavy that they have to mark off you-assume-all-liability zones at the foot of every speaker. (At Flying Lotus' 420 dublab show, standing next to Ras_G's bass was like bodysurfing ... and failing repeatedly.) Sun Ra is the light of his life, but he ranges far and wide on his own releases, testing and touching everything from free jazz to Dilla-istic beat sketches to the pulverizing digi-dub-bass destroyers on his annihilating Spacebase Is the Place double 10-inch. Bill-sharers Shabazz Palaces (extremely vital) and Gonjasufi (ditto, plus some Beefheart) are from the same planet if not the same plane, and what you get when you visit is revelation through rhythm. —Chris Ziegler
Due to various international commitments (including a brief European stint fronting Queen), this bedazzled American Idol refugee hasn't yet launched a full U.S. tour in support of his excellent new studio album, Trespassing. So Glamberts should be sure to hit this one-off O.C. Fair gig, which is likely to contain all the glitter-ball fabulousness you'll require this summer. Even the non-devoted may enjoy: Where Lambert's post-Idol bow, For Your Entertainment, felt as half-baked as it probably was, Trespassing delivers tunes as forceful as the singer's glam-god look. "Kickin' In" is a sassed-out disco-rock gem, while "Shady" brandishes a sweet guest spot by Nile Rodgers of Chic. If the man behind "Le Freak" is on board, we are, too. —Mikael Wood
Tygers of Wrath
GLASS HOUSE (Pomona)
Love 'em or hate 'em, Tool propelled the popular perception of prog rock from Dungeons & Dragons-y, dork-infested backwater to hip, cultured counterpoint to the knuckleheaded excesses of turn-of-the-millennium nu metal. So while Generation Text proggers like Apple Valley's Tygers of Wrath are influenced as much by the 1970s jazz-rock of the Mahavishnu Orchestra as by Warped Tour–era post-hardcore, they're serious contenders in an age when conceptual lyrics and ambitious polyrhythms needn't spell commercial doom. The Tygers' latest YouTube offering, "Bicycle Fight," while still burbling with sonic adventure, finds the trio in a playful, almost poppy mood, its unsettling grooves sweetened with electronic sprinkles and the Mike Patton–ish side of Ahmad Ibrahim's anguished timbre. The Glass House is effectively home turf for ToW, so expect fervent support and fiery form. —Paul Rogers
STEPHANE WREMBEL at Culver City City Hall; SILVER SNAKES at Origami Vinyl; QUILT, YOUNG MAGIC at the Echo; BIG TIME RUSH at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre.
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