Music Picks: Fiona Apple, Austra, and the Hives

Hunx & His Punx
Hunx & His Punx

Summer Darling


The end of summer is just a week away, but one final blast of the season arrives tonight in the form of Summer Darling. It might be hard to believe, but the local alt-rock quartet is already celebrating its 10th anniversary in showbiz. Yet Summer Darling's collision of angular guitars and yearning vocals still feels bracingly inventive, more like the work of an up-and-coming group with limitless potential rather than a veteran band looking back nostalgically. Lead singer Ben Heywood howls cleverly strange lyrics like "We eat our young to keep you guessing," while his bassist-wife, Heather Bray Heywood, calms the stormy seas with her soothing backing vocals. The tangled interplay of Dan Rossiter's and Ben Heywood's post-grunge guitars is frequently dazzling. —Falling James

Fiona Apple, Blake Mills


Before Blake Mills joins Fiona Apple's backup band for the headlining set tonight, he'll open with a set of tunes from his recent album, Break Mirrors. The Venice singer has produced albums by Jesca Hoop and Sara Watkins, and his subtle, nonflashy guitar style has cropped up in music by everyone from Kid Rock and Lucinda Williams to Band of Horses and Dawes. Mills sheds ghostly entrails with his magic guitar on folk-country tunes like "It'll All Work Out," while crooning in an easygoing, conversational voice. Apple returns with a vengeance from a six-year sabbatical from the spotlight with her romantically tempestuous new album, The Idler Wheel..., revealing bittersweet lyrical wit and inventive arrangements, which range from the junkyard soul clatter of "Anything We Want" to the surreally psychedelic pop of "Every Single Night" to the breathy vocal fusillades of the mesmerizing tongue-twister "Hot Knife." If there was one drawback at Apple's otherwise triumphant show at the Palladium in July, it's that she did relatively few songs from the new CD. —Falling James



When local punkers FIDLAR said, "Life's a risk" — that's the L-A-R part, and the F-I-D stands for "Fuck it, dogg," dontcha know — they weren't kidding, and if you ever got sucked into a circle pit at one of their shows, you'll know exactly what they meant. But FIDLAR know that life's a laugh riot, too. Animated as much by the spirit of The Dickies as The Dead Boys, or as much F.Y.P as Fear, this fast-rising foursome proudly stands in the California punk tradition of both not giving a fuck and encouraging the vigorous not-giving-of-fucks in others, too. "I drink cheap beer — so what? Fuck you!" is the lyric of what's probably gonna be their big hit, or at least their big contribution to the world of parents wondering why their kids can't listen to something nice for once. —Chris Ziegler

Los Amigos Invisibles


With their first career Latin Grammy in 2009 for the wickedly partylicious Commercial (Nacional), New York–based Los Amigos Invisibles found themselves getting some way overdue props. It's hard to say no to the heady dance hash these Venezuelan masters blast out with witty style and frighteningly tight precision. The Amigos sound is a fusion of Latin rhythms with sweaty funk, slinky disco, quirky lounge and pumping Afro-rock, a retro-to-the-future electro-sleaze that makes them a sensational stage combo, too: The band's live mash-ups come hilariously replete with supremely tongue-in-cheek interpolations of internationally famous pop tunes. Make sure to check their 2011 follow-up to Commercial — called, yep, Not So Commercial. —John Payne

sat 9/15

Hunx & His Punx, Shannon & the Clams


For some reason, garage rock never really goes out of style. Every generation has its own twist on the eternal combination of fuzzed-out guitars and bratty/insolent vocals, and Hunx & His Punx are as twisted as they come. Mr. Hunx, né Seth Bogart, first came to attention as the goofball dancing and camping it up onstage with the lo-fi Bay Area electro band Gravy Train. Dressed in little more than a jock strap, Hunx is hardly a shy wallflower now that he fronts his own group. His latest album is called Hairdresser Blues (a nod to the real-life hair salon he operates with The Bobbyteens' Tina Lucchesi), and the songs range from the exuberantly punky "Private Room" to the relatively restrained throbbing Velvet Underground pop of "When You're Gone." His frequent partner in crime, Shannon Shaw, fronts the similarly groovy combo Shannon & the Clams and coos charmingly trashy girl-group anthems like "Sleep Talk." —Falling James

Dum Dum Girls


It doesn't matter for one second whether Dum Dum Girls band commander Dee Dee repurposed the band's name from an Iggy Pop song or that just-shy-of-perfect Vaselines album. She does 'em both proud. Last year's Only in Dreams was the record Phil Spector thought he was gonna get when he produced The Ramones — and yes, that was the session where he pulled out a gun — with Mary Weiss tuff-girl vocals over wall-of-bliss punk-pop songs so deep and sweet that they'll dissolve you on contact. Dee Dee is so fluent in pop she might as well have been raised in the wild by a pack of Blondie B-sides, and every song offers ample opportunity for you to pull the car off the freeway and sing your heart out. A band that learned every right lesson from a thousand listens to "Oh Oh I Love Her So." —Chris Ziegler




For its first few bars, a song like "Lose It" suggests that Austra are just another of those kinda dance-y, kinda goth-y electronic acts that seem to be performing at any given moment during South by Southwest and at least weekly at the Bootleg Theater. But then Katie Stelmanis starts singing. The classically trained Canadian emits unearthly, yodel-ish utterances that can color entire days. The electro Kate Bush, Stelmanis initially seems to be singing in some unintelligible language of her own imagination, but in fact her operatic gymnastics and crystalline vowels could make the recitation of a laundry label seem arcane, escapist and deeply meaningful. While Austra's early Depeche Mode synths and frisky beat-box grooves are nothing special in 2012, Stelmanis' wonderfully eccentric vocals are utterly, timelessly spectacular. —Paul Rogers



Rarely does a band's name so aptly fit its sound. On its debut, Pacific Standard Time, Los Angeles' chlorinated duo Poolside creates lazy dance rhythms that sound miles away from dark nightclubs. Percolating in the midtempo region, the album's paced movements fit the mellowed-out, grown-up groove merchant. Head bobs are unavoidable as Poolside glide through the '70s-inspired shuffles of "Slow Down," then throw some spice into the Latin-flavored "Kiss You Forever." Explosions in the Sky–style guitars find their way onto "Off My Mind," bringing a dusty, eye-squinting vibe to the sounds of waves crashing in the background. Rather than restricting themselves to the summer months, with PST, Poolside transfer the smoldering balminess of the season to the rest of the year. —Lily Moayeri

sun 9/16



L.A. has its own musician-moonlighting-as-a-Ph.D. in punk band Bad Religion's Dr. Greg Graffin, but across the pond, the honor of stage-smashing scholar probably should go to dubstepper Kode9 — sorry, Dr. Kode9 — for both giving the world the gonna-be-historic Hyperdub label and for his recent book, Sonic Warfare, published by the MIT Press as an examination of the "politics of frequency." Sound like something Slavoj iek might be working on? Because Kode9 songs are less like sonic warfare and more like the flames flickering in the ruins afterward — all sizzling synthesizer and big, split-open beats, and plenty of space and echo for that real, last-man-on-Earth feeling. This is smart, affecting stuff, as befits a doctor of philosophy, and it makes the perfect soundtrack for a world where the cracks are starting to show. —Chris Ziegler

mon 9/17

Josh Nelson


Josh Nelson looks much younger than his 34 years but has already become a seasoned veteran and one of the most respected pianists on the L.A. music scene. Nelson's talents are strong enough to have won him a job as Natalie Cole's primary touring pianist worldwide for the last several years, while he's continued to compose and record his own material, a practice dating back to his first album, at age 19. Vitello's in Studio City is home to a semi-regular Monday "Discoveries" series featuring Nelson, which allows him to add guest players to augment his regular trio. Tonight Nelson features NYC-based Philip Dizack, regarded there as one of the hottest young trumpeters on the East Coast. Nelson's musical knowledge has won him praise and fans both young and old, and tonight should serve as another example of exactly why. —Tom Meek

tue 9/18

Dirt Bird


With their ethereal, operatic harmonies and their semi-classical blend of harmonium and piano, local duo Dirt Bird conjure dreamy idylls that sound like they could be from another time. But Claire McKeown and Athena LeGrand's songs aren't linked to any one specific era, nor do they belong to a distinctly predictable retro genre. Instead, their "classical experimental folk gothic minimalist skiffle" reveries are drawn just as much from the modern pop world as they are from proper choral tradition. "How will we survive on Spaceship Earth?" they wonder on the icy-beautiful ballad "Buckminster Fuller," their shimmering harmonies trailing behind them like gauzy white clouds. —Falling James



As you might have seen at his debut appearance at the Hollywood Bowl last summer, Tuareg guitarist-songwriter Omara "Bombino" Moctar is an ax shredder of quite unusual chops and point of view. He's earned critical raves all over the Sahara and recently in the West for his singing and playing, an acoustically lyrical but electrically badass mastery of the guitar — a cross between fellow Africans Tinariwen and Ali Farka Touré, laced with rocky blues à la John Lee Hooker and Jimi Hendrix. Given extra heft by the socially conscious themes rooted in his people's armed struggles for independence from the brutal tyranny of government forces, Bombino slays on his 2011 Agadez (Cumbancha), his scorching jams blended with traditional Tuareg song forms and toughed-up trance grooves. —John Payne


wed 9/19



People now might think first of Ariel Pink, but the squiggly zigzag that leads to the band Foxygen goes way, way back, through British art-weirdos like Nikki Sudden and The Jacobites to the Television Personalities to the New York Dolls to Bowie and finally the Rolling Stones, who'd probably look at Foxygen like a dinosaur looks at a hummingbird — "So you say we're related?" But under beautifully lo-fi production by Richard Swift are glammed-up songs detailed to the last dot, like the Spiders From Mars if they'd actually been recorded on Mars, or the New York Dolls if they'd actually been stranded in the jungle. (There are plenty of space noises and animal yelps to reinforce the point.) To some people, this probably seems like a big mess. But if you listen closely, you'll realize it's more like a message. —Chris Ziegler



Releasing just two albums in 12 years, locals Autolux seldom hurry, yet survive by being perpetually worth the wait. Though often built from organic, even archaic sounds, the trio's bold, eclectic records are decidedly contemporary urban soundtracks: lonely even when congested with sonic information and, though sometimes wide open, seldom suggestive of wide-open spaces. Autolux's oblique shoegaze guitars and textured post-punk basslines are made animal by Carla Azar's economical, deliberate drumming and humanized with tinkly sprinkles of keys. But much of the band's multidimensional connection is in their understated triple-threat vocals: the introverted, fixed-stare timbre of guitarist Greg Edwards; bassist Eugene Goreshter's more tortured tone; and Azar's dreamily pristine pipes. Though not the name to drop that they were five years ago, Autolux rightly remain a benchmark for Eastside indie cool. —Paul Rogers

thu 9/20

The Soft Pack


Although born as a band in San Diego, The Soft Pack found a welcoming new home here in L.A., where they could indulge their twin loves of local boys Warren Zevon and Steve Martin — two hilariously erudite ass-kickers who obviously inspired this band of hilariously erudite ass-kickers — and work on building a sound that found still-unexplored territory within good ol' self-taught guitar-guitar-bass-and-drums indie rock & roll. Their debut LP was delivered with the same unpretentious dedication to form as classics by The Feelies or The Clean, bands that turned "simple" into timeless. Their newest LP, Strapped, finds them on the same path but just on the edge of unexplored territory. (Keys and horns? You bet!) This is a band that went back to basics already and is building up something new. —Chris Ziegler

Jerry Vivino


When Conan O'Brien left NBC after The Tonight Show fallout from 2010's Jay Leno scheduling hopscotch, he brought with him a sizable number of his show's staff, including most of the Max Weinberg 7 band (Weinberg also was the longtime drummer for Bruce Springsteen). When Weinberg chose not to follow Conan to TBS, guitarist Jimmy Vivino took over along with brother and saxman Jerry, renamed the Basic Cable Band. Both Vivinos now play in area clubs, with Jerry's monthly stint at Studio City's Baked Potato the most regular. Jerry's shows are filled with commentary, audience banter and frequent guest appearances — tonight's show includes fellow Conan band members Mike Merritt on bass and James Wormworth on drums, along with the fine keyboardist and "Yogamundo" Mitchel Forman. —Tom Meek

Hunx & His Punx

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