Music Picks: Joan Osborne, Tears for Fears, the Cute Lepers, J. Cole, Low
These West Palm Beach guitar guys are set to hit the road this fall as the Pixies' opening act, which is a little like Stone Temple Pilots softening the crowd for Nirvana. (Wait, did that ever happen?) On much of last year's blog-buzzed Astro Coast, Surfer Blood sound like Vampire Weekend covering tunes from Doolittle and Bossanova (though not, strangely, Surfer Rosa — that one's too sexy). Before they meet their idols, they're headlining some West Coast dates of their own in advance of Tarot Classics, a zippy little four-song EP (due Oct. 25) that moves the appealing hero worship up to Trompe Le Monde; "Miranda" is "Alec Eiffel" in all but name. Also Sat. at the Getty Center. —Mikael Wood
Peter Hook & The Light, Moby
EL REY THEATRE
At the time of singer Ian Curtis' death on the eve of Joy Division's first American tour, Joy Division were a rapidly evolving band creating epic magic. The band had been on a rich creative roll, even along with (and in many ways because of) Curtis' various woes, but his suicide stopped the whole enterprise dead in its ascending tracks. Ex-J.D./New Order bassist Peter Hook and his new crew will, in effect, give the American live premiere of Joy Division's finest, most heartrendingly beautiful records, Closer and Unknown Pleasures. The El Rey show will present Unknown Pleasures in its entirety. Last week, a surprise was announced via Twitter: Hook's longtime friend Moby will join the band as guest vocalist. —John Payne
HEAVY CREAM, THE SHRINE at Catnap; POLLS, PEK PEK at the Echo; JOSH NELSON at Blue Whale; WALT FOWLER at Vibrato; BILL HOLMAN BIG BAND at Vitello's.
HOUSE OF BLUES
Try convincing hip-hop purists that a skinny white dude, whose late-night show airs when most people are passed out, would help legitimize the Roots. But alas, the Philly hip-hop collective's recent work as the house band on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon has only further articulated their brilliance as versatile musical masters in a genre that often demands one look. Already risk-takers (see last year's stellar soul throwback, Wake Up!, with John Legend), this may have been their biggest gamble yet. If anything, though, their new gig — with Amir ?uestlove leading the way per usual (and putting old dogs like Paul Shaffer to shame in the process) — puts an exclamation point on an already heralded career. Thankfully, Fallon summer reruns equal a chance to see the legendary crew off-camera. —Dan Hyman
Tears for Fears
While Tears for Fears wasn't the most credible name to drop during the Brit band's 1980s heyday, their tunes have time-traveled well. What they lacked in cartoonish image and overt star power TFF more than compensated for with sheer singability and mainman Roland Orzabal's fastidious production. Early singles like "Mad World" and breakthrough "Shout" are as era-evocative as a Rubik's cube, yet their sheer ambition and melodrama have proved enduringly endearing ("Mad World" was supersuccessfully covered by Gary Jules 20 years later). 1989's "Sowing the Seeds of Love," perhaps the pinnacle of Orzabal's grandiose designs, likewise stands up as an ultramelodic masterstroke Oasis would die for. Tears for Fears return to remind us that the best new wave bands were, after all, triumphs of content over form. —Paul Rogers
KE$HA at Gibson Amphitheatre; THE DAYLIGHTS at Hotel Café; PAUL OAKENFOLD at Avalon; DELTA MIRROR, DREAM TAPES at Bootleg Bar; LAS CAFETERAS, CHICANO SON, LA CHAMBA at Echoplex; DON RANDI & QUEST at the Baked Potato; RITA EDMOND at Nola's; MARY GAUTHIER, LORI MCKENNA at McCabe's; SLIGHTLY STOOPID, SHWAYZE at Verizon Amphitheatre; DON HENLEY, LUCINDA WILLIAMS at Greek Theatre; RANA FARHAN, SHAHRZAD SEPANLOU at El Rey Theatre; ANR, WE BARBARIANS at Satellite.
Whether dubstep ends up happening in the United States any more convincingly than jungle or 2-step did before it, it seems safe at this point to conclude James Blake has: Seven months after its release, his self-titled debut was nestled last week within the Top 10 of iTunes' Top Electronic Albums chart, and this weekend the English singer-producer hits L.A. for a pair of headlining shows hot on the heels of recent gigs at the Troubadour and Hollywood Forever. Whatever the dimensions of his professional success, Blake has for sure triumphed creatively; the stark electro-soul ruminations on his album had me humming even before I got to the Feist cover. A follow-up EP (including a dreamy duet with Bon Iver) is due out next month. Also Mon. —Mikael Wood
Laura Marling's songs have a somber intensity that should properly answer the echoes in the cemetery's Masonic Lodge tonight. The British folksinger's third and latest album, A Creature I Don't Know, is anchored by such contemplative ballads as "Rest in Bed" and "The Beast," where her intimate vocals bounce off little more than an acoustic guitar. On other roots-folk tunes like "The Muse" and "I Was Just a Card," Marling's freewheeling delivery is almost jazzy. And she's positively stirring when she pledges to "leave my rage to the sea and sun" on the album closer, "All My Rage," a more traditional-minded lament, where producer Ethan Johns surrounds her with a mesmerizing blur of stringed instruments. Also Tues. at the Troubadour. —Falling James
ZOUNDS, RESIST AND EXIS, GESTAPO KHAZI at the Echo; ANDY GARCIA & THE CINESON ALL-STAR BAND at Catalina.
Bon Iver have come a long way from those early, solitary days recording in the woods of Wisconsin. The mythology of a bearded indie troubadour pouring his heart out in song still stands, but the reality is that said troubadour, Justin Vernon, is now selling out 6,000-plus-capacity venues and collaborating with the likes of Kanye West and James Blake. What's more, the formerly solitary man has augmented his live band with the talented fellows from Arcade Fire and Antony and the Johnsons, who helped orchestrate and arrange his recent self-titled album to create the ethereal soundscapes and richly layered textures that have become Bon Iver's trademark. Although it may not have the mystique of a fragile soul recording alone in the woods, it's still bound to be magical. Also Tues. at Gibson Amphitheatre. —Laura Ferreiro
Joan Osborne, Dar Williams
EL REY THEATRE
Tonight's co-headliners are both folk-pop singers with mainstream instincts, but they also have their occasional freaky and even subversive sides. Joan Osborne, after all, was once a member of Grateful Dead spinoff the Dead, and in recent years she's been a persuasively soulful rock & roller in Cheap Trick's Sgt. Pepper's tribute shows. The versatile singer is often at her best when she veers away from the mainstream on her country-roots side trips. Puzzlingly, Osborne hasn't released much since her 2008 full-length, Little Wild One. Dar Williams isn't afraid to take on God and gender injustice in her gently earnest, LGBT-friendly folk songs, but she's also enough of a rocker to pull off her own distinctively trippy remakes of classics by Pink Floyd and Neil Young. —Falling James
BETH HART at Echoplex; KISSING COUSINS, RAW GERONIMO, WRITER, RAINBOW JACKSON at the Echo; JOHN DAVERSA SMALL BAND at Seven Grand.
You know her best as the oddly dispassionate woman threatening to get slizzard in Far East Movement's "Like a G6," but now L.A.-based Dev is striking out on her own with The Night the Sun Came Up, a solo album that sticks to the stripped-down electro-rap sound that made her semi-famous. ("I like my beats fast and my bass down low," she explains in the disc's lead single, attempting perhaps to distinguish herself from Skylar Grey, 2011's other hook provider–turned-headliner.) This show is billed as a record-release bash, and given the names Dev has collaborated with of late (think Tinie Tempah, Flo Rida and David Guetta), anticipate the appearance of some A-list party crashers tonight. —Mikael Wood
EL REY THEATRE
Indie-rock trio Low are among those bands from the '90s that are timeless. They've pursued their slow, moody sound so single-mindedly over the last two decades, it's hard to imagine anyone or anything nudging them off-course. They've survived children (at their core, Low are a husband-and-wife pair), nervous breakdowns (singer-guitarist Alan Sparhawk once declared himself the Antichrist), the loss of longtime bassist Zak Sally, and the wider world's indifference to make nine beautiful, lush albums. Their latest, C'mon, was recorded in an old, decommissioned Catholic church with a 100-year-old pipe organ in Duluth and released in April on Sub Pop. —Lainna Fader
JOE JONAS, JAY SEAN at the Wiltern; BEN LEE at Largo; ZAPPA PLAYS ZAPPA at Greek Theatre.
Twin Shadow, Diamond Rings
George Lewis Jr. was born in the Dominican Republic and raised on a man-made island in Florida, where he worked as a composer for a touring dance company before ending up in a punk-rock band in Boston. He soon discovered R&B and headed out to New York City, where he stayed long enough to record his shimmery, synth-heavy debut as Twin Shadow. Recorded alone in hotel rooms in the dead of night, Forget is music drenched in 1980s nostalgia. Traces of Morrissey, Prince, Echo and the Bunnymen and Depeche Mode are all here, enhanced with the production of Grizzly Bear's multi-instrumentalist Chris Taylor, but Forget isn't tethered to any one genre. Fans of new wave, indie pop, R&B and B-movie soundtracks will find much to love here. —Lainna Fader
The Cute Lepers
REDWOOD BAR & GRILL
The Cute Lepers have much of the same zippy energy of lead singer Steve E. Nix's aptly named previous band, the Briefs. The Lepers' new album, Adventure Time, is crammed with short and silly punk-pop songs that are clearly very much in the manic tradition of bands like the Dickies (albeit without the latter's viciously absurd humor). Even with titles like "Damaging Acts" and "All This Attention Is Killing Me," the mood is always peppy and buoyant rather than dark and sinister. "She Liked Helter Skelter" might be the poppiest tune of all, with Mr. Nix rhapsodizing in between stop-and-start chords and bubblegum backup vocals. —Falling James
UNDEROATH at Glass House (Pomona); RT N THE 44S, GWENDOLYN at Bootleg Bar; COOLING TIME, TELEMATIQUE, TRIPLE CHICKEN FOOT, LA MUFF at the Echo; STEVE COLEMAN & 5 ELEMENTS at Blue Whale.
To pluck from the lyrics of Jay-Z, the mastermind who signed him, J. Cole's "not a businessman — he's a business, man!" The North Carolina native and magna cum laude St. John's University graduate seems to have adopted an old-school approach in this oversaturated new-media world. That tried-and-true mentality sometimes feels a little staid, and Jay-Z isn't the best A&R guy, but Cole's too smart not to have a plan. Besides, he raps with the emotional honesty of a therapist and the easy confidence of a first-round draft pick. Last November, his third mixtape, Friday Night Lights, almost broke the Internet; his debut album, Cole World: The Sideline Story (which, yes, features Jigga), is set to drop Sept. 27. The entire online gymnasium is chanting. —Rebecca Haithcoat
Two Door Cinema Club
Fresh off the European summer festival circuit, the three lads from Northern Ireland who comprise Two Door Cinema Club don't look nearly as formidable as they are. Resembling buttoned-up schoolboys far more than indie rockers, the trio crank out a sound that's simultaneously polished and raw, rockin' and poppy, with catchy guitar hooks aplenty. Although comparisons to Phoenix and Vampire Weekend abound, Two Door Cinema Club are forging their own path just one full-length into their career. If their Coachella appearance earlier this year was any indication, the crowd is gonna eat this stuff up. The summer may be winding down, but tonight you can dance like it will never end. —Laura Ferreiro
PAPPY & HARRIET'S PIONEERTOWN PALACE
There's just something weirdly fantastic and uniquely American about seeing the great Wanda Jackson at this Mojave Desert outpost. Pioneertown was created in the 1940s as a set for film and television Westerns, before taking on a life of its own and becoming the most authentic fake Old West town you'll ever find. Ms. Jackson, of course, is truly authentic — a rockabilly and country-music innovator who was mentored by Hank Thompson and has worked with both Elvises (Presley and Costello). She was one of the first rockabilly divas to play guitar and write her own songs (including the classic "Mean Mean Man"), and her hits have been covered by everyone from the Go-Go's and the Cramps to Southern Culture on the Skids and the Fall. She's still going strong with her recent album, The Party Ain't Over, aided and abetted by the seemingly ubiquitous Jack White. —Falling James
UCLA ROYCE HALL
New York magazine recently called Sonny Rollins "one of the last jazz legends," with contemporaries such as Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane long since passed. Rollins' compositions, including "Oleo," "Airegin" and others have become part of jazz history, standards that have been played thousands of times the world over. His Thursday night show at UCLA's Royce Hall (and Sunday matinee at the Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa) includes bassist Bob Cranshaw and guitarist Peter Bernstein, and will feature music from Rollins' just-released CD, Road Shows, Vol. 2. He's backed by Sammy Figueroa on percussion and Kobie Watkins on drums, and these are the only 2011 SoCal chances to experience the power of the now 81-year-old tenor saxophone giant. —Tom Meek
This Australian/Kiwi crew — Chris Abrahams (piano), Tony Buck (drums) and Lloyd Swanton (bass) — make one of those sounds that can skew your head a bit. Not quite jazz, not really rock or ambient or contemporary classical or whatsit, just a beautiful meltdown of all of the above. They'll often play spontaneously composed works that reveal seemingly endless depths of harmonic/melodic variation, their trancelike effect grounded in satisfyingly deep polyrhythms that propel this powerfully ambiguous beast forward. The Necks, though always in masterful control, never really know where a piece might take them, and it makes for great modern music: the sound of surprise. —John Payne
SUZY'S (HERMOSA BEACH)
On first listen, Cerebellion's ostensibly angry vocals, clicky kick drums and crunchy guitars deliver nasty wafts of nü-metal. But give 'em a minute. This OC foursome put miles between themselves and that genre, with lofty lyrics and a supple musicality that bursts its hesher heart with quasi-medieval harmonies and the welcome flamenco flurries of songs like "Undeniable" and "Inalienable." There's something here for shirtless pit-stokers and headphoned tokers alike, all laced with an earnest sense of injustice that makes you want to run out into the streets and do something, anything, about everything. A single, truly spectacular song could be the difference between Cerebellion mildly pleasing everyone and massively motivating a true following. —Paul Rogers
CINDERELLA at Canyon Club; THE JANKS, AMERICAN TOMAHAWK at Bootleg Bar; MIAMI HORROR, CLASS ACTRESS, GIGAMESH, L.A. GIRLFRIEND, FRANKI CHAN at El Rey Theatre; fDELUXE at Largo; BELANOVA at Conga Room.
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