Music Picks: Kaskade, Dirty Projectors, Ondatrópica
Billed as the first occasion on which a solo electronic act has headlined Staples Center, the L.A. date of Kaskade's Freaks of Nature tour offers SoCal dance fans the valuable opportunity to lose their shit between $14 beers. For the Orange County-based DJ himself, though, the show serves as a chance to live down the last time he played — or tried to play — in town: the night exactly one year ago when his appearance outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre triggered a so-called riot Kaskade later referred to as "a regrettable event" that wasn't "what EDM is about." On the musical front, expect sentimental vocals laid over booming Euro-trance beats, and expect them to arrive in crescendo after crescendo (after crescendo). —Mikael Wood
In the increasingly crowded glam-garage scene that has given us Girls, Smith Westerns and Hunx and His Punx, everybody's figured out what you're supposed to look like (kind of trashy) and how your guitars are supposed to sound (nice and crispy); there's no advantage anymore in pitch-perfect style. So the only way to make a mark now is through songs — good ones. Vermont-born, L.A.-based King Tuff (aka Kyle Thomas of Witch and Feathers) fills his self-titled Sub Pop debut with plenty of those, including the juvie-triumphant "Bad Thing" and "Stupid Superstar," which recalls Teenage Fanclub's Bandwagonesque more precisely than anything we've heard in years. He hits the Echo on the next-to-last date of a North American tour with power-poppy labelmates Jaill. —Mikael Wood
BONOBO at El Rey Theatre; LONESTAR at Club Nokia; YING YANG TWINS at Key Club; PSYCHIC PARAMOUNT at the Satellite; UPSILON ACRUX, VAN EXEL at the Smell; MEWITHOUTYOU, KEVIN DEVINE at Troubadour.
Dirty Projectors, Wye Oak
What few critics there were of Dirty Projectors' 2009 magnum opus, Bitte Orca, took issue with the LP's idiosyncrasies. As thrilling as those songs were, they clearly weren't written for anyone other than main brain David Longstreth. But on new album Swing Lo Magellan, that same savant-like genius lifts up his voice to sing, without any irony, "There is an answer, I haven't found it, but I will keep dancing till I do." Fitting that the track is called "Dance for You," because this new set plies more traditional songcraft in a brutally successful stab at accessibility. The herky-jerky editing of the past has given way to fluidity, the flurries of Afro-inspired guitar plucking replaced by emotive electric squall, the Reichian choir vocals ditched for soothing harmonies and soaring leads. Finally, art-pop that actually makes good on the second part of that handle. —Chris Martins
Computer Jay was the guy stage left in Master Blazter with DâM-FunK, J-1 and an entire Mercury space capsule's worth of old-school technology stacked around him, as well as onetime keyboardist for the Pharcyde and one of the earliest 8-bit beatmakers in L.A. But you can't talk about the man without talking about the machine — you know, the Computer. Built by hand just like Anakin did C-3PO, Jay's partner is a talking, rapping, futuretronic disco machine with an Atari 2600 for a brain and an MPC for a heart, installed next to him onstage to deliver inhumanly precise beats and rhymes. HAL 9000 plus Deltron 3030? It'd take the entire processing power of the American space program to solve that equation. Hip-hop at the sci-fi limit, with a series of new EPs coming this summer. —Chris Ziegler
Everything old is new again, and Nick Waterhouse is counting on that on his debut full-length, Time's All Gone. Half-a-century old soul blasts forth from this horn-rim-bespectacled, dapper-suited, Buddy Holly-looking throwback and his cast of stellar musicians. Waterhouse doesn't fit as smoothly into the retro-revival movement as, say, Mayer Hawthorne, but that's because he is giving it his own stylish R&B twist. A honking brass section bleats over shimmying female back-up vocals and a banging piano with a noticeable vinyl crackle and hiss so desperately missing from compressed music. For Waterhouse, it's less about taking you back and more about bringing classic songwriting and a full-bodied performance aesthetic to the present. —Lily Moayeri
The bands with which The Ettes have toured (The Black Keys, The Dead Weather) and their long relationship with producer Liam Watson (best known for engineering/mixing The White Stripes) imply their analog revival-pop silhouette without sketching in details. For while the Nashville trio gets plenty garage-y, with a penchant for pouring fuzz onto just about everything but Lindsay "Coco" Hames' wonderfully tremulous vocals, last year's Wicked Will offers more. Album opener "Teeth" is a slow-smoldering ballad built of sparse yet cinematic guitars and funereal kick drum; closer "The Worst There Is" is a Saturday morning spaghetti Western with beehive-d vocals. In between, The Ettes get fresh with the serrated, finger-in-your-face "Excuse" and the loud bit/quiet bit bluntness of "You Never Say." Certainly of a type, just not quite ready to be typecast. —Paul Rogers
ARABIAN PRINCE, EGYPTIAN LOVER at Levitt Pavilion (MacArthur Park); GLADYS KNIGHT, NATALIE COLE at Greek Theatre.
After all the record-company meddling and controversy surrounding the different versions of her convulsively romantic 2005 album, Extraordinary Machine, Fiona Apple didn't even tell her label that she was recording again until she'd finished her latest, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do. The local singer-pianist is apparently wiser, too, observing life from the periphery ("They throw good parties there") and allowing that "I was still a dewy petal/rather than a moribund slut." Apart from the percussive throb of "Hot Knife," where Apple nimbly exchanges a feverishly hypnotic blur of sighs with her sister, Maude Maggart, the new album is a little starker than Extraordinary Machine, with Apple dividing the lonely spaces with flecks of searchlight piano and confiding her romantic travails via a rueful wit: "I made it to a dinner date/My teardrops seasoned every plate." —Falling James
Forget about all the Latino-themed parties you've been to in your life, because this one is guaranteed to blow them all out of the water. Colombian cumbia supergroup Ondatrópica comes to L.A. for one night only. The group, founded by Mario Galeano of Frente Cumbiero and producer Will "Quantic" Holland, brings together numerous veterans of Colombia's cumbia scene with younger cumbia all-stars such as Pedro "Ramaya" Beltran and Juan Carlos "Chongo" Puello. Opening the night will be a trio of local artists who are reinventing old-school Latin sounds: vallenato veterans Very Be Careful, merengue/cumbia champions Buyepongo and psychedelic surf-cumbia group Chicano Batman. Throw in a few DJ sets from Sloe Poke, Canyon Cody, Panamami and Ganas, and you've got the best cumbia party L.A. will ever see. —Ivan Fernandez
Leslie Stevens is the kind of girl Terry Allen could write a song about — or write a song with, for that matter. She has a great-grandmother who rode a wagon across Oklahoma back when that was the only way to head west and a voice that flew out of Larry McMurtryland, Texas, with songs about love and Los Angeles that are equal parts smoke and wildfire. (The Leslie and the Badgers album was actually recorded during a particularly combustible L.A. season, and the sweetest song on there is about getting hit by lightning.) She was just on Father John Misty's own countrified Sub Pop album, so right now you'll have an easy reason to feel like you've heard her before. But really she's just got the kind of voice you'll realize you've been waiting to hear since forever. —Chris Ziegler
ABE VIGODA, JAVELIN at the Smell; CRYSTAL STILTS, MANTLES, SEA LIONS at the Echo.
EL REY THEATRE
The South rises again in the form of Big K.R.I.T. ("king remember in time"), a marvelously dexterous rapper-producer from Mississippi who insists that it's "Cool 2 Be Southern" on his debut full-length CD, Live From the Underground. He has produced key tracks by Wiz Khalifa and Curren$y and collaborated with the likes of Big Boi, Chamillionaire, Joi and David Banner, but his own music is dizzyingly diverse and hard to pin down to just one style. "I Got This" recalls Big Boi's rapid-fire delivery on OutKast's "Bombs Over Baghdad," but Big K.R.I.T. segues into cool soul grooves like "Porchlight," the slinky R&B of "Hydroplaning" and the kinky funk of "What U Mean," as well as such stranger spells as the contemplative idyll "Rich Dad, Poor Dad." The former Justin Scott also can kick up a ruckus on such songs as "My Sub (Pt. 2: The Jackin')," and he trips the light fantastic on the spacey tune "LFU300MA." He throws a hell of a get-down live, the sort that's guaranteed to rouse even the most blasé city slicker. —Falling James
Like baseball, it's common in modern jazz circles to assume all the best players end up in New York. This pianist from Long Beach helps push back against this Yankee narrative, for he made it somewhere without making it where Sinatra said he needed to go. Being Natalie Cole's personal pianist certainly helps, but so does becoming one of the best jazz pianists in the world, including NYC. With an absurdly effortless virtuosity, matched by his unlimited imagination, Josh Nelson seemingly can conjure up any musical idea and execute it flawlessly with a cherry on top. Part of his monthly "Discovery Sessions" series (which includes interesting spontaneous painting by Claudia Carballada), this show features the brilliant saxophone player Ben Wendel, whom Josh really needs to convince to move back to L.A. —Gary Fukushima
KELLY CLARKSON at Hollywood Bowl.
HOTT MT, Oh Boy Les Mecs
L.A.'s own HOTT MT are right now riding on a benevolent wave made of equal parts mystery and hype. The latter is due to the fact that, after driving to Oklahoma on a whim and landing on the porch of Wayne Coyne (on his birthday, no less), they managed to get the head Flaming Lip to record on one of their fuzz-fueled, synth-psyched songs. The former is, well, because no one knows who the hell these brass-ballin' weirdos are. With names like Ashi Dala, Spooky Tavi and Bad Bahd, the trio cultivates an air of enigma that suits its strangely surfy experimental dance tracks. They call their music "Thai gaze," but the airy, gushing vocals of their female lead (Ashi) seem much farther flung — from another planet, perhaps? Oh Boy Les Mecs is local, too, peddling a Björk-y mix of electronics and emotion. —Chris Martins
JASON FALKNER, NEW MAXIMUM DONKEY at the Echoplex.
Erika Forster, member of Brooklyn synth-pop trio Au Revoir Simone, has reinvented herself as Erika Spring and just released a dreamy, self-titled solo EP that ranges from the breathy electro-pop of "Like a Fire" to the ethereal romanticism of "Six More Weeks." Forster's airy vocals anoint her version of The Eurythmics' "When Tomorrow Comes" with a gently sparkling allure, and she slyly crafts a mood of delicious anticipation on "Happy at Your Gate" with her bubbling keyboards and confessional intimacy. Don't bid adieu to her old band just yet; instead, say hello to this newfound and unexpected side of Forster — a charming consolation prize for those who need their Au Revoir Simone fix. —Falling James
The disgustingly multitalented composer-songwriter-singer-producer Mike Andrews finds a moment to celebrate the release of his latest solo record, Spilling a Rainbow, coming in August on the essential Everloving label. You've heard Andrews via his imaginative scores for a lot of your fave TV shows and movies, including Freaks and Geeks, Donnie Darko, all those Judd Apatow flicks like The Five Year Engagement and Bridesmaids, and Jake Kasdan's magnificent Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. A sort of concept album themed around the birth of his baby boy, Andrews' new solo release reveals a sweetly mellifluous and choicely harmonized pop — and a slightly psychedelic one, too, like in "Music for Cell Division," where he scored his wife's ultrasound. Andrews' Wednesday-night residency with ultra-very-special friends runs throughout August; tonight he's joined by singer-songwriter Nik Freitas. —John Payne
Miles Evans Band
Trumpeter Miles Evans is the son of the late arranger Gil Evans, best known for his work with Miles Davis, Evans' namesake. Evans' recent gigs at Catalina have ventured more toward rock than jazz, including songs from The Beatles and The Rolling Stones; for this show he's adding Traffic and CSNY. Evans' band tonight includes longtime Stones backing vocalist Bernard Fowler, keyboardists Delmar Brown (Sting) and John Beasley (Miles Davis), and the return of (after her extended 2010-11 tours with Zappa Plays Zappa) saxophonist Scheila Gonzalez, joined by Doug Webb. Steve Ferrone (Tom Petty) will be in the drum chair, and guitarists Dean Brown (Brecker Brothers) and Mike Blumberg also are on board. Expect Hollywood's Catalina to be rocking on this one more than any gig this year. —Tom Meek
TENACIOUS D at Wiltern; TEARS FOR FEARS at Pacific Amphitheatre; CHRIS ISAAK at Grove of Anaheim; NEVILLE BROTHERS at Hollywood Bowl.
If there's one thing the singers who've worked with filmmaker David Lynch have in common, it's that their music comes shrouded in layers of gauzy atmosphere. Such otherwise disparate chanteuses as Julee Cruise and Ariana Delawari find common ground in the way Lynch plunges their languorous ballads into a pool of swirling echoes and wraps them up in a shimmering haze. For more than two decades, Lynch's divas have carved out their own distinct subgenre of dream pop, and Texas native Chrysta Bell is one of his most captivating protégées to date. "This train stops for no one," she warns as a stark and lonely soundscape wells up behind her on the title track of her 2011 album, This Train. But Bell doesn't always keep things so cool, shuffling off her immortal coil to reveal a wounded human heart on "Swing With Me," where she wails with a piercing, persuasively soulful intensity amid Lynch's columns of funereal shadows. —Falling James
Onra, Free the Robots, Matthewdavid
Instrumental electronicist Onra may call France home, but his sound is as influenced by our city's beat scene as it is by the Gallic, synthy come-ons of Sebastian Tellier and the deft pulse of Daft Punk. He, too, has worshipped at the altar of J Dilla, turning warm loops and cut-up vocals into seething scores for head-nodding and freak-dancing. He's also channeled the slow-seething bump of early Flying Lotus at times, weaving foreign percussives with celestial effects. That said, his new Deep Is the Night EP is made to boogie, emphasizing gushing keyboard sounds and echoing '80s drums, a perfect score for top-down cruising through an urban neon blur. Friends from the neighborhood will be on hand: Free the Robots, whose dystopic soundscapes are the right kind of terrifying, and Matthewdavid, who creates gorgeous textures out of found sounds and digitalia. —Chris Martins
CINDERELLA at Canyon Club; VICTORIA JUSTICE at Pacific Amphitheatre.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.