Music Picks: Liz Phair, the Weepies, Tom Tom Club, Evan Voytas
CULTURE COLLIDE WITH CARIBOU, NITE JEWEL AT THE MUSIC BOX
The Culture Collide fest (at several venues through October 10) continues with Caribou, aka Canadian electronic-acoustic alchemist Dan Snaith. The London-based artist recently put out Swim (Merge), the latest in a series of works that, while traversing droney ambient chill-out and IDM-type pure-beat/texture/tonality, gradually hark back to song forms and arrangements of '60s and '70s psychedelia, progressive rock and even AM classic rock. The artful collision of electronic timbre and dynamic range resonate naturally atop songs boasting baroquely complex vocal harmony and instrumental settings — note that the club-savvy Swim floats atop solid, memorable songs, albeit wide-screened and thrillingly crafted. Onstage, Caribou is a band (with a real drummer, even) that brings this blurrily opulent sound to kicking life. [Also: Nite Jewel (see music feature) and Emerald.] (John Payne)
LIZ PHAIR AT EL REY THEATRE
On her new album, Funstyle, the Chicago singer-guitarist Liz Phair reinvents herself in unexpected ways that might surprise critics who have her pigeonholed as a relatively mainstream indie-rock artist. Whereas such pop-minded tracks as "Miss September" and the pleasantly melodic if unremarkable "You Should Know Me" (where she's joined by MOR merchant Dave Matthews) echo her early work, she gets her freak on with "Bollywood," rapping nimbly over a spacy groove. She might come off as too self-conscious on "Smoke," where she disses an old label ("Liz, ATO will never put this out!/You won't be washing dishes in this town"), but it's a weirdly fascinating junkyard trip-hop workout with a funky bass line and eerie vocal exclamations. "Oh, Bangladesh" is a swirling power ballad that seemingly has little to do with the titular country, while "Beat Is Up" is a perky dance number with a gushing chorus that works despite cutesy narration. "And He Slayed Her" reportedly is about her battles with a record-label executive ("I'm coming for you with a wooden stake"), although the lyrics don't have the same sarcastic bite and mildly shocking eroticism of her celebrated 1993 debut, Exile in Guyville. (Falling James)
JUDY COLLINS AT SANTA MONICA COLLEGE PERFORMING ARTS CENTER
The 71-year-old folk icon has been playing cabaret-style shows for the last few years at New York's ritzy Café Carlyle, and that's the performance she'll bring to the Broad Stage here Friday night. It's gonna be just Collins and her trusty piano player, Russell Walden, doing songs from Broadway and the movies and pre-rock pop, as well as her own tunes, such as "Kingdom Come," about New York firefighters following 9/11. Collins released a strong new studio disc earlier this year called Paradise on which she offers up typically heartfelt renditions of "Over the Rainbow" and Jimmy Webb's "Gauguin," the latter of which features the songwriter himself on keyboard and conch (yep, conch). Hopefully the album's ghostly take on the traditional "Dens of Yarrow" makes the cut tonight. (Mikael Wood)
THE LEE BOYS AT SAINT ROCKE
Completely removed from the numbing auto-tuned lip-synch circle of hell that is the Billboard sales chart, the flabbergasting Lee Boys bring a singular, soul-stirring dose of "sacred steel," a sound fraught with irresistible honky-tonk mysticism. Developed generations ago by the African-American congregants of a few small Southern houses of worship, it's a blues-infused, gospel-beholden style driven by the ebullient fluidity that only a pedal steel guitar can provide. The Florida sextet both upholds and enhances the sacred steel tradition, peppering it up with country, funk, bluegrass and hip-hop, to propose an exciting new musical form that's equal parts sacred and secular. Long story short, these cats don't proselytize — they rock. (Jonny Whiteside)
Also playing Friday: CULTURE COLLIDE WITH KLAXONS, BESNARD LAKES, LAND OF TALK at the Echoplex; AMUSEMENT PARKS ON FIRE at the Echo; EL GUINCHO at Spaceland; ULRICH SCHNAUSS, CHAPTERHOUSE at Troubadour; THE URXED at the Smell; PAUL COLLINS & JOHN WICKS at Gengis Cohen; KILLSONIC PRESENTS at Echo Curio.
KLAXONS AT TROUBADOUR
It would be nearly impossible for anyone growing up in 1990s Britain, regardless of their musical fancies, not to be impacted by that country's all-powerful rave culture of the time. And so it is that even rock bands like London's Klaxons have a glow-stick wash of heady, looped vocal refrains, bashy beats, squirming sequencers and even sirens. But amidst these off-your-tits trappings is a rock trio partial to fuzzy bass and cheeky-chappy melodies recalling earlier rave-era rockers Supergrass and Blur. Considering that they were originally called Klaxons (Not Centaurs) and their new album, Surfing the Void, includes titles like "Future Memories" and "Valley of the Calm Trees," it's no surprise that these Mercury Prize winners (for 2007 debut Myths of the Near Future) harbor epic, prog-rock ambitions that only their record label and some (probably prudent) self-censorship keep in check. (Paul Rogers)
TOM TOM CLUB AT THE GETTY CENTER
"Words are stupid. ... Words are trouble," Tina Weymouth announced on Tom Tom Club's 1981 single "Wordy Rappinghood," but we'll try to use some of them judiciously to describe the band's still-intoxicating blend of art-pop lyrics and low-key funkiness. Tom Tom Club started out as a side project when Weymouth and her drummer-husband, Chris Frantz, were still in the Talking Heads, but the group became a full-time endeavor after Heads leader David Byrne wandered off into Brazilian tropicalia and other styles of music in his solo career. Far more than just rock dilettantes slumming in the dance-music genre, Frantz and Weymouth crafted playful proto-rap tunes like "Wordy Rappinghood" and "Genius of Love" that were later adapted by Grandmaster Flash, MC Redman and even Mariah Carey. It's been a while since Tom Tom Club performed in Los Angeles, but Weymouth and Frantz have reignited their career with such releases as the Live at the Clubhouse CD and an upcoming album, Genius of Live. They play tonight (from 6 to 9 p.m.) as part of the Getty Center's "Saturdays off the 405" music series. Also at the Echoplex, Sun. (Falling James)
Also playing Saturday: McCOMBS at 826; BASSNECTAR at the Wiltern; RICK AGNEW, SYMBOL SIX at the Redwood Bar.
ANA CARAVELLE, DNTEL, THE LONG LOST AT BOOTLEG THEATER
Basic Climb (Non Projects) is the debut album from L.A. vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Ana Caravelle, a harp-playing pixie with, apparently, a million ideas about how to write the old song and cleverly sidestep clichés of said form. She does it in richly atmospheric pieces that seem assembled from myriad places and times, wildly texturized in arrangements that tumble all over the 20th-century musical map, all laced in that lovely, strange harp and a voice from a parallel planet — a really interesting one. Also electronic soundscapes/beats/who knows what from the ever-surprising Dntel aka Jimmy Tamborello, who's been low-profile of late, and is now making a welcome return to live action; and the Long Lost, featuring the towering DJ/sound-artiste Daedelus and his partner Laura Darlington in psychedelic lullabies for the lovelorn and lonely; their eponymous album came out in March on Ninja Tune. (John Payne)
THE WEEPIES, LUCY SCHWARTZ AT EL REY THEATRE
Don't let the name confuse you — the Weepies are anything but sad. The Topanga-based folk-pop duo has a bright sound, and why shouldn't they? Both members, Deb Talan and Steve Tannen, were budding singer-songwriters when they met, started playing together and discovered that rarest of chemistries. You know, the one that spurs a pair of people not only to make beautiful music together (see their 2004 debut Happiness), but to marry and make babies. They also wrote a bunch of songs for Mandy Moore's 2007 stab at adulthood, Wild Hope. That and a record deal with Nettwerk (plus countless TV placements including a prominent Obama campaign ad) are more than enough to explain the title and effervescence of "I Was Made for Sunny Days," a cheery but nuanced highlight from their new fourth album, Be My Thrill. Subtler songs like "Please Speak Well of Me" and "They're in Love, Where I Am" display the warm country of Gillian Welch and the cool acoustics of Nedelle Torrisi. (Chris Martins)
CULTURE COLLIDE FEST BLOCK PARTY WITH AMUSEMENT PARKS ON FIRE, AM, MONOTONIX, AND MORE ON RESERVOIR STREET BETWEEN ALVARADO AND SUNSET
In order to fully cope with the immensity of the Culture Collide fest's Toyota Antics Block Party — which is a free event, mind you — first you need to RSVP at uptheantics.com/culturecollideblockparty. After you've done that, you (assuming you're a CC wristband holder) will have access to a "priority viewing area" at several outdoor stages as well as performances in other pop-up venues on the street. Among the numerous well-chosen acts playing these events are Amusement Parks on Fire, the Nottingham-based purveyors of a sound some have fittingly termed stargaze (as opposed to shoegaze, y'see). This is a wildly inventive young band whose ambitious rock sonics come in a colossal (and we do mean colossal) wall of massed guitars, voices, drums and string sounds that bespeak real urgency and fly with a gorgeous lyricism. Road Eyes (Filter) is their new album; seek it out, and witness the beauty live. (Amusement Parks also plays at the Echo on Friday, October 8.) (John Payne)
LITTLE JIMMY SCOTT AT THE HOUSE OF BLUES
Star-crossed singer Jimmy Scott is one of the greatest jazz artists ever to draw a breath, yet his inordinately turbulent 85 years on earth have been dominated by pain, loss and longing. Despite his spectacular early-'90s rediscovery and comeback, misery and hurt still permeate his work. Scott's achingly languorous phrasing and emotionally loaded delivery remain as uniformly intoxicating and impressive as ever. He is the consummate balladeer, a man whose strange romance with unhappiness affords him an interpretive mastery so profound that it transposes familiar titles beyond boy-girl Tin Pan Alley and onto the vast cosmological scale of soul-deep suffering. That universal reach, intact since his very youthful 1949 start with Lionel Hampton, guarantees no song will be performed exactly the same way twice and always ensures on-the-spot vocal fireworks. Scott is singing from a wheelchair these days, but his spirit and genius still operate at a level higher than even his most vaunted colleagues — every one of whom he has outlived. Come and get it. (Jonny Whiteside)
Also playing Sunday: TOM TOM CLUB at the Echoplex; RESIDUAL ECHOES at the Smell; BACKBITER at the Redwood Bar.
TEENAGE FANCLUB AT THE EL REY
With new albums out by the Vaselines, Belle & Sebastian and Teenage Fanclub, 2010 is shaping up to be an unusually excellent year for fans of old-school Scottish indie pop. (There's even a seven-disc Orange Juice box set due in stores next month.) The new Fanclub record, Shadows, continues down the road they've been traveling for more than a decade now, away from the fuzzy thrashings of A Catholic Education and Bandwagonesque and toward a pastoral folk-rock sound as indebted to Crosby, Stills & Nash as to Big Star. Minus those grungy guitars, the fresh tunes occasionally bland out in a well-meaning roots-music blur: Only a deeply devoted All Songs Considered listener could get excited about some of the album's overly genteel jams. Fortunately, these middle-aged Teenagers tend to up the energy onstage. With L.A.'s Radar Brothers. (Mikael Wood)
EVAN VOYTAS, HANDS AT THE ECHO
Current Monday-night resident Evan Voytas has lived the life of a vagabond. Though he now calls L.A. home, his list of residences prior reads like a spirit quest: At 18 he moved to Harlem after discovering jazz; there he got into New Age, so he relocated to the desert; then he toured the world as a member of an undisclosed pop act; that was kinda heavy, so he took up residence in a Pennsylvania farmhouse and began home-recording. L.A. was the logical landing place after all of this, and he currently does time in Flying Lotus' big band, even though his own tracks are closer to the acoustic mysticism of Ariel Pink than to the electronic stew of Cosmogramma. Blog-beloved tracks like the lilting "I Took a Trip on a Plane" and the bouncy "I Run With You, Spirit Animal" display a love for woozy soundscapes and canned drums offset by catchy melodies and breathy vocals. Travel with him for a night. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Monday: RADARS TO THE SKY at Spaceland.
EELS, JESCA HOOP AT THE MUSIC BOX
"So many worlds inside her eyes," Mark Everett murmurs in a hazy, world-weary voice on "Spectacular Girl," but he could just as easily be describing the music on Eels' new CD, Tomorrow Morning. The album is the final installment in a trilogy of romantic tunes and musings about the world. "Record company hates me/The doctor says I'm sick," states Everett (also known as E) on the minimalist electropop love song "Baby Loves Me," which is both creepily unsettling and strangely affecting. Despite the CD's focus on relationships, Everett eschews sentimentality, replacing cheap emotion with subtle swells of strings and luminescent keyboard beeps, as well as his trademark elliptical lyrics. Jesca Hoop is another artist who looks at love from unusual angles, whether she's singing an ode to her "Angel Mom" via austere guitar thrumming and distant heartbeat echoes or cataloguing the "Whispering Light" with Kate Bush–style sighs and harmonies on her second album, Hunting My Dress. She used to work as a nanny for Tom Waits, and some of his bohemian funkiness crops up in the sideways riffs of the densely febrile "Four Dreams." (Falling James)
MACY GRAY AT THE ROXY
The title of Macy Gray's new one is The Sellout, which you'd take to be a joke if the album's sleek computer-soul arrangements didn't lead you to wonder if perhaps this onetime A-list eccentric is indeed looking to reclaim some of her erstwhile commercial shine. Serious or not, Gray's breakthrough bid is nevertheless unlikely to yield fruit as ripe as that from the days of "I Try" and "Do Something"; current R&B doesn't seem to have much room for a female star as goofy as Gray unless she's also a certifiably hot mama à la Erykah Badu. (The guys have it a little easier, as Cee-Lo Green can attest.) Yet even if The Sellout disappears quicker than did 2007's Big — were you aware of that album's existence before I mentioned it? — Gray's new stuff does exude an appealing self-assuredness that she's more than earned. (Mikael Wood)
ALICE IN CHAINS, DEFTONESAT GIBSON AMPHITHEATRE
Alice in Chains have tastefully retained their uneasy, single-minded sonic signature since recruiting vocalist William DuVall in 2006 without his ever aping the late Layne Staley. Though DuVall takes a smoother path through AIC's lurking melodies, shunning Staley's crinkled menace, truth is that a huge part of the band's sound has always been Jerry Cantrell's deliberate, post-Sabbath guitar and (to rock ears) oddly intervaled, Medieval harmonies learned as a high school choirboy. In the same way that Alice in Chains outlived their "grunge" tag, Sacramento's Deftones have been the ultimate nü-metal survivors because, with their artsy/atmospheric leanings and influences from new wave to old prog, they were never truly part of that knuckle-dragging genre in the first place. Deftones are enduring their own tragedy, with bassist Chi Cheng in a coma since a 2008 car accident, and recorded this year's gorgeously troubled Diamond Eyes with stand-in Sergio Vega. (Paul Rogers)
Also playing Tuesday: MESSIAEN/MILHAUD PROGRAM at Disney Hall; OLENTANGY JOHN at Silverlake Lounge; REMY ZERO at Spaceland; THE 88 at the Troubadour; PUNCH BROS. WITH JON BRION at El Rey; CARNAGE ASADA at the Redwood Bar.
GOGOL BORDELLO AT CLUB NOKIA
Few bands these days are as thrilling as New York City's Gogol Bordello. Sexy dancers whirl about the stage like dervishes, climbing atop giant drums and bashing out percussive emphasis on loud cymbals. Sergey Ryabtsev frantically shreds the strings of his violin with serpentine Gypsy melodies, while fellow Russian Yuri Lemeshev squeezes merry rejoinders from his accordion. Israeli guitarist Oren Kaplan propels the group with a deft mingling of punk, ska and surf riffs, while drummer Oliver Charles hammers everything down with hard-hitting precision. At the center of the circus is singer-guitarist Eugene Hütz, who gave such a memorable, scene-stealing performance in the post-Holocaust parable Everything Is Illuminated. On Gogol Bordello's most recent CD, Trans-Continental Hustle (American Recordings), producer Rick Rubin wisely stays out of the way as Hütz pumps new life into traditional Roma folk music and decries the ongoing mistreatment of Gypsies with passion and poetic insight. Roll over, Nicolas Sarkozy, and tell Eric Besson the news. (Falling James)
PS I LOVE YOU AT THE CENTRAL SAPC
It's officially OK to revisit '90s indie rock, and Canadian duo PS I Love You fly the (plaid) flag high with serrated Pixies angst and super-saturated Dinosaur Jr. guitar wanks. Purists would say that the unfortunately acronymed PSILY are what grunge was before it became, well, grunge — an open-minded beast, beloved of abused axes and battered drums but aware of a whole lot more besides. Their debut full-length, Meet Me at the Muster Station, released earlier this month, gives equal weight to contemplation and confrontation, subtle strings and feisty feedback, beat-box grooves and hokey hick-picking. On stage, Paul Saulnier's burly, disheveled presence belies the almost androgynous anguish of his vocals, while Benjamin Nelson's steady, garagey beats temper any stylistic ADD. Lo-fi and irreverent, watching PS I Love You feels like getting in on the ground floor — again. (Paul Rogers)
Also playing Wednesday: BATHS, EL TEN ELEVEN, SISTER CRAYON at Bootleg; ANDRAS SCHIFF at Disney Hall; CORIN TUCKER BAND, WAIT.THINK.FAST, GOLDEN BEARS at El Rey; THE ACORN at Echo; BETTIE SERVEERT at Spaceland, DUB CLUB at Echoplex.
MIIKE SNOW, MARK RONSON & THE BUSINESS INTL AT CLUB NOKIA
Anyone reminded by Glee's recent Britney Spears episode of the excellence of "Toxic" would do well to check out Miike Snow tonight: This vaguely mysterious electro-pop outfit pairs New York–based singer Andrew Wyatt with Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg, two mad-genius Swedes otherwise known as the production duo Bloodshy & Avant. (In addition to "Toxic," they're also responsible for Kylie Minogue's "Speakerphone" and "One" by L.A.-based newcomer Sky Ferreira, among other delights.) Last year Miike Snow released a smart, self-titled debut that caught some attention among hipsters and music supervisors, but it's still awaiting a proper discovery. Mark Ronson opens in support of his fun new Record Collection, on which the Amy Winehouse/Lily Allen knob-twirler hooks up with an all-star crew he's calling the Business Intl; some of those guests are promised to appear tonight. With MNDR. Also October 15 at the Wiltern. (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Thursday: LUDOVICO EUNAIDE at Ford Amphitheatre; MESSIAEN PROGRAM at Disney Hall; CORY CHISEL, HENRY WOLFE at Bootleg; SHADOW SHADOW SHADE, LESANDS at Echoplex; LEGENDARY SHACK SHAKERS at Spaceland; SHAD at El Rey; THE MORNING BENDERS at Music Box.
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