Music Picks: Roberta Flack, Summer Twins, John Cage Centenary Festival
SEGERSTROM CENTER FOR THE ARTS
The title of this R&B veteran's new studio disc tells you what you need to know: On Let It Be Roberta: Flack Sings the Beatles, that's precisely what she does, albeit in an appealingly schizophrenic style that honors the Fab Four's bone-deep eclecticism better than most Beatles tributes do. "In My Life"? Here it's a slinky acoustic-soul jam. "Oh! Darling"? Late-night electric blues. "I Should Have Known Better"? Futuristic electro-funk à la "The Boy Is Mine" by Brandy & Monica. (Heard that one recently? So good.) Whatever the settings, Flack sings beautifully throughout, tapping into the music's youthfulness rather than emphasizing its grit; it's the opposite approach from the one Bettye LaVette took on her recent British-rock record, and it works. Also Sat. —Mikael Wood
These are good years for L.A.'s Spindrift — it's been 10 good years, actually, with the 10th anniversary of the band tonight — but these cosmic cowboys (and girl) have really been on the ride of their life lately. They released the formidable and imaginative Classic Soundtracks Vol. 1 last year and premiered a short film for each of its tracks on IFC. The guest-directed videos vibe off weirdo movies like Deadlock, El Topo and Creature With the Atom Brain, and Spindrift match each perfectly with (mostly) instrumental songs recalling as much Morricone and Hazlewood as wildman outsiders like Skip Spence, Fred Cole and Dr. John. Wander into their live show and you'll suddenly be the star of your own lost classic, albeit one with mistranslated subtitles and a shock ending. —Chris Ziegler
PAUL MCCARTNEY MUSICARES BENEFIT at L.A. Convention Center; DR. DOG at the Orpheum; HUGH MASEKELA at Royce Hall; BRANDON FIELDS at the Baked Potato; ATTACK ATTACK! at Glass House.
Syl Johnson & Breakestra
It may have taken some time — several decades, in fact — for Syl Johnson to get the respect and musical credit he deserves. In typically sluggish fashion, the slow-moving folks behind the Grammys are only now getting around to acknowledging the Chicago soul singer for the rich treasure trove of music he left behind in the 1970s, nominating him twice for his recent definitive box set, Complete Mythology. Such passionate slabs of soul as the 1967 classic "Different Strokes" have been sampled by Public Enemy, Geto Boys, Wu-Tang Clan and Michael Jackson. In recent interviews, Johnson has insisted that he actually deserves a third Grammy nomination this year after Kanye West and Jay-Z plundered "Different Strokes" anew for their track "The Joy." Johnson hasn't played much in L.A. since his '70s heyday, and tonight he'll perform socially conscious anthems like "Concrete Reservation" and "Is It Because I'm Black," backed by the ace local funk collective Breakestra. —Falling James
The utterances of these splatter-lovin' San Jose death-metal vets are easy to describe yet deceptively challenging to deliver with their degree of embitterment. In short, venomous noise emanates from every instrument, multiple times per beat, all the time, while founding vocalist/guitarist Matt Harvey apparently retches through a blender. Recently reunited after a five-year hiatus, Exhumed are as spitefully well-drilled as ever. Theirs is a petty, kick-'em-while-they're-down sound: irritated beats tirelessly battering at a door that never opens, guitars sizzling and Harvey's poisoned yap between bassist Leon del Muerte's borderline comical grunts. A thoroughly nasty business made all the more malevolent by being so consciously, deliberately cruel. —Paul Rogers
Los Amigos Invisibles, La Vida Boheme
It's a Venezuelan invasion. Two of the Caribbean nation's biggest acts were nominated for Grammys in the Latin Pop, Rock or Urban Album category this year, and they're giving L.A. a preview before Sunday's awards show. La Vida Boheme are the young'uns. The dancy punkers like to show audiences a good time by splattering their faces and clothes with paint, then jumping around and smashing the drums. Los Amigos Invisibles are older, mellower and a bit more funky. They've revisited and extended their Latin Grammy–winning 2009 album, Commercial, in this year's hit Not So Commercial, and the fans be jammin'. —Erica Phillips
Pop-pop-indie-guitar-pop (yes, that much pop) sister duo Summer Twins have just released their self-titled LP, which starts with beautiful, Phil Spector–like production (courtesy John Dust and the Germs' Don Bolles) and blooms into a happily daring and carefully detailed set of songs. Chelsea and Justine can deliver slo-mo psychedelia ("Pickin' Daisies") like Opal or Mazzy Star. Or go punky-poppy ("I Don't Care") like Tiger Trap. Or just collapse into obliterating adorability like "I Will [heart shape] You," which is probably the exact kind of thing the New York Dolls heard in their head when they thought about girl groups. (Nice Santo and Johnny nod in there, too.) They have a song called "I Could Never Break Your Heart," too, but you know what? That can't possibly be true. —Chris Ziegler
WHITE DENIM at the Satellite; FUTURA at Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock; OLD MAN MARKLEY, SON ARK at the Echo; YOUNG THE GIANT at the Wiltern; LOS CAMPESINOS, PARENTHETICAL GIRLS at the Echoplex; GROUNDATION, THE LIONS at El Rey Theatre; RAVI COLTRANE, CHRISTIAN MCBRIDE at Royce Hall; RUFUS PHILPOT/MITCHEL FORMAN TRIO at Alvas Showroom.
Rebirth Brass Band
It sounds like bolts of pure liquid sunshine pouring out of the sky when the Rebirth Brass Band's horns start blowing together. The New Orleans icons take their high school marching-band roots and blast them to the heavens, mixing jazzy insinuations within their nimbly funky rhythms on their latest album, Rebirth of New Orleans. No matter how blue you might be, the group's busily effusive, celebratory horn retorts will clear away the cobwebs and get your lifeless limbs moving again. Whether the Frazier brothers and crew are playing in a swanky nightclub or falling in line during an impromptu Crescent City street parade, their music has a compulsively funky drive that will literally cure whatever ails you. —Falling James
FREDRIK, TWILIGHT SLEEP, DRUG CABIN at Bootleg Bar; SWELL SEASON at McCabe's.
A fearless artist and performer whose voice inhabits a room like a choir of ghosts, this Echo Park native cuts an unexpected swath through the respective oeuvres of Tom Waits and Nina Simone. Many will have witnessed Dorian Wood as the accordion-toting soul of L.A.'s finest left-field street orchestra, Killsonic, while others may know him from his commissioned theater works for arts organizations like Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, but even in an intimate venue such as this, the man's work is imbued with both bleeding rawness and dramatic flair. His most recent release is the haunting Glassellalia, whose eight-minute title track is a tautly beautiful contemplation of hardship, featuring an unforgettable turn by local songstress Angela Correa. Wood will be accompanied at this show, but his warm vibrato and mastery over anything keyed (pianos, accordions) would be more than enough. —Chris Martins
THE PITY PARTY at Bootleg Bar; MILO GREENE, FAMILY OF THE YEAR at the Satellite; ELECTRIC GUEST at Echo; JOHN DAVERSA SMALL BAND at Seven Grand; ANNIE TROUSSEAU at Vibrato; CHILDREN OF BODOM at Yost Theater (Santa Ana).
The Asteroids Galaxy Tour
As their name implies, the Asteroids Galaxy Tour have a glittery, sparkling sound, with their euphoric pop songs glazed with a stellar shine. On the Danish band's just-released second album, Out of Frequency, sleek keyboards and a festive horn section pump up singer Mette Lindberg's kittenish exhortations. Producer and chief songwriter Lars Iversen layers giddy, new-wave tunes like "Heart Attack" with circus-y arrangements and psychedelic whooshing sounds, stopping just short of making things too slick and plastic. Even when Lindberg chirps, "You got me head over heels on gasoline," the mood is always exuberant and never really dark. —Falling James
Audra Mae and the Almighty Sound
Though still a fresh-faced young'un, Audra Mae has an old-soul rock & roll voice. She belts like she could be the spawn of Janis, but Audra Mae is actually the great-great-niece of Judy Garland. From Oklahoma and complete with a hardscrabble past, Audra Mae came to L.A. seven years ago with $20 and has since written lyrics for Susan Boyle and had her cover of "Forever Young" on the TV series Sons of Anarchy. A new album comes out today with her killer deviled-roots band, the Almighty Sound — stand-up bassist Joe Ginsberg, guitarist Jarrad Kritzstein, pianist Frank Pedano, drummer Kiel Fehercame and backup vocalists Brent Kyle and Chelsea Butts (Audra's sister). Audra Mae's chilling version of Dolly Parton's "Little Sparrow" is a soul-tingler. I'd bet the farm on this one. —Libby Molyneaux
"I miss my wife," wails Nick Thorburn on "Can't Feel My Face," an organ-blaring standout from A Sleep and a Forgetting. The latest album from Brooklyn-based Islands, to be released on this same Valentine's Day, is most certainly a breakup record, but rather than dwell in minor keys and melancholia, Thorburn sounds like he's celebrating something. Quite possibly, it's his own imminent emotional implosion, but the music (and hence the listener) suffers none of that. Instead, we're treated to bouts of barroom blues, swooning soul, plinking piano, and what might be the only heartfelt sentiment Thorburn's committed to wax since the unfortunate implosion of his legendary quirk-pop project the Unicorns. Truth be told, it's the best material to rise out of those hallowed ashes yet, and fans of 2003's Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone? would be foolish to pass up this opportunity to witness it live. —Chris Martins
You Me at Six
These perpetually wounded, well-known-at-home Anglos are tackling two major career crossroads simultaneously: Three albums in (and now firmly out of their teens), they're gingerly transitioning from boyish pop-punk to "credible" rock and attempting — as all serious U.K. bands must at least once — to "break America." On paper, YMaS are an irresistible proposition. They're an almost laboratory-created fusion of sunny SoCal punk-lite and post-emo angst with camera-friendly frontman Josh Franceschi's tremulous Brit-pop. They have robust melodies and are nuanced musically, but the route to stateside stardom is littered with equally worthy over-there casualties (from Manic Street Preachers to Stereophonics to Ash), and You Me at Six may have outgrown the youthful bloom that was once their most persuasive passport. —Paul Rogers
LAURYN HILL at Hollywood Palladium; MARTINA MCBRIDE at Nokia Theatre; LENI STERN at Blue Whale; BOBBI PAGE'S DREAM STREET at Vitello's.
John Cage Centenary Festival
Alongside all his chart-topping megahits, new-music visionary John Cage composed many lesser-heard and equally notable pieces. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of Cage's birth, REDCAT offers two nights of this rarely played stuff remade/remodeled by CalArts' new music ensemble, the New Century Players, and the CalArts Orchestra. Tonight brings a sampling of Cage's more epic-scale items, including Dance/4Orchestras, Ryoanji and Renga. Tomorrow night centers on Fontana Mix, Cage's crucial "indeterminacy" piece; the original Fontana Mix tape montage is woven into ensemble works composed using its score by James Tenney, David Behrman, Cornelius Cardew and others. By the way, the original title of Fontana Mix was Performance Mix, but during its preparation Cage renamed it after his Milanese landlady, Signora Fontana. —John Payne
BOMBAY BICYCLE CLUB at El Rey Theatre; WALE, MIGUEL at Key Club; DAVID NAIL at Troubadour; WAHID at Blue Whale; JERRY VIVINO at the Baked Potato; EMIL RICHARDS QUARTET at Vitello's; ANVIL at Whisky A Go Go.
Lenny Kravitz, Raphael Saadiq
The kids today probably know him better from his role in the upcoming Hunger Games movie, but Lenny Kravitz is still making records, good ones. Last year's Black and White America found the retro-rock fashion plate in as funky a mode as we've heard him since Are You Gonna Go My Way. The album's title track (about Kravitz's parents' experience as a biracial couple in the mid-'60s) rides a sweet groove that totally redeems dude's occasional wardrobe malfunctions. Give Kravitz extra credit for being brave enough to ask Raphael Saadiq to open his current tour. This L.A.-based soul whiz (a former member of Tony! Toni! Toné! and Lucy Pearl) has been known to put less-than-lively headliners to shame. —Mikael Wood
Chucho Valdes and the Afro-Cuban Messengers, Poncho Sanchez & His Latin Jazz Band with Terence Blanchard
WALT DISNEY CONCERT HALL
If the 70-year-old Cuban pianist were to perform magic instead of music, Valdes would draw comparisons to Merlin, Gandalf and Dumbledore. The old wizard of Latin jazz still commands the piano with thundering power and shimmering virtuosity, conjuring Art Tatum, McCoy Tyner, Horowitz and even Franz Liszt, but none of those guys could salsa. Valdes and his Art Blakey–inspired band won a Grammy in 2010 (his eighth) for the sparkling Chucho's Steps. Also on the bill is another Grammy winner, Poncho Sanchez and his band, with jazz trumpet giant Terence Blanchard to display their latest release, Chano y Dizzy, honoring the respective titans on conga and trumpet, Chano Pozo and Dizzy Gillespie. It's a lot of deadly serious musicians having a lot of fun, all fireworks and no bloodshed, and of course plenty of dancing. —Gary Fukushima
Howlin Rain, Allah-Las
These days, uber-producer Rick Rubin has his hand on so many dials there's naturally some skepticism whenever the Zen master touts his next "discovery." But Bay Area riff-rockers Howlin Rain, signed to the bearded industry titan's own American Recordings label, re-energize dude with some serious A&R cred. On their debut album, The Russian Wilds — which drops on Valentine's Day, and blends Springsteen-ian lyrical brashness with classic rock-guitar freak-outs — the quintet, fronted by Chris Robinson–esque yelping singer-guitarist Ethan Miller, cranks out flavor-soaked bruisers (see album opener "Self Made Man") with deliciously reckless abandon. They do tone it down at times; expect some piano-twinkling soul shiners ("Dark Night") thrown into the mix. But these up-and-coming gents' tunes are best served sizzling. They're joined at the Echo by the Americana ramble of L.A.'s Allah-Las. —Dan Hyman
Flesh-N-Bone, The FountNHead
WHISKY A GO GO
While knowing that the FountNHead take their name from Ayn Rand's famous paean to nonconformity certainly prepares one to expect the unexpected from this Atlanta rap outfit, their reality still feels like a fiction dreamed up in a distant utopia. Owing equally to the hippie politics of Arrested Development, the DIY ethos of the Sex Pistols and the hybridized noise-pop of Linkin Park, these four kids play all their own instruments while rapping and crooning blue-collar concerns. Their video for the upbeat "Free and Flowing" features a knit-capped, multi-culti crew partying in the woods, urging others to "go naked" and busting up a laptop with the word WORK scrawled on it. Join hands and happily rage against the machine with the FountNHead before indulging in the malt liquor–smooth triple-time raps of the fifth Bone Thug, Flesh-N-Bone. —Chris Martins
Chad Wackerman Group
THE BAKED POTATO
Longtime Frank Zappa drummer Chad Wackerman reunites with guitar god Allan Holdsworth, sublime bassist Jimmy Johnson and keyboardist Jim Cox for a two-night (Thursday-Friday) album release event. Nine years in the making, Wackerman's Dreams Nightmares and Improvisations features Holdsworth, Johnson and Cox on an album Wackerman is genuinely excited to finally get out there. It also marks the first time the four have recorded together since Wackerman's original two solo albums from the '90s, the excellent Forty Reasons and The View. Mega drum skills run in the family: Bad Religion's Brooks Wackerman is Chad's youngest brother. Much like the late Tony Williams, with whom Chad shared drum tracks on Holdsworth's now-classic album Atavachron more than two decades ago, Wackerman proves to be a drummer fully capable of both composing and playing world-class music. —Tom Meek
THAVIUS BECK at Little Temple; DON CARLOS at Key Club; MY BRIGHTEST DIAMOND, LAVENDER DIAMOND at Troubadour; G. LOVE at House of Blues; MACHINE HEAD at Avalon.
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