Music Picks: Soweto Gospel Choir, Garbage, Neon Trees, Jennifer Leitham
Kitty, Daisy & Lewis
EL REY THEATRE
These U.K. early-rock kids put out a self-titled debut over here in 2009, which earned them a left-field opening slot with Coldplay and not much else. (Unless we're counting a permanent space in my living room party-music stack.) It's not clear that Smoking in Heaven, Kitty, Daisy & Lewis' latest, has done much more to establish the band in this country. (Unless we're counting a press-time chart position of No. 11,403 on Amazon.) But, people, listen — both these records are totally great, with catchy, ska-inflected tunes about getting one's mojo working and going back to the land of make-believe. Given the music's willfully lo-fi vibe, there's no reason to believe they won't carry it off perfectly at tonight's show, the second of three U.S. dates they're playing this month. —Mikael Wood
Henry Fonda Theater
Every member of this rap "supergroup" has been involved in some form of controversy: Joe Budden beefed with everyone from Jigga to Wu-Tang; Royce Da 5'9" and Eminem weren't speaking; Joell Ortiz supposedly disrespected Big Pun; Crooked I got fed up with Em and Dre and split for Death Row. But when they joined forces in 2009, each MC put ego aside. The cohesive evidence is in their 2009 eponymous debut. Musical output has been scarce since, save for a 2011 EP and several instances of upstaging their label mates (see Yelawolf's remix for "Hard White [Up in the Club]"). But now, at long last, the Shady Records–signed crew is set to drop its sophomore release, Welcome to: Our House, this summer. Call it aural redemption. —Dan Hyman
Among the many things shared by Esperanza Spalding's and Robert Glasper's new albums is the appealingly earthy voice of Lalah Hathaway. On the former she and Spalding add new lyrics to Wayne Shorter's "Endangered Species," while the latter finds her singing lead in a trippy version of "Cherish the Day" by Sade. (That's what we call range.) Tonight this Chicago-based daughter of the late, great Donny Hathaway hits Club Nokia in support of her own Where It All Begins, which came out late last year on the revived Stax label. It's a strong if sadly underappreciated disc with a sound somewhere between traditionalist neo-soul and future-shock R&B. If you helped drive Jill Scott's The Light of the Sun to No. 1, you'll dig what Lalah's putting down. —Mikael Wood
At her last gig here, she mesmerized the crowd with an elegant, intellectual style, and her supple voice, which is pitch-perfect and flawless. All the females in the room wanted to sing like her; all the males wanted to date her — she's perfect for Hollywood. Sorry boys, she's married to stellar guitarist André Matos, and he's also better-looking than any of you guys. Vardan Ovsepian's piano playing is as beautiful as they are. Bassist Ryan McGillicuddy has a beautiful 2-year-old girl. Steve Hass's name leads one to believe he is not beautiful but rather that he might rock at drumming, which he does, and actually he's not bad-looking. This music is challenging and gorgeous, just like the band that plays it. —Gary Fukushima
HANNI EL KHATIB at Satellite; HIGH PLACES, BEAR IN HEAVEN at the Echo; TAKE, FREE MORAL AGENTS at the Echoplex; CAROLINA CHOCOLATE DROPS at Royce Hall; CHILLY GONZALES at Hollywood Forever; JOHN K. SAMSON at Troubadour; DIANNE SCHUUR at Catalina.
EL REY THEATRE
Aside from choice selections — most of the Scandinavian variety — pop songwriters are rarely, if ever, recognized for their efforts. Terius Nash, the songwriting brain behind mega pop smashes such as Rihanna's "Umbrella" and Beyoncé's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)," now better known as The-Dream, wasn't content playing second fiddle. Thanks to a trio of distinctively lush solo R&B releases, bookended by twin gems in his 2007 debut, Love/Hate, and his fully realized 2010 effort, Love King (we'll excuse the mediocre Love vs. Money in between), Nash has followed his own ambition to become, in addition to one of the most in-demand R&B songwriters, a legitimate, respected artist in his own right. His next LP, the oft-delayed LOVE IV, is tentatively set for release this summer. —Dan Hyman
Things evolve differently in Australia, perhaps because the country is a remote island. In the same way that marsupials became bigger and stranger in that antipodean greenhouse, Australian punk music morphed into something distinctly unusual compared to punk rock in the rest of the world. The reclusive Sydney trio Feedtime is a good example. Churning out thick guitar riffs and sludgy tempos, Feedtime are sort of an Australian equivalent to Flipper, with elements roughly similar to the Stooges and Wire lurking in their torturous banks of sound. After 33 years of sonic mayhem Down Under, Feedtime are only just now making their L.A. debut, featuring the anti-hits from their new Sub Pop box set, The Aberrant Years. —Falling James
Bowerbirds are the cynic's anathema. The Raleigh, N.C., band is anchored by Phil Moore and Beth Tacular (joined by three others live), a couple whose music feels as warm, intimate and enduring as their love must be. While the closest cousin to their sound would be Andrew Bird, their brand of fiddle-fed folk has always felt looser and more rustic. Bowerbirds' just-out third album, The Clearing, finds them expanding their sound beyond acoustic guitar, accordion, violin and basic drumming, but while songs like "Tuck the Darkness In" and "Hush" go electric or roll out the piano, they still transport the listener to this pair's vision of Idyll. No doubt that picture is of the small cabin in the Carolina woods where the project was born while Moore was taking time off from music to track birds for a local museum. —Chris Martins
The Cheatin' Kind, Groovy Rednecks, DJ Jello Biafra
The Cheatin' Kind have been such a major part of the local underground country-rock scene that it feels like a sudden kick in the teeth to hear that tonight's their final show. Of course, lead singer Babs MacDonald and gang kick out tunes like "Where Ya At?" with just as much punky drive as traditional country reverence. The truth is, reverence rarely interferes with the Cheatin' Kind's fun-time spirit, as guitarist Paul Morris sends wiry shivers and occasional AC/DC power chords up the neck to keep pace with MacDonald's brassy, sassy howling. No one has ever accused the Groovy Rednecks of having reverence for anything but alcohol, and tonight's likely to be a boozy send-off for their longtime pals. Stranger still, Dead Kennedys main man Jello Biafra makes a rare local visit, presiding over the sad-merry affair as the night's DJ. —Falling James
SWERVEDRIVER at Key Club; RICHARD BUCKNER at McCabe's; AZAR LAWRENCE at the Mint.
Jada Wagensomer sings in Jail Weddings and plays bass in Dante Vs Zombies, but Brass Tax are all hers, or maybe just all her — a ferociously complex, ferociously complete statement in the proud tradition of L.A.'s pop mavericks. (A word that originally meant something with lots of horsepower that'll break your neck if you aren't careful.) There are plenty of marks from Nilsson and Sparks and Van Dyke Parks here, and full credits for banjo, wind chimes, three saxes and violin indicate how many "why-not?" turns these songs take. But above it all floats the spirit of Warren Zevon — that old Hollywood blend of bleakness, beauty, broken hearts and broken bottles revealed at break of day. Brass Tax have something special here, and don't it make you wanna rock & roll all night long? —Chris Ziegler
These Long Beach louts have the unresolved-issues rage and thousand-percent commitment common to their hardcore kin. What carves them a niche is their broadly informed borrowing from the genre's substrains. Their twin guitars have a metallic Southern slur à la Every Time I Die, the breakdowns boast ominous NYHC intent, and there's a pervading hooligan 'tude that harks right back to UK82 upstarts Discharge and the Exploited. Frontman Matt Lanners' convincingly bratty bark is well suited to his often petty, adolescent subject matter, with rants on skating ("Faceplant") and foulmouthed hatin' ("Tracker") that likely will find a potent resonance with the Cobalt's all-ages crowd. It really helps that the Greenery's frantic (if somewhat samey) debut album, last year's Spit & Argue, is just built for a pit. —Paul Rogers
MOSES CAMPBELL at Bootleg Bar.
EL REY THEATRE
Garbage may claim they're Not Your Kind of People (to quote the title of their upcoming comeback album), but there are still plenty of people who are curious to see if the '90s alt-rock band has anything left to say after laying low for much of the past decade. The new single "Blood for Poppies" may not definitively answer whether the onetime Madison, Wis., group (now based in L.A.) really has its mojo back, but it's a promising start, with Shirley Manson's winsome, raplike delivery ("I miss my dog, and I miss my freedom") wrapped inside Steve Marker's leering hard-rock riff, as drummer-producer Butch Vig mixes everything into a slightly psychedelic dub-pop-rock stew. Like the band itself, the song is a complicated, incendiary combination of influences, alternately banal and glittery, and it might cure your ills if it doesn't blow up first. Also Tues. —Falling James
JOHN CARPENTER at Los Globos; KIM RICHMOND ORCHESTRA at Typhoon.
Neon Trees, Nico Vega
The relentless local airplay for Neon Trees' debut album, Habit, and first single "Everybody Talks" from its imminent follow-up, Picture Show, should ensure a full house for their savvy, shameless pop. "Everybody Talks" suggests that the Utah quartet will continue to echo its sound-alike mentors the Killers (who put NT on the map with a string of support slots in 2008), with hooks draped in a wily blend of bar-band earthiness and '80s cheeseball sheen. L.A.'s Nico Vega deserve better than seemingly perpetual opening-act status, so stunning is their sultry, skeletal New Millennium blues in its single-mindedness. The recent addition of a bassist adds warmth and a welcome third dimension behind frontgal Aja Volkman's suggestively hoarse, soul-baring yelp. —Paul Rogers
LEE RANALDO BAND at the Satellite; OH LAND, BLOOD ORANGE, TRUST at the Echoplex; ANNE WALSH at Spaghettini.
Chairlift, Nite Jewel
Ever wondered what it would be like to hear Toni Braxton fronting a synth-loving indie-pop outfit? If not, Brooklyn's Chairlift make the unlikely case that you're a fool for never considering it. Singer-keyboardist Caroline Polachek has a voice that soars smoothly atop her partner Patrick Wimberly's bass and beats, suggesting a heady mix of airy '70s psychedelia, wonky '80s new age–isms and powerhouse '90s R&B. It's a strangely seductive mélange that plays out wonderfully across the pair's new album, Something, which is easily one of the year's most interesting so far. Longtime L.A. favorite Ramona Gonzales opens as Nite Jewel, an early adopter of the so-called chillwave sound whose lo-fi but lush keyboard jams are reaching a wider audience, thanks to her just-out One Second of Love. She's an expert at walking the line between art and pop, foreign and familiar. —Chris Martins
Soweto Gospel Choir
WALT DISNEY CONCERT HALL
We all know that a great gospel choir can rock the house, but the Soweto Gospel Choir tear the roof off the sucka. Performing in six of South Africa's 11 official languages, the choir shows off a widely textured range of voices where the rough-and-raw mingles with the silky smooth and basso brilliant in thrilling quilts of precision, rhythmic sway and hair-raising power. The group has an excellent recent CD out called Grace (Shanachie), and it has won two Grammys for its achievements, all of which is cool, but equally nice is how the choir has founded a charitable organization that raises funds for AIDS orphans in South Africa. Desmond Tutu is a patron, and Nelson Mandela rates it, too. Please request its awesome take on "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." —John Payne
Jennifer Leitham began life as John, making a considerable name for himself as a left-handed upright bassist beginning in the '80s. In 2001 Leitham made the difficult decision to become Jennifer — risking her jazz career to take what she thought was an essential step in making her identity. The film I Stand Corrected, which debuted last week at the American Documentary Film Festival, chronicles Leitham's decision and career as never before. After spending most of the prior year in New York, Leitham returned several months ago to Southern California, and appears tonight with her trio. That trio features Andy Langham on piano and Randy Drake on drums, and should be a solid evening of jazz at this neighborly joint. —Tom Meek
TOMMY SANTEE KLAWS, NOAH & THE MEGAFAUNA at the Echo; OZ NOY at Catalina; CROWBAR at Whisky A Go Go; MARILYN MANSON at Club Nokia.
Youth Lagoon, Jeans Wilder
Youth Lagoon's 2011 breakout may be called A Year of Hibernation, but the Boise, Idaho–based recluse has spent the better part of a year on the road since, bringing his slow-burning, eventually bursting songs about loneliness to audiences the world over. Channeling the lo-fi crunch of Woods and the kaleidoscopic breadth of Animal Collective, Trevor Powers seems to structure each song as a journey, taking listeners from a deeply cloistered beginning to a triumphant, transcendent end (for proof, check out the much-blogged-about "July"). The experience has resonated with enough listeners to convince the San Diego native to leave behind not only his bedroom but also an in-progress English lit degree and a gig at Urban Outfitters (we're guessing the latter didn't take much convincing). Also hailing from S.D. is Jeans Wilder, a pop experimentalist whose beachy weirdness is highly rewarding. —Chris Martins
EL REY THEATRE
It's been just about 19 years since James unleashed one of the biggest anthems of the Britpop era with "Laid." A tale of sex and obsession marked by the infamous line "but she only comes when she's on top," that one hit ruled alternative radio and clubs in the United States for the duration of the 1990s. But there's so much more to James than the big hit. From the house-rock of "Come Home (Flood Remix)" to the exquisite, romantic pop of "Just Like Fred Astaire," the Manchester-bred band has seamlessly crossed stylistic lines over a string of albums that goes back to the early 1980s. Check out the band before it heads to Coachella. —Liz Ohanesian
KARMETIK MACHINE ORCHESTRA at REDCAT; STEEL PULSE, BLAZE MOB at House of Blues; LISA HILTON at Catalina; GAEA SCHELL at Vitello's; J*DAVEY at the Echo.
123 Astronaut E.S. Onizuka St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
9081 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069
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