Music Picks: Superhumanoids, Lawrence Lebo, Justin Timberlake

Music Picks: Superhumanoids, Lawrence Lebo, Justin Timberlake

fri 1/17



Superhumanoids start their five-shows-in-eight-nights West Coast run on the right foot by beginning the mini-tour with a hometown gig. This L.A. trio, whose stylish soundings find a balance between blissful indie pop and layered, funked-out R&B, has become critical darlings of late. Though they've released several singles and EPs, last year Superhumanoids finally unleashed their debut, the aptly titled Exhibitionist. The laid-back comfort of the album's loose grooves is accentuated by the chemistry between Sarah Chernoff and Cameron Parkins, who trade vocals in a carefully crafted manner that seems to bring out the best in one another. With the way the band is blistering through January, 2014 looks like it's going to be a jam-packed ride to relevancy for one of L.A.'s best up-and-coming outfits. —Daniel Kohn

White Fence


There was one thing and one thing only missing from the discography of Tim Presley's White Fence, and now that thing ain't missing no more. In November, the Castle Face label teamed up with mad Sacramento sound scientist Chris Woodhouse to release the definitive White Fence live album, which proves right every laudatory curse word I've ever attached to these guys. White Fence here are a hi-fi flamethrower burst of a band, something between the Hex Enduction Hour–era Fall and the S.F. Sorrow–era Pretty Things, or maybe The Adverts and The Other Half — art at heart, punk in the guts, instantly ready for shreddery when it's time for a solo. "Baxter Corner" and "Harness" destroy on this live album, as they surely will when you hear them in person, too. Note to Castle Face: Do a Zig Zags live LP next! —Chris Ziegler

sat 1/18

Motorcycle Black Madonnas


Local quartet Motorcycle Black Madonnas feature Los Angeles punk legends including Backbiter guitar shredder Jonathan Hall and the fluid and deeply grooving Legal Weapon bassist Steve Reed, but they are more than just a typical punk band. Hall and Reed trip out with psychedelic riffs and classic-rock dexterity as drummer Mark Segal (Bag: Theory) adjudicates the rhythms with solidly jazzy aplomb. But what really makes the group special is the way that lead singer Marea Katopodis fills gauzy rambles like "Golden Clouds" with her gentle, Velvet Underground–inspired cooing. "You can see me walking through your dreams," she confides softly as Hall crumbles together jangling, melodic chords and knotty, Pete Townshend licks. —Falling James

Open Gate Ensemble, 0x000AFear for the Dust


Now more than ever, this town needs ambitious new venues for the progressive arts, and the recent opening of Live Arts L.A. in Eagle Rock is a major boost to the scene. This converted-warehouse studio is the home of the treasured Open Gate music/performance group, which tonight offers another ingeniously risk-taking mix of multimedia, poetics and sonorous spontaneity in a performance piece titled "Cave I," featuring company founder Will Salmon (voice, flute, dance), sax/woodwinds hero Vinny Golia, pipa meister Jie Ma and percussionist Trevor Andries. There also will be a beautifully genre-skewing set by extended/prepared-guitar man Antony DiGennaro and massed-guitars chamber ensemble Fear for the Dust. —John Payne

sun 1/19

Lawrence Lebo


Lawrence Lebo has a good heart —literally. Just last month, the fiery local blues chanteuse underwent surgery to have the battery in her pacemaker replaced. The procedure went well, although Lebo and her bassist-husband, Denny Croy, now are dealing with the considerable expense of the operation. In dramatic the-show-must-go-on fashion, though, she's not letting a minor distraction like heart surgery distract her from getting onstage and belting out sly and sultrily swinging blues-jazz numbers like "Blue Line Blues" and her witty Three 6 Mafia answer song, "Lawrence's Working Girl Blues." Beyond being such an engaging song stylist, Lebo is that rarity among blues divas: She actually writes her own memorable tunes instead of relying only on the ancient classics. Tonight, she opens for the veteran acoustic-blues stylist Doug MacLeod. 0x000A—Falling James

mon 1/20

Justin Timberlake


Justin Timberlake doesn't really need that "Suit & Tie." He brought sexy back without the help of either, and he did so before anyone even knew that sexy had left, which makes it totally OK that he keeps reminding us of said sexy saving. But his designer dapper duds don't hurt, and neither does the growth of the soul-searching melodies and baby-making grooves that are now entered in his dynamic discography. Released after a six-year hiatus, JT's two-part re-return, The 20-20 Experience, proves his vision is endlessly charming, if not always quite as far-sighted as its title. Now 32, married and more gelled back than ever, the suave singer is four albums and a billion SNL appearances into a solo career as entertaining as it is definitive proof that you can take the man out of the boy band AND take the boy band out of the man. —Kelsey Whipple


Dave Weckl Acoustic Band


Dave Weckl first came to prominence as the almost mechanically precise drummer in pianist Chick Corea's Elektric Band of the late 1980s, at the time one of the most popular jazz ensembles in the world. Since leaving Corea, Weckl has gone on to tour and record with a wide variety of acts, in addition to playing in Corea's acoustic groups and offering numerous drum-education clinics. Tonight at Catalina in Hollywood, Weckl offers his own acoustic quartet. The lineup features three players seldom heard in L.A. in recent years: saxophonist Gary Meek (no relation to this writer), bassist Tom Kennedy and a very rare appearance from the fine Japanese pianist Makoto Ozone, whose multiple recordings with Grammy-winning vibraphonist Gary Burton are all memorable and who remains one of the most underrated pianists in jazz today. Also Tuesday, Jan. 21. —Tom Meek

tue 1/21

Islands, Haunted Summer


"I was a question mark," Nicholas Thorburn declares with a moody croon on "Becoming the Gunship," from Islands' latest album, Ski Mask. Now relocated to Los Angeles after forming in Montreal in 2005, his band answers him with a series of low-key pop settings and hazy soundscapes. "No wave forms out here, adrift amidst an endless sea/And there's nothing to return to/You'll find me floating endlessly," Thorburn aptly confides among solemn piano chords — a blurry absence inside of a mystery. Haunted Summer, meanwhile, live up to their name with an even more enchanting series of dream-pop shimmers, as Bridgette Eliza Moody's vocals trail off languidly in the jet stream of husband John Seasons' majestic emissions. —Falling James

wed 1/22

Sarah Jarosz


Texas folk singer Sarah Jarosz has a lovely voice, but she doesn't use her beguiling pipes to paint pretty wallpaper. Instead, she digs deep and serves up starkly moving, deceptively simple love songs, which often are bound in intricate weavings of acoustic bluegrass guitars and countrified violins. "Build me up from bones/Wrap me up in skin," Jarosz begs. "I need to show you how/I can love you better than before," she adds, as a mournful fiddle swoops low and picks her up perfectly at the dip in her voice. Jarosz also has a gift for occasionally reinterpreting Bob Dylan songs, but she has so much to say on her own. —Falling James

Pure Bathing Culture


Layers of dreamily echoed pop compose the work of the group known as Pure Bathing Culture. Singer Sarah Versprille — whose emotional vocals resonate in ears and hearts — also plays keyboards in the Portland, Ore.–based duo, which includes guitarist Daniel Hindman. Their latest release, Moon Tides, was recorded in the small town of Cottage Grove on Interstate 5, about 120 miles south of Portland. The album captures that woodsy, small town and the fairly isolated feel of that place, playing like the soundtrack to a long hike down a rural road after a rainstorm. For their live gigs, Pure Bathing Culture usually bring along a bass player and a drum machine to fill out the sound; tonight, they may even do their shimmery cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams." —Tony DuShane

thu 1/23

Jimmy Gnecco


If there's ever a Jimmy Gnecco biopic — and his 40 years to date would already make for compelling viewing — he'll surely be portrayed on the streets of his native New Jersey as "Jimmy the Voice," so remarkable is the emotionally elastic sound emanating from his incongruously slight frame. Having fronted perennial big-name opening act Ours for 20 years, Gnecco released his stripped-down solo debut, The Heart, in 2010. That album was followed a year later by a full-band version of the similarly titled The Heart: X Edition. Whatever the instrumental accompaniment, delicately acoustic or bombastically electric, it's the man's Jeff Buckley–esque, compellingly textured murmurs and falsetto-flecked, visceral howl that lend even the most ambiguous of lyrics a lived-in sense of import, which continues to command cult-level reverence. —Paul Rogers

A Song Is Born


While it's almost one's duty to view the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences as the Scientology of pop music — a pompous, destructive, self-serving oligarchy of soulless, money-worshipping squares whose ceaseless effort to elevate the mediocre and flummox the worthwhile rates as a cultural holocaust — this Grammy adjunct event almost redeems the sinister corporate cabal. Featuring such critical American musical architects as Stax soul sideman Steve Cropper, country provocateur Kris Kristofferson, and bubble-gum swami Paul Williams, it's framed as an exploration of the history and evolution of songwriting, but it's sure to offer far more. Expect plenty of spontaneous combustion, anecdotal revelation and insider perspective, along with bales of first-rate modern minstrelsy, major-league drop-in guest talent and that greatest of thrills, some wholly unanticipatable, and meaningful, musical action.0x000A—Jonny Whiteside

Jimmy Gnecco

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