MORE

Music Picks: Swans, Fresh and Onlys, and Los Straitjackets

She Keeps Bees: See Wednesday.
She Keeps Bees: See Wednesday.
PHOTO BY MOLLY DONAHUE

fri 9/7

Fresh & Onlys

THE ECHO

San Francisco's Fresh & Onlys have always been a formidable little band, but sometimes it seems they get a little squished between local-to-them indie giants like Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees. However, let us tell you — this new album Long Slow Dance has a heart bigger than anybody else. Echo and the Bunnymen and Cure comparisons aren't wrong, but songs like the title track or "Executioner's Song" hit that same Southern Hemisphere sense of sorrow as Australia's Go-Betweens or The Triffids, the once-and-forever kings of music, which makes you feel worse and better at the same time. These are able, artful songs — you could even call them poetry, but they make too much damn sense. Some people write hits, but the Fresh & Onlys write hurts. —Chris Ziegler

Michael Feinberg

BLUE WHALE

Like Andre the Giant in The Princess Bride, bass players may not be the main attraction, but ultimately you can't help but notice them, because they are huge and ugly. Albums by bass players give the unsung heroes an opportunity to express their musical opinions. The Elvin Jones Project is Feinberg's third album as a leader, a lot for a bassist, but like Andre's poetry readings, he knows how to convey a meaningful narrative. This 25-year-old is fast approaching giant status in NYC, playing with the likes of saxist George Garzone and drummer Billy Hart, both of whom are on the record. Feinberg's L.A. band includes Walter Smith III on sax, local legend Larry Koonse on guitar and Dan Schnelle, whose laser-accuracy on drums is nothing like Elvin but no less fiery. —Gary Fukushima

sat 9/8

Echoes West

THE ECHOPLEX

It seems like every week, this Echo Park club is at the center of some sprawling festival. Two weeks ago, the Echoplex hosted the Echo Park Rising festival, and this afternoon the club presents Echoes West. The two festivals couldn't be more stylistically different. Whereas Echo Park Rising focused mainly on indie-pop bands, Echoes West is a louder, heavier affair, featuring hard-rock groups like Washington, D.C.'s Dead Meadow, whose rambling and, yes, sprawling opuses move from hazy trippiness into full-on stoner-rock euphoria. Local quintet Spindrift blend spaghetti Western guitars and windswept desert soundscapes with dreamily haunting vocals, while former Spacemen 3 cat Sterling Roswell transforms '60s psychedelia into something more modern — both noisier and stranger. There's even a flashback from the current lineup of the Strawberry Alarm Clock, although their 1967 hit, "Incense & Peppermints," was closer to bubble-gum pop than genuine psychedelia. —Falling James

Azar Lawrence

THE MINT

L.A. native Azar Lawrence was a jazz phenom, joining the band of John Coltrane percussionist Elvin Jones before age 20. Drummer Alphonse Mouzon (Weather Report/Larry Coryell) heard Lawrence and suggested Coltrane's longtime pianist McCoy Tyner add him to their group, where Lawrence then helped record some of Tyner's best work during the 1970s. Lawrence then moved on to a brief stint with Miles Davis before joining more lucrative soul/funk bands, which in turn led to personal issues taking him away from the music scene for the better part of two decades. Lawrence re-emerged in 2004 in L.A., and again began showing why many people consider him the finest interpreter of Coltrane anywhere. His Saturday gig at the Mint, dedicated to Coltrane, reunites him with Mouzon, joined by veterans Henry Franklin on bass and Bill Henderson on piano. —Tom Meek

Devin Townsend

EL REY THEATRE

On his new album, Epicloud, Canadian metal mastermind Devin Townsend screams during the chorus of "Liberation": "The time has come to forget all the bullshit and rock!" Townsend has mastered every corner of the metal spectrum throughout his 20-year career. A four-album suite released between the summers of 2009 and 2011 showcased a delicate mastery of industrial thrash metal, melodic prog-rock and even acoustic new age. In the live setting, though, Townsend lives up to the mission statement he shouts in "Liberation" and just fucking rocks. While very much a musician who takes his craft seriously, there is never a sense that he takes himself too seriously. His engaging presence, bolstered by wickedly humorous stage banter, stokes a mosh pit fueled by smiles instead of anger. —Jason Roche

sun 9/9

Mary J. Blige & D'Angelo

GIBSON AMPHITHEATRE

The Liberation Tour, as it's known, pairs a sure-thing R&B superstar with a historically iffy legend-in-the-making: You'll come to the Gibson tonight to check out D'Angelo, who recently returned to performing following a nearly decadelong break; you'll stay for Mary J. Blige, whose excellence onstage tends to paper over the songwriting problems on an album like last year's My Life II ... The Journey Continues (Act 1). Reports from the road indicate that the two singers haven't been joining forces during their shows, which seems like a missed opportunity if also probably a wise move: Though they both explore the deepest, darkest realms of romance, Blige and D'Angelo hail from different sides of Planet Soul; it's hard to imagine one breathing the other's oxygen. With Melanie Fiona. —Mikael Wood

mon 9/10

Katisse Buckingham Oddsemble

SEVEN GRAND

Trendy downtown whiskey bar Seven Grand has quietly become a late-night, early-week music hang over the last couple of years under the direction of booker/trombonist Justin Kirk. While seating is at a premium, the jazz and blues offered usually are first-rate. Tonight sax/flute wiz Katisse Buckingham leads his aptly named Oddsemble, where Buckingham offers jazz standards in unique and difficult musical time signatures. Katisse reinvents the work of masters, including Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane and more, backed here by Wahid Music partners Jimmy Mahlis on guitar and Chris Wabich on drums, along with Jerry Watts Jr. on bass. When Buckingham pulls out one of his signature flutes, hang on for one of the wilder musical rides you'll take this year. —Tom Meek

Lavender Diamond

THE ECHO

There is in Lavender Diamond a romanticism-to-the-20th-power that can make cynics roll their eyes. Yet the L.A.-based quartet's forthcoming Incorruptible Heart deals in darkish tales of heartbreak and loss even as the sheer radiance of singer Becky Stark tells a different story, one about the redemptive power of creative daring, perhaps. Tarted up exquisitely with strings, horns and the odd electronic touch, these odes and laments are a smartly spacious brand of folk-pop, which goes from Spector-style widescreen to knife-edge intimate, the better to frame Stark's corn-free vocal wizardry and joyful, ethereal presence. In fact, she's a melodic force of nature whose pleasingly quirky persona is so persuasive that she actually makes us want to sing, too — er, better let her handle that. Also at the Echo Sept. 17 and 24. —John Payne

tue 9/11

Swans

FONDA THEATRE

In the early '80s, no one cranked up a more fearsome and awe-inspiring hunk of noise than Swans. The New York City outfit's massive slabs of sound on albums like Filth were terrifying — more like elemental, thunderous forces of nature than simple music — making peers such as Sonic Youth come off like Justin Bieber in comparison. But, as so often happens to young rebels, band-leader Michael Gira and his ever-changing lineups evolved into mellower, prettier and presumably more "mature" directions. By the end of the decade, Gira was crooning more and shouting less, using acoustic guitars to create often-beautiful soundscapes even as Swans' sound became less distinctive. With the group's latest album, The Seer, Gira combines the best of both worlds, building gradual momentum on the propulsive, apocalyptic title track, which sounds like an avalanche in slow motion, while also layering in subtler elements that take the noise into a truly brave new world. —Falling James

wed 9/12

She Keeps Bees

BOOTLEG THEATER

The Brooklyn duo She Keeps Bees is sometimes described as "a White Stripes in reverse" because the woman (Jessica Larrabee) is the lead singer and guitarist while the man (Andy LaPlant) is on drums. But musically Larrabee's sad and low vocals are more like Cat Power's, and the pair's take on the blues is less like Jack White's and more akin to the way the Heartless Bastards fuse fulsome blues-rock riffs with more winsome pop melodies. Ultimately, though, Larrabee has her own style, looking out over a ravaged emotional landscape with a subdued and rueful delivery on tunes like "Make You My Moon," from She Keeps Bees' new album, Dig On. "Take him by the neck/Throw him to the stars," Larrabee says of her lover, "swirling everything around me as if I'd make you my moon." —Falling James

Free the Robots

LOW END THEORY AT THE AIRLINER

Free the Robots is a beast when it comes to making beats. Founder/solo member Chris Alfaro helped run what was basically Low End Theory's little-brother night at his bar, the Crosby in Santa Ana, and his back-snapping instrumentals are the kind of thing Gaslamp Killer calls in as reinforcements when there are a few too many dismembered body parts left twitching in the crowd. The influences at work here are beyond all-encompassing — Can, Dilla, Ethio-jazz godfather Mulatu Astatke and Os Mutantes, together at last and forever — and the 2010 full-length Ctrl Alt Delete was one of the most vital beat releases that year. Follow-up EP The Mind's Eye was dirty, weird and beautiful, which are the three words you'll find in your own mind when you hear this yourself. —Chris Ziegler

 

Korpiklaani

WHISKY A GO GO

When it comes to instruments used in heavy metal, accordions and violins are normally not the first choices that come to mind. But when a band like Korpiklaani integrates them so expertly into a heavy-metal framework, it doesn't seem alien at all. On their new album, Manala, the mighty Finnish pack continues to bring the party with folk-tinted songs about drinking and partying amidst adventures in Scandinavian forests. The group sings all of its songs in its native Finnish language, but when music this fun and upbeat is blended with catchy metallic riffs, it is hard not to shout along merrily with songs such as "Karhunkaatolaulu" (translation: "Bear Hunt Song") and "Vodka" (translation: "Vodka"). At the end of the night, you'll likely crave beer served from an ale horn. —Jason Roche

thu 9/13

Brother Ali

THE OBSERVATORY

Often during an election season, the wisest words come not from politicians and their spin doctors but from rappers and other street soothsayers who are generally ignored by the pundits in power. "When innocent people perish, it's a thin line between a soldier and a terrorist," Brother Ali warns on his upcoming album, Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color. Speaking of colors, the Minneapolis rapper is a fascinating study in contrasts. Not only is former Jason Newman white, but he's albino. But don't judge this longtime convert to Islam by his looks. "They ask me if I'm black or white/I'm neither/Race is a made-up thing/I don't believe in it," he once declared. Instead, inspired by a recent trip to Mecca, Brother Ali celebrates humanity while simultaneously decrying the political corruption and lust for war that hold back all poor people, regardless of their skin color. —Falling James

Silversun Pickups

SANTA MONICA CIVIC AUDITORIUM

On their third album, Neck of the Woods, amiable hipsters the Silversun Pickups sound utterly depressed. As one of a handful of significantly successful groups birthed out of the Silver Lake neighborhood, there's no reason for this moodiness. Like many of us, apparently, they are pining for the '90s, and it shows on Neck's My Bloody Valentine–meets–New Order fusion of hazy guitars and lightweight electronics. Aided by producer Jacknife Lee (U2, Bloc Party), sometimes the swindled sound is transparent, as on the "Blue Monday"–esque blips of "The Pit," and sometimes it's in Smashing Pumpkins disguise, as on the angry but mischievous "Mean Spirits." The heavy rumbles of Neck are aimed at arenas, but they have a lot of growing to do. At more than five minutes a song, there's plenty of time for that. —Lily Moayeri

Los Straitjackets

THE ECHOPLEX

What's better than a (mostly) instrumental surf/garage rock group from Nashville? How about one whose members wear lucha libre masks onstage?! Since 1994, Los Straitjackets have thrilled audiences with their wrestling masks, matching outfits, custom-made matching guitars and catchy surf-rock tunes. The group returns with its 11th album, Jet Set, which was recorded at L.A.'s Pow Wow Studios. Tonight's show also features the return of founding member Daddy-O Grande (Danny Amis), who's been MIA since 2010, when he was diagnosed with cancer. Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys have opening duties. —Ivan Fernandez

She Keeps Bees: See Wednesday.
PHOTO BY MOLLY DONAHUE

Sponsor Content