Music Picks: Sweaters, Jonathan Richman, Hanni El Khatib, Henry Rollins
LIARS AT THESEX
Sometimes a band becomes that much more interesting due to the company it keeps — not its influences and not its label mates but instead the people it entrusts to reimagine the sounds that are so fundamentally part of its being. The companion disc to Liars' fifth and latest album, Sisterworld (Mute), features remixes by Atlas Sound, Kazu Makino of Blonde Redhead, Tunde Adebimpe, Boyd Rice, Thom Yorke, Melvins and Carter Tutti of Throbbing Gristle. Sisterworld is an album shot through with vast and remote wide-open spaces, insular interiors exploding into untold cosmos-spanning richness and, as ever, lead singer Angus Andrew imparting the notion of the listener floating up Shit Creek in a barbed-wire canoe. It's an album as much about Los Angeles as it is (via the remixes) about how outsiders see Los Angeles — a place in which rhythms of rain are more often replaced by rhythms of car crashes, streets unfold into other worlds in the space of a city block, and a band like Liars can follow its own star in relative anonymity, even while that star goes supernova. (David Cotner)
ALOE BLACC AT THE ECHO
Listening to "I Need a Dollar," the intro song for HBO's How to Make It in America, you wouldn't know that Blacc's appearance on the soul scene is fairly recent. The rich timbre of his voice, along with lyrics reminiscent of Gil Scott Heron's "The Bottle," leads you to believe that maybe Donny Hathaway or Sam Cooke had a song tucked away in some catalog you'd never heard before. Seeing Blacc outfitted in butterfly-collared shirts and natty driving caps doesn't do much to correct your misjudgment, either. Yet Blacc, who began his career as an MC in the duo Emanon along with L.A.'s mad beat scientist Exile, has just barely crossed over into his 30s. He has an old soul, though, further evinced by Good Things, his latest release on L.A.'s ever-stellar Stones Throw label. Acting as artistic eyewitness, he sings of the shady underbelly of a capitalist society, and of the litter the latest economic recession left behind. But don't let the subject matter get you down. Just like the golden-voiced gods of soul that came before him, he makes even the struggle sound sublime. (Rebecca Haithcoat)
Also playing Friday: ATLAS SOUND at the Echo; BRENDAN BENSON and THE POSIES at Club Nokia; ICE CUBE, RICK ROSS, CHRIS BROWN, WAKA FLOCKA at Key Club; CHARLIE HUNTER TRIO at the Mint; LOWER HEAVEN, EXPLODING FLOWERS, JASON SIMON, LANTVRN at the Satellite.
DAYLONG VALLEYS OF THE NILE, DUNES, DIVA AT THE SMELL
Nascent new wave post–punk rock dominators Daylong Valleys of the Nile got their shaky start when Lavender Diamond guitarist Jeff Rosenberg got together with LD's keyboardist Steve Gregoropoulos in order to write punk songs for wee shavers. Gregoropoulos' first song submission was "Drugs Are for Your Parents" — which tune, after giving it some thought, the pair deemed not quite appropriate. But somehow things evolved into an art form a tad more grown-up. (Just a bit.) Now it's reams of great, smart pop tunes finely drizzled with that tasty early-'70s glammy prog sauce. Songs like "Gossamer Station" and "Nick of Time" boast close attention paid to the fine art of the wildly leaping chord change and to the band's complexly shaded vocal harmonies — a bit arch, goofy and sincere, à la Eno's Warm Jets. The grassy walls of electric guitars twining chipper eighth-note pianos/synths/high hats are funny but gorgeous — full of life, larger than life, even, or at least larger than your living room. Lo-fi/big-space soundweavers Dunes include veteran L.A. punk potentates Kate Hall of Mika Miko and Stephanie Chan of Finally Punk. (John Payne)
MOSES CAMPBELL, SLUMBER BEAST, LITTLE TEETH, FOOT FOOT AT PEHRSPACE
L.A. folk-punk sextet Moses Campbell is due massive recognition any day now. Sure, the band's composed of teenagers who only just released their debut full-length on the Smell's scrappy little imprint olFactory Records, but Who Are You? Who Is Anyone? is a fantastically conceived pop experiment. Singer Sean Solomon, often backed by Daniela Jimenez, coos in a twee-tinged bucolic mumble landing him somewhere between Belle & Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch and Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst. Meanwhile, the songs underneath range from jangly ("Annabelle") to noisy ("And It's Over"). Some are more shambolic than others, but it's mostly an acoustic bluster played with guitar, accordion, glockenspiel, singing saw, violin and drums. Where's Saddle Creek when you need 'em? Also local is Slumber Beast, who employ viola, cello and guitar to make darkly dreamy and emotively packed whispers of songs. (They also cover the Misfits and Billy Idol, so go figure.) San Francisco's Little Teeth is another oddly enticing collision of classical instrumentation and folksy warmth. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Saturday: JENS LEKMAN at Mondrian/Skybar; MARCO BENEVENTO at the Mint; SWAHILI BLONDE at Space 15 Twenty; STRAIGHT NO CHASER at the Wiltern; GRAVITY WAS EVERYWHERE BACK THEN screening with live score by members of Fugazi and Giant Sand at Cinefamily.
WU-TANG CLAN AT CLUB NOKIA
Promoter Goldenvoice promises the presence tonight of seven of the eight original Wu-Tang members currently available for live engagements: GZA, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God and Masta Killa. That means no RZA, who told AOL's Boombox he's got "too much business going this quarter" to hit the road, nor any Boy Jones, who filled in for his father, the late Ol' Dirty Bastard, at this summer's Rock the Bells. It's anyone's guess, of course, how the absence of those twin pillars will affect the influential New York hip-hop crew's performance. Best case? More solo tracks from Raekwon and Ghostface. The latter has a new one, called Apollo Kids, due out this month. Worst case? An overload of the decentralized chaos that is more or less Wu-Tang's onstage style. (Mikael Wood)
FANTASTIC PLANET SCREENING WITH JESUS MAKES THE SHOTGUN SOUND AT CINESPACE
The superbly strange Fantastic Planet (1973) was created by French animation team Roland Topor and René Laloux during five years of painstaking work at Jií Trnka's renowned Czech animation studio. It's an uncanny world crafted with hand-drawn images that flow like a moving, morphing painting, with a story that tells of conflicts between enslaved humanoids the Oms and the bigger and supposedly more civilized Traags. This was a scenario that director Laloux used as metaphor for the era's Soviet occupation of the Czech Republic, yet the issues addressed are ambiguous; racism, totalitarianism and animal rights all seem to figure in among these truly haunting tableaux of sights and sounds. One of the film's chief pleasures is the spellbinding prog-rock/psych-funk alterna-landscape score composed by Serge Gainsbourg sideman Alain Goraguer, which L.A.-based apocalypto synth rockists Jesus Makes the Shotgun Sound have the unenviable task of re-creating tonight. (John Payne)
Also playing Sunday: RUMSPRINGA, MISSISSIPPI MAN at the Bootleg Theater; MEREDITH MEYER, ONE TRICK PONY, STAR PARTS at Spaceland; MARCHFOURTH MARCHING BAND at the Echoplex; KOOL KEITH, KING, FANTASTIC, J*DAVEY, LE VICE at the Roxy.
THE GREENHORNES AT THE TROUBADOUR
Cincinnati garage rockers the Greenhornes have been lying low for much of the past few years, with drummer Patrick Keeler and bassist Jack Lawrence collaborating with Brendan Benson and Jack White in the Raconteurs and backing Loretta Lynn on her 2004 comeback album, Van Lear Rose. On top of that, Lawrence also is part of the Dead Weather, White's revisionist-blues psychodrama with Kills diva Alison Mosshart. These impressive side projects seemingly sidelined Greenhornes singer-guitarist Craig Fox, who eventually invested his time into another band, the Cincinnati Suds. Now the Greenhornes are finally back together, with a new CD, Four Stars — their first full-length album since 2002's Dual Mono and their first burst of new material since the 2005 EP East Grand Blues. Keeping it all in the family, the Ohio trio released the new album on White's Third Man Records. Despite the long absence, the Greenhornes sound more explosive than ever on Four Stars, as Who-style rockers like "Saying Goodbye" and "Underestimator" collide with more introspective jangles like "Cave Drawings." (Falling James)
SWEATERS, BIG SEARCH, BOWERY BEASTS, WHISPERING PINES AT SPACELAND
It's hard to imagine a local rock band better suited to a Spaceland residency than Sweaters. With just two 7-inch releases under their belt, the fresh-faced quartet is still relatively unknown, but the four songs they've released are clarion calls to see the band live. The Sweaters' sound is an upbeat, jangling thing, with its roots somewhere between the soulful rock & roll investigations of early Kinks and Stones, and the energetic pomp of Iggy and the Stooges. Singer Jordan Benik is loud and bellowing, able to shred his pipes but smart enough not to abuse the ability. The keys are, well, key — piano and organ drive songs like "Can't Stop Winning" (White Iris) and "Investigation" (Slow Death) as much as if not more than the lithe guitar and Sweaters' solid rhythm section. Joining them on night one is Big Search — the folksy bedroom-pop solo project of Foreign Born's Matt Popieluch — the Ozzy-inspired Silver Lakers Bowery Beasts, and country-rock bumpkins Whispering Pines. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Monday: GROUPLOVE, the 88 at Bardot; IO ECHO, HAIM, WHITE ARROWS and guests at the Echo.
JONATHAN RICHMAN AT THE TROUBADOUR
When Jonathan Richman led the first lineup of the Modern Lovers in the early 1970s, the Boston band came off like a wittier, more suburban version of the Velvet Underground. There was a defiantly nonarty silliness to songs like "Pablo Picasso," but darker tunes like "Hospital" had a distinct air of melancholy and soulfulness. Despite some belated appreciation in the late-'70s punk and power-pop underground (including remakes of his songs by everyone from the Sex Pistols, David Bowie and Iggy Pop to Burning Sensations, Echo & the Bunnymen, Greg Kihn and Modern Lovers producer John Cale), Richman turned his back on his early sound, moving in a softer, kid-friendly direction with whimsical pop ditties like "Ice Cream Man" and "Buzz, Buzz, Buzz." In more recent years, he and his longtime drummer Tommy Larkins (ex–Naked Prey) have expanded their range to encompass more exotic influences, as on their new French-language album of love songs, O Moon, Queen of Night on Earth. Also Wed. (Falling James)
MANIAC AT SILVERLAKE LOUNGE
Side projects can be a measure of a musician. If an offshoot act stretches a workmanlike talent too thin, the results can be wince-worthy indulgence. But for singer-guitarists Shawn Harris (from Oakland's on-hiatus the Matches) and Jake Grigg (of Aussie act Something With Numbers), their Maniac spin-off only confirms the generous depths of their inspiration. Maniac's blog-posted cover versions of current hits are fun, but its debut EP, Extended Play, shows what this colorful coming together is capable of and augurs well for their debut album, due early next year. Harris and Grigg love romantic orchestration and glossy escapism, yet remain sing-along jammy and campfire celebratory — at times evoking both Keane's kitschy anthems and a bohemian, busking Beatles. It's joyous, infectiously inclusive stuff full of head-tossing harmonies, horns, strings and (sometimes) much more besides. Expect Maniac's five-piece live incarnation (which includes Harris' sister Vanessa) to be a stomping, carefree riot. (Paul Rogers)
Also playing Tuesday: HAWNAY TROOF, RUSTY LAZER, BIG FREEDIA at the Echoplex; PASSION PIT at the Palladium; ROB CROW, K. THIBIDEAU at Spaceland; NEIL SEDAKA at Walt Disney Concert Hall; KITTEN at the Echo; EPICA at the Key Club.
MAREN PARUSEL AT SILVERLAKE LOUNGE
Maren Parusel first came to some attention as the lead singer of an unusual San Diego band called Wild Weekend. Unlike so many tribute acts that cover obvious icons like AC/DC and Iron Maiden, Wild Weekend was a loving homage to Chula Vista punk legends the Zeros. The mostly female band's versions of Zeros classics like "Wimp" and "Beat Your Heart Out" were so charmingly stylish, there was talk that the young group would evolve and start writing their own songs — but Wild Weekend broke up suddenly before their potential was fully realized. Undeterred, the German-born Parusel reinvented herself as a solo performer, penning appealing, ethereal alt-pop tunes like "Breathe Underwater." Now this self-described "Silver Strand Dancer" and her new band craft shimmering, hazy reveries that are a million miles away from the riotous punk energy of the Zeros. (Falling James)
OMID, DEVONWHO, YUK AT THE AIRLINER
Producer Omid Walizadeh's first name is Persian for "hope," and it suits him: The dude's been a bright light in L.A.'s independent rap underground for more than a decade. In 1999, via Daddy Kev's seminal Celestial label, he released the cult-hallowed Beneath the Surface LP, which corralled dozens of the city's best MCs — members of Freestyle Fellowship, Dilated Peoples, Of Mexican Descent, Shapeshifters — into one beautifully layered, sample-driven opus. After a solo instrumental album, he teamed up with Mush Records in 2003 for Monolith, showing off a more finely honed style and expanding the rapper pool to include out-of-towners like Buck 65 and Slug (Atmosphere). Since, he's released small bits here and there but has stayed committed to his gritty scores flavored by Middle Eastern melodies, repurposed dialogue and various stringed things. Portland's Devonwho has close ties to the L.A. beat scene and a shimmering, bass-loving sound that should fit right in. Leaving Records' Yuk holds it down with warbly and warm cassette compositions. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Wednesday: DIME BAGS at the Redwood Bar & Grill; TOPHER MOHR at the Bootleg Theater; MT. ST. HELENS VIETNAM BAND at the Echo; MILLIONYOUNG, TEEN DAZE, THE GREAT MUNDANE at Spaceland; DELTA SPIRIT, DARKER MY LOVE, THE FLING at the Music Box; NATALIE COLE at Walt Disney Concert Hall.
HANNI EL KHATIB, RUMSPRINGA, HOT PANDA AT THE ECHO
Hanni El Khatib is the kind of retro that's always welcome. His Twitter profile rightly refers to his style as "knife-fight music," and distributor Stones Throw does an even better job with "malt-shop music for those who drink them spiked with bourbon." In reality, the guy is a one-man band specializing in the kind of leather-jacketed, coiffed pop that Dion and Del Shannon used to trade in. Think hand claps (not the canned kind), "wahh-oohs," shuffling bass lines, clean guitar, tambourine hits and a voice built to break hearts. It's pretty much 100 percent throwback — except for the F-bomb dropped on his first single, "Dead Wrong" — but that's not a problem, as Khatib's shtick coasts through speakers sans schlock, without a whiff of irony in the mix. In person, he gets help from a drummer, but it's still Hanni's show through and through. Supporters Rumspringa are locals who make mildly psychedelic rock with a taut but sprawling touch, while Canada's Hot Panda does quirky art pop à la Wolf Parade family. (Chris Martins)
HENRY ROLLINS AT THE ECHOPLEX
Henry Rollins' Rare Cuts and Conversation at the Echoplex is an exclusive listening party hosted by your "faithful fanatic-in-chief," currently one of KCRW's best-known DJs and an L.A. Weekly columnist, too. (Plus Black Flag and Rollins Band frontman, of course!) Rollins will be converting the Echoplex into his own private chamber of mysteries and sharing favorites from his extensive and eclectic personal collection. These are records he's spent decades collecting while traveling all over the world — he's e-mailing us from the Sudan right now, by the way — but he says they're too rare and obscure to play on his regular radio show. Besides the actual music, he'll be sharing wild stories about how he acquired each one. A legendary musician, DJ, spoken-word artist, writer of numerous books and poetry, actor and world traveler, he probably has some interesting stories to tell. Rollins agreed to do this only on condition that no photography or recording of any kind — even from the show's sponsors — be allowed. So if you don't make it out, you're out of luck. And if you've seen Rollins at Largo or Coachella or listen to his radio show, you're already going. (Lainna Fader)
Also playing Thursday: BEDOUIN SOUNDCLASH at Troubadour; LE SWITCH, THE LONELY WILD, PAUL CHESNE BAND at the Redwood Bar & Grill; THE BAD PLUS at the Mint; BLEU at the Hotel Café; AIMEE MANN'S CHRISTMAS SHOW at Largo.
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