Music Picks: Woody Allen & His New Orleans Jazz Band, Jane Monheit, Manhattan Murder Mystery
The British electronic dance music duo of Dan Stephens and Joe Ray just released their debut full-length, Welcome Reality, this month, but the songs that comprise the album have been tearing up dance floors for more than a year. Songs like "Me and You" and last summer's hit "Promises" — written with vocalist and frequent collaborator Alana Watson — juxtapose dubstep's jarring bass lines with ethereal vocals more commonly associated with progressive house tracks. Then there's "Crush on You," Nero's current club smash, based on samples from the Jets' mid-'80s hit of the same name. This is the jam of the moment, a pop song tweaked out to the point that it's too weird for radio. It doesn't matter that Nero plays to an audience largely too young to remember the Minnesota siblings behind the original. —Liz Ohanesian
Dir En Grey
HOUSE OF BLUES
Dir En Grey might be one of the planet's biggest cult bands: almost unrecognized on Main Street, yet — despite singing in their native Japanese — able to sell out theater-size venues across continents. They long ago traded in their early alt-pop leanings for a riff-based, prog-metal approach, which has restlessly evolved over eight albums and a jet-lagged decade of international touring. Dum Spiro Spero, released in August, is a spiky yet atmospheric offering that lurks somewhere between (former tour mates) Deftones' dark art and deft Dream Theater–ish shreddery. The album's slightly stale nü-metal musk is more than masked by vocalist Kyo, who summons a tonal and emotional range (from conversational, confessional murmuring to an androgynous howl) unimaginable to the Fred Dursts of this world. —Paul Rogers
BRANDON FIELDS ALL-STARS at the Baked Potato; OLD CALIFORNIO at the Satellite; RICHARD VISSION, DAVE AUDE at Vanguard; JON BRION at Largo.
Considering the mainstream march of electronic music can be clocked by the accomplishments of dance star Skrillex, Israeli trance duo Infected Mushroom were ahead of their time with their last album, 2009's Legend of the Black Shawarma. The darkly inflected, rock-damaged record not only included a collab with Korn but also a Doors cover (both recent feathers in the Skrillex cap). While their music so far eschews the amped-up robot reverberations of dubstep, they share that other fella's interest in subverting genre, and are as likely to open a song with a slurry of Spanish guitar as to close it with a metal riff, or set the whole thing bumping to a vintage boom-bap beat. Better yet, the pair expand to a four-piece live, giving them more power to summon their own brand of scary monsters. —Chris Martins
Tom Ranier Quartet
If you're looking for an evening of calm before the Christmas Day storm, Herb and Eden Alpert's Vibrato supper club in Bel Air may have your prescription. House bassist Pat Senatore has put together what should be a relaxing night headlined by pianist Tom Ranier. Ranier's current day job is as a primary accompanist on TV's Dancing With the Stars, but he's also acknowledged as one of the finest jazz pianists in Los Angeles, and a much-in-demand session player. Veteran trumpeter Steve Huffsteter has appeared on dozens of TV show and film soundtracks. Rounding out the quartet is talented drummer Dick Weller. Sit back and enjoy an evening of fine jazz and a dinner to match. Christmas morning will be here soon enough. —Tom Meek
The story behind PIPS restaurant on L.A.'s Westside is an unusual one. Owner Derrick Pipkin used to frequent the eatery on La Brea years ago, as a boy, and the place held fond memories. After seeing the space sit empty for several years, Pipkin decided to take a chance in 2010 and open his first restaurant, serving pizza, pasta and salads to both eat-in and takeout diners. PIPS has been successful enough with its food that Pipkin recently removed the small bar just inside the entrance to expand his kitchen. The inside space also has a comfy stage with a group of regular performers, including Sunday's entertainment, saxophonist Cal Bennett. There's also a heated patio for cool winter days and evenings. PIPS' Christmas Day menu is a Champagne brunch that promises easy jazz, mimosas and a lazy Sunday afternoon to relax — after the kids awaken you at 4 a.m. to discover what Santa brought this year. —Tom Meek
Manhattan Murder Mystery, George Glass
Matthew Teardrop is an Everyman icon in the making. On Manhattan Murder Mystery's new EP, Women House, the L.A.-via-Virginia resident gruffly howls about coming from a poor family and always being out of luck, and grinds out this little nugget of blue-collar ire: "It's hard for me to believe there's still people who can bring in 15 thousand a year, and spend seven dollars on a beer." Craft brew–swilling hipster he is not. To wit, the next couplet talks about bashing congressmen with baseball bats before the ragged guitars of "City Hall" give way to a fierce harmonica solo. The man does booze, however, and parts of MMM's eponymous LP were recorded on a three-day malt liquor bender in a friend's garage ("We were doing Edward 40-hands," he told L.A. Record). Think Zevon and Springsteen but really pissed. —Chris Martins
NEVEREVER at the Echo; SPACESHIPS at Silverlake Lounge; JACQUES LESURE JAM SESSION at Nola's.
No Bragging Rights
These Riverside lads explore a nuanced take on melodic hardcore, which lets in chinks of sunny SoCal pop-punk and epic emo optimism. Bruising but never truly brutal, even their most screech-capped passages are swiftly offset with wafts of borderline breezy melody and wholesome sentiment. Though they cover a lot of stylistic ground, even within the same song, No Bragging Rights tackle each genre dalliance with sufficient commitment and authenticity to prevent a descent into lowest-common-denominator dross. Personified by twinkly guitar licks, frequent changes of pace and weight, and Mike Perez's unusually proficient split-personality vocals, NBR are proof that hardcore can be a positive action, not just a convulsive reaction. —Paul Rogers
Singer-composer-actress Naama Kates' songs are like minifilms, experiences in sound, word and energy that stop and start again, accelerate and explode and collapse and fall to the floor to catch their breath and reassess. When she's playing solo, just her and a piano, she's a bit wistful and introspective, delivering her material in a soulful yet refreshingly unmannered vocal style. With her small ensemble she lays into complexly structured pieces whose violin, cello and trombone ornaments bring a cabaretlike mystique to the proceedings. —John Payne
CATALINA BAR & GRILL
It was this time last year that Jane Monheit welcomed the New Year with a six-night stand at this very club. A lot has changed in the world since but, then again, a lot hasn't. The New York chanteuse still knows how to render venerable jazz standards with immediacy and intimacy, using her rich, melodious voice for achingly romantic impact. If anything, recent motherhood has only deepened her range on her latest album, Home. Key guests like John Pizzarelli, Larry Goldings and Mark O'Connor help Monheit put a smart spin on such classics as "While We're Young" and a delicate and affectingly spare "I'll Be Around," but the album's one new song, Goldings and Cliff Goldmacher's "It's Only Smoke," is a poetic revelation. "Like a ghost that dances from the tip of a lit cigarette, I know what romance is," Monheit allows mournfully, almost making you believe her when she concludes, "but it hasn't happened yet." Through Sun., Jan. 1. —Falling James
REDWOOD BAR & GRILL
As their name implies, part of Moondog Orchestra are looking up at the stars while the other half just want to jump on your sofa and chew it to bits. There's a boundless, puppy-dog energy as the East L.A. band tear into the alt-rock instrumental "High Hopes" with scattershot drums and ricochet guitars. But there's also the soaring, euphoric way the chords rise through their own murk and the guitars, bass and drums fuse into a glowing celestial lava. Far from being a typically rootsy rehash, "Chicken Leather" combines bluesy guitars with droning post-punk chords and yearning vocals to weirdly dreamy (and yet fully rocking) effect. Meanwhile, "Daniel & the White Lions," with its trudging blues tempo and fat and pulverizing slide guitar, effectively splits the difference between the old Rolling Stones and the early White Stripes. —Falling James
THE AGGROLITES at Saint Rocke; HANIN ELIAS, VIOLENT VICKIE, MIATA at Pehrspace.
Eprom, Mux Mool, Jonwayne
LOW END THEORY
San Francisco beat scientist Eprom understands the yin and yang of bass music. Those gritty, gut-rattling lows are nothing without some splashy, ear-piercing highs, and he arranges both with nuance and aplomb. Best of all, the synthesizer is at the heart of his compositions, meaning his flair for thick texture and spare melody makes him a closer cousin to dubstep pioneers across the pond (Joker, Skream) than to the oft-maligned stateside progenitors of so-called frat-step. Meanwhile, Brooklyn-based producer Mux Mool specializes in a lush and playful sound, as laid-back as anything the West Coast has birthed, owing to the hazy bounce of early-'90s hip-hop, the crystalline keys of Boards of Canada and the goopy ebullience of chillwave. And don't miss Jonwayne, a rugged L.A. rapper-producer to watch in 2012. —Chris Martins
The Kill Pills
REDWOOD BAR & GRILL
If the gleeful surfeit of sticky holiday music hasn't already made you decide to end it all, the Kill Pills offer the first chance of the pre–New Year to blow that cotton candy from your ears. Guitarist Jesse's and bassist Aaron's thunderous, Sabbath-y riffs tumble downhill over the finely assembled wreckage of Adolfo's drums, while lead singer Shantel wails about "The Leaker" and other things that don't make much sense (or need to) at maximum volume. The L.A. band shifts dynamically from bluesy introspection to monumental stoner-rock passages, with the sinuous artiness of Shantel layered on top for another level of unpredictability. —Falling James
In tough economic times, record labels turn to sure things. Which, in an age where Baby Boomers remain among the select few who still buy music, often comes in the form of deluxe reissues from seminal rock acts. Bob Seger is the most recent to get such treatment. To celebrate his 50th year as a recording artist, the Motown rocker rereleased touched-up versions of his live classics: 1976's Live Bullet and 1981's Nine Tonight. He's also hit the road to re-create some of these live nuggets and, well, to make some more moolah. Expect the classics — "Turn the Page," "Night Moves," "Hollywood Nights," et al. — as well as a new tune or two; Seger is hitting the studio to finish up his first new studio release since 2006's Face the Promise. —Dan Hyman
THE GROWLERS, TOMORROWS TULIPS, THE ABIGAILS at the Echo; MAHLIS-PANOS PROJECT at the Baked Potato; HEROES AND HEROINES, ANCIENT ANIMALS, DIRTY ORCA, NAKED KIDS at Silverlake Lounge.
Woody Allen & His New Orleans Jazz Band
"The clarinet really puts the flap in 'flapper,' " a friend said recently, marveling over the infectiously giddy way the instrument gets people moving and inexorably lifts their spirits. Tonight's bandleader has been playing clarinet for decades (he's even named after the great Woody Herman), and he and his crew have been holding down a faithfully regular gig at New York's Carlyle Hotel. Allen champions the kind of jazz that came out of New Orleans when it was still new — fast and ebullient, with the notes spilling out in a merry jumble. As much as the music bobs and weaves with a festive fervor, there's always an undercurrent of Crescent City melancholy swimming around at the bottom. Or perhaps it's the other way around: The music is rooted in a bluesy sadness before it's picked up by the scruff of the neck and carried out into the streets for a parade. These guys bring back that bittersweet jitterbug joyfulness better than most, so don't miss 'em, as Allen apparently has a day job in the film industry and rarely makes it out to this coast. —Falling James
This São Paulo native has had a unique and multifaceted career, a reflection of the supple and deeply expressive voice she's blessed with. The four-time Grammy nominee made waves with her volumes of duets with some incredible Latin guitarists on Duos and Duos II, where Souza duels the six-stringed virtuosity with gracious and fearless vocal riposte. Her lovely contribution to Herbie Hancock's Grammy Award–winning Album of the Year, River: The Joni Letters, was just another milestone on her way to stardom. Souza has sold out concert halls around the world, which makes her appearance at this Little Tokyo nightclub all the more stunning. With local legend Larry Koonse on guitar, and bassist David Pilch, who has played on numerous records that you probably own. —Gary Fukushima
Fishbone hit the Key Club tonight riding a wave of renewed media attention: First the longtime L.A. ska-punk weirdos crept back onto the pop-cult radar with Everyday Sunshine, an affectionate documentary currently making the art-house rounds. Then the Roots made infamous use of Fishbone's song "Lyin' Ass Bitch" to introduce Michele Bachmann on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. You can expect to hear that gem (along with various other oldies) tonight, but Fishbone aren't just in the nostalgia business these days. In October the band released a surprisingly lively new EP called Crazy Glue, on which they demonstrate an undimmed enthusiasm for naughty language — get a load of "Deep Shit Backstroke" and "Gittin' in That Ass." With local reggae vets the Aggrolites. —Mikael Wood
Snuffaluffagus, Korey Dane
Snuffaluffagus began as a home studio project by San Diego songwriter Chris Braciszewski, a young folk aficionado who set out to confer childlike wonder through music. The project has grown to mammoth proportions since, encompassing a rotating collective of musicians scattered across the States, and a kaleidoscopic range of sound. On Snuffy's stunner of a new EP, Magical Realism, horns, guitar, koto, violin, piano, drums and bass are bent into bright musical figures resembling a sort of acoustic-orchestral free jazz that never loses sight of its creator's original goal. Which is to say, for all of the experimentation, these songs stay warm, accessible and beautiful, while Braciszewski sings his beatific observations and riddles in an elastic voice that brings to mind Parenthetical Girls' Zac Pennington. Expect to uncover a few ancient universal secrets. —Chris Martins
Cat Nap (day one); Chuco's (day two)
The third annual FMLY Fest is a chance to experience new sounds and ideas that go beyond the confines of the stage and the music that follows you out the gate and down into the street. FMLY — a self-avowed "global community of makers, prosumers, visual/auditory/spatial artists, activists/hacktivists, theorists, writers, cyclists and environmentally conscious foodies" — presents the next stage of the DIY ethos: DIT (do it together). Some of the many bands playing the festival: Truman Peyote, Messy Sparkles, Dream Panther, W-H-I-T-E, Kid Infinity, Halloween Swim Team, So Many Wizards (L.A.). And Power of Green L.A.'s donated solar panels & cells make FMLY Fest the world's first solar-powered DIY festival. Also: Donate your old Christmas tree to Forest of Commodity Casualties! Also Fri. and Sat. —David Cotner
AUDREY RYAN, CAPGUN HOLD-UPS, G. DAPONTE at Silverlake Lounge; JOE LABARBERA QUINTET at Vitello's; NAAMA KATES at Cat & Fiddle.
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