Rock Picks

FRIDAY, November 10

Lupe Fiasco at the Key Club

In a real-life hip-hop remake of Revenge of the Nerds, Chicago mic manipulator Lupe Fiasco brings back an organic appreciation of all things geek-chic: comic books, obscure Japanese clothing labels, sneakers (Reebok sells one of his designs) and, of course, skateboarding, with his swimming-pool-smooth single “Kick, Push” the nicest beat you’ll hear on televised skate competitions. Mentored by none other than rap’s Jedi master, Jay-Z, Fiasco showcases his levelheaded perspective, Islamic faith and admiration of Nas (F&L is modeled after Nas’ It Was Written CD) on his debut, Food & Liquor. Boasting tracks from the likes of Kanye West, the Neptunes and his own 1st & 15th crew, Fiasco’s album righteously bridges the gap between indie-friendly and radio-ready. The jury’s still out on the live show, so tonight’s the night. (Scott T. Sterling)

Kid Congo Powers & the Pink Monkey Birds at Jensen Rec Center

Kid Congo’s guitar has always gone its own way. It prowls, stalks and sashays through a multidimensional musical realm — part insidious creeper, part French tickler — tossing out angular, opaque shards of sound, caressing the fuzz, flirting with distortion, creating a style that’s impossible to anticipate or ignore. This irresistibly odd approach led him to some of the most extreme bandstand entities of the late-20th century, from his earliest days as co-founder of the Gun Club to an insanely fecund stretch with the Cramps, then on to duty gilding Nick Cave’s funereal lily. Congo lent each of them an otherworldy — and tremendously advantageous — appeal. Tonight, forget the swank resumé and open wide for his Pink Monkey Birds, an entirely Congo-istic exercise in hep, high-Gotham rock stylings. 1161 Logan St., Echo Park. (Jonny Whiteside)

Islands, Subtitle at the Henry Fonda Theatre

Montreal’s Islands used to be Montreal’s Unicorns, a ragtag indie-pop outfit that served as a sort of link between mid-’90s Elephant 6 whimsy and mid-’00s freak-folk trippiness. They broke up as soon as they broke through, leading Nick Diamonds and J’aime Tambeur to regroup as Islands, a slightly more streamlined version of the original band; on Return to the Sea, Islands’ debut from earlier this year, less sonic debris obscures Diamonds’ knack for a swell little tune. The new act’s live show still exudes some of the old chaos: In April, a gig at a Manhattan club ended up spilling out onto Sixth Avenue. Tambeur left Islands a few months ago, so who knows what they’ll do tonight? Indie-rap MC Subtitle, who made an appealingly left-field appearance on Return, opens. (Mikael Wood)

Brand New Heavies at El Rey Theatre

Though made up of a woman from Atlanta and guys from Ealing, England, the Brand New Heavies — alongside former label mates the Pharcyde — briefly and perfectly captured something of a powerful, multiculti, breeze-funk moment in L.A.’s early-to-mid-’90s music scene. The music had a global, cosmopolitan vibe but was also the unmistakable sound of an energetic, optimistic L.A. movement. Hits like “Never Stop,” “Dream On Dreamer,” “Dream Come True” and “Stay This Way” were the shit you heard in clubs, on the radio and at house parties. Their new album, Get Used to It (which features the return of the glorious N’Dea Davenport), picks up where they left off, only with a bit more seasoning. And if you’re lucky, N’Dea might even sing her underground club hit “One Day My Love.” (Ernest Hardy)

Also playing Friday:

DEFTONES, DEADSY at Avalon; VICENTE FERNANDEZ at Gibson Amphitheatre; LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM at the Wiltern (see Music feature); GLISS at Amoeba Music; TOWER OF POWER at the Canyon; KID KOALA, FOG at the Echo; TARA JANE O’NEIL at El Cid; NORA KEYES, CIRCUS MINOR, MR. UNCERTAIN at Fais Do-Do; J.F.A., STITCHES at the Knitting Factory; JOHN DOE at Largo; JANIS IAN at McCabe’s; LUKE DOUCET at Molly Malone’s; IMA ROBOT at the Roxy; DONITA SPARKS, LETTER OPENERS, ABBY TRAVIS at Safari Sam’s; THE SHOCKER at the Scene; JEREMY JAY at the Smell; THE WRENS, ASOBI SEKSU at the Troubadour; JOHNNY WINTER at B.B. King’s Blues Club; BRENTON WOOD at the Rhythm Lounge; ELEFANTE, BELANOVA at the Queen Mary; LA BARRANCA at the Westchester.

SATURDAY, November 11Lady Sovereign at El Rey Theatre

Everyone remembers the tiny loudmouths in their lives, the ones who hid behind bigger badasses while talking mad shit so well, you wanted to slap them stupid. Lady Sovereign has that verbal gift, and she’s got the diminutive stature to boot. The big brother? That would be Jay-Z, who made it a point to sign the U.K. grime pixie to Def Jam. (Hova, you player.) The bid paid off, as Sovereign’s smartass Vertically Challenged and Blah Blah EPs laid the tracks for her full-length crossover, Public Warning, and the hype machine, for once, paid off. Strictly speaking, Lady Sov is a dyed-in-the-wool Brit, but she’s still the shit. She’ll tell you that herself when you see her. More times than you probably want, but enough to make you smile wide. (Scott Thill)

Emilie Simon at Temple Bar

France’s Emilie Simon makes a state-of-the-art statement on where we are now in the elusive musical fusion of high art and bass desire, cold and hot, shiny and fuzzy. The Paris–based singer-composer-arranger-producer-multi-instrumentalist’s new disc, The Flower Book (Milan), is a mesmerizing trip, not just because the eclectic Simon coos her idiosyncratic mishmash of electronicized chansons with such beguiling charm (in French and English), but also in the way her merging of down-&-somewhat-dirty electro-thumpers (including, yes, a version of Iggy’s “I Wanna Be Your Dog”) with astonishingly pretty instrumental passages feels unforced and even logical. Simon, by the way, composed the score for the original European version of March of the Penguins. Also at the Troubadour on Thurs., Nov. 16, and at Amoeba Music on Fri., Nov. 17. (John Payne)

Also playing Wednesday:

NAKED EYES, THOMAS DOLBY at Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts; JAMES BLUNT, STARSAILOR at Gibson Amphitheatre; UK SUBS at Anarchy Library; DRONES, DEVASTATIONS at Spaceland.

THURSDAY, November 16

Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars at the Malibu Performing Arts Center

Thrown together by Sierra Leone’s apocalyptic decade-plus civil war, the Refugee All-Stars have one of a hell a story to tell, and while the group has been heralded here with a load of effusive bullshit (coming as it does from a horde of overpaid rock-crit blowhards) that invariably speaks of “redemptive power” and “healing,” it’s always best to let the music do the talking, and, believe it, these cats won’t let your attention stray. Their high-stepping Afro-reggae grooves are put over with a natural-fact expertise, and the bare-bones lyrics are framed as a series of marvelously simple, effective metaphors that combine for an emphatically arresting earful, one providing the ideal way to convey these bruised, defiant messages. (Jonny Whiteside)

Also playing Thursday:

ROONEY, BEN LEE at Avalon; JOLIE HOLLAND, VETIVER at the Jensen Rec Center; JOHN LEGEND at the Wiltern; HOWARD TATE at Amoeba Music; ARIEL PINK, BEACH HOUSE at the Echo; RACHAEL YAMAGATA at the Hotel Café; JAMES BLUNT, STARSAILOR at House of Blues; LAS 15 LETRAS, CHENCHA BERRINCHES, KEVIN K at the Knitting Factory; DOLLYROTS, RANDIES at the Scene; HELLO STRANGER, SOMETHING FOR ROCKETS, EMILIE SIMON at the Troubadour; CUT CHEMIST at the Viper Room.

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