Rock Picks: Autolux, Rickie Lee Jones, Black Mountain, the Gourds, and more


Steve Appleford

Rock philosopher Lili Haydn
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Danny Clinch

Porter Batiste Stoltz: The meter's running.
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Aaron Geisel

Flower power: Winter Flowers
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Mary Gauthier, Mark Olson at the Troubadour

Louisiana singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier, her growing legion of fans will tell you, doesn't just turn folk and country music upside down, she gives it a swift kick in the rump. Her deliberately rough-hewn tales of ruined lives on the skids wipe off the glossy sentimentality to which those genres' storytellers are often prone, harkening back to the starkly sorrowful tales of Johnny Cash or of Bob Dylan in his remotest bouts of gloom. Gauthier's recent Daylight and Dark album on Lost Highway is a ponderous, weighty thing that requires some real listener commitment, made much easier by the strangely uplifting effect of its artful melancholy. The album was produced by sound artist/roots-music visionary Joe Henry (whose own recent album, Civilians, vies with Daylight as the Americana album of 2007). Henry, along with guests Van Dyke Parks and Loudon Wainwright III, gives Gauthier's amazingly authoritative voice ample room to reverberate through the skull and right down to the heart. With former Jayhawks singer Mark Olson. (John Payne)

Also playing Thursday:




Lili Haydn at Busby's East

Working with everyone from Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Bill Laswell to Alice Coltrane, violinist Lili Haydn has had one of the more interesting lives in modern memory: Her father, David Jove, co-created New Wave Theater, George Clinton dubbed her the "Jimi Hendrix of the violin," and she was Rodney Dangerfield's daughter in Easy Money! Haydn plays tonight's Writers Guild benefit at Busby's (in the old Conga Room space). Her violin, which resembles a small cello due to her slight stature, is the medium through which she reconfigures the pop landscape with breathy and heartfelt songs of searching and reconciliation. She's signed to Nettwerk, and her new album, Place Between Places, is likely the main course on the bill tonight — it's a long way since the halcyon '90s of playing the Viper Room ad nauseam. The violin as rock's philosopher's stone? Passionate pop pyrotechnics? Stove Top instead of potatoes? I'm stayin'! 5364 Wilshire Blvd.; 7:30 p.m. (David Cotner)

Autolux at El Rey Theatre

Though they long ago outgrew their Silverlake Lounge roots, Autolux remain perhaps the epitome of Eastside cooler-than-thou indie cred. During the pregnant, three-years-plus pause since the trio's drooled-over debut album, Future Perfect, their featuring on UNKLE's lauded War Stories last year (and having that Brit duo give Perfect's "Turnstile Blues" a delicately cacophonous makeover) has rekindled the buzz. Autolux mate shoegaze, Secret Machines and Sonic Youth; gauzily distracted, sensitive-boy vocals; addictively bruising, beyond-Bonham drums; and grizzled, contorted utterances that guitars and basses just weren't meant to make. Listening to them is like living in a Spaceland scenester's iPod: Jesus & Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Nirvana, early Smashing Pumpkins and guitarist Greg Edwards' former band Failure — all the right references are, well, referenced. Yet there's no dearth of first-generation inspiration: Autolux are raggedly calculated chance-takers, instinctive tunesmiths, and sufficiently standoffish to keep the beard-&-hoodie hipsters swooning. (Paul Rogers)

Also playing Friday:

A-TRAK, KID SISTER at the Natural History Museum; PETER CASE at the Getty Center; LOS LOBOS at Royce Hall; GENE LOVES JEZEBEL at Anarchy Library; KRS-ONE at Blue Cafe; CIRCLE ONE, DR. KNOW, DECRY at Cobalt Cafe; BOYS II MEN at Crash Mansion (see Music feature); LETTER OPENERS, KING CHEETAH at the Derby; BODIES OF WATER, CASTANETS at the Echo; NELLIE McKAY at Largo (see Hoopla); AL STEWART at McCabe's; MONOLATORS, THE FRONT, HEALTH CLUB at Mr. T's Bowl; 400 BLOWS at Relax Bar; MATT COSTA at the Troubadour; LISA LOEB at Barnes & Noble, the Grove, 7 p.m.


The Bowmans at Amoeba Music

There's something unique about the way harmonies sound when they're sung by talented sisters who've been performing together for their whole lives, and the Brooklyn duo the Bowmans reveal an enchanting blend of voices on their new CD, Far From Home (Mother West). Sarah Bowman, who plays cello with Rasputina, writes most of the songs, although her sister Claire penned the disarmingly childlike album-closer, "Porker Song," a don't-eat-me plea sung from the point of view of a pig who doesn't want to be "your bacon in the morning." The mood is more somber on the placid ballad "Williamsburg Bridge," where Sarah contrasts their Iowa upbringing with life in New York City, before the sisters kick up their heels on the countrified lament "World With No Boundaries." Clearly there are no boundaries that keep the Bowmans fenced in as they find themselves "On the Road," a pastoral slice of Jesse Sykes-style rustic pop where they discover (but don't care) that "the road may take a toll on you." This free set starts at 2 p.m. (Falling James)


Porter Batiste Stoltz at the Mint

Their billing may be hell on a marquee, but the music is guaranteed heaven on Earth. The three in question, bassist George Porter Jr., drummer Russell Batiste Jr. and guitarist Brian Stoltz, are all sprung from that most feverishly febrile jazz/R&B petri dish, New Orleans, and, as alumni of the Funky Meters, that city's most artfully brutal and beloved funk tribe, the band's collective skill level is at a point few players can aspire to, let alone achieve. Within the sophisticated ferocity these cats specialize in, all deep syncopated rhythms, chugging gut-bucket fretwork, rhumba-tinged string poppin' and bottom-heavy rumble, there exists an elemental, aural reality only rarely visited — a shadowy, opalescent realm where the spirits of Jellyroll Morton, Professor Longhair and Lee Dorsey are still preaching the natural jazz-funk gospel. Tip on in — you'll never want to leave. (Jonny Whiteside)

Also playing Saturday:

MOLOTOV at Ventura Theatre; BILL MEDLEY at Cerritos Center; NAKED AGGRESSION at the Airliner; THE BRAVERY at Crash Mansion; ROBIN TROWER at House of Blues; BLUE CHEER at Malibu Inn; AZTLAN UNDERGROUND, MYSTERY HANGUP, KIND HEARTS & CORONETS at Relax Bar; MERE MORTALS, XU XU FANG at Spaceland; JOE BAIZA, ATOMIC SHERPAS at Taix; CHEB I SABBAH at Temple Bar; MATT COSTA at the Troubadour; LISA LOEB at Borders Books Torrance, 7 p.m.



Lee Cantelon

Rickie Lee Jones: Preaching the blues
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Mat Honan

The Harpeth Trace just found out that their dog died.
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The Donnas: Neon angels on the road to ruin
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White Rainbow, The Entrance Band, Winter Flowers at McCabe's

I chanced upon White Rainbow during a break from the two-stage ping-pong of Arthur Ball a few years back. Taking to Sunset after a couple of hours shuffling between the Echo and the then-newly excavated Echoplex, I found myself walking into a pocket of bright light and dim drones. In Machine Projects' miniscule gallery space, a handful of people were splayed on the narrow floor, enveloped by strands of pale, reverberant color spun by Adam Forkner as he hunched over a guitar and a spread of pedals. Forkner was once a member of the short-lived, dreamy cyclone-herders Yume Bitsu. His first White Rainbow release for Chicago's seminal Kranky imprint is Prism of Eternal Now, a suite drifting at cloud speed and comprised of pulsing timbres, sifted crystals, and even the occasional frittered guitar-licking, scuffed tribal rhythms. Arthur again has summoned Forkner, this time to kick off the magazine's three-night residence at McCabe's Guitar Shop. Sandwiched between the frizzy folk of Winter Flowers and the skull-scraping blues of the Entrance Band, White Rainbow should prove an oasis of soothing electricity. (Bernardo Rondeau)

Also playing Sunday:

BILL MEDLEY at Cerritos Center, 3 p.m.; LA RESISTENCIA, VIERNES 13 at the Knitting Factory; ELECTROCUTE, PUNK BUNNY at Spaceland.



Rickie Lee Jones at the Echoplex

What a long, strange trip Rickie Lee Jones has been on since running away to Hollywood in 1973, palling around with Tom Waits and Chuck E. Weiss, and releasing her self-titled album in 1979. She's transformed herself from a fairly straightforward Joni Mitchell-style folk-pop singer into a multilayered, jazzy chanteuse, and her 2006 CD, The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard (New West), is her most ambitious (and, arguably, satisfying) work to date. The album is based on her producer Lee Cantelon's book The Word, which tries to take a fresh look at the story of Jesus Christ. Sermon isn't a dogmatic attempt to convert unbelievers so much as it's an engrossing journey through various personas and disguises, such as the symbolic visitation "Elvis Cadillac." Jones is utterly mesmerizing on the enigmatic "Tried to Be a Man," where her breathy vocals are draped over murky, bluesy chords, and "Nobody Knows My Name," which chugs along with a shimmering Velvet Underground intensity. She kicks off a weekly, monthlong residency at the Echoplex tonight, offering four chances to catch up to her overlooked midlife masterpiece. (Falling James)


Also playing Monday:

HOT CHIP at El Rey Theatre (see Music feature); VAMPIRE WEEKEND at Amoeba Music; SMASH FASHION at Crash Mansion; CARLA BOZULICH at Pehrspace; PITY PARTY, HAPPY HOLLOWS, LIGHT FM, RADEMACHER at Spaceland.


The Harpeth Trace, Kind Hearts & Coronets at Safari Sam's

The Harpeth Trace might be a particularly clunky and stiff name for a band, but don't let that bit of pretentiousness prevent you from checking out the L.A. trio's gauzy, hazy soundscapes. Their just-released debut full-length CD, On Disappearing (Red Rockets Glare), builds on the promise (and premise) of their 2005 EP, Man and the Cousin, with sprawling echo-laden songs that are delivered with whispery, breathy vocals and slowly turning guitar arpeggios. "Two Plainclothes Cops" is a cryptic, faintly psychedelic reverie with sparse, crumbling chords, while the piano-stoked "Georgia May" is sweetly ethereal. There's a Western grandeur to the austere jangle of "Kodachrome Wolves," and Josh Kasselman's fragile, feathery vocals swim in and out of the watery '60s pop of "Locked Out and Wandering." Kind Hearts & Coronets are also saddled with a dorky name, although the music on their 2007 CD, Rampart Castle, is more versatile, ranging from breezy pop ("The Trouble With Money") and sleepy folk ("Victoria Euphoria") to jaunty Turtles-style '60s rock ("Jaws"), often with circusy psych-pop embellishments. (Falling James)

Dead Meadow at the Echoplex

These days, Washington, D.C.'s Dead Meadow make a kind of lush, langorous, albeit very heavy, brand of psychedelia, having evolved just a tad away from the gargantuan stoner walls of distorted riff and sludge and swirling atmospheric effects of their initial releases. Yet Dead Meadow's newfound melodic splendor and painterly poise still come complete with a taut muscularity that slaps the band's dreamily droll tales of fantasy wide awake. Rather a lifestyle as well as a mere band, Dead Meadow build castles in the air and on the ground as they crisscross the country in their multicolored bus, preaching the word via one consistently excellent catalog of non-brain-damaged head medicine. For the ultimate Dead Meadow experience, get a copy of Feathers, their 2005 CD on Matador. They've got a new one out imminently called Old Growth. (John Payne)

The Atomic Sherpas, The Cordovas at Mr. T's Bowl

New ideas are so rare today that rock critics are often happy if a musician stumbles accidentally onto a good groove or manages to cobble together a decent lick or two in a set of otherwise forgettable songs. But there's no critical ambivalence regarding tonight's lineup, which boasts some of the hardest, heaviest and most versatile musicians from the local punk, funk and free-jazz scenes. The Atomic Sherpas are awesome mofos who can play anything, from the nimbly dizzy and jazzy horns of "Clockwise" and Vince Meghrouni's mad flute melody of "50 Yds. Sprechenzie Bebop" to the pumpin' roadhouse blues of "You Know It Ain't Right," which is located in the electric-blues universe somewhere between the Sheiks of Shake and vintage Top Jimmy & the Rhythm Pigs. These cats write their own tunes, but they have no problem shifting easily into tight, heavy-funk James Brown workouts. The Sherpas are well matched with the local Meters tribute band the Cordovas, who are led by the bent Saccharine Trust jazz-punk guitarist Joe Baiza and will dish out a similarly spicy gumbo for this Mardi Gras potluck. The Atomic Sherpas also kick out the jams Saturday at Taix. (Falling James)

Black Mountain at the Troubadour

I'm a practical kind of girl. But were Stephen McBean an actual hilltop guru instead of another bearded Canadian hippie with a guitar, I would happily crawl across expanses of brutal terrain on my small hands and weak knees to worship at his dirty feet. The laconic leader of a couple of Vancouver-based rock bands — fume-fueled heavy-toke rockers Black Mountain and its deeply sexified moody blues alter-ego Pink Mountaintops — McBean is a droll deep thinker with a penchant for the super sounds of the Sixties and Seventies. Black Mountain's just-released second full-length, In the Future, is a heady scroll of their patented (and often-reviled) Zep-esque-ness, though unlike their formidable self-titled debut, Future is soberer and several steps removed from their fogged-up stoner zenith of yore. Still, the music manages to evoke a heretofore-unheard proggish psych that skews sensitively and is engagingly human instead of antisocial purple noise, the usual provenance of drug rock. (Kate Carraway)


Also playing Tuesday:

Andy Goodwin


Out of their heads: The Gourds
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JESCA HOOP at the Hotel Café; BLUE CHEER at the Knitting Factory.


The Donnas at Crash Mansion

We've tried so hard to love the Donnas, but they've never made it easy. Allison Robertson is an absolutely shredding guitarist, and Torry Castellano is an authoritatively solid, underrated drummer. The beguilingly brooding Maya Ford is the quintessential silent-but-deadly rock bassist, while Brett Anderson has a fine voice and exudes a ton of onstage charisma. On paper, the Palo Alto quartet possess a lot of the right influences, taking the giddy pop of Nikki Corvette and the garage-punk of the Bobbyteens and amping them up with a metallic Runaways edge, but they inevitably add up to something less than the sum of their parts. The chief culprit is the songwriting, particularly the cliche-riddled lyrics. The band attempt to maintain a tuff-gal image on their latest album, Bitchin' (on their own label, Purple Feather), but songs like "Smoke You Out,""Like an Animal" and "Wasted" (not the Runaways classic, unfortunately) don't sound all that convincingly rebellious or shocking in this post-riot-grrl era. Unlike, say, Turbonegro, the Donnas don't twist hard-rock stereotypes into something fresh or satirical. As Spinal Tap once warned, "It's such a fine line between stupid and clever." (Falling James)

Also playing Wednesday:



The Gourds at Safari Sam's

With one foot in the frat house and the other in the barn house, the Gourds have carved out a name for themselves over the past decade with their comic cosmic Americana. Think NRBQ cross-pollinated with the Sir Douglas Quintet. These scruffy Austinites, led by dual front men Jimmy Smith and Kevin "Shinyribs" Russell, have charmed audiences from Bonnaroo to Bumbershoot with such irreverent originals as "I Ate the Haggis" and "Hooky Junk", but they probably are best known for their wonderful hick-hop jam of Snoop Dog's "Gin and Juice". Last year's terrific Noble Creatures, however, shows them nicely polishing up their sound. The opening cut, "How Will You Shine?," for example, boasts soulful horns. While they still deliver their wild, gonzo tales (witness the album closer, "Spivey"), they also dig deeper emotionally on "Steeple Full of Swallows" and "Promenade"— two gorgeous (or maybe "Gourd-geous") ballads that rival the best of the Band. (Michael Berick)

HoneyHoney at the Roxy

HoneyHoney are a duo from Venice who used to go by the name Zanzibar Lewis. Suzanne Santo sings with an old-timey, rootsy affectation as partner Ben Jaffe lazily plucks an acoustic guitar behind her. "Glory Box" is an intriguing slice of folk-rock as she pines longingly for love. "Give me a reason to be a woman," she wails invitingly, stretching out her lonely pleas with jazzy phrasing. In attempting to evoke classic Americana on the woe-is-me ballad "Homeless Heart," Santo risks coming off as jivey with her mannered down-home delivery when she coos, "The slow morning crawl is making Mama's head spin," but she's rescued by Jaffe's rich slide-guitar wallowing and, ultimately, her own passion. She's more affecting on the spare, languid tune "Bouncing Ball," blending her winsome crooning into Jaffe's nonflashy chord changes. HoneyHoney are scheduled to open for Rocco DeLuca at this showcase for bands on Ironworks Music, the label run by actor Kiefer Sutherland. (Falling James)

Also playing Thursday:

CECI BASTIDA, FREE MORAL AGENTS at the Bordello; THE LILYS at the Echo; COLBIE CAILLAT at House of Blues; YAKBALLZ at the Knitting Factory; WATKINS FAMILY HOUR at Largo; ENTRANCE BAND, TWEAK BIRD at Silverlake Lounge; DANNY B. HARVEY at Taix; THE KOOKS at the Troubadour.

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