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Rock Picks: Brian Wilson, the Juan Maclean, Common

Pagan icons: Nightwish
Ville Akseli

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 11

 
Built to Spill, Quasi at the Troubadour

Hey, Built to Spill will be doing their 1997 Perfect From Now On album in its entirety in these special nights at the Troub. We must report that these L.A. shows are sold out, though. For those of you thinking about trying to get tix or maybe sneak in, keep in mind that Boise, Montana’s best have never made a better album, not nothing that ever topped the guitaristically glorious epicness of those eight Perfect tracks, which to this day still beam a righteous radiance that makes us feel pure and beautiful, and increasingly brings a tiny tear to the eye (nostalgia, don’t you know). Reportedly the band is just now peaking as a live proposition, too, so this should be an entirely awesome spectacle to witness — heartwarming, at very least. Then Quasi (former BTS man Sam Coomes and Sleater-Kinney’s Janet Weiss, now joined by bassist Joanna Bolme), is not just still around, but currently doing some of their strongest work, as evidenced by the turbulent and somewhat indefinable charms of their last one, When the Going Gets Dark (Touch and Go) Also Wed. (John Payne)

 
Also playing Thursday:

Toadies at The Roxy; Tim Finn at the El Rey.

 

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 12
 

Brian Wilson at the Hollywood Bowl

Few performers are better suited to preside over the end of yet another endless SoCal summer than Brian Wilson, who brings his band (as well as the L.A. Phil) to the Hollywood Bowl this weekend for three season-concluding shows of Beach Boys hits and stuff from Wilson’s just-released solo disc, That Lucky Old Sun. The new album’s quality depends upon your perspective: Compared to the gloriously realized version of Smile that Wilson finally released in 2004, its relatively straightforward pop tunes don’t really inspire much in the way of amazement (alternate title suggestion: More Songs About Traffic and Sand). As a singer, though, Wilson sounds in finer fettle than he has in years, which lends the material on Old Sun — some of it penned in partnership with his old pal Van Dyke Parks — a healthy, optimistic glow. No one makes the mundaneness of everyday life in this town sound as enticing as Wilson does. Also Sat.-Sun. (Mikael Wood)

 
Citay at Tangier

Ezra Feinberg’s great, great Citay makes a new/old kind of music ideal for listening and/or hair-tossing — kind of like all those proggy rock and teen-beat combos that wailed so grandly and unself-consciously back in the early ’70s. Citay’s eponymous debut album on Important Records was a wondrously wiggy casserole stirring in the fragrant greenery of the folkie bits on those ancient Led Zep or Sabbath albums of lore with the unison-guitar glories of ’70s rock à la Thin Lizzy, Mike Oldfield, Heart and Boston. It’s a lavishly widescreen rock sound that’s further explored on the band’s latest set, Little Kingdom, again produced and instrumentally augmented by master painter Tim Green of the Fucking Champs. There’s something about these twin-lead epics that sounds gruesome on paper but are so smartly conceived and gorgeously laid out, a really majestic but heavily rocking sound that Feinberg and friends will replicate and even further intensify with their onstage mini-orchestra. (John Payne)

 
Mirah & Spectratone International at the Troubadour

K Records singer Mirah’s new collaboration with Spectratone International, Share This Place: Stories and Observations, might be better named The Secret Life of Insects. Despite the project’s simplistic Free to Be You and Me–style title, the CD comes off as dark and engrossing rather than educational and cutesy when Mirah coos such lyrics as “I vanquish you with kisses, a dubious caress” and “We communicate with chemicals.” While Mirah’s not the first musician to sing from an insect’s point of view (the Urinals’ “I’m a Bug” and Magazine’s “A Song From Under the Floorboards” predate this album by nearly 30 years), she plunges wholeheartedly into the buggy mindset on a series of fancifully fantastic songs that are intended to accompany animated short films by Britta Johnson. Black Cat Orchestra leader Kyle Hanson and cellist Lori Goldston lay down some intriguing settings that wander from traditional Old World folk to artier experimentation, ending up somewhere between the Dagons’ febrile dreaminess and Rasputina’s fairy-tale exoticism. When Mirah sings, “It’s an expressive art . . . secreting quiet and dependable,” she could also be describing Goldston’s and Hanson’s mysterious, rippling musical pulses. (Falling James)

 
Also playing Friday:

SMOKEY ROBINSON at L.A. County Fair, Fairplex, Pomona; TRICKY at Henry Fonda Theater; ROB DICKINSON at Hotel Café; KASEY CHAMBERS, SHANE NICHOLSON at McCabe’s; JASON FALKNER, OLIVER FUTURE, HONEYHONEY, ARI SHINE at the Roxy; GUTTERMOUTH, YOUTH BRIGADE at Safari Sam’s; DIE ROCKERS DIE at the Smell; QUETZAL, UPGROUND at Temple Bar.

 

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 13

 
Nightwish, Sonata Arctica at the Wiltern

 

Now that power metal is cool, veterans of the scene get to play decent-sized L.A. clubs — places that allow this pseudo-symphonic stuff to fully expand. Sonata Arctica consistently balance Homeric majesty with precise ax-ecution — it’s for the dudes who care more about melody than the tablatures in Guitar World. These fight-the-good-fight Finns have cranked out their brand of superpretty metal for nearly 10 years, but with their live CD/DVD For the Sake of Revenge you get the choicest anthems and better-than-average fantasy cover art. Nightwish, who a decade ago were playing Finnish folk abetted with synths, get even further from fret-board virtuosity by centering goth-pop bombast around operatic female vocals. Longtime fans consider the 2005 departure of original singer Tarja Turunen a lethal blow, but her less-song-bird-y replacement, Anette Olzon, probably better serves the music. If Nightwish doesn’t convince you the world has become a pagan idyll, they sure got the soundtrack down. (Andrew Lentz)

 

The Juan Maclean at El Rey Theatre

As the years slip by and their catalog fattens, DFA now signifies the appreciation and reinvention of dance music beyond the label/producers’ presumed sole stock in trade: disco. Sure, the late-’70s strut and clatter is their jump-off point and occasional default, but, as the recent effort from Hercules & Love Affair makes evident, DFA is just as keen on the throb, squiggle and clank of early techno and its manifold permutations. In this regard, the Juan Maclean is perhaps the DFA artist par excellence. Shifting shapes across his booming 2006 debut, Less Than Human, the former Six Finger Satellite guitarist proffered a crunchy blend of scrambled data, stenciled slogans, sour frequencies, gummy bass, clanging metals and squelched arpeggios. Synths squealed, cowbells thwacked and genre molds cracked. The sprawling new A-side “Happy House” finds him laying out an album’s worth of ideas and tonalities on a single track that proudly sways to the once verboten trope of piano stabs. In support of this delectable slab of cheese and in anticipation of sophomore release The Future Will Come, Maclean is touring with a four-piece band, so borrow a welder’s mask: Sparks will fly. (Bernardo Rondeau)

 
Also playing Saturday:

BRIAN WILSON at Hollywood Bowl; GO BETTY GO at Alex’s Bar; INARA GEORGE & VAN DYKE PARKS at Largo; KRISTIN HERSH’S SHADY CIRCLE at McCabe’s; CHUPACOBRA, LE SURGE,COSMETICATORS, THE CRYSTELLES, DONOVAN’S FAIRIES at Mr. T’s Bowl; VAINS OF JENNA at Paladino’s; MOTORCYCLE BOY at Redwood Bar & Grill; KOMMUNITY FK, FANGS ON FUR at the Roxy; AESOP ROCK, MIGHTY UNDERDOGS at the Troubadour; TOKIO HOTEL at Hollywood & Highland, 3 p.m.

 
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 14 

 
Common, N.E.R.D. at the Wiltern

Earlier this year, Common announced that he was set to release a new album called Invincible Summer — a club-based collaboration with the Neptunes and Mr. DJ (of OutKast’s crew) — in July. Then the record was pushed to the end of September. Now a rep from Common’s label, Geffen, says the album probably won’t be out till November or December, and it’ll arrive with a different title (Invincible Autumn, perhaps?). Not one to sit around and wait for the action to start — dude’s released two albums and appeared in four movies since 2005 — Common’s spending the next month touring North America with the Neptunes’ rock-band side project, N.E.R.D., softening the ground ahead of the CD’s eventual release. Tonight expect a set heavy on material from 2005’s Be and 2007’s Finding Forever, as well as “Announcement” and “Universal Mind Control,” new tracks currently available on iTunes. N.E.R.D.’s recent Seeing Sounds deserves an instrumentals-only edition. (Mikael Wood)

 
Also playing Sunday:

JUDY COLLINS at Cerritos Center, 3 p.m.; OLMECA, EL VUH, SKOOL 77 at John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, 5 p.m.; MILEY CYRUS, JONAS BROTHERS at Gibson Amphitheatre, 5 p.m.; BRIAN WILSON at Hollywood Bowl, 7:30 p.m.; LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM at Royce Hall, UCLA; WILLIE HERRON, EDDIE AYALA, SID MEDINA at Eastside Luv; VAN HUNT at Temple Bar; AESOP ROCK, MIGHTY UNDERDOGS, YAK BALLZ at the Troubadour.

 
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 15 

 
Joan as Police Woman at Largo at the Coronet

For many years, Joan Wasser played second fiddle while playing her magic fiddle behind the stellar likes of Rufus Wainwright, Lou Reed and the Dambuilders, but she finally emerged from the shadows to reveal her long-simmering talents as a singer and songwriter on her excellent 2006 solo CD, Real Life. Her duets with Antony Hegarty and Joseph Arthur were soulfully moving, and her songs betrayed both an artful intelligence and a populist potential, so it was surprising that Wasser seemed so neurotic and uptight when she performed at Spaceland last year in September. Like a condescending substitute teacher, she criticized her initially worshipful fans for making too much noise, then complained later on that they were too quiet. Her vocals were brittle and erratic at first, but most of the crowd stuck by her until she eventually relaxed enough to wrap us foolish schoolchildren up in her nurturing, motherly wings. While her 2008 follow-up CD, To Survive, doesn’t quite match the dramatic peaks of Real Life, it’s still an engaging collection of thoughtful, soothingly mellow jazz-inflected ballads. This time around, let’s hope Wasser is more comfortable onstage. We want her to lead us, to tell us what to do — all she has to do is act like she’s been there before. (Falling James)

 

 
Also playing Monday:

IAMX, MISS DERRINGER at El Rey Theatre; DEATH TO ANDERS, RADARS TO THE SKY, THE MONOLATORS at the Echo; WAYNE BRADY, NELLY at House of Blues; MIKE STINSON at Redwood Bar & Grill; AESOP ROCK, MIGHTY UNDERDOGS, BUSDRIVER at the Troubadour.

 
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16  

 
Baby Lemonade at Temple Bar

As the noted philosopher Cher once wondered, “Do you believe in life after Love?” The members of Baby Lemonade certainly do. The longtime West L.A. band first emerged in the early ’90s with tuneful original songs that blended ’60s melodicism with a ’70s power-pop drive on such smartly crafted albums as 68% Pure Imagination and High Life Suite. The fannishly passionate musicians were also so deft at covering classics by everybody from Mott the Hoople to the Beach Boys that they were enlisted as Arthur Lee’s backup band Love in the mid-’90s and again in 2001, following his release from prison. Baby Lemonade reinvigorated the latter-day career of the mercurial singer, tackling the complicated arrangements of his 1967 masterpiece, Forever Changes, and collaborating with him on the “Girl on Fire” single and his final studio recording, the wonderful obscurity On Earth Must Be. In the wake of Mr. Lee’s death in 2006, Baby Lemonade are finally working on their own music again (a long-overdue best-of set is on the way), but tonight’s show (which promises a mix of Love favorites and Lemonade originals) might be their final local performance: Guitarist Rusty Squeezebox is relocating to England after this gig. Live and let Love. (Falling James)

 
Also playing Tuesday:

THE FRATELLIS, AIRBORNE TOXIC EVENT at the Wiltern; STEREOPHONICS at Henry Fonda Theater; DEVOTCHKA at El Rey Theatre; BILLY IDOL at House of Blues; TONY GILKYSON at Redwood Bar & Grill; HARLOW at the Roxy; VALENTINE KILLERS, SUPERBEES, MOTORCYCLE BOY, LONESOME SPURS at Safari Sam’s; MIKE STINSON at Spaceland; ELECTROCUTE at Viper Room.

 
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17   

 
Playing Wednesday:

NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS, SPIRITUALIZED, CAT POWER at Hollywood Bowl (see Music feature); JANET JACKSON at Staples Center; BLACK CROWES, HOWLIN RAIN at Greek Theatre; MGMT at Henry Fonda Theater; VAMPIRE WEEKEND, ABE VIGODA at the Wiltern; JOEY ALTRUDA at the Echo; BILLY IDOL at House of Blues; DANNY B. HARVEY at Taix.

 
THURSDAY
, SEPTEMBER 18    

 
Prima Donna at the Knitting Factory

Prima Donna singer-guitarist Kevin Preston must have spent a lot of time playing with dolls when he was growing up. His band’s new self-titled debut on Acetate Records includes the songs “Doll Face Baby” and “Stray Doll,” and the word “doll” figures prominently in at least three other tracks on the CD. (Not to mention that Prima Donna borrows heavily from the style of the New York Dolls, although the young Hollywood quintet ultimately sounds more like Mott the Hoople, thanks to Aaron Minton’s “sexy sax” and “killer keys.”) Lyrics are obviously not Preston’s strong suit (when an amoral vixen attempts to seduce the surprisingly timid singer on the S&M romp “Crucify,” he can only protest, “The leather’s so tight/I can’t see clearly”). If anything, Prima Donna’s retro-glam songs would actually seem cleverer without the inclusion of the demystifying lyric sheet, which undercuts the power of the group’s energetic and genuinely anthemic choruses. For all of their clichés and borrowed imagery, “Everything’s Wrong” and “Double Crosser” have rousing hooks that evoke the Dragons and tonight’s headliners, the Joneses — bands who have managed to amplify their Johnny Thunders influences while adding their own sense of seedy majesty. (Falling James)

 
Savina Yannatou at Japanese American National Museum

Athens-born singer Savina Yannatou is a virtuoso in the body of a chameleon. She has made her specialty an extensive range of vocal traditions and languages from the Mediterranean region — folk tunes that she uses as a springboard for daring, exploratory pieces bursting with staggering sheer technique and, more importantly, wild new tonalities. There’s a keen yet brash intelligence in her improvisation-enhanced performances, and never a dry academic feel, in glorious evidence on her latest release, Songs of an Other (ECM), recorded with the instrumental ensemble Primavera en Salonico, in which the old songs of Armenia, Macedonia, Serbia, Kazakhstan, Greece and southern Italy are given fresh and feverish new life via Yannatou and company’s spectacularly adventurous interpretations and transmogrifications. This is a strange kind of beauty that frees the mind as it inflames the soul. 6:30 p.m.; 369 E. First St., Little Tokyo. (213) 625-0414. (John Payne)

 

 
Foals, HEALTH at El Rey Theatre

Following the lead of all good things from Oxford — the Jazz Butcher, dictionaries, dress shoes and the shoegazing thereat — Foals present an alchemical admixture of rocks both art and math with their latest, the Dave Sitek–produced CD Antidotes. The scene: musicians with metabolisms of laser beams, limbs held jerkily and tightly to their sides even as they strain to break free of this notion or that. Lead singer Yannis Philippakis is possibly the most entertaining spastic nerfbag since the Wacky Wallwalker, and the Foals sound shoots out almost as angularly as said nerfbag’s hair, his voice riding a razor-thin line between startled yelps of sudden illumination and anguish. HEALTH, on the other knee, offer a slightly more shouty and gravid, tumescent bulge with their vision of pop sensationalism. Buffeted by the winds of their own creativity, their bottomless-pit vocals and deathly drums — coming down fast like the tolling of an incessant bell — ensure that the big gun-down preceding Foals becomes an eminently enlightening experience, like twilight dissolving night and smog. (David Cotner)

 
Also playing Thursday:

VAMPIRE WEEKEND, ABE VIGODA at the Wiltern; RUBEN GUEVARA & THE EASTSIDE LUVERS at Eastside Luv; LENKA, EMILY WELLS, SARA MELSON at Hotel Café; ROCKY DAWUNI, MONEY MARK at Key Club; WAYNE HUSSEY at Knitting Factory; SEAN & SARA WATKINS at Largo; RAW POWER RANGERS, THIRD GRADE TEACHER, INSECT SURFERS at Safari Sam’s.


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