Rock Picks: Daedelus, Beth Thornley, Yeasayer
Daedelus, Nosaj Thing, Jogger at the Echoplex
We've heard rumors that Pasadena bass-head Nosaj Thing may be releasing his second album of glitchy, gorgeous beatscapes as early as this year, but he'll have to do much better than that to catch up with Santa Monica electronica vet Daedelus. Alfred Darlington borrows his better-known recording handle from the mythological inventor of Greek legend, and it's a good fit. Not only does Daedelus create custom noisemakers out of old keyboards and sound toys, he's cooked up 11 albums and even more EPs over his last 10 years of music-making, working with nearly every electronic label worth its weight in bleeps and bloops. His compositions typically weave together organic sounds, heavy thump and lo-bit effects, as heard on his recent contribution to the Friends of Friends label split series. Daedelus recently started his own imprint as well, called Magical Properties, and the opening act is its first signing: L.A. duo Jogger, who carve wildly eclectic dance music out of influences as disparate as Laurie Anderson and death metal. (Chris Martins)
Yeasayer, Warpaint at the Natural History Museum
It's been a long wait since 2007's All Hour Cymbals, Yeasayer's rocket launch of a debut album that had SXSW buzzing that year and loads of fans starving for more. But despite constant touring on their part, and even though most of us have already heard the new album thanks to loose MP3's (Odd Blood is officially out February 9), L.A.'s got to feel lucky that the trio are launching their highly anticipated international tour in support of Odd Blood right under the nose of T. Rex's bony remains. With a delivery oh so over the top and gossamer-slick with '80s drama, Anand Wilder, Chris Keating and Ira Wolf Tuton beat it down hard like wailing, religious cult members and yet concoct a disciplined punch that packs in enough proggy orchestration, new-age Enya-mocking and meandering psychotropic loops that Damo Suzuki, Klaus Nomi, Conor Oberst and Sade could all get it on to the soundtrack (not that you'd want to be there for that). Lighting up the night at the museum with Yeasayer is Warpaint — L.A.'s Jenny Lindberg, Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman's tri-vocal freak-out. (Wendy Gilmartin)
Also playing Friday:
EMILY WELLS & THE PORTLAND CELLO PROJECT at Largo at the Coronet; AMANDA BLANK at Bardot; KEITH MURRAY at the Airliner; MARIACHI JESUS DE LA PLAZA at Eastside Luv; EBONY BONES, LITTLE RED RADIO at the Echo; ANVIL at House of Blues; ZIGGY MODELISTE at the Mint; BIG SANDY & HIS FLY-RITE BOYS at the Redwood Bar; HELEN STELLAR, SHILOE, WET & RECKLESS, DIRT BIRD at Spaceland; THE CHAPIN SISTERS at Synchronicity Space; RHETT MILLER & THE SERIAL LADY KILLERS, LESLIE & THE BADGERS at the Troubadour.
Vivian Girls at the Smell
Named after a novel by the late outsider artist Henry Darger, the Brooklyn trio Vivian Girls shroud their pop songs in tons of fuzz and reverb, turning simple melodies into something much darker and stranger. On their second album, Everything Goes Wrong (In the Red), they twine their voices together to create an eerie doubling effect instead of making traditional harmonies. Tracks like "The End" contrast the Vivian Girls' sweetly serene singing with a jangling, clanging blur of punky guitar. Their new single, a cover of the Chantels' "He's Gone" (Wild World), sounds like a vintage girl-group tune that was recorded by ghosts in an underwater haunted mansion. Like the Vivian Girls themselves, the song is simultaneously candied, creepy, cute and unsettling. (Falling James)
Beth Thornley at the Hotel Cafe
Beth Thornley is a singer-pianist from Alabama who's been living in Los Angeles for much of the past decade. Her second album, 2006's My Glass Eye, closed with a memorable acoustic reworking of the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby," which was pumped up with accordion and featured some interesting melodic variations. Her new CD, Wash U Clean, has a bit of a Beatles-like pop-rock influence, mixed with occasional newfound touches like the hip-hop-lite phrasing on "You're So Pony" and the saucy horn retorts on the catchy title track. As a lyricist, though, Thornley is still struggling to find her own voice; she indulges in clichés about burning bridges (as well as lovers who crash and burn). Some lyrics start o ut promisingly, such as "You shine like a Cadillac," only to be followed by anticlimactic punch lines like "If you got sold, I'd buy you back." Despite such clunky moments, Thornley is a beguiling singer, especially on graceful, more evocative ballads like "Still Can't Hide." For tonight's record-release show, she and her guitarist-husband, Rob Cairns, will be joined by a full band. (Falling James)
Hepcat, Dengue Fever, Joey Altruda's Crucial Riddims, Very Be Careful at El Rey THEATRE
It makes sense that the Dub Club DJs would be in the house for this show, whose proceeds will go toward relief efforts in Haiti. Island sounds are the backbone of this night, with colorful cultural asides playing the part of connective tissue. Homegrown headliner Hepcat has been churning out rocksteady and ska for crowds around the world for the better part of 20 years. The band has all the bells and whistles — er, horns and keyboards — of any good third-wave ska posse, and it puts on a skank-heavy extravaganza. L.A.'s Dengue Fever, of course, gets its wild worldly flavor from a different isle, Cambodia, while Joey Altruda's Crucial Riddims is Latin in its base, but will include drop-ins from Jamaican icons Wailing Souls and Ras Michael. The Lions is a dubwise big band whose sound is about as authentic as it gets (especially hailing from Southern California), while the Tuffingtons hew a bit more poppy and lo-fi, with stylistic nods to the Clash. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Saturday:
V.V. BROWN at Bardot; DJ LANCE ROCK at Amoeba Music (4 p.m.); LARRY GOLDINGS at the Bootleg Theater; PINE MOUNTAIN LOGS at the Canyon; HOWARDAMB, MISSINCINNATI, KANDYCE & THE KILLDOZER, SLEEPWALKERS LOCAL at the Echo Curio; THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS at Largo at the Coronet; LANGHORNE SLIM, APRIL SMITH & THE GREAT PICTURE SHOW at McCabe's; THE SHAKERS, THE KING CHEETAH, THE SWAGGER STICK at Mr. T's Bowl.
Motoko Honda Band, Ken Rosser's Shadow Language at Eagle Rock Center for the Arts
The perennially relevant Open Gate Theater presents two daring champs of improvisational new music, and a whole lot more: The Motoko Honda Band stars the Yokohama-born pianist/sound artist in performances of thrilling dexterity and drama, even more exciting for her unbound approach to the instrument as a source of infinite sonic intrigue. Often employing prepared piano augmented by digital-delay effects, Honda's works plow a new ravine through Euro-classical, jazz, Asian traditional musics and, best of all, electronically enhanced none-of-the-above. She'll be accompanied by two other crucial figures on the L.A. new-music scene, violinist Jeff Gauthier and cellist Maggie Parkins. Ken Rosser's Shadow Language guitar quartet opens with the modernist ax man's all-electric group rendering several contemporary compositions. Starts at 7 p.m. sharp. (John Payne)
Also playing Sunday:
HUUN HUUR TU at Amoeba Music; LE FACE, THE FRANKS at the Echo; THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS at Largo at the Coronet; CALIFORNIA GUITAR TRIO at McCabe's; DEVON WILLIAMS, MOSES CAMPBELL, PROTECT ME, RARE GROOVES at the Smell; PRINCETON, CASXIO, RAFTER, THE JUBILEE SINGERS at Spaceland.
Ohioan, M. Geddes Gengras, Ah Holly Fam'ly, Bow + Arrow, Moment Trigger at Synchronicity Space
New Mexico's high-country quintet Ohioan push a heavy dirge that replicates a slowed-down Fela Kuti on 'ludes, Sweden's Harvester or maybe a combo of the two with Can at its warped and sloppiest moments. Which isn't to say Ohian will leave you sleepy: In fact, the arc of these songs brings the whole thing crashing back every so often in the set. Ah Holly Fam'ly bring a stripped-down, biblical sort of folk that blends guitars, flute, keys, fiddle and even cello. Like the Waltons gone all wrong and incest-y, this Portland "Fam'ly" has a soft, creepy delivery. M. Geddes Gengras dabbles in the wizardry of bent, fed-back frequencies, doubled over and then quadrupled over again within more waves of ramshackle instrumentation. Moment Trigger too bring a shit ton of noise on homemade instruments, metal guitars and incoherent, over-the-top, effect-laden mics. But Seattle's Bow + Arrow, on the other hand, throw down an onslaught of straight-out hard, sweaty, fast, wound-up music. These Washingtonians harken back to the DIY days of yore in the Pacific Northwest — don't mess with their bikes outside tonight. (Wendy Gilmartin)
Also playing Monday:
RUMSPRINGA, RED ARROW MESSENGER, JENNY O at the Bootleg Theater; LAUREN SHERA at the Dakota Music Lounge; USELESS KEYS, LIGHT FM, BLACK APPLES, LEF at the Echo; SLANTY SHANTY at Pehrspace; SPIRIT ANIMAL, ALL WRONG & THE PLANS CHANGE at the Roxy.
St. Vincent, Wildbirds & Peacedrums at El Rey THEATRE
St. Vincent mastermind Annie Clark has done time with indie-pop maximalists Sufjan Stevens and the Polyphonic Spree, and on last year's Actor — a Top 15 finisher in the Village Voice's recent Pazz & Jop critics' poll — the Brooklyn-based singer-guitarist demonstrated how deeply she's internalized the D.I.Y. wall-of-sound aesthetic those acts share. Actor is an intricately arranged art-rock opus that never stops finding room for new tones and textures; in "Marrow" alone, she somehow finds a way to link swooning Disney-score strings, tinny C+C Music Factory horns and a grinding dance-punk beat. What's more, she does it without ever lapsing into the sticky-sweet preciousness that sometimes bogs down Stevens' and the Spree's stuff — see appealingly creepy titles like "Black Rainbow" and "Laughing With a Mouthful of Blood." With Wildbirds & Peacedrums, a curious percussion-and-vocals duo from Sweden. (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Tuesday:
NOUVELLE VAGUE, SOKO, FINDLAY BROWN at the Henry Fonda Theater; HOD HULPHERS, THE MOORE BROTHERS, CAVE COUNTRY at the Echo Curio; JAY NASH, NIKKI JEAN, KATIE COSTELLO at the Hotel Cafe; ARCH ENEMY, EXODUS, ARSIS, MUTINY WITHIN at House of Blues; LOUDON WAINRIGHT III at Largo at the Coronet; MONTE MONTGOMERY, DANNY CLICK, TITUS at the Mint; ROLL THE TANKS, GOOBY BOO & PEEKERS, BOMB YOUR FACE at the Silverlake Lounge; MIA DOI TODD, CORREATOWN, ARIANA DELAWARI, DJ NOBODY at Spaceland; MUMFORD & SONS at the Troubadour.
Wild Beasts, Still Life Still, Magic Bullets at the Troubadour
Leeds-based quartet Wild Beasts is about as stylistically unruly as they come, but all the more comely for its far-out forays into impossibly smooth art-rock. Mapping out the band's influences from the sound of its most recent album, the excellent Two Dancers (Domino), would result in a bizarre constellation of total red herrings: Antony & the Johnsons, Queen, Talking Heads, the Smiths ... Dave Koz? That's probably why critics prefer to focus on the lyrics of singers Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming. While the former sports a Freddy Mercury–grade falsetto and the latter hews closer to the baritone rumblings of Morrissey, neither strays far from a common theme: decadence. A combination of black humor, dirty jokes and regretful knowing fuels Wild Beasts' poetic forays into the treacheries committed by men after women, by women after objects, and by objects of mankind's desires. Opener Still Life Still is touring in support of an album titled Girls Come Too, which seems a good fit. (Chris Martins)
King Cannibal at the Airliner
Brutal times bring brutal sounds. Check out this premier proponent of the neo–bad-boy electronic wickedness: King Cannibal, aka Zilla, aka English art-school dropout Dylan Richards. He's got a scary sound, real threatening stuff that chews you up and spits ya out. Cannibal's bruising catharsis is a smashdown of inhumane industrial-urban sound scrappage tightly bound till popping. Ensconced in crunky beats/counterbeats derived from dance hall, dubstep and drum & bass, ingeniously morphed to throb out a genuinely dangerous ambience. It's best experienced on his recent Ninja Tune set called Let the Night Roar, which has earned jaw-drop props from the likes of Amon Tobin and Kid 606, among numerous venerable others. So, King Cannibal at the Low End Theory club: a bit of the old ultraviolence, sonically speaking, which feels awesome. (John Payne)
Also playing Wednesday:
FINDLAY BROWN, PIZZA, COBRA LILIES at the Echo; COURTNEY MELODY at the Echoplex; HUUN HUUR TU at Zanzibar.
THE THERMALS, THAO WITH THE GET DOWN STAY DOWN AT THE TROUBADOUR
"Since you left, I'm only more sincere/I swim in it," Thao Nguyen declares on her new album of breakup songs, Know Better Learn Faster (Kill Rock Stars). If her lyrics are more personal and less ironic now, they're still just as weirdly witty as the words on her previous CD, 2008's We Brave Bee Stings and All. Nguyen deals with her heartbreak with ever-changing lyrical moods, from anger ("What am I, just a body in your bed?") and gallows-humor resignation ("Everybody please put your clothes back on") to disarming vulnerability ("Bring your hips to me") and back to grief again ("We have sad sex/We move steady to forget"). What makes it even more fascinating is the way that the Virginia-raised singer-guitarist and her Bay Area band — drummer Willis Thompson and bassist Adam Thompson — transmutes her romantic despair into such wondrously varied musical settings. "Oh No" is austere and ethereally spacy, while the title track culminates in a psychedelic, Flaming Lips–style tangle of violins and guitars. "When We Swam" is a positively endearing slice of funky indie-pop, and "Cool Yourself" marches off into the sunset with festive piano and horny exclamations. Thao With the Get Down Stay Down open tonight for the earnestly appealing, if relatively straightforward emo pop-punk Portland trio the Thermals. (Falling James)
Justin Townes Earle at the Echo
This Nashville-reared New Yorker gets his last name from his dad (country-rock veteran Steve Earle) and his middle name from his dad's hero (folk-country legend Townes Van Zandt). Put that shit in pop terms — "Hey, Rebecca Madonna Jackson, what's your new record sound like?" — and you can see why the dude might go cross-eyed at questions regarding his legacy and the roots-music tradition he's inherited. (Not that Earle doesn't court some of the familial talk that comes his way: "I am my father's son," he sings in "Mama's Eyes," a track from last year's Midnight at the Movies.) Still, it must be said: As heard on Movies and its fine 2008 predecessor, The Good Life, Earle's stuff does indeed split the difference between his dad's bar-band abandon and Van Zandt's prairie-Zen introspection. He can't decide whether he wants to love or fight, think or act — so he does it all. (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Thursday:
JAMES MCMURTRY, JOHNNY BURKE at the Mint; EDITORS, THE ANTLERS at the Wiltern; RICHARD THOMPSON at Largo at the Coronet; IMAAD WASIF, BECKY STARK, VOICE ON TAPE at Spaceland.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.