Rock Picks: Daedelus, Peanut Butter Wolf, Femi Kuti, Isis
FRIDAY, JUNE 19
LoveLikeFire at the Bootleg Theatre
Emotional for sure, but call them emo and you will not get too far with LoveLikeFire’s singer, Ann Yu. Loaded with contrasts, the band got together in the dead heat of Las Vegas (with some sonic and personal six-degrees-of-separation to Sin City’s Killers) but they flourished in the lushness of Fog City, S.F., and you can tell. “William,” the title cut of their latest E.P. (out of three to date) has more layers than a body-conscious shoegazer at the Hard Rock Hotel’s “Rehab” pool party, but “My Left Eye” seems confident and relaxed in its acoustic sparseness (except for the unsettling sound of an ambulance siren creeping through from the street). They already had a gas across the Pond, where Heist or Hit Records will release their first full-length this summer, but you can bet you will be hearing much more about them before the summer’s over. This Bootleg show is the makeup date for the canceled Spaceland gig we hope you didn’t drive to. (Daniel Siwek)
Grizzly Bear at the Wiltern
What’s perhaps most surprising about Grizzly Bear’s new album, Veckatimest, is all the frantic rhythms and circling melodies, considering the band these days is best known for gorgeous vocal harmonies. But that’s the beauty of Grizzly Bear: comprising four guys who are quite obviously passionate students of American pop and rock, the Brooklyn band steals and borrows and otherwise co-opts from across the canon, creating a mix of so many sounds that are so familiar with us that they’ve nestled themselves into our consciousness almost immediately. A little Simon and Garfunkel melody here; some Brian Wilson harmonies there; some Van Dyke Parks–esque arrangements coupled with Phil Spector’s wall-of-sound beauty. Which isn’t to say it sounds retro; on the contrary: These dynamics, so ingrained in our consciousness, so of this world, take on a whole different meaning when coupled with synths, rhythms and many, many layers. New backgrounds change the foreground. New sounds change the old ones. Grizzly Bear. (Randall Roberts)
Also playing Friday:
EMILY WELLS at the Hotel Cafe; TODD RUNDGREN at Club Nokia; BEN KWELLER, LOCAL NATIVES, JONES STREET STATION at El Rey Theatre; JAY REATARD, THEE MAKE OUT PARTY, DIGITAL LEATHER at Alex’s bar; ART BRUT, THE BLOOD ARM at the Echo.
SATURDAY, JUNE 20
Nouvelle Vague at the Henry Fonda Theater
This sly French outfit has unexpectedly outlasted the boutique-hotel utility of its self-titled 2004 debut, on which multi-instrumentalists Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux, along with a cast of freelance femme-fatale vocalists, put a tasty bossa nova spin on such post-punk classics as Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and “Too Drunk to Fuck” by the Dead Kennedys. This month brings the release (in Europe, anyway) of Nouvelle Vague’s third studio set, NV3, and in seeming acknowledgment of the way the band has stuck around long enough to prove it’s not just a gimmick, the new set expands on the cutesy NV template with a rootsier sound and guest appearances by some of the folks who originally sang the tunes being covered; especially fine is a twang-rock rendition of Depeche Mode’s “Master and Servant” featuring Martin Gore. An American issue is in the works for later this year, but show up tonight for a sweet sneak preview. (Mikael Wood)
Martin Bisi at Relax Bar
Brooklyn singer-guitarist Martin Bisi might be best known for his production and engineering work with Bill Laswell, Sonic Youth, John Zorn, Swans, Jim Thirlwell, Ramones, Cop Shoot Cop, Herbie Hancock and the Dresden Dolls, but his own music is often quite fascinating, and frequently overlooked. He issued such strangely engrossing solo CDs as Creole Mass and Dear Papi, I’m in Jail on New Alliance in the late ’80s and mid-’90s, which encompassed arty weirdness, Latin-rock psychedelia and indigenous folk soundscapes. A high point was “Brava!,” a duet with Boss Hog’s Cristina Martinez from 1993’s All Will Be Won that married swirling guitar jangle with swaying tidal rhythms and tempestuous Spanish-language passion. It’s already been a decade since Bisi released Milkyway of Love , but he’s finally followed up that CD with another bout of uncategorizable experimentation, Sirens of the Apocalypse (Black Freighter Records). Crooning in English with a mush-mouthed voice that unwittingly evokes Jonathan Richman and the Alley Cats’ Randy Stodola (remember him?), the Argentine native pays alternately baleful and sarcastic Zappa-tastic homages to such apocalyptic sirens as “Mary Maudlin,” “Buddhist Girl” and “Goth Chick ’98.” A circusy prog-cabaret vibe runs through the album, broken up by Bisi’s occasional demented spoken-word skits. While Sirens doesn’t always reach the dizzying heights of songs like “Brava!,” it doesn’t sound like anything else out there today. Bisi also appears at Vacation Vinyl, 4679 Hollywood Blvd.; Sun., 5:30 p.m. (Falling James)
Also playing Saturday:
SHELLAC, ARCWELDER at the Echoplex; PJ HARVEY & JOHN PARISH at the Wiltern; THE ENGLISH BEAT at the Canyon; ME WITHOUT YOU, THE DEAR HUNTER, BEAR COLONY at El Rey Theatre; DE LA SOUL at the Galaxy Theatre; CHAIRLIFT, DUBLAB DJS at the Getty Center; DEAN & BRITTA at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre; THE QUEERS, THE MANSFIELDS, HOT TODDIES, ATOM AGE at Alex’s Bar; OREN LAVIE at the Mint.
SUNDAY, JUNE 21
Femi Kuti & the Positive Force at the Hollywood Bowl
The Nigerian singer Femi Kuti is a major figure in world music, and not just because he’s the son of the late, legendary Afrobeat kingpin Fela Kuti. Like his dad, he’s seen as a threat by Nigerian authorities because of his political lyrics and the way his exultant music inspires unrestrained dancing and celebrates such subversive notions as freedom and equality. But Kuti has gone far beyond his father’s early sound, branching out now into elaborate, polyrhythmic funk and vibrant jazz on his recent CD, Day by Day. Such inspiring English-language songs as “You Better Ask Yourself” shouldn’t be filed away and ignored in some condescending world-music category; this is simply great rock and dance music, inspired as much by Miles Davis as James Brown. Kuti has some incisively cutting things to say about the excesses of capitalism and environmental destruction in Africa, but he has the rare talent for making such pointed insights come off as inspiring rather than preachy. It doesn’t hurt that his band, the Positive Force, pump up these sentiments with plenty of palpable grooviness, such as the way the fiery horns throttle the landscape of tunes like “Demo Crazy” a herd of angry elephants. Kuti headlines a strong bill that includes Philadelphia indie rocker Santigold and soul veteran Raphael Saadiq. (Falling James)
Also playing Sunday:
SHELLAC, ARCWELDER at the Echoplex; NORA AUNOR, BERNARDO BERNARDO, MARICA QUIZON at the James R. Armstrong Theatre.
MONDAY, JUNE 22
Wilco at the Wiltern
First time Jeff Tweedy ever registered in my head as someone to pay attention to, he was working at a little St. Louis record store called Euclid, and he had listed on a chalk board his two favorite records of 1989: The Mekons Rock ’N Roll; and Slovenly’s We Shoot for the Moon. Unfortunately obscure records 20 years later, the two albums capture the essence of Wilco’s allure: a desire, like the Mekons, to crack the code of rock & roll while simultaneously celebrating and decrying it; and an affection, like Slovenly, for weird-ass songs with wild-ass guitar solos and smart-ass words. Luckily, Tweedy’s got a better voice than Slovenly Peter, better business sense than the Mekons, and the luxury and good ears to construct a Wilco lineup that lives up to his lofty ideas about music, musicianship and the craft of songwriting. The band’s seventh studio album, Wilco (The Album), is a tight, dense album of three- and four-minute pop songs, some of the best (and not so best) songs of his career. “Wilco (the song)” digs up a classic, primal rock riff, softens it with a little pop, and then makes it all messylike with Nels Cline’s guitars. “Bull Black Nova” is an odd five-minute song that sounds the most like a lost Slovenly track — not that that means much to most. Which is to say, guitars battle with melody, things stretch out, and then there’s a big finale. Expect three nights of lots and lots of guitars and textures, as the band takes over the Wiltern. (Randall Roberts)
Also playing Monday:
ELVIS COSTELLO & JIM LAUDERDALE at Amoeba Music; OLIVER FUTURE, CAPSHUNS, HORSE THIEVES, DIVISIBLE at the Echo; CASTLEDOOR, LOCAL NATIVES, MUSIC FOR ANIMALS at Spaceland.
TUESDAY, JUNE 23
Sunset Rubdown, Elfin Saddle, Witchies at the Echoplex
Like his music, vocalist/keyboardist Spencer Krug is busy being a full-time member of Montreal’s Wolf Parade and pinch-hitter for Frog Eyes, too. But what’s really keeping him up late is his own Sunset Rubdown, originally intended to be a poppier catch-all for the prolific Krug’s songwriting leftovers on behalf of the more drastically noisy Wolf Parade. Krug’s brand of shambolic yet precision-hewn melodic marvels has developed apace; his second and third releases, Shut Up I Am Dreaming (2006) and Random Spirit Lover (2007), were case studies in impure pop hysteria, given to maniacally mangled mash-ups dripping with “classic” ’70s more-more-more production aesthetics. Krug has a way of injecting real excitement into pallid old pop, and his brand-new Dragonslayer on Jagjaguar finds him further pushing the palette while homing in on the essence of what might make us (or him) jump for joy — or shed a tiny tear. (John Payne)
Occidental Brothers Dance Band International at the Echo
A most worthy new hybrid, the superfunky Occidental Brothers Dance Band Intern ational brings together luminaries of Chicago’s underground rock and jazz worlds with stars of the Ghanian highlife scene. This is a tough-minded and truthful mixing of disparately related styles which, while hitting hard on classic Central and West African dance music such as soukous or the mesmerizing Ashante style of Sikyi highlife, along with rumba and dry guitar (dry guitar?), brings to trad Afro sounds newer progressive strains from the American and British POV. (You gotta hear their clatteringly propulsive take on New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle.”) Most of frontman/trumpeter Kofi Cromwell’s lyrics are performed in the Ghanaian Fante or Twi dialects, a tonality that well suits his growling, percussive vocal larks and bantering showmanship. The group was founded by ex-Zincs and Edith Frost guitarist Nathaniel Braddock; he’s joined by sax man Greg Ward, Ghanian drummer Asamoah Rambo and Puerto Rico’s Joshua Ramos on upright bass. Do yourself a favor and pick up this ace band’s new disc Odo Sanbra. (John Payne)
Also playing Tuesday:
YANNI at the Nokia Theatre; WILCO at the Wiltern; VERONICAS, PRETTY WRECKLESS, CARNEY FLUFF’S Z’NUFF at the Henry Fonda Theater, CRYPTACIZE, WOUNDED LION, MISSINCINATTI at Echo Curio.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 24
The Choke at Boardner’s
The Choke are a classic New York band with a classic New York sound. They aren’t trying to come up with anything new, but they’re a persuasively charming group, smashing the Ramones’ punk rock intensity together with Blondie’s sassiness. Singer Cameron Eve has much of Debbie Harry’s winsome appeal, but her deceptively tough backup band crank things out much harder than Blondie ever did. The 11 tracks on their upcoming full-length CD clock in at just over 26 minutes, giving bubblegum hooks like “Street Gang” just enough time to sink into your brain before you can get tired of them. Eve’s new melodies are more winningly tuneful than her brassier delivery on the band’s early demos. Of course, it’s not all about Eve, as she’s supported by a strong, quintessentially Noo Yawk band of thugs, including guitarist Hot Deth (probably not his real name), bassist Knuckles (ditto) and drummer Johnny Napalm (ex-Honeyburst). You should have plenty of time to get acquainted: The Choke are finally making their L.A. debut tonight, followed by a week’s worth of shows in Southern California. Also at Juanita’s, Thurs.; and American Legion Hall in Highland Park, Fri., June 26. (Falling James)
Isis at House of Blues
For over 12 years, L.A. (via Boston) based Isis has slowly built up their avante-garde brand of post-rock music over the past dozen years by creating a brand of metal that resists traditional structures like choruses, verses and fast riffs. Often compared to such bands as Neurosis and the Swans, the band has managed to transcend influences and keep their sound growing. On 2006’s In The Absence of Truth, the band expanded to include ambient stuff, and it easily became one of their most commercially successful releases, earning Revolver Magazine’s Golden Gods Best Underground Metal Band award. Their latest is called Wavering Radiant, and features Tool guitarist Adam Jones on the opener “Hall of the Dead.” (He plays keyboards on the title track, as well.) “Ghost Key” fills up with a ’70s-ish progressive instrumentation, with Turner’s angsty but melodic tone offering the perfect foil. (Rei Nishimoto)
Also playing Wednesday:
EMMYLOU HARRIS, SHAWN COLVIN, PATTY GRIFFIN, BUDDY MILLER at the Greek Theatre; THE HEPTONES at the Echoplex; TROUBLE & BASS CREW, DROP THE LIME, AC SLATER, STAR EYES, THE CAPTAIN, DJ SKEET SKEET at the Echo.
THURSDAY, JUNE 25
Daedelus, Peanut Butter Wolf at the Echoplex
The always delightful and surprising Alfred “Daedelus” Darlington weaves his compositions together by pure instinct, knowing the uncanny connections between found sound, cinematic samples and his own instruments, combining them via a God-given sense of timing and spectacular segues. Peanut Butter Wolf, on the other hand, loots the mausoleum of rock’s cadavers to build a funky Frankenstein monster that becomes as much about guessing what comes next, as it is a project that comes from his pure love and obsession for music. PWF is doing his choppy video editing set here, burning up DVD players like turntables and mixing visuals into a contorted social history of MTV. The two DJs are together tonight launching “Friends of Friends,” a chain-letter label of sorts in which an artist is invited to join by signing on to do a split EP; they in turn invite another musician to complete the release or to commission a designer to create the EP’s artwork or maybe a limited-edition T-Shirt. Interesting, no? Ecstatic joy awaits. (Wendy Gilmartin)
Amanda Palmer at the Troubadour
Even with the Dresden Dolls on hiatus, singer-pianist Amanda Palmer has found plenty of ways of getting into trouble. The video for her song “Oasis,” from her 2008 solo-album debut, Who Killed Amanda Palmer?, was banned on British television, apparently because the powers that be were disturbed by its references to rape and religion. Another video, for “Leeds United,” caused a fuss when Palmer claimed that her own label, Roadrunner Records, wanted to delete certain shots because it determined that she looked fat. This led to a grass-roots campaign of fan-made, belly-centric videos sent to Roadrunner in the hopes that the label would release Palmer from her contract. She’s always at the center of a whirlwind of activity, whether hammering out her alternately magnificent pop opuses or reveling in her doomy, moody balladry. And20don’t forget about her ongoing work as a performance artist, posing as a “living statue” in public places and organizing a crew of carny-minded allies. There’s even a new book version of Who Killed Amanda Palmer?, with photographs by Kyle Cassidy and accompanying text by the English graphic novelist/writer Neil Gaiman, who’s reportedly dating Palmer. (Falling James)
Also playing Thursday:
WILCO, OKKERVIL RIVER at the Wiltern; MITCH RYDER & THE DETROIT WHEELS at the Canyon; THE BIRD AND THE BEE at Descano Gardens; THIRD EYE BLIND at the Palladium.
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