Rock Picks: Doves, Ceci Bastida, Carina Round, New York Dolls
FRIDAY, MAY 15
THE AGGROLITES AT EL REY THEATRE
Despite looking like they’re about to shake you down behind a 7-Eleven, L.A.’s hard-touring Aggrolites are in fact acolytes of the good-vibes, offbeat-obsessed reggae/rocksteady of 1960s Jamaica (indeed, they formed in 2002 as the backing band for first-wave Jamaican reggae icon Derrick Morgan). Not to be confused with the lo-cal SoCal ska of, say, Sublime or Save Ferris, the Aggrolites use bowel-loosening, burbling bass; optimistic organ; compact, rim shot–punctuated beats; and Jesse Wagner’s warm, brotherly-lurve vocals to create something that’s earthy and earnest yet utterly danceable. Over the course of three albums to date (newie IV arrives on June 9), they’ve gradually focused more on actual songs without compromising the embracing aura of their earlier, more improvised recordings. Laid-back but laced with grainy street smarts, the Aggrolites — like all great bands — transcend mere beats, notes and lust for attention to imply some grandiose message in their music. I’m buggered if I know what it is, mind you, but the band calls it “dirty reggae” — and I’ll run with that. (Paul Rogers)
LUCERO, BLACK JOE LEWIS & THE HONEYBEARS AT THE TROUBADOUR
If you get lit up by the sounds of James Brown and his Famous Flames, Otis Redding and the Bar-Kays or Wilson Pickett backed by Stax or Muscle Shoals men, then lend an ear to Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears. This Austin-based outfit vividly revives the sweet soul music and ribald R&B of their forefathers. Their recently released Lost Highway debut, Tell ’Em What Your Name Is! (produced by Spoon’s Jim Eno), explodes with heated blasts of guitars, organ and horns on the dynamo opener “Gunpowder.” They rip through more garage-soul hip-shakers like “Sugarfoot,” “Boogie” and “Bobby Booshay” while mixing in “oh, baby” pleaders like “Please, Pt. Two” and the country blues excursion “Master Sold My Baby.” While some critics quibble that the band hews too closely to its influences, there’s no denying that the guitar-wielding Lewis and his Honeybears deliver some seriously rockin’ funk. With Redding, Pickett and Brown all long gone, young Lewis has arrived to carry their torch with his hot and sweaty house-party ruckus. Sharing the bill is the twangy, ’Mats-ish Memphis-based bar rockers Lucero. Also at Alex’s Bar, Fri. (Michael Berick)
Also playing Friday:
THE BOMBS, THE GUILTY HEARTS, MAGICK DAGGERS at American Legion, Post 206; KEB’ MO’ at the Canyon; JACK TEMPCHIN at Genghis Cohen; VOLTO at Knitting Factory; JON BRION at Largo; HELMET at Saint Rocke.
SATURDAY, MAY 16
DOVES AT THE WILTERN
Since 2005’s Some Cities, fans haven’t heard a note from Doves, whose democratic three-way writing style had them cooped up in a barn outside Cheshire for more than three years. The incessant mulling over of words, tonality and song structure might’ve done in any other band, but Doves emerged from their foggy farmhouse with a cohesive accomplishment — a graceful balancing act of restless Britpop, epic riffs and shimmering guitar work. Kingdom of Rust is a long way from those first gigs circa 1998, but, as Doves prove with each successive album, they soar heads and tails above the other Britpop babes on the scene — mostly because they don’t deny their instinct and maturity. The fact that Doves push their musical methodology ever forward serves them especially well, combining sweeping orchestrations and just enough cheap and dirty drum-machine hiss to make it rock and bounce (on the new single “Jetstream”), or when Jimi Goodwin croons “Summer’s on the way/Now the swallows have arrived,” then lifts off into a spiraling, stadium-worthy wall of sound. (Wendy Gilmartin)
LONEY DEAR AT SPACELAND
In the video for “Airport Surroundings,” Loney Dear’s Emil Svanängen is driving with the top down and letting his cadence roll like Nate Dogg in Warren G’s “Regulate,” but that’s as close as he’s coming to the 213, because most of the time he’s IKEA-land all the way, coming from Jönköping, Sweden. There’s more than cold comfort to be found in the technological folk music that makes up most of Dear John (Polyvinyl): His existentialism is balanced with his supernaturalism, just as his synthetics (micro-Korg?) are with his acoustics, and he makes you feel good while singing about a situation so bad. Perhaps only his fellow countryman José González is equally capable if making discomfort sound so comfortable. But if González’s ’70s guardian angel is Cat Stevens, then Svanängen’s is Neil Young. His voice is sometimes timid and shaky, and, when he’s accompanied by a vocoder, it reminds you of Trans. Then there’s “Harm,” daringly sung to the morose melody of Albinoni’s “Adagio in G minor,” which makes me wonder if he got that from another Swede, Yngwie Malmsteen, whose guitar version is called “Icarus’ Dream Suite Op. 4.” (Daniel Siwek)
Also playing Saturday:
PHIL SOLEM, BRASIL BRAZIL, CHAPIN SISTERS at Woodley Park, 10:30 a.m.; WEEZER, KINGS OF LEON, YEAH YEAH YEAHS, RANCID at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater; MOGWAI, DEAD MEADOW at Orpheum Theatre; O + S at Bootleg Theater; THE BLANKS at Largo; CURT SMITH at McCabe’s; PRONTO, NELS CLINE at the Mint; MARC FORD at Saint Rocke; KINGSIZEMAYBE, TONY GILKYSON at Taix; GIANT DRAG at the Troubadour; TIFFANY at the Whisky.
SUNDAY, MAY 17
CECI BASTIDA AT AIR CONDITIONED LOUNGE
Combining the Clash’s political rebelliousness, the English Beat’s rampantly danceable ska bass lines, Dead Kennedys’ hardcore satire, Mano Negra’s frenetic eclecticism and a whole lot of their own border- and genre-hopping poetic craziness, Tijuana No! were quite possibly the most exciting and ambitious rock band from this time zone over the past 20 years. They featured three distinctly charismatic lead singers: Teca Garcia and the late Luis Güereña generally stood up front and rapped and shouted out the harder rockers, but it was the shy 15-year-old keyboardist, Ceci Bastida, who hid in the back and sang some of the Mexican group’s most engagingly melodic ska-pop songs, such as “Sin Tierra” and “Nadie Dijo Nada” and hit versions of the Clash’s “Spanish Bombs” and Julieta Venegas’ unforgettable “Pobre de Ti.” When Tijuana No! broke up earlier this decade, many observers assumed that Bastida would immediately march into the spotlight with a solo career. Instead, she stepped back into the shadows, playing keyboards for Venegas for much of the past 10 years. But in 2006, Bastida finally let her own sweetly birdlike voice out of its cage and released a debut solo EP, Front BC, revealing her talent for penning breezily sophisticated Spanish folk-pop songs. Since then, her range has expanded further into electronica, hip-hop and new wave in collaborations with Soulico Crew & Pigeon John (“SOS”) and Rakaa Iriscience (“Cómo Será”), as well as a wonderful English-language remake of Bow Wow Wow’s “Do You Want to Hold Me?” The beats harden and the layers deepen on the breathy electronic workout “Controlar,” the psychedelic pop of “Como Soy” and the shadowy rocker “Muévete” (with guest Hilsyde and remixed by Legion of Doom), from her upcoming full-length CD, Veo la Marea. Don’t be surprised if Bastida eventually ends up as popular as her pal Julieta. Also at the Echo, Mon. (Falling James)
Also playing Sunday:
KINGS OF LEON, AIRBORNE TOXIC EVENT at Santa Barbara Bowl; SCARNELLA, BOBB BRUNO at Eagle Rock Center for the Arts; AMANDA JO WILLIAMS, ROUGH CHURCH at Juanita’s, 7:30 p.m.; GROUCH & ELIGH at Key Club; THE DOLLYROTS at Knitting Factory.
MONDAY, MAY 18
MARGOT & THE NUCLEAR SO & SO’S, TELEKINESIS AT THE TROUBADOUR
“Coast of Carolina,” by recent Merge signee Telekinesis, is the kind of single that forcibly occupies a distinct corner of the listener’s brain — one could move mountains with one’s mind before expelling its lithe, hummable hook. If Seattle’s Michael Benjamin Lerner is indeed gifted in the way his alias suggests, it comes out in the distinct combination of lightness and gravity his songs exude. His quieter works split the difference between Neutral Milk Hotel and José González, while the jauntier, electric ones land somewhere between Death Cab for Cutie and T. Rex. D-Cab’s Chris Walla produced Lerner’s debut LP, Telekinesis!, while three sidemen join him live. Some may find the dulcet, folksy chamber pop of headliner Margot & the Nukes to be so-so, but the Indianapolis band at least seems to have everyone’s best interest in mind. Differing with Epic Records over the presentation of its 2008 album, the group recently released two LPs, Animal!, the artist-preferred track listing, and Not Animal, the label’s choice. Live, of course, the band calls the shots. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Monday:
STAIND, HOOBASTANK at Club Nokia; JULIETTE COMMAGERE, ROBERT FRANCIS, CECI BASTIDA, RADEMACHER at the Echo; REBECCA PIDGEON at the Hotel Cafe; MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY at Juanita’s; STEEL PANTHER at Key Club; JAKE LA BOTZ at Redwood Bar & Grill; GOLDEN ANIMALS, XU XU FANG at Silverlake Lounge; GANGI at Spaceland.
TUESDAY, MAY 19
AVI BUFFALO, BOBB BRUNO, LIGHTMUSIC, NIAL ORGAN AT THE ECHO
This Tuesday show sports a Long Beach bill, excepting Eagle Rock’s Bobb Bruno, whose quiet, Fennesz-inspired instrumentals should be among the evening’s memorable highlights (at the very least, the bunny suit he wears will be hard to forget). Opener Lightmusic spins sing-song-y dream pop seemingly inspired by the Cave Singers, and Nial Organ specializes in bizarre, nigh-unlistenable audio collage, but it’s the rather barebones Avi Buffalo who will be turning the most heads, regardless of sound or spectacle. The precocious 18-year-old has a gift for the guitar and the ability to write near-perfect songs. Buffalo’s folksy tunes draw comparisons to Neil Young and Mercury Rev, but his lo-fi m.o. and vocal quaver make for something more intimate and ghostly — a feeling helped along by his slight poetry, as apt to reference the eighth grade as it is “having too much time to die.” How a high-schooler can sound so wise and world weary is a mystery, but it’s one that deserves to be explored in person. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Tuesday:
THE DECEMBERISTS, OTHER LIVES at Hollywood Palladium; ALLMAN BROTHERS, DOOBIE BROTHERS at Greek Theatre; MIKE STINSON at Redwood Bar & Grill; YOUTH GROUP, NICO STAI, USELESS KEYS at the Troubadour.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 20
THE DETROIT COBRAS, THE DEX ROMWEBER DUO AT THE TROUBADOUR
Here’s a double shot of prime, passionate and authentically American music, starting with the Dex Romweber Duo, which features the former Flat Duo Jets singer-guitarist paired with his drummer-sister Sara. The North Carolina siblings’ recent CD, Ruins of Berlin (Bloodshot Records), was enlivened by guest appearances by Cat Power, Neko Case, Kelly Hogan, Exene Cervenka and Southern Culture on the Skids’ Rick Miller, but it’s Dexter’s haunted vocals and raw rockabilly riffing that make the album unique. The Duo’s lo-fi country ballads, rockabilly ravers and folk-roots rambles should make for a good contrast with, and great setup for, headliners the Detroit Cobras, who are, simply put, one of the greatest cover bands of all time. Lest you scoff, the Rolling Stones started out as a cover band for several years before eventually sneaking original tunes into their sets, and look where they ended up. And the Stones have never had a singer like the Cobras’ Rachel Nagy, who wails with searing authority like a punk rock Little Eva over fiery R&B remakes (“I’ll Keep Holding On,” “Nothing But a Heartache”), beguiling garage rock (“Bad Girl”), harrowing blues (“Insane Asylum”), unfiltered soul (“Shout Bama Lama”), seductively hypnotic balladry (“Midnight Blues”) and folksy gospel (“You Don’t Knock”). The British press and paparazzi go nuts every time one of its troubled pop divas makes a cheeky comment or passes out in a London gutter, but all of that calculated behavior and sanctimonious outrage is nothing new to Nagy, who’s been living it up and singing about her wild and wicked ways long before Amy Winehouse jumped onto the retro-R&B bandwagon. Ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby. (Falling James)
CARINA ROUND AT THE HOTEL CAFÉ
Whether she’s strumming an intimate solo set or rocking out with a full band, Carina Round is an intriguing songwriter and an enchanting singer. She infused the pop melodies on her breakthrough 2004 album, The Disconnection, and 2007’s Slow Motion Addict with arty guitar twists and post-punk arrangements, turning her initially lovely tunes into something much darker and stranger. On her just-released digital EP, Things You Should Know, she revels more in her ethereal persona, cooing fragile pop idylls and spacy power ballads. After a sparse, solemn intro, “For Everything a Reason” builds into a bit of midtempo Pink Floyd storminess, but otherwise Round’s new songs remain on the mellow side. The sparks come from the way she follows the pastoral Kate Bush–style trilling of the gentle early verses of “Do You” with unexpectedly baleful lyrics like “I’ll scratch her fucking eyes out,” even as the music remains glassily beautiful. Some of her other lyrics are more commonplace, but Dan Burns’ seamless production and Round’s achingly pure delivery create icily mysterious moods that go beyond most words. Also May 27 & June 3. (Falling James)
Also playing Wednesday:
ALLMAN BROTHERS, DOOBIE BROTHERS at Greek Theatre; THE WALKMEN, MORNING BENDERS at El Rey Theatre; BEN FOLDS at Hollywood Palladium; GOGOL BORDELLO at Ventura Theatre; NINE INCH NAILS, JANE’S ADDICTION, STREET SWEEPER at Verizon Wireless; BEAT KILLERS, KIM FOWLEY at Knitting Factory; JILL SOBULE at Largo; ZEE AVI at the Roxy; LESLIE & THE BADGERS at Silverlake Lounge.
THURSDAY, MAY 21
GHOST AT SPACELAND
From Japan, Ghost are the legendary purveyors of a most advanced form of psychedelic folk-rock ritual, the kind one might imagine is not so much merely played as it is a way of life conducted by a herd of hippies who all co-exist peacefully together in a big hut on a commune — and at one time that’s exactly what they were. Leader Masaki Batoh has been propagating his mind-melting revisionist vision for more than 20 years, in albums of wondrously trippy spaciousness, of course, but equally asserting bleating-lyrical loft–jazz-’74 horns, sawing double basses, clattering Takemitsu percussion and your de rigueur eerie echoes thru the canyons of the mind. Ghost’s free-flowing forms are in fact astutely cheeky ’70s-progressive structures that tip their floppy hats most obviously to the Floyd-y side of prog, where Celtic harps, flutes, tin whistles, tablas, 12-string acoustics and ’trons bespeak also the whimsically unfettered no-jazz creativity (and totally righteous fuzz bass) of the great, great Soft Machine. (John Payne)
THE VIRGINS, LISSY TRULLIE, ANYA MARINA AT EL REY THEATRE
The Virgins, from New York City, are the Strokes as reimagined for an episode of Gossip Girl: On their self-titled 2008 debut, these Manhattan party boys sing about rich chicks, teen lovers and cocaine brunches over supersleek disco-garage grooves that rarely move fast enough to risk spilling your vodka-and-whatever. Nuggets diehards, this band is probably your worst nightmare; everybody else, good times await! Fellow New Yorkers Lissy Trullie — they’re a four-piece band fronted by a lady named Lissy Trullie — are similarly forthright about their devotion to sleaze, sex and trebly chicken-scratch guitars; the cover of their recent Self-Taught Learner EP depicts a hot-pantsed ass and a pair of high heels. Last year, opener Anya Marina traded a radio DJ career in San Diego for life as a musician here in L.A. Smart choice: Her Slow & Steady Seduction: Phase II is a nifty little charmer that brightens up Hotel Café–style folk pop with all kinds of quirk-pop color. (Mikael Wood)
NEW YORK DOLLS AT HENRY FONDA THEATER
Whether you think of them as the real thing or as a glorified tribute band with only two surviving founding members or even just as David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain’s midlife (personality) crisis, you gotta think about these crazy new New York Dolls. Whatever you call them — whoever they are — they actually make great rock & roll records in the here and now, which should be all that matters. Without trying to mimic the style of the late Johnny Thunders, the reincarnated group cobbled together such instantly hooky tunes as “Gimme Luv & Turn on the Light,” “We’re All in Love” and “Seventeen” (a hidden bonus track recorded with Bo Diddley!) on their 2006 comeback, One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This. Their latest CD, ’Cause I Sez So (Rhino), doesn’t always match those sublime moments, but it’s almost as good, which means that, with its transcendental simplicity and sexy wit, it’s miles beyond the feeble scratching and clawing at air of most “rock” bands. The Dolls evoke their past with yearning power-punk pop anthems (“Muddy Bones”), leering swamp blues (“This Is Ridiculous”) and even a surprisingly groovy reggae makeover of one of their ancient classics (“Trash”), but there’s also newfound bubblegum exoticism (“My World”), woozy slide-guitar dizziness (“Making Rain”) and even cowboy philosophizing (“Temptation to Exist”). Welcome (back) to the Dolls' house. (Falling James)
Also playing Thursday:
LEON RUSSELL at the Canyon; BLK JKS, HECUBA at the Echo; JULIE CHRISTENSEN at Genghis Cohen; THE FRESAS at Juanita's; THE 88 at Key Club; YEAR LONG DISASTER at Knitting Factory; THE CHARLES OWENS QUARTET at the Lighthouse Cafe, 5 p.m.; WILLIE WALDMAN PROJECT & ROBBY KRIEGER at the Mint; NINJA ACADEMY at the Smell; BOLL WEEVIL at Taix; MANCHESTER ORCHESTRA at the Troubadour.
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