Rock Picks: Sly & Robbie, Johanna Kunin, White Rabbits, Daniel Francis Doyle
FRIDAY, JUNE 12
JAY REATARD AT THE ECHO
Jay Reatard has come a long way in the decade or so since he first crashed the Memphis scene as a 15-year-old fan and got himself discovered and mentored by garage-rock icons the Oblivians. His bratty, insolent, noisy punk rock has evolved into bratty, insolent, noisy pop that is more tuneful than ever, while still retaining a lot of the old punk drive. His upcoming Matador album, Watch Me Fall (due in August), will apparently broaden his sound further, with poppy harmonies and even the occasional mandolin and cello. “It Ain’t Gonna Save Me,” an advance cut from the CD, is typically short, manic and frantic, but there’s also a newfound chiming guitar and cycling backup vocals underneath the traditional old-school punk chords. Until the new full-length comes out, desperate fans will have to make do with earlier, minimalist Wire/Urinals/Eater/Adverts–inspired rants like “Hiding in My Hole” and “You Mean Nothing to Me” from the Reatard compilation Matador Singles ’08. (Falling James)
NEKO CASE AT THE GREEK THEATRE
If ever there was a performer whose vocals were meant to soar and sink like a high-flying bird over the canyons and hillsides by the Greek Theatre, it’s Neko Case. Her fiery singing has a pure and searing intensity that moves seamlessly from intimate confessionals to supremely powerful country-rock belting. Her vocal delivery is so captivating, it often overshadows her songwriting, which marries strains of atemporal Americana with unexpectedly untraditional, surreally poetic imagery. For all of her daydreamy melodicism, there’s a palpable earthiness and fablelike violence to the lyrics on her recent CD, Middle Cyclone (Anti- Records). “Carved your name across three counties/Ground it in with bloody hides/Their broken necks will line the ditch ’til you ... stop this madness,” Case warns on “This Tornado Loves You.” On “Vengeance Is Sleeping,” she declares, “I’m not the man you thought I was/My love has never lived indoors/I had to drag it home by force.” Animal metaphors lurk throughout Middle Cyclone on such jangling tracks as “People Got a Lotta Nerve” and “I’m an Animal,” as well as on the album’s similarly enchanting 2006 precursor, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. Case’s songs are made even more haunting onstage by her crack band, which features the celestial steel-guitar embellishments of Jon Rauhouse and the honeyed close harmonies of Kelly Hogan, both underrated solo performers in their own rights. (Falling James)
Also playing Friday:
DEL THA FUNKEE HOMOSAPIEN, MIKE RELM, BUKUE ONE, THE SERENDIPITY PROJECT at House of Blues; FLOSSTRADAMUS at Avalon; NIKKA COSA at the Troubadour; SHARON CUNETA at the Shrine Auditorium; LOVE IS ALL, STILL FLYIN’, SHARK TOYS at the Echoplex; EL MANIFESTO, LOS MYSTERIOSOS, BELLA NOVELA at Alex’s Bar; THE MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP, SURFING WITH AN ALIEN, DOUG DOPPLER, INTENSITY at the Canyon; JON BRION at Largo at the Coronet; GREED, ARE YOU A COP, KALIFORNIA TALEBAN, A BUCK SHORT at Relax Bar; THE MAE SHI, KENAN BELL, ROBERT FRANCIS at Spaceland; DJ VADIM at the Grand Star Jazz Club.
SATURDAY, JUNE 13
CLIPSE, B.o.B., PACIFIC DIVISION, DIZ GIBRAN AT CLUB NOKIA
It may not be the alleged Jeezy & Weezy & Jay-Z tour that the Internuts keep talking about — or even the Jadakiss & Cam’ron set of dates — but Saturday’s show at Club Nokia is a thoroughly impressive undercard of underdogs. Virginia brothers the Clipse are the night’s big draw, who’ve made it out of major-label purgatory with two classic albums and a spattering of unmistakable mixtapes. Their brand of coke-specific verbosity over ominous production from the Neptunes will take a new turn after signing to Rick Rubin’s Columbia Records, featuring beats from guys not named Pharrell and Chad for the first time. Elsewhere on the bill, Bobby Ray, a.k.a. B.o.B — the latest ATLien to blend Southern soul and dirty-South crunk — will definitely provide boatloads of energy and blog hits with cuts as disparate as the piano ballad “I’ll Be in the Sky” and rave rap burner “Haterz Everywhere.” For local flavor, the Native Tongues–channeling Pacific Division and streetwear wordsmith Diz Gibran will set up the outsiders with some hometown love. None of these artists may ascend to the heavyweight division of hip-hop, but they surely do pack a mean punch. (Brandon Perkins)
BLUE JUNGLE AT THE SMELL
Blue Jungle are a new local band with an intriguingly shadowy sound on their full-length CD, Baby Don’t Cry. Songs like “Bombay Sapphire” marry Velvet Underground guitar sparkle with lead singer Lately Blu Blu’s druggy vocals, evoking the charming haziness of early Mazzy Star. “Loser” juxtaposes girl-group pop with primitive Cramps/X–style riffing, while “Oh Suicide” seethes with baleful echoes and fuzzy explosions, as if Lydia Lunch were fronting the Jesus & Mary Chain. On “Mean Things,” Blu Blu begs her lover to be cruel to her, while Nosebleed’s guitar rides the rails like a clattering ghost train. Despite all of their classic influences, Blue Jungle somehow retain their own style, with Nosebleed’s churning guitars elevating Blu Blu’s decadently bohemian lyrics into even stranger, more hypnotizing territory. Lately Blu Blu also performs around town as a solo act, but her feverishly harrowing vocals have more melodic impact when they’re twisted together with Mr. Nosebleed’s gauzy, reverb-drenched chords. (Falling James)
Also playing Saturday:
THE SYLVIA JUNCOSA BAND, THE COSMETICATORS, THE DEFENDANTS, THE CRYSTELLES at American Legion Post 206; TELEPATHE, ABE VIGODA, NITE JEWEL at the Smell; MUSIC OF BATTLESTAR GALACTICA at California Plaza; J.D. SOUTHER, JILL SOBULE at El Rey Theatre; LES CLAYPOOL at the Ventura Theatre; THE CHUCK DUKOWSKI SEXTET, DJ KEITH MORRIS, THE KRIS SPECIAL at Echo Curio; GREEN JELLY, 45 GRAVE at the Knitting Factory; WENDY & LISA at Largo at the Coronet.
SUNDAY, JUNE 14
DANIEL FRANCIS DOYLE AT THE SMELL
In the grand old tradition of watching one-man bands attempt the impossible in the cruel hope that their entire shtick will collapse in humiliating disaster, you really have to give it up for Daniel Francis Doyle, an Austin octopus who makes a most disarmingly feral noise on recorded guitar loops as he whips and lashes his polybeat tubs while confessing and pleading in sputtering yelps on his trusty headset mic. Far from a merely amusing novelty act, Doyle is commitment personified, pushing his and our physical and emotional parameters to scary and dramatic extremes; he’s feverishly pursued this punishment for a decade now, in his solo role, in the late ’n’ lamented Early Lines and currently as a member of When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth. A real hair-shirt delight, Doyle’s grippingly beautiful new We Bet Our Money on You album is on the rather relevant blogger label We Shot JR Records. Also at Pehrspace, June 15. (John Payne)
Also playing Sunday:
DICK DALE at the Ventura Theatre; MIKE STINSON, DOGWEED, ELLIOTT RANDALL, BIRD & MOON at the Echo (5 p.m.); URINALS, GESTAPO KHAZI at the Echo (10 p.m.); BILLY RAY CYRUS at House of Blues; MARSHALL CRENSHAW at McCabe’s.
MONDAY, JUNE 15
A CAMP AT THE TROUBADOUR
“We’re gonna party like it’s 1699,” Nina Persson sings at the opening of A Camp’s second album, Colonia. “Slaughter the rabbits/the doves and the boars . Let’s raise our glasses/to murderous asses like you.” Despite such quaint, old-timey sentiments, the music sounds more like an ’80s pop song than, say, the country-style settings on A Camp’s self-titled 2001 debut, which was produced by Sparklehorse’s Mark Linkous. In fact, the best thing about the new CD from this side project by Cardigans singer Persson, her guitarist-husband, Nathan Larson (ex–Shudder to Think), and Atomic Swing guitarist Niclas Frisk is the way their sugary, easy-listening tunes are occasionally contrasted by sarcastic lyrics like “You’re my America . Lay your big dirty hands on my innocence.” Guest musicians, including violinist Joan Wasser, Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha and singer Anna Ternheim, help to give the glossy arrangements a little more flavor, although the blend of influences sometimes leads to unsettling combinations like “Chinatown,” where the wonderfully kaleidoscopic guitars and vapid vocals come off like Television backing Stevie Nicks. (Falling James)
Also playing Monday:
VON BONDIES at the Viper Room; MARSHALL CRENSHAW at the Grammy Museum; OLIVER FUTURE, CHRIS GARNEAU, ALEXANDRA HOPE at the Echo; EL GRAN SILENCIO, VIERNES 13, LA BANDA SKALAVERA at the Knitting Factory; DANIEL FRANCIS DOYLE, THAT GHOST, EAR PWR, ADVENTURE, THE DOZAL BROTHERS, KYLE H. MABSON at Pehrspace; CASTLEDOOR, DEEP SEA DIVER, AGENT RIBBONS at Spaceland.
TUESDAY, JUNE 16
JOHANNA KUNIN AT THE BOOTLEG THEATER
KCRW darling Johanna Kunin studied improvisational jazz, avant-garde chord structures and experimental classical music while at Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts. But her early piano lessons with Grandma back in chilly Minnesota may have influenced her even more strongly. Surely both aesthetic tangents helped to develop the schizophrenic allure and warm-hearted complexity that underlie her strange pop creations. Kunin’s competent stride was forged by Chan Marshall’s aching brilliance and the Fiery Furnaces’ Blueberry Boat–era, lyrical bad-dream designs, but Kunin’s got her own thing going on too without a doubt. Rarely have twinkling keys, woodwind orchestrations and covers of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg’s work been pulled off simultaneously with such ghostly, lovely ease. With an eight-piece backing band, Kunin is usually situated at the keys, never wailing nor whining, but always thinking, constructing the music carefully and making it look easy — which, in the vapid pool of current female touring talent (not to mention those ladies who rarely lead the band), is a big upgrade of rejuvenating proportions. (Wendy Gilmartin)
Also playing Tuesday:
ART BRUT, MIIKE SNOW, GOLDEN YEARS at Spaceland; THE SECTION QUARTET, SAM PHILLIPS, GRANT-LEE PHILLIPS at Largo at the Coronet; HEADLIGHT, CAPILLARY ACTION, 60 WATT KID, HOWARDAMB at Echo Curio; WILLY PORTER, RAINING JANE at the Hotel Café; MISSISSIPPI MAN, ZACH LUPETIN & THE DUSTBOWL REVIVAL, LEFTOVER CUTIES at Silverlake Lounge.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 17
ZAP MAMA AT EL REY THEATRE
Congo-born, Belgian-raised Marie Daulne founded Zap Mama with the goal of creating a musical bridge between Africa and Europe. Almost 20 years later, she’s done that and then some, transforming what began as a five-woman a cappella outfit to an ongoing multinational collaboration. She’s bridged generation gaps as well, not only working with pretty much the entire Okayplayer massive (The Roots, Talib Kweli, Common, Erykah Badu .), but spotlighting the vocals of her grown daughter on the latest Zap Mama album, ReCreation. The new record continues Daulne’s march into a future Pangaea, where Brazilian cadences frolic next to Malian guitar, next to choral vocals, next to hip-hop production, ad infinitum. But rather than whip these myriad influences into a bland, flavor-negating platter, Daulne has become a master at vibrancy, largely avoiding the potential for cheese. The new LP has its exceptions (G. Love stops by), but they’re made up for via songs like “Chill Out,” which features Tony Allen on drums. Live, all that inspiration becomes a living, heaving pan-global big band to be experienced at least once in a lifetime. (Chris Martins)
SLY & ROBBIE AT HOUSE OF BLUES
When it comes to the fabled Jamaican team of bassist Robbie Shakespeare and drummer Sly Dunbar, there’s only one word to use: incomparable. One of the deepest-scouring, hard-sock-rocking and most in demand rhythm sections in the history of recorded music, the pair each played key roles in the fast-moving evolution of reggae (that’s Sly, f’rinstance, bashing it out on Dave and Ansel Collins’ 1969 classic “Double Barrel”) even before their 1975 partnership began, and they went on — via innumerable studio collaborations with everyone from Herbie Hancock and the Rolling Stones to Bob Dylan and KRS-One — to become the island’s de facto international ambassadors. Shakespeare’s languidly urgent bass lines and Dunbar’s devastating mix of restraint and dynamism always combine to instill an almost hypnotic state in their audience; it’s a consistently mesmerizing sound that’s hard as hell to articulate, something along the lines of a mystical Rasta-voodoo out-of-body experience, but even that overstuffed gobbet of hyperbole scarcely begins to describe the profound effect this alchemical twosome has. Long story short, you won’t believe your ears, but your soul will understand. (Jonny Whiteside)
Also playing Wednesday:
ART BRUT, NICO STAI, TALL HANDS at Spaceland; THE ENTRANCE BAND, SLEEPY SUN, DIOS, SLANG CHICKENS at Eagle Rock Center for the Arts; BUSDRIVER at Amoeba Music; CUT OFF YOUR HANDS, VIVA VOCE at the Echo; HOLLOH, BUTTERFLY BOUCHER, SUSIE SUH, KYLER ENGLAND, ANA EGGE at the Hotel Café.
THURSDAY, JUNE 18
WHITE RABBITS AT THE TROUBADOUR
Decent rock albums are a dime a dozen these days. In Pitchfork parlance, 7.6 is the new 6.2, but that doesn’t mean it’s any easier to create something that anyone except Facebook friends will care about three years from now. Brooklyn by way of Columbia, Missouri, band White Rabbits released their first full-length, Fort Nightly, in 2007, and it became a slow-build record of the year. Drawing inspiration from the percussive David Byrne productions of the early 1980s — and a lot from the Specials’ post-ska masterpiece, More Specials — White Rabbits offered a sound that you could both sing and jump to, head-nodders and arm-crossers be damned. They’re now signed to the rising and consistently surprising TBD Records imprint (Other Lives, Local Natives, Radiohead), and have just released the Britt Daniel–produced It’s Frightening. The band’s progression is shocking; the post-pub Elvis Costello vibe has been given a cavernous depth, and 21st-century digital flourishes sneak in to remind us where we stand. Pianos reverberate, drums whoomp whoomp whoomp, and guitar lines wend through the fabric like a needle through silk. And best of all, you can scream and shout along, bouncing all the way. (Randall Roberts)
Also playing Thursday:
ART BRUT, RUMSPRINGA, VOXHAUL BROADCAST at Spaceland; KEYSHIA COLE, THE DREAM, KERI HILSON at the Nokia Theatre; WARPAINT at Amoeba Music; BUSDRIVER, NOCANDO, BLANK BLUE at the Knitting Factory; EMILY HAY at the Steve Allen Theater.
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