Rock Picks: Van Dyke Parks, Chicago Underground Duo, Rickie Lee Jones
Chicago Underground Duo at Bootleg Theater
The Chicago Underground Duo is composed of two musicians whose other gigs aren't so underground: Cornetist Rob Mazurek has played with Tortoise and Stereolab, while drummer Chad Taylor currently serves as stick man in the killer full-band version of Sam Beam's indie-folk act Iron and Wine. Together, Mazurek and Taylor get off on pushing at the boundaries between improvised and composed music, between jazz and rock, between what happens onstage and what happens in the studio. Their latest Duo album, Boca Negra, came out last month on Thrill Jockey and works best in aptly titled tracks like "Confliction," where they establish a humid deep-funk groove inspired by electric-era Miles Davis, then set about trying to destabilize it. (Mikael Wood)
Pearl Harbor at Space 15 Twenty
It's hard to imagine a better setting for the swooning, beachy sounds of Lincoln Heights' Pearl Harbor than that of the Valentine's extravaganza being thrown by Space 15 Twenty. Though singer Piper, the elder of the Kaplan sisters, is old enough at 22 to have nurtured a wee bit of cynicism toward the year's drippiest holiday, guitarist Skylar is only approaching her sweet 16. And taken together — long, golden locks swaying as they harmonize over shimmering songs about unrequited love — the Kaplans look like harbingers for the brokenhearted, sad angels sent by Cupid to either make amends or deliver the bad news. Young as the group may be, Pearl Harbor has a hotly tipped (and sold-out) EP out on excellent NYC vinyl label Mexican Summer, titled Something About the Chaparrals. Here, the band will be soundtracking the festivities — both performing live and deejaying — which include cookies, lollipops, romantically themed retail and a kissing booth that promises a keepsake photo. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Friday:
THE CRYSTAL METHOD at Avalon; MESHELL NDEGEOCELLO at Largo at the Coronet; CHRISTIAN DEATH at El Rey Theatre; FITZ & THE TANTRUMS at the Echo; SHADOW SHADOW SHADE, TWILIGHT SLEEP, MARVELOUS TOY at Spaceland; BOOGALOO ASSASSINS, CHICO MANN at the Mint; MOON DUO, POCAHAUNTED at Synchronicity Space; SHAWN COLVIN, NICOLE GORDON at the Canyon; THE BEAT JUNKIES, J. ROCC, BABU, RHETTMATIC, SLUM VILLAGE, MR. CHOC at the Echoplex; MISS DERRINGER at the Troubadour; THE RAVISHING, THE PASSPORTS, THE IDYLLISTS at the Hotel Cafe; DOG, THE CRYSTELLES, ACTUARY at the Echo Curio; BILLY BOY ON POISON, PAPER ZOO, VANDELAY INDUSTRIES at the Viper Room; DEVILDRIVER, SUFFOCATION, GOATWHORE at House of Blues; JAMES MCMURTRY at McCabe's; BIG GIGANTIC, ELIOT LIPP, DEVENWHO at the Roxy.
Moon Duo at Showcave
San Francisco's Moon Duo seem kinda fearless, unafraid to hop on a riff and ride it right on into the sunset. Specialists in a sort of cross between the Krautrockian trance trips of Neu and the tougher, vintage garage aesthetic of, say, Davy Allen and the Arrows circa "Blue's Theme," the duo, Sanae Yamada and Erik Johnson (Wooden Shjips), make a fuzzed-out, echoed-out, grainy and greasy sound that's both hypnotic and a bit ominous. They chew off this epic noise with merely guitar, keyboards, percussion and vocals, usually a lot less. They made two great records in 2009, a 12-inch called Love on the Sea (Sick Thirst) and the Killing Time EP (Sacred Bones), and now their Escape album on Woodsist has arrived. It sounds like the best '60s biker-barbecue tunes you never heard. Psychedelic, some call it. (John Payne)
The Album Leaf, Magik*Magik String Quartet, Sea Wolf at El Rey Theatre
San Francisco's "modular orchestra" Magik*Magik claims that its ranks include no fewer than 100 classical players, and considering the reach of the young organization, founded in late 2008, it's not hard to imagine that being true. Chunks of the Magik*Magik Orchestra have appeared on various stages up and down the coast backing respected acts as diverse as indie rocker John Vanderslice, left-field jazz act Tin Hat and German electronicist Hauschka. Here, a string quartet hailing from this motley collective will accompany the Album Leaf, the long-running project of San Diego's Jimmy LaValle. On record, LaValle's ambient-flavored electro-acoustic compositions have historically been crafted by him alone, but the Album Leaf's new Sub Pop release, A Chorus of Storytellers, sees his live band getting in on the action. The result is a series of sweeping, mellow post-rock songs spurred on by bits of glitch and LaValle's subdued singing. This also means that Saturday's show should feature no fewer than 10 individuals bringing those pastoral epics to life. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Saturday:
KOOL KEITH, FATLIP, RYAN HEFFINGTON, LADY TIGRA at the Church; DANIEL LANOIS' BLACK DUB at Spaceland; THE DELFONICS, THE INTRUDERS, THE PERSUADERS, JOE BATAAN at Gibson Amphitheatre; DIRTY DOZEN BRASS BAND at the Mint; ALICE IN CHAINS, CREATURE WITH THE ATOMIC BRAIN at the Hollywood Palladium; WEST INDIAN GIRL, POLLYN at the Bootleg Theater; G. LOVE & SPECIAL SAUCE, REDEYE EMPIRE at House of Blues; WOOLEN, TREMBLEXY at Synchronicity Space; BLUE JUNGLE, SPIDER PROBLEM, BESTIAL MOUTHS, DIVA DAMAS at L'Keg Gallery; AL STEWART at McCabe's; SAINT MOTEL, YOUNG THE GIANT at the Roxy; LACOSTE, REPETITIONS, I.E., ESSAY at the Smell; THE GOAT & OCCASIONAL OTHERS at Three Clubs.
Van Dyke Parks, Clare & the Reasons at McCabe’s
Van Dyke Parks is the celebrated composer who's perhaps best known for his sunny and smiley collaborations with Brian Wilson, but he's also worked with everyone from the Byrds, Tim Buckley and Harry Nilsson to Laurie Anderson, Randy Newman and Cher. And, unlike so many pop geezers from the '60s generation, Parks has remained interested in new ideas over the ensuing decades, producing, arranging, recording and otherwise mixing it up with such modern folks as Mari Iijima, Danger Mouse, Joanna Newsom and the Bird & the Bee's Inara George. Of course, Parks' own songs are a wonderfully fantastic amalgam of Americana, classical, folk, pop, blues jazz, psychedelia — basically, everything vital that's ever happened on this continent tossed together in a dense, madcap, egalitarian fashion. Clare & the Reasons are yet another group he's helped out. Led by Clare Manchon (the daughter of folkie Geoff Muldaur) and multi-instrumentalist Olivier Manchon, the Brooklyn duo whip up the airiest of pop soufflés on their second album, Arrow (Frog Stand Records), highlighted by smart, nonsyrupy string arrangements and Clare's delicately fine vocals. The Reasons even make Genesis' "That's All" sound perfectly ... reasonable. (Falling James)
Dengue Fever at Kidrockers at the Echo
These kids today, they don't know what real music is. Why, if they were smart they'd harass their parents into taking them to Kidrockers, where this very special Valentine's Day event features exotic beat auteurs Dengue Fever. The L.A.-based combo's mishmash of vintage Cambodian lounge pop, surfin'-&-spyin' skanks and evocative psychedelia features birdlike Cambodian singer Chhom Nagol, along with founders Ethan and Zac Holtzman on Farfisa, bargain-basement synth and slippery Strats — a sound just faithful enough to the stuff the Holtzman Bros. found on old cassettes behind fish markets in Phnom Penh. The band recently released a documentary film on DVD, Sleepwalking Through the Mekong, that follows Dengue to Cambodia in 2005, when they became the first Western band to perform Khmer rock since the fall of the Khmer Rouge. (Show starts at 1 p.m.) (John Payne)
Also playing Sunday:
JOHN WIESE, LASSE MARHAUG at the Smell; BUILD AN ARK at Amoeba Music; THE DELFONICS, THE INTRUDERS, THE PERSUADERS, JOE BATAAN at Gibson Amphitheatre; MOTION CITY SOUNDTRACK, SET YOUR GOALS, GARFUNKEL & OATES at House of Blues; THE MAU MAUS, THE GEARS, A PRETTY MESS at the Redwood Bar; DANIEL LANOIS' BLACK DUB at Spaceland; NORMANDIE, NIGHT HORSE, YOURS TIL DEATH at the Troubadour.
Gamble House at Silverlake Lounge
Gamble House is stained with perpetual sunset. It's a pensive, pretty place neither fully glowing nor utterly gloomy, where the imminent night implies both romance and solitude. Fairly compared to Grizzly Bear and Elliott Smith, these focused locals (originally the solo expression of Ben Becker but now a quintet) have been steadily adding blogs to their warm buzz, and this will be the third night of a monthlong Monday residency. Gamble House embroiders, but seldom clutters, unpretentious tunes and understated vocals with woozy harmonies, organic dynamics and knits of acoustic, oft-arcane instrumentation (including banjo and glockenspiel). It's ethereal, lip-chewing stuff all right, but Becker and co. allow themselves a carnivalesque, slightly celebratory side evoking some prancing Wicker Man–y procession — full of color and culture, yet knowing way too much to be truly happy. (Paul Rogers)
Also playing Monday:
USELESS KEYS, AUSHUA, WE BARBARIANS, SCIENCE at the Echo; THE RUBY FRIEDMAN ORCHESTRA at the Hotel Café; ARRINGTON DE DIONYSO at L'Kegg Gallery; PRINCETON, LE SWITCH, WADE RYFF & FRIENDS, ADAM STERN at Spaceland; PETER WEISS, JOSH KLINGHOFFER, BLACK CHURCH at the Echo Curio.
Los Lonely Boys, Alejandro Escovedo, Carrie Rodriguez at House of Blues
The Texas band of brothers Los Lonely Boys aren't doing anything terribly new — their most recent release, 1969, is an EP of faithful, fairly straightforward classic-rock covers — but their easygoing blues-pop is nonetheless enjoyable. Henry Garza's guitar playing might not sting as much as Stevie Ray's or be as wildly open-minded as Jimi's, but he's generally more soulful than most rock speed merchants. On 1969, veteran British engineer/producer Andy Johns (Led Zeppelin, Television, the Stones) gives JoJo Garza's bass and, especially, Ringo Garza's drums more punch than they've had on previous recordings. Alejandro Escovedo was around in the earliest days of punk with the Nuns and helped clear the way for the alt-country scene with Rank & File and the True Believers in the 1980s, but the Austin singer-guitarist didn't really get heavy until the start of his solo career in the early '90s. He can be as poppy as Los Lonely Boys on songs like "Swallows of San Juan" and "Sister Lost Soul," from his most recent album, Real Animal, but Escovedo also has a perverse fascination with murder and mayhem on harder, weirder punk chants like "Chelsea Hotel '78" and "Nuns Song." Carrie Rodriguez is a violinist who's toured with Escovedo and recorded several albums with Chip Taylor. She's likely to play fiddle with Escovedo tonight, but don't miss a minute of her opening set, because she's also an intriguingly varied songwriter with a sweetly appealing voice. The title track of Rodriguez's 2008 album, She Ain't Me, is a sad but purty slice of pure country pop, while earlier songs like "7 Angels Revisited" trip out into a dreamily rustic psychedelia. A version of Taylor's " '50s French Movie," from her recent concert CD, Live in Louisville, is contrastingly raw, with woozy, bluesy slide guitar bumping and grinding against Rodriguez's little-girl-lost purr. (Falling James)
Clipse, Gift of Gab at the Roxy
The Virginia hip-hop duo Clipse expand their sound further on their new CD, Til the Casket Drops. Although more than half of the tracks were recorded by their longtime producers the Neptunes, for the first time brothers Malice and Pusha T used other producers, including Sean C & LV and DJ Khalil & Chin. Such guests as Pharrell, Keri Hilson, Cam'ron and Yo Gotti also drop by for further flavoring. For all of the confident, sunny bounce of "I'm Good" (featuring Pharrell), more mesmerizing tunes like "There Was a Murder" and "Showing Out" bear out the urgency and immediacy of the album title. You might already know Gift of Gab from the Bay Area hip-hop duo Blackalicious and his work with the Quannum Projects label. If not, you should. A few years ago, Timothy Parker, aka Gift of Gab, served notice that he not only had something to say, but he had a lot to say, with raps like "Flashback," a soulfully engrossing blast of purposeful nostalgia from his first solo CD, 4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up. Mr. Gab's literally out of this world on 2009's Escape 2 Mars, where his poetic declarations are backed by exotically funky, thoughtfully party-friendly grooves. (Falling James)
Rickie Lee Jones at the Vista Theatre
Singer-songwriter Rickie Lee Jones got a bit Jesus-freaky on her 2007 album, The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard, but in a good way. Rather than coming off preachy or blandly reverential, she used her friend Lee Cantelon's collection of Christian themes The Words as a launching point for her own free-ranging updating of the New Testament, which made it interesting even to devout nonbelievers. Jones placed the story smack into the middle of modern-day Los Angeles, with music that alternately sounded like bluesy Creedence Clearwater Revival–style swamp rockers and celestially glowing Velvet Underground balladry. Last year's Balm in Gilead, with such guests as Ben Harper, Alison Kraus, Jon Brion and the late Vic Chesnutt, was mellower and more subtly moving, with a gentle undercurrent of romanticism as Jones got back into more personal themes, such as family, longing and the passage of time. (Falling James)
Also playing Tuesday:
MIA DOI TODD, BECKY STARK, F.D. SCHER, DJ FROSTY at Spaceland; STS9, NALEPA DUB ORCHESTRA at the Wiltern; MAGIC KIDS, PEARL HARBOR, DUNES at the Echo; DIOS, THE HENRY CLAY PEOPLE, SIGNALS at the Troubadour.
Alkaline Trio, Cursive at House of Blues
Alkaline Trio have been pumping out goth-inflected pop-punk records for over a decade, and judging by This Addiction, their new one (due out February 23), they'd be perfectly happy spending the next decade pumping out several more. Their debut on Epitaph following a single-album stint on Epic, Addiction sounds as fresh and energized as early Alk Trio discs like Maybe I'll Catch Fire and From Here to Infirmary. (You're probably picking up on a lyrical theme here, one that front-man-slash-punmeister Matt Skiba extends in clever new jams like "The American Scream" and "Dine, Dine My Darling.") In a sign of the band's devoted SoCal fan base, this show marks the second date of a lengthy North American tour that hits the same venue April 2. Omaha-based openers Cursive play a brainy yet pummeling brand of punk rock that suggests Conor Oberst fronting Hüsker Dü. (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Wednesday:
MATA LEON, SOCADIA, THAT NOISE, CASIO at Boardner's; THE WATSON TWINS, DAISY McCRACKIN at the Bootleg Theater; OLD MAN MARKEY, PINE BOX BOYS at the Echo; FASTER PUSSYCAT, LOGAN'S HEROES, PRETTY BOY FLOYD at the Key Club; MARK GROWDEN at the Redwood Bar; BOB SCHNEIDER, SMILE SMILE at the Troubadour.
Imaad Wasif & Two Part Beast, Lou Barlow & The Missingmen, Avi Buffalo at Spaceland
Current Spaceland resident Imaad Wasif got his big break opening for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on the band's largely sold-old 2006 tour — a cherry spot secured by Wasif's double-dipping as the second ax-wielding madman in the headliner's arsenal. As it turns out, Wasif was quite established already, his track record far more informed by lo-fi folk than scrappy art-punk. Before releasing his first solo album, in 2006, the guitarist put in work with the Folk Implosion, the third highly influential band started by indie-rock originator Lou Barlow (following, of course, Dinosaur Jr and Sebadoh). But on this particular night, Wasif will appear with Two Part Beast — turning his psychedelic, raga-influenced drone compositions into hard-rocking, stratospheric prog epics — and Barlow plays with the Missingmen, a San Pedro–based punk group assembled by none other than Mike Watt. Youthful opener Avi Buffalo, hailing from Long Beach, will fit right in with its winning mix of spiraling folk and weird, white blues. (Chris Martins)
Josh Charles at the Mint
Soul went into hiding in the arid decade that has thus far made up the 21st century. No grease, no gris-gris, no grits, no groceries, no nuttin'. Okay, there've been exceptions, and here's one. Brooklyn boy Josh Charles calls his blue-eyed soul "Notown music," blending New Orleans and Motown, and he's a welcome respite from the flat and honkified. At age 14, the terrific songwriter and pianist scammed an audience with his hero Dr. John — aka Crescent City icon Mac Rebennack — and showed off his mastery of N'awlins ivory pounders James Booker, Professor Longhair and Allen Toussaint. Rebennack was suitably jacked and Charles' just-released debut, Love, Work, & Money, was more recently tracked with Rebennack's band at the legendary Piety Street Studios. One can imagine Aretha or Aaron Neville singing Charles originals like "It Ain't Easy" or "Healing Time." Soul is not just a genre of music, it's a way of life. It's been known to be contagious, and if we're lucky, the spirit that found its way into Charles will animate other young 'uns and cause outbreaks of humanity. (Michael Simmons)
Also playing Thursday:
MEDESKI MARTIN & WOOD at El Rey Theatre; FANFARLO at Amoeba Music; LOS LONELY BOYS, ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO, CARRIE RODRIGUEZ at the Canyon; CURTIS KING, JAE-NICE, MIKO at the Dakota Music Lounge; COLD CAVE, SMITH WESTERNS, BEST COAST at the Echoplex; BIKOS, PETE BERNHARD, BROTHER SAL, KENNETH PATTENGALE at the Hotel Cafe; RARE GROOVES, BLACK ELEPHANT, TRAPSPS, THE HAPPY HOLLOWS at the Smell; THE JOHN BUTLER TRIO, CHARLIE MARS at the Troubadour.
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