The Five Best Concerts in L.A. This Week
Nicki Minaj -- See Wednesday
Tuesday, August 7
Perhaps it's no surprise that the movers and shakers of the music world are finally catching up to Jesca Hoop. Early on, her songwriting skills were praised by Tom Waits (who once employed the young singer as a nanny), and more recently she's toured and collaborated with Eels and Peter Gabriel. The California-raised, England-based singer-guitarist's third and latest full-length album, The House That Jack Built, marvelously encompasses several of her disparate personae -- new and old -- from freaky bubblegum-popping new waver ("Ode to Banksy") and trippy electronic-pop diva ("Hospital") to arty space case ("Dig This Record") and languorous dream-pop chanteuse ("Deeper Devastation"). She recalls her early art-folk work most enchantingly on "When I'm Asleep," juxtaposing Waits-style woodshed percussion with soaring, inventively arranged skeins of Kate Bush-like vocals. Um, she's really good. --Falling James
On their first new record in 15 years, Redd Kross bros Jeff and Steven McDonald bring their trademarked hash of hard-rocking trash to heady heights. Researching the Blues spews choice tunesmith-ery on the title track and standouts like "Stay Away From Downtown," "Meet Frankenstein" and "Winter Blues," which all show that you can play rock music any way you feel if you're writing great songs. Sounds E-Z, doesn't it? Well, it's not, so check out how RK prove their prowess all night in these Beatle-ish, Cheap Trick-esque songs that are delivered tight and tuff though not exactly mean. Even when Redd Kross play hard guys, they're doing it with a laugh, and, seriously, that makes it sound like they're just bashing out these tunes. But that's not true. --John Payne
Wednesday, August 8
Nicki Minaj has come so thoroughly to dominate pop culture over the last three years that it's hard to believe the singer-rapper's current headlining tour is her first. (Also curious -- and revealing about today's imperiled music biz -- is that she's playing the midsized Nokia as opposed to Staples Center.) What might benefit Minaj about that perceived delay is the time she's had to hone her act, not to mention the superstar temerity she exercised in June, when she bailed on Hot 97's Summer Jam after one of that New York radio giant's DJs criticized her hit "Starships." Expect to hear that tune tonight, along with cuts from Minaj's mixtapes and her two studio albums. And expect a pleasant evening above all: Last month The New York Times called the tour's first show "outrageously joyful." --Mikael Wood
Woods, Peaking Lights
It's hard to do new folk without sounding beholden to past masters, but Brooklyn's Woods have done just that, making lo-fi jangle-pop infused with an inimitable weirdness that rarely, if ever, puts off. The band's core is held down by singer-guitarist Jeremy Earl and tape manipulator G. Lucas Crane. While the former is responsible for Woods' bucolic, candied melodies and his own warm vocal warblings, Crane adds vital unpredictability and the odd effects that give the songs so much character. The group's most recent album is 2011's Sun and Shade, whose title rightly illustrates the feel of the project. Up first is Peaking Lights, a husband-and-wife duo combining all manner of trippy styles -- tropical pop, Jamaican dub, acid folk, bizarre beats -- in order to create a cosmic, psychedelic slop that's worth basking in for a good while. --Chris Martins
Thursday, August 9
Shovels and Rope
If the name Shovels and Rope conjures up hard-bitten roots music, you're on the right track, but this duo is much more. Now based in Charleston, S.C., Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst were both established artists when they met: Trent was in the Colorado-based indie rock band called the Films, and both have released solo albums. Together with a love of murder ballads, they created a sound that can veer off into the horn-driven menace of "Tickin' Bomb" and to the haunting waltz of "Carnival" from their brand-spanking-new sophomore album, O' Be Joyful. It's a doozy of a record. "Kembra" is a 2½- minute hootenanny that has something to do with chicken, fish and grits. Hearst's voice has a Janis-y, Wanda Jackson-y sandpapered wail to it, and Trent's is more dreamy. Onstage, they trade off on guitar, "junkyard" drum kit, harmonica, keys and other instruments, all adding up to a helluva beautiful racket. --Libby Molyneaux
For details about these shows and more live music happening in the city this week, check out our Concert Calendar.
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