{mosimage}L.A.’s independent music scene is kinda like Disneyland,
in a good way: It’s not a single scene, but a collection of vaguely overlapping,
inherently interconnected worlds with their own attractions. The Magic
Kingdom has Tomorrowland; we’ve got Spaceland. And so, in a highly
unscientific, pretty tongue-in-cheek manner, we pay tribute this week to
a couple of L.A.’s liveliest little worlds — the Eastside indie-rock scene and the
Stones Throw Records family
— as well as some of the artists just
off Main Street who made news this year. We couldn’t fit everybody, but
we’ll getcha soon enough. Meanwhile, keep digging your scene.

—Kate Sullivan

Honey Catacombs
Where you just might bump into Darker My Love, the Blood Arm, Gosling &
Midnight Movies!

{mosimage}Midnight Movies.
Even a quality product is subject to upgrades, and 2006 welcomed Midnight
Movies, Version 2.0. Among its new features: Frontwoman Gena Olivier is
now stationed at a keyboard instead of a drum kit, handing over the
percussive torch to new member Sandra Vu (who occasionally ducks out
from behind her drums to trill on a flute). Bassist Ryan Wood is also a
fresh addition, and the foursome — rounded out by guitarist Larry
Schemel — delivers a newly intensified, ever-intelligent brand of
spacey psychedelic rock. Some things never change: This nocturnally
romantic outfit will always be anchored by Olivier’s powerfully
haunting vocals. Dec. 16 at the Troubadour, with the Silversun Pickups.
(Alie Ward)

Darker My Love.
After stewing in their juices for roughly seven years, psychedelic quartet
Darker My Love emerged from the brine and into the light with a packed
monthlong residency at Spaceland, a coveted opening slot for Wolfmother
and a newly minted album. Their self-titled debut (Dangerbird) is a
deliciously stoney blend of reverberating guitar, lazy vocals, and that
blanket of distortion that’s become ubiquitous these days in Silver
Lake/Echo Park. Live, the foursome is a sight to behold, with Tim
Presley delivering some gnarly guitar solos and emitting ethereal
vocals, while former Distillers drummer Andy Granelli pounds away with
a mania that’s truly mesmerizing. (Alie Ward)

{mosimage}Gosling.
There’s just something about a young man in a sports jacket screaming like an
ape. Over thick retro guitar and piano, Gosling frontman Davey
Ingersoll’s vocals range from low, hollow throwbacks of late-’60s pop
to an enraged, throat-searing wail. The mix of control and manic
abandon, coupled with genuinely hooky pop choruses, ensure that the
foursome’s V2 release Here is… is worthy of compulsive
listening. Live, Isaac Carpenter’s peppy drumming, Mark Watrous’
hopping between keys and guitar, and Shane Middleton’s stoic and
insistent bass make for an act that’s deeper than just four lads with
dapper haircuts. Which, yes, they are. (Alie Ward)

The Blood Arm.Yeah,
Franz Ferdinand loves ’em. But why wouldn’t they? The Blood Arm’s
no-frills-lotsa-thrills brand of catchy classic rawk shoots right
between the eyes with sticky melodies and dramatic delivery. Live, they
take audience participation to a whole other level, with singer
Nathaniel Fregoso spending as much time climbing on the crowd’s heads
as he does flinging himself spastically across the stage. Strokes
comparisons are close but no cigar, evidenced by TBA’s recently
released Lie Lover Lie (City Rockers), a grimy collection of
inner-city blues that digs much deeper than that to reveal big,
bleeding hearts that are pure Los Angeles. (Scott T. Sterling)

Great American Garageland
Where you’ll strut with Bloodcat Love, the Sharpease, the Ettes &
the Holograms!

{mosimage}The Sharp Ease.
Feted by freak-folk Arthur Magazine and fated for general
overall success as punk wunderkinder, the Sharp Ease exit 2006 victoriously
with their 180-gram virgin (!) vinyl (!) Remain Instant
12-inch EP/DVD (olFactory). Never mind that it took the Sharp Ease —
diva Paloma Alexandra Parfrey, saxophonist Anika Stephen, bassist Dana
Barenfeld, guitarist Aaron Friscia and drummer Christene Kings — more
than four years to produce an album. Hey, Siouxsie and her Banshees
took years to score a record deal too. You can almost palpably feel
each of those 126,230,400 seconds radiating white heat from the pit of
the groove itself. Jan. 16 at UCLA’s Bruin Plaza. (David Cotner)

The Ettes.
With a name like the Ettes, you might expect a super-fluffy, cutesy
band — and it’s true that Coco Hames has a sweetly melodic voice and a
gift for exhilarating pop hooks. But guitarist Hames, bassist Jem Cohen
and drummer Poni Silver amp up their tales of romantic desperation with
a nonstop garage-rock frenzy on their debut CD, Shake the Dust
(Sympathy for the Record Industry), produced by Liam Watson (White
Stripes, the Kills). Let’s hope we don’t lose this ever-touring group
to Detroit or Memphis — the Ettes fit in better with rootsy
revisionists like the Detroit Cobras and the Oblivians than they do
with most L.A. bands. (Falling James)

{mosimage}The Holograms. The
perpetually carefree cheerleaders. The dye-drenched punkettes who do
naughty things behind the bleachers. The good-grade-gettin’ girlie
girls who somehow find the time to exchange countless Hello
Kitty–imprinted notes… The Holograms are all of these. Though they
sing about drunk dialing, scene whores and weekend benders, these
bubbly nymphs never come off too tough or trashy; their sugar
definitely trumps their spice. Their cartoonishly cute outfits, sassy
stage banter and übercatchy, bubblegum-buoyant choruses (as heard on
their Teenacide Records debut Night of 1000 Ex Boyfriends)
helped the Holograms win our hearts this year… and that of Little
Steven Van Zandt, with whom they’re in talks to collaborate. (Lina
Lecaro)

Bloodcat Love.
Renowned-about-town DJ and career scenester Myles Hendrik knows what
gets booties on the dancefloor. The fashionable frontman for Bloodcat Love
has isolated those very elements — catchy guitar lines, baritone pop vocals and
adhesive retro-soaked melodies — and distilled them into tracks so
danceable, they immediately feel like a guilty pleasure. The newly
formed quartet has already toured with Australian buzz band Jet, and
managed to upstage several local headliners in a recent string of L.A.
appearances. Their debut album won’t be out until next year, but it’s
highly likely to be a radio-ready release. Dec. 10 at Spaceland; every
Wed. in Jan. at Club Moscow at Boardner’s. (Alie Ward)

Pleasant Princess Castle
Home to Lavender Diamond, The Bird and The Bee, Great Northern &
the Watson Twins!

Lavender Diamond.
Lavender Diamond began as a fictitious character in singer Becky Stark’s fertile
mind. What’s developed around her sunny alter ego is a group of
seasoned musicians who create a folky but sophisticated backdrop for
Stark’s delicately gorgeous voice. Live, the angelically featured Stark
takes the stage in frothy vintage evening gowns, flashing an
otherworldly smile as she delivers vocals about peace, love, heaven and
sorrow. With Steve Gregoropoulos manning piano, Jeff Rosenberg on
guitar and drummer (and respected visual artist) Ron Rege Jr. pounding
his modest kit with soft mallets, they compose a melange nearly too
beautiful to bear. (Alie Ward)

{mosimage}The Watson Twins.
The dulcet tones of two striking 6-foot twins twine ’round your ears, and
you sort of levitate toward your nearest download source (or even
record shop) for their EP called Southern Manners, an elegantly
dark and exquisitely melodic set of neotrad country tunes the sisters
Watson have issued via their site (www.thewatsontwins.com) and at
their MySpace page. The critical acclaim for the EP has taken the
Kentucky-born Chandra and Leigh by surprise; the ex-Slydell backup
singers have been quite happy as support vocalists for ex–Rilo Kiley
Jenny Lewis and others, but now they really ought to be preparing for
the spotlight. (John Payne)

The Bird and The Bee.
This duo — songbird Inara George and producer/instrumentalist Greg Kurstin —
make delicious music. Greg (an ace session dude for Beck, Flaming Lips,
Chili Peppers) lays down crisp, jazzy arrangements with the lilt of
’60s pop — think Bacharach and Beach Boys, warm brass and sleigh bells.
Inara lends a teasingly poker-faced chirp to her skippin’ melodies and
bittersweet lyrics (“Are you prepared for the atom bomb?/Are you
prepared for my aching arms?/Are you prepared for serenity?/Are you
prepared to disagree?/Are you prepared for me?”
). Blue Note EP is
out now; LP out next month. CD release party Jan. 23 at the
Troubadour.
(Greg Burk)

Great Northern.
This young group of experienced hands (Rachel Stolte on vocals/keys,
Ashley Dzerigian on bass, ex-Earlimart Solon Bixler on
guitar/vocals/keys and Davey Latter of Stanford Prison Experiment on
drums) come strolling out the gate equipped with extraordinarily
mood-laden and memorable songs distinctively wrapped in a warm and
fuzzy grandeur. In advance of their forthcoming gorgeous-power disc
Trading Twilight for Daylight
(Eenie Meenie), do yourself a favor and grok their MySpace page, where
you can get a feel for their slow-burning allure. These are simple
songs that pack a very direct emotional wallop, yet are fleshed out in
superbly orchestrated electric and acoustic guitars, glorious vocal
harmonies and dusky Mellotron-like keyboards. (John Payne)

Scruffy Boys' Treehouse

{mosimage} Pop songwriting seems so easy for Irving, Simon Dawes &
Benji Hughes!

Irving.
The mostly hi-NRG pop effluvia of Irving’s recent Death in the Garden
(Eenie Meenie) is toe-tapping excitement only a total churl would curl
a lip at. Their determinedly superficial party rave-ups about gurls,
luv and more gurls seem designed to cast off significance in pursuit of
their perfectly reasonable goal of being the world’s most
happy-go-lucky bar band. Leaning on ’60s pop roots, with sunny
harmonies and wiggy Farfisa organ, they hybridize a lot of
Honeycombs/Swingin’ Blue Jeans melodies and harmonies, such groovy
blasts of jangly, wiry riff and thumping 4/4 coming off all the richer
for their exceedingly irrelevant synth fluff. (John Payne)

Simon
Dawes
.
Simon Dawes is a band, and in fact said L.A. combo has a
thumpingly good recent EP called What No One Hears on the Record
Collection label, and a debut full-length, Carnivore,
on the same fine label. It’s very Kinks, as you might say, with
singer-guitarist Taylor Goldsmith’s Ray Davies–like lazy, snarly-sweet
delivery in the forefront as his bandmates riff about sloppily — but
very, very musically — with their mid-’60s/early-’70s electric and
acoustic guitars (in a Mersey Beat mode, decidedly nonmetallic),
shakers and tambourines shimmering away, the boys adding a nice harmony
vocal when the mood hits. Very off-the-cuff-sounding stuff, yet
boasting an almost majestic force and heft. Tues., Dec. 12, at the Roxy. (John Payne)

Benji Hughes.
Singer-songwriter Benji Hughes looks like a roadie for Lynyrd Skynyrd,
writes gorgeously pithy urban poetry, sings in a breathy baritone, and
is calling his forthcoming New West debut A Love Extreme (a play
on Coltrane’s A Love Supreme).
No, this Charlotte native doesn’t play bebop, but his indie-pop is
heartfelt, funny and irreverent. “Why Do These Parties Always End the
Same Way?” sounds like early Beck poking fun at the house-party scene;
“Waiting For an Invitation” is a country-tinged ode to missing one’s
chance at love, at rockin’ stadiums (“Maybe you’ve been waitin’ too
long/For somebody to throw your kinda party…”
). Hopefully,
Hughes’ chance at recognition is around the corner. (Kate Sullivan)

Retro-Futuristic Postmodern  House Party
In a spin with Ima Robot, the Gray Kid, Pigeon John & Busdriver!

The Gray
Kid
.
Just what them cool kids have been waiting for: the hipster Justin
Timberlake you don’t have to feel guilty for loving. Like a prettier
Mickey Avalon run through Girl Talk’s posteverything sonic blender,
he’s already paid homage to Timberlake with his heavily YouTubed parody
“Paxilback,” but this ain’t just fun and games. Kid can get all earnest
with that falsetto, as evidenced on the Interpol-gone-pop strum of
“Lonely Love,” found on his surprisingly solid debut 5, 6, 7, 8.
Check his hip-hop heart on the free mixtape The Pilgrimage, which
finds him graying up the Clipse and Jay-Z. Stardom’s inevitable. Jan.
13 at the Echo, with Girl Talk.
(Scott T. Sterling)

{mosimage}
Busdriver
.
Hip-hop doesn’t get much more indie than this. Project Blowed alum
Busdriver is as likely to kick it with Pitchfork-approved acts like
Islands and Coco Rosie as he is alongside fellow nonfigurative word
manipulators such as Subtitle and Abstract Rude. But really it’s a jazz
thing, as Busdriver jump-cuts across genres (and thesauri) with a
quickness, making sure that even the kids way in the back understand
that this is not your daddy’s boom-bap (in case the inside-out
productions from folks like Thavius Beck and Daedelus didn’t make it
clear enough). Oh, and naming his new album Roadkillovercoat.
Party time! (Scott T. Sterling)

Pigeon
John
.
Does anybody remember laughter? Exhibit A: Pigeon John. He makes
hip-hop that’s fun (and funny) but full of substance, a gentle
juxtaposition of tragedy and comedy that would make Wes Anderson proud.
His 2006 album Pigeon John and the Summertime Pool Party was
just that, a sunny amalgam of easy beats and everyman witticisms that
cross-pollinated the Pixies with thoughtful raps without missing a
step. He beat Jay-Z to the hip-hop–for-adults punch (“Growin’ Old”),
proving that rocking the mike can be grown folks’ business too. More
Beck than Lloyd Banks, Pigeon John is the Fresh Prince of L.A. Dec.
29 at the El Rey, with Blackalicious, Tre and Phatlip.
(Scott T.
Sterling)

Ima Robot.
After years of madly pogo-partying all over the local circuit, L.A. hipster
faves Ima Robot have connected with the rest of the world big time on
their second L.P. (and first for Virgin Records), the archly titled Monument
to the Masses
. Led by the anthemic Devo-goes-emo thrash of single
“Creeps Me Out,” the band’s Technicolor splatter of skittish synths and
Casio box-beats has even landed them an opening slot for by-the-numbers
“modern” rockers All-American Rejects. All the easier for them to poach
a new legion of slavishly devoted fans, I suppose. MTV and your kid sister’s
bedroom wall can’t be far behind. (Scott T. Sterling)