The semireclusive power-pop whiz recently released a solid, if misleadingly titled, studio album called Modern Art. (Sweet also co-produced the latest from the Bangles, another tuneful blast from the '60s-pop past.) At best, though, you'll probably hear only a few tunes from that new disc tonight, as this Echoplex show concludes a tour commemorating the 20th anniversary of Sweet's 1991 classic, Girlfriend. If it's been a while since you've spun that one, get thee to Spotify posthaste: Hook-crammed guitar jams like “I've Been Waiting” and “Divine Intervention” showcase the kind of emotion too many of today's indie guys hide behind layers of echo and reverb; “Winona,” Sweet's ode to his “little movie star,” remains almost unbearably vulnerable (and also a wee bit creepy). —Mikael Wood
At some point during repeat listens of Asher Roth's breakout hit, “I Love College,” from his 2009 debut, Asleep in the Bread Aisle (probably between the frat-boy MC's in-depth descriptions of running the beer pong table and observing his reliance on rhyming “Donkey Kong” with “Hakeem Olajuwon”), it was concluded that the Pennsylvania rhymer's skills were limited to the adolescent trappings of a gimmicky one-and-done. While Roth, 26, has yet to score another smash single, his lyrical improvement, in both topic and taste, has been, well, surprising. Guest spots on tracks by Game and the Cool Kids hinted at development. Now, his recently released mixtape, Pabst and Jazz, with its funked-up beats, keyboard chimes and Roth's nasal narrative, showcases an MC finally shedding his sophomoric skin. —Dan Hyman
BulletBoys, Hotel Diablo
Multiple generations of metal meet in just these two bands tonight. Though BulletBoys' five minutes were at the tail end of the '80s, their anthemic four-on-the-floor signature (personified by the MTV-approved “Smooth Up in Ya”) owes a load to genre godfathers AC/DC and Van Halen. For years, BB has been David Lee Roth–alike singer Marq Torien with a revolving backing band, but this show reunites its original lineup for the first time in more than a decade. Propelled by the paranormal dexterity of W.A.S.P. drummer Mike Dupke, Hotel Diablo are a new band comprising metal vets (bassist Mike Duda, also of W.A.S.P.; former Adler's Appetite singer Rick Stitch; and Quiet Riot guitarist Alex Grossi). Ho-Di's era-spanning sound, appropriate to its collective pedigree, includes a veritable metal jukebox of cover versions. —Paul Rogers
UNWRITTEN LAW at the Roxy; THE GROWLERS at the Echo; BEATS ANTIQUE at Club Nokia; MINI MANSIONS at Bootleg Bar.
Billy Childs Quartet
Billy Childs' maximal output of original music and arrangements has over the course of his career garnered the keyboardist-composer an impressive 10 Grammy nominations and three Grammy Awards, a Guggenheim Fellowship and a 2003 grant from Chamber Music America, from which came his own brilliant Jazz-Chamber Ensemble. NPR is recognizing this uniquely talented maximus on New Year's Eve by featuring him on its live Toast of the Nation broadcast. With Bob Sheppard on sax, the suddenly ubiquitous Tim Lefebvre on bass and veteran Gary Novak on drums, the quartet will be ensconced in the refreshingly minimalist atmosphere of the Blue Whale. Seeing this show live will maximize your listening pleasure, but at the very minimum you should listen to it on the radio. —Gary Fukushima
Semi Precious Weapons
Champagne. Disco balls. Glitter. All of the fizzy detritus we associate with New Year's Eve is the stuff of a regular old day in the life of Semi Precious Weapons. The high-heeled, heavily eyelined New York glam rockers were intensely fabulous even when they were broke. To wit, the sassed-out war cry from their self-titled 2010 breakout single: “I can't pay my rent, but I'm fucking gorgeous.” To be sure, these boys have only gotten more flashy since spending the better part of the last two years opening for Lady Gaga's Monster Ball tour, so you'd be hard-pressed to find a better gang with whom to ring in 2012, assuming your idea of a successful NYE involves getting blasted with bubbly by a 6-foot-5-inch, pantyhose-rocking manimal. —Chris Martins
Cobra Starship, Lupe Fiasco
HOLLYWOOD & HIGHLAND
Hosted by Extra host (and former Saved by the Bell star) Mario Lopez, Big Bang New Year's Eve pairs the neon-clad, electro-emo outfit Cobra Starship with Lupe Fiasco, the skateboarding rapper who seems always to have something to complain about. Neither act is on the road in support of its strongest work: Though it finally delivered the pop breakthrough they'd been after for years, Cobra Starship's Night Shades is considerably less fun than the band's earlier records, written and recorded back when the Top 40 was but a dream. And Lupe Fiasco's Lasers contains one song that begins, “I really think the War on Terror is a bunch of bullshit.” Still, New Year's Eve should bring out the best from these two: It's a perfect occasion for empty flash. —Mikael Wood
Though they look like the security detail at Hootenanny, the Aggrolites' organ-rinsed reggae exudes more than enough good-time vibes to fuel this New Year's Eve celebration. Ska-inflected and decidedly sunny, these L.A. lads should nonetheless never be lumped in with the many SoCal bands who adopted ska trappings as a fashion statement in the late 1990s. Formed as the backing band for reggae legend Derrick Morgan (a role they've reprised for the likes of Phyllis Dillon and Prince Buster), the Aggrolites are well-informed roots revivalists whose own tunes are richly grained with street-level Angeleno grit yet sufficiently hooky to be minor hits. If your head's not bobbing at midnight, you're already passed out drunk. —Paul Rogers
WANDA JACKSON, BEST COAST at Club Nokia; JENNY & JOHNNY at the Standard Hollywood; BREAKESTRA at the Echo; THE HENRY CLAY PEOPLE at the Satellite; DJ QUIK at Key Club; PINK MARTINI at Walt Disney Concert Hall; GRAM RABBIT at Bar Sinister.
Stitching the accessible West Coast punk of Bad Religion and the Descendents to Agnostic Front's blue-collar, East Coast hardcore, Los Angeles' Rotting Out are no revolution but rather a deceptively nuanced exploration of their subculture's fractured backstory and current status quo. Less po-faced than so many street-punk crews, Rotting Out's fast, feverish delivery is more a much-needed kick in the pants than an unwelcome brick to the face. Moving bassist (and former guitarist) Walter Delgado into their vacated vocalist role at first appeared desperate, but in fact he lends this year's Street Prowl a sore-throated indignation that seldom sounds preachy. This pit will be the ultimate New Year's Eve hangover zapper and a furiously positive start to 2012. —Paul Rogers
MOSES CAMPBELL at the Smell.
“Wise beyond their years” is a phrase used too liberally, but what else would you call a crew of 21-year-olds whose music combines the organic grandeur of Arcade Fire, the careening sonics of Cursive and the wistful vamping of Wild Beasts? There are only four members of Chasing Kings, but they make the noise of a much bigger band, thanks to those clanging keys and rolling guitars while husky-throated singer Matt Schwartz sings about marquee topics like fulfillment, empathy and aging. “Once upon a summer/We were desperate to be younger,” he calls out on “The Current State of Our Future,” from 2009's EP of the same name, and the sentiment is believable. This band knows too much for its own good. This residency should be good testing ground for the Kings' upcoming full-length, for which they raised $15,000-plus independently via Kickstarter. —Chris Martins
SEASONS at the Echo; PRINCETON at Bootleg Bar.
If it's possible to make a percussion instrument sing, then Chris Dingman should write the manual. The vibraphonist wields his choice of armament in a way that avoids antagonism — there's no hitting the listener over the head with mallet pyrotechnics. Instead, he employs a lyrical, harmonic-based thoughtfulness and a stealthy virtuosity. His debut album, Waking Dreams, is a masterful, personal testament, full of complex harmonies and rhythms, yet there's a clarity of theme and purpose throughout. Hailed as one of the new and more original jazz voices in New York, Dingman brings with him some old friends from his tenure in Los Angeles: drummer and fellow Monk Institute colleague Zach Harmon, pianist Josh Nelson and bassist Hamilton Price. This is easily one of the best jazz concerts of the early new year. —Gary Fukushima
LACOSTE at Silverlake Lounge; LAUREN DESBERG at Catalina; YAEL MEYER at Pershing Square; BIKOS at Bootleg Bar.
Too often Rusko, aka Chris Mercer, is lumped in with dubsteppers whose take on the moody electronic genre is, in Mercer's own words, a “masculine, dance floor–orientated, distorted mess.” The Leeds-reared, Silver Lake–living producer does things his own way, whipping the original style's wobbly bass and stormy atmosphere into a larger-than-life pop froth, which explains why he's made beats for M.I.A. and been tapped to remix Basement Jaxx. He also has taken strides into the arty, bringing in Dirty Projectors siren Amber Coffman for his 2010 single “Hold On” and using the video for the uplifting “Everyday” as an opportunity to shed light on the forgotten community that calls the Salton Sea home. Witnessed in person, all of Rusko's best traits seem even bigger and brighter than usual, and the energy the man brings to the stage is pretty much unprecedented among his laptop-rocking brethren. —Chris Martins
It's been a heady five years for L.A. pianist Kris Bowers since his 2006 graduation from the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. First he was given a scholarship to the prestigious Juilliard School in New York. While at Juilliard, Bowers not only began working with jazz greats including Terrell Stafford and Louis Hayes but also cultivated an interest in hip-hop, performing and recording with notables, including Jay-Z and Kanye West. In September, Bowers won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano competition, with prizes that include $25,000 cash, a contract with Concord Records and a visit to the White House to meet with President Obama. While home for the holidays, Bowers performs tonight at Catalina with Walter Smith III, Sam Gendel, Gene Coye and Palmdale's Joshua Crumbly. —Tom Meek
KEY LOSERS at the Smell; ANTHONY B at Echoplex; ANTHONY WILSON TRIO, L.A. JAZZ QUARTET, MARK FERBER/ALAN FERBER GROUP at the Blue Whale.
WALT DISNEY CONCERT HALL
Even in a world seemingly bursting with astounding new piano prodigies, France's Jean-Yves Thibaudet slays all. Technical wizardry he's got, of course, and in a hugely varied field of play (from Puccini and Strauss to Satie and Ellington); that's coupled with a rare sensibility for his instrument that combines brash, fresh intellect with unsappy feeling in his repertoire. It's a facility — call it a gift — that will serve him well in these performances of the many moods of Liszt Piano Concerto No. 2 along with Dvorák's Hussite Overture and the Saint-Saëns Symphony No. 3, “Organ.” The L.A. Philharmonic is led by conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya, who brings his own high-powered, youthful brand of brilliance to the music. Also Sat.-Sun. —John Payne
Summer Darling, Birds and Batteries, Baron Von Luxxury
What's the beginning of a new year without a little lament for where the previous one went wrong? The Origami Vinyl–released LP from Los Angeles' Summer Darling was inspired by “alcoholism, divorce, interstate moves and a number of family deaths,” plus frontman Ben Heywood's “dissolving faith and darkening worldview” (all of this from the band's official bio). Though the singer was raised by pastors in Northern California, his musical pedigree owes to the crushing bleakness of Midwesterners like Conor Oberst and his old post-hardcore act Desaparecidos, or really anyone on the original Saddle Creek roster. With angular guitars, pounding drums and an ever-shifting meter, the antithetically named outfit creates a thrilling (if not harrowing) atmosphere in person. The Bay Area's Birds and Batteries, meanwhile, cast a broad stylistic net that encompasses Randy Newman–like piano pop, bluesy psychedelic Americana and spooky synthesizer-driven elegies. —Chris Martins
VINTAGE TROUBLE at Troubadour.
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