fri 10/19

Tift Merritt, Amy Cook


In a pop music scene populated with brassy divas, each attempting to outdo the other with increasing flamboyancy, Tift Merritt lingers in the shadows, quietly amassing an impressive body of gently engrossing ballads. The North Carolina native and New York City resident isn't exactly a shrinking violet; she often lets her voice soar in a radiant manner, much like her mentor, Emmylou Harris (whom Merritt has interviewed on her monthly NPR radio show, The Spark). But the singer-guitarist's contemplative folk-pop-country tunes are more restrained than showy on her fifth and latest album, Traveling Alone. Merritt isn't exactly traveling alone on the new recording; she's joined by guest singer Andrew Bird and such ace sidemen as guitarist Marc Ribot, Jay Brown and Calexico drummer John Convertino. But she still imbues these songs of wanderlust with a heartrending intimacy. Merritt's billed with the similarly low-key West Texas songwriter Amy Cook, whose austere melodies on her recent CD, Summer Skin, are anointed with insightfully poetic lyrics. Also Saturday at McCabe's. —Falling James

Nosaj Thing


Nosaj Thing's 2009 album, Drift, was arguably the first in the trio of holy-shit records that made Low End Theory regulars — and by extension, Los Angeles electronic music — a global phenomenon. (The other two? Gaslamp Killer and Gonjasufi's A Sufi and a Killer and Flying Lotus' Cosmogramma.) But since then, Nosaj has spent the time mostly on merciless gigging instead of new material, which is why this month's long-awaited release of Eclipse/Blue is so tantalizing. With vocals from Blonde Redhead's Kazu Makino, this debut single from his coming album rewards everyone who's been patiently waiting. Nosaj reveals himself as a preternaturally sophisticated producer, building a deeply detailed and textured song around Mikino's otherworldly vocals. (It'll make you miss Broadcast, that's for sure.) As a teaser for what's next … well, it definitely teases. — Chris Ziegler

The Foreign Exchange

Key Club

This divine musical marriage might never have occurred if not for technology. Dutch producer Nicolay and American emcee/vocalist Phonte (Little Brother) cyber-met in an Okayplayer discussion forum about a decade ago. Their highly praised 2004 debut, Connected, was conceptualized and completed via numerous file swaps over instant messenger. Fast-forward to 2008, and the duo's savory synthesis of electronica/hip-hop/R&B (endorsed by the likes of Questlove, DJ Spinna and King Britt, among others) resulted in a Grammy nomination for Best Urban Alternative Performance. To the good fortune of their die-hard fans in L.A., tonight's set on the world-famous Key Club stage also features longtime collaborators-turned–imprint mates Zo!, Sy Smith and Jeanne Jolly. —Jacqueline Michael Whatley

sat 10/20

Shattered Faith, D.I., Symbol Six


With all the nostalgia about Hollywood's influential late-'70s punk scene, it's sometimes forgotten that East Los Angeles also was a hotbed of manic inspiration and florid creativity, with such diverse bands as The Brat, Odd Squad, Thee Undertakers, The Stains and Los Illegals. (Scene matriarch Alice Bag's recent memoir, Violence Girl, vibrantly depicts the contradictions of being both Chicana and punk, and what it felt like crossing the vast cultural divide between Hollywood and East L.A.) Joe Vex's self-titled establishment the Vex was an all-ages club that had several incarnations, including a stint at Self Help Graphics; for the first time since the 1980s, he's bringing the venue back, albeit at a new location in Alhambra. At this grand reopening, the bill could be straight outta 1982, with crusty punk survivors D.I. (a spinoff of The Adolescents who still cheerfully crank out the lurid anthem “Richard Hung Himself” on a nightly basis), recently reunited hard-punk assassins Symbol Six and proto-hardcore iconoclasts Shattered Faith. —Falling James

Crocodiles, The Soft Pack


Crocodiles are punk like the early Psychedelic Furs (Like “Flowers”? You'll like their latest album, Endless Flowers, too!) and pop like Jesus and Mary Chain when they were feeling pretty sweet — and they're just bristling with overprocessed guitar and are happy to put phaser on anything that moves. Their work has the feel of an album recorded live at an awesome house party … in space. Some bands write singles, but these guys write summertimes: gigantic songs that fit all the amped-up confusion and impulse and all-caps INTENSITY of a certain kind of rock & roll teenagehood into not two but four minutes of fuzz and feeling. With The Soft Pack, whose new LP, Strapped, reassembles their Feelies/Clean guitar pop into something happily and unexpectedly ambitious — it's one more step in a very good direction. —Chris Ziegler

Lionel Loueke


Benin-born guitarist Lionel Loueke grew up poor in Africa. After struggling to buy his first guitar as a teen, at one point, he even used bicycle brake cables as strings. Loueke's talent soon was considerable enough to earn him a scholarship to Boston's Berklee College of Music, followed by a stint at USC beginning in 2001. Shortly thereafter, Loueke became an in-demand sideman for the likes of Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Sting, Gretchen Parlato and many more. Loueke's own music combines African pop, jazz and other world music that is rhythmically complex yet accessible. Robert Glasper co-produced Loueke's latest album, Heritage, which is the primary focus of his current American tour with bassist Michael Olatuja and drummer Mark Guiliana, landing tonight at Vitello's in Studio City. —Tom Meek


sun 10/21

Nick Waterhouse, Allah-Las


Nick Waterhouse hasn't shed his continental suit since the release of his debut album, Time's All Gone. The Los Angeles native remains in 1950s character as long as he's touring, and he does it in classic soul style with a stage full of top-notch musicians. The horns are the central focus on Time's All Gone, with the Motown-inspired backing vocals a close second. Swaggering in all their flatulent glory on “(If) You Want Trouble,” the “whoop-whoops” of the ladies are fanned by Waterhouse's catcalls and taunting guitar. The saucy “Is That Clear” has bold stops and starts emphasized by jabbing piano keys. Waterhouse is joined by fellow retro-revivalists and Los Angeles natives Allah-Las. —Lily Moayeri

mon 10/22

Kaki King


There are actually several versions of Kaki King. The Atlanta native first came to attention busking in the subways of New York City, but she wasn't panhandling for change by strumming creaky versions of “Free Bird” or “Sweet Child O' Mine.” Instead, the acoustic guitarist crafted amazingly intricate, prog-like art-rock instrumentals, employing dazzling, fret-tapping witchery and banging on her ax for dramatically percussive effect. Then there's the Kaki King who reinvented herself earlier this decade by singing vocals and experimenting with indie-rock electricity and song structures. And, finally, there's the celebrity incarnation of King, an in-demand guitarist who has toured with the Mountain Goats and collaborated with Eddie Vedder and Michael Brook on the soundtrack to Into the Wild. With her latest album, Glow, King returns to her instrumental persona, deftly popping harmonic tones from her guitarlike soap bubbles. —Falling James

tue 10/23

Rasputina, Faun Fables


If you're looking for some airy, pastoral escapism based on the fanciful names of tonight's bands, think again. Rasputina mastermind Melora Creager likes to dress up her ever-evolving lineups in elegant steam-punk costumes, but her dense, cello-pumped fantasies are darker and more twisted than playful and escapist, scattered like poisoned bread crumbs and insomniac land mines across such freaky albums and EPs as Transylvanian Regurgitations and Sister Kinderhook. In listening to her tangled anti–fairy tales, where she comments on modern-day war and politics through unusual characters and historical figures such as Fletcher Christian and Mary Todd Lincoln, it's useful to remember that Creager titled an early album How We Quit the Forest— in other words, for all of her febrile imagery, she and her bandmates live right here among us in the real world and not in some castle in the woods. Faun Fables have a more traditional and overtly pretty folk sound, but the Oakland duo also is capable of some strangely unsettling melodies. —Falling James

Beth Orton


The six-year absence since Beth Orton's last release has only whetted appetites for the comedown queen. Tucker Martine (The Decemberists) brings out Orton's country-girl side on Sugaring Season — it's the most personal Orton has ever sounded, and it generates the most visceral response. Keeping the instrumentation spare and separate, Orton's distinct, hollow tones scratch and soothe in turns. Her intentional waver on “Dawn Chorus” makes her sound vulnerable, which carries through on the folk-y plucks of “Poison Tree.” Tears are around the corner, spurred by the brushed drums and Orton's own choking delivery on “Something More Beautiful” and the intimately revealing “Candles.” It's not all a sobfest: “See Through Blue” has a carousel-like rhythm, while “Call Me the Breeze” sets you up for a hoedown. —Lily Moayeri

wed 10/24

Melvins Lite


The Melvins gotta travel lite for this one — that means no Big Business dudes in the lineup, but just as much of everything else, up to and including stand-up bass. This isn't just another show. It actually started as an attempt to get into Guinness World Records for the fastest tour of the U.S.A.: The Melvins are trying to do all 50 states in 51 days. (“Going good!” Buzz told a reporter at the 30 percent mark. See West Coast Sound for more.) True, history demands we acknowledge an earlier claim to the record by George Thorogood & the Destroyers in 1981, but taste and sense demand that we nevertheless root for the Melvins on this one. They deserve to be in the record books for something. Let's have it be this. —Chris Ziegler


The Darkness


These bawdy Brits are as funny as Spinal Tap (with lyrics like “Where fools rush in, where eagles dare, you will find us, already there”) and have enjoyed a similarly unlikely resurrection — a hit 2003 debut album, followed by a dramatic sophomore slump and breakup, before a reunion and return to form with this year's Hot Cakes. Only The Darkness are world-class songsmiths, too, and, despite early speculation, definitely no spoof. For all of their falsetto-flecked Queen-via-AC/DC histrionics, at the heart of songs like recent single “Nothing's Gonna Stop Us” is a poppy concision and gift for uplifting yet nostalgic melody that would emote regardless of genre. Wonderfully eccentric and trend-detached, The Darkness also stand on their heads (sometimes literally) to deliver the most unashamedly entertaining show in contemporary hard rock. —Paul Rogers

thu 10/25

Carolyn Mark


Carolyn Mark can break your heart with sad and lonely alt-country songs like “Officer Down,” where she blends her somber voice with NQ Arbuckle's, painting a portrait of hard-luck living with just a few easy strokes of guitar and piano. But the Canadian singer also has a goofy side, occasionally reflected in such self-mocking album titles as Terrible Hostess and The Pros and Cons of Collaboration. “Far from stardom and down on the ground/Easily swayed from salvation delayed,” Mark laments on “Dirty Little Secret,” but you wouldn't necessarily notice that she's down, thanks to the song's breezy melody and chipper horn section. Like all the best songwriters, Mark knows how to juxtapose heartache and humor, leavening the pain with true wit. —Falling James

Robert Glasper Experiment


When a Google query for “jazz sucks” turns up more than 18.9 million hits, jazz has an identity problem. Granted, searching for “I love dirt” turns up about 62.5 million options, but dirt has never tried to pass off shitty work as eloquent complexity. Glasper doesn't even call his music jazz. Instead, he strives to define it as something that doesn't suck, simultaneously connecting jazz to its roots in black culture and embracing its fashionable younger nephew, hip-hop. So far, the experiment is succeeding, with his album Black Radio peaking at No. 3 on iTunes sales, and with close associations with non-sucky people like Erykah Badu, Bilal and Questlove. Their endorsements prove the pianist's efforts have relevancy outside the insular echo chamber of jazz, where the circular firing squad of its proponents and critics goes unnoticed by everyone else. —Gary Fukushima

Crime and the City Solution, Hecuba


Crime and the City Solution have enjoyed a rabid cult following since the late 1970s, when word about the Australian band brought them in contact with Boys Next Door, who begat The Birthday Party and whose singer, Nick Cave, was said to be quite influenced by the artily dramatic Bonney. In London in 1983, Bonney resumed his association with The Birthday Party's Mick Harvey and Rowland Howard, and sporadic albums recorded in Berlin through the 1990s with members of Einstürzende Neubauten were peppered with some of the most achingly atmospheric pop music of the last few decades. A fan of the band, Wim Wenders featured them in his film Wings of Desire; he also included a Crime song in the soundtrack to Until the End of the World. Check out the new compilation An Introduction to … a History of Crime — Berlin 1987-1991 (Mute), and the imminent American Twilight, a new album due in early 2013. Don't miss openers Hecuba, the L.A. other-pop pair whose recent Modern explores their union as lovers/bandmates in an electronic minefield of crackling tension. —John Payne

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