The Stitches, The Villains
The Stitches might have started in 1994, but the Orange County quartet blasts out a bratty, feral sound that places it in 1977, the beginning of the codified punk era. Whereas most latter-day O.C. punks tend to imitate either the guttural intensity of hardcore or the more radio-friendly corporate punk of the Offspring and Blink-182, the Stitches have stubbornly stuck to a primal style that draws upon such proto-punk inspirations as New York Dolls, the Pagans and the Adolescents. Former skate hero Mike Lohrman snarls with a distinctive rasp on raucous original ditties like “Livin' at 110” and “My Baby Hates Me,” powered by Cleveland transplant Johnny Witmer's goosed-up Johnny Thunders guitar squalling. The Villains are led by Steve Baise, a driving force in the beloved early-'90s NYC garage-rock combo the Devil Dogs. —Falling James
The Good Natured
These U.K.-based goth-pop specialists released one of last year's most intriguing EPs. In the six songs (and one remix) that comprise Skeleton, the three-piece has combined all the drama and a melancholic pop sensibility that rivals those classic tracks you remember hearing on a smoky nightclub dance floor. Singer Sarah McIntosh possesses a controlled wail so bold and impassioned that it could make you shiver. With songs like “Skeletons,” “Wolves” and “Be My Animal,” she carefully weaves dark imagery through songs of love and lust without crossing the line into goth cheesiness. If you like your music ever so slightly spooky, the Good Natured is the band to watch in 2012. —Liz Ohanesian
The rhinestones on the back of his jean jacket say KING TUFF (all caps, naturally) and the rock & roll on his debut record says, “Secure a comfortable seat whilst I deploy my royalist ripping upon you.” In the past, multi-instrumentalist Tuff — of the Brattleboro, Vt., Tuffs — helped bands like Feathers and Witch make space-y folk and doom-y heavy metal, respectively. But when left unsupervised in his home studio, he smashes out song after dreamy glam-punk song and plays every single thing himself. Now relocated to L.A., he has formidable punk band Audacity backing him. That tuff-to-find debut now sells for hundreds of dollars to people who rightly understand certain music IS better than hot water or hot food, but there's a Sub Pop release due early next year to ensure the King doesn't lose touch with his loving subjects. —Chris Ziegler
EL REY THEATRE
Last year was a big one for Oakland-to-L.A. funk-rap underdog Wallpaper, aka magnetic lothario Ricky Reed. He's the sort of dude to wear his sunglasses at night, plus two pair in the morning to help neutralize a Four Loko hangover. But as 2011 proved, he's also the kinda guy to wrangle Bay Area titan Too $hort for a song about “a grown-ass woman with a grown ass”; to co-write (with Rivers Cuomo) Cee-Lo Green's self-effacing new single, “Anyway”; and to be animated by Superjail! twisted genius Christy Karacas for MTV's Liquid Television relaunch. By bridging weird to pop to just plain legit, Reed has guaranteed himself a future that'll make good on the larger-than-life shows Wallpaper throws. Accompanied by double drummers and stunning singer Novena Carmel, Reed is every bit the charismatic pied piper of party his viral “#STUPiDFACEDD” single implies. —Chris Martins
SCHOOLBOY Q at Troubadour; HIROKAZU KOSAKA and LAFMS SHOE at the Getty Center; ADAAWE at the Skirball Museum; MICHAEL LANDAU at the Baked Potato; CHRIS MINH DOKY & THE NOMADS at Catalina.
It's hard to believe that nearly two decades have passed since nine bold rappers from Staten Island banded together to form an unorthodox, hardcore hip-hop group. Hardly anyone thought this formula would work, except the swaggering members of Wu-Tang Clan themselves. Now widely considered one of the most successful and influential hip-hop acts of all time, they're guest-lecturing at Harvard, publishing books and still selling out amphitheaters around the world. They recently reunited for a series of dates across the country, which winds down soon after tonight's gig. Original members RZA, GZA, Raekwon, Method Man, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God and Masta Killa are expected to be on hand, and rumor has it a new album is due out this spring, so it should be more than just a blast from the past. —Laura Ferreiro
Having already hosted Anthony Wilson and Larry Koonse, and with NYC standout Jonathan Kriesberg looming, Blue Whale has an endless parade of incredible guitarists this month. How about adding one of the most exciting young guitarists living in New York? Demonstrating exquisite technique, Hekselman can get people cheering within a few choruses. Since winning the 2005 Gibson Montreux International Guitar Competition, the Israeli-born guitarist has collected many fans back East; now he ventures West to gain new admirers. Expect to see equal numbers of guitar geeks and pretty coeds in the first row of ottomans. With former New School colleague Dave Robaire on bass, Kneebody saxist Ben Wendel and another New York resident, exceptional drummer Ferenc Nemeth, who deserves his own paragraph of accolades. —Gary Fukushima
Alex Machacek, Terry Bozzio, Jimmy Johnson
THE BAKED POTATO
Tonight's reprise of one of L.A. Weekly's top five jazz shows of 2011 likely will be even harder to find tickets for than the two-day event last November. If you can get in, prepare to be treated to an evening of engaging new music, featuring Austrian guitarist Alex Machacek, electric-bass wizard Jimmy Johnson and former Frank Zappa/Jeff Beck/Missing Persons drummer extraordinaire Terry Bozzio deftly playing the largest drum kit that can fit into this small club — gongs and chromatic piccolo toms are only a small part of the percussion artillery onstage. Johnson's addition to this trio in November was the missing piece that gets the group into much larger venues in future as it offers electric chamber music for the 21st century. —Tom Meek
Art Lande, Albert “Tootie” Heath
R.O.D. HALL, CALARTS (Valencia)
Two bona fide jazz legends might compel one to head to the northern kingdom of Valencia. Pianist Art Lande recorded for German über jazz-art label ECM in the '70s and '80s, including the brilliant duet (with reedman and Keith Jarrett Quartet member Jan Garbarek) Red Lanta. Even though he's hiding under a rock now in Boulder, Colo., Lande still plays with intense artistry and is a must-see for pianists. Drummer Tootie Heath embodies jazz history, having recorded with Coltrane as a young man and played with everyone since, including his also-famous brothers bassist Percy and saxophonist Jimmy and Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson. Both gentlemen knew and are honoring drummer/bandleader/Bay Area legend Eddie Marshall, who died in September. Definitely worth the drive. —Gary Fukushima
THE LOONS at El Cid; JACARANDA at First Presbyterian Church (Santa Monica); TONY MacALPINE, ULI JON ROTH, BRUCE KULICK at Key Club; CHRIS CARRABBA at House of Blues; ROBYN HITCHCOCK, SUSANNA HOFFS at McCabe's; KATHLEEN BATTLE at Royce Hall; 45 GRAVE at Five Stars Bar.
Bernie Worrell Orchestra
People in the music biz throw the word legend around with reckless abandon, but Bernie Worrell comes pretty darn close. The 67-year-old keyboardist was inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a founding member and musical director of Parliament Funkadelic, has collaborated with everyone from Talking Heads to Mos Def, and is still widely considered one of the most gifted keyboard players around. Tonight he'll be joined by Minutemen and Stooges bassist Mike Watt, Blondie keyboardist Jimmy Destri, Beastie Boys collaborator Money Mark, violinist Lili Haydn and a few other “surprise guests” playing jazz standards from his aptly titled recent album, Standards. Seeing these overachieving, underappreciated artists in such a small venue is likely to be one for the ages. —Laura Ferreiro
Blouse, Violet Tremors, Soft Metals
The modest name Blouse belies the emotional grandeur of the Portland, Ore., band's music. “I see you often in my head,” Charlie Hilton intones with a sad longing over Patrick Adams' probing, Cure-like bass line, as a wave of shimmering synths rises behind them, on their new, self-titled album. Her breathy, sweetly somber vocals on “Firestarter” contrast with Adams' submerged bass and the icy sheen of synthesizer, and the dream-pop idyll “Into Black” is wrapped intriguingly by Unknown Mortal Orchestra producer Jacob Portrait in a ball of gauze. L.A.'s Violet Tremors have a harder-edged sound, as Jessica White declaims robotic slogans (“I want to be pretty”) hypnotically over Lorene Simpson's fuzzy, buzzing beats. Soft Metals' synth-pop shares some of Blouse's melodic romanticism but has its own style, with Patricia Hall's ethereal singing draped languidly over Ian Hicks' knotty sequencing. —Falling James
Theophilus London, K. Flay
EL REY THEATRE
It's quite fitting that Brooklyn-by-way-of-Trinidad rapper Theophilus London is joined by a female counterpart, K. Flay, for this pseudo–battle of the sexes hip-hop gathering: The MC's succulent standout track “Why Even Try” from his full-length debut, Timez Are Weird These Days, featured the sprightly feminine charm of Sara Quinn from Canadian indie-rock duo Tegan and Sara. And everything about London's retro-hipster vibe exudes opposite-sex attraction, from the trim blazers he dons onstage to the sexed-up, old-school tracks over which he spits. Flay is hardly a daisy-picker, however. The MC with mad brains — she's a Stanford grad — spikes her syllables with no remorse over sizzling electro-pulses on her breakout mixtape, I Stopped Caring in '96. And expect a similarly unfiltered Flay to appear on her debut full-length, which drops next month. —Dan Hyman
THE ARISTOCRATS at Alvas Showroom; GREGG BISSONETTE QUINTET at Cafe Cordiale.
The Health Club
The Health Club describe themselves as a garage-rock band, but the local trio has an appealingly arty, post-punk attitude that makes its music fresh and open-ended instead of retro. On recent single, “Pistols at Dawn,” Gerard Fortich moans enigmatically in a lost and lonely voice about nightmares and neon lights. Interestingly, the song doesn't feature his usual distorted guitar. Instead, Katya Arce's throbbing bass and Gabriel Montez's stark drum machine–like rhythms back Fortich's echoing vocals, and the overall impact is quietly moving. Much of the rest of the time, Fortich buries his hazy odes to beautiful girls (“The Muse From Venus”) and the tactile, indescribably confusing mysteries of his girlfriend's stockings (“Fragile”) in a sea of gloriously sludgy, fuzzed-out guitar obliteration. —Falling James
KATIE CAMPBELL, NICK MANCINI at Vitello's.
It says plenty about Danny Brown's views on the pop-rap mainstream that on his buzzed-about 2011 album, XXX, this Detroit-born MC waits until the track “Radio Song” to compare somebody's pussy to lupus. (Other off-color quotables from XXX include the bit in “Pac Blood” where he boasts of “rhymes that'll make the pope wanna get his dick sucked.”) An asymmetrically coiffed, skinny jeans–clad oddball with an endearing gap in his grin, Brown is part of a new generation of Internet-rap acts whose renown has little to do with hit singles and energy-drink endorsements; dude's music seems like an extension of his off-kilter charisma, not the other way around. Here he appears as part of a so-called “takeover” by his label Fool's Gold, along with Main Attrakionz and Party Supplies. —Mikael Wood
Not to be confused with the celebrispawn of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis, Islamabad-born, British-based singer Rumer croons jazzy pop ballads in a gently intoxicating manner. If her sophisticated arrangements and mellow melodies evoke the breezy pop of Burt Bacharach, she has a right — the legendary songwriter has championed her music and even written songs specifically for her. However, Rumer, aka Sarah Joyce, is no mere song interpreter, having written or co-written most of the tunes on her full-length debut album, Seasons of My Soul. Say hello to this “Goodbye Girl” with the big Karen Carpenter voice as she launches her North American tour tonight. —Falling James
Laena Geronimo was the bassist for the Like during their final and best era as a hip, high-velocity B-52s-via-Blondie pop band. But she's always been admirably generous with her multi-instrumentality, adding violin, voice and more to noted locals like Starlite Desperation and Swahili Blonde. In between, she's nurtured her longtime solo project, Raw Geronimo, now recently expanded — more like “exploded” — into a full and wild live band with a brand-new 45 releasing at this show. If you remember the B-sides of '80s punk comps, where “art” bands like the Nuns, Los Microwaves and Suburban Lawns matched playful technique with a sense of humor and the sheer force of personality, then you'll recognize Raw Geronimo instantly: new wave in the best and weirdest way. —Chris Ziegler
WILCO at the Hollywood Palladium; LOUIE CRUZ BELTRAN at Vitello's.
Skrillex, Diplo, 12th Planet, Frankie Chan
If Aphex Twin and Trent Reznor had had a baby, it probably would have been Skrillex. Straight outta East L.A., the kid with the gothy hair first gained notoriety as frontman for Epitaph punks From First to Last. He went solo to pursue his dubstep-electro-glitch urges in wickedly eclectic mixes that jumble sweet melodics via trance-y synth lines, fearsome electro bass blasts and a pure rock & roll instinct. It's an almost peculiarly perfect set of skills that has made him a much-in-demand remixer, of course (including Katy Perry's “Marry the Night”), and suddenly he's everywhere: He's been nominated for five Grammy Awards this year! He'll be battling L.A.'s bass/wobble comer 12th Planet; also Diplo, the Mad Decent/Favela Funk mainman and biggie remixer (Beyoncé, Snoop Dogg). —John Payne
As recently as last summer, this Baton Rouge transplant could be seen doing his thing every weekend on Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade, and he's still known to hit that open-air venue (of sorts) when the mood strikes him. At the moment, though, John West is keeping busy with work on his debut for Island Def Jam's Mercury imprint. Last year the label released advance cuts, featuring rappers Pusha T (of the Clipse) and Big Sean, which suggest it plans to market West to those hip-hop heads who bought John Mayer's records. Tonight West headlines a Vibe-sponsored show at the Roxy with support from Los Angeles' good food–loving TiRon & Ayomari and Raphael Saadiq protégés Tha Boogie. —Mikael Wood
The My Hollow Drum collective probably is best known to the wider world as home base for beatmaker Teebs, whose deep and liquid compositions were famously lauded by Flying Lotus as sounding like Avatar looked. So what does that make Hollow Drum member Co.Fee? Last year's Easy Listening sounds like what the space marines needed in Aliens: sophisticated electronics, vicious slashes of synthesizer and bass dropping at velocity from deep space. He's got samples from all over this planet — people who chase down world-music reissues for the fuzz guitar will know just where Co.Fee's coming from — and a destination way out in the unknown. It's music for anyone who ever secretly rooted for the monsters to win. —Chris Ziegler
WILCO at the Wiltern; ROY HARGROVE QUINTET at Catalina; ALABAMA SHAKES at Troubadour; KURT ROSENWINKEL at Musicians Institute; BOWERY BEASTS, WHISPERING PINES, ZIG ZAGS at Bootleg Bar.
Wolves in the Throne Room
This Washington State outfit hails from a subculture sufficiently obsessed with detail that its Los Angeles-based record label, Southern Lord, describes Wolves in the Throne Room this way: “A band that merge[s] a Cascadian eco-spiritual awareness with the misanthropic Norwegian eruptions of the '90s.” More simply put, it plays ferocious (if oddly beautiful) black metal about hugging trees. Its latest, last year's Celestial Lineage, features titles like “Rainbow Illness” and “Woodland Cathedral,” the latter of which received the NPR-stream treatment alongside tunes by Neon Indian and Markéta Irglová of the Swell Season. Whatever the specifics of the band's circumstance, its live show — volume, smoke, superfast drum beats — is an accessible spectacle to behold. —Mikael Wood
TIM LEFEBVRE, DANNY FRANKEL at Blue Whale; THE WOOD BROS. at Largo; BIG FREEDIA at Bootleg Bar; BERN at Cafe Cordiale; ALLAH LAS, EXPLODING FLOWERS, CELLAR DOORS at the Satellite.