Cameron Wittig

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Tapes ’n Tapes, blissfully unaware
of the oncoming train

Monica Medeiros

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Every day is the Renaissance Faire with the Parson Red Heads.

Katie Cassidy

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Northern State defy their photographer’s plea to look into the camera.

Chana at Temple Bar

Who says music has to be full of doom and gloom all the time? The local singer Chana’s new debut EP, Manos Arriba, is an ebullient assortment of dance tracks that are enlivened by a variety of inescapably catchy beats and clever production touches from co-songwriter and Volumen Cero producer Marthin Chan. “La Duda” and “A Veces” sound a little like Julieta Venegas’ airy pop as Chana coos engagingly sunny melodies, but the songs are pumped up with a harder, funkier and more readily danceable ska backing. She calls her music “trop-electro-hip-pop,” and you can hear traces of the New York/Miami native’s dance and art-school background in the way she refuses to dumb down her electrically eclectic dance music. (Chana recently used her terpsichorean skills to choreograph a video for folk-pop singer Mia Doi Todd.) She’s similarly charming when she trades lyrics with guest rapper Malverde amid the bouncing dub echoes of the intoxicating song “The Whistler.” (Falling James)

Rolling Blackouts at Charlie O’s Lounge

Rolling Blackouts have finally got the Led out of their system and seem to have settled on a sound that’s closer to that of their Hawthorne brothers the Beach Boys. And while their new music isn’t exactly “Good Vibrations” or “California Girls,” there are definitely traces of a warm, summertime sound — veering off into ’70s Camaro-rock territory. After nearly six years together, the Rolling Blackouts still thrill with their soaring harmonies and solid musicianship, peppered with just the right amount of hand claps and tambourines, making each show an air-guitar/sing-along party. Even though stardom of epic proportions still (shockingly) eludes them, they’re always plugging away and keeping it fuzzy and wild. An EP is in the works, but until then check out one of their upcoming shows at Charlie O’s, where you can catch a hook and cozy up to an endless supply of riffs. Also May 22 and June 5. 501 S. Spring St., dwntwn. (Kat Jetson)

The Deadbirds at the Bordello

Since he moved into the now-gentrified Villa Elaine a decade ago, Brandon McCulloch’s world on Vine Street has become something of a legend. The entrepreneurial busker first founded Substance Records and released a haunting compilation called California from the arty derelicts who hung about/squatted there (Remy Zero, Spacetwins, Aaron Embry, et al.), before releasing his ex-band Silver’s elegiac Red City in 2002 — an album that solidified him further as an artist’s artist rather than a household name. Even still, McCulloch helped make the Hotel Café a recognizable venue with his early residencies there, and whenever he straps on the acoustic at the Three Clubs, he’s received like Lou Reed. After taking some time off to help produce tracks for the likes of Nancy Sinatra and Rachael Yamagata, McCulloch returns with a gentler power yearn in his new band, he Deadbirds, who replace Silver’s coked-up keys-and-guitar arrangements with violins and sedatives. (Chuck Mindenhall) Also playing Thursday:

RUSH at Nokia Theatre; YEAR LONG DISASTER at Alex’s Bar; HAWNAY TROOF at the Smell.




Elbow at Avalon

Elbow are perfectly demonstrative of what a Britpop band should be. Remember when Oasis devolved into a parody of itself, and Blur stumbled into unexciting American collaborations? That wasn’t the intended eventuality for ’90s British rock exports. Radiohead are great, but they don’t have anything to do with the kind of soggy anorak wailers that rock audiences the world over require. A rock band from the U.K. should be everything that Elbow is: great on guitar, thematically dour, Martin Amis–level clever, and indulgent of a little grandiosity, psychedelia and weirdness when it’s called for. They’ve endured lots of years in the business for not a lot of (commercial) acknowledgment without falling face-first into helicopter vanity. Maintaining their unpretentious, early-Beatles thing over four studio albums and various extra pursuits like a Destiny’s Child cover and a landmark tour in Cuba, Elbow fulfill whatever the British version of manifest destiny is. (Kate Carraway)

The Parson Red Heads at Spaceland


With their clunky old-timey name, the Parson Red Heads might initially seem like yet another retro country-rock band, and these exiles from Eugene, Oregon, do have elements of the Byrds in their sun-dappled harmonies. But on their upcoming CD EP, Owl & Timber, they reveal some new twists to their sound. The first track, “County Line,” encompasses several dramatic shifts, beginning with the gorgeously fused celestial hum of Erin Way’s glowing keyboards and Raymond Richards’ hazy pedal-steel guitar before giving way to Samuel Fowles’ and lead singer Evan Way’s chiming Big Star–style guitar chords. It’s as soothing and catchy as an eight-minute power-pop song can be. This extended family and their friends (who include drummer Brette Marie Way and bassist David Swensen) relocated to Los Angeles a couple years ago, and you can hear traces of Southern California (the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Love, the Beach Boys) in some of their new songs. “Got It All” marches along with mellow vocals laid over jangly guitars, while “Don’t Hold Back” and “Crowds” echo the pastoral folkie dreaminess of their earlier tunes. (Falling James)

Slick Rick at the Rhythm Lounge

There isn’t a more appropriately named rapper than Slick Rick. The London-born, Bronx-based MC is smooth like a velvet tracksuit and spits constant free-flowing rhymes like water at Niagara Falls. Although many know of MC Ricky D as the originator of “La Di Da Di,” covered on Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle, his debut full-length, 1988’s The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, is near the top of most every hip-hop critic’s best-of list thanks to rap standards such as “Children’s Story,” “Indian Girl (An Adult Story),” “Teenage Love” and “Mona Lisa.” Hip-hop naysayers argue that the genre is nothing more than someone talking over a beat. Little do they know how accurate that statement is when discussing Rick the Ruler. Many MCs go for an unnatural vocal style to sound unique, but the man born Ricky Walters never comes off as anything but calm, comfortable and in control. 245 Pine Ave., Level 2, Long Beach. Also at the Roxy, Sat. (Ryan Ritchie)

Tapes ’n Tapes at the Troubadour

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Cloud Cult obediently look directly into the camera.


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Mystery Hangup: Don’t they have Caller ID?

Uniting the lyrical interests of Pavement and the Decemberists (it can be done!) with Pixies-style soigné (and sex-nerd triumph not unlike that enjoyed by Fall Out Boy), Tapes ’n Tapes have enough smarts to get away clean with reworking the indie-rock songbook. From Minneapolis (refreshing!), the band seriously benefited from a classic Web 2.0 push involving a critical mass of hype for their first effort, The Loon. Later, Tapes ’n Tapes served as the center of a viral online clip from MTV’s sketch show Human Giant, wherein the blogging vox populi are violently coerced into promoting the band. The clip was only medium funny (the “TV” part of MTV hasn’t been really good since Sifl and Olly), but its message, now an old one, was sharply made. Validating all of this attention, Tapes ’n Tapes recently released Walk It Off, which is, predictably, more of the same thing. Again. (Kate Carraway)

Underground Road to Candyland at Alex’s Bar

Todd Congelliere flirted with pop music for more than a decade, but his punk roots kept him from committing to the genre until recently. The San Pedro resident dabbled in harmony on 1994’s Dance My Dunce by F.Y.P., a group that started as a hardcore band, then morphed into a pop-punk trio by the time of 2000’s Toys That Kill. The ex–professional skater continued with Toys That Kill, a still-active group that performs Buzzcocks-style punk. But that wasn’t enough, as Congelliere formed Underground Railroad to Candyland to perform covers in TTK’s downtime. The covers thing didn’t stick as the singer-guitarist wrote material that became Bird Roughs, a 12-track disc comprised of clean guitars, surf-influenced instrumentals, big hooks and a steady rhythm section. The album is the first release in Congelliere’s career that ditches dissonance to focus on power-pop delight, resulting in the culmination of a songwriter whose evolution continues to improve and inspire. (Ryan Ritchie)

Also playing Friday:






Northern State at the Knitting Factory

This all-lady New York hip-hop trio have ceded much of the media buzz they attracted when they started releasing records back in 2002 — either a sign that all-lady New York hip-hop trios are flourishing (probably not) or that the media have moved on to other novelties (um, yeah). But a lack of mainstream notice hasn’t dimmed the women of Northern State’s enthusiasm for what they do: On last year’s Can I Keep This Pen? (their debut for Mike Patton’s Ipecac label after a stint with Sony), Spero, Hesta Prynn and Sprout throw down about working hard, dealing with sucka mofos and wanting to have their minds blown over tracks that downplay the differences between ’80s electro, ’90s rap and ’00s indie rock. Onstage, Northern State devote more of their attention to putting on a show than to polishing their flow — a welcome rarity in hip-hop of any stripe. (Mikael Wood)

The Duke Spirit at the Troubadour

In making their second full-length CD, the Duke Spirit burrowed themselves into the Mojave Desert and recorded an album with Chris Goss (Masters of Reality) that was eventually titled — inappropriately enough — Neptune (Shangri-La Music). It’s a fascinating collision of influences, with the grand melodramatics of the British band’s heavy rock taken to even weirder places by Goss and desert-rat cronies like Dave Catching (Eagles of Death Metal). Above it all hovers the serene presence of Liela Moss, whose charismatic vocals sometimes come off like a modern-day equivalent to the Shocking Blue’s late lead singer, Mariska Veres. Neptune is a dreamy, druggy and dangerous album, ranging from the frantic, glittery crush of “Send a Little Love Token” to the hypnotizing ballad “Wooden Heart,” which is wrapped up in a cottony clouds of soft noise like the Jesus & Mary Chain. Moss coos icily over “The Step and the Walk,” whose ’60s-style shadowy pop verses are blown up into big rock choruses. “This Ship Was Built to Last,” meanwhile, is like a sugary girl-group confection on steroids. Great stuff. (Falling James)

Also playing Saturday:

PITBULL, SNOOP DOGG, MILEY CYRUS, JONAS BROTHERS at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, 2 p.m.; DENGUE FEVER at Clover Park, Santa Monica, 5 p.m.; THE BINGES at the Key Club; CHUPACOBRA, BLACK WIDOWS, WILD WEEKEND, THE BLESSINGS at Mr. T’s Bowl; SLICK RICK at the Roxy; JUNKYARD, LITTLE CAESAR at Safari Sam’s.



Playing Sunday:

PHIL LESH, GRACE POTTER & THE NOCTURNALS at the Greek Theatre, 5:30 p.m.; RUSH at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater; THE WARLOCKS at Alex’s Bar; SYD STRAW & THE PEOPLE at McCabe’s; BAD DUDES, POLAR GOLDIE CATS at the Smell.



Playing Monday:



Playing Tuesday:




Cloud Cult at the Knitting Factory

Cloud Cult’s main man, Craig Minowa, and his intrepid, ever-expanding Minneapolis crew have released a new album, their eighth, called Feel Good Ghosts(Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes), a wonderfully chameleonic and generally uplifting thing despite its core themes of death and dashed hopes. Minowa sings, “I’ve had enough of hiding underneath my covers/I’m sick of all this poop that brings me down, down, down,” as he reels back and forth between his finely crafted classical rock–cum–epic-soundtrack stylings, glitchy beat-strewn oddness and intimate chamber pop. A deceptively charming album that frames its soul-searing lyrics in lovely musical counterpoint to resonate in the deepest way possible, Feel Good is about loving and losing something (someone) precious, and how to deal with your own survival in the aftermath. The live act is apparently quite an extravaganza, featuring two artists who paint during the performance. (John Payne)

Kate Nash at the Henry Fonda Theater

Like fellow British popster Lily Allen, Kate Nash gets a lot of mileage out of dissing her ex-boyfriends, which is quite liberating for her, if not always for her audience. Occasionally Nash’s declarations of romantic independence come off as cathartic statements we can all relate to and cheer along with, but at other times her catty comments about dodgy, doggy boyfriends — such as when she gets “bitter” about a boy who should be “fitter” — might make you feel as if you’re caught in the crossfire of someone else’s embarrassing breakup argument. Nash’s piano-pop songs aren’t as peppy and buoyantly ska-based as Allen’s, but she has the potential for more musical range and emotional heft. “I can be alone, yeah/I can watch a sunset on my own,” she sings ruefully on “Merry Happy” (from her 2007 debut CD, Made of Bricks), bravely trying to convince herself that she’s happy. It’s sort of a poignantly endearing feminist flip side to the Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset.” Lest you think she’s merely fragile and fluffy, Nash punks out quite convincingly à la Poly Styrene on the recent single “Model Behaviour,” where she cheekily advises some anorexic models, “You don’t have to suck dick to succeed … you’re just a bitch who forgot to eat!” (Falling James)


Also playing Wednesday:

THE LAURA LOVE DUO at Cerritos Center; YOSHIDA BROTHERS at El Rey Theatre; MASON JENNINGS, BRETT DENNEN, MISSY HIGGINS at Barnum Hall, Santa Monica High School; LOVE PSYCHEDELICO at the Bordello; KÁRIN TATOYAN at Spaceland; LANGHORNE SLIM, FERRABY LIONHEART at the Troubadour.



Blowfly, Antiseen at the Knitting Factory

Pop music succeeds best when taken to the extreme, and this mad coupling reaches two very bizarre points on the musical spectrum. With a deliciously vile brand of spew that’s made him a kingpin in the underworld, the redoubtable Blowfly stands at Olympian heights in the realm of yech. Touted as the original dirty rapper (a handle that scarcely skims the top layer of scum off his deep well of outrageous oratory), he never fails to implode the brain with his spontaneous ejaculations of satirical venery. Antiseen, the self-proclaimed bad-will ambassadors of destructo rock have been wreaking havoc since their filth-infused days with GG Allin, and their frantic mixture of aural agony, Southern-gothic fury and sheer FTW disregard for all laws of god and man is a reliable recipe for disaster. Gloriously devolved contrarians all, almost noble in their perversity, and certain to elevate squirming to a preferred recreational activity. (Jonny Whiteside)

Mystery Hangup at Safari Sam’s

Like their namesake, Mystery Hangup are creepy and unsettling, inspiring a certain amount of ominous foreboding and jealousy. The Orange County trio of sisters twine Cat’s feverishly overwrought wraithlike keening with Bisou’s angular guitar and keyboard parts and drummer Lux’s shifting post-punk rhythms. Even as Cat scratches out heavy-metal guitar solos, Bisou counters with artier, inventively exhilarating chord progressions, such as the Sonic Youth–influenced wall of noise towering over “Sun.” Perhaps as the result of too many anonymous late-night phone calls, Cat wails her restlessly insomniac lyrics with a heavy dose of doom-ridden goth romanticism on such tracks as “Morning Glare” and “My Heart Sleeps Awaken,” from Mystery Hangup’s 2007 debut CD, Three Moons and the Crashing Sun. The group’s production with the estimable Paul Roessler and Geza X captures both of Mystery Hangup’s extremes, from the gracefully melodic intro of “Je Ne Fume Pas” to Cat’s anguished cries and Bisou’s sideways-slanting sheets of raining guitar on “Vista de un Ladron.” (Falling James)

Also playing Thursday:

MASON JENNINGS, BRETT DENNEN, MISSY HIGGINS at Barnum Hall, Santa Monica High School; MISS DERRINGER at the Bordello; TINA DICO, AM, WAZ at the Hotel Café; THE SIXTH CHAMBER at House of Blues’ Foundation Room; LES NUBIANS at the Key Club; LITTLE ONES, RA RA RIOT at the Troubadour; BRANT BJORK & THE BROS at the Viper Room.

LA Weekly