Thursday, November 30, 2006

Amy Millan at the Troubadour, December 7

Already familiar to the indie nation for her presence in Broken Social Scene and Stars, Amy Millan takes a solo turn on Honey From the Tombs (Arts & Crafts), which meanders into far folksier, alt-country territory. Songs like “Baby I” and “Losin’ You” are stark, plaintive confessionals that should come complete with a shot and a beer. Lyrical images of dirt roads after dark, front-porch swings and hard-luck lovers wondering where it all went wrong come alive in her music, with echoes of Mojave Three and the mellower side of Mazzy Star. Oddly enough, one of the album’s standouts is the gorgeously lush “Skinny Boy,” a jangle-heavy shoegazing rock jam that turns up the noise and finds hope (however fleeting) in “lips I could spend a day with.” Sweet emotion indeed.

(Originally published in the LA Weekly, 11/06)

Imogen Heap at the Wiltern, December 1

Frou Frou’s eponymous 2002 album was just another sadly overlooked CD clogging the used bins at Amoeba until Zach Braff’s ex-girlfriend suggested their song “Let Go” for his movie Garden State. The tune’s ornate blend of baroque and beats perfectly encapsulated the film’s precious approach to growing up, an apt centerpiece for the soundtrack’s ad-hoc Big Chill for the iPod-generation sentiment. Singer Imogen Heap’s flair for the dramatic carries over to her solo work, an electrified juxtaposition of emotive introspection and digital manipulation that’s decidedly cinematic. (Her version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” played as Marissa died in Ryan’s arms on The O.C., the series that helped catapult her song “Hide & Seek.”) She shares the stage here with beat-box phenomenon Kid Beyond and acoustic troubadour Levi Weaver.

(Originally published in the LA Weekly, 11/06)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Talib Kweli @ House of Blues Sunset, Sunday November 26

When Jay-Z big-upped Brooklyn’s perennial indie-rap hero Talib Kweli on “Moment of Clarity” (“If skills sold/truth be told/I’d probably be/lyrically/Talib Kweli”), it was a watershed moment. The king of bling and braggadocio acknowledging the people’s champion with such a bold proclamation was like a sledgehammer to the Berlin Wall between the underground and commercial sides of the hip-hop nation. Kweli’s been bashing away at it ever since. He’s adopted Jigga’s business acumen, establishing the Blacksmith Music label, snatching up fire-spitting rapstress Jean Grae. In the downtime until his upcoming album, Ear Drum, drops, Kweli’s MySpace page is burning with bomb tracks like “Funny Money,” alongside Madlib from their anticipated Liberation collaboration, and “Country Cousins,” which finds T.K. trading verses with Southern dons Bun B and Pimp C. Yo, Nas: Hip-hop is so not dead. Black Moon’s Buckshot opens.

(Originally published in the LA Weekly, 11/06)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Kevin Federline at House of Blues Sunset/Jay-Z on Jimmy Kimmel, November 22

I imagine Britney buzzed on Red Bull and licking Cheetos dust off her fingers, furiously flipping through an Us Weekly story about Whitney leaving Bobby. Suddenly, she has a moment of clarity. “Hey!” Britney exclaims to her ever-expanding brood and the day’s random manny. “Replace the crack with Starbucks, and it’s me and Kevin in 15 years. That’s not cool, y’all!” It’s hard not to appreciate Kevin Federline’s relentless opportunism just a little. From Britney to CSI to sucker-punching wrestler John Cena on WWE Raw, Holmes is repping Fresno pretty hard. Then there’s the music. From the faux Brazilian favela funk of “Popozao” to the equally facetious gangster rap of the wryly titled “America’s Most Hated,” this is about as ridiculous as it gets. Which, of course, is the point.

In contrast, on this very same evening Hovito (AKA Jay-Z) along with his new friends at Budweiser and The Jimmy Kimmel Show, shut down Hollywood Blvd to honor the release of Hov's Kingdom Come album. Regardless where you fall on the hater/fan spectrum, you can't deny there is no one working even half as hard as Jay right now. I mean damn. Is it me, or is he really everywhere at once right now? Today's edition of 106 & Jay on BET was live as hell. Just Blaze, Skateboard P, UGK, Timbo and Mephis Bleek riding shotgun while Jay-Z rolled out ten hits from his past 10 years in the game. On point and hopefully on Youtube by now. Me, I'm not mad at Kingdom Come at all. Disappointed maybe, but not mad...

(Originally published in the LA Weekly, 11/06. Most of it, anyway)

The Rapture, The Presets at Henry Fonda Theater, November 20

There’s always been more to Brooklyn-based band the Rapture than they’ve been given credit for. Because they’ve been overshadowed by their affiliation with indie dancehall crashers the DFA and deeply mired in the disco-punk shuffle of 2005, it would’ve been easy to chalk them up as a one-underground-hit wonder, thanks to the 2002 hipster anthem “House of Jealous Lovers,” which still sounds as furiously vital today as it did then. Their underappreciated debut, Echoes, found the band successfully experimenting with earnest ballads, moody techno and dramatic post-punk discordance. Now they’re back with Pieces of the People We Love, streamlining their sound into taut blasts of brainy, pop-tastic dance-rock for highbrow booty-shakers. With saxophones! The ’80s never sounded so good. Australian electro-twins the Presets get confrontationally digital like an irreverent, lo-fi version of the Knife.

(Originally published in the LA Weekly, 11/06)

Friday, November 10, 2006

Clipse, Luckyiam.PSC at House of Blues Sunset, November 13

Last year, rapper Young Jeezy scared parents and teachers alike with the ubiquitous urban logo of a scowling Frosty, a wry reference to dealing “snow” that showed up on scads of suburban teen t-shirts. But he’s got nothing on Virginia Beach snowmen the Clipse. Brothers Pusha T and Malice have rocked their way to the upper echelons of hip-hop society with true tales of inner-city street economics, their appropriately nasal flow married to the bouncy, futuristic productions of the Neptunes. They were discovered by the Ice Cream Man himself, Pharrell Williams. Protracted label drama has kept their relentlessly bootlegged sophomore LP, Hell Hath No Fury, from official release, but it’s already being touted as an instant rap classic. Tonight they share the stage with Living Legend Luckyiam.PSC representing the home team.

(Originally published in the LA Weekly, 11/06)

Lupe Fiasco at the Key Club, November 10

In a real-life hip-hop remake of Revenge of the Nerds, Chicago mic manipulator Lupe Fiasco brings back an organic appreciation of all things geek-chic: comic books, obscure Japanese clothing labels, sneakers (Reebok sells one of his designs) and, of course, skateboarding, with his swimming-pool-smooth single “Kick, Push” the nicest beat you’ll hear on televised skate competitions. Mentored by none other than rap’s Jedi master, Jay-Z, Fiasco showcases his levelheaded perspective, Islamic faith and admiration of Nas (F&L is modeled after Nas’ It Was Written CD) on his debut, Food & Liquor. Boasting tracks from the likes of Kanye West, the Neptunes and his own 1st & 15th crew, Fiasco’s album righteously bridges the gap between indie-friendly and radio-ready. The jury’s still out on the live show, so tonight’s the night.

(Originally published in the LA Weekly, 11/06)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Lee “Scratch” Perry at House of Blues Sunset, November 7

Like a smoked-out James Brown from way-outer space, reggae icon Lee “Scratch” Perry is one of modern music’s most profound and influential characters to whom countless artists are massively indebted. From his own genre-creating productions of the ’60s and ’70s that defined the dub aesthetic to work with everyone from Bob Marley to the Clash, this genuine genius/madman’s legendary status is long established. On his latest CD, Panic in Babylon (Narnack), the 70-year-old Perry has wandered back from the wilderness to produce his strongest full-length in years, despite the nonsensical narrations (“Have a Perry salad/for this is a Perry ballad”). It’s bolstered by remixes from disciples like DJ Spooky and TV on the Radio’s David Sitek, who remixes the title track with breathtaking aplomb. Shine on, you crazy diamond.

(Originally published in the LA Weekly, 11/06)

Love is All at The Echo, November 3

It’s time to get happy in indie land when this smiley-faced band of Swedes hits the spot. Gaining furious momentum across the blogosphere, these poppy post-punks charm with a delightfully unselfconscious joy, barreling through exuberant tunes like a teenager behind the wheel of his first car. Rife with bleating saxophones and melancholy melodies somewhere around early Psychedelic Furs and classic Romeo Void, their music can also rev it up with the best of them, like a sweeter version of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Love is All’s aptly titled album Nine Times That Same Song (What’s Your Rupture?) riffs all over the highs and lows of l-o-v-e both simply and effectively. Singer Josephine Olausson’s high-pitched yelp (Bj√∂rk O?) overflows with childlike glee against scrappy guitars and highly danceable beats. Pogo party tonight!

(Originally published in the LA Weekly, 11/06)