Category: Anti-

In rotation: Kelly Hogan's 'I Like to Keep Myself in Pain'

In rotation: Kelly Hogan's "I Like To Keep Myself In Pain." A series in Sunday Calendar about what Times writers and contributors are listening to right now...

Kelly Hogan

“My name is Frank Sinatra,” sings Kelly Hogan on the M. Ward-penned “Daddy’s Little Girl.” She’s not, of course, but she pulls it off and that is no easy feat. Hogan turns the character study into gripping drama, delivering the lyrics with middle-of-the-night thoughtfulness and careful, woozy phrasing. 

There’s 12 more where that came from, each one expertly crafted with an all-star cast of songwriters (Robyn Hitchcock, the late Vic Chesnut) and a knock-out band that includes Booker T. Jones and the Dap-Kings’ Gabe Roth.

They lead Hogan on excursions into country, soul and pop, and never steal attention away from this long unheralded artist. Whether it’s the bar-band grandeur of “Haunted,” the rootsy nostalgia-turned-stubbornness of “Golden” or the symphonic vocals of the recession blues “We Can’t Have Nice Things,” Hogan sings with graceful warmth. It’s an album that begs for repeated listens, as Hogan is an artist who approaches each song as if it’s a story to unfold.

Kelly Hogan
“I Like To Keep Myself In Pain”
Anti-

ALSO:

Liz Phair on new record: 'I'm going to get this one right'

D'Angelo's return in Europe: A singer comes out of the shadows

Nicki Minaj, Glen Campbell, Wilco among L.A.'s top summer concerts

-- Todd Martens

Photo: Kelly Hogan. Credit: Neko Case

Bullying, hardware Trojans and the melodic drama of Tim Fite

Tim Fite, with unknown cat
Don't be fooled by the sometimes whimsical nature of Brooklyn artist Tim Fite. He could have a hand in preventing the next world war.  

The sound collagist-turned-pop composer, whose "Ain't Ain't Ain't" was released Tuesday on Silver Lake's Anti-, spends his days helping international scientists communicate. An English language tutor at Brooklyn's Polytechnic Institute of New York University, Fite of late has been learning about the scientific evils of the world, namely the technological timebombs that are hardware Trojans. 

"It’s terrifying," Fite said while on lunch break. "People are hacking technology at the chip level. They’re implanting Trojans in chips before they’re implanted in different pieces of technology. Then they’re activated and can take over the world. [One of my students] figuring out how to keep people from hardware-hacking a nuclear missile, sending it careening into nice people who don’t deserve to die.

"It’s a little more important than rock 'n’ roll, and I’m glad I can help with the grammar." 

It helps keep Fite's career, one that's been largely conducted in obscurity, in perspective. "The financial situation right now looks bleak," Fite said when asked whether he had plans to tour to L.A. With "Ain't Ain't Ain't" his last album due to Anti-, Fite's recording future is now entering a phase of the unknown. 

Personality-wise, Fite can come across as a bit of an oddball. He might, for instance, instruct his audience to create clay monsters at his concerts, and with songs assembled out of homemade loops and accompanied with cartoonish clips, a Fite concert can sometimes feel like a low-rent "Pee-wee's Playhouse." Melodic exploration, however, is placed ahead of weirdness, and "Ain't Ain't Ain't" is equally childlike and meticulous. 

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Personal playlist: Islands' Nick Thorburn on songs ruined by love

Islands
Maybe, wonders Islands' Nick Thorburn, he needs a therapist. Instead, he has a new album. His Valentine's Day release, "A Sleep & A Forgetting," is the latest addition to the never-ending library of rock 'n' roll breakup albums. "I miss my own bed and my old life," he sings at the album's mid-point, not leaving much to the imagination.

"A Sleep & A Forgetting" is classic pop at its most fragile. There's fuzzy, garage rock keyboards in "Can't Feel My Face," but the forlorn vocals keep the mood far from celebratory. The ballads are full of space, often marked by a slow-burning and redemptive piano, and tracks such as "No Crying" are folk-pop shaded with vintage soul.

"The idea," Thorburn said of the album. "was to get super stark by the end. I wanted there to be no hope."

The brokenhearted can gather for a record-release party/commiseration gala tonight at the Bootleg Theater. The Canadian-born Thorburn, who's also working on a comic, "This Is Howie Doo," recorded "A Sleep & A Forgetting" in Los Angeles. Getting so personal, he said, wasn't easy.

"I really wrestled with this," he said. "In the early draft of the songs, I kept trying to cloak the meaning in more obtuse metaphors. I had to fight with myself to be as honest as possible. I was in a vulnerable and raw emotional state. It wasn't calculated, like, 'I need to convey this to affect more people.' It was just feeling insincere and fraudulent. I felt like I should be as honest as I could without boring people to death." 

With today being Valentine's Day, Pop & Hiss asked Thorburn for something of a lonely-hearts playlist. What follows, essentially, are four songs Thorburn associates with love-gone-bust.

"They're songs that are sort of sacred," he said. "I don't seek them out. These are all songs that are evocative of my feelings of a time when relationships went south."

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Personal playlist: Tom Waits recalls Captain Beefheart, the late Don Van Vliet

The singer-songwriter, whose new album is called ‘Bad as Me,' talks about Captain Beefheart, the late Don Van Vliet.

Tom Waits

Tom Waits sat at a table at Pete’s Henny Penny in Petaluma last week talking about his forthcoming release, “Bad as Me.” The 61-year-old singer, songwriter, actor and roustabout calls record promotion “doing the dishes” — talking to the press after the feast that is the creative process is finished. The Times will have a full-length feature on his new album in Sunday’s paper, but here he discusses the late singer and artist Don Van Vliet, a.k.a. Captain Beefheart, who died earlier this year.

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Joe Henry talks the open-window approach to 'Reverie'

Joe Henry 
Joe Henry recalls a crystallizing experience more than a dozen years ago at a Miles Davis concert at the Greek Theatre, a revelation about Davis’ musical aesthetic  that cropped up during a moment when the great jazz trumpeter wasn’t playing a note.

Henry seems to recall with perfect clarity every detail about the incident, which was precipitated by Davis’ struggles with a microphone that was clipped to the bell of his horn.

“I could tell that something was irritating him because he kept looking toward the side of the stage to the young man who was mixing the [stage] monitors,” Henry told Pop & Hiss on Monday. “Finally, Miles stopped the band. He spoke into that microphone and called the young man out to the middle of the stage. Miles said very clearly, ‘When I play quiet, I want it to be quiet.’ Then he sent the young man back to his post.

“What was happening onstage was what happens a lot in the audience,” Henry said, “where more often than not somebody is working very hard at the mixing board to unify the sound that’s coming off the stage. But maybe the dynamics and the balance of the music don’t want to be unified.”

It’s an idea that will be in play -- even if people in the audience aren’t consciously aware of it -- when Henry appears Tuesday night at Largo at the Coronet, where he’ll be playing his new album, “Reverie,” in its entirety on the day of its release, with the same core players with whom he recorded it at his home studio in South Pasadena. That group includes pianist Keefus Ciancia, bassist David Piltch, drummer Jay Bellerose and guest keyboardist Patrick Warren.

The album is a deeply nuanced piece of music. In many respects, it's an impressionistic work whose poetically wistful character emerges from the interplay among musicians working in close proximity in real time, listening and responding to one another in the moment. In other words, the same way great jazz typically is created.

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'Progress'? New Booker T. Jones video captures an evolving downtown Los Angeles

Downtown Los Angeles has been a trusty go-to character since Hollywood’s beginnings. Harold Lloyd dangled from a clock in the silent era, and Bunker Hill, in its pre-high-rise slum-ward glory, was a go-to setting for early noir films. More recently, “(500) Days of Summer” re-imagined Los Angeles as a fairy tale fantasy land and L.A. Noir immortalized the city as a video game playground.

Director Aaron Hymes, however, largely played the city straight for the video of Booker T. Jones’ “Progress,” a cut from his latest release for local indie Anti-, “The Road From Memphis.” Said Hymes via email, “As soon as I heard the track, it reminded me of the gritty and progressive vignettes from 'Sesame Street' in the late '70s."

Old-fashioned split screens and mirroring effects give the clip a vintage feel, but shots of downtown’s Gold Line train instantly make it clear that this is the present day. My Morning Jacket’s Jim James has the vocal lead, which promises better days are ahead, and the mood falls somewhere between resignation and hopefulness. Jones' unmistakable organ provides the emotional uplift, its tones perking up the midtempo, sylphlike groove. 

Though a few shots in the video stray from downtown to venture out to Long Beach, Hymes said 90% of the clip is Los Angeles. The neighborhood is still one marked by contrasts, at least on the surface, as upper-class lofts sit adjacent to Skid Row. Yet Hymes was attracted to what he saw as the area's social commitment to improvement. He doesn't, however, sugarcoat, as images of vacant storefronts and deserted, paint-chipped parking meters alternate with preserved historic sites and new investments in public transportation. 

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72 Hours: Sean Rowe's stark storytelling, Beaches bring the noise and more

A look at some of the weekend's top concerts, with one Thursday night gig added as well (96 hours?).

Sean_rowe_6_

Don't be fooled by the quiet nature of Sean Rowe's music. These are songs that are unexpectedly disarming. First, Rowe's baritone commands attention -- a deep, lived-in, worn-out and seen-it-all voice, one belonging to a barroom storyteller with a slyly understated grasp of melodic twists and turns. Then, his lyrics don't leave much room for a listener to turn away.

The bluesy highway haunt of "Jonathan" makes for a gripping landscape, and the memoir -- seemingly from the point of view of the victim of a tragic car wreck -- is full of tension. Details come quick, a curdling snapshot of the visions that make a lasting impression. "Remember Megan with her makeup off," Rowe sings, a moment of nostalgia amid the wreckage.

"That story was a lot longer than the final product," Rowe said. "It’s a real challenge to edit without losing the original intent in the songs, and that was really tough to record. I still don’t feel like it’s totally right. I don’t like to go into details on it, but that song was based on a true story. It was a car accident, and the people involved were people I was close to, and the song is taken from different perspectives."

Rowe's debut, released earlier this year on local indie Anti-, was recorded back in 2009. But Rowe wasn't necessarily an easy artist for a label to track down, living in upstate New York and scraping a living by playing to disinterested crowds and foraging for food in the wilderness. When Rowe appears at the Bootleg Theater on Friday night, opening for the folksy Olin & the Moon, it will be a long way removed from his marathon sets loaded with soul and R&B covers. 

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Exclusive: Wilco forms own label, aligns with Silver Lake's Anti- Records

WILCO_6_
Chicago's rock 'n' roll shape-shifters Wilco have formed their own label,  dBpm Records, whose releases will be distributed and marketed by eclectic Silver Lake independent Anti- Records. A full announcement is expected soon.

"This is an idea we've discussed for years,” Wilco's Jeff Tweedy said via his publicist. “We really like doing things ourselves, so having our own label feels pretty natural to me. And, to be working with Anti- -- a label that was started by a punk rock guy to sell his own records -- seems like a perfect fit for us.” 

Wilco became free agents after its 2009 Nonesuch release, "Wilco (The Album)," and the move marks not only a shift to the independent world for the band, but also quite possibly Anti-'s biggest coup since inking Tom Waits, whose 1999 album,  "Mule Variations," was the label's first release. Anti- is an offshoot of Epitaph Records, the punk label founded by Bad Religion's Brett Gurewitz. 

A timetable has not yet been given for a new album. An Anti- spokeswoman could not be reached for comment early Wednesday afternoon. Wilco spokeswoman Deb Bernardini said the band is currently recording its follow-up to "Wilco (The Album)" in Chicago.

The Wilco camp already has a connection with Anti-. Wilco architect Tweedy produced the most recent album from Chicago soul legend Mavis Staples, "You Are Not Alone," which was released last year on the label. At the time, Pop & Hiss spoke with Tweedy and asked the singer about the possibility of signing with Anti-, an adventurous imprint that's home to rock legends (Roky Erickson), rock weirdos (Waits), rock elegance (Neko Case) and rock mercenaries (Grinderman). 

"I think they’re pretty smart," Tweedy said at the time. "I think they’re music lovers. I really respond to it. It’s very similar to the way I am. It’s a lot more like the way the world exists now than when I was growing up. There are less lines drawn in the sand between genres. Punk rock was a line in the sand for a lot of kids when I was growing up." 

Tweedy had hinted that the band would soon be going the indie route. In the summer of 2010, Tweedy told Billboard that it "seems unlikely that we will be under the umbrella of a major label." Indeed, Wilco is already one of the more self-sufficient working rock bands. The band staged its first-ever festival, Solid Sound, in North Adams, Mass., last year, and will be bringing Solid Sound back to the area for Round 2 in June.

"As we reached the end of our last deal, it felt like it was time for a change, and the one thing we were certain we did NOT want to do was to sign another traditional recording agreement," said manager Tony Margherita via a written statement. "Our discussions with Anti-, coming on the back of a great experience working with them on the Mavis Staples record, led us to thinking we might be able to come up with something quite different from the norm that could potentially be better for us and, frankly, a lot more interesting."

Margherita will oversee the label, based in Easthampton, Mass. The label will release "all future Wilco recordings and more," according to the statement. As for what the "more" entails, details have not yet been unveiled. 

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L.A.'s Anti- has won the respect of Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, whose band just happens to be a free agent

WILCO_TWEEDY_LAT_6_

Like asking Yankees chief Joe Girardi if he would be willing to leave New York to manage the Chicago Cubs, peppering a famous musician with inquiries as to where his band may or may not sign is a line of interrogation that's sure to be met with vagaries (warning: this post has them). Yet Wilco's Jeff Tweedy knows the questions will come his way, and understands that speculation could point the daring Chicago pop band to a certain L.A. indie.

On Tuesday, Epitaph's multi-genre imprint Anti- Records will release "You Are Not Alone" from Chicago soul luminary Mavis Staples, a refined collection of gospel-tinged folk and blues that was produced by Tweedy in Wilco's Windy City studio. As detailed in Sunday's Calendar story, Staples is experiencing a late-career rejuvenation. The 71-year-old and 60-year-recording vet is now on her third album from Anti-, and the artist said she's noticed a boost in attention since linking with the respected label, where legends (Roky Erickson) stand alongside the elegant (Neko Case) and the out-and-out weird (Man Man). 

The label's multi-genre approach is not too different from that of Warner Music Group imprint Nonesuch Records, where Wilco has just completed its recording contract. With Tweedy recently telling Billboard that it "seems unlikely that we will be under the umbrella of a major label" for future albums, has his experience working with Anti- on the Staples album put the Silver Lake-based label in the running as a future Wilco home?

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Mavis Staples on working with Jeff Tweedy: 'When you hear this, you will get up.'

MAVIS_STAPLES_LAT_6_

There would seemingly be little that would catch Mavis Staples by surprise. Yet with Staples now 71 years old, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy found a way to get the soul/gospel veteran to step out of her comfort zone -- literally. 

Staples' career began in earnest in the '50s, and with the Staples Singers she spent her youth on the Southern gospel circuit. Through the family's close association with Martin Luther King Jr., the Staples Singers provided a score for the civil rights era. It's safe to say that in her 60 years of singing, the South Side of Chicago resident has seen plenty. 

Yet she had never before recorded in a Chicago stairwell in below-freezing weather.

Tweedy wanted to capture Staples a cappella and in the cold, putting the boldness and defiance of her richly deep vocals front and center for a rendition of the jubilant gospel cut "Wonderful Savior." Staples, however, was more concerned about the temperature.  

"When he said he wanted to go in the stairwell," Staples recalled, "I said, ‘Are you crazy? It’s 10 below zero! I’m not going out there.’" 

Tweedy didn't relent. Tasked with producing Staples' second studio effort for Silver Lake's Anti- Records, the Sept. 14 release "You Are Not Alone," Staples noted that Tweedy took great pains to give her soulful traditionalism a refreshing spin. In the end, Staples put her full trust in Tweedy.

"He’s very family-orientated, and me too," Staples said. "He talked about his two sons. I liked him from that." 

In other words, she was willing to brave the Chicago winter for Tweedy, who recorded Staples in Wilco's famed Windy City recording studio "The Loft." 

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