Category: Artist to watch

Faces to watch 2010: Warpaint

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WARPAINT

In the ghostly " Billie Holiday," the L.A. quartet Warpaint floats an elegiac version of the Mary Wells hit "My Guy" between narcotic, name-spelling mantras in honor of the grand jazz dame. It's one of the hypnotic, unexpected strokes that got Emily Kokal, Theresa Wayman, Jenny Lee Lindberg and recently added drummer Stella Mozgawa signed to Rough Trade Records, which will release Warpaint's debut full-length in summer 2010.

The band's six-song EP "Exquisite Corpse," which arrived this fall from local visionaries Manimal Vinyl, was mixed by former Red Hot Chili Pepper John Frusciante, who might seem an unlikely mentor at first. But as much as the Chili Peppers built tranced-out temples with their roiling funk, Warpaint aims to do the same but with a different set of arrows in their quiver.

Combining the dense, shadowy mood of some early Cure with the sonic drift of Mazzy Star and Cat Power's more hazy vocal work, Warpaint occupies a challenging space where the mood can vary from deep woods come-down to fierce primal ritual. It hits an especially sweet spot live, where the ladies sometimes swap instruments or hone in on those spine-tingling harmonies. In February, they'll tour with Akron/Family and they'll also perform at SXSW in March.

The biggest challenge for the band as they grow beyond the loving arms of L.A. hipsterdom will be expanding their palette without losing the haunting aura of their sound.

-- Margaret Wappler

More Faces:

Faces to Watch in 2010: Architecture

Faces to Watch in 2010: Theater

Faces to watch in 2010: Classical

Faces to watch 2010: Scott Amendola

Faces to watch 2010: Dum Dum Girls

Faces to watch 2010: The Living Sisters

Faces to watch 2010: Ke$ha

Faces to watch 2010: The Soft Pack

Faces of 2010: Entertainment (film, music, TV, new media)

Photo: Lauren Dukoff

Faces to watch 2010: Jypsi

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JYPSI

How do you harness a band that sings and plays like the Carter Family -- if the pioneering country group had emerged in the Summer of Love rather than at the tail end of the Jazz Age? That's a puzzle a lot of music-biz types in Nashville have been trying to solve for a few years since Jypsi, the group comprising siblings Lillie Mae, Scarlett, Amber-Dawn and Frank Rische, set up camp and promptly tossed aside the country-music rule book at freewheeling marathon gigs at Layla's Bluegrass Inn downtown.

The outside world is catching on: A new track, "Lipstick," turned up recently on ABC's "Desperate Housewives." And audiences from Music City residents to those at the Stagecoach Country Music Festival in Indio seem to have little trouble connecting with the group's sizzling mix of country, folk, bluegrass and rock.

For their major-label debut, due sometime in 2010, the quartet has hooked up with Taylor Swift's co-producer, Nathan Chapman. Perhaps that's a sign that Jypsi's a-star-is-born lead singer, Lillie Mae, who is two years younger than the woman who currently holds the keys to the pop-country kingdom, will succeed her as crossover queen?

-- Randy Lewis 

More Faces:

Faces to Watch in 2010: Architecture

Faces to Watch in 2010: Theater

Faces to watch in 2010: Classical

Faces to watch 2010: Scott Amendola

Faces to watch 2010: Dum Dum Girls

Faces to watch 2010: The Living Sisters

Faces to watch 2010: Ke$ha

Faces to watch 2010: The Soft Pack

Faces of 2010: Entertainment (film, music, TV, new media)

Photo:  Scarlett, Lillie Mae, Amber-Dawn and Frank Rische. Credit: Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times

Faces to watch 2010: The Soft Pack

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THE SOFT PACK

Locals via San Diego, the Soft Pack makes fast, scrappy music full of guitar riffs that ricochet between low-fi recklessness and sunny euphoria. On the band's upcoming self-titled debut album, the musicians tackle plenty of standard topics, with songs about girls, break-ups and the like delivered with punchy, punk-inspired zest.

Then there's the casual track or two about seceding from the union. "Ride the legislation," singer Matt Lamkin briefly shouts on "Pull Out," a frisky, cymbal-heavy number in which California becomes its own country.

Yet the Soft Pack -- the band abandoned its original name, the Muslims, after the musicians grew tired of deflecting questions about the meaning of the moniker -- never really comes across as angry. And who can blame them? Southern California is a swell place to live, and our garage-rockers aren't ashamed of embracing the comforts of khaki shorts or shooting music videos at the beach.

After a string of independent releases, the group's self-titled effort for Kemado Records is scheduled to land Feb. 2. "Go take a chance / Find out what it means," Lamkin challenges listeners in the album's opening cut before shouting, "Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines!"

Maybe the band does have some combat in its blood. Or perhaps Lamkin just has a fondness for rhymes.

-- Todd Martens 

More Faces:

Faces to Watch in 2010: Architecture

Faces to Watch in 2010: Theater

Faces to watch in 2010: Classical

Faces to watch 2010: Scott Amendola

Faces to watch 2010: Dum Dum Girls

Faces to watch 2010: The Living Sisters

Faces to watch 2010: Ke$ha

Faces of 2010: Entertainment (film, music, TV, new media)

Photo: Matty McLoughlin, from left, Matt Lamkin, Dave Lantzman, Brian Hill. Credit: Steve Gullick

Faces to watch 2010: Ke$ha

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KE$HA

Like many L.A. musicians, the singer Ke$ha survived her lean early years in the city by snacking on the free food offered during happy hour at Echo Park's myriad dive bars. But the singer's situation was rather different than many of her struggling peers. She was scavenging at the same time her voice was all over the radio -- she sang the chorus hook of Flo Rida's "Right Round," one of the biggest pop singles of 2009.

"We were both working with (producer) Dr. Luke and it was an accident I was even on it," said the young San Fernando Valley native, born Kesha Sebert. "I never made any money off it, that's why I put the dollar sign in my name as a joke. But I was happy being in that bar with two dollars in change wearing clothes I found in the garbage surrounded by people who love me."

Ke$ha should soon be able to treat her friends to a few rounds of PBR. Her fast-rising single "TiK ToK," a rapturously dumb electro-pop banger that makes Katy Perry sound like PJ Harvey, catalogs an epic post-party hangover where Jack Daniels is the best mouthwash.

Her debut album, "Animal," which already is a top-5 iTunes album as a pre-order to its Jan. 5 release, tackles the evergreen topics of stalking boys who don't like her and whether rad boots are preferable to male company. It also showcases some surprising pipes under all that Auto-Tune.

It's all part of a master plan, she says -- winning equal rights for women to abuse boys in songs the way dudes have done for decades.

"I'm just talking about men the way they've talked about women for years," she said. "If you listen to LMFAO, it's all about how women are pieces of meat. I find that stuff funny, so I want to do it back to them."

-- August Brown 

More Faces:

Faces to Watch in 2010: Architecture

Faces to Watch in 2010: Theater

Faces to watch in 2010: Classical

Faces to watch 2010: Scott Amendola

Faces to watch 2010: Dum Dum Girls

Faces to watch 2010: The Living Sisters

Faces to watch 2010: The Soft Pack

Faces of 2010: Entertainment (film, music, TV, new media)

Photo: RCA Music Group

Faces to watch 2010: The Living Sisters

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THE LIVING SISTERS

"Dreamy" isn't a word that crops up a lot in pop music today, but it might be the best descriptor for this L.A. indie supergroup of sorts, a sweet adventure in harmony between jazz-pop singer Eleni Mandell, Lavender Diamond front woman Becky Stark and the Bird and the Bee's Inara George.

They've been working together sporadically for about three years now, ever since Mandell told Stark of her wish to create a group focusing on harmony singing, after which the pair brought in George, the daughter of Little Feat founder Lowell George, as a third collaborator on the project.

Their debut album, "Love to Live," is due March 30 on the folk-rooted Vanguard Records label. It's an utterly charming introduction, one that strikes an effervescent middle ground between the earthy country style of the Louvin Brothers and the silky vintage pop of the likes of the Andrews Sisters and the Mills Brothers.

As the trio showed recently at their short but impressive set at Walt Disney Concert Hall alongside Brian Wilson and Dave Alvin, they also know their way around '50s doo-wop, gospel and sexy contemporary pop.

"There's something about us three singing harmony," Mandell says, "that is almost like religion." Amen to that.

-- Randy Lewis 

More Faces:

Faces to Watch in 2010: Architecture

Faces to Watch in 2010: Theater

Faces to watch in 2010: Classical

Faces to watch 2010: Scott Amendola

Faces to watch 2010: Dum Dum Girls

Faces to watch 2010: Ke$ha

Faces to watch 2010: The Soft Pack

Faces of 2010: Entertainment (film, music, TV, new media)

Photo:  Becky Stark, from left, Inara George and Eleni Mandell. Credit: Vanguard Records

Faces to watch 2010: Dum Dum Girls

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DUM DUM GIRLS

Dum Dum Girls offer plenty of warnings to any would-be listeners, at least if one is to judge by the songs available on the act’s MySpace page. The band's choice of covers -- the Rolling Stones' "Play With Fire" and GG Allin's "Don't Talk to Me" -- aren't the most open-armed of songs, and the group cements its don't-mess-with-us strut with an original titled "Jail La La."

Led by Kristin Gundred (a.k.a. Dee Dee), the L.A.-based band taps an old-fashioned sort of rebellion, one where a leather jacket and black tights are enough to signal outsider status. Sleazy, scruffy and fast, Dum Dum Girls will release its debut, "I Will Be," on March 30 via Seattle's Sub Pop.

Containing 11 songs and running just under 30 minutes, the album was produced by Richard Gottehrer, who shares a songwriting credit on the '60s hit "My Boyfriend's Back." That's no coincidence.

With a name that references songs from Iggy Pop and underground heroes the Vaselines, Dum Dum Girls has a sound that falls somewhere in between the early punk of the former and the slacker haze of the latter. Melodies take shape out of a gloomy guitar drone, as if they just sort of accidentally happen, and Gundred's vocals stay behind the beat and buried under the riffs.

It's a matter-of-fact, deadpan delivery, and when the backing harmonies kick in, Gundren sounds as if she's channeling the ghosts of girl groups past.

-- Todd Martens 

More Faces:

Faces to Watch in 2010: Architecture

Faces to Watch in 2010: Theater

Faces to watch in 2010: Classical

Faces to watch 2010: Scott Amendola

Faces to watch 2010: The Living Sisters

Faces to watch 2010: Ke$ha

Faces to watch 2010: The Soft Pack

Faces of 2010: Entertainment (film, music, TV, new media)

Photo: Lauren Dukoff

Faces to watch 2010: Scott Amendola

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SCOTT AMENDOLA

Even if Scott Amendola's name doesn't immediately ring a bell, chances are pretty good jazz listeners have heard his work in recent years. Coming out of the adventurous San Francisco jazz scene of the mid-'90s, Amendola first gained notice as part of eight-string guitarist Charlie Hunter's band and the eclectic three-guitar jazz-funk group T.J. Kirk.

Since then he's earned a reputation as one of the most inventive young drummers in the business, teaming with a diverse range of high-profile acts including Bill Frisell, Kelly Joe Phelps and Madeleine Peyroux. But it's his association with local guitarist Nels Cline that has brought him to new heights. In addition to providing an orchestra of electronics-dusted percussion for the genre-defying (and all-instrumental) Nels Cline Singers, Amendola also released a pair of beautiful, folk-informed albums as a bandleader for the Culver City label Cryptogramophone, "Cry" (2003) and "Believe" (2005).

After 2009 found him effortlessly shifting from the sonic experiments of the Singers and the playfully twisted interpretations of the trio Plays Monk at the Angel City Jazz Festival, Amendola is on the verge of becoming a genre unto himself at only 40 years old.

In November he reunited with Hunter on the warmly melodic project "Go Home," and in 2010 Amendola will release an as-yet-untitled trio recording backed by Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker and bassist John Shifflett. Amendola is targeting a spring release, and is putting out the album on his own Sazi Records, which also will digitally reissue some of his older material.

Other upcoming projects include a 2010 release from the Singers, and writing a piece commissioned by the Oakland East Bay Symphony as part of its "New Visions/New Vistas" project that will debut in 2011.

With a tireless, ever-exploring work ethic and a gift for composition that incorporates touches of folk and world music into a unique whole, Amendola is leading West Coast jazz into its next decade.

-- Chris Barton 

More Faces:

Faces to Watch in 2010: Architecture

Faces to Watch in 2010: Theater

Faces to watch in 2010: Classical

Faces to watch 2010: Dum Dum Girls

Faces to watch 2010: The Living Sisters

Faces to watch 2010: Ke$ha

Faces to watch 2010: The Soft Pack

Faces of 2010: Entertainment (film, music, TV, new media)

Photo: Lenny Gonzalez

Fun for free at Spaceland tonight

Fun

It's really too bad that Nate Ruess got signed with his band the Format back in 2003, because if he had ended up on "American Idol," he would be the next Kelly Clarkson.

Nate has a voice that is perfect for the nation's biggest TV show and he's only gotten better over the years. His high notes soar and dart and somehow catapult to registers that make it impossible to sing along with. But the music of the Format, and now his new band, Fun, encourages singalongs. Ruess' music is the opposite of emo: it's poppy, hopeful, happy mini-epics that wander every which way and rarely end up where you expected.

The Format released an album for Elektra in 2003 ("Interventions + Lullabies") and self-released a follow-up, "Dog Problems," in 2006. At its heart the band was really a combo of Ruess' superstar vocals with Sam Means' melodic keyboards. Although relatively unplayed on local radio The Format played to sold-out shows at venues like The Avalon and The Mayan (where they filmed a live dvd).

The pair split up and late last year Ruess formed Fun with Andrew Dost of Chicago's art-pop group Anathallo and Jack Antonoff of Steel Train. Their self-released debut offering, "Aim and Ignite," is a spiraling mini-masterpiece evoking all of the best reasons to love Queen and E.L.O.

Continue reading »

Live review: Metronomy makes the El Rey feel like 'Less Than Zero'

Metro500

All electronica bands must sooner or later encounter one fundamental problem with playing live sets: They're just no fun to watch. Sure, it takes loads of skill to trigger samples, screw with filter banks and sing convincingly in real time, but from the back of club, it all looks like hitting the spacebar. The new hot-stuff London trio Metronomy, who played last night at the El Rey Theatre, seems especially susceptible to this fact. The band is essentially a bedroom project of super-loyal '80s synth mash notes that beg for montages of whipping your DeLorean over the 101/110 interchange at night while rifling in your glove box for the devil's dandruff. Anything short of direction by Brian De Palma would be a letdown.

Continue reading »

2009 artist to watch: Mapei

Pop & Hiss offers a look at some of the artists we expect to make noise in 2009.

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Artist:
Mapei

Why her? The missing chip between Santogold, Kid Sister and Rye Rye falls into place at last. The Rhode Island-born Mapei got her start rapping at basement parties in Sweden, where she lived for years, and further schooled herself in the gay clubs of her current home in New York. The result? Super-kooky culture jamming on “Roxanne Shante’s Smile.” In smooth deadpan, she references Woody Allen, “Poetic Justice,” Cabbage Patch Kids, Pabst Blue Ribbon and Hooked on Phonics. Spank Rock and Ghostface Killah are fans, as well as Timbuktu, one of Sweden’s biggest hip-hop acts.

What's next? Downtown Records will release Mapei’s debut sometime in the fall. And we’re keeping our fingers crossed for more West Coast dates on the heels of her hot showcase in December at the Avalon.

--Margaret Wappler

Photo of Mapei courtesy Downtown Records

Lady_gaga_100 Related: Faces to watch 2009: film, TV, music and Web

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