Category: August Brown

The Hollywood Palladium is for sale

The Hollywood Palladium on opening night: Sept. 23, 1940.

Got $60 million and a strong desire for vintage Hollywood burning a hole in your wallet? For around that price, you could own the Hollywood Palladium in an upcoming sale, the Hollywood Reporter says

The historic, Live Nation-leased concert venue was built by L.A. Times publisher Norman Chandler in 1940, and reopened in 2008 after an extensive 2007 remodel. It has hosted concerts from legendary acts including Frank Sinatra, U2, Tommy Dorsey and Jay-Z and remains a fixture of the L.A. live music scene.

The Reporter notes that the ownership group LSREF 2 Clover Property 4 LLC expects to list the property Monday, and estimates it could fetch in the area of $60 million.

If that seems a hair high for a three-and-a-half acre concert facility, that's because the 90,000-square-foot parking lot could also be prime real estate for future hotel development. While no interested buyer has come forward on the record, the Reporter suggests that a music-themed hotel like the Hard Rock might be a natural fit for the site.

Read the whole piece at their site.

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--August Brown

Photo: The Hollywood Palladium on opening night: Sept. 23, 1940. Photo credit Live Nation.

Charli XCX and Nite Jewel go back to the future

Charli XCX and Nite Jewel
 
The last few years have been a bull market for young women with avant-garde interests exploring the outer orbits of synth-driven dance music. Friday in L.A., two of the best young talents make a case that this trend has no signs of slowing.

Over at Club Nokia Friday and the Bootleg Theater Saturday, the 19-year-old English singer-composer Charli XCX makes her proper live debut in the Southland. She's the latest signing to the local indie IAMSOUND, and it's easy to see why. Charli XCX was raised in London's derelict warehouse party scene. Early singles such as "Nuclear Seasons" and "Stay Away" have a dark, ravey fizz, like a glass of cherry Coke stained with black lipstick. As a vocalist, she has an ear for inhabiting songs with a lovelorn distance that might be a sign of our times.

"When the world's in dark times, amazing pop comes out of it," she said over the phone from a West Hollywood hotel where she was holed up as she finished tracks for her debut album a few weeks ago. "There's going to be a lot fewer songs about just being in the club. There's a backlash to all that ultra-sexualness, and darker artists can be beautiful too."

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Bruce Springsteen berates bankers — in German

US rock singer Bruce Springsteen performs on stage with his band E Street in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, Germany, 30 May 2012.

It's no secret that Bruce Springsteen is a left-leaning populist. "Born in the U.S.A." was a sneaky anti-war anthem; he headlined a defeat-George W. Bush concert tour in 2004, and he cut a whole album of covers by the folk and union-song legend Pete Seeger. But at a recent concert in Berlin, he unloaded on America's fat cats in a novel way — he did it in German

His Wednesday set at Berlin's sold-out Olympic Stadium was tied to his new album, "Wrecking Ball." But his between-song banter took on the 1% as well, acknowledging that American unemployment is unacceptably high and that Eurozone nations including Germany aren't faring any better (and by some measures, even worse).

Then in German, he reportedly added "This song is for all those who are struggling" before diving into the working-person's lament "Jack of All Trades."

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Justin Bieber releases new single: 'Die In Your Arms'

Justin Bieber in Paramount Pictures' movie
Kanye West had his "G.O.O.D. Friday" series, in which he released a single from his label every Friday, starting in August 2010. Can we now similarly look forward to Justin Bieber album previews all month?

With his new tune, "Die In Your Arms," the barely legal pop juggernaut ramps up anticipation for his second album, "Believe," with the next in a series of pre-release singles. The first one, "Boyfriend," was a minimal sliver of futurist R&B indebted to Justin Timberlake and the Neptunes. But "Die In Your Arms" has a throwback filament glow that recalls the Jackson 5 and Motown at its most teen-friendly (which means -- it's really, really good).

"Believe" is out June 19, and if these two tracks are any indication, Biebs has hit that difficult sweet spot of maturing sonically and vocally without losing the doe-eyed charm of his early tween-demolishing singles. Plenty of recent teenage pop stars, from Miley Cyrus to Britney Spears, had a rougher go of making the transition from earnest innocence to a grown-up sexuality (maybe pop audiences are unjustly more forgiving of young men making that leap?). But taken together, these two songs sound true to where Bieber is right now -- an 18-year-old coming into his grown-up talents and attitudes, without putting on false airs of seriousness or subversion. 

Assertive paparazzi might differ in their take though, as Bieber reportedly is under investigation after a scuffle with a photographer on Sunday in Calabasas.

He hits Staples Center Oct. 2-3 with his new rockabilly pompadour in tow.  Is the world ready for Justin Bieber, the Adult? If it sounds as good as these early tracks do, we say yes. 

-- August Brown

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Photo: Justin Bieber in Paramount Pictures' movie "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never."  Credit: Paramount Pictures

Album review: Sigur Rós' 'Valtari'

Album review: Sigur Rós' 'Valtari'
When the Icelandic experimental band Sigur Rós first emerged in the late '90s, its records felt like worlds unto themselves. Regal strings and brass, guitar noise, percussive bombast and Jónsi Birgisson's now-iconic coo: It all added up to a sound so huge and ethereal that few other bands felt capable of matching it.

Now that anyone with a laptop can make decently epic soundscapes, how will Sigur Rós keep its lead? On “Valtari,” it does it by using all its usual tricks, but in even more evocative and expert ways. The band dipped a toe into sunnier pop vibes on 2008's “Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust” and Jónsi's 2010 solo album, “Go.” But on “Valtari” it's back to the essentials: oceanic buildups, flickers of treated orchestras and falsetto vocal lines that yank heartstrings, even though you know exactly when they're coming.

The lead single “Eg Anda” winds some Velvet Underground-y mangled guitar into gale-force ambience; “Var” crescendos into a quarter-note pummel of stacked noise. But on the whole, “Valtari” is pretty dazed and ephemeral: tracks such as “Varoeldur” and “Rembihnutur” wander in a fog of flittering vocal samples and synth-pad haze. None of it's too far afield from what you'd expect from Sigur Rós at this point in a long career. But when the mood calls for “emotionally devastating long-form ambient maximalism,” there's no need to ever go elsewhere.

Sigur Rós
“Valtari”
XL Recordings
Three stars (Out of four) 

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— August Brown

Google's Bob Moog tribute a synthesized hit

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Fans of the synth pioneer Bob Moog's eponymous instruments pay thousands and thousands of dollars for the real artifacts. But Google users woke up today to a fully-functioning software take on a classic Moog synth -- affectionately called the "Goog" -- in their browser window.

The occasion was Moog's 78th birthday, and as Internet time-sucks go, this one is compelling. One can play a four-octave range; tweak the filter, mixer and oscillator to create new sounds; and a four-track virtual tape deck records tracks for posterity and social-media posting. The Bob Moog Foundation has a how-to guide for crafting and recording sounds on the Goog from its in-house synthesis expert Marc Doty, which you can see here.

Moog's synths were staples of early electronic pop and experimental music, and they remain essential to any producer or electronic artist performing today. Moog even has a festival in his honor, the North Carolina-based Moogfest, which last year hosted Moby, the Flaming Lips and a host of avant-garde and new music acts such as Terry Riley, Tangerine Dream and Tim Hecker.

The Bob Moog Foundation is also giving away prizes for the best composition submitted to its website.

Any occasion to pay tribute to a guy who literally hand-wired the sounds of contemporary pop music is worth taking. So here's a hearty salut to Google for spotlighting one of music's great technological innovators.

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-- August Brown

 

Photo: Google's homepage.

2 Chainz arrested; was it brass knuckles or just a large ring?

2 Chainz

If you thought 2 Chainz's interest in alloy-based accessories only extended to his pseudonymous neckwear, think again.  

The rapper born Tauheed Epps was arrested in the Delta terminal at New York's La Guardia Airport on May 22 on suspicion of carrying brass knuckles in his luggage. Specifically, the charge was misdemeanor possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, and Epps was held at the airport before being taken to Queens County central booking for formal charges.

There is a debate as to whether or not the item was a weapon or just elaborate jewelry. Hip-hop peers, including Big Sean and DJ Drama, have rallied to his defense, claiming that the alleged "brass knuckles" were simply a four-finger ring that Chainz had sported in recent videos. Drama Instagrammed a photo of the item in question, and it does seem likely that it was meant as a fashion accessory.

Chainz is on a hot streak right now, performing on Drake's Club Paradise tour with his single "No Lie" and he had a well-regarded cameo on Nicki Minaj's "Beez in the Trap." 

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-- August Brown

Photo: 2 Chainz, Rosci and Terrence J at on April 9, 2012, in New York City. Credit: Craig Barritt/Getty Images. 

Album review: Kimbra's 'Vows'


Kimbra's 'Vows'Pity Kimbra, but just a bit. The young New Zealand singer-songwriter has an elastic, soulful voice and an ear for arranging screwball samples. But she entered the international limelight as the second-verse sidekick to another South Pacific-area singer with similar talents (hint: his name rhymes with “Gaultier” and he’s a fan of face paint).

That should all change with “Vows,” her international major-label debut that works like a more domesticated Björk effort. It’s a showcase for her wide-ranging vocal skills with a polite sonic adventurousness.

The opener, “Settle Down,” is a surprisingly funky beatbox boutique about knocking out kids, and that generally sets the tone for the rest of the record. The lite-jungle “Cameo Lover” is make-out music for people staying in modernist hotels with complicated faucets; “Good Intent” and “Plain Gold Ring” pitch-shift R&B harmonies and jazz instrumentation into something like dinner-party music for wine-buzzed androids.

Sometimes she’s self-consciously eccentric with her vocal tricks, but given her 1990s birthday, one can cut her slack for exploring how far she can push herself. Kimbra’s American fame may have come on the heels of someone else’s single, but there’s a vision here that’s entirely her own.

“Vows”
Kimbra
Warner Bros.
Two and a half stars (Out of four)

— August Brown


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Biggie Smalls would have turned 40 today

Biggie Smalls would have been 40 today
It's been 15 years since the Notorious B.I.G. was killed in Los Angeles. But in an era when deceased rappers can still headline major festivals (well, in Victorian parlor-trick form), it's always a good time to revisit the catalog and legacy of one of the finest to ever hold a mike. Especially on the anniversary of Biggie Small's birthday, as the MC born Christopher Wallace would have been 40 today. 

With only two albums to his name (including one, "Life After Death," released posthumously), his catalog was short, and he didn't leave a vault of unreleased material. But his output and persona were impossibly impactful on rap and pop culture at large, and his slaying remains an emotional, debated case.

He made his on-record character, that of a cocky drug slinger who sees death at his Brooklyn doorstep, a monumental trope of hip-hop. And his flow was like a velvet glove over a coiled fist -- smooth delivery with serious precision.

Just watch this video of him performing on his hometown streets at 17 (17!) to hear just how early he figured out his talents, and lament the career we've missed out on since.

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-- August Brown

 Photo: Biggie Smalls. Credit: Los Angeles Times. Hat tip to the Awl for the video.

Live review: Best Coast at the Wiltern

Musician Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast performs on stage at Global Green USA's 8th annual pre-Oscar party
Bethany Cosentino is perhaps the most on-message songwriter in rock music right now. Over her two albums as Best Coast, including this year’s “The Only Place,” the L.A.-based singer returns to her favorite themes — the pleasures of California, the pangs of coupledom — with the same dedication that Rick Ross applys to describing his car fleet.

But one song that she played at her big homecoming show at the Wiltern on Friday showed she might be growing uncomfortable in that niche. “How They Want Me to Be” is a tender bit of pre-Beatles pop with a light country haze. On Friday, Cosentino played it as a rebuttal to her stereotype as a stoner cat lady-turned-overnight superstar. “All of my friends stick up their noses, ask me where my money is,” she sang. “I don’t want to be how they want me to be.”

Cosentino is a scrappy, relatable songwriter growing into an actual pop star, one with an acumen for self-branding. On Friday, just when all the cats and weed and Californiana edged up to cliché, she’d subvert it with a newfound self-awareness. Best Coast’s show codified one of L.A.’s newest rock stars, but it also showed how “being yourself” is a performance for Cosentino as well.

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