Category: Incoming

Kendrick Lamar to play charity concert for Downtown Women's Center


Perhaps you're familiar with Kendrick Lamar. His "Section 80," released earlier this year, is the most acclaimed rap album out of L.A. in recent memory. He's working with Dr. Dre and has graduated to the cover of rap magazines. Even Snoop Dogg and The Game passed him the proverbial LA torch at a show this summer.

As one might infer from the socially aware themes in his music, he's also community oriented, and will be headlining a Friday night charity benefit for the downtown Women's Center and Project RISHI (Rural India Social and Health Improvement, a student-run nonprofit organization fighting poverty in Indian villages).

The concert takes place at the Music Box, with tickets going for $25-$40. The lineup will also feature performances from Lamar's fellow TDE crewmate, Schoolboy Q, along with Tiron & Ayomari, and Azad Right. If you haven't seen Lamar rap yet, there are few if any rappers doing it better right now.


Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre & Game pass torch to Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar talks indie success, West Coast rap, and Dr. Dre

Is Kendrick Lamar (of Compton) the King of LA rap?

-- Jeff Weiss

Blonde Redhead on new tour, Nosaj Thing and a Japan relief album

Blonde redhead 1

In the last decade or so, shoe-gazing sweetness has become the main weapon in Blonde Redhead's indie rock arsenal. Following the three-piece down their rabbit hole of sweeping melodies and demure and ambient vocals mixed with pinprick dissonance is a lesson in the many layers of distorted dream pop.

That they’ve been experimenting there for almost two decades speaks more to their ability to draw people into their music than hit them over the head with it. On their latest LP, “Penny Sparkle,” released in September, the band’s quiet tones transform sterile electro into the soundtrack for sensual exploration.

Last weekend, vocalist/guitarist Kazu Makino and Amedeo and Simone Pace rolled through the L.A. leg of their North American tour, stopping at the monthly Check Yo Ponytail 2 night at the Echoplex presented by I Heart Comix and Media Contender. We recently caught up with Makino via phone to talk about the band's tour thus far, a collaboration with L.A. artist Nosaj Thing and a forthcoming compilation album with proceeds benefiting Japan's earthquake and tsunami relief efforts.

Pop & Hiss: In addition to playing venues in cities you’ve never played before, you’ve also done a few dates with L.A. DJ Nosaj Thing. Had you known much about him or worked with him before the tour?

 Yes, I worked on a song with him for his new album, so it was nice to see him again on tour. It was really amazing. I was quite shocked that he gave me such great music to work with as a vocalist. It took me a while to come up with the melody and sing on it. I didn’t want to do any wrong. So I kind of tiptoed around it and was trying not to add too much over the music. I spent a few months working on it.

And he came to New York to perform recently and we had a chance to work on it together for a whole day. I think it was the first time he worked with a vocalist, so it was a new thing to be working on a song so intensely and for a very long time. After I’d been working on the vocal ideas for months we ended up having to finalize the song in one day, which was very intense. Since we recorded the song he’s been playing it live without me at his shows and just sampling my voice, I’m not exactly sure what the title is yet.

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Incoming: Members of Grandaddy, Earlimart spread the Cali love with Admiral Radley -- sort of

Admiral_Radley__ When Modesto native and former Grandaddy leader Jason Lytle opens new project Admiral Radley with the tongue-in-cheek "I Heart California," one could easily be mistaken for believing that the artist -- who long ago relocated to Montana --   is looking back at his home state with just a hint of scorn. 

Think of the cut, which also serves as the title track of the project, as a sobering summer-song antidote to Katy Perry's garden of playful decadence that is "California Gurls." Its balmy, fuzzy guitars are dotted with sparkling effects, and Lytle's vocals settle into a reassuring sway. But rather than reference the beach, Lytle croons about I-5, and there are no signs of glamor, but there are plenty of disappointed tourists.

Yet the song, said Lytle, is written with nothing but love toward the Golden State, comparing its lighthearted but well-intentioned nature to that of a comedian who mocks his or her family. 

"I don’t think it’s sarcasm," Lytle said of the song, below. "You can’t expect people to know your sense of humor. You can’t expect people to know where you’re from. I was worried this would turn into an inside joke, but there’s a lot of fondness in there. That’s just the way I’m comfortable expressing myself about the things that I am fond of, with a hint of black humor." 

Such a tone and sound will be familiar to those versed with the Grandaddy and Lytle catalog, where an upbeat title such as "Summer Here Kids" gave way to an anthem for a disastrous vacation. Working here with Aaron Espinoza and Ariana Murray of locals Earlimart, as well as Grandaddy drummer Aaron Burtch, Admiral Radley likewise delivers humor with honesty.

"Sunburn Kids," for instance, is call-and-response silliness, boasting keyboard notes that sound as if they have been lifted from an old-school video game. "Ghost of Syllables," meanwhile, is all grown-up heartache, striking what Espinoza described as Fleetwood Mac-inspired harmonies, and later, the Murray-fronted "The Thread," with its playful static, is nostalgic for days that may never come. Then, ensuring no one gets too comfortable, there's a spastic, electronic-laced rager about having a few too many beers on a sun-drenched day, complete with a title unfit for a family blog.

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Incoming: The nervous energy and tragic ambitions of Future Islands


Though Future Islands only recently released its debut for Chicago's Thrill Jockey, the band may already be on a self-destructive course. The voice of singer Samuel Herring already seems on the verge of giving out. If not quite a growl, it appears to be caught in a permanent strain, scraping over the retro-futurism of the act's icy snyth-pop melodies. 

"I don’t consider myself a singer," said Herring from the band's base in Baltimore. "I consider myself a performer who sings. I try to channel the energy and passion and the pain of the songs when they were first written.That comes out through my voice, but I probably shouldn’t sing the way I do. I’m going to ruin my voice. When I sing by myself, my voice is busted, but when in front of a group it comes out of me."

The East Coast three-piece has a brief Los Angeles stay this week, appearing Thursday on KCRW's "Morning Becomes Eclectic" and at Amoeba Music in Hollywood and Saturday night at downtown club the Smell. The nine songs of the band's recently released "In Evening Air" flirt with a Brian Eno ambiance, a New Order bounce and a post-punk aggression.

Though heavy on synthesizer and computers, Future Islands has a lo-fi soul. Whether the act is toying with the skittering textures of "Long Flight" or the nearly Caribbean shading of "Tin Man," Future Islands wields a keyboard and laptop with a garage rock hustle. 

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Incoming: A re-branded Walking Sleep hopes to break its curse with women


Walking Sleep's bouncy orchestrated pop
tends toward the upbeat. With an emphasis on harmonies, the act's jaunty, keyboard-enhanced melodies were right at home on an outdoor stage during sundown at the first-ever Silver Lake Jubilee festival this weekend. One would have never have guessed that the band keeps driving women away. 

Walking Sleep's newest addition is multi-instrumentalist/singer Sara Radle, better known around these parts as a former member of the Rentals. She's Walking Sleep's fourth female singer in about three years.

"I’m hoping it’s not because this is a hostile environment," singer/guitarist Hunter Curra said. "We’re very gentlemanly men. After having this happen so many times, we have to break the curse."

Walking Sleep's attempts to reverse its fortunes will officially begin this week with the release of debut full-length, "Measures." The band will celebrate the recording with an album release show Saturday at the Bootleg Theater. Self-financed and self-released, it's an initial offering that's brimming with confidence. 

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Incoming: Caribou's math-whiz dance, Frightened Rabbit, the National and more


Even the math geeks have to cut loose now and again.

Over the course of the past decade, Daniel Snaith's body of work -- first under the name Manitoba and now Caribou -- has turned an electronic eye toward pop's past. His detailed songs, sometimes spazzy and often a little dreamy, put a modern gloss on '60s psychedelics. While always candy-colored and accessibly melodic, it was geek stuff -- seemingly loaded with layers and diversions for the vinyl set. 

Now with "Swim," the mathematician-turned-musician just wants the world to dance. Released last month via Merge Records, "Swim" puts the emphasis squarely on the groove. Opener "Odessa" is a sugar-high of rhythms, with synths that mimic whistles and vintage keyboard-sounds moving in a rave-like fury. 

And then things get weird. "Kali" is hypnotic mix of manipulated and vibrating electronic noises, "Lalibela" is minimalist charm, "Sun" is bachelor-pad space jazz and "Bowls" is a heady trip around the globe, with hand claps, harp-like sounds and rural beats. If one can't quite place the instruments that comprise the beat, Snaith said that was the intention.

"Those are samples from actual Tibetan bowls, but then they were played on a keyboard," Snaith said. "The fact that I’m playing those parts affects the timing, the sound and the harmonics. There’s a lot of that on the album -- a sample of one instrument that’s played on the keyboard to give it a different character. It’s all about making a weird hybrid."

Living in London, the Canadian said "Swim" was inspired by adventurous British dance producer James Holden and features a sound he first wanted to capture on 2007 pop album "Andorra." Of course, being asked to spin records in clubs also played an impact in Snaith's dance-heavy makeover. The artist was turned on by the instant feedback of dance culture.

"You get an intuitive response and a really honest read," said Snaith, who tested the tracks that ultimately constituted "Swim" in clubs. "People didn't know it was my stuff, so a lot of what I DJ'd, even if it was just a rhythmic snipped, ended up on the album." 

It will be created live Wednesday at the El Rey. Touring with a full band, Snaith will translate the electronics to the stage with a pair of drum kits, guitar, keyboard and bass. Though "Swim" is Snaith's most overtly electronic effort, he wanted to leave room for live improvisation and is striving for a fluid, heavily connected stage setup.

"The technology in the last couple years has leapt forward," Snaith said. "Four or five years ago, it wouldn’t have been possible to do all the technological things that we would have wanted to do. For example, there’s video projections that go along with the music, but they’re integrated. They’re being played live by someone on stage. Also, one step of a pedal triggers something else to happen. Or one press of a key on a keyboard can change the effect on another instrument. Everything is inter-connected." 

It sounds like the kind of complex live show that only a math-whiz could pull off. Yet Snaith, who has a PhD to his name, said the academic and artist worlds rarely meet. 

"The mathematics I was doing was so esoteric," he said. "It didn’t have any direct input on the music I was creating. Music was always intuitive and emotional. There are probably parts of both things that appeal to the same part of my personality, but I think I’d be making the exact same music if I had never done a mathematic equation."

Caribou at the El Rey, 5515 Wilshire Blvd., with Toro y Moi and Dublab DJs. Tickets are $20, not including Ticketmaster surcharges. 

Some other notable shows this week: 

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Incoming: The Besnard Lakes' loud love letter to California pop, with spies


The Besnard Lake's Jace Lasek may hail from the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, but when the band comes to Los Angeles this week it will be a sonic homecoming of sorts. Hollywood-ready plot lines are stitched throughout the band's three albums, where songs of spies, betrayal and delusions are delivered with grandeur. 

A Besnard Lake arrangement ebbs and flows, with oceanic waves of guitar enveloping the listener, and tender harmonies calming the band's roar. It's a vision, said Lasek, that can be traced to Southern California pop icon Brian Wilson

"I was always really enamored with the way Brian Wilson put together ‘Good Vibrations'," Lasek said from the road on Saturday. "The verses were recorded at one studio, and the chorus was recorded somewhere else, and you can kind of hear how it goes from a dark texture to a brighter texture. That largely has to do with the different studios, and I always thought that was really cool, where different sections of the song have completely different textures. We pursue that idea."

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