Category: L.A. Unheard

L.A. Unheard: Swahili Blonde's rainbow funk

Swahili Blonde's Technicolor music embraces all shades, from the acid-washed funk of "Tiny Shaman" to the bright earnestness of A-Ha cover "Scoundrel Days"

The band: Swahili Blonde, a rotating Los Angeles collective centered on singer-drummer Nicole Turley.

The sound: Swahili Blonde's Technicolor music embraces all shades, from the acid-washed funk of "Tiny Shaman" to the bright earnestness of A-Ha cover "Scoundrel Days." The band's fearlessly unpredictable songs are as smeared with ideas as a Jackson Pollack, splattered thoroughly with horns, synthesizers and Turley's brontosaurus percussion. "Purple Ink," a highlight of 2011 release "Psycho Tropical Ballet Pink," sounds like Broadcast playing capture the flag with Sun Ra. (Sun Ra wins, barely.)

The random: Former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante, Turley's husband, has been an itinerant contributor to the band, playing on the "Psycho Tropical Ballet Pink" and "Man Meat" albums. The band's shifting participants have also included members of the Like, Warpaint, Fool's Gold and Duran Duran.

The details: Swahili Blonde's 2010 debut, "Man Meat," arrives on limited-edition vinyl on Jan. 30, courtesy of Turley's own Neurotic Yell Records, with the band's seven-piece live lineup set for a show at the Central Social Aid and Pleasure Club tonight.

The music: Download "Etoile de Mer" below. 

MP3: Swahili Blonde - Etoile De Mer

-- David Greenwald

Photo: Swahili Blonde. Credit: Sarah Sitkin

L.A. Unheard: 2011 in review

Foster the People
As we ready ourselves for another year of great new local music, here's a look at what some of L.A. Unheard's alumni accomplished in 2011:

Foster the People went from unheard to everywhere, scoring Grammy nominations and choice slots at Coachella and Lollapalooza on the strength of its unstoppable single, "Pumped Up Kicks," and its debut album, "Torches." The band is already writing its next album, which will draw on the "percussive nature" of its live show.

Garage rockers LA Font followed up its debut album with the biting "Sharks" 7" and launched a still-open Kickstarter campaign to fund its sophomore set.

Pop classicists the Smiles renamed themselves the Miracals after a legal dispute, releasing the "Give Me a Chance" EP under the new name in November.

Chamber-rock act Seasons will release its final seasonally themed EP, "Autumn," on Jan. 2. They'll be performing each of the four releases in its entirety during their free Echo residency next month.

Subversive songwriter David Shane Smith chased his art-rock "Shampoo" EP with a three-track digital single for music blog Everything Is Chemical. 

Retro-minded rockers Stone Darling premiered their five-track debut EP in Interview magazine.

Jazz-punks Big Moves launched a singles series dubbed "Big Moves Mondays," kicking things off with new track "Inspiration as a Recurring Theme."

Widescreen strummers Milo Greene signed to Chop Shop Music, the label outlet for music supervisor extraordinaire Alexandra Patsavas ("The Twilight Saga," "Mad Men"). The band's debut album is due in 2012. 

Disco savant Evan Voytas will release a new EP, "Feel Me," on Dovecote Records in January, with the release already earning notice from Rolling Stone. He offered a breathy cover of Prince's "Nothing Compares 2 U" in October. 

-- David Greenwald

Photo: Foster the People (Cubbie Fink, left, Mark Foster and Mark Pontius) started its year with an Echo residency and capped it with Grammy nominations. Credit: Steven Dewall / Redferns

L.A. Unheard: The Peach Kings’ chewy blues

The Peach Kings

The band: The Peach Kings, former San Franciscans seeking a SoCal throne.

The sound: The duo dubbed their debut EP “Trip Wop,” and the influence of sultry down-tempo acts such as Portishead and Zero 7 certainly leaves a mark on tracks such as “Little Things” and “By Your Side.” But the occasional drum machine runs second to the interplay of Steven “Dies” Trezevant’s salty guitar work and singer Paige Wood’s lightly toasted alto, which run deft melodic circles around each other. The result is 21st century blues, recorded with a 2011 budget.

The random: The band fulfilled their 2011 trippy quota with a promo clip for an October show, which found them pictured as purple-shaded candle-bearers, levitating over a golden railroad. Hey, where they’re going, they don’t need roads. Or electricity.

The details: The “Trip Wop” EP is available for free download now at

The music: Download “By Your Side” below.

The Peach Kings -- "By Your Side"

-- David Greenwald

Photo: Paige Wood and Steven Trezevant. Credit: The Peach Kings

L.A. Unheard: Arts & Entertainment offers 'Just A Little Moore' (Premiere)

Arts and Entertainment

The band: Arts & Entertainment, an Echo Park-based production duo composed of Astrid Quay and Evan Conway.

The sound: On its debut EP, the R. Stevie Moore covers collection “Just a Little More,” the pair turn the resurgent cult hero’s lo-fi muddling into breezy, lipsticked pop. “Wayne, Wayne (Go Away)” punches up the rough psychadelia of Moore's original with a crisp drum machine, while the woozier "I Need Your Love" evokes the latter-day Beach Boys (or mid-career Yo La Tengo) after a few rounds of strawberry daiquiris. The Moore adoration and substance-abusing '80s feel places the group neatly alongside two of L.A.'s other current pop eccentrics, Puro Instinct and Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti.

The random: Arts & Entertainment's cover bug began on the Manimal Vinyl release "As Perfect as Cats," a Cure tribute on which Quay took on Robert Smith and Co.'s "The Caterpillar."  

The details: “A Little Bit Moore” is out now on vinyl on the local label Sister City Records. The group plans to also release a cassette version, in honor of Moore’s tape tradition.

The music: Download “Wayne, Wayne (Go Away)” below.

Arts and Entertainment -- "Wayne, Wayne (Go Away)"


L.A. Unheard: Sleeping Bags' revivalist rock

L.A. Unheard: Stone Darling's groovy girl group

L.A. Unheard: David Shane Smith's transmutable pop

-- David Greenwald

Photo: Arts & Entertainment, a production duo with a new EP, poses on Sunset Boulevard. Credit: David Greenwald / For The Times 


L.A. Unheard: The Active Set's jittery rock


The band: The Active Set, a high-energy Los Angeles quartet.

The sound: On the Active Set's debut full-length, "11," the group bristles with cymbal-heavy rhythms and dagger-sharp lead guitars. Of the band's post-punk influences, L.A.-obsessed Brits the Wedding Present have given the most generously; with their sour vocals, respective frontmen Matthew Stolarz and David Gedge could be dissatisfied distant cousins. But the album showcases an array of styles across its 11 tracks, offering glacial intensity on slow-motion anthem "Sea Legs" and of-the-moment electronic drums and synthesizers on "Counting Out Your Life." 

The random: Stolarz previously played bass with L.A. punks the Briggs; Briggs brothers Jason and Joey LaRocca helped record the Active Set's debut EP, with Jason returning to mix the full-length. The band got an assist on album art from Joe McKay, who also crafted the cover of Broken Social Scene's "Forgiveness Rock Record."

The details: In case you missed the album release in last week's calendar-pocalypse, "11" fittingly dropped on Nov. 11.  

The music: Download "Famous for Dying" below and hear the record in full on Bandcamp.

MP3: The Active Set -- "Famous for Dying"


L.A. Unheard: Sleeping Bags' revivalist rock

L.A. Unheard: Stone Darling's groovy girl group

L.A. Unheard: David Shane Smith's transmutable pop

-- David Greenwald

Photo: Rock quartet the Active Set. Credit: Mike Smith/Generic American Photography

L.A. Unheard: Masxs' 'Computer' masquerade [Updated]

Masxs' 'Computer' Masquerade

The band: Eastside art-rock quartet Masxs.

The sound: On current single “Chairman Gou,” the band borrows a few tricks from Radiohead. The song narrates the suicides of Foxconn employees in China, making for an eerie spiritual sequel to the technologist paranoia of Radiohead’s “Palo Alto” and, of course, landmark album “OK Computer." Joaquin Pastor’s sour croon even nods toward that of Thom Yorke. When the song bursts from a minor key dirge into a climactic finale, the guitars are pure Jonny Greenwood. There are worse influences to have, and Masxs treats them as a tool, not a crutch, pushing the limits of its lo-fi budget on tracks such as “Esther Reed” and “Georgian Orange.”

Continue reading »

L.A. Unheard: Seasons' skillful pop discontent


The band: Seasons, an L.A. quintet.

The sound: On fresh material such as "Light, Lost" and "Of Our Discontent," Seasons crafts airy, spacious guitar rock. With local producer Raymond Richards on the boards (Local Natives, the Henry Clay People), the group's latest EP is full of polished touches -- a violin arrangement here, a slide guitar there -- but it's the sentimental tenor of Nik Garcia and Erik Morales' busy percussion work that keeps the songs anchored. It's not unlike the reverb-heavy material of Unheard alumni Young Hunting, though Seasons are careful to steer the music away from slumberland: On "Places," Garcia test-drives his best punk rock shout, while Morales cranks up the BPM on "Always."

The random: For their "Of Our Discontent" video, the band nabbed actress Mahaley Manning, best known for mean-girling poor Emma Stone in "Easy A."

The details: Seasons' "Winter" EP, released physically in September, is available now at Origami Vinyl and digitally on Bandcamp. The band will support Swahili Blonde's free residency at the Echo on Monday night and kick off a residency of their own at the venue in January. Keep an eye out for "Fall," the conclusion of the group's EP cycle, on Overheard Records early next year.


Inside L.A.'s Dublab

L.A. independent record shop is still in a groove

L.A.'s string of indie labels succeeds with a jack-of-all-trades approach

-- David Greenwald

Photo: Calendar-minded indie rockers Seasons. Credit: Jarett Villanueva

L.A. Unheard: Seven CMJ-bound bands

Lord Huron

As they did earlier this year at the South by Southwest Music Festival, Los Angeles' rising bands will head eastward once more in hopes of getting signed, getting noticed or at least getting somebody to blog about them.

Here are seven local acts making the trek to New York's CMJ New Music Marathon that we're keeping an eye on. 

Continue reading »

L.A. Unheard: The Dead Ships' Pacific blues

The Dead Ships

The band: The Dead Ships, an Echo Park duo.

The sound: The two-man crew's music is a bluesy wrecking ball, ranging from the throaty '50s-style ballad "You Were Young" to the riff assault of "Amaze." The group's no-frills drumming and smoldering guitar tones nod toward the White Stripes and the Black Keys, but their tuneful charisma separates them from the legions of garage-rock imitators.

The random: Although the band may encourage fist pumps, we didn't expect to hear them on "Jersey Shore." Nevertheless, demo track "You Were Young" soundtracked our favorite guidos' Italian misadventures in an August episode.

The details: The Dead Ships wrapped up a residency at the Central Social Aid and Pleasure Club last month and will be among the L.A. representatives at the upcoming CMJ Music Marathon in New York next week. The group's debut, "7"," is out now.

The music: Download “Amaze” below.


The Dead Ships - "Amaze"


L.A. Unheard: David Shane Smith's transmutable pop

L.A. Unheard: Stone Darling's groovy girl group

L.A. Unheard: Sleeping Bags' revivalist rock

-- David Greenwald

Photo: The Dead Ships. Credit: James Ferrell

L.A. Unheard: The New Division's reclaimed new wave

The New Division
The band: The New Division, a Los Angeles quartet.

The sound: On debut album "Shadows," the group offers a fresh take on the '80s melodrama Interpol and the Killers revived a decade ago, serving up brooding vocals and synth bedding as industrial-grade drum machines hammer down from above. On album opener "Opium," the band extends a druggy lament with cut-to-ribbons vocals and a climactic four-on-the-floor beat, a rock/dance marriage that serves as an effective template for the rest of the collection. Think New Order for the Skrillex set.

The random: The New Division began as a solo project in John Kunkel's college dorm in 2005, with the rest of the quartet joining the equation two years later. 

The details: "Shadows" came out Tuesday.

The music: Hear "Opium" below.

The New Division - Opium by dangervillage

-- David Greenwald

Photo: The New Division. Credit: Colson Knight


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