Mikal Cronin's new one us ``MCII,'' 1102, I guess and out since May on mighty, mighty Merge Records and also my new favorite album this week. Cronin will hook the listener right off with ``Weightless,'' especially if melodic pop rock is your thing. ``Shout It Out'' bemoans the sloth of love - how it moves so slowly - or not at all, clearly love and clocks remain complete strangers and without the guitars, this one is good enough to have been a Harry Nilsson song, and still is a solid song with a great hook-filled ending. Cronin plays smart pop updated for the new millennium and smooth guitar solos when feels that it's time.
With one of the distinctive voices in rock, James Blunt has a new one - that would be ``Moon Landing,'' just out on Atlantic Records. He's got the quavery falsetto with a bit of a rough edge as he seems to be forever channeling (and usually most convincingly) his feminine side, which is a good thing. If women ruled the world - women and not women that wanted to be men - this place would be so much better. Anyway, ``Bonfire Heart'' is a typical Blunt song - emotion on the sleeve smartly done. The best one here is ``Miss America,'' which sounds like a great Elton John song from back in the day and how can you resist lines like ``...and as you fall apart we just call it art''? Blunt has appeared to have settled in his chosen niche - the relationship song and complications thereof - and the highway to the heart of the ladies.
Zedd, who has achieved one-named status along with Moses, Madonna and Godzilla, is actually Anton Zaslavsky, a German producer of electronic music, whose new one is ``Clarity,'' and it's on Interscope Records. Machines themselves may be soulless things but when properly programmed can make the bouncing meat bags feel nimble and could turn the Terminator into a break dancer. The songs are baseline RDM but at times, Zed enlists the vocals of guests such as Ellie Goulding, but the hyped hit features Hayley Williams of Paramore offers a suggestion that cannot be refused, ``Stay The Night.'' The song is just so-so but the next one, ``Push Play'' features that propulsive techno beat that keeps them jumping in the dance tents at Coachella, or in the privacy of your own home, could inspire you to clean the entire hour in 46 seconds but the toaster and the blender may start a mosh pit. ``Breakin' A Sweat'' gives credit to the Doors but this in no Doors' song anymore than Pete Best's contributions to ``the White Album.'' Your feet won't care much either way.
``Spreading Rumors'' is the new one from Grouplove - out since September on Atlantic Records. There's five of them and four of them sing, playing folk rock and prog rock that rocks lightly, but sometimes hard when Christian Zucconi and Andrew Wessen go off on guitar. The lyric sheet is a throwback to the daze of those psychedelic concert posters during those silly '60s when it was necessary to smoke your lunch to even read it - here, it's the same thing, except you might need a magnifying glass as well; then again, if you're high enough to read the lyrics, then listening to the band is about the most strenuous task you're up to. And why can't these obvious fans of all things groovy, not be to able to spell ``hippy''? Then again, they tell us, ``I'd rather be a hippy than a hipster,'' perhaps they're referring to all the dough they'll save on threads. Anyway, I digress - again - Grouplove plays baroque folk sure to be extra fun live.
``Electricity By Candlelight NYC 2-13-97'' is the latest from rock legend Alex Chilton and it's on cool indie label Bar None Records out of New Jersey. So here's what: Chilton, who died in 2010, was playing this gig at the Knitting Factory in NYC when the power went out at halftime, so the venue provided refunds but 100 or so people stuck around, extra amped especially after Chilton moseyed out and someone in the crowd handed him a guitar, and by the light of three flickering table candles, this is the result - an 18 song impromptu show with plenty of audience participation (too much too often) on an oddball set of songs, several are obscure but there's also a few Beach Boys songs - ``Surfer Girl'' sounds heartfelt but also pretty weird from a New York zip code and also ``I Walk The Line'' is always good and what can you say about ``The Girl From Ipanema,'' except, why maybe? It should be obvious that drunk people at a rock show cannot sing but the vibe is strong between artist and art lovers, as it should be. Chilton was in the critically acclaimed Big Star plus he sang ``The Letter'' when he was a teenage Box Top. Then again, if you're a fan of such spontaneous musical combustion, San Diego's Steve Poltz has scores and scores of live recordings and way better songs.
``Quality Street'' is the latest from singer/songwriter legend (that mean he's still alive) Nick Lowe, just out on YepRoc. Now Nick has a serious track record - he used to be in one of the greatest rock bands of all time, Rockpile, and in his spare time, he invented Elvis Costello and has been making solo records forever - ``Cruel To Be Kind'' is one of his many hits. This one is an obvious holiday record, the sub-title is probably a clue - ``A Seasonal Selection For All The Family,'' but Nick doesn't sing just Christmas songs, he does songs about Christmas - many originals but many by other writers. The first song, ``Children Go Where I Send Thee,'' is a folk rock classic but too much of this is laid back lounge lizard muzak, making clear that old Nick rocked way more than new Nick or St. Nick; in fact, the best one here is the only traditional Christmas song, ``Silent Night,'' which gets a Watts/Stax rearranging. I generally defer my holiday soundtrack to the Jingle Cats doing ``Meowy Christmas'' or else the Rugburns. Great album cover - now c'mon Nick, make another Rockpile album with Dave Edmunds.
The new one by Cults is ``Static'' and it's on mighty, mighty Columbia Records. Pretty much, this is wimpy and screechy techno pop as sung by a nervous cartoon character - the perfect soundtrack for downing some Kool-Aid...if you're feeling cultish. ``Always Forever'' provides a bit more focus - Betty Boop on nitrous maybe; and ``High Road'' seems to be going timidly nowhere then - and music can do this - the song changes gears, picks up steam and evolves into a fairly entertaining techno pop song, but mostly, this one moseys alongs with few highlights or lowlights, ultimately as memorable as lunch last Thursday with whatsername.
Wasssup 805? Bill Locey here, neither in Studio 805 nor in Camarillo, but still gainfully employed by the Ventura County Star, at least for the next hour or two, kicking it at my humble abode, multi-tasking, writing about rock `n' roll and watching ``The Rifleman'' and the Kings with the sound off and petting my cat Nope, who is in my lap, and as usual in the way, as he does his fair share as part of the worldwide feline anti-literacy campaign.
For a day I was torn by an imaginary Trojan plot, UCLA Bruins stomps USC in football 35-14, then USC fires their coach, replacing him with former Trojan Steve Sarkisian, opening the University of Washington job - a place where Bruin coach Jim Mora has ties that go way back. After a nervous day, Mora signed a six-year extension with the Bruins and if QB Brett Hundley comes back - the Bruins will beat 'em worse next year. And right now, the basketball Bruins are looking good and high school basketball just started and nothing is better than high school sports. Go Cougars..And also, go Dodgers for re-signing Brian Wilson, and we won't miss Ronald Belasario. Not only does Wilson have the cool hair but aren't two closers better than one? No one ever gets hurt playing baseball, do they? The Weird Beard and Kenley Jansen? All good.
If I had a faster car, a richer girlfriend or even one with a job, here's where I'll be lurking in the back this week:
OK, tonight - FRIDAY night - it's in Hell-A and worth the drive, a Paisley Underground flashback show featuring many of the principals from 30 years ago - the Bangles - the cutest girl rock band ever - and the Three O'Clock, Rain Parade and surreal guitar madness from Dream Syndicate - it's all happening at the Fonda down on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. And not so far away at the Wiltern Theatre, it's superior folk rock from the Head and the Heart and the Insect Surfers will be at Record Surplus, also in Hell-A. Berlin - with Terri Nunn and not 3.4 million Germans - will be at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills while up here in the 805 where we like it, BritPop gods to be - those Foals - will be at the venerable Ventura Theatre and Gabe and Nate Shoemaker will play an early show at Amigo's in Ventura; while down ``C'' Street to the Bombay Bar & Grill, it's the RAW Awards. Up north a few blocks to Yolie's, it's veteran blues dude, Doug MacLeod and up Hwy. 33 to Ojai, it's Tommy Marsh & Bad Dog along with Ashford Gordon playing some blues at the Jester. And finally on a Friday, up the coast to the Carrillo Rec Center in S.B., it's a dance party with the Crown City Bombers. In case you're wondering, the ``Crown City'' is Pasadena. OK, two more - everyone's favorite purveyor of ``spy movie music at the beach - Spencer the Gardener will play a homegame gig at Red's in S.B. and if you really like banjo and feel like a drive, then you can check out ``Banjo Girl'' Donna Lynn Caskey strum a few tunes as part of a larger cast at the Cambridge Drive Community Church in Goleta.
On SATURDAY, it's goofball rock with the Aquabats - they'll be at the Fonda in Hollywood and every cool band in the world will be at the KROQ Acoustic Xmas show at the Shrine Auditorium - Vampire Weekend, Queens of the Stone Age, Kings of Leon and the Arctic Monkeys are a few of the bands playing on Saturday night. Sad singer/songwriter Lisbeth Scott will be at the Source in Venice while up here in the 805 where it's so much better, Sister Ook and the Fallen Saints will be at Outlaw's in Camarillo, while in Ventura, it's Sharks & Cobras, Brilliant Sunshine and Electric Liberace will show off their new video - all happening at the Bombay. Up in Santa Barbara, the Mighty Cash Cats will channel the Man in Black at the Velvet Jones.
On SUNDAY or Day 2 of that KROQ thing, you could see Arcade Fire, Lorde, Phoenix, Capital Cities and Portugal the Man (and not the country) to name a few - all still happening at the Shrine, while up here in the 805 where we like it in farmland saving (it's about time) Oxnard, it's Teresa Russell at Fresco II, while over in Ventura at the Bombay, Blue Stew has found a new home after decades in the Ventura Harbor and all those Shoemaker Brothers will also play. And after ``Homeland'' up in S.B. at SOhO, it's the latest Club Mercy show - this one featuring Dengue Fever. And you could scarcely spend a much better Sunday than this - at the historic Cold Springs Tavern up off Hwy. 154, it's acoustic and funny blues with Tom Ball & Kenny Sultan and roots rock from the Cadillac Angels.
On MONDAY, it's Ojai homegirl - Lissie - famous with one name, just like Moses, Madonna and Godzilla - she'll do some tunes off ``Back To Forever,'' her new album at the Fonda in Hollywood and Ed Kowalcyzk will play some melodic hard rock at the Grammy Museum, while up here in the 805, it's Pocket Change getting all instrumental at Amigo's in Ventura.
On TUESDAY, Catfish & Doug will play some blues at Amigo's and Dan Grimm & Friends will provide the soundtrack for the festivities at the Deer Lodge in Meiners Oaks; and Teresa Russell will rock the James Joyce in Santa Barbara.
On WEDNESDAY, it's pop punk with the Maine and Anberlin at the Fonda in Hollywood and the Mowglis will do a hometown gig and pack the Hollywood Palladium while up here where it's not down there, Frank Barajas will play some power pop at Fresco II in Oxnard. We Govern We will play some original rock at this week's Green Art People wingding down on the Ventura Avenue, and '90s Santa Barbara rock stars, Dishwalla, will be at the Velvet Jones and indie rock heroes, Dawes, will be at the Lobero Theatre where the sound is always perfect. Check out my Dawes story in this week's Time Out - proof positive that I'm hardly making any of this up.
And finally on a THURSDAY, it's my favorite songwriter, Rhett Miller - often the frontman for the Old '97s - he's be at Largo in L.A. while up here in the 805, Mark Masson will play some intense acoustic music at Amigo's and the Gypsy Blues Band will rock the Bombay about two blocks away. Up the coast to Santa Barbara, Joe Bonamassa will be at the Arlington and further north, it's X and the Blasters at the SLO Brewery. No one is better than the Blasters.
So have a swell week but remember, this is rock `n' roll after all, and thus, these listings are subject to change for no apparent reason. Mom was right - call first.
Emiliana Torrini gets all intensely mellow on ``Tookah,'' just out on Rough Trade. It's sort of like one of those Norah Jones-type things as Torrini works herself into a mild uproar, a controlled frenzy or if she were any more subtle, this album would be all Simon & Garfunkel sounds of silence. Torrini is from Iceland and way better than Bjork which might mean ``sucks'' in their language. Torrini, gainfully employed previously, was in a band called GusGus and sang ``Gollum's Song'' in one of those wonderful hobbit movies. Her sweet voice on interchangeable songs would be a plus at that critically drunken getting lucky maybe 2 a.m. moment when a hookah might endear ``Tookah.''
``Young Legs'' is the new one by Anthony Green, the usual frontman for Circa Survive - it's just out on Moshtradamus Records, gotta love that. Much of this is Green offering weird voice-in-a-box-in-the-next-room vocals, sort of a John Lennon Lite, never a bad thing. On the band bio, Green admits to striving to be ``atmospheric.'' Check. ``When You Sang To Me,'' rises to near hymn-like status, but might be better without the strident female vocals, while most of these songs feature baroque orchestration, creating a most pleasant diversion. The album ender, ``You Have To Believe It Will Happen,'' is actually an ode to reality - an ode to math.`` Just as whatever is missing is always found the last place you look, everybody gets lucky eventually. It's math. You can't lose 'em all and you won't. Anthony is the best musical Green since Peter.
``The Bluegrass Album'' is the latest from country superstar Alan Jackson, and it's on EMI Nashville. More than just a redneck outside with a banjo or a mandolin, this is pretty much a twangy country pop album as exemplified by the catchy ``Appalachian Mountain Girl'' and ``Ain't Got Trouble Now,'' the latter, a totally glass half full song. You may not have trouble now but you will, so enjoy the break. That's why Arthur Schopenhauer, the philosopher of pessimism was onto something. In a nutshell, Schopenhauer believed that one should always except the worst because if it happens, you already knew it and if it turns out for the better - well, all right then - as you're pleasantly surprised. Most of the songs are Jackson originals and he does know what a good song should sound like, but just as any song could be a folk song, a reggae song or a punk rock song, what will Jackson do next? The Bob Marley, y'all, mon, album?
``Nothin' But Blood'' sounds just right for that steamy vampire soap opera on HBO but is actually the new one by Scott H. Biram, just out on Bloodshot Records, which is - much like our president - out of Chicago. Biram sometimes sounds like a stoned Fred Sanford, but that's OK - he got some pay-attention-mind-blowing lyrics on tunes such as ``Gotta Get To Heaven.'' Might be all that ``Nam Weed,'' but all one needs to do to explain that song is to look at the Equator and follow it around the globe to see where the killa bud grows - but to the Feds, it's still all bad, unlike Biram, who turns in a Top 10 album for 2013. On ``Alcohol Blues,'' Biram seems to be channeling one of those old black blues dudes (for a funny take on professional elbow bending, check out ``Alcohol'' by the Kinks). Sort of like a rock `n' roll John Prine, Biram's a one-man band, fully as intense as Michael On Fire or Hamell On Trial - a master of many styles and better yet, barring an unexpected railroad tragedy, he can't break up.
``The Best Of Keane'' is a 20-song collection, just out on mighty, mighty Interscope Records. The band has had five consecutive Number One albums in the U.K. making this one as well deserved as it is necessary. A piano driven rock band that adds up to a showcase for the vocal stylings of frontman Tom Chaplin. But then again, all the songs pretty much sound the same - at once, overwrought and agonizing. Could a decade of Brits be wrong? Well, George Bush did get elected twice, yet Keane is mostly keen but not quite bitchen nor even groovy. They remind me of Morrissey with no great songs.
The debut from Saint Rich is probably every Afghan, Pakistani and Yemeni's dream, ``Beyond The Drone'' and it's on Merge Records. Pretty much, the textbook example of indie rock, Saint Rich has garage band musical styles with off-the-wall lyrics, making them plenty fun. ``Officer'' is a song about a citizen's innate fear of the cop - a muscle bound menace all in black wearing shades looking like he would kick your ass just for the fun of it as ``To Protect And Serve'' becomes to Saint Rich, ``...Officer, oh please don't hurt me, sir...I'm just a teenager.'' Now the mission of the police is to police and the only way to be effective is to spy on everybody or throw them in jail - only then, is complete order possible. Besides all that, tunes such as ``Sorry/Sadly'' and ``Dreams'' have a definite old school vibe, reminiscent of Country Joe & the Fish or Jefferson Airplane in their heyday with some snaky guitars that Mark Knopfler would dig. ``Young Vultures'' is perhaps about young Republicans to be - those who believe that being a greedy, amoral chump is OK, because someone else will, so why not me? And so it goes. Saint Rich is yet another cool band from New Jersey and how could you not get behind a band with a guy named Delicate Steve?
``Down On My Luck,'' gee - what else could this be? Another blues album? Good guess. This one is by Jon Zeeman and it's on Membrane Records. This one raises the question: Doesn't every sideman dream of being the frontman? Some of them are undoubtedly correct - that's where frontmen mostly come from, after all. Zeeman is a longtime solid sideman for a bunch of folks, but this is his turn in the spotlight. He's got them generic blues again - it's competent throughout but nothing you haven't heard many times before. ``Got The Gun'' is the one you'll want to hear again.
He is the tall guy lurking in the back of all the local rock shows.
Click here for an archive of all past entries »